Brutal Murder In George Yard

On the 7th of August, 1888, the body of a woman was found on a first-floor landing of a block of model dwellings in Goerge Yard Whitechapel. It would later transpire that the woman was Martha Tabram, but at the time her identity was unknown.

The Sheffield Evening Telegraph reported on the known facts of the case in its edition of Wednesday, 8th August, 1888:-

MYSTERIOUS TRAGEDY IN LONDON
WOMAN BRUTALLY MURDERED

About ten minutes to five o’clock yesterday morning, John Reeves, who lives at 37, George Yard Buildings, Whitechapel, was coming downstairs to go to work, discovered the body of a woman lying in a pool of blood on the first-floor landing.

Reeves at once called in Constable H. Barrett, who was on his beat in the vicinity of George Yard, and Dr. Keeling, of Brick Lane, was communicated with, and promptly arrived. He immediately made an examination of the woman, and pronounced life extinct, and gave it as his opinion that she had been brutally murdered, there being knife wounds on her breast, stomach, and abdomen.

A press image of a man reacting at the sight of a body on the landing of George Yard Buildings.
Finding the Body In George Yard

A DESCRIPTION OF THE DECEASED

The body, which was that of a woman, apparently between 35 and 40 years age, about 5ft. 3in. in height, complexion and hair dark, she wore a dark green skirt, a brown petticoat, a long black jacket, and a black bonnet.

The woman is unknown to any of the occupants of the tenements on the landing on which the deceased was found, and no disturbance of any kind was heard during the night.

INSPECTOR REID ON THE CASE

The circumstances of the tragedy are, therefore, mysterious, and the body, which up to the time of writing had not been identified, has been removed to the Whitechapel Mortuary, and Inspector Elliston, of the Commercial Street Police Station, has placed the case in the hands of Inspector Reid, of the Criminal Investigation Department, and that officer is now instituting inquiries.

Up to one o’clock, no clue any kind had come to the knowledge of the Commercial street police authorities.

An image of Commercial Street Police Station.
Commercial Street Police Station Today

A VISIT TO THE SCENE

Our reporter visited the scene of the crime late yesterday afternoon. From investigations then made, it is clear that a murder of a most diabolical nature has been committed – not before the body of the woman was discovered. At that time, blood was flowing from a gaping wound in her heart. Several other wounds had been inflicted, one of a most revolting nature.

No. 37, George Yard buildings is a block of model dwellings situated in a squalid district, down a passage turning out of the High street, Whitechapel.

THE SUPERINTENDENT’S STATEMENT

The superintendent of the dwellings, Mr. Francis Hewitt, made the following statement to our reporter:- “When I was called this morning, shortly before five o’clock, I saw the poor woman lying on the stone staircase, blood flowing from a great wound in her heart. There were many other stab wounds of a frightful character on her.

Up till half-past three this morning, some of the occupants here passed the staircase, and, therefore, the murder must have taken place after that, for the deceased was not there then.

It is my belief that the poor creature crept up the staircase; that she was accompanied by a man, that a quarrel took place, and that he then stabbed her.

Although the deceased is not known by name, her face is familiar. She is undoubtedly an abandoned female.”

Illustrations showing the murder of Martha Turner in George Yard.
The Murder of Martha Turner. From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday 18th August, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.

A BAYONET WAS USED

The wounds were probably inflicted by a bayonet, as several soldiers were drinking a public-house near the spot of the murder; and it is thought that the criminal is one of those men.

The wounds on the deceased appear as if they had been inflicted by a bayonet plunged into the body with great force.”