JUNE 2020

JUNE   2020
He Has Dragged Us Back Forty Years.


Saturday, January 05, 2019

BLOODY JACK Chapter Nine

I don't think it was more than a few seconds after lorry driver Charles Cross and his reluctant companion disappeared around the eastern corner of Buck's Row and Court Street, before Police Constable John Neil appeared at the far western end of passage at Baker's Row. The dangers of his beat were manifest by the length of PC Neil's nightly walk. 
Working at the outer edges of Bethel Green - “J” - division, the debonair PC Neil (above) had last passed down Buck's Row, walking on the north side of the street, at about 3:15 that Friday morning, 31 August, 1888. Now, just about 3:45,  he was walking down that dark canyon again, west to east, on the south side of the street. As P.C. Neil said later, “There was not a soul about”.
As he approached where the Row narrowed,  PC Neil saw what he called “a figure” lying on the sidewalk, her head to the west, toward Bakers' Street, “...lying length ways... her left hand touching the gate.” The gate was the locked stable gate and the woman was lying in the short “driveway” of the Brown and Eagle Wool Warehouse (below, #1). Neil later testified, “I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand.”
At that moment, Neil heard the distinctive footsteps of a fellow Bobby's wooden souled shoes, and he flashed his lamp toward Brady Street. The Bobby crossing Buck's Row at Brady Street was PC John Thain. He hurried to Neil's assistance. Neil told PC Thain that a woman had been murdered, and added, “Run at once for Dr. Llewelklyn."  The doctor, Rees Ralph Llewelklyn, lived at 157 Whitechapel Road, just one block south and half a block west (above, #4), about 300 yards away - and opposite the London Hospital. And as Thain rushed off to fetch the doctor, Neil heard the approach of yet another constable. Neil did not inquire as to where this officer had come from, just sent him immediately to Bethel Green station house at the corner of Ainsely Street and Bethel Green Road, to fetch an ambulance cart. PC Neil knew that mission would take half an hour or more, and so alone in the dark with the dead woman, he waited for the arrival of the doctor.
It was now just before 4:00 in the morning. On his way to Whitechapel Road, PC Thain made a deter to Harrison, Barber and Company,  a slaughter-house (map above, #3)  on Winthrop Street, where his cloak had been left by the day constable. As he retrieved his garment, Thain told the three men working that night  -  Henry Tomkins, James Mumford and Charles Britten – that a murder had been committed on Buck's Row, and then hurried off to fetch the doctor. The men had been working since 8:00 p.m. Thursday night, and since the murder scene (above, white arrow) was literally just around the corner, Thomkins and Bitten decided to have a look. They left James Mumford behind to watch the premises.
Dr. Llewelklyn (above)  was a 38 year old unmarried graduate of the University of London, who had received his Medical degree in 1874, and was accepted into the Royal College of Surgeons a year later, and made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1876. After 12 years in practice at the same location, he was also the official Medical Officer for the Metropolitan Police Holborn (E) division on Bow Street. And in one other way he was uniquely qualified to respond to this particular murder scene - although why would not be apparent for several hours. Dr. Llewelklyn was a member of the British Gynaecological Society.
By the time PC Thain returned with Doctor Llewelklyn, it was just after 4:00 in the morning. Thain was surprised to see  Thomkins and Bitten had beaten him back,  and he took it as his duty to keep those two men away from the body.  Dr. Llewelklyn immediately determined the woman (above) was dead, and that she had “severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were still warm...I believe she had not been dead more than half-an-hour.” That would have timed the murder just after PC Neil had made his previous pass down Buck's Row. After noting that there were no indications of a struggle and there was very little blood around the neck wounds, and no more than a half a wine glass of blood on the pavement around her - indicating most of the injuries were inflicted post mortem – Dr. Llewelklyn “...told the Officer Thain to see she was taken to the mortuary...” and left to return to his home.
While the doctor was making his exam, PC Neil ordered Constable Thain to take control of the scene while he began pounding on the gate of the Brown and Eagle stable. When no one responded, Neil then went back down the street to the Essex Wharf warehouse, where the night watchman said he had heard nothing. Neil returned to the scene just as the third officer, PC Jonas Mizen,  returned from Bethal Green station with the ambulance cart (above). Once the doctor released the body, the two officers loaded the dead woman onto the cart and they began to push her toward the Montegue Street Mortuary.
Just about then, Sargent Kirby from the Bethal Green station arrived to take charge of the scene - or what remained of it. PCs Neil and Mizen were pushing the ambulance toward the Montague Street mortuary,. so, by 4:20  that morning, less than an hour after her murder, not much more than 30 minutes after the discovery of her body,  and with two gawkers having already peered at her corpse, the dead woman had been removed from the scene, and a young boy from a house across the street had commenced to washing the blood off the cobblestones. And so far everything that had been done, was according to Metropolitan Police regulations.
It was at the mortuary that things went "pear shaped". It was around 4:30 in the morning when 53 year old Robert Mann, a ten year Whitechapel Workhouse resident because of “confusion” and a Mortuary attendant, opened the shed for Constables Neil and Mizen. They transferred the body to an exam table (above), and left. And then Mann locked the shed again, and went to his spare institutional breakfast. After eating,  Mann and his 68 year old assistant and fellow workhouse inmate, James Hatfield, returned to the mortuary, and, trying to be helpful, decided to strip and wash the body.
Perhaps the infirmary nurses who were supposed to preform this function, were unavailable at this time of day.  But the two men, one easily confused because of an injury and the other given to “fits”,  were left alone with the only valuable piece of evidence in this murder case, to exercise their own intuitive. With Mann's assistance Hatfield cut the clothes off the body, and dropped them on the dirt floor. Before they could do more damage,  Detective Inspector John Spratling from Bethnal Green Division arrived. He stopped the morgue attendants from any further tampering with the evidence, and sent for Dr. Llewelkyn to come at once.
It seems likely that neither Mann nor Hatfield ever had any idea what they had done wrong. And it also seems likely that their transgression had no substantial impact on the case. But their errors provided their “betters” with some one socially beneath them to blame for the failure to stop a horror they had not yet even begun to understand.
-30 - 

