John McCormack

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Witness at Alice McKenzie's inquest and her lover at the time of her death.

Also known as 'Bryant' and 'Jim', apparently born c.1826[1].

An Irish porter who had been engaged in casual work for Jewish tailors in Hanbury Street for around sixteen years, he had first met Alice McKenzie in Bishopsgate and had lived with her in various lodging houses in the Whitechapel area on-and-off for six or seven years. Since 1888 they had been staying at Mr. Tenpenny's Lodging House in Gun Street, Spitalfields.

He last saw McKenzie at 4.00am, 16th July 1889, when he returned from work and before going to sleep he gave her 1s/8d. When he awoke between 10.00 and 11.00pm, McKenzie had gone out. He did not see her again until he identified her body at the mortuary the following afternoon.

McCormack said that she had told him that she was from Peterborough, but did not remember her saying who her friends were.[2]

John McCormack appeared on the first day of the inquest (17th July 1889) in which he furnished the proceedings with a few more details:

I live at 54, Gun-street, Spitalfields. It is a common lodging-house. I am a porter. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and recognize it as that of Alice M'Kenzie [McKenzie]. I can't exactly tell her age, but it was about 40.

The CORONER. - Has she been living with you? - Yes, for about six years. I recognize her by her thumb, which had been crushed at the top by a machine. The nail was half off. [Coroner] Did you recognize her face? - Yes, Sir; by the scars on her forehead. I also recognized her clothes she was wearing, and also the boots. She told me she came from Peterborough. I did not know if she had any children. She worked very hard as a washerwoman and charwoman to the Jews.

[Coroner] When did you last see her alive? - Between 3 and 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon. She left me in bed at that time. She went from me with the intention of paying a night's rent - 8d.

[Coroner] Did you give her the money? - Of course I did. I gave her 1s. 8d. altogether; to pay the rent, and to do what she liked with the remainder.

[Coroner] You did not see her again? - Not until I saw the body in the mortuary. The deputy told me that my old woman was lying dead in the mortuary, and I went and recognized her.

[Coroner] Was she sober when she left you? - Perfectly.

[Coroner] How came you in bed at 4 o'clock? - As soon as I come home I lie down; and, having a little drop of drink, I go and lie down. When I came home yesterday I went and lay down immediately.

[Coroner] Had the deceased been to work on Tuesday? - No; she told me she went to work on Monday, but I did not believe it. She came home about 7 o'clock on Monday evening, and she then went to bed.

[Coroner] Why did you not believe she went to work? - Because I know she did not.

[Coroner] How do you know? - Because I was told by others she did not go to work.

[Coroner] Did she often come home late at night? - Not to my knowledge. Deceased was usually at home at night.

[Coroner] Did you have any words with the deceased yesterday? - I had a few words and that upset her.

[Coroner] Did she tell you she was going to walk the streets? - She did not; she told me nothing.

[Coroner] Did you not go down to the deputy and ask if the deceased had paid the money? - I did; that was between half-past 10 and 11 o'clock.

[Coroner] What did the deputy say? - She told me she had not paid the rent.

[Coroner] Did you say, "What am I to do? Am I to go and walk the streets as well?" - That's what I did say. The deputy said, "No; don't you go." I then went upstairs and went to bed. I got up at a quarter to 6 that morning, and that was my usual time.

[Coroner] Did you think she had gone out looking for money? - I can't say nothing about that.

[Coroner] Was the deceased a great smoker? - Yes; she used to smoke, but I can't tell what sort of pipe she smoked; all I can say is she smoked.

[Coroner] Was it a clay pipe or a wooden pipe? - It was always a clay pipe.

[Coroner] In bed? - Yes, of course.[3]


  1. Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 18th July 1889
  2. Report by Inspector Henry Moore, MEPO 3/140 ff.294-7
  3. Inquest report, The Times, 18th July 1889