The Funeral Of Mary Nichols

On Friday 7th September, 1888, several newspapers reported on the fact that the funeral of the Buck’s Row victim, Mary Nichols, had taken place the previous afternoon, and had been surrounded by a great deal of secrecy.

One of the newspapers to report the funeral was The Morning Post, which published the following brief article about it in its edition of 7th September, 1888:-


“The funeral of the unfortunate woman, Mary Ann Nichols, who was murdered in Buck’s-row early on Friday last, took place yesterday.

The arrangements were of a very simple character.

The time at which the cortege was due to start was kept a profound secret, and a ruse was perpetrated in order to get the body out of the mortuary where it has lain since the day of the murder.

A pair-horsed closed hearse was observed making its way down Hanbury-street, and the crowds, which numbered some thousands, made way for it to go along Old Montague-street, but instead of doing so it passed on into the Whitechapel-road, and, doubling back, entered the mortuary by the back gate, which is situated in Chapman’s-court.


No one was near, besides the undertaker and his men, when the remains, placed in a polished elm coffin, bearing a plate with the inscription, Mary Ann Nichols, aged 42; died August 31, 1888, were removed to the hearse and driven to Hanbury-street, there to await the mourners.

These were late in arriving, and the two coaches were kept waiting some time in a side street.

By this time the news had spread that the body was in the hearse, and people flocked round to see the coffin, and examine the plate.


In this they were, however, frustrated, for a body of police, under Inspector Helson, of the H Division, surrounded the hearse and prevented their approaching too near.

At last the procession started towards Ilford, where the last scene in this unfortunate drama took place.

The mourners were Mr. Edward Walker, the father of the victim, and two of her children.

The procession proceeded along Baker’s-row and past the corner of Buck’s-row into the main road, where policemen were stationed every few yards.

The houses in the neighbourhood had the blinds drawn, and much sympathy was expressed for the relatives.

Up to a late hour last night no arrest had been made in connection with the murder.”

A Photo of the plaque to Mary Nichols.
The Plaque To Mary Nichols. In The City of London Cemetery, Ilford.


In addition to reports on the funeral of Mary Nichols, several newspapers reported on the man who had replaced James Monro as Assistant Commissioner and head of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard, Robert Anderson.

The Cornubian and Redruth Times, had high hopes for the impact that Anderson’s tenure would have on the department:-

“Mr. Robert Anderson, of the Home Office, where for the last ten years he has filled a post in the Criminal Department, has been selected by the Home Secretary to succeed Mr. Monro as Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Mr. Anderson’s functions will be identical with those of his predecessor, who was the head of the Criminal Investigation Department.

Mr. Monro will be a difficult man to follow. He has done very admirable service at Scotland Yard, and has proved that he possesses great aptitude and capacity for the difficult and delicate duties of Chief Detective.

Mr. Anderson’s personal qualifications are, however, excellent; he is a member of the Bar, and well versed in criminal law, while his friends credit him with some of the best qualities of the born policier.

If he can show among the rest that he has sagacity, reticence, intuition in finding, patience in following up a clue, the police records of the future may chronicle fewer undiscovered crimes.”

A Photograph of Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson


Meanwhile other newspapers were reporting on the fact that the police search for the mysterious character whom the local prostitutes had nicknamed “Leather Apron” had been stepped up the previous day.

In its edition of Friday 7th September, 1888, The Evening Telegraph updated its readers on the latest police push to trace this mysterious character. If the report is to be believed, he had already been in police custody, but, for some reason, had not been detained:-

“…Constables 43 and 173, J Division, into whose hands “Leather Apron” fell on Sunday afternoon, were detailed to accompany Detective Enright of the J Division, in a search through all the quarters where he was likely to be.

They began at half-past-ten in Church Street, Shoreditch, rumour having located the suspected man there.

They went through lodging houses, into “pubs”, down side streets, threw their bull’s-eyes into every shadow, and searched the quarter thoroughly, but without result.