Friday, January 04, 2019

BLOODY JACK Chapter Eight

I can name the year the British Empire was truly achieved. It was 1825, while England was still paying off the debts incurred from the America War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars. In the face of such a dramatic loss of income, the British government invested in their own future, creating the public/private corporations that built and operated the London Docks – in the shadow of the Tower of London, in Wapping, St. Katherine's Docks, and further east, across Nightingale Lane, the London Docks, and on the Isle of Dogs, the Albert and the East India Docks. The initial cost of the smaller St. Katherine's Docks alone was over £1,000,000. But the return was an economic engine that supercharged the industrial revolution, and insured a British empire, and private British fortunes for the next one hundred years.
In 1827- 28, 1,250 houses and tenements covering 24 acres in Wapping were bought and torn down. In their place was built an artificial harbor with 4 miles of quays which could load or unload 26 ships at once, directly into or from 6 story warehouses. The unloading time was cut from 3 days to just 12 hours. And by the late 1880's the Blackwell railroad sped the dispersal of cargoes to and from every town in England, Wales and Scotland. The St. Katherine's docks specialized in the import and export of 19th Century luxury items - wine, wool, ivory, rubber, china, sugar, marble, spices, perfume, hops, indigo, coal and tea. And the Albert and East India docks were even bigger, covering 800 acres.
But as is usual in capitalism, profits proved addictive. By 1887, even while the warehouse space leased by private companies bulged with cargoes and their profits soared, the St. Katherine Dock corporation itself was almost bankrupt, maintenance and staff levels were cut, and salaries for the 1,700 day laborers remained stagnant. What happened next was predictable. Shortly before 9:00 p.m. on the chilly rainy Thursday, 30 August, 1888, a fire broke out in the huge South Quay warehouse of the East India docks - 6 floors high, 150 yards long by 75 yards wide - with cotton stored on the upper floors, kegs of gin and brandy below.
The rainstorm did nothing to slow the flames because they were inside the building. Alarms called in 12 steam powered water pumps and over 70 firemen, but they could only contain the flames to that single structure. A verbose reporter described the conflagration as, “lurid flames of gigantic volume, rising high against a canopy of fantastic clouds and throwing the tapering masts into clear relief until they and their rigging looked like fairy cobwebs, illuminated by a strange, unearthly light. The effect was grand...” Not until midnight did the flames begin to die down.
And just as the South Quay fire finally seemed to be dying, another fire broke out at the Ratcliff Dry dock, where the 843 ton, 191 foot long Steam Ship Cornavia was under construction. The ship was saved, but the flames quickly spread to the 2 story Gowland warehouse filled with 800 tons of coal. By 2:00 a.m. this conflagration was being fought by 14 pumps, two firefighting boats and over 100 firemen. In classic British understatement, the “Chemical Trade Journal” predicted, “The loss will be enormous.”
It seems strange that on such a rainy night, two such serious fires should break out in the London docks, one right after the other but so separated in space. Perhaps they were ignited by lightning strikes. Or sparked by fires lit to keep workers warm. Or perhaps they were an act of sabotage, by competitors, or by owners seeking insurance settlements to save their fortunes. Or perhaps they were desperate angry acts by workers, paid little better than starvation wages. But whatever the cause, a large crowd had gathered at the gates to the docks to enjoy the free show. And those masses attracted street hawkers selling food and gin and beer, and prostitutes selling their wares, and pickpockets making their fortunes.
Among the crowd enjoying the light show was Emily “Nelly” Holland, described as “an elderly woman with a naturally pale face.” She was, in fact, only about 50 years old. After 2:00  that morning of Friday, 31 August, 1888,  40 year old Emily – aka Jane Oram - was returning to the room she shared with four other women in a private doss, the Wilmont Lodging House, at 18 Thrall Street (above) . It was a street so crowded with rundown slum rooming houses it was sometimes called “doss street”. There, said a contemporary writer, “...robberies and scenes of violence are of common occurrence... Thieves, loose women, and bad characters abound... (a place even) a constable will avoid...unless accompanied by a brother officer.” But it was refuge of reasonable safety to Emily Holland - a roof, a shared kitchen and a shared bed.
