The Peculiar People

As the Jack the Ripper murders were bringing terror and panic to the East End of London, everyday life (and death) was continuing, and, in addition to the inquests into the deaths of the victims of the Whitechapel murderer, investigations were going on into the deaths of other residents.

At the end of October, 1888, Wynne Edwin Baxter – the Coroner who had, by this time, presided over the inquests into the deaths of several victims of the ripper – held an investigation into a death that was evidently troubling to him.

The Cornubian and Redruth Times reported on the inquest in its edition of Friday, 26th October 1888:-


Mr. Wynne Edwin Baxter, coroner, has held an inquiry, at the Poplar Town Hall, into the circumstances attending the death of Sidney William Koobey, aged 11 months, the son of parents living Stebondale Street, Poplar, who died on Tuesday.

Elizabeth Koobey, the mother, stated that she belonged to a sect known as the “Peculiar People.”

The child had been ill from birth, but during the past nine days it had become worse.

During the last six hours of his life the boy was convulsed, but no doctor was called in, she did not believe that any doctors could do him good.

A photograph of Coroner Baxter.
Coroner Wynne Edwin Baxter


The Coroner:- “You rely on the Lord to do everything, don’t you?”

Witness:- “Yes, sir. I have had twelve children, and eight of them have died before reaching the age of three years.”

The Coroner:- “Would your religion prevent you from giving the child a warm bath when it was convulsed?”

Witness:- “No, sir; We believe in warm water and flannels, and nothing else.

The Coroner:- “You won’t believe that anything will do you good but the Lord?”

Witness:- “No, I have proved that the Lord heals us.”


Elizabeth Bell, also member of the same persuasion, deposed that they gave the child nourishment, but it died on Tuesday afternoon.

She believed that the Lord could do all things, and prayed to him tor the child.

A Juryman:- “If your husband was hurt and was lying ill in bed, what would you do?”

Witness:- “I should send for brother, and we would pray for his recovery.”

The Coroner:- “But if you were in a ship with a hole in the bottom would you do the same?”

Witness:- “Yes: we should trust in the Lord.”

The Coroner:- “I am afraid you would be drowned.”


Eliza Jarvis, another member, when asked what she had done for the child, said she went down on her knees and prayed on its behalf.

Mr. Bussell Talbot, medical officer of health for Poplar, deposed that he had examined the child, and was of the opinion that it had died of consumptive bowels, and that if medical aid had been procured its life would have been saved.

He said this from personal experience, as he knew that thousands of such cases were cured by proper treatment.


After lengthy inquiry, the jury returned a verdict in accordance with the evidence, and said that it was useless censuring the mother, as these people’s religious belief was so strong that nothing would change it.