9am, September 10, 1888: inquest opens at Whitechapel into Annie Chapman’s murder
PUBLISHED: 13:04 03 October 2013 | UPDATED: 13:22 03 October 2013
Annie Chapman’s inquest is opened on September 10, 1888, at the Working Lads’ Institute in the Whitechapel-road, opposite the London Hospital, by Middlesex coroner Wynne Baxter.
She had been murdered nine days before at 5.30am on September 1, in the backyard of the terraced-house occupied by 16 people at 29, Hanbury-street, a short distance from the corner of Brick Lane.
But no-one had seen or heard anything that night, the inquest hears.
The passage through the house to the backyard was unlocked, used by those living in the house at all hours of the day. The front door was wide open when the body was discovered at 6am. The lodgers had often seen strangers in the passageway.
One witness, Elizabeth Long, gave evidence describing a stranger she saw in the passage that night as being over 40, with a dark complexion and “a foreign, shabby-genteel appearance,” wearing a deerstalker hat and dark overcoat.
She was the last person to see Chapman alive before her body was discovered on the ground in the backyard by market porter John Davis who lives at No 29.
Police surgeon George Phillips describes the body he saw at 6.30am in the yard with the left arm placed across the left breast, her legs drawn up, feet resting on the ground, the knees turned outwards, her face swollen. The tongue was also swollen and slightly protruding between the front teeth, he informs the hearing.
Chapman’s body was mutilated, her throat deeply dissevered, the incision through the skin jagged and reaching right round the neck. Smears of blood were on the wooden paling separating the yard from next door, about 14ins from the ground.
The murder weapon used on Annie’s throat and stomach was a sharp knife with a thin, narrow blade, at least 8ins long.
The injuries could have been done by an instrument a medical man would use for post-mortem purposes, the police surgeon tells the inquest, or those used by slaughtermen, well ground down. Knives used in the leather trade would not have long enough blades.
Part of Annie Chapman’s uterus was missing. Whoever used the knife had knowledge of the human anatomy, to have sliced out the reproductive organs in a single movement.
Her throat was cut from left to right and she had been disembowelled after death with her intestines thrown over her shoulders. Chapman’s protruding tongue and swollen face led Dr Phillips to think she may have been strangled with a handkerchief around her neck before her throat was cut.
But the idea that the killer had surgical skill is dismissed by other medical experts. It had been suggested that the organ was removed by mortuary staff who took advantage of bodies that had already been opened to extract organs they could sell as surgical specimens.
Coroner Baxter raises the possibility that Chapman was murdered deliberately to obtain the uterus, on the basis of a rumour that an American had made inquiries at a London medical school to buy such organs.
But the “highly reputable” physician who requested the samples had left the country 18 months before. Baxter drops the theory after that. The inquest is adjourned.