Leaving the dock's fire, Emily came up Whitechapel Road, passing the "White Chapel" of St. Mary's, and crossing Osborn Street (above). There she saw a friend, a woman she had first met in the Lambeth Workhouse. 
Of the perhaps 6,000 prostitutes – young and old, full and part time – in all of London, there were only 150 infirmary beds set aside for women in poverty suffering from venereal diseases. Lambeth was the borough located just across the Thames from the City of London, and the pious Christian Victorian citizens of The City did not want to encourage sin by treating the disease ravaged bodies of these “fallen women” within the City limits. The majority of women in Lambert were not there to be treated for VD. But it was one of the few sources of treatment for the common infection. And it was in the Lambeth Workhouse where Emily Holland first met the woman she knew as Polly Nichols, and Polly Nichols had been transferred to Lambert three separate times.
The two alcoholics were friendly, and for three weeks Polly even shared a bed with Emily at the Wilmont Lodging House. Emily liked Polly, and considered her "a very clean woman who always seemed to keep to herself",  the perfect friend for another alcoholic.  But a week ago Polly had abruptly left, moving to the White House doss at 56 Flower and Dean Street (above), where men and women were permitted to share beds for the night - meaning a woman without the full 4 pence for a bed could exchange the use of her body for a few moments, for a place to sleep for the entire night. Emily never explained Polly's sudden decent another step down the social ladder. But seeing the diminutive Polly this damp chilly morning, “very much the worse for drink, falling against a wall” Emily clearly felt sympathy.
Polly was leaning against the wall of a grocery store just down from the corner,  on Osborne street,
and she greeted Emily cheerfully. She explained she had just been tossed out of the White House doss because she did not have the half price - 2 pence - required to share a man's bed. Emily urged Polly to come spend the night with her at Thrall Street, but Polly refused, insisting she had already earned her doss three times that evening. But she had either spent it on gin, or the gangs which infested Whitechapel had stolen the money from her.  She would easily earn it again, she insisted. And Emily could have had no doubt that she could. Then their conversation came to an abrupt halt while the bell of St. Mary's Matfellon Church on the south side of Whitechapel Road tolled the 2 o'clock half hour.
There was something about Polly Nichols (above) which inspired many people to want to to protect her. She was small - just 5 foot tall - and pretty in life, even after delivering 5 children, and a decades long addiction to alcohol which had reduced her to sleeping on the pavement of Trafalgar Square for months at a time. A childhood fall had left her with a scar across her forehead, but through it all she retained a cheerful and positive personality, sneering at the obstacles she thew up for herself. But like all alcoholics, Polly seemed to be harboring a secret, that she would share with no one, that she daily sacrificed to keep and protect. In truth there was no secret. Alcoholism is an addiction, not a romantic moral failing, not something tragedy inspired. It is a physical condition like diabetes, or asthma. And offering to protect Polly, merely drove her to run away faster.
Once St. Mary's bell stopped, Polly was anxious to be on her way, despite their having talked with Emily for only six or seven minutes. In a line she often used to smooth her exits, she assured Emily that her new bonnet would attract a customer. And as she staggered off up Whitechapel Road, she told Emily, "It won't be long before I'm back."
Polly Nichols was wrong. She would be dead on her back in Buck's Row within an hour, her throat cut twice and then disemboweled and left abandoned like a bit of trash, to be discovered first by two self absorbed lorry drivers, and then by a 33 year old Metropolitan Police Constable from County Cork, assigned to the Bethel Green “J” Division – PC 97J, John Neil, who would luckily be spared the worst of the horrors of his discovery.
- 30 -

