I guess the kindest thing I can say about 36 year old Dr. Fredrick William Blackwell, is that he was awakened from a dead sleep by his assistant Edward Johnson not ten minutes before he examined the body outside the International Workers Educational Institute. By his own watch Dr. Blackwell arrived at the scene at 1:16 a.m., Sunday, 30 September, 1888. And he immediately went to work. But Adrenalin can only get you so far, and I fear Dr. Blackwell was pushed faster and farther than he should have been.
He immediately recognized that the victim was dead – her head had been “nearly severed from her body” - and that she had been killed recently – by his first estimate “not more than 20 minutes” earlier, although he gets points for hedging that to up to 30 minutes to match the witness testimony. But that very night Dr. Blackwell also felt compelled to tell The London Star, “...it does not follow that the murderer would be be spattered with blood, for, as he is sufficiently cunning in other things, he could contrive to avoid coming in contact with the blood..."
So, from almost the instant the woman's body on Berner Street was found, it was assumed she was another victim of the clever madman responsible for the previous murders of Martha Tabem, Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman. But the good doctor assumed a great deal more than that. He also told the Star, “The woman did not appear to be a Jewess, but more like an Irishwoman” In fact her birth name was Elizabeth Gustafsdotter – she was Swedish – and had been known in London for twenty years as Elizabeth Stride (above). So much for racial profiling.
Dr. Blackwell's description of her wounds was interesting. “In the neck,” he told the inquest on Monday, “there was a long incision...(which) commenced on the left side, 2 inches below the angle of the jaw...nearly severing the vessels on that side, cutting the wind pipe...completely in two, and terminating on the opposite side 1 inch below the angle of the right jaw, but without severing the vessels on that side.” There were no wounds below the shoulders. By separating the windpipe, the killer silenced Elizabeth. By cutting only one side of her jugular veins and arteries he produced unconsciousness in 1- 3 minutes, with death shortly there after. But even that was longer than the agony of previous victims.
So Liz Stride's neck had been cut from right to left in one stroke – not two - indicating the killer was either right handed or had attacked Elizabeth from behind. All three of those points strongly hint that Liz Stride had not been killed by the same man who had murdered the previous three women, who was probably left handed, and cut the throat twice.. And this murder was committed outside a social club with two dozen people inside, and less than fifty feet from the small “The Lord Nelson” public house at 46 Berner Street, with people still coming and going to and from all three establishments. The victim on the unlit stairwell in Georg's Yard, the victim shielded by the fence of 29 Hanbury Street, and the dead woman left on the dark stretch of Buck's Row were all isolated. The first goal of con men and premeditated killers is to isolate their target. Liz Stride was not isolated.
But what truly defines a victim of Jack the Ripper was his method for killing. To quote from the “Case Book” – http://www.casebook.org/intro.html, - “The Whitechapel murderer and his victim stood facing each other. When she lifted her skirts, the...Ripper seized the women by their throats and strangled them until they were unconscious if not dead....The Ripper then lowered his victims...He cut the throats when the women were on the ground...The Ripper then committed the mutilations.” The first step, manual strangulation takes no more than 10 seconds to produce unconsciousness and silence. If the throat is not cut the victim recovers in a few moments. So the victims were chocked to render them compliant. Once on the ground they were then murdered, allowing the killer to feel safe before releasing his pent up rage on the reproductive organs. But, as the casebook points out, “No sign of intercourse was ever detected.”
There should have been lots of questions about who had murdered this woman And about ten minutes after Dr. Blackwell arrived on the scene, there was a brief ray of hope. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (above), the man who had investigated Martha Tabem's death, was back from vacation and he arrived on the scene about 1:30 a.m.
This time the body stayed right where it was, until Dr. George Bagster Phillips (above), the Whitechapel Division Police Surgeon, arrived 15 minutes later. At last a doctor could compare a previous victim's condition and wounds with the latest victim's.
Inspector Reid was already interviewing the 28 people in the Educational Institute. Each had to give their name and address, a full account of what and who they saw that night, and a rough time line for the evening. And they were all forced to turn out their pockets. Houses on both sides of Berner Street were searched. All the residents were interviewed. This took time, and it was not until about 4:30 a.m. that Inspector Reid returned to Duitfield's Yard.
