AUGUST   2020


Saturday, April 22, 2017

BLOODY JACK Chapter Three

I have to keep reminding myself, how small the place was. It was less than a mile via Whitechapel Road between Aldegate (above, middle left) and the London Hospital (above, upper right). And from a midway mark on that road, less then a twenty minute walk in any direction encompassed all of Whitechapel, Spitafields and Waping, the three poorest parishes in London. 
Contained within that tiny circle were some 800,000 hungry, exhausted, sickly, desperate people, living short, brutal, filthy lives. Capitalism offered them few opportunities, and the ones it did demanded first that they take advantage of each other. Religion offered only the peace of resignation. Justice was a tool  the powerful used to remain poweful .
Life, liberty and happiness were available only if you could afford them. And the wealth of those that could rested largely on the backs of the people of the East End of London. The Victorian age was defined by its hypocrisy, the sins of its age no less gilded in London, than in Mark Twain's America.
Thus it was a short sad walk pushing the police ambulance from George Yard, a few blocks north from where Wentworth street became Montague Street, to the mortuary (above, green box, lower left) a half block from the Whitechapel Union Workhouse. 
About 7:00  that morning the cart was admitted through the Eagle Place gate (above) and then had to wait while the gate keepers sent for Robert Mann, the 53 year old workhouse inmate who was authorized to open the mortuary for incoming bodies.
In his life Robert Mann had been a dock worker, but either through injury or illness,  Robert's mind was injured and left easily confused.  He was no longer able to hold a job. He had lived in the Workhouse for almost a decade now. He helped in the kitchen, and in the men's ward of the hospital, mopping up, removing waste and bodies. That Tuesday afternoon, Robert opened the mortuary a second time to admit two nurses. They stripped and washed the body of the unknown murder victim, and were the first to clearly see the brutality done to her. 
When they were finished the nurses stood by while a photo was taken of the victim's pale blood drained face. Then they left the body under a sheet on the dissecting table in the post mortem room and Robert Mann locked the door behind them.
During late Tuesday afternoon, 7 August, 1888, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid had gone back to the Blackwell Building on George Yard (above), and started knocking on doors. First he re interviewed the Hewitts, the building superintendent and his wife, who lived on the ground floor. They confirmed what they had told Constable Barrett. The dead woman had never been a resident, and had never before been seen about the building. 
Inspector Reid then spoke to the woman in Apartment 37, Louisa Reeves, the wife of John Saunders Reeves, who had found the dead woman at 4:45 or 4:50 that morning. Lousia Reeves told Detective Reid there had been several fights on Wentworth street that Monday night, as was to be expected, what with it having been a “Bank Holiday”. It was the last holiday of the summer. The couple had heard the first shouting about 11:30, and then again half past midnight, and then a third fight broke out about 1:00 am. The couple had watched from their balcony overlooking Wentworth Street, while the police broke up all three brawls. one after another.

The resident of Apartment 35, Mr. Alfred George Crow, made his living as a licensed driver of a hackney cab. The Bank Holiday had been a busy work day for the 25 year old, and he did not get home until 3:00 am on the morning of Tuesday, 7 August. He had seen a “person” on the stairs, whom he assumed was sleeping. Since this was not unusual,  he took little note of it, going straight to bed. He did not realized a murder had occurred until 9 that morning, when he had gotten up, and gone out to buy either food or gin.
At 7:30 that night, Inspector Reid caught Mrs. Elizabeth Mahoney returning from her job at the Stratford matchbook factory, just behind the Workhouse. The 25 year old soft spoken woman and her husband John lived in Apartment 47, directly above Alfred Crow. She said they had spent the day celebrating with her sister, and had not returned home until about 1:40 that Tuesday morning. Elizabeth had paused in their apartment just long enough to take off her hat and cloak, before going downstairs again to buy some dinner (or gin) at a chandler's shop one block north on Thrawl Street (above). Elizabeth said the errand had taken no more than five minutes, before she came home again, climbing the same staircase just before two in the morning. She saw no one on the stairs, she said, living or dead, and did not learn of the murder until ten that morning.
