I suspect that even in Whitechapel, Mary Ann Connolly stood out. She was a large woman, "Her face reddened and sodded by drink", who went by the street monikers of "Moggg" and “Pearly Poll”. And in the morning of Thursday, 9 August, 1888, she walked into the Commerce Street station house for the Metropolitan Police in Whitechapel, and in a loud, deep raspy voice, this fifty year old broad shouldered, almost six foot tall red faced alcoholic prostitute announced she knew the name of the woman murdered in George Yard on Tuesday morning. They were good friends and had even been drinking together on Monday night. Detective Edmund Reid went down to interview the woman.
According to Pearly Poll, she was currently living at Crossingham's Lodging House, aka The Round House, a private “dosshouse” at 35 Dorset Street. She had known Emma Turner for four or five months, and the two had become “drinking partners”. The evening of the Bank Holiday, Monday, 6 August, they made the rounds of several pubs, until about 10:00 p.m. when they met two soldiers, a Guardsman and a corporal in the Two Brewers pub on Brick Lane (above).
Pub hopping for the next ninety minutes, their last stop was The White Hart pub (above), next to the entrance of George Yard (above, right) on Whitechapel High Street. Just before midnight, the four split up. The last Poll had seen of Emma Turner, she was disappearing into the shadows of George Yard with the guardsman.
Poll had taken the corporal up the block to Angel Alley (above, right), an even narrower, darker 3 food wide passage between Whitechapel and Wentworth.
There Poll performed her service up against the wall (above, to the left of the shop window), a "tup penny upright", or a "thru penny knee trembler"..
Thirty minutes later, having earned enough for her bed in the doss house, Poll left the corporal standing at the corner of Wentworth and George Yard (above, center), waiting for his friend to reappear.
Detective Reid thought the story had problems. Poll's claim that she left a corporal at the corner of Wentworth and George Yard at 12:15 am, was similar to Constable Barrett's story of speaking to a soldier at the same spot about 2:00 am. Could Pearly Poll have been mistaken by 2 hours? Looking into the woman's gin soaked eyes Reid thought that was more than possible. He did not share his concerns, nor did he tell Poll that he now had two names for the murdered woman found in George Yard.
Instead he paid Poll a few shillings, and promised her more if she returned tomorrow for a trip to the Tower of London, to review the soldiers stationed there. And then he hurried her out the door. He had an appointment that afternoon at The Working Lads' Institute.
According to lawyer, merchant and devout Methodist, Henry Hill, in 1875 one of his employees spied a messenger, sent to pick up some new quill pens, returning to the company offices. The boy had the quills jutting out of the top of his hat, thus freeing his arms to hold open a “penny dreadful” adventure story, which he was devotedly reading as other pedestrians swerved to avoid colliding with him. The employee thought him such a laughable creature, he told their boss. But Mr. Hill was not amused. He summoned the messenger to his office and found, “The boy went to neither night school nor Sunday school, and read no other literature than the sensational stories...” This boy, lamented Mr Hill, “...is as much a heathen as any inhabitant of India or China.” And he decided to fix that.
Two years later the socially minded Mr. Hill, founded The Working Lads Institute, a subsidized private club where working class young men could relax, socialize and “network” in an atmosphere of sobriety and thriftiness.
And in 1885 the Working Lads' Institute built new quarters at 285 Whitechapel Road (above), next door to the Whitechapel Underground station (above, left) and just across the street from the London Hospital.
The Institute boasted a dormitory, a library, a gymnasium and a “Swimming Bath.” (above) It also offered educational classes for those seeking to better their lot in life. To defray costs, the institute rented its classrooms for various functions, including corner's inquests, like the one held to investigate the murder of the unidentified woman murdered in George Yard.
Coroners (above, center bg) usually lacked medical training, and the inquests they held, were not trials. The coroner could issue subpoenas and questioned witnesses (above, left) in front of a jury (above, right), drawn from the rolls of “freeholders”, who owned enough property to have the right to vote. The jury would then pass judgement whether the death was accidental, careless or criminal. But they could not charge anyone with a crime.
Still, in the words of a modern author, such inquests added two valuable extralegal elements to the judicial process. “First it invited armature and expert perspectives at the same time,...Second...it had narrative...” In other words, without the restrictions of chain of custody, or against hearsay testimony, and because they were often well attended by the press, an inquest provided a, (often salacious) story of why and how an individual died, usually within 48 hours of the event. The police and prosecutors could then follow up the corner's evidence, if they deemed it advisable.
Deputy Coroner George Collier (above) called this jury to order at 2:00 p.m., on Thursday 9 August, 1888, just 56 hours after the woman found in George Yard had been declared dead. In attendance, beside the jury – the foreman was Mr. Greary – was Collier's assistant Mr. Banks. There was also Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, dressed in his usual impeccable manner, with Metropolitan Police Sargent Green beside him, taking notes. It was Reid who informed Collier that they now had two identities for the dead woman, Emma Turner and/or Martha Turner. Collier decided not to release either name until one could be confirmed. Then he began to call witnesses.
Elizabeth Mahoney testified that she and her husband John had returned home to George Yard at 1:40 a.m., and she had almost immediately gone back out and returned “no more than five minutes later”. She had seen no one in the stairwell on either trip. Cabbie Alfred Crow testified he had seen someone lying on the stairs at about 3:30 a.m. And John Reeves testified to finding the body just before 5:00 am. Constable Barrett testified he had examined the body and sent for Dr. Timothy Kileen.
Doctor Killeen had declared the victim dead at 5:30 a.m. He estimated the woman's age as about 36 years old and 5 feet, 3 inches tall.. He now said there were 36 stab wounds to the body, many of which could not have been self inflicted - 7 to the lungs, 1 to the heart, 5 to the liver, 2 to the spleen and six to the stomach.
He now said that most of the wounds were inflicted by a knife, but one wound, which penetrated the breastbone, might have made by a bayonet. He felt certain all had been inflicted while the victim was pre-mortem - while she was still alive. And he gave the time of death as about 2:30 a.m., Tuesday, 7 August, 1888. He found blood between the scalp and skull, and added that the woman's brain appeared pale but healthy. There was food in the digestive tract. When pressed by Mr. Collier he admitted some of the wounds might have been inflicted by a left handed man.
Coroner Collier called this “one of the most terrible cases that one can imagine. The man must have been a perfect savage to have attacked a woman in this way.” He then ordered the inquest be continued in 2 weeks time, so the woman's identity could be confirmed. This was important because most murder victims knew their killers. But it was just another indication of how little the authorities were ready for the hell that was about to descend upon Whitechapel, London.