During a recent delve into the newspaper archives, I came across several articles concerning a murder in Hyde Park in 1915 which bore certain similarities to at least one of the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Indeed, one intriguing fact concerning this later murder was that the year 1888 was specifically mentioned at the inquest into the victim’s death.
THE MURDER OF ALICE ELIZABETH JARMAN
On Friday, February 19th 1915, the mutilated body of a middle aged woman was found in a ditch in Hyde Park. The location of the murder was close to the Magazine – now the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.
The victim was identified as Alice Elizabeth Jarman, aged 40, of Crescent Street Notting Dale – a notoriously deprived enclave situated to the west of the much better-known and better-off district of Notting Hill.
She was the daughter of an ex-Metropolitan Police Constable and, in the days that followed her murder, several newspapers described her as having been a “little weak minded and delicate and [as a result] had never done any regular work.”
KNOWN AS “HOPPY”
According to the Dundee, Perth, Forfar, and Fife’s People’s Journal, “one leg was shorter than the other and, as a result of her limp, she was known as “Hoppy.”
SHE PUT UP A FIGHT
Regarding her murder, the newspapers stated that it was evident from the condition of the ditch in which her body was found and from the appearance of her clothing that she had put up quite a struggle against her murderer.
However, the job of the detectives tasked with solving the crime, so the newspaper reported, was being “rendered the more difficult” by the fact none of the Territorial soldiers at the Magazine – not even a sentry who was a mere sixty yards away from the crime – had seen the woman or her murderer, nor had they heard any cries of distress.
SEVERAL SUSPECTS DETAINED
In the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, several suspects had been detained and questioned by the police. These included a soldier “who was said to be a deserter,” as well as several other men “in various parts of London…but after inquiry, they were all released.”
On Tuesday 23rd of February, the Daily Mail reported that her brother, Frederick, had told the inquest into her death that she “…was a single woman, and she followed no occupation.”
The article went on to state that:-
“Replying to the Coroner as to the woman’s mental condition, the witness said he should say she was weak-minded. On two occasions deceased had been kept under observation in St Pancras Workhouse, and all his sisters had, in turn, tried to take her in hand, but they could not control her. Deceased was in the habit of running after men. Witness tried to stop her, but she suddenly put on her hat and coat and disappeared.
Mary Rutland said she occupied the same room as the deceased in the lodging house. Jarman led an irregular life. She was rather weak-minded and childish.
A BAYONET HAD BEEN USED
Dr Blackett, a divisional surgeon, deposed that the deceased had a khaki-coloured handkerchief tied in a sailor’s knot round the neck. He found that a sword bayonet fitted all the wounds on the body. The stabs might have been carried out by a left-handed man.
Dr R S Trevor gave expert evidence as to the woman’s injuries and stated his reasons for supposing that the wounds were inflicted by a service bayonet. All the wounds were inflicted with considerable violence and could not have been self inflicted. The wound in the throat was caused first, then those in the arm and breast, and lastly the one in the abdomen.”
THE INQUEST ADJOURNED
Having taken these statement the Westminster Coroner, Mr Oddie, proceeded to adjourn the inquest until the 11th March.
By the Saturday following the murder, other newspapers were able to add details about the location of the murder.
According to the Framlingham Weekly News:-
THE HEAD NEARLY SEVERED
“The spot where the tragedy occurred is not far from the Magazine, and it is close to Hyde Park police station. There was a wound in the throat which nearly severed the head, and in addition there was a deep wound in the abdomen and another in the forearm. It is stated that the wounds are such as might have been caused by a bayonet.”
A STATEMENT FROM THE POLICE
Many papers carried the following statement that had been issued by the police authorities from New Scotland Yard:-
“At about 7:45 PM on February 19 the body of a woman, since identified as Alice Elizabeth Jarman, a known frequenter of the park, was found in a ditch bordering Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Her throat was cut, and there was a wound on her right arm and two cuts on the body. It is probable that her assailant was splashed with blood, and his or her clothing badly bloodstained. From the condition of the ground it is equally probable that her assailant’s clothing would be in a dirty, muddy condition.”
A MAN CONFESSED
Interestingly, at the end of February a man appears to have gone to the local police station and confessed to being the perpetrator of the crime.
Unfortunately, it soon transpired that he wasn’t connected to the murder in any way and had in fact been “under the influence of drink when he made his confession.
As The Manchester Evening News politely reported on February 25th:-
“The civilian who gave himself up to the London police alleging that he had committed the murder of the woman, Alice Jarman …has been liberated, inquiries proving that he had no connection whatever with the crime.”
AN OLD SWORD BAYONET
When the inquest re-opened – on March 11th 1915 – it was announced that an old sword bayonet in a scabbard had been found in a sewer in Westminster.
According to the Manchester Evening News:-
“On the weapon there were certain marks which would have to be examined by an expert in order to determine whether they were blood-satins or not.”
“The weapon,” the report added, ” bore certain marks of identification into which inquiry would have to be made.”
THE BAYONET WAS ISSUED IN 1888
Several newspapers carried an intriguing fact about the bayonet. The Western Daily Press Bristol, for example, stated in an editorial on Friday 19th March 1915 that, “the bayonet was issued in 1888, but it could not be traced to any particular man.”
Dr Trevor, however, stated that, although he had examined the bayonet, he could find no bloodstains on it.
Testifying at the inquest, Detective-Inspector Tappenden stated that all the barracks in the Metropolitan area had been notified to look out for blood-stained bayonets or clothing.
The Coroner remarked that the bayonet in question “might have been put in the sewer by a practical joker or by someone who was nervous because he had it in his possession.”
NOBODY WAS CHARGED
The jury, he said, would be driven to the conclusion that it was a case of mystery which was not likely to be solved.
The Coroner’s statement did, indeed, prove prophetic, as nobody was ever brought to justice for the murder of Alice Elizabeth Jarman.
THE BAYONET IS INTRIGUING
However, one aspect of the reporting caught my attention.
The finding of the bayonet in a Westminster sewer was intriguing.
It appears that it hadn’t been related to Alice Jarman’s murder – or at least it couldn’t be linked to it.
But it was generally agreed that the murder weapon had been a bayonet.
MARTHA TABRAM’S MURDER
Martha Tabram, murdered in George Yard – and who may have been the first victim of Jack the Ripper – was also murdered with a bayonet – or, at least, a bayonet was said to have been used in the attack on her.
It was believed that a soldier may have been responsible for her murder and as a consequence several identification parades were held in the hope that the friend who had been with her shortly before her murder, Pearly Poll, could identify to soldiers they had met with on the evening prior to the murder.
Newspaper reports on the bayonet found in the aftermath of Alice Jarman’s murder stated that the weapon had been issued in 1888 and, although not emphatically stated, the reports speak of it being rusty, suggesting it might have been in the sewer for some time.
It got me wondering whether, in 1915, they may have stumbled upon the murder weapon used on Martha Tabram way back in August 1888?
It’s just a thought, and of course nothing can now be proved either way. But it is an intriguing thought none the less!
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