JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I am not surprised at the behavior of Mary Ann Connolly , aka Pearly Poll, aka Mogg. That Wednesday morning, 15 August, 1888, the 50 year old alcoholic had been brought two miles from the environs of Whitechapel to the rear of the Wellington Barracks (above) to look at soldiers. And there she was an unwelcome stranger in a strange land. As the The Daily Telegraph pointed out, “The majority of the inhabitants of....Central London know as much about (Whitechapel)...as they do the Hindu Kush...” And the reverse was equally true.
Poll's carriage had rolled past St. James Park, an unimagined space to those surviving in the cramped brick and filthy cobblestone canyons of the East End. She had passed within yards of Buckingham Palace (above), the stone personification of authority, which had always brought disapproval and punishment to her.
Poll also knew another East End woman had come with the police detectives. They had kept the women separate, as if in her poverty Pearly Poll were not still enough of a women to sense men reacting to another woman's presence. The “manly” Poll felt judged, and the waves of disapproval radiating from the ranks of soldiers forced to line up for her inspection, did not improve her mood. So, in the words of Detective Walter Dew, seemingly at random Poll quickly picked out two soldiers “in a fit of Pique”. Both men proved to have iron clad alibis, and the entire expedition to the center of the British Empire by one of its lowliest members had been a waste of time.
The other East End woman brought out by the detectives was Jane Gillbank, of 23 Catherine Wheel Alley, Aldgate. She was at the Wellington Barracks not because the police doubted Pearly Poll – although Detective Inspector Reid mistrusted Poll's alcohol fogged mind - but because she had come to the Montague Street Morgue with her young daughter, to identify the victim. After viewing the body of the woman murdered on the George Yard stairwell, Mrs. Gillbank identified her as an old friend, Mrs. Withers, whom Jane had seen drinking with soldiers late on the Bank Holiday evening. But Mrs. Gillbank could not identify any soldiers in the parade, either.
So the Whitechapel police retreated from the skirmish at the Wellington Barracks, having inflicted no casualties on the Royal Guards, but at the cost of half their witnesses. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Withers re-appeared, fully alive and except for additional damage to her liver, perfectly healthy. The Whitechapel police could be forgiven if they were not overjoyed at Mrs. Withers resurrection, because it did little to confirm their victim's identity.
While there was still Pearly Poll's contention that the dead woman was named Emma Turner, there was yet another witness, one who struck Inspector Reid as more believable because she was not a friend of the victim, but an enemy.  Mrs Ann Morris, of 23 Lisbon Street, Miles End, had come to the Montague Street morgue in response to newspaper articles about the murder, and identified the dead woman as Martha Tabrem.
The widow Morris had once been Martha Tabrem's sister-in-law. But they had fallen out 13 years earlier when Martha blamed Ann for the breakup of her marriage to Henry Tabram.  Martha had then repeatedly harassed the widow, threatening Ann and demanding money from her. Police reports of verbal and physical assaults provided a preamble to Martha Tabrem breaking out all the windows in Ann's rented room. That offense had earned Martha a 7 day sentence at hard labor. Mrs. Morris's story thus offered a possible addition witness who might confirm the identify of the victim – Henry Samuel Tabram.
On Tuesday, 14 August,  the 45 year old Samuel Tabram had come to the Montague Mortuary independently, so it seems Martha's death was not a complete surprise to those who had loved her. Samuel had married Martha White on Christmas day, 1869. They had two sons, born in 1871 and '72, but in 1875 Martha's alcoholic deliriums, her disappearing for days on benders,  had driven Samuel to move out. When she had him arrested for abandonment, a judge ordered Samuel to pay her 12 shillings a week in child support. But after three years, with the money going to gin, Samuel reduced the payments to just 2 shillings. Martha had him arrested again, and the alimony payments were reinstated. But when Samuel found out Martha was living with another man, he cut off her payments entirely.
