Although the Jack the Ripper murders were shocking, they were just a series of murders that took place in an area where numerous shocking homicides occurred on an alarmingly regular basis.
Take, for example, the following story that appeared in The Henley And South Oxford Standard on Friday, 28 January 1898:-
SHOCKING MURDER AT WHITECHAPEL
CHILD THROWN FROM A WINDOW
On Tuesday Mr. Wynne F. Baxter, coroner, opened an inquiry into the death of a female child. whose body is alleged to have been thrown from a window at 116 Commercial Street, Whitechapel, on Sunday night last.
The Coroner remarked, in opening the case, that no doubt most of the jury knew the nature of the case they were about to inquire into, but there were some facts in connection with it that he ought to mention.
A witness had just come forward who would prove that, as she was walking along Commercial Street on Sunday night, something fell at her feet, which proved to be a child. The child was alive, and was taken to the Police Station.
There had been a post-mortem examination, and suspicion had arisen against someone near where the body fell from.
He (the coroner) had just received information that a telegram had been received by the police to the effect that the suspected woman had been arrested.
In his opinion, it would not be right that they should go into details unless the accused person was present, inasmuch as where a verdict of murder or manslaughter was likely to be returned, the inquiry was practically a criminal trial.
ANNIE WINDERBANK’S TESTIMONY
Annie Winderbank, the widow of a milkman, was then called, and stated that on Sunday last, a few minutes after five o’clock, she was passing along Commercial Street, going towards Shoreditch, when something fell at her feet with a heavy thud. She thought the boys were throwing something at her, but on turning sideways she saw the body of a child.
The coroner (Wynne Edwin Baxter):- “Was it naked?”
Witness:- “Yes; and I could see it was bleeding.”
WENT TO THE POLICE STATION
Witness left the child lying where it fell, and ran to the police station, where she gave information of the occurrence to the police.
On her return, she found a woman on her way to the station with the child in her arms.
By the Coroner:- Witness looked up at the windows of the houses immediately above her after the child fell, but could not see any window open. It was dark at the time.
THE DOCTOR’S EVIDENCE
Dr. Hewitt Oliver, the divisional surgeon, stated that he was called to the police station on Sunday and there found the body of the deceased. It was alive, but expired shortly after witness’s arrival.
It was a well-developed child and had been recently born. There had been no skilled attention at the birth. The left thigh was broken at the middle, and the brain was protruding from a fracture of the skull. All the other organs were healthy.
Death was due to shock from fracture of the skull and thigh.
The inquiry was adjourned.”
AN UPDATE ON THE CASE
The Tower Hamlets Independent and East End Local Advertiser carried the following brief update on the case in its edition of Saturday, 29th January 1898:-
“As a result of inquiries made in the evening at the police station in Commercial Street, which is not many yards from the scene of the occurrence. a representative learned that a woman named Cohen (supposed to be the mother of the deceased child) is at present lying in the Whitechapel Infirmary, suffering from the effects of childbirth. and it is understood that she is under police surveillance.
It is hoped that she will be sufficiently recovered to attend the adjourned inquiry, which takes place in a fortnight’s time.”
CHARGED WITH MURDER
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, on Sunday, 20h February 1898, carried an article about her conclusion of the inquest and the subsequent court appearance of the child’s mother on a charge of wilful murder:-
“At the Whitechapel Coroner’s court, on Monday, Mr. Wynne Baxter concluded his inquiry concerning the death of a female child whose body was thrown from a window at 116, Commercial Street, Spitalfields, on the evening of Sunday, the 23rd of January.
Cohen, a young woman, of 22 years, who is charged with the wilful murder of the deceased child, was present in court in custody and appeared to feel her position acutely.
The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder ” against Asneth Cohen, who had elected not to make any statement.
They desired to add that they were of opinion that she was not responsible for her action, but were told by the coroner that that was beyond their province.
The jury replied that they were unanimous on the point, and added a rider suggesting that the young woman’s mind should be inquired into.
HER COURT APPEARANCE
At Worship Street Police Court, on Tuesday, Asneth Cohen was charged with the murder.