By now a large moribund crowd had gathered outside the closed gates, talking about the murders, inventing and spreading rumors. They were forced to part so the ambulance cart carrying the body could be wheeled away. Dr. Phillips had already left, and about 5:00 a.m, Inspector Reid returned to the Leman Street station, to begin writing up his report. It was about 5:30 that morning, when PC Collins oversaw the washing down of the murder scene. All the blood spatter was scrubbed off the walls and the pooled blood was washed into the gutter, along with anything the victim and killer might have dropped. So much for hope.
This time the body did not go to the Montague Street mortuary, to be “mishandled” by the Workhouse inmates. Instead the as yet unidentified body was loaded on a police ambulance cart and pushed south to...
...the Ratcliff Street Chapel and Mortuary in the south east corner behind the the Baroque St. George in the East Church (above), on Cannon Street south of Cable Street in Wapping Just two blocks north of the Tobacco Docks, the “chapel and mortuary” was a small utilitarian brick building, built in 1876, to give the working poor a choice over keeping the decaying corpse of a deceased loved one at home - usually in one of those 8' by 8' rooms – until they could afford a grave and funeral.
Because of the public fear of grave-robbers, these chapel mortuaries were under-used. And in truth, before refrigeration, they had no better facilities than the Montague Street mortuary. But the workhouse inmates were convenient scapegoats for the officials' failure to catch the murderer. And the events on that Sunday morning, 30 September, 1888, on Berner Street, and in the dark corners of Mitre Square 45 minutes later, would increase the pressure on the police and the doctors who worked with them.
It was respected Police Constable Edward Watkins who discovered the second horror of that night. He was a 17 year veteran of the London Police Force – separate from the Metropolitan force, so the government would always have direct authority over the governmental and banking centers. The City of London ended where the city walls once stood, and Constable Watkin's beat was near the eastern edge, within sight at Aldgate.
He started in Duke Street (above, left) where it joined St. James Place, aka Gowers Walk. Walking at the prescribed 2 ½ miles an hour he headed through Heneage Lane to Bury Street, Creechurch Lane, down Leadenhall Street to Mitre Street and Mitre Square, then to King Street to Gowers Street back to Duke Street. Each round was carefully timed out and took 14 to 16 minutes to complete.
Just about 1:45 that chilly Sunday morning, PC Watkins entered the “small and dirty” cobblestone Mitre Square for the 15th time that night. The square had only two gas lights (X's above) - and one of of those weak And it had two exits.
On the north west corner of the square (above), between two Kearley and Tongue warehouses, was a narrow covered passage to St. James Place and King Street.
The second exit was Church Lane, on the northeastern corner of Mitre Square, between the Horner and Company warehouse and a larger K and T warehouse. Church Lane connected with Duke Street, next to the Great Synagogue..
Because those two corners had lights, Constable Watkins entered the square (above) and turned right, into the darkest corner of Mitre Square.
He walked east past the rear of a framing shop and three abandoned buildings (above)
He was now facing the closed wooden gate of Heydemann & Company warehouse, the darkest corner of the square, and it was here that his bulls eye lantern threw its light upon the body of a woman lying on her back, where the curb met the cobbles. And she had not been there 15 minutes earlier, when Constable Watkins last stood here.
“The clothes were pushed up to her breast, and the stomach was laid bare,” Watkins testified, “with a dreadful gash from the pit of the stomach to the breast.
"On examining the body I found the entrails cut and laid around the throat, which had an awful gash in it, extending ear to ear. In fact the head was nearly severed from the body. Blood was everywhere to be seen."
And there was something new, a new injury. "It was difficult to discern the injuries to the face for the quantity of blood which covered it...the murderer had inserted the knife just under the left eye, and drawing it under it under the nose, cut the nose completely from the face, at the same time inflicting a dreadful gash down the right cheek to the angle of the jawbone. The nose was laid over on the cheek. A more dreadful sight I never saw. It quite knocked me over.”