Search

5am August 7, 1888: Woman found murdered with 39 stab-wounds

PUBLISHED: 19:56 02 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:36 03 October 2013

Entrance to George-yard, off Whitechapel High-st, as it would have been in 1888 when Martha Tabram was slain (Andre Deutsch press)

Entrance to George-yard, off Whitechapel High-st, as it would have been in 1888 when Martha Tabram was slain (Andre Deutsch press)

Andre Deutsch press (promo)

The murder of a prostitute on the dark landing of a tenement block in Whitechapel on the dawn after the August Bank Holiday, 1888, is reported in the East London Advertiser.

George Yard Buildings, where Martha Tabram was murdered, Aug 7, 1888 George Yard Buildings, where Martha Tabram was murdered, Aug 7, 1888

An identity parade held at the Tower of London on a bright August morning follows the murder of prostitute Martha Tabram in George Yard Buildings, off Whitechapel High-street.

Martha Tabram was last seen alive with a guardsman a few nights before on August Bank Holiday evening, August 6, 1888.

So the soldiers are ordered to take part in the police identity parade, but it comes to nothing.

A witnesses, another prostitute, picks out a guardsman who was on duty at the Tower the night of the murder. It’s a cast-iron alibi.

The Advertiser’s report of Tabram’s murder describes George-yard as “one of the most dangerous streets in the locality.”

None of the tenement-dwellers had seen or heard anything of the horrifying event on their doorstep.

Mrs Hewitt, the wife of the tenement building superintendant Francis Hewitt, returned home in the early hours after spending the evening with friends celebrating the Bank Holiday. She went out again to buy her supper at a chandler’s shop in nearby Thrawl-street and was back in 10 minutes, but noticed nothing suspicious while going up the dark, unlit stairs.

Cab-driver Alfred Crow, returning home from work at half-past-three on his way up the staircase, saw somebody lying on the first-floor landing. But it was common for homeless people to sleep rough on the landings, so he thought nothing of it.

It is around 5am when labourer John Saunders Reeves sets off to work coming down the staircase, as it is getting light.

He can see a woman lying on her back in a pool of blood—the body of Martha Tabram.

Reeves goes off to find a policeman and returns with Constable Barrett, who was on his beat in Wentworth-street, then fetches Dr Killeen who carries out an examination and pronounces ‘life extinct.’

Tabram had been “brutally murdered,” Dr Killeen tells the subsequent inquest—he found 39 stab wounds from her throat to her lower abdomen.

There was one deep wound to her breast “which could have been a sword, bayonet or dagger.”

Deputy district coroner George Collier calls the crime “one of the most dreadful murders any one could imagine.” He adds: “The man must have been a savage to inflict such a number of wounds on a defenceless woman in such a way.”

The Advertiser tells readers: “The circumstances of this awful tragedy are not only surrounded with the deepest mystery, but there is also a feeling of insecurity that in a great city like London, the streets of which are continually patrolled by police, a woman could be foully and horribly killed almost next to the citizens peacefully sleeping in their beds, without a trace or clue being left of the villain who did the deed.”

Three weeks on, the mutilated body of Mary Nichols is discovered at 3.30am on August 31, a mile away at Buck’s Row, in almost identical circumstances. The autumn of terror begins in Whitechapel.

Latest East London News Stories

A room designed to help people with mental health issues has opened at the Royal London Hospital.

Mum says Overland was a lifeline for her son but Mayor Biggs wants to close it.

05:00

Two men who used their east London shops to handle stolen mobile phones from a £1 million series of store burglaries were ironically traced by GPS mobile tracker data.

Yesterday, 21:12

A woman has died after being hit by a train at Bethnal Green station today.

Yesterday, 11:00

Women have served in the Royal Air Force throughout its 100 year history though the fight for equal opportunities took almost as long.

Yesterday, 10:00

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our Met Office video forecast.

Yesterday, 08:00

Letters, contributions and comments sent in to the Advertiser this week.

Fri, 22:29

A drug dealer is facing a life sentence for the murder of a father who was shot and stabbed on the doorstep of his home in Bromley-by-Bow.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Are you a landlord looking for a fixed rental income, paid whether the property is empty or not? Steve Westley, general manager at estate agents Elliot Leigh, explains their Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it takes the stress out of letting your property.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now