Joseph Lawende






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.








This is how Aaron Mordke Kosminski became a known suspect to Ripperologists.   In a police report dated February 1894, Sir Melville Macnaghten, who subsequently retired as Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, identified three suspects that included Kosminski. Criminals And Crime was published by Sir Robert Anderson in 1907. He had retired as Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner in 1901. In Criminals And Crime, Anderson claimed that the Ripper ‘had been safely caged in an asylum home’. Criminals And Crime had a sequel by Anderson called The Lighter Side Of My Official Life. This was published in 1910. This time Anderson revealed that ‘the suspect had been identified at the Seaside Home’.   There is a sentence in the memoir that deserves to be reproduced in full. ‘I will merely add that the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him; but he refused to give evidence against him.’

There is more. In 1959 TV presenter and journalist Dan Farson discovered an alternative copy of the 1894 report by Macnaghten. This second copy was the property of Lady Aberconway and differed slightly from the copy held in Scotland Yard. In the first copy Macnaghten describes Kominsky as a ‘strong suspect’. In the Aberconway version Macnaghten states, ‘This man in appearance strongly resembled the individual seen by the City PC near Mitre Square’.  In both versions Macnaghten provides information about Kosminski.   He lived in Whitechapel, had a ‘great hatred of women’ and ‘strong homicidal tendencies’. Because of ‘many years indulgence in solitary vices’ Kosminski had become insane.


There is still more.   In 1980 the daughter of Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson died and amongst what she left to her nephew and grandson was a copy of The Lighter Side Of My Official Life by Anderson. Swanson had made notes in the margins. At the bottom of page 138 he wrote that as well as the witness who saw the Ripper ‘the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left in his mind.’  Swanson added in the margin, ‘And after this identification which suspect knew, no other murder took place’. At the back of the book Swanson, like Anderson, referred to the suspect being identified at the Seaside Home. According to Swanson, the suspect Kosminski was watched by the police at the home of his brother-in-law before ‘in a very short time’ he was referred to Stepney Workhouse and then Colney Hatch asylum ‘where he died shortly afterwards’.

All this deserves a summary. A retired senior policeman states that the Ripper was Jewish and known to the police. One of his colleagues writes that the suspect was identified by another Jew who was reluctant to give evidence, and another confirms the name of the suspect as Kosminski and explains what happened to the suspect.   It is not, though, that simple.   The loose ends and blind alleys contained within the three records have led Ripperologists around in circles for the last twenty years.

Kosminski did not die shortly after he was identified as Jack the Ripper.  Swanson made an error. Kosminski was committed to Colney Hatch in 1891 and lived there for another 28 years. His keepers described him as excitable but not violent. The symptoms of his insanity included a refusal to work, wash and accept prepared food.  He preferred to eat what he found in gutters.  His weight in 1919, the last time Kosminski was weighed, was recorded as six stone twelve pounds.   It is possible that his symptoms and emaciation appeared after he stopped or was prevented from killing women. This explanation, though, feels convenient and glib. In 1891, Jacob Cohen certified the committal of his brother-in-law Kosminski to an asylum. Cohen stated that his brother-in-law had not done any work for years. It is difficult to imagine an unemployed and already strange Kosminski persuading prostitutes that he could pay for sex.


There is doubt about whether Kosminski is the correct insane Jewish suspect. The unrelated David Cohen was also committed to an asylum for being generally unpleasant and excitable. Cohen died soon after his committal. There is not other evidence, though, against Cohen. He was identified as a possible suspect before the name Kosminski was located in asylum records.

Somewhat baffling, there has been debate about when the identification took place. The ‘Seaside Home’ phrase by Anderson is recognised as police vernacular for the Convalescent Police Seaside Home, 51 Clarendon Villas, Hove.   The Home opened in March 1890, and Kominski was committed to a workhouse on the 4th February 1891. Before the end of the month he was committed to Colney Hatch Asylum.  If he was observed for a few days after the identification, Kosminski was not interviewed before January 1891.

