September 1888 Elizabeth Stride

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Location: Dutfield’s Yard, Berner Street, St George in the East.

Date: 30th September, 1888

Time: 1:00 AM

The Victim: Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdotter, aka Long Liz, the wife of the late John Thomas Stride was identified by her lover Michael Kidney, and also by Charles Preston, resident of 32 Flower and Dean Street. [[Elizabeth Tanner]] also of 32 Flower and Dean Street identified her as the woman that she knew as Long Liz.

Victim Discovered By: Louis Diemshitz, on entering [[Dutfield’s Yard]] with his costermonger’s barrow drawn by a pony, through the wide open gates, discovered the body of Elizabeth Stride. It was quite dark as he drove in and his pony shied to the left as he did so. He looked to the ground on his right and saw something lying there, he then jumped from his cart and struck a match, this gave enough light to see a woman was lying there, but he was not sure if she was dead, or just drunk. He left his pony in the yard and went into the club, where he found his wife, who, together with several members of the club, he told about the discovery. He got a candle, and by its light he could see there was blood but he did not touch the body and instead went for the police, passing several streets without seeing a policeman, he returned without one, although he had called police as loud as he could.

First Police on Scene: PC Henry Lamb 252H, who’s beat was on Commercial Road was the first officer on scene. He was alerted to the crime by Morris Eagle, who was one of the people fetched from the club by Diemshitz and had similarly gone looking for the police. Eagle was then sent to the police station to fetch the Inspector.

Medical Assistance: PC Lamb sent for Dr Blackwell, who, whilst dressing, sent his assistant, Edward Johnston, with the police to Berner Street. Dr Blackwell, arriving at 1:16 AM, examined the body and pronounced Elizabeth to be dead. Doctor Phillips was also in attendance and he arrived twenty minutes to half an hour after Dr Blackwell.

The Crime Scene: The crime scene was Dutfield’s Yard, next to number 40 Berner Street, the International Working Man’s Club. On the ground floor of these premises, facing the street was a window and door, the latter led into a passage. At the side of the house, before you got to the yard, was a passage leading into the yard, and at the entrance to the passage were two wooden gates, folding backwards from the street. In the northern gate there was a little door, the gates were sometimes closed and the doorway was usually closed and locked. However, the gates were seldom closed until late at night when all the tenants had retired and no particular person looked after them. In the yard on the left-hand side there was only one house, which was occupied by two or three tenants. That house contained three doors leading to the yard, but there was no other exit from the yard except though the gates. Opposite the gates was a workshop in the occupation of Messrs. Hindley, sack manufacturers, there was not an exit from the workshop the manufacturers was on the ground floor. Adjoining the workshop was a stable and this was unoccupied, if passing this stable a person would come to the premises forming the pub. In the yard were a few paving stones which were irregularly fixed. The club premises ran a long way into the yard. The front room of the ground floor of the club was a dining room. At the middle of the passage was a staircase leading to the first floor and at the back of the dinning room was a kitchen. In this room was window over the door which faced the one leading into the yard. The remainder of the passage led into the yard. Over the door in the passage was a small window which daylight came through. At the back of, but in no way connected with it, was a printing office consisting of two rooms. The room adjoining the kitchen was used as a compositing room and the other as the editors office. Opposite the doorway of the kitchen and in the yard were two closets. On the first floor of the club was a large room for entertainments and from that room three windows faced the yard. On Saturday night a discussion was had in the large room with ninety to one hundred people in attendance. When the discussion ceased between 11:30 and 12 midnight the bulk of people left the premises by the street entrance, whilst twenty to thirty people remained and had a discussion, whilst some others sang. Morris Eagle occupied the chair that evening during the clubs discussion. About 11:45 PM left by the front door to take his young lady home. He returned 12:40 AM, he found the front door to be closed and he went through the gateway into the yard and through the back door leading to the club. He did not notice anything on the ground near the gate. He passed through in about the middle of the gate. It was dark and so he could not say for sure if Stride was there, however, he did not recall seeing anybody in the yard. At approximately 12:30AM William West went to the printing room to put some literature there and then went into the yard by passage door then into office and retuned the same way. He noticed that the yard gates were open, he went towards them but not up to them. There was no lamp or light in the yard and the only light was from windows of club or houses. He noticed half of the lights were on in one house on the first floor. The printing office editor was there reading. Noises from the club could be heard, but there was not much noise at night. When he went into the yard, he looked towards the open gates, though nothing specific had attracted his attention.

