9th September 1888

Since the 9th of September, 1888, fell on a Sunday, there were fewer newspapers published that day to report on the latest Whitechapel atrocity that had taken place the previous day in Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.


The Sunday paper Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, had, evidently,  had a “correspondent” in the district throughout the previous day, interviewing residents, watching what was unfolding, and, wherever possible, gleaning any information on what the police were doing in their attempts to track down the perpetrator of the latest Whitechapel murder.

There had, so the correspondent reported, been  some confusion as to the exact name of the victim:-

“The woman’s name, the police found, is Annie Sievy, and her age is about 45. She is five feet high, has fair brown wavy hair, blue eyes, and, like Mary Ann Nicholls, has two teeth missing. One peculiarity of her features is a large, flat kind of nose. Her clothing was old and dirty, and nothing was found in her pockets except part of an envelope bearing the seal of the Sussex regiment.

For the last nine months she had been sleeping at a lodging-house, 35, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, and she was there as recently as two o’clock yesterday morning eating some potatoes.

She had not, however, the money to pay for her bed, and at two o’clock she left with the remark to the keeper of the place, “I’ll soon be back again; I’ll soon get the money for my doss,” almost the very words Mary Ann Nicholls used to the companion she met in Whitechapel-road, at half-past two on the morning of her death.

A companion identified her soon after she had been taken to the mortuary as “Dark Annie,” and as she came from the mortuary gate, bitterly crying, said between her tears, “I knowed her; I kissed her poor cold face.”

However, as Lloyd’s was able to reveal in its Sunday edition, a formal identification of the victim had been made the previous day:-

“Late yesterday, after the deceased had been formally identified as Annie Sievy, a witness came forward and stated that her real name was Annie Chapman.

She came from Windsor, and had friends residing at Vauxhall.

She had been married, her husband being an army pensioner, who had allowed her 10s. a week, but he died a twelvemonth ago; and, the pension ceasing, she became one of the hideous women infesting Whitechapel.

She lived for a time with a man named Sievy, and took his name.

According to another authority she used to live with a sieve maker in Dorset-street, and was known to her acquaintance as “Annie Sievy,” a nickname derived from her paramour’s trade.”

A portrait of Annie Chapman.
The Hanbury Street Victim, Annie Chapman. From The Illustrated Police News.


Reynolds’s  Newspaper for Sunday 9th September 1888, had, evidently, already gone to press as news of the latest East End atrocity was breaking, and, as a result, it made no mention of it.

However, the newspaper did choose to sermonise on what, in its opinion, the murder in Buck’s Row had revealed about the era in which its readers were living:-

“Horrors piled upon horrors is again the record of the week.

Daylight had hardly died last Sunday when the quiet suburb of Surbiton was thrilled by as dark a crime as was ever committed, either in civilised or savage lands.

At the close of the week all London is stupefied by the most fiendish murder that the foulest of imagination could conceive.

It is depressing to realize that such horrors take place in our midst, and that men and women, knowing of them, go about their daily work, or mingle in the daily and nightly frivolities that constitute what is called Society, and treat them as one of the commonplaces of modern life.

And yet, what can be more hellish than the murder of the poor, unfortunate woman in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel?

Could the veriest fiend, that ever has been conjured up by human superstition, conceive and execute a more diabolical deed?

And the perpetrator is, according to religious teaching, only “a little lower than the angels.”

He, moreover, is the latest product of the modern Christian civilised era. He is one of the “heirs of all the ages in the foremost files of time”, as Tennyson assured us all civilised men are.

These crimes, that are every week increasing in number and brutality, are the bitterest commentary on the Pharisaical self-complacency, which is the leading characteristic of Society today, as typified by the well-to-do middle classes.

They are the fierce expression of the growing cruelty and selfishness that abound everywhere in the upper circles, and in the lower, and that may yet take an organised shape if something is not done to bring about some approach to equality between man and man.”


The article then went on to contrast the lives of the poor of the East End with the lives of plenty enjoyed by the more affluent citizens in the West End of London:-

“In the East-end of London, men and women are herded together under conditions that make life intolerable, and that destroy all the moral sense.

Crime and disease are necessarily engendered there. Immorality and shame are the natural conditions of millions.

In the West-end, everything that wealth can procure is at the service of the selfish crowds, and this wealth is largely, if not wholly, drawn from the labours of fellow creatures, who are piously assumed to be of the same flesh and blood, but who are treated as though they were a lower order of nature.

The inequality of civilisation is its one great blunder.

The rich grind the poor, the poor hate the rich.

Where there is too much wealth, and where there is poverty, crime is rampant.