Thursday, January 03, 2019

BLOODY JACK Chapter Seven

I don't believe Scotland Yard got its name because the Thames riverfront was a vacation home for Medieval Scottish royalty. I prefer the story that Cardinal Wolsey stole the strip of land in 1519 from a family named Scott, and used it as a boat landing for his new mansion - until Henry VIII had the Cardinal beheaded and seized the mansion and the riverfront property.  The important thing is that by 1880, the collection of office buildings, stables and storage sheds along Whitehall Street, facing the river,  was the headquarters of Metropolitan Police. The back of this hodgepodge complex - the city side, through which most people had access during the two decades while the Victorian Embankment of the Thames river was being built - was a central courtyard called Scotland Yard (above).
A few hundred yards downstream, before the Westminster Bridge,  was the new Westminster palace,  which housed the houses of Parliament. Just behind was 10 Downing Street, which housed the Prime Minister. And a few hundred yards inland was Buckingham Palace, originally  Cardinal Wolsey's palace but which now  housed Queen Victoria. It was a perfect place to locate the Metropolitan Police Force, which had come to be known simply as Scotland Yard.
It should be clarified that the Metropolitan Police were not the London Police. The old walled City of London remained as much a political and financial entity as it did when Wat Tyler marched his pre-tea party tax rebels across London Bridge in 1341. The authority of the London Police police ended pretty much where the city walls had.  They were responsible for protecting the streets around  Parlament, the Bank of England and The Queen's palace. Scotland Yard  had authority for “Greater London”. In regards to our subject, this meant the only way to get from Scotland Yard to Whitechapel was to either cross London Police territory, or take to the river – which was also policed from Scotland Yard (above).
With the same fervent Christian militarism that empowered William Bazalgette to overcome all opposition and build the Thames Embankment to house his new London sewer system,  Sir Charles Warren (above), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after February 1886, believed in his own divine mission to make London safe. And Sir Charles was the original advocate of  "community based policing".  He wrote, “The whole safety and security of London depends...upon the efficiency of the uniform police constables acting with the support of the citizen...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime. The next is the detection and punishment of offenders if a crime is committed.” 
Sir Charles saw the Sherlock Holmes intellectual plain-clothes detective as supporting the uniformed officers, not leading them. Warren's temper exploded whenever his decisions were questioned,  and he insisted on making all the decisions, from when to promote officers, to where they should live. As a modern writer has pointed out, “Warren believed, probably rightly, that he had been appointed...to reorganized a demoralized police force and had been given a free hand in how he achieved that.”
But Warren was not an easy man to work for, as his subordinate, Assistant Commissioner for the Criminal Intelligence Division – plain clothes detectives - James Munro (above), could testify.  And Warren was an even harder man to have as a subordinate, as Sir Charles' boss,  Home Secretary George Matthews could also testify.  But Secretary Matthews was a far better politician than Sir Charles.
It was Matthews who gave Assistant Commissioner Munro (above) the additional duty of running Section D - 4 CID Inspectors and 79 Officers recruited from Scotland and Ireland, whose public job was to keep track of Irish militants  in London.  
Irish bombs were already going off in England, one of them, in 1884 (above), in the Section D offices in Scotland Yard itself.  In response to such attacks,  the secret assignment of Section D was to bribe, disrupt, smear and blackmail Irish politicians, using prostitutes, thugs and forged letters to newspapers throughout England and in Ireland itself. 