Inspector Reid took note that no one heard any screams or shouting after one that morning, despite the Hewitts apartment being at the foot of the stairwell. And given Mr. Crow's and Mrs. Mahoney's testimony, the murder must have occurred between 2:00 am and 3:00 am. Because of the lack of calls for help, it seemed likely that the victim had known her killer. But until he knew the name of the first, he had little chance of finding the name of the second.
Reid wrote up a description of the victim, and had it dispatched to the news papers, who would publish it the next morning. The female victim was about 37 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, with dark hair and a dark complexion, wearing an old dark-green skirt, brown petticoat, long black jacket, brown stockings, a black bonnet, and side-sprung boots. It was a proven, plodding police approach. But Inspector Reid was about to be offered a short cut that would throw his case completely off track.
The red herring appeared in the form of Police Constable Thomas Barrett, who showed up early for his  Tuesday evening tour at the Leman Street station.  Speaking to Inspector Reid, Barrett said he was bothered by an incident which occurred while he was walking his beat at 2:00 am on that Tuesday morning. He spotted a soldier loitering on Wentworth street (above), near the entrance to George Yard. Barrett thought he might be a guard to insure no interference with a robbery going on in the alley. When Barrett asked what he was doing there, the soldier confessed to “waiting for chum who had gone up the alley with a girl.” Because he believed the soldier, and because of the directive regarding street walkers, Barrett merely told the soldier to move along, and then continued his patrol. 
 Barrett described the soldier as a Private between 22 and 26 years of age, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with fair complexion, dark hair and a small brown mustache turned up at the ends. He was also wearing a good conduct badge. It had happened three hours before the body was discovered, but Barrett was sure he could recognize the soldier again. Might it not have something to do with the murder? Desperate for a lead, Reid thought it might.
On Wednesday, 8 August, Reid escorted Constable Barrett to the Tower, where members of the Guards were paraded for his inspection. Looking for the soldier he had encountered outside of George Yard Tuesday morning, Barrett picked out one man, and then another. Under questioning, both men proved to have separate but equally iron clad alibis  Reid was frustrated, but not surprised. The lead had led nowhere. 
That same morning, Wednesday, 8 August, 1888,  Dr. Timothy Robert Killeen walked the five blocks from his surgery to the Old Montague Street Mortuary to autopsy the body of the woman from George Yard. He was supposed to be assisted by a nurse from the Workhouse hospital ward, but none showed up. So the doctor relied on mortuary worker Robert Mann and his assistant James Hatfield, a 68 year old resident of the Workhouse. 
As usual for the Montague Street mortuary dissecting room (above) , conditions were horrible. The lighting was bad, the room un-vented,  and there was no ready source of water. Luckily it had been a cool summer, because every surgeon in Whitechapel dreaded doing an autopsy there in August.
Dr, Killeen now counted 22 stab wounds (above). The left lung had been penetrated in five places, the right lung in two places. The victim's fatty heart had also been pierced. The liver had been penetrated five times, the spleen twice, the stomach six times. 
All but one of the wounds had been inflicted by a pen knife, held, deduced Dr. Killeen , by a right handed person. But for some reason, on the death certificate (above), Dr. Killeen omitted any details of the savage wounds to the victim's throat, or the slice made just above her pubic bone.
Perhaps the savagery of the assault on the woman was affecting him. Perhaps it was the stench and dirty conditions in the mortuary. Perhaps after three years laboring in the cesspit that was Whitechapel he was finally feeling overwhelmed. If it was the latter, Dr. Timothy Killeen would be far from the first or the last doctor to be "burned out" in Whitechapel. Within the year, Dr, Killeen would return to his family home north of Limerick, Ireland. He never wrote about his time in Whitechapel, nor his brush with the murderer who would become known as Jack the Ripper.