Until the burdens of the latter are removed, contentment and its product, order, cannot be expected.”


Finally, the article examined a suggestion which, so it claimed, had been put forward by a police detective, that the murderer was on a mission to purge the streets of the class of women to which the victim evidently belonged:-

“Some imaginative detective has invented the “theory” that the murderer of the woman, Nicholls, is a madman with a monomania for murdering outcasts, by the brutallest of means.

This ingenious officer should be promoted.

At one stroke, all the blunders and incapacity of the force are accounted for, and its place in the respect of the disappointed public is recovered.

It has a double value.

During the last few months half a dozen, more or less, barbarous murders have been committed. Why not they all be the work of the same mysterious hand, like the series of similar crimes that Williams committed in the beginning of the century, and which Dequincey has embalmed in his amusing essay “On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts.”

This wretch battled the police for years, and all the murders were done on the anniversary of the first one, and in the same subtle and stealthy manner.

The suggestion of the detective is clever; and, if he is of a literary turn, he might produce as blood-tingling a romance as Edgar Allen Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”


Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, meanwhile, reported on how the woman was apparently taken into the backyards of 29 Hanbury Street:-

“One correspondent says :- It was evident at a glance that the murder had been done where the body lay. The enormous quantity of blood and the splash on the fence, coupled with the total absence of stains elsewhere, made this clear.

It was also clear that the man had decoyed the poor woman into the yard, and murdered her as she lay where she was found. The passage through the house by which the yard was reached is 25ft. long and 3ft. wide.

Its floor is bare, and nobody can pass along it without making some noise. The murderer and his victim failed to awaken anybody, however, though people were sleeping only a few feet away.

A photograph of the corridors inside 29 Hanbury Street.
The Interior Passage Of 29 Hanbury Street.


Both front and back door are open all night, and there was no difficulty in reaching the yard. There was a story that a bloody knife had been found in the yard, but this was not true. The only unusual thing about the yard, except the dead woman, was the fact that the rusty padlock on the door of the shed had been broken.

Not a sound seems to have been made by the woman when attacked.

Mrs. Bell, an old lady who lives next door, sleeps by an open window, not 20ft. from the spot, and is certain that no noise was made, as she sleeps very lightly.

The probability is that the woman, by five o’clock, was stupidly drunk, as she was well on when Donovan, the deputy, last saw her.

In this case she could have been easily kept silent until she was unable from loss of blood to speak.”

A photograph of the yard in which the murder occurred.
The Backyard Of 29 Hanbury Street.


One of the most disturbing aspects of the aftermath of the murder was the fact that it had led to anti-Semitic unrest in the district, and mobs of local “roughs” were openly terrorising innocent Jews on the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. It also seems that the police were anxious to prevent the racial unrest from boiling over into an East End pogrom and were, therefore, quickly putting down any displays of racism in the district.

According to Lloyd’s:-

“As the day advanced and the Jewish East-end crowds congregated around the scene of the murder, and its neighbourhood became more leavened with English working men, the excitement grew; and, unfortunately, owing to the rumours about the individual “Leather Apron,” took a rather nasty turn.

Bodies of young roughs raised cries against the Jews, and many of the disreputable and jabbering women sided with them.

This state of things caused several stand-up fights, thus putting a further and serious strain on the police, many of whom began to express their fears of rioting.

Describing the scene in the district last night, a correspondent says :- The excitement in Hanbury-street and the surrounding neighbourhood still continues, and extra police have been employed to keep a course for the traffic of the evening, but in this they are very much hampered by noisy crowds of men and boys crying “Down with the Jews.”

Sometimes there is a show of resistance, but the strong force of police on the spot are equal to the occasion, and promptly separate assailants.

Just as our correspondent was writing, a gang of young vagabonds marched down Hanbury-street shouting “Down with the Jews!” “It was a Jew who did it!” “No Englishman did it!”

After these the police were prompt, and whenever there was a stand they quickly, and without ceremony, dispersed them.

There have been many fights, but the police are equal to it, as men are held in reserve under cover, and when there is a row they rush out and soon establish order. As the night advances the disorderly mobs who openly express antipathy to the Jews increase, and a request has been forwarded to headquarters for extra men. This request has been promptly attended to, and men have been sent.”

