Following on from our previous instalment of The Pinchin Street Torso, and back to the latest discovery in Whitechapel at that time, at 5.25am on September 10th, PC William Pennett came across a bundle concealing a human torso, missing both the head and the legs, clothed in the scant remains of a bloody chemise. No further remains of this body were found.
The railway arches, where the torso was discovered, were previously used by vagrants for shelter. Though the police had no right to enter the area (as it was classed as private property), they frequently returned to move those sleeping rough along. That night, however, the same arches were occupied by three people at the very least.
Between 11pm and midnight, a shoeblack called Michael Keating settled down to sleep there after spending all of his money drinking. He said that although Pinchin Street did have people milling around, he didn’t notice anyone in particular. At 4.20am though, he was joined in the next arch by two sailors, one of whom was named Richard Hawke.
By the time Pennett turned up, all three were asleep under the arches at 5.25am. Constables on their beat had been instructed to stay with the body and blow their whistle to summon assistance, but Pennett knew the body was beyond medical aid and didn’t want to attract a crowd so he did not follow the usual procedure.
Instead, he summoned a passing man with a broom and asked him to “go fetch my mate at the corner”. When the man questioned this, Pennett said: “Tell him I have got a job on. Make haste”.
The man went up Back Church Lane and soon, two officers appeared – an acting sergeant and a constable. The sergeant immediately went to the nearest station, whilst Pennett and the other constable stayed with the torso.
Shortly after, Inspector Pinhorn arrived and instructed that the arches must be searched. Pennett did so, and found the three sleeping vagrants, who were then taken back to the station. They claimed they hadn’t seen or heard anything suspicious.
The state the torso and others were found in raised questions as to the precision i.e. whether or not the killer possessed some form of anatomical expertise. Wynne Baxter had control of the case and a verdict of “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown” was given in response to the brief inquest.
Although the victim to this day remains nameless, there was suspicion that it may have been Lydia Hart, a prostitute, who was reported missing.
The case was later brought to a close, with a strange ending, to say the least. It was concluded that the bodies were to be buried in an airtight box that contained spirits (it was presumed that this decision was made in order to preserve the body should a possible identity come to light). However, despite the police’s attempts, the solderer pointed out that the spirits were likely to leak during the process.
This problem was solved when a proper case, for 12 shillings, was constructed, and so the police laid the torso inside and it was soldered shut. Its resting place is the East London Cemetery, where the box consists of a plate reading: “This case contains the body of a woman (unknown) found in Pinchin Street St. Georges in-the-East 10th Sept./89”.
Whilst the body was almost certainly not a victim of the Ripper, could it have been a victim of the murderer who committed the earlier torso killings? It is possible, and certainly interesting if a different party had not, at least, been inspired by these earlier crimes.
Unlike the other murders, however, there is some question as to the level of medical knowledge displayed. In saying this, it is an easy way to transport and dispose of a body, all the while concealing the victim’s identity.
What became of the other body parts though? We do not know. Perhaps they were disposed of away from the public eye or where they were kept was destroyed during the war. Or, maybe, they are somewhere in the East End of London, just waiting to be discovered…
Of course, whilst there is no set-in-stone connection between these murders and Jack the Ripper’s killings, why not see if you can put two and two together on one of our Jack the Ripper walks?