15th August 1888 – Update On The Turner Murder

By the 15th August 1888, the victim of the George-yard murder had been positively identified as Martha Turner and the newspapers were discussing her last night  – which had, so the papers were reporting, been spent in the company  another woman by the name of Mary Ann Connelly, also, it transpired, known in the area by the colourfully sounding pseudonym of “Pearly Poll.”


According to the Daily News, the two women had spent much of the night in the company of two soldiers and, eventually, “something was said as to the deceased accompanying one of the men to George yard.”


A view along George Yard, scene of Martha Turner's Murder.
George Yard, 1890

At around 2am on the morning of the murder Police Constable Barrett was on duty in the neighbourhood when he encountered a soldier who was loitering in George-yard. He observed to the soldier that it was late and that he should be in the barracks, to which the soldier replied that he was waiting for a friend who had  “accompanied a woman to one of the buildings close at hand.”


The Daily News reported that Barrett had been taken to the Tower of London where the soldiers there were paraded before him. He had, so the paper said, identified the man whom he had questioned in the vicinity of George-yard on the morning of the murder, but the  soldier “refused to give any account of himself.”

According to reports in the Bradford Observer Mary Connolly, the companion who had been with Martha on the evening before her murder, had also been taken to the Tower by Inspector Reid where she had been “confronted with every non-commissioned officer and private who had leave of absence at the time of the outrage.”

Asked if she could identify any of the soldiers as being the two she and Martha had been drinking with “Pearly Poll’s” spirited response was to place “her arms akimbo,”  survey the soldiers before her “with the air of an inspecting officer”, and shake her head.

Not satisfied with her negative response, Inspector Reid had, so the paper reported, asked her a little more forcefully “Can you identify anyone?” At which point she “exclaimed, with a good deal of feminine emphasis “He ain’t here.””

Apparently “a faint shadow of suspicion had rested” upon two of the men, and they were now extremely relieved that their innocence had “been declared.”

Another suspect, a Corporal – who may have been the one accosted by PC Barrett – had also been interviewed by the police and had also been exonerated. As the Bradford Observer told its readers:-

“He had his bayonet with him when on leave at the time of the outrage; but this he at once produced, and no trace of blood was discovered upon it. His clothing, too, was also examined, and upon it there was no incriminating bloodstain.”


There would, so the Daily News informed its readers, be a further parade at Wellington Barracks that day (15th August) and Barrett, together with “Pearly Poll” would be present.


An image of the George-yard victim Martha Turner.
The Mortuary Photograph of Martha Turner.Tabram

Having updated its readers on these identifications, the paper revealed a little more information about the victim and her injuries:-

“The police state that the mortal wound received in the left breast presented the appearance of having been inflicted by a bayonet, where as the other wounds were inflicted with a knife.

The deceased, who had been known under the name of Martha Turner, is said to have lived apart from her husband for some years and to have lately got her living as a hawker. Yesterday the police received from a man at Guildford a letter of inquiry. The man gives the name of Thomas Hunt, and states that illness prevented his coming to ascertain if the woman Turner was his wife.”


Meanwhile the Evening News was able to tell its readers a little more about Martha’s last night whilst going into a little more detail about the soldiers she and her fried, “Pearly Pub” had met with:-

“Last night, the woman Mary Connolly, who was with the murdered woman, Martha Turner, late on the night of the murder, stated that she and the deceased first met the two soldiers near a public-house in the Whitechapel-road, at about ten o’clock.

They walked up and down the Whitechapel-road, backwards and forwards, a considerable time, and called in at several houses in the road.

The statement which had appeared that they were in the Princess Alice was not true.

She left the deceased with one of the soldiers at the end of the George-yard, and she and the other soldier went off in another direction.


When she left the woman, since murdered, it was about a quarter to twelve o’clock. It is alleged that the soldiers who were in the neighbourhood at the time were in undress, and had white bands round their caps. As that is part of the uniform of the Coldstream Guards, Connolly and Police-constable Barrett will be taken to their quarters, to see if they can identify any one. Considering the number of tenements, and the traffic up and down the shops where the body was found, together with other circumstances there is a doubt whether the murder was perpetrated where the body was found”

Despite all the police activity, however, they were evidently no closer to a solution as to who the perpetrator of the crime was and, as the Bradford Observer commented, “The murder of the young woman, which occurred at George Yard Buildings, Whitechapel Road, London, is as much a mystery as ever, and up to the present there is no decided clue as to the perpetrator of the foul crime.”