On the 23rd of August 1888 the inquest was resumed on the death of Martha Turner, whose body had been found on the landing of George Yard Building’s on the 7th of the month.
Since the regular coroner, Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, was away on holiday at the time, it was his deputy, Mr George Collier, who presided over the proceedings.
The newspapers had certainly been reporting in great depth on the inquest proceedings – you can read a selection of the press article on this page.
But, as for who was responsible for the horrible crime, nobody was any the wiser than they had been on the day that the body had been discovered.
As yet, however, the general mood of panic that would follow the later murders was absent, and, although people agreed that this atrocity was out of the ordinary, people were willing to go back to their everyday lives and leave the police to continue their enquiries with a view to bringing the perpetrator of the crime to justice.
THE INQUEST VERDICT
The inquest itself had been held at the Working Lads’ Institute on Whitechapel Road, a building that would become synonymous with inquests into the deaths of several of the later victims of Jack the Ripper.
Over the previous few weeks, witnesses who resided in George Yard had come forward to give their evidence and, the majority of them, had expressed genuine shock that such a murder cold have occurred just a few feet form where many of them were sleeping peacefully in their beds.
But, with all the evidence now heard, it only remained for George Collier to ask the jury for their verdict.
Their response was reported in an article that appeared in The Daily News on Friday the 24th of August 1888:-
“Mr. George Collier, Coroner, resumed an inquest yesterday, at the Working Lads’ Institute, Whitechapel, on the body of a woman, supposed to be Martha Turner, who was found dead early in the morning of the 7th of August, on a landing of some model lodging houses in Spitalfields.
The woman, it will be recalled, had received 39 wounds, apparently inflicted with a bayonet.
The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against some person, or persons, unknown.”
THE PALL MALL GAZETTE
In its edition of the 24th August,1888, The Pall Mall Gazette, went into a little more details on the proceedings:-
“Mr. George Collier, coroner, resumed his inquiry yesterday, at the Working Lads’ Institute, Whitechapel, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman, supposed to be Martha Turner, aged thirty-five, a hawker, lately living off Commercial-road, E., who was discovered early on the morning of Tuesday, the 7th inst., lying dead on the first floor landing of some model dwellings known as George-yard-buildings, Commercial-street, Spitalfields.
The woman, when found, presented a shocking appearance, her body being covered with stab wounds to the number of thirty-nine, some of which had been done with a bayonet.
How the body came to be there is a mystery which the police as yet have not solved.
It is a singular coincidence that the murder was committed during Bank Holiday night, and is almost identical with another murder which was perpetrated near the same spot on the night of the previous Bank Holiday.
The victims were both what are called “unfortunates,” and their murderers have up till now evaded capture.
One witness examined yesterday was another woman of the same class, who seems to have been the last to see the deceased alive, and then she was with a soldier.
The coroner, in summing up, said that the crime was one of the most brutal that had occurred for some years. For a poor defenceless woman to be outraged and stabbed in such a manner was almost beyond belief.
They [the jury] could only come to one conclusion, and that was that the deceased was brutally and cruelly murdered.
The police would endeavour to bring home the crime to the guilty party.
The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”
WAS IT TURNER OR TABRAM?
The resumed inquest had also answered a question over the name of the George Yard victim in that she is often referred to as Martha Tabram rather than Martha Turner – the name that was mostly used in the newspaper reports about her.
The York Herald, in its edition of Friday 24th August, 1888, explained the two different surnames:-
“At the adjourned inquest held yesterday on the body of the woman who was found murdered in Whitechapel, John Tabram, of Greenwich, identified her as his wife, from whom he had been separated for thirteen years, while William Turner stated that he had been living with her for ten years.”
IT WASN’T OVER
And so, the jury shuffled out of the Working Lads’ Institute, and the people of Whitechapel and Spitalfields went back to their everyday lives.
What they could not have realised was that, somewhere in London – perhaps even right under their noses – a homicidal maniac, either the man responsible for the murder of Martha Turner, or, perhaps, someone who had been inspired by this crime, was a bout to launch a reign of bloody terror that was about to make the name of Whitechapel infamous throughout the World.
For the people of the East End of London – and for many who had no intention of going anywhere near the East End, for that matter, the autumn of terror lay just a week away.