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Friday, April 21, 2017


I doubt few of us today could find a doctor so close or quick at such an hour. It was just after 5 in the chilly damp morning of Tuesday, 7 August, 1888. The constable dispatched first ran north on George Yard to Wentworth Street (above). He turned right and headed east for half a block, then crossed Osborn Street Then he turned left and headed north on Brick Lane for three blocks to the northeast corner of Henage Street. Not 5 minutes after beginning the task he was banging on the front door of 68 Brick Lane until Dr. Timothy Robert Killeen answered. The constable then waited in the hall while the doctor got dressed and grabbed his medical bag.
Dr. Timothy Killeen was living and working surrounded by his patients, who were mostly dying from malnutrition and its companions: typhoid fever, cholera, syphilis, tuberculosis, measles and food poisoning, to name but a few of the most prominent. They shared polluted water sources, unsanitary food, and breathed foul air. The yearly death rate in Whitchapel and Spitafields was 25 for every 1,000 residents. Many of London's slum dwellers were born, lived and died without ever seeing a doctor.
Timothy had graduated two years earlier from Kings and Queens College of Physicians, at Trinity College in Dublin. And if he were fulfilling a religious and moral obligation, he might have been disappointed. The Tower Hamlets of Whitechapel, Spitafields and Wopping,  which had once been occupied almost exclusively by Irish Catholics escaping the Potato famine, was filling now with Russian and east European Jews, running from the pogroms. 
But whoever his patients were, it is likely he had seen few as badly injured as this unknown woman on the landing between the first and ground floors of the Blackwell Buildings on George Yard (above). Setting his bag down on the steps, he took out a standard thermometer, which he set on the floor beyond the blood pool. Then he checked his watch, and recorded the time in his notebook. It was just 5:30 in the morning.
He found the victim (above) well nourished, and about 33 years old. His estimate showed he was familiar with the rapid aging a life in Whitechapel could produce. By his careful count the dead woman had suffered 38 separate stab wounds to her neck and chest, as well as one slash in her pubic region. But learning how deep these wounds were, and what internal injuries had resulted would have wait for an autopsy. Gently he lifted the fingers of her left hand. They moved easily, as did the elbow and shoulder joint. The absence of rigor mortis indicated she had died less than six hours ago. He recorded the air temperature as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Then he inserted the thermometer in the dead woman's nostril.
He lifted her skirt and noted the faint mottling on the bottom of her thighs. By the color he estimated she had been lying here, on her back, for less than four hours. He placed his hand on her forehead, as if judging her temperature in life. She was still warm to the touch.  He examined her clothing – cap and jacket, shirtwaist , dress and petticoat, knee high stockings and ankle high boots. The clothing was old and thin, and Dr. Killeen figured his modifying number for this woman should be 1 or 1.10.
Meanwhile PC Barrett had awakened the building superintendent, Francis F. Hewitt. A retired painter, he lived in a ground floor apartment immediately adjacent to the stairwell, with his wife. Although Mr. Hewitt claimed to have heard nothing during the night, his wife, Amy, had heard a cry of “Murder” that evening. But, she added, "The district round here is rather rough, and cries of 'Murder' are frequent.” Francis said such shouts were heard almost every night. Asked to look at the body, still on the stairs, the couple were certain she was not one of their tenants.
Once the Hewitts had returned to their apartment, Dr. Killeen check the thermometer in the victim's nose. It recorded a body temperature of 95.4 degrees Fahrenheit, for a loss of 3 degrees since death. Following the standard formula given in his text books of a 1.5 degree Fahrenheit drop in body temperature for every hour after death, then multiplied by 1.10 to account for her thin clothing, Dr.Killeen could estimate the time of death to have been 2 ½ to 3 hours earlier than his 5:30 examination, or between 2:30 and 3:00 that morning. And that was the time he recorded in his notebook. Next, he told PC Barrett to send for a police ambulance, to transport the body up Wentworth to the Old Montague Street Mortuary, on the grounds of the Whitechapel Union Workhouse.
Being in debt had always been a criminal act in England, but the 1831 Poor Law created public institutions where the injured, the ill or the aged could reimburse the state for their crime of poverty at hard labor for 9 pence a day - the Workhouse. As crusading journalist Margaret Harkness noted, “The Whitechapel Union (above) is...the Poor Law incarnate in stone and brick.”