An illustration showing crowds in the street outside the front of 29 Hanbury Street.
People Outside 29 Hanbury Street. From The Pall Mall Gazette, Monday 10th September, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


It also seems that the neighbours living in the properties that adjoined the murder site had discovered a profitable sideline from the sudden notoriety that this fresh murder had foisted on their neighbourhood:-

“During yesterday afternoon the occupants of the houses adjoining the scene of the murder charged an admission fee of one penny to people anxious to view the spot where the body was found. Several hundreds of people availed themselves of the opportunity…”


However, not all the residents of Hanbury Street were so impressed by this new found infamy, as is clear from the following statement, made by one woman to a representative of Lloyd’s:-

“Mrs. Elizabeth Bell, of 31, Hanbury-street, stated:- “I have been living here some time, and I wish I had never come. Such a terrible sight is enough to shock any woman with the hardest heart. The house is open all night next door, and this poor creature was taken into the yard, and butchered, no doubt, by the same man who committed the others.

We were all roused at six o’clock this morning by Adam Osborne calling out, ‘For God’s sake get up; here’s a woman murdered.’

We all got up and huddled on our clothes, and on going into the yard saw the poor creature lying by the steps in the next yard, with her clothes torn and her body gashed in a dreadful manner.

The people in the house next door were all asleep, I believe, and knew nothing of the matter until the police came and roused them up.

I cannot be sure if anybody in the house knew of the murder, or took part in it, but I believe not.

The passage is open all night, and anyone can get in, and no doubt that is what happened.

All the other tenants of the house gave the same opinion, and those in the house of Mr. Richardson, at 29, where the murder occurred, state that they heard no cries of “Murder” or “Help,” nor anything unusual during the night.”

An illustration showing the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.
The Scene Of The Murder. From The Pall Mall Gazette, Monday, 10th September, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


One rumour to do with the murder that the police were anxious to scotch was that the leather apron, found near the body, was in any way linked to the murder or the murderer.

Lloyd’s reported the latest intelligence, coming from the police authorities, on this “find” that many of the previous day’s newspapers had reported as an important clue:-

“The police at Scotland-yard, on being sought out, declared that the statement that a leather apron was found by the side of the murdered woman was an error.

The body was found in the yard weltering in blood. The injuries were of too horrible a character to admit of particular description.

Colonel Mounsell, chief constable of the district, visited the locality of the murder early in the forenoon, and subsequently inspected the body of the victim in the presence of the local police-officers and the divisional surgeon.

The only foundation for the story of the leather apron is that an apron of this character was hanging on a nail in the passage leading to the yard.

The landlady of the house has two sons, who are employed as cabinet-makers, and they use heavy leather aprons in the exercise of their trade.

The Scotland-yard authorities state that the circumstances in connection with the murder justify the police in believing that it has been committed by the same person or persons who murdered Mary Ann Nicholls.

The matter, however, is surrounded with mystery, and the police have had but little time to make inquiries. The police at Commercial-street station are in charge of the inquiry, but a large body of detectives are scouring the district.”

An Illustration showing the police looking at the body of Annie Chapman.


Despite the panic in the area, and the evident inability of the police to hunt down the killer in the wake of the previous murders, Lloyd’s still held out hope that the increased police activity in the district would yield results, especially now that detectives of the highest calibre were being drafted into the area and put on the trial of the perpetrator of the crimes:-

“The case has been placed in the hands of the most skilled detectives. Chief-inspector Abberline, who was for many years the chief detective inspector of the district, but who was promoted to Scotland-yard for his clever capture of the dynamiters, Burton and Cunningham, in Whitechapel, has been sent down on purpose.

With him are Inspectors Helson and Spratling, Detective-serjeant Enright, who also know the worst haunts of Whitechapel, and have done good service in this rough locality, and assisting is Detective-serjeant Godley.”


However, like many of its contemporary newspapers – and, for that matter, like the majority of Londoners –  Lloyd’s was struggling to gain an understanding of what could lead someone to carry out such a cold-blooded and motiveless murder for no apparent reason, other than the satisfaction of mutilating the body of the victim:-

“Like the three previous victims, the poor creature, who is believed to be named Chapman, though passing as Annie Sievy, belonged to the unfortunate class; and her remains were found in a place open to the public, thus presenting marked similarity to the previous cases.

The tragedy, however, is surrounded by circumstances of increasing terror on account of the fiendish barbarity displayed.

Murder in any case is a terrible thing, but the details of the latest fearful crime at the East-end of London are ghastly enough to make the strongest shudder.

There is no wonder that the whole neighbourhood is intensely excited, and that something very like a panic has seized the women of the district who are compelled to be abroad at night or in the early hours of the morning.

Although nothing has been discovered to throw a light upon the startling succession of mysterious murders, it may be trusted that, now the police have been thoroughly roused, the monster, or monsters, will speedily be hunted down.

The foul nature of the crimes seems to point to the acts of a madman, but the amount of cunning with which they have been perpetrated necessarily causes them to be regarded with unparalleled terror.”