Mr. Myers. solicitor, of Wormwood Street, appeared for the prisoner, who was brought to the court in care of the female searcher at the police station, and supported by her in the dock.
Mr. Myers said that the prisoner was very ill; and, in fact, had wandered the streets for two days.
Detective Inspector White, H division, said that owing to her condition when discovered on the 25th ult. she was not told the charge against her, but it was stated to her on Monday morning, and she then said, “Yes; I threw the baby out of the window; it was on a Sunday night. I don’t want them to kill me.”
When the charge of wilfully murdering a female infant child by throwing it out of a window at 116, Commercial Street was read over to her at the station, she replied, “I opened the window, and threw it out.
HAD SHE BEEN CAUTIONED?
Mr. Cluer asked if the prisoner was cautioned before being allowed to make such serious admissions, and the inspector admitted that he had not cautioned her.
SENT TO HOLLOWAY
Mr. Myers elicited that the prisoner had been wandering for two days when found.
Mr. Cluer said that the prisoner would be attended to at the infirmary, and she was then removed on remand and sent to Holloway Prison in a cab.”
A DIFFICULT WITNESS
The South Wales Echo, published an update on the case on Monday 28 February 1898:-
“At the Worship Street Police Court on Saturday, Asneth Cohen, the young woman charged with the wilful murder of her female child by throwing it out of a. window at the house, 116 Commercial-street, on January 23rd, was brought up on remand.
Mr Frayling, from the office of the Treasury Solicitor, conducted as before the case for the prosecution and Mr S. Myers, solicitor, the defence.
A Mr Clenowitch, whose wife last week gave evidence as to the prisoner going to her house two days after the occurrence, wishes it stated that the accused is in no way related to his wife, it having been asserted that she was the prisoner’s sister.
Sarah Schiloski, wife of a glazier, living in Pedley-street, was sworn.
She gave her name and address, and then declared she could not understand English. She was induced to answer the question, “Did the prisoner come to you late on the evening of the 23rd?” but then persisted she could only speak Yiddish.”
AN INTERPRETER BROUGHT IN
Mr Frayling asked if he should employ an interpreter.
Mr Cluer said that he did not mind. It was perfectly obvious that the woman could speak good English, and nothing would be gained one way or the other.
An interpreter was sworn.
THERE HAD BEEN A QUARRELL
The witness said that the prisoner had been known to her about 12 years.
When she arrived on the 23rd she said that she had quarrelled with her sister and brother-in-law, and they had turned her out.
Mr Frayling put the question, “Did she say that she was going away?” and the witness, evidently forgetting that she had said she could not understand English, answered readily “No.”
REFUSED TO SIGN
Mr Cluer:- “It doesn’t matter; it costs the country I7s 6d for this lady to tell an untruth. Now, I daresay she will not sign her deposition to-day.”
The witness refused to sign. It was her Sabbath and she must not write.
Mr Cluer (sarcastically):- “Quite so. She is religious she may not write, but she may tell as many untruths as she likes.”
COMMITTED FOR TRIAL
The prisoner, having been formally cautioned, replied through her solicitor that she was not guilty and reserved her defence.
She was committed for trial at the Old Bailey.”
HER OLD BAILEY APPEARANCE
On 7th March, 1898, Asneth Cohen appeared for her trial at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey).
The Lakes Chronicle and Reporter published the following details in its edition of Wednesday, 16th March 1898:-
At the Central Criminal Court, London, Asneth Cohen, 22, was indicted for the wilful murder of her newly born child on January 23rd.
The accused, an unmarried woman, lived with her married sister at 116, Commercial Road, Spitalfields.
On January 23 she threw her child out of a window on the third floor, and it fell into the street and was so seriously injured that death ensued.
The facts were not disputed, the only issue being as to the state of the mind of the prisoner at the time she committed the act.
The jury found that at the time of the commission of the act the prisoner was not responsible for her actions.
LETTER FROM A LADY
Mr. Grain said that he had a letter from a lady who had interested herself on behalf of the prisoner.
Mr. Justice Grantham said the letter would best be placed before the Home Office authorities.
He made the usual order for the prisoner’s detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure.”