The Discovery of the Body: Elizabeth was on the ground near the gateway and was in a pool of blood. She was by the side of the club wall. She was lying on her left side, completely across the yard, her feet were six to seven feet from the gate, but almost touched the club’s wall. Her face was towards the wall of the club. Her head was resting beyond the carriage wheel rut, her neck lying over the rut. Her legs drawn up and her feet were against the wall on the right side of the yard passage. Her left arm was extended from the elbow. Her right arm was over the stomach and her right hand was lying if chest and smeared inside and out with blood. It was quite open. Left hand was lying on the ground and partially closed, it contained a small packet if cachous wrapped in tissue paper. There were no rings or marks of any rings on the fingers. The appearance of her face was placid and her mouth was slightly open. The clothing had not been disturbed. There was a silk scarf round her neck, the bow of which was turned to the left side and pulled tightly. The buttons of her dress were undone but it was later ascertained this had been done by Edward Johnston during his examination. There was a red and white flower pinned on her jacket. Her bonnet lying on the ground a few inches from the head. Her body was still warm. Her neck and chest were quite warm, her legs and face were also slightly warm, but her hands were cold.

The Evidence: Elizabeth’s throat was deeply gashed and there was a long incision in the neck which exactly corresponded with the lower border of the scarf she was wearing. In the lower edge the scarf was slightly frayed as if by a sharp knife. The handkerchief was torn corresponding to the angle of the right jaw. The incision in neck was clean cut six inches in length and commenced on the left side of the neck two and a half inches below the angle of the jaw and almost in direct line with it. It nearly severed the vessels on the left side and it cut the windpipe completely in two. It terminated on the opposite side of the neck, one and a half inches below the angle of the right jaw but without severing the vessels on that side. It was cut clean and deviated a little downwards. The artery and vessels contained in the sheath were all cut through and there were cuts to the tissues on the right side of her neck but these were more superficial and tailed off about two inches below the right angle of the jaw. The deep vessels that side were uninjured. Haemorrhage was caused through partial severance of left artery. There was an apparent abrasion of the skin about an inch and a quarter in diameter, stained with blood and under her right brow. There was mud on the left side of the face and matted in the head. Blood from Elizabeth’s neck wound ran in the opposite direction to that of her feet, in the direction of the house and also as far as the door of the club. There was one pound of clotted blood close to her body. Blood was still flowing from her throat when discovered but this had stopped by the time Edward Johnston arrived to examine the body. There was a quantity of clotted blood under the body and some blood trodden about near it. There was no blood on the clothing. There was a steam of clotted blood reaching to the gutter, but very little blood, just a patch, near the neck. When the doctors examined the body they stated Elizabeth had been dead for twenty minutes to half an hour, her clothing was not wet and it was a mild night and not raining at the time. The doctors stated that would have bled to death comparatively slowly on account of the vessels on only one side being severed. It would have taken about a minute and a half for Elizabeth to bleed to death. The injury could have been inflicted in two or three seconds. Elizabeth could not have cried out after the injuries were inflicted due to the windpipe being severed.

On her person: In the pocket of her underskirt there was: a key to a padlock, small piece of lead pencil, pocket comb, broken piece of comb, metal spoon, six large and a small button, a piece of muslin, one or two small pieces of paper and a hook.

The Murder Weapon: A search was made of Dutfield’s Yard and no instrument was found.

