Goulston Street






The paranoia of Sir Alfred Hitchcock meant he understood the accusatory nature of inquests and how the death of anyone prods guilt in the survivors. In Rebecca there are anxious and unsettling moments at an inquest but the difficult questions from the Cornish coroner are swatted away by upper class confidence and disdain. The Americans do it differently. Because innocent Americans are shocked by capricious guilt, Scottie Ferguson, the confused policeman in Vertigo, is obliged to suffer and endure baffled scrutiny from his friends. His deceitful friend Gavin Elster pretends to sympathise. ‘That was rough, Scottie,’ says Elster. Scottie never really recovers, and Elster triumphs somewhere in Europe. Only the treacherous are able to sidestep guilt.

The inquest of Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes began on the 4th of October 1888, four days after she was murdered in Mitre Square. S F Langham was the coroner. The Coroner’s Court was in Golden Lane. S F Langham was an MP and a neighbour of a very young Boris Karloff. Some ratepayers had complained about the £13,000 it cost to build the Court but it was also described as ‘the best building of its kind in London’. Golden Lane was where the City of London attended its dead. It had a mortuary, a post mortem room, a disinfecting chamber and an ambulance station.



There are over a 100 press cuttings on the inquest of Catherine Eddowes. The Evening News was responsible for nine of those reports.   The Times recalled the proceedings in depth and in grisly detail. Their reports were confined to page four of the newspaper. The inquest was reported outside Britain and in American and European newspapers. The last newspaper reference to the Eddowes inquest that can be regarded as contemporary appeared in the Trenton Times in 1982. At the time of her death Catherine Eddowes was believed to be the seventh victim of the Ripper.

Eddowes has acquired celebrity status but the two days devoted by Coroner S F Langham to examining the circumstances of her death was not exceptional. Emma Smith, who was murdered six months earlier in April, was allocated one day. The inquest for Polly Nichols, murdered in August, lasted for three days. Mary Jane Kelly, whose murder was the most graphic of all, had an inquest that was also sorted within a single day. In view of what had happened to Kelly this was a blessing.  After the first day of the Eddowes inquest the Court adjourned for a week. The length of the adjournment was typical. The inquest of Martha Tabram also lasted for two days but was separated by an adjournment of two weeks. Martha Tabram may or may not have been a Ripper victim. She was murdered in August 1888.



The purpose of an inquest is to establish the identity of the deceased, record how, when and where the subject of the inquest died and to provide the necessary details for the death to be registered. This suggests that the summary by the coroner would include specific and numbered judgements that refer back to the purpose of the inquest. But, as in the movies of Hitchcock, coroners can be tempted by the theatrical. They are not always methodical. In summing up the Eddowes inquest, Coroner Langham observed that the evidence ‘had been of the most exhaustive character’. Eddowes is not mentioned by name in the summary of her own inquest. Langham refers to her death as ‘the matter’ and to Eddowes as ‘the victim’. He decides that it will ‘be far better now to leave the matter in the hands of the police’. After various diversions some regard was given by Langham to the purpose of the inquest. He recorded a verdict of wilful murder. Thanks were given to the jury and the police solicitor Henry Homewood Crawford. Juries are required at inquests when the cause of death is unknown, violent or ‘unnatural’. When a jury is in attendance, its members will decide the cause of death.   Less formal than a criminal court a jury representative can present questions to witnesses.


The police solicitor Crawford was active throughout the inquest. He questioned witnesses, pointed out discrepancies and added extra information that was available to him. Despite being the police solicitor, Crawford challenged PC Alfred Long about his discovery of the graffiti in Goulston Street. He queried both how the sentence was structured and even suggested that there was confusion about the spelling of the crucial word Jews and that it might have been spelt Juewes. If there was a Freemason conspiracy by Warren and others against revealing the truth, either no one told Crawford or he ignored them.


Written evidence from seven witnesses was submitted to the inquest. Apart from Eliza Gold, the sister of Catherine Eddowes, all the witnesses signed their names to their statements. Eliza signed her statement with an X.  Three witnesses knew Eddowes or John Kelly her partner. The others who submitted written statements included two policemen, a lodging house manager and the surveyor who drew a map of the crime scene.   Sixteen witness statements were heard at the actual inquest.   The mixed bunch consisted of seven policemen, two doctors, a fellow of the Chemical Society, a public analyst, a lamp back packer, a watchman, a casekeeper, a commercial traveller and a butcher. One of the policemen, Detective Halse, revealed that plain-clothes detectives were patrolling the streets on the night of the murder.   The ambition had been to prevent the murders of Whitechapel occurring in the neighbouring City District.  John Kelly, the partner of Eddowes, was a possible suspect but witnesses and the court established he was innocent.   The night Eddowes was murdered, Kelly was seen asleep in a common lodging house. Three of the policemen who gave evidence described the earlier arrest of Eddowes for being drunk and disorderly. She was released from the Bishopsgate Police Station forty-five minutes before she was murdered.