In exchange for “A little gruel morning and night, meat twice a week”, a cot and a roof, male inmates broke stone for 10 hours a day, six days a week, while the women and children unraveled rope for ships' caulking. They were allowed no privacy and no visitors. 
The amenities – uniforms and meager education classes, were intended to fulfill the state's Christian obligation to the less fortunate. A man sentenced to the Workhouse committed his entire family to the same punishment. 
Once behind the walls of the 5 story tall Whitechapel Union on New Charles Street, families were immediately separated by sex and age. Over time many families melted into the institution. And yet there were many so desperate they begged to be admitted.
On Thomas  Street, to the east of the Workhouse, the ill working poor lined up to be diagnosed  at the Casual Dispensary (above) -  men in mornings, women in the afternoons,  separated to maintain Christian propriety.
But through the Eagle Place  gate,  between those two brick buildings,  in a dirt and dirty courtyard was a bare, windowless dark  shed (above), where the inmates paid their final debt to society. They were dissected. It was to this place that the body of the unknown woman, found murdered in a stairwell on George Yard, was taken on the morning of Tuesday, 7 August, 1888.
By 8:00 that morning the body had been removed, and the police had returned to their beats and George Yard had returned to something described as normal.  There was nothing left to indicate that a woman had been murdered on the stairwell of the Blackwell Building, except for the blood still puddled on the landing. A few of the moribund came from the surrounding buildings look upon the spot and the blood. About 9:30 that morning, George Crow, resident of apartment number 307, came down the steps on his way to get breakfast.  He was a cab driver, and had been working the night before, arriving home just about 3:00 am. He paused upon seeing the blood, and realized it was staining just the spot on the dark stairs, where he had seen a figure sleeping the night before.
Later that morning, at the H division Metropolitan Police station on Leman Street (above), Divisional Inspector Ernest Ellisdon decided to assign the case to 42 year Detective Inspector Edmund Reid. It was an indication of Ellisdon's concern about the bloody murder. 
 Reid (above, front row center)  was a 12 year veteran of the MET, he was, when he joined, the shortest man on the force. But he eventually rose to head the Whitechapel Criminal Investigation Division for a time. A contemporary officer had called Reid, "one of the most remarkable men of the century"  He was an aviator - having set altitude records in a balloon - a published poet, a professional actor, a social activist and an accomplished magician. And he was a damn fine police man.  If any detective of 1888 could solve this murder mystery, it would be D.I  Edmund Reid.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017


I think the place to start is at 4:45 on the chilly morning of Tuesday, 7 August 1888. Mr. John Saunders Reeves has just left his rear 3rd floor apartment in the “The Blackwell Buildings”, on the narrow alley called George Yard (above), running between Wentworth Street and Whitechapel Road. The 23 year old was anxious to reach a dockside pub before the foreman there choose the work crew for the day. But John Reeves will not make it to the pub on time, he will not earn a salary this day, because on the landing, midway between the first and ground floors, he will step into a living hell too vile to remain hidden one moment longer.
In the shadow of the Tower of London,  the “Tower Hamlets” of Spitafields, Whitechapel (above)  and along the Thames, Waping, had once seen nouveau riche Huguenot immigrants build great mansions on silk weaving. 
But over two centuries the power elite of West London had swallowed this enterprise whole, also absorbing the hamlet's stinking tanneries, nauseating slaughterhouses, sour smelling breweries, and smoke belching factories. 
The mansions were now subdivided and crowded in by apartment hovels, “rotten from chimney to cellar, leaning together, apparently by the mere coherence of their ingrained corruption.”  Crowded 7 or 8 to an 8 foot square room, the 80,000 lowest of the working classes shared, according to the Reverend Andrew Means,  "....flimsy, filthy walls, ceilings and...a broken chair, the tottering relics of an old bedstead...the mere fragment of a table.”  Three years earlier newspaperman George Sims described the existence of these  80,000 humans - The walls are damp and crumbling, the ceiling is black and peeling off, the wind and rain sweep in through gaps that seem everywhere”  And Victorian activist Florence Nightingale had seen the same buildings 20 years earlier. “Old papered walls, carpets, furniture and sinks were all sources of dangerous impurity,  as bad as the dung heap in the basement, or the sewer under the house.". This was the Terra Incognita that were the backstreets of Whitechapel and the East End of London.