The search for clues: Immediately after the murder the police questioned all the members who were in the socialist club. They were searched and their clothes were examined and statements taken. No one was allowed to leave until the search was completed and their names and addresses taken. A house to house inquiry was made in Berner Street with a view to ascertain whether any person was seen acting suspiciously, or any noise heard on the night in question, or if any persons were seen with Elizabeth Stride prior to her murder. Numerous statements were made to the police and they investigated these people, of whom there were many, and they were required to account for their presence at the times of the murders and every care was taken, as far as possible, to verify the statements. Leaflets were printed and distributed in H Division asking occupiers of houses to give information to the police of anyone suspicious lodging with them. 80, 000 pamphlets were issued. House to house enquiries were made in the area. Common lodging houses were visited and over 2000 lodgers were examined. Many extensive enquires were made into those people who fell under suspicion. This included those made by the Thames Police to sailors on board ships in docks or river and extended enquiry as to those present in London, about eighty people were detained at different police stations in London during which time their statements were verified by the police. Over three hundred people’s movements were investigated after communications were received by the police and enquires were followed. Seventy-six butchers and slaughters were visited and the characters of all the men employed during the preceding six months were investigate. Enquires were also made into the alleged presence in London of green gypsies but it was found than they had not been in London during the previous murders. Three of the persons calling themselves cowboys who belonged to the American exhibition were traced and they satisfactorily accounted for themselves. Enquires were made in the neighbourhood but no person named Lipski could be found. Extensive enquires were made in Aberdeen Place, St John’s Wood, in order to find the insane medical student, John Saunders, as this was his last known address. However, the only information that could be obtained was that a lady named Saunders resided at number 20 with her son but had left to go abroad two years previously. Thomas Coram found a long bladed knife with a blood stained handkerchief tied around its handle on the doorstep of 252 Whitechapel Road. He did not touch it, he found a policeman and told him of it. It had a 9-10 inch blade. Policeman PC Dradge 282H was the policeman approached and he took the knife to Leaman Street Police Station.

Witnesses: PC Smith 452H stated that at 12:35AM he saw a man and a woman (with a red rose), talking in Berner Street. On seeing Stride’s body, he identified her as the woman he had seen. He then described the man with her as aged 28, 5 foot 7 inches in height, of dark complexion and as having a small dark moustache. He had been wearing a black diagonal coat, hard felt hat and a white collar and tie. Israel Swartz of 22 Ellen St, Backchurch Lane, stated that when turning into Berner Street from Commercial Road, as he got to the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man speak to a woman in the gateway, the man tried to put the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the pavement and the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly. On crossing the street he saw a second man standing lighting a pipe. Then the man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road the word “Lipski”. Schwartz then ran away, finding that he was followed by the second man (who had been lighting the pipe) as far as the railway arch but not beyond it. Schwartz was unsure if the two men knew each other. He also identified Elizabeth Stride’s body as that of the woman he had seen. He described the men who threw the woman down as aged 30 , 5 foot 5, of fair complexion, with a dark small brown moustache, a full face and broad shouldered. He was wearing a dark jacket and trousers and black cap with a peak and had nothing in his hands. The second man was aged 35, 5 foot 11, of fresh complexion, with light brown hair, and sporting a moustache. He was wearing a dark overcoat, an old black hard felt hat with wide brim and he had a clay pipe in his hand. Sergeant White and PC Doden from the CID made enquires at every house in Berner Street on the 30th September with a view to obtaining information respecting to the murder. At about 9AM they called at 44 Berner Street and spoke to Matthew Packer, a fruitier, they asked what time he closed his shop, on the previous night, and he said in consequence of the rain it was no good to keep open. He was asked if he saw a man or woman going into Dutfield’s Yard or saw anybody standing about the street at the time he was closing he replied that he saw no one standing about or going into the yard, he never saw anything suspicious or heard the slightest noise and knew nothing about the murder until he heard about it in the morning. White also saw Mrs Packer, Sarah Harrison and Harry Douglas residing in the same house and none of them could give information about the murder. White was directed on the 4th October by Inspector Moore to make further inquiry and sent to see Packer and if necessary take him to the mortuary. He went to 44 Berner Street and saw Mrs Packer who informed him that two detectives had already called for Packer and taken him to the mortuary. White went there and met Packer who said the detectives asked him to go and see if he could identify the woman and that he had done so as she had brought grapes from him at 12 o’clock on Saturday. The men said they were two private detectives and induced Packer to go away with them. At about 4 PM, White then saw Packer at his shop when two men drew up in Hansom cab and took Packer in the cab stating that they would go to Scotland Yard to see Sir Charles Warren. There is no doubt these are the two men who examined the drain in Dutfield’s Yard on October 2nd. One had a piece of paper in his hand with Le Grand and Co, Strand written on it. Matthew Packer then stated that at 11PM on the 29th September he sold half a pound of grapes to a young man. He was described as aged between 25 and 30 about 5 foot 7 in height, dressed in a long black coat that was buttoned up, a soft felt Yankee hat, being rather broad shouldered, with rough voice and Packer said the man was rather quick speaking.He was with a woman, wearing a geranium-like flower, coloured white on the outside and red inside. The man and woman went to the other side of the road and stood talking until 11:30PM and then they went towards the club, apparently listening to music. However, it was not until after the publication of the description of the man that was seen by the PC that Packer gave the particulars to the private detectives acting with the vigilance committee and the press, who after searching a drain in the yard found a grape stem which was amongst the other matter swept from the yard after its examination by the police. As Packer was an elderly man, who, unfortunately, made differing statements, so that apart from the fact at the hour he saw the woman, and that she was afterwards seen by the PC and Schwartz, it was said by the police that any statements that he made would be rendered almost valueless.