The new man proved to be 29 year old carpenter Henry Turner, and he now also identified the body as Martha Tabram, aka Martha Turner. Sammuel and Martha never divorced. Henry and Martha never married, but had been living together “off and on” since 1876.  Earlier in 1888, Henry had lost his job, and in July the carpenter had also reached the end of his patience with Martha's drinking. He told the coroner, "If I gave her money she generally spent it on drink. In fact it was always drink. When she took to drink, ...  I usually left her to her own resources, and I can't answer to her conduct then."  Henry last saw Martha on 4 August, on Leadenhall Street (above), when she accosted him and demanded money. He gave her a pound and a few pennies, but expected it just to go for more gin. Thus the police at last knew the name of their victim.
Ann Morris' story also confirmed at least part of Pearly Poll's version of the victim's last night on earth. At about 11:00 p.m., on the Bank Holiday, Monday, 6 August, 1888, Mrs. Morris had spotted Martha Tabram on Whitechapel Road, entering the White Swan pub. She took notice because she still had a restraining order out against Tabram. Their previous encounters convinced her to avoid the woman, and Mrs. Morris had quickly left the neighborhood. By Dr. Killeen's estimate, 4 ½ hours later Martha Tabram was dead, murdered by person or person's unknown.
Even in 1888 it was standard police thinking that the more violent the attack, the closer the victim and killer must be. In other words, passion diminishes with distance.  So the individual who slashed the throat of Martha Tabram 10 times, stabbed her in the chest 18 times, and left a three inch gash across her lower abdomen, had not merely disliked the woman. This had been no argument over money, or even an insult over the inability to perform sexually. The attacker passionately hated Martha, and had attacked her in frenzy. 
The two men with the most reason to hate Martha, Samuel Tabram and Henry Turner, both had firm alibis for the the night of 6/7 August. And both men had left her.  There was no passion left between them. 
And while it was evident to Inspector Reid that Ann Morris feared Martha enough to strike out in a frenzy, Martha was far larger than Mrs. Morris. And there were witnesses to Ann's activities during the hours when Martha had been murdered. But the violence of the attack, the passion that drove it, so bothered Reid and his superiors, that they could not let the matter rest.
Deputy Coroner George Collier called the jury back at 2:00 pm, 23 August, 1888, in the Working Lads Institute, on Whitechapel Road.  Inspector Reid now had evidence he wanted put on the record. 
Technically still married, Samuel Tabram made the formal identification of the body as that off his ex-wife Martha White Tabram. William Turner testified about the circumstances of his common law marriage to Martha, and their breakup in April. He could swear to her having been alive on Saturday 4 August, when she was then living at 19 George Street, Spitafields. Then Mary Bousfeld, aka Mary Luckherst, testified that Martha had been paying her rent for a bed at 4 Star Place. Martha had been earning money hawking matches on the street until six weeks before her death, when she had left, owing three weeks rent. Then Ann Morris testified to seeing Martha outside the White Swan Pub about 11:00 p.m. on 6 August.
The final witness was Pearly Poll, aka Moog, aka Mary Ann Connolly, who retold her story of meeting up with Martha, pub hopping for two hours, and last seeing Martha headed into George Yard with a soldier just before midnight, 7 August, 1888. “After a brief summing-up by the deputy coroner, the jury duly returned a verdict of "murder by some person or persons unknown." Detective Inspector Edmund Reid ended his report to his boss, Superintendent Thomas Arnold in the usual way. “Careful enquiries are still being made with a view to obtaining information respecting the case.”

It was standard bureaucratic language, which sounded important but actually meant nothing. Inspector Reid was tying up his paper work for the time being, because he was leaving on Monday for two weeks vacation to the coast of Kent. But while he was gone the case would be shaken by  two earthquakes. First the leadership of the the Metropolitan police force would suffer a serious blow, and second, the killer of Martha Tabram would strike again. And the murderer would show that he, at least, had learned from his first victim.
- 30 - 

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