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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