On August 31st, 1888, Charles Cross was on his way to his place of employment, Pickford’s, near Liverpool Street, where he worked as a carman, or van driver, when he discovered the boy of Mary Nichols in a dark gateway on Buck’s Row, In Whitechapel.
However, twelve years previously, a Charles Cross (who was almost certainly the same man who found the body of Jack the Ripper’s first victim) had been involved in a fatal accident in Islington, whilst driving his van.
The Islington Gazette took up the story in its edition of Friday, 29th December 1876:-
CHARLES CROSS – A FATAL ACCIDENT
An inquiry was held on Wednesday, at the Coroner’s Court, touching the death of Walter Williams, aged four years, who was run over by a Pickford’s van.
Walter Williams, of 36, Cloudesley Road, a jeweller, and father of the deceased, said that on Thursday last he was told that his boy was run over and killed.
He made inquiries, and he had reason to blame the driver, as he believed that he had not exercised proper care.
HE SAW THE CHILDREN
George Porter, a traveller, said that on Thursday, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, he was outside his brother’s shop, 3 Elizabeth Terrace, when he witnessed the accident.
He saw a Pickford’s van going towards Liverpool Road, and he saw the deceased and another child about to cross the road.
The driver called out, and the witness then saw the deceased reel against the near side shaft of the van, about two feet from the pavement.
The driver tried to pull up but the wheels went over the deceased.
CAUGHT BY THE WHEEL
Henrietta Owen, of 100, Aldenham Street, said that she was in Elizabeth Terrace on the day in question, and she saw the child run over. The van was going slowly.
One child drew back, but the deceased was caught by the wheel.
Dr. Hindhough of Barnsbury Road, deposed that the deceased was brought to his surgery in a dying state. The cause of death was internal injuries and fracture of an arm.
HE SHOUTED OUT
William Warner, of 25, Henry Street, deposed to seeing the accident, and said that he heard the driver shout, but the horse was then on the child.
CHARLES CROSS’S TESTIMONY
Charles Cross, carman to Pickford and Co., said that he was crossing with his van from Copenhagen Street to Elizabeth Street, when two children seemed to come from behind a trap that was standing on the off-side, all in instant, running against his horses.
He tried to pull up, but he found that it was impossible.
The jury expressed the opinion that the driver was not to blame, and they returned a verdict of Accidental death.