The Victims (Jack the Ripper) Part 2

Martha Tabram

Tuesday, 7 August 1888

John Saunders Reeves, a dockside laborer, had to be at work early. That was why he left his home at 37 George Yard Buildings, George Yard, at 4:45 A.M. on 7 August. However, on this particular date John Reeves would be delayed, for as he walked down the stairs he found the body of a woman on the second-floor landing.

By this time it was already getting light, so Reeves could plainly see that the woman lay on her back in a pool of blood. Her clothing was disarranged and her legs open, and it was clear that she had been the victim of some kind of attack. Reeves ran into the street, found a policeman, Constable Thomas Barrett, and told Barrett of his grim discovery. Barrett and Reeves returned to George Yard Buildings, where Barrett, noticing that the woman’s skirts had been pushed up, concluded that there had been recent intimacy and that the woman had possibly been the victim of a sexual attack.


George Yard as it is today. Martha Tabram was murdered on a landing of a building that stood at the top left, about where the white building is now. She was stabbed 39 times early on the morning of 7 August 1888.

Barrett sent for a doctor, and at 5:30 A.M. Dr. Timothy Robert Killeen of 68 Brick Lane arrived at the scene. He pronounced the woman dead, and his initial examination showed that she had been stabbed 39 times. He concluded that she had been dead for approximately three hours, putting the time of her death at about 2:30 A.M. Dr. Killeen ordered the removal of the body to the Workhouse Infirmary mortuary in Old Montague Street, where he would perform the postmortem.

Constable Barrett played a greater part than just being the first police officer on the scene. The investigation was led by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, and Barrett told him that at 2 A.M. on the morning of 7 August he had seen a soldier loitering in Wentworth Street, which ran along the north end of George Yard. Barrett had questioned the man, who said he was waiting for "a chum who had gone with a girl." The constable was able to give a reasonably detailed description of this soldier, stating that he was aged 22 to 26, 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall, with a fair complexion, dark hair, and a small dark-brown mustache turned up at the ends. He was wearing one good-conduct badge on his tunic.

As a result of this report, Inspector Reid took Constable Barrett to the Tower of London, where troops were stationed, that same day. There Barrett was able to view a number of prisoners who were being detained in the guardroom, presumably for various offenses committed over the Bank Holiday of 6 August. Barrett failed to pick anyone out, but it was arranged that he would be taken back to the Tower the next day, when he would be able to view all soldiers who had been absent from duty on 6 August.

Martha Tabram met her death on a landing of the marked building. Note that Angel Alley, where Mary Ann Connolly took her soldier, runs parallel and to the east.

Martha Tabram met her death on a landing of the marked building. Note that Angel Alley, where Mary Ann Connolly took her soldier, runs parallel and to the east.

Meanwhile, also on 7 August, Inspector Reid made a number of inquiries of people who lived in George Yard Buildings, including Joseph and Elizabeth Ma-honey, who lived at 47 George Yard Buildings. They had been out enjoying themselves on Bank Holiday Monday and had returned home at 1:40 A.M.

Joseph had stayed in for the rest of the night, but Elizabeth had gone out again almost immediately to buy their supper from a chandler’s shop in Thrawl Street. By the time she had returned home, it was 1:50 A.M. Neither she nor Joseph had seen anything on the stairs, and they had not been disturbed by noises or screams during the night.

Alfred George Crow, a carman, lived at 35 George Yard Buildings. It had been 3 A.M. on the 7th when he had returned home, and as he had passed the spot where the body of the woman would later be discovered, he had seen someone lying on the landing. He had taken no notice because it was quite common to find someone the worse for drink sleeping it off on the stairs. He went on home and went to bed, and he too heard nothing to disturb his rest during the remainder of the night. Inspector Reid believed that Crow had seen the woman’s body, leading to the conclusion that she had been killed sometime between 2 and 4:50 A.M., when the body was found. This time frame agreed with the findings of Dr. Killeen, who said the woman had died at about 2:30 A.M.

Francis Hewitt, the superintendent of George Yard Buildings, lived just 12 feet from where the body had lain. He had heard nothing at all during the night. His wife did report hearing a single cry of "Murder," but this had come early in the evening, well before the time when the woman must have been attacked.

On Wednesday, 8 August, Constable Barrett was taken back to the Tower. Inspector Reid stressed the importance of the visit and told Barrett to be very careful. A number of men were paraded for his review, and Barrett walked slowly down the line before picking one man out. He was asked if he were sure in his identification, whereupon he looked again and chose a second man who was standing six or seven positions away from the first. Both soldiers were then escorted to the orderly room.

Immediately Barrett admitted that he had made a mistake with the first man. Only after he had picked him out had the constable realized that the man wore medal ribbons, whereas the soldier he had seen in Wentworth Street had had none. That soldier was then allowed to go without even having his name taken.