John Reeves was not surprised to see a body lying on the dark landing. There were 8,500 homeless men, women and children on the streets of Whitechapel every night - 1 in 10 of the citizens - who lacked even the 4 pence for what was in effect a topless coffin (above) in one of the parishes' 200 official  "doss" houses. And if you had only  "tuppance" - two pennies - you could lean against a rope strung between the walls.  But at least you were inside.
This elevated the value of the 48 apartments (above) of John Reeves's own “Model Apartment House" on George Yard.  This  "Philanthropic Housing ” had been built 13 years earlier to replace slums knocked down by construction of the London and Blackwell Railroad, and were supposed to be an island of Victorian sensibilities. The building manager, Mr Hewitt, turned the gas jets off at 11:00 each night, supposedly to discourage unchristian behavior by the tenants, although John's wife Louisa suspected it was more to save on the gas bill. 
But that just made the dark common areas (above) - stairwells  and hallways - more inviting to the weary and the enterprising. Such discarded souls were common enough in Whitechapel. And then, as he turned the banister corner toward the final flight of steps,  John's foot slipped on what he thought was the sleeper's urine.
John was a common member of the East End's working poor. The founders of the Salvation Army, William and Catherine Booth, studied these unfortunates first hand and found 18% labored making clothing,  7% made cigars,  8% were street hawkers -  selling pins and needles and buttons, even  methanol cones to mitigate fevers.  Another 5% worked in small “sweat shops", such as  making matchbooks, which earned 2 1/2 pence for a gross of 144.  And these were the lucky who earned starvation wages. How the remaining 60% survived was beyond the Victorian imagination, but it was abundantly clear most, men women and even children, self medicated their misery with alcohol. 
The Metropolitan Police Service studied the Tower Hamlets in their own way, and estimated that in 1888 over twelve hundred young women worked in Whitechapel's  62 legal brothels, while the parish's older prostitutes, perhaps another 1,000 women,  were reduced to waiting outside pubs or walking the streets, selling their bodies for the price of a glass of gin, a crust of bread or a doss house coffin.  The arrogant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren,  warned the morally outraged that the more his police were used in “...routing out the brothels from the back slums and driving them into respectable places...the worse it becomes for law and order and decency...” And in June of 1887, when a 23 year old shop girl named Elizabeth Cass was falsely arrested for the "crime" of walking down Regent Street at 9:00 p.m.,  the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, was forced to issue a public apology to the girl. After that, the police in Whitechapel even stopped arresting the street walkers.
The abrupt loss of balance evaporated John's worry about missing his work call. And as he instinctively touched the wall to steady himself, he realized there was something not right about the sleeper on the cramped landing (above).  In the pre-dawn twilight, John could just distinguish the outline of a woman, lying on her back.
Her plump moon face (above) shown above her dark clothing.  Like most working class people of his age, John Reeves had seen enough death to recognize it instantly. And his anxious features contorted even more when he realized he had slipped not in urine, but in blood. A great deal of blood. Without coming closer to the body John Reeves hurried down the steps, crossing himself as he ran across the courtyard, in desperate search of help
Thomas Barrett, badge number 226 (H) Whitechapel division, was a 31 year old , 5 year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Force, and one of the 235 “Bobbies” walking a five block beat that Tuesday morning in Whitechapel.  Met officers put in so many miles on patrol that the department replaced their wooden soled boots every three months. 
His only weapon was the 12 ½ inch long wooden night stick, used to subdue suspects - ether pushed against pressure points, or with blows to the arms or legs.  On his head Constable Barrett wore the cork and leather helmet, covered in fine wool, which had been adopted in 1863. And for the last three years he also carried a brass whistle, to summon assistance. His uniform and training were designed to inspire confidence and respect. But all Bobbies also wore a thick band of leather around their necks should a garrote be slipped around their throat. Many beats in Whitechapel were covered by two officers, since the division suffered more assaults against policemen than any other in all of  London. 