The hunt then continued into the Brick Lane neighbourhood, Flower and Dean Street being “Leather Apron’s” preferred lodging place lately.

He was not found here, however, and the search, which then headed in the direction of the London Hospital, resulted in nothing.

It is the general belief that the man has left the district.

The clue furnished by the woman who denounced the man on Sunday is a very important one.

Her offer to prove by two women that “Leather Apron” was seen walking with the murdered woman in Baker’s Row at two o’clock last Friday morning is the most direct bit of evidence that has yet appeared.

The belief in “Leather Apron’s” guilt, whether it be well or ill founded, is general and the instant he is recognised by anyone he is sure to be reported and arrested.”


The article then went on to give some information about the previous Sunday when the two J Division constables appear to have had him in custody:-

“His conduct on Sunday was as usual. He never answers a question when it is put to him, and he only speaks under strong compulsion.”


Apparently the reporter interviewed several locals who knew this mysterious character, amongst them a grocer in George Yard, the place where Martha Tabram had been murdered a month before:-

“Mike – the grocer in George Yard – dwelt a long time last evening on this peculiarity.

He knows “Leather Apron” really well  and has known him for six years.


He says the man is unquestionably mad and that anybody who met him face to face would know it. That his eyes are never still, but are always shifting uneasily, and he never looks anybody in the eye.

“Leather Apron” used to live in the lodging house around the corner from the grocery, and was turned out of there some months ago with an order not to return.

The lodging house is just a few doors below the “model” doorway in which the Turner woman was found with 39 stabs.”


The article then went on to give details about the police activity in the area that was being directed towards solving the crimes:-

“Great activity prevails among the police all through Whitechapel. All are sharply on the look out for “Leather Apron”, though many of them, strangely enough, do not know him by sight and only have his description to go on.

Meanwhile, other clues are not neglected.

Inspector Helson has the case in his charge, and is aided by the full division force, by Detective Abberline, and others from Scotland Yard who are familiar with East End work.

Quite a number of men are necessary, for several parties are under constant supervision. “Leather Apron” is not the only possibility, but he is the only one suspected whom the police cannot lay their hands on at a moment’s notice.

Portraits of Abberline (left) and Helson (right).
Abberline and Helson.


One of the single women’s lodging houses is in Thrawl Street, one of the darkest and most terrible looking spots in Whitechapel.

The house keeps open till one o’clock in the morning, and reopens again at five.

In the house nightly are 66 women, who get their bed for four pence.


The proprietor of the place, who is also the owner of several other houses of a similar character in the neighbourhood, told some gruesome stories of the man who has now come to be regarded as the terror of the East End.

Nigh after night, he said, women had come in in a fainting condition after being knocked about by “Leather Apron.”

He himself would never be out in the neighbourhood after twelve o’clock, except with a loaded revolver.

The “terror”, he said, would go to a public house or a coffee room, and peep in through the window to see if a particular woman was there. He would then vanish, lying in wait for his victim at some convenient corner, hidden from the view of everybody.

The police are making efforts to arrest him, but he constantly changes his quarters.

Some of the unfortunate women state that he is now in one of the low slums in the Borough.

One of them said she saw him crossing London Bridge as stealthily as usual, with head bent, his skimpy coat turned up about his ears, and looking as though he were in a desperate hurry.”


Of course, what none of the people reading their newspapers on Friday 7th September, 1888, would have realised, was that, the very next morning, they would be waking up to news that the killer had struck again and had carried out an even more gruesome murder in Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.

This would provide one of the many bizarre coincidences with which the Jack the Ripper case is peppered.

For, if you re-read the above account of Mary Nichols’s funeral you will see that her body was removed from the mortuary via the back gate, which, to quote the article, was “situated in Chapman’s-court.”

From here the body was taken to the undertaker’s in nearby Hanbury Street.

And, early on the morning of the 8th September, 1888, the killer would murder his next victim, Annie Chapman, in the back yard of a house in Hanbury Street.