By the 10th of August, 1888, the woman who had been found murdered in George Yard, Whitechapel, had been identified as Martha Turner.
The previous day, the inquest into her death had been opened, with Mr. George Collier presiding.
It becomes apparent that people were becoming a little concerned at the fact that there was something different about this murder; particularly since the perpetrator had carried out the crime just a few feet away from the rooms in which the residents of the block were sleeping in their beds, and yet nobody had heard anything.
It seems to have been the silent aspect of the crime that people found most difficult to comprehend.
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDER
The Morning Post carried a report on the inquest proceedings in its edition of the 10th August 1888:-
“An inquest was opened yesterday afternoon by Mr. George Collier on the body of a single woman, named , Martha Turner, aged 35, of 4, Star-place, Commercial-road, which was found lying on the landing of 47, George’s-yard buildings, Whitechapel, early on Tuesday morning.
The evidence of Elizabeth Mahony, who lives in the house in question, showed that at 2 a.m. on Tuesday the stairs were perfectly clear of any obstacle, and that she and her husband heard no noise during the night, learning only at ten o’clock the next morning that a murder had been corn-mitten.
THE BODY WAS THERE
Alfred G. Crow, a cabdriver, stated that at half-past three he saw somebody lying on the first landing, but as it was not an unusual thing to see, he passed on and went to bed.
He did not know whether the person was dead or alive when he passed.
THE BODY IS FOUND
John Saunders Reeves, a waterside labourer, deposed that on Tuesday morning he left home at five o’clock to go in search of work.
On the first floor landing he saw a woman lying in a pool of blood. She was on her back, and she seemed dead.
He at once gave notice to the police.
The woman was a perfect stranger to the witness.
Her clothes were disarranged, as if she had had a struggle with some one.
The witness did not notice any instrument lying about.
THIRTY NINE STAB WOUNDS
Dr. Keelene [sic], who examined the body, said he found on it 39 punctured wounds.
There were no fewer than nine in the throat and 17 in the breast.
He had since made a post-mortem examination, and had found that the left lung had been punctured in five place.
The heart, too, had been penetrated.
He did not think the wounds had been inflicted by the same instrument. One wound had been caused by a sword-bayonet or dagger, and the others by a penknife.
It was impossible for the whole of the wounds to have been self-inflicted.
Death was due to loss of blood consequent on the injuries.
The inquiry was adjourned.”
What is intriguing to note from the opening testimonies at the inquest into the death of Martha Turner, is that Alfred Crow had probably seen the body at 3.30am, but had not realised that he was looking at a murder victim.
Indeed, as he stated in his inquest testimony, he had simply believed that it was somebody sleeping on the landing, an occurrence that he was used to seeing on a regular basis; so much so that he didn’t find the presence of a prone woman in the least bit surprising as he made his way to his home and his bed.
It is from these individual statements, given in the immediate aftermath of the Jack the Ripper crimes, that we can get a genuine insight into the everyday lives of those who lived in the area where the Whitechapel murders occurred.
And, as the weeks passed, and the intensity, and the brutality, of the crimes increased, more and more people were interviewed, or were called to give testimony at the inquests into the deaths of the various victims and, in so doing, they have left us a unique historical record that enables us to catch a glimpse of the streets in which this infamous murder spree took place.