Housed in a 2 story building in Scotland Yard (above), Section D was strictly “black ops”, shielded from parliamentary budget oversight. That also meant it was shielded from Sir Charles' oversight. Although Commissioner Warren could look down on Munro's office from his own, he had little idea what as going on in that building, or in the private meetings between his subordinate Munro and his boss, Matthews.
Munro (above) shared Sir Charles' self-confident moral vanity - and his mustache. He saw his own recovery from a bout of infantile paralysis – polio – as his own divine endorsement. And he made up for the limp it left him with by carrying a very big walking stick. He was “very unwilling to give up an opinion once he had formed it”. The two mustaches were bound to bang heads.
When Munro wrote a memo bemoaning his heavy workload, and suggesting he needed an assistant, Sir Charles (above) replied that the Assistant Commissioner should “...be allowed to devote his time and energy to his legitimate work, and that he should not be burdened with the care and anxieties of duties...” outside the Metropolitan Police. In other words, Commissioner Warren told Assistant Commissioner Munro, if you are too busy, give up running the Special Irish section, Section D.
As expected Munro appealed to Home Secretary Matthews (above), who happily agreed to fund an additional Assistant Chief Constable. 
The victorious and confident Munro was quick to suggest just the man for the job – Sir Melville Macnaughten (above). Munro had known him in India, and knew him to be a man of courage and good sense. And loyal to Munro.
Sir Charles (above) did not agree. He reminded Secretary Matthews that during a New Delhi riot, Sir Melville had been so far ahead of events that he was knocked unconscious by a rioter, making him “...the one man in India who has been beaten by the "Hindoos".” There were lots of men more qualified for the position of Assistant Chief Constable, said Warren. And if Mcnaughten were offered the job, Warren said he would resign. 
It was not Warren's first resignation threat, but once again, it worked. Secretary Matthews (above) caved, and would not offer the job to Mcnaughten.
Munro (above, center)  had already assured Sir Melville that he had the job, and was embarrassed and furious when he could not deliver it. And on Friday, 31 August, 1888, he submitted his own resignation to Sir Charles (above, left), who happily accepted it,  replacing him by promoting Robert Anderson to Assistant Commissioner of CID.  Sir Charles Warren had won.  
Matthews immediately offered Munro a job as consultant to the Home Office, while retaining Munro as chief of Section D (above).  So Munro had been removed, but he had not gone. And Secretary  Matthews would remember he had been manhandled by Warren, again. And the tool the Home Secretary would use to remove his troublesome Commissioner would present itself that very morning.
At about 3:45 that same Friday morning, 31 August, 1888, 39 year old Charles Cross left his apartment at 22 Doveton Street, at the eastern edge of Whitechapel. He was heading for the Pickford & Company stables beneath the London and Northwestern Railroad Broad Street elevated station, where he worked as a driver on a delivery wagon. Pickford was the largest shipping company in England, and kept some 600 horses at the Broad Street stables, from where they were dispatched each day to move cargo from factories and shops in London to and from the NW Railroad and the London Docks..
Charles' walk  (above) usually took him about 20 minutes, but this morning, as he headed west across Cambridge Road to Oxford Street, he was already late. He walked briskly through the cold drizzle. Lightning flashed as he took the shortcut around St. Bartholomew’s Church, and thunder followed him down Trapp Street. He made a left on Sommerford, and a right on Brady, before turning right again and heading down Buck's Row. 
He was about half way down the north, private home side of the dark cobblestone street and about half way to work, when across the street, on the warehouse side, in the shadows thrown by the only gas light on that side of the street, Cross saw a bundled tarp lying in front of the closed stable gate for the Brown and Eagle Wool Warehouse.