The second soldier was Private John Leary, and he denied being anywhere near the scene of the crime on the night of 6-7 August. Leary explained that he and another man, Private Law, had gone out together that night. They had traveled to Brixton, where they drank until the pubs closed. Before leaving the public house, Leary went to relieve himself, and when he came out Law had already gone, so he set off to walk through Bat-tersea and Chelsea on his way back to the barracks. From Chelsea he walked past Charing Cross and into the Strand, where he saw Law again. By then it was 4:30 A.M., and the two friends walked on to Billingsgate, where they had a final drink before getting back to their barracks at 6 A.M. When Private Law was interviewed he confirmed this story in every detail, and Leary was dismissed.

A description of the dead woman was issued, stating that she was aged about 37, 5 feet 3 inches tall, with dark hair and a dark complexion. At the time of her death she was wearing a dark-green skirt, a brown petticoat, a long black jacket, brown stockings, a black bonnet, and side-sprung boots. All her clothing was described as "old."

The inquest opened at 2 P.M. on Thursday, 9 August, at the Working Lad’s Institute in Whitechapel Road. The coroner for the district, Wynne Edwin Baxter, was on holiday in Scandinavia, so the task of chairing the proceedings fell to his deputy, George Collier. By this time there had been three identifications of the dead woman, but all these witnesses had given different names: the most likely was Martha Turner, but none had yet been conclusive.

Only a few witnesses were called. Elizabeth Mahoney told of her and her husband’s movements and confirmed that she did not believe there had been a body on the stairs at the time she retired. Alfred Crow spoke of seeing someone lying on the landing when he returned home, and he was followed by John Saunders Reeves, who had actually found the body.

The next witness was Constable Barrett, and he was followed by Dr. Killeen. The doctor had completed his postmortem, and he now gave the court his report. There were a total of 22 stab wounds to the trunk; the left lung had been penetrated in five places and the right lung in two. The heart, which was rather fatty, had been penetrated once. All the other internal organs appeared to be healthy, but the liver had been penetrated five times, the spleen twice, and the stomach six times. There was one wound in the lower body, and there was no evidence of a struggle. (The doctor did not mention the other wounds to the victim’s throat and legs.)

A number of writers have placed words and testimony in Dr. Killeen’s mouth. His findings have been grossly misquoted, and it is time to set the record straight. Dr. Killeen did not state that the killer was ambidextrous. He found one wound that might have been inflicted by a left-handed person, but all the others were inflicted by someone wielding a weapon with the right hand. Nor did he say that the killer had used a bayonet or a surgical knife. He did say that one of the wounds appeared to have been inflicted by a different weapon than the rest. This wound, on the breastbone, had come from some long, strong instrument, possibly a bayonet or a dagger. All the other wounds could have been inflicted by an ordinary penknife. Finally, there is no truth in the assertion that Dr. Killeen said that the killer demonstrated surgical skill, and he did not say that the killer had known how and where to cut.

After these witnesses had been heard, Collier adjourned the inquest for two weeks in the hope that in that intervening period the police would be able to put a name to the unfortunate woman.

In fact, the police did not have to wait very long. That same day a prostitute named Mary Ann Connolly, also known as Pearly Poll, walked into the Commercial Street Police Station and said she knew who the dead woman was. The name she gave for the victim was Emma Turner, and Mary Ann went on to say that on the night of 6 August she and Emma had been in the company of two soldiers from 10 until 11:45 P.M. The four had been drinking in various public houses, and at 11:45 P.M. they had separated, Mary Ann going with the corporal up Angel Alley and Emma going with the private up George Yard, so that business could be transacted. That was the last Mary Ann had seen of her friend. Arrangements were immediately made for Mary Ann to visit the Tower the next day in order to identify the two soldiers.

That same evening, at 11:45 P.M., Corporal Benjamin returned to his barracks at the Tower. He had been on official leave on 6 August and was supposed to have returned that same evening. He had failed to do so, and now his clothing and bayonet were carefully examined for traces of blood. None could be found, and Benjamin explained that he had been staying with his father at the Canbury Hotel, Kingston-upon-Thames. The story was checked and shown to be true.

The parade at the Tower for the benefit of Mary Ann Connolly was arranged for 11 A.M. on 10 August, but Mary Ann failed to appear. She could not be found that day or the next, having decided to visit her cousin, Mrs. Shean, who lived at 4 Fuller’s Court, Drury Lane. It was not until 12 August that she was traced by Sergeant Eli Caunter. A new arrangement was then made with the Tower.

The parade finally took place on 13 August, but Mary Ann failed to pick out anyone. Only now did she volunteer the information that the soldiers she and Emma had been with had worn white bands around their hats. This meant that they were Coldstream Guards, not Grenadiers, so yet another parade, this time at the Wellington Barracks, had to be arranged.

On 14 August a formal identification of the victim was finally made. Henry Samuel Tabram was a foreman furniture packer living at 6 River Terrace, East Greenwich, and he had read reports of the crime in the newspapers. These stories had given Tabram as one version of the dead woman’s name, and Tabram visited the mortuary to investigate this possibility. He was able to say that the victim was his wife, Martha Tabram, from whom he had been separated for some 13 years. She had also been known as Martha Turner and Emma Turner.