Two names have been nominated as the witness who identified Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. They are the two witnesses known to be Jewish. Joseph Lawende saw a man in Mitre Square talking to Catherine Eddowes shortly before she was murdered. Israel Schwarz witnessed a man throwing Liz Stride to the ground the night she was killed. The favourite is Joseph Lawende because Swanson referred to Kosminski being observed day and night by City Police before he was committed to a workhouse. The murder of Eddowes occurred in the area covered by the City Police. Liz Stride was murdered in Whitechapel, which made it a matter for the Metropolitan Police. This reference to the City Police observing the house of the brother-in-law implies that the witness is Lawende. He was in the City area when he saw Catherine Eddowes talking to a man before her death. But the notes of Swanson are unreliable. Swanson alleged incorrectly that Kosminski died shortly after arriving in the asylum.


Macnaghten mentions that a City PC saw the Ripper at Mitre Square. The PC who reported seeing a victim with a man was PC Smith. He, though, was not at Mitre Square. He was the witness at Berner Street where Liz Stride was murdered.  He was also a member of the Metropolitan Police.

So far we have unreliable and inconsistent accounts from three senior policemen that probably spent most of their careers avoiding confrontations with criminals. Constructing theories around assertions that may or may not be true is difficult. In The Complete History of Jack the Ripper author Philip Sugden makes a honourable and impressive attempt to piece the contradictory evidence together. But he is obliged to accept some of what Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson alleged and then use it to dismiss their other inconsistent assertions.   The main suspects the police identified are Montague Druitt, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog, George Chapman and Francis Tumblety.   Apart from Kosminski the list includes a calculating poisoner, a harmless depressive suicide, an American so old and large he defied any witness descriptions of the Ripper, and a con man and trickster.   There is nothing wrong in being curious about the possible clues left by Anderson, Swanson and Macnaghten but neither is there an obligation to have serious regard to the ramblings of retired administrators whose value consisted of their bureaucratic skills. None of the detectives who were closer to what was happening on the streets of Whitechapel confirmed the choice of Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. Inspector Abberline said this after he retired, ‘I know that it has been stated in several quarters that Jack the Ripper was a man who died in a lunatic asylum a few years ago, but there is nothing at all of a tangible nature to support such a theory.’ Or in other words all the analysis by Ripperologists of the thoughts left behind by Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson is supposition, as are indeed the remarks themselves.

What we have is that three senior policeman suspected a Polish Jew called Kosminski. The same policemen believe he was identified by a witness who refused to testify.   This is what may have happened. Both Anderson and Swanson mention the Seaside Home,  This means the identification took place around the end of 1890. Kosminski was not a physically powerful suspect that developed odd behaviour. He became a target for the police when he was a nuisance, very odd but vulnerable. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper author Philip Sugden asks why it took two years to arrange this identification.   It needed Kosminski to become a nuisance on the streets of Whitechapel, which happened around the time that Anderson was perhaps putting on pressure to have an arrest so that he could retire in glory. The word suspect is inaccurate. A better word was used by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Because the police are a threat to the protagonists, Spade argues ‘what we need is a patsy, a fall guy’. The man he chose was the popular choice, which is what Kosminski was in 1890. He stank, uttered vile threats and oaths to women, masturbated in public and was not even English.


Philip Sugden writes ‘it is difficult to know why it was considered necessary to take Kosminski to the Seaside Home…’ The answer could be simple. The police were being secretive because they wanted to frame Kosminski and they wanted safe ground where they could transgress the law. The police collected their man and headed to the seaside for a discrete frame up.   Macnaghten refers to Kosminski being taken to the Seaside Home in secrecy and with difficulty. No other witnesses were called to identify Kosminski, perhaps because the police did not want anyone who could testify that Kosminski was not the Ripper.  The popular choice as witness, Joseph Lawende, did not even have a good view of the Ripper.  He saw him from behind.  Equally unforgiveable, Kosminski was identified without other participants in a line up. I suspect that Lawende refused to cooperate in what was corrupt police behaviour.  Desperate to justify himself, Anderson claimed, and possibly believed, that Lawende refused to testify because he would not betray another Jew. The evidence suggesting malpractice may be thin but if senior policemen write careless nonsense, they deserve what is thrown their way.

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.