THE MURDER OF MARY NICHOLS
THE AUTUMN OF TERROR BEGINS
Mary, or “Polly” Anne Nichols, was a 43 year old prostitute who had begun the morning of her death drinking in the Frying Pan Pub on the corner of Thrawl Street, where she was seen at 12.30am.
Having left the pub a little bit tipsy she had made her way along Thrawl Street, and tried to get a bed at the common lodging house located at number 18.
However, she didn't have the necessary four pence to pay for a bed and, as a result, the deputy keeper turned her away.
Unperturbed, the plucky Polly Nichols told him that she would soon get the doss money and observed merrily "see what a jolly bonnet I'm wearing." She was evidently going to resort to prostitution to raise the money and obviously considered that the "jolly bonnet" would prove an irresistible draw to potential clients.
It appears that her confidence was not unfounded for its seems she did meet with some success. One of the last sightings of her alive was about an hour an ten minutes before her body was discovered when a friend of hers, Emily Holland, met her outside a grocers store at the junction of Whitechapel Road and Osborn Street.
Mary was leaning drunkenly against a wall and boasted to Emily how she had made the doss money "three times over" but had spent it on drink.
Concerned at Mary's drunken state Emily tried to persuade her to go back to the lodging house with her and sober up in it kitchen. But Mary was having none of it and announced that she was off to make it one last time. "It won't be long before I'm back," she slurred, and so-saying wandered off unsteadily in to the night.
A little over an hour later, at 3.40am, a carter named Charles Cross was on his way to work along Bucks Row. As he passed a gateway which was then situated on the left just before the huge bulk of the local school which dominated (and still dominates) its top end, he noticed what appeared to be a tarpaulin lying on the ground.
He went to investigate and saw, to his horror, that it was in fact the prone form of woman whose skirts had been pulled up around her waist. As he stood there, uncertain what to do next, he heard footsteps behind him. Turning he saw another carter, Robert Paul, coming towards him. The two men bent over to examine the body for signs of life. When they found none they, somewhat callously, decided that if she was dead there was little they could do for her and, since they were now late for work, they left the scene, agreeing to tell the first policeman they came across of their find. But what neither of them had noticed was that the woman's throat had been savagely cut back to the spine.
That discovery was made by Police Constable Neil, who walked his beat along Buck's Row a few minutes after they had departed. He shone his lantern onto the woman and saw a pool of blood forming around her neck and shoulders and noticed the mutilation to her throat.
At that moment PC Thain was passing the far side of Buck's Row. Neil waved his lantern to attract his colleague's attention and then sent him to fetch the local medic Dr. Llewellyn who, when he arrived at the scene at around 4am, carried out a cursory examination of the body and, noting the severity of the wounds to the throat, pronounced life extinct.
On closer examination he also observed that the deceased’s body and legs were still warm, although her hands and wrists were quite cold. This led him to surmise that she could not have been dead for more than half an hour.
Meanwhile word of the murder was spreading around the immediate vicinity and local workers were arriving to gaze at the grisly scene. Alarmed by the growing number of sightseers Llewellyn ordered the police to remove the body to the mortuary where, he said, he would make a further examination.
Constables Thain and Neil duly lifted the body onto the wooden police ambulance, or to be more precise a wooden hand cart which had been converted to an ambulance, and the woman was taken round to the workhouse mortuary, which in reality was little more than a brick shed. Here, at around 5am Inspector Spratling turned up to take down a description of the deceased.
At first he noticed only the neck wounds previously noted by Dr Llewellyn. But on closer inspection he discovered something that, up until that point, eluded everyone. Beneath her blood stained clothing a deep gash ran all the way along the woman’s abdomen, she had been disembowelled.
Jack the Ripper's reign of terror had begun.