The Whitehall Discovery Inquest Today
The inquest on the body found on the site of the new police buildings on the Thames Embankment was open at half past three this afternoon, at the Westminster Sessions Court, before Mr. Troutbeck, coroner for Westminster. Inspector Marshall, of the Criminal Investigation Department, Scotland Yard, represented the police authorities.
Frederick Weldbore, a carpenter, employed by Messrs. Gurner and Son at Westminster, said he was working at the building in Cannon row last Monday. He went to a