Suspects: Leon Goldstein of 22 Christian Street, Commercial Road, called at Leaman Street Police Station and stated that he as he man that passed down Berner Street with a black bag. This bag contained empty cigarette boxes that he had left at a coffee house in Spectacle Alley a short time before.

The limitations of the day: Mary Malcolm wrongly identified the body of Elizabeth Stride in the mortuary as that of her sister, Elizabeth Stokes, otherwise known to her as Watts through marriage. Malcolm stated that her sister had a black mark on her leg, caused by an adder snake bite, which she had seen on the body. Mary Malcolm went to the Stride inquest and testified as to the identification as to the body found in Dutfield’s Yard being that of her said sister, whom she said was never known to her under the name of Stride, but was known as Long Liz. However, it proved to be a certain case of mistaken identity when Elizabeth Stokes herself appeared at the inquest. It was certain that Malcolm had been mistaken in her evidence that the body at the mortuary was that of her sister, but she had identified her in the way that was usual in cases of persons of unknown identity at that time, and it was only by virtue of the fact her sister was alerted to this fact and was able to testify that she was not dead that this was conclusively disproved at the inquest. Today, the identification process for the deceased attempts to provide opinions regarding age, ethnicity, stature and other characteristics of individuals to help ascertain who they might be. Nowadays, identification by whatever means, for legal reasons, must be based on a comparison between pre and post mortem records. Nonetheless, visual identification is still the normal procedure for recent death without complication of disfigurement or extensive trauma. This is usually by two or more people who knew the victim well who are asked to visually confirm their identity. Therefore, there is still the potential for Mrs Malcolm style cases of mistaken identity. However, then (as now) others were on hand who could correctly identified Elizabeth as Long Liz Stride, the wife of the late John Thomas Stride. This allowed investigators to determine that Malcolm was incorrect, a fact that was eventually proved right when her real sister stepped forward. Fingerprinting is a common secondary means of identification, but it was not firmly established as a science until around 1900. DNA fingerprinting, which was first used in 1984, is now a very good way of identifying people, though it was developed a hundred years too late to assist in solving the Whitechapel murders. Another means of identification of unknown people or those who have been badly disfigured, or whose bodies have decomposed is identification via dental records. It is a scientifically reliable method as teeth outlast other tissues after death and dental repairs and restorations especially false teeth are resistant to degradation. However, the first case where forensic odontology was successfully used to identify the deceased was in 1897 when 126 Parisians were killed when the Bazar de la Charite burnt down, one the Duchess d’Alecon, was identified by Albert Haus using early dental records. In the Victorian era, the identifying traits of the victims of murder were carefully noted and retained by drawing or photography and the clothing was usually kept for evidence. This is why mortuary pictures of the victims of Jack the Ripper were taken. It was a means to identify who the victims were, and retain the facial details for identification and for the purposes of the police investigation, even after they had been buried.

Conclusion: The murder could be one in a series, connected to that of Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman (see our last files). Despite numerous suspects being investigated the case has not yet been conclusively solved. File still open.

Sources: Evans, S. and Skinner, K. (2001) The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, Constable and Robinson, London.

Lane, B (1993) The Encyclopaedia of Forensic Medicine, Headline, London.

Sugden, P. (2002) The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, Revised paperback edition, Constable and Robinson, London.

Wade, Stephen (2009) DNA: Crime Scene Investigations, Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley.

Wagner, E.J (2006) The Science of Sherlock Holmes, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.

Original article can be found in Issue Three August 2010