a.k.a. Catherine Millett or Mellett, 'Drunken Lizzie' Davis, 'Fair Alice' Downey
Born Catherine Mylett on 8 December 1859, Rose Mylett was (according to her mother) once married to an upholsterer who went by the name of Davis, but for some reason unknown they had split up by 1888. She had one daughter by him, named Florence, born 12 September 1880, who was attending school in Sutton at the time of her mother's death. Rose had lived in various lodging houses over the years, ranging from the Limehouse/Poplar district and 18 George Street, to her mother's lodgings in Pelham Street (north of Hanbury Street), Baker's Row, Spitalfields.
Because of her proclivity to drink, friends and acquaintances in Whitechapel and Spitalfields knew Rose by the name of 'Drunken Lizzie' Davis, as well as Millett or Mellett. In Poplar she was known as 'Fair Alice' Downey. Again, according to her mother (who identified the body), her true name was Catherine Mylett.
December 19-20, 1888
7:55 P.M.: Rose Mylett is seen by Charles Ptolomey, an infirmary night-attendant, speaking with two sailors in Poplar High Street, near Clarke's Yard. She appeared to have been sober, and was heard by Ptolomay to have said "No, no, no!" to one of them. Their manner of conduct was suspicious enough so as to bring attention to themselves.
4:15 A.M.: Police Sergeant Robert Golding, on patrol at the time, came across the lifeless body of an unidentified woman (Rose Mylett) in the yard between 184 and 186 Poplar High Street, in Clarke's Yard (so called because of owner George Clarke, a builder's merchant). The body was still warm, and lying on its left side. It appeared to P.S. Golding as if the attitude of the body was somewhat reminiscent of that of a Ripper victims, with the left leg drawn up and right leg stretched out. The clothes were not torn or disarranged in any manner, and there was no obvious sign of injury. Golding did not himself attribute the death to the Ripper.
Still, Rose Mylett was a known prostitute and her body was found only two miles from the center of the Whitechapel murders. Public suspicion grew concerning the case, and the hush that had befallen the public since the dreadful Kelly murder a month and a week before was quickly disrupted. Once again, the Ripper's name was spoken aloud.
The body of Rose Mylett possessed the following:
- Brown and black 'outer clothes'
- Dark tweed jacket
- Lilac apron
- Red flannel petticoat
- Red and blue striped stockings
- Cash: 1/2d [6p]
Death was confirmed by divisional surgeon Dr. Matthew Brownfield's assistant, Mr. Harris, but at first doctors were at a loss as to what had caused the death. It did not seem like a Ripper murder, as the throat was not cut and there were no easily visible wounds anywhere on the body. It wasn't until a faint mark resembling the imprint of a string was found around her neck that strangulation was first suggested.
Post Mortem Report (Prepared by Dr. Matthew Brownfield)
Blood was oozing from the nostrils, and there was a slight abrasion on the right side of the face... One the neck there was a mark which had evidently been caused by a cord drawn tightly round the neck, from the spine to the left ear. Such a mark would be made by a four thread cord. There were also impressions of the thumbs and middle and index fingers of some person plainly visible on each side of the neck. There were no injuries to the arms or legs. The brain was gorged with an almost black fluid blood. The stomach was full of meat and potatoes, which had only recently been eaten. Death was due to strangulation. Deceased could not have done it herself. The marks on her neck were probably caused by her trying to pull the cord off. He thought the murderer must have stood at the left rear of the woman, and, having the ends of the cord round his hands, thrown it round her throat, crossed his hands, and thus strangled her. If it had been done in this way, it would account for the mark not going completely round the neck.
Dr. Robert Anderson was also involved in the case, and his findings seemed to contradict those of Dr. Brownfield. He observed that there was no trace of a struggle around the yard -- no items strewn about, no clothing torn or ripped, no scratches on the body, and no second set of footprints anywhere among the soft ground of the yard. Also according to Anderson, the body "lay naturally."
Anderson, along with the backing of his police force, insisted that Mylett's death was not attributable to murder, and demanded that Dr. Thomas Bond of Westminster be sent to re-examine the body. Bond's personal assistant, and then the Senior Police Surgeon both intercepted Anderson's request, and both went down of their own accord to see the body for themselves. Both returned with a diagnosis of 'willful murder by strangulation.'
Finally, Dr. Bond received Anderson's request and examined the body of Rose Mylett, in the hopes of studying the faint marks he had been told about by his colleagues before him, and was surprised to find that they had disappeared! Furthermore, there were no secondary signs of strangulation, such as a protruding tongue or clenched fists. This, he believed, was sufficient evidence to rebut the theory that she was strangled. In fact, he put forth the idea that Mylett had fallen down while drunk and was choked to death by her stiff, velvet collar.
The medical reports also created two major conflicts with witness testimony. First, there was found no alcohol in Mylett's stomach, which conflicts with Alice Graves' testimony that said she saw the deceased quite drunk with two men outside The George at 2:30 A.M.. Second, the medical report revealed evidence purporting that Mylett had never given birth, this time contradicting the statement made by her mother (who said Rose Mylett gave birth to a son in 1881).
The inquest into the death of Rose Mylett was held under Wynne Baxter at Poplar Town Hall on December 21st, 1888 and again on January 2nd 1889 and finally on January 9th 1889. The report prepared by Brownfield was not generally accepted among police, who cited that there was no string or ligature discarded on the premises, and that the mark on the neck encircled only one-quarter the circumference of the neck.
Mr. Wynne Baxter, however, wanted nothing to do with this "nonsense" of "death by natural causes." In his summing up at the inquest, he told the jury:
After Dr. Bromfield and his assistant, duly qualified men, came to the conclusion that this was a case of homicidal strangulation, someone had a suspicion that the evidence was not satisfactory. At all events, you've heard that doctor after doctor went down to view the body without my knowledge or sanction as coroner. I did not wish to make that a personal matter, but I had never received such treatment before. Of the five doctors who saw the body, Dr. Bond was the only one who considered the case was not one of murder. Dr. Bond did not see the body until five days after her death and he was, therefore, at a disadvantage. Dr. Bond stated that if this was a case of strangulation he should have expected to find the skin broken, but it was clearly shown, on reference being made to the records of the Indian doctors in the cases of Thug murders, that there were no marks whatever left. Other eminent authorities agreed with that view.
Dr. George Bagster Phillips agreed with Baxter, making note that there were signs of strangulation on Annie Chapman's body. According to Phillips, the murderer 'had studied the theory of strangulation, for he evidently knew where to place the cord so as to immediately bring his victim under control.'
The jury chose to side with the coroner and came up with the ever popular verdict of 'willful murder by person or person unknown.'
Anderson and the C.I.D., dismayed that their reports and findings were ignored by Baxter, refused to set their men upon the case, deeming the murderer to be non-existent and such an attempt a blatant waste of time and man-power.
Later on in life, Anderson, in The Lighter Side of My Official Life (1910), wrote that "the Poplar case of December, 1888, was death from natural causes, and but for the 'Jack the Ripper' scare, no one would have thought of suggesting that it was a homicide."