Martha had been born Martha White, the daughter of Charles Samuel and Elisabeth White, at 17 Marshall Street, London Road, Southwark, on 10 May 1849, meaning that she was 39 when she died. She had four older siblings: Henry, Esther, Stephen, and Mary Ann. Her father had died suddenly in November 1865 when Martha was 16.

On 25 December 1869 Martha White had married Henry Tabram at the Trinity Church, Newington. The union produced two children: Frederick John, born in February 1871, and Charles Henry, born in December 1872. Martha was always very fond of drink, which led to innumerable arguments between her and Henry and finally to his leaving her in 1875, though he continued to maintain her to the tune of 12 shillings per week. In due course, Henry found that Martha was living with another man, so he reduced the payment to 2 shillings and sixpence per week.

This formal identification led to other information about Martha Tabram. Mary Bousfield, also apparently known under the alias of Mary Luckhurst, of 4 Star Place, Commercial Road, stated that she had known Martha as her lodger. Martha had called herself Martha Turner and had left with a man about six weeks before her death, still owing rent. This man was William Turner, who said he had lived with Martha, on and off, for about 10 years. They had parted from time to time because of Martha’s drinking, and he was now living at the Victoria Working Men’s Home on Commercial Street.

It was also on 14 August that the parade at Wellington Barracks was arranged, and it took place the following day, 15 August. Mary Ann Connolly attended and picked out two men, describing one as the corporal who had been with her and the other as the private who had been with "Emma," the name by which she had known Martha Tabram.

From the outset it was plain that Mary Ann’s identification was incorrect. The "corporal" she picked out proved to be Private George, who had two good-conduct medals. He was able to prove that from 8 P.M. until 6 A.M. on the night of 6-7 August he had been with his wife at 120 Hammersmith Road. The other soldier, Private Skipper, had actually been in the barracks from 10:05 P.M. through the night on 6 August.

The inquest reopened, again before Deputy Coroner Collier, at 2 P.M. on 23 August. Henry Samuel Tabram gave evidence of his formal identification. He was followed by William Turner, who explained that he had lived with Martha until three weeks before her death. She had then moved to 19 George Street while he had gone to the Victoria Home. After giving details of Martha’s drinking habits, Turner stated that the last time he had seen her alive was on Saturday, 4 August. They had met in Leadenhall Street, and she had appeared to be destitute. He believed she was trying to earn a living as a hawker and had given her 1 shilling and sixpence to buy some stock. He had never seen her alive again.

The body of Martha Tabram lying in the mortuary. Note that she looks much older than her 39 years, owing in no small part to the type of life she had led. Her body was formally identified by her estranged husband, Henry Samuel Tabram.

The body of Martha Tabram lying in the mortuary. Note that she looks much older than her 39 years, owing in no small part to the type of life she had led. Her body was formally identified by her estranged husband, Henry Samuel Tabram.

Mary Bousfield then confirmed that Martha and William Turner had lived with her at Star Place for a period of about four months. They had left about six weeks before Martha’s death, owing some rent. One day, while Mary Bous-field was out, Martha had returned briefly and left behind the key to the room she had once rented.

Ann Morris was Martha’s sister-in-law and lived at 23 Fisher Street, Cambridge Heath Road. She was able to add only that she had seen Martha outside the White Swan public house at 11 P.M. on 6 August. Martha had been arrested three times for annoying Ann and trying to obtain money from her. Indeed, on the last occasion Martha had received a sentence of seven days’ hard labor.

One of the final witnesses was Mary Ann Connolly, who told of the encounter with the two soldiers. After a brief summing-up by the deputy coroner, the jury duly returned a verdict of "murder by some person or persons unknown."

Was Martha Tabram a victim of Jack the Ripper? There were certainly highranking police officers who later came to believe that she was, including Inspector Frederick George Abberline. Others have claimed that she was a victim of the soldier who took her up George Yard. This theory, however, may well be untenable. It must be remembered that Martha and the unidentified soldier went off together at 11:45 P.M. on 6 August. It is highly likely, according to the testimony of Elizabeth Mahoney, Alfred Crow, and Dr. Killeen, that Martha was not killed until around 2:30 A.M. on 7 August, giving her ample time to find another client.

It has also been suggested that Martha should not be included among the Ripper’s victims because she was not mutilated and her throat was not cut. However, a report by Chief Inspector Swanson the following month (September 1888) stated that there were nine stab wounds to the throat, and there is also a report in the Illustrated Police News that reads in part, "she being throttled while held down." Finally, there is the sheer frenzy of the attack, which led to 39 separate wounds.

Twentieth-century psychological reports on the unidentified killer known as Jack the Ripper have assumed that Mary Ann Nichols was the first victim but also add that this was unlikely to have been his first attack. Serial killers do not always perfect their "technique" in their first attack. It is quite possible that Jack claimed the life of Martha Tabram before he had perfected his throttling and cutthroat technique. This is especially true if credence may be given to the Illustrated Police News report, which, unfortunately, cannot be verified from other, more reliable sources.

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