PC Barrett was just beginning the last hour of his 8 hour shift when the short, dark bearded man came walking quickly up Whitechapel Road toward him. Seeing the man's disjointed stride, Barrett focused his hand-held whale oil “Bullseye Lantern” on the man,  more to distract him than to illuminate. From 40 feet away Barrett could tell he was a laborer. And although he was sweating, he did not appear to be out of breath. Combined with the rings piercing both his ear lobes, this suggested the man might be an addict. The docks were half a mile to the south, surrounded by pubs and opium dens. 
But after blocking the lantern light with his hand, the man came closer and in a quick high nervous voice, pleaded, “Itsa dreffle, jes dreffle. Yew must coom to ours hoom. I thought she was flessy, oroite flessy, know, but the second I clapt eyes on I could see thassa was a coald gal. Yew must coom”
Barrett recognized the accent as Suffolk, and he understood enough to know the man wanted him to follow. But to where or why, he could not understand. He asked as imperiously as he could, “Where is the trouble, here?” For a second he saw the little man's face flush with embarrassed. Then the little man said slowly, prnouncing carefully,   “George Yard.”  Then, “Please. Quick”. Then he added, "Murder."
Constable Barrett followed the man he soon knew was named John Reeves passed the "White Hart" public house,  and then right, through the arched entrance of George Yard (above). 
A London newspaper would later describe the cobblestone alley (above) as "...a narrow turning out... (which) leads into a number of courts and alleys in which some of the poorest of the poor, together with thieves and roughs and prostitutes, find protection and shelter in the miserable hovels bearing the name of houses.”  
They traveled half way up George Yard (above)  before turning left,  through a nondescript doorway (above, center),  into the courtyard at the rear of the “Blackwell Buildings”(above,  right BG). But the closer they got to the stairwell itself, the slower John Reeves walked  He waited on the ground floor while PC Barrett cautiously climbed the stairs. When his lantern illuminated the dead woman, Barrett understood Reeve's reluctance to see her again.
The middle aged plump woman lay on her back (above). There was a lot of blood puddled around her body, but none on her mouth or nose. Cradling her head was a black bonnet. Her jacket was thrown open, and pulled away from her shoulders. The collar and bodice of her shirtwaist had been so slashed and mangled by the frenzied attack, and so soaked in blood,  that it was impossible for Barrett to tell what color it had been. Her arms were straight at her sides, the hand's clenched. Her ankle length green skirt and brown petty coat were pushed up to her knees. Her stocking clad legs, though straight,  had been pulled apart so that Barrett assumed she had been engaged in sex at the time of her death.  And he noticed , for some reason, that the boots she wore were scuffed and dirty, the heels worn down on the right foot more than the left. And somehow he knew that small sad detail would haunt him. It did not matter, he forced himself to think. As the first officer on the scene, he had to confirm that she was dead, and probably murdered. That was enough to begin to do as he had been trained to do..
Constable Barrett ordered Reeves to stay where he was, and then strode back across the courtyard, stopping in the center of George Yard (above). Putting his brass whistle to his lips, Barrett found his mouth dry as dust. He had to work up a spit before putting the instrument back to his lips. He blew three times, the sharp shrill desperate comforting call echoing off the dark brick walls and cobblestone roadway. And then Thomas blew it three times again. 
When the first constable arrived in response, Barrett sent him to fetch the nearest surgeon, whom he knew was  Dr. Timothy Keleene, of 68 Brick Lane, just three blocks away. When the second officer arrived, Barrett ordered him to let no civilians into or out of the courtyard, and to use his whistle to call for more constables. The detectives of Whitechapel's Criminal Intelligence Division would need to be notified. 
As he walked back to begin what he knew would be a difficult interview with John Reeves, Constable Barrett realized he would miss morning breakfast with his wife Ellen and 3 year old son Albert. Suddenly seeing them safe and healthy was very important to him.
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