Charles wasn't sure why, but he impulsively crossed the road toward it. Perhaps the idea of snatching a new tarp gave him reason. Perhaps he could use it to cover himself from the rain today, or sell it when he got to work. But another flash of lightning revealed the lump in the shadows had a human outline. Charles slowed, but continued another two steps for a closer look. 
He stopped when he realized what he thought was a discarded tarp was actually a woman, lying on her back, her head away from him, her legs open toward him, her dress pushed up above her knees (above)  He could not move for a long moment. Was she drunk? She must be drunk. She was going to drown in this weather, Could a person drown in the rain?
He heard the click of an approaching hob nail boots on the cobblestones.  It was a man, hunched shouldered and collar turned up against the rain. Charles suddenly felt ashamed, as if he had been staring at the woman's private parts. It was absurd, in the dark, that he would do such a thing, he couldn't even see her private parts, he never...Still, he felt he must confront this false image of himself. Charles didn't want this stranger suspecting he had been involved with this woman, lying in the street. He stepped toward the approaching man, and saw he was dressed, as Charles was, in a workman's clothes. Charles called out, “Come and look over here, there's a woman."
The other man stopped, and for a second Charles thought he might turn and run. It was to be expected that he might run. Charles could be a mugger or part of a gang.  But Charles pointed toward the woman, and the man came on again, but this time angling toward the body. As the man passed him, Charles said, “I think she may be dead.” The man knelt down and touched her face and hands. “Cold” was all he said. Then he put his head on her chest. The man said, “She has a heartbeat. It's faint.” Then he said, “I think she's breathing. But it is little, if she is.” The man stood, and said, “I've got to get to work. I'm late, already.”  But neither man moved.
They stood for a long moment side by side, in silence, looking down at the dying woman,  but not seeing it. Then the other man suggested, “We should move her out of the way.” The words hung in the cold damp air for a long moment. Charles could not make himself move, for some reason. He said, “I don't want to do that.” He'd meant to say we shouldn't do that, but the words had already escaped in the cold damp air. They could not be withdrawn. Again a silence fell upon them. They had to do something. Didn't they? Charles saw the other man glance back up Bucks Row. The street was still empty. It would not be, it couldn't be for much longer.. London Hospital was two blocks away.  The rain was growing lighter. Charles said, “We have to do something.” Then, the other man squatted between the woman's legs, like a midwife, Charles thought, delivering a newborn, and he pulled her dress down over her legs. As he stood again, the other man said, “I have to be at Corbetts Court by four.” Charles understood. The man said, “We can look for a Bobby on the way.” The man took two steps toward toward Brady Street,  then paused, waiting for Charles.
Charles realized he was not looking at the woman's body. What was he doing here? Why did he have to be the one who found her? If he had just gone the other way, down Little North Street, he would not have seen her at all. Many mornings he did just that. But this morning, he had turned down Buck's Row. She was probably just drunk. Charles turned on his heel, and blocked her out of his mind. Both men walked to the west end of Buck's Row together, without saying another word.
Behind them, where the killer had released another of his demons into the world, the woman's soul slipped from her body and floated away in the dark, evaporating in loneliness until it was so thin there was nothing left of her but air. And then not even that.
- 30 -

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