Included in the evidence submitted to the inquest was a list of the possessions of Catherine Eddowes. What she owned she carried on her person. The items reveal someone who at times was homeless or at least lived some of her life on the open road.   Not long before her death Eddowes and John Kelly had returned to London from hop picking in Kent. Included in her possessions were clay pipes, sugar, soap, flannel, knife, spoon, comb, pins, needles, a tin box containing tea, a spoon and various rags. In his statement Inspector Collard mentioned a mustard tin containing two pawn tickets. There was no reference to a mustard tin in the list of possessions that was documented. Instead the list included a tin matchbox. This item has acquired subsequent significance because of its supposed relevance to the theories that identify brothers James and Michael Maybrick as potential Ripper suspects.


The most graphic evidence heard in court was given by Dr Frederick Gordon Brown. Despite the unsavoury and intimate details of the mutilations the evidence was not censored by Langham the coroner. The same details are recorded in full in the report that is published in The Times newspaper. This did not happen in the inquest of Mary Jane Kelly where Coroner Dr McDonald asserted that the physical descriptions were not suitable for the ears of the public.   Dr McDonald was also keen to complete the inquest within a single day.  Amidst the details of the slaughter provided by Dr Brown at the Eddowes inquest he revealed that physical death was determined by a haemorrhage from the left common carotid artery.   Brown also gave his opinion on the number of assassins, there was just the one, the degree of anatomical skill possessed by the murderer, ‘a great degree’, and how long it took for the victim to die, her death was immediate. The absence of poison in the corpse of Eddowes was confirmed by the Public Analyst, William Sedgwick Saunders.  Witness Joseph Lawende described how before her death he saw Eddowes talking to a man in Mitre Square.

At the funeral of Catherine Eddowes the hearse was pulled by two black horses that wore full black plumes. The funeral procession was well attended but the crowds were not invited inside the church. Her partner john Kelly and her sister Eliza were present at the graveside. Catherine Eddowes was buried on the 8th of October and three days before the second day of her inquest. The grave was unmarked until 1996 when a plaque was added to the graves of Catherine Eddowes and another Ripper victim Polly Nichols. The two women are buried within thirty feet of each other. The plaques are made of bronze, and both names are misspelt. Eddowes is spelt Eddows, and Nichols is spelt Nicholls. More people have seen the terrible and uncensored photograph of the naked and mutilated corpse of Catherine Eddowes than the bronze plaque.

 Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.





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Conspiracy or cock up, either way whatever occurred in Goulston Street in the early hours of the 30th September 1888 points towards something odorous. In simpler language it stinks. This is what happened. At 2.55 a.m. PC Long passed 118-119 Goulston Street, the entrance to Wentworth Model Dwellings. On his previous tour he had passed the archway at 2.20 a.m. The hallway was about five foot deep and dark but PC Long noticed a piece of apron on the floor below the stairs that led to the dwellings or flats.   The apron was smeared with blood.  PC Long stepped into the passageway and saw that there was writing on the wall.  Reports are vague about which wall but Superintendent Arnold stated that the chalk writing ‘was in such a position that it would have been rubbed out by the shoulders of persons passing in and out of the building.’ That implies the writing had not been there long and it was left on a wall at the side of the archway, perhaps the wall at the right of the entrance.   The wall was divided by a border, and the writing was on the black dado, the lower half. The bricks above the border were white. This is what the writing said or almost said. ‘The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.’ Amongst the witnesses there was a difference of opinion about the spelling of the word Jews, Juwes or Juews and where the negative was placed in the sentence.

Prior to the discovery of the apron and the writing on the wall two murders had been committed that morning. Liz Stride was discovered dead around 1 a.m., and 45 minutes later PC Edward Watkins found the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square.  Apart from being the scene of a brutal crime the location is important because Mitre Square was covered by the City Police.   Goulston Street came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police.


After discovering the apron and seeing the writing on the wall PC Long called PC 190H, whose name is not recorded. PC Long asked PC 190H to keep guard at the entrance to 118-119 Goulston Street. Detectives arrived and these included Superintendent Arnold from the Metropolitan Police. Detective Halse and Major Smith who had visited the body of Eddowes in the mortuary also came to Goulston Street. Because both the Metropolitan Police and the City Police were interested in the discoveries by PC Long, more detectives arrived. Plenty were available because the City Police had recruited additional men to patrol the streets of their territory.  They had hoped to prevent the murders in Whitechapel spilling over into the City.

Superintendent Arnold of the Metropolitan Police wanted the writing to be washed away because, so it was said, it would inflame anti-Jewish feeling in Whitechapel. The dwellings at Goulston Street were occupied by local Jewish people. Superintendent Arnold left an inspector in charge until Sir Charles Warren could make a decision about what should happen to the writing.  Armed with a bucket and sponge the inspector waited. Superintendent McWilliam of City Police also made some decisions. He ordered the residences in the building to be searched. Unlike Superintendent Arnold the City Police Superintendent wanted the writing on the wall to be at least photographed. Superintendent McWilliam visited the mortuary and matched the piece of apron to the apron that the victim Eddowes was wearing. Whether McWilliam expected the writing to be photographed while he was absent is not known. Despite the difference in opinion and the presence of detectives who had a territorial interest in what happened next both Superintendents felt they could leave the scene of the crime.


Sir Charles Warren arrived at Goulston Street at 5.00 a.m.  Following discussion and perhaps heated argument Warren ordered the writing to be washed away. This happened at 5.30 a.m. and as daylight arrived. Without the daylight the arguments may have been more protracted. No photographs were taken. The evidence was lost.   Six weeks later Sir Charles Warren was no longer Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The official explanation is that the writing on the wall if seen could have caused an anti-Semitic riot. Superintendent Arnold mentioned what had happened after the rumours of a Jewish killer called Leather Apron. There had been ill feeling to suspicious characters but no riot. Neither was there a riot after the writing became public knowledge. Even if the fears of rioting were valid they only justified concealing the existence of the evidence. There were no grounds for destruction. When the writing was discovered, the police thought they were hunting a man who had killed six women with escalating savagery.   A compromise had been suggested before Sir Charles Warren arrived.  The writing could have been washed away after a photograph was taken. In view of the misgivings of the rival police force it is odd that Warren made such an emphatic decision.


Opinion regarding the behaviour of Sir Charles Warren at Goulston Street has become polarised. His defendants argue that he was right to be concerned about social unrest. Some of his critics claim a masonic conspiracy and insist that the actual spelling of Jews in the writing was either ‘Juwes’ or ‘Juewes’.   Their belief is that ‘Juwes’ refers not to the Jewish people but to the three men who murdered Hiram Abiff the architect of Solomon’s Temple. The three men were called Jubelo, Jubela and Jubelum. Sir Charles Warren was an enthusiastic freemason who had excavated below Solomon’s Temple.  Some of the conspiracy theories to emerge have been fanciful but a masonic conspiracy does not have to exist for us to wonder whether Sir Charles Warren that morning reacted to the writing as a freemason rather than an objective policeman.   We should be wary of creative theories but we are obliged to be suspicious.

Sir Charles Warren had Chief Inspector Donald Swanson employed at Scotland Yard to ensure that all aspects of the investigation reached the desk of the Commissioner. Neither man was disposed to visit the East End.  Somehow a senior policeman who had resisted viewing the scenes where brutal murders had occurred was persuaded in the early hours of the morning to visit Goulston Street and read a scrawl on a wall.


Suspicion is enhanced by the action of the police that followed. The reports from PC Long, Superintendent Arnold and Sir Charles Warren were delayed for almost a week and then all arrived on the same day. The suspicious believe that the police were taking time to reinvent what happened and line up their accounts. The newspapers reported that ‘Juwes’ was how the Polish immigrants referred to Jewish people. Without any supporting evidence Warren suggested that the spelling was probably Irish. Again it feels like misdirection had occurred.

The claim by Chief Inspector Walter Dew that the writing was no more than graffiti typical of the area is unconvincing. Casual graffiti is written where it is obvious and can be seen by passers by.  This is why motorway bridges and the sides of subway trains became popular locations. The writing on the wall was left in a dark doorway and next to a piece of leather apron stained with the blood of the most recent victim. The capital letters in the sentence were recorded as being three quarters of an inch high and the rest were in proportion. This is not typical graffiti and its coexistence alongside a piece of bloodied apron is an odd coincidence. It may or may not have been teasing from a killer who needed to pass some time out of sight.  But, if that were the case, why would Jack the Ripper be carrying a piece of chalk?



Between the polemical arguments there is a mundane explanation that has so far been missed. The murder of Catherine Eddowes created a problem for the City and Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police had authority over the clues, and the City Police had a murder to investigate in Mitre Square.   The likelihood of conflict and bruised feelings in a busy and claustrophobic archway at Goulston Street on the morning of the 30th September is not remote. An argument over authority could have easily escalated into a turf war that soon became an irrational battle. Sir Charles Warren had already been bruised by his arguments with Charles Monro over the independence of the CID. The dispute at 118-119 Goulston Street may have been an unbearable insult for an exasperated and weary man.


But there are a lot of freemasons in the British Police, and a man who could be compelled to irrationality by a simple dispute with a neighbouring police force is also capable of responding to writing on a wall that suggests freemason knowledge. The dismissal of the alternative interpretation of the word Juwes or Juewes has been perfunctory. The claim that in 1888 there was only one masonic term for the three ‘ruffians’ that murdered the architect of Solomon’s Temple feels not just silly and defensive but deceitful.  Conspiracy or cockup are the alternative theories of history, and that morning of the 30th September 1888 Sir Charles Warren managed to provide evidence to support either interpretation. Over the 130 years that have elapsed since that damp morning in Goulston Street the colleagues and supporters of Sir Charles Warren have not helped him.

 Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.