THE JACK THE RIPPER TOUR.
THE MURDER OF MARTHA TABRAM.
In 1888 had you continued along George Yard, towards its top on the left you would have come to a sturdy block of apartments or flats.
The name of this block was George Yard Buildings and it was inhabited by tenants whom the East London Observer referred to, somewhat unflatteringly, as being ‘people of the poorest description.’
Each night at 11pm the staircase lights of George Yard Buildings would be put out, casting the landings into darkness. However, this made them a favoured spot for prostitutes to bring their clients to, since it afforded some semblance of privacy.
On the Bank Holiday Monday of 6th August 1888, local prostitute Martha Tabram, who was in her late thirties, went soliciting on Whitechapel Road with a friend of hers named Mary Ann Connolly, better known in the area as “Pearly Poll.”
They encountered two soldiers and the four of them spent the remainder of the night drinking at pubs on Whitechapel Road and Whitechapel High Street.
Between 11.30pm and 11.45pm they split in to couples and Pearly Poll led her soldier client into a dark, narrow little thoroughfare named Angel Alley. This very narrow turning off Whitechapel High Street still survives and, as with Gunthorpe Street, gives a vivid impression of the dark and sinister thoroughfares that twisted their way between the streets and buildings of Spitalfields and Whitechapel in 1888.
Martha Tabram took her client through the arch by the White Hart Pub and into George Yard, where they probably headed for one of the dark landings of George Yard Buildings.
In the early hours of the morning, Mrs Hewitt, the wife of the building's Superintendent, was disturbed by a single cry of "murder." But, since domestic violence was commonplace in the area, and she and her husband heard such cries virtually every night, she rarely paid them much heed, and so she ignored this one also.
At 2:00 AM: PC Thomas Barrett encountered a young Grenadier Guardsman in Wentworth Street, at the north end of George Yard. The policeman asked his reason for being there to which the Guardsman replied that he was waiting for a "chum" who had gone off with a girl."
A little after 2: AM Mrs Elizabeth Mahony and her husband came home to George Yard Buildings, having been out with some friends to celebrate the Bank Holiday.
She went out again a little later to buy some supper at a chandler's shop in nearby Thrawl Street and was back home within ten minutes. She later stated that she had not noticed anything untoward or suspicious as she ascended the staircase. She did, however, admit that, since the stairs were not lit she probably would not have seen a body had one being lying there in the darkness.
Having retired to bed she and her husband slept soundly and heard no noise in the night.
At 3;30 AM Alfred George Crow, a cab-driver, who lived at 35, George Yard Buildings, returned home from work. As he ascended the stairs he noticed somebody lying on the first floor landing. But since it was commonplace for people to sleep on the building's landings he paid little attention and continued home to bed.
The same prone form was encountered by John Saunders Reeves, a waterside labourer who came down the stairs on his way to work at a little after 5: AM.
However, since it was now getting light he was able to see that it was in fact a woman lying on her back in a pool of blood.
Shocked by his find, he raced off to find a police man and came across Police Constable Barrett who was walking his beat along George Yard. Barrett immediately sent Reeve to fetch local Brick Lane medic Dr. Killeen who soon joined the policeman by the body.
Having carried out a cursory examination Killeen pronounced life extinct and gave it as his opinion that she had been "brutally murdered".
The attack on Martha Tabram had been a frenzied one. Thirty-nine stab wounds ad pierced her body from the throat to her lower abdomen. Dr Killeen later told the inquest that the killer had used two different blades, the majority of the wounds having been inflicted with an ordinary pocket knife, whilst a deep wound to her breast had been dealt by “some long, strong instrument…[which could have been]… a sword bayonet or dagger.” Significantly he was also of the belief that sexual intercourse had not recently occurred, thus ruling out rape as a motive for the murder.
The district's deputy Coroner, George Collier, would later reflect the feelings of all who dwelt in the area when he told the subsequent inquest that the crime was “…one of the most dreadful murders any one could imagine.” Of the man who committed it he said that he "must have been a perfect savage to inflict such a number of wounds on a defenceless woman in such a way.”
The significance of Martha Tabram's killing murder, cannot be underestimated, for it began to focus the minds of the police, press and public at large that something decidedly untoward was occurring in Whitechapel.
The result was that a wave of general unease began to ripple through the district.
When, three weeks later, another common street prostitute was found murdered and mutilated not half a mile away from the spot where poor Martha had been killed it began to dawn on the populace at large that a repeat killer was loose on the streets of the East End. For the people of London their autumn of terror was about to begin.Move on to the first definite Jack the Ripper Murder.
Go back to the Jack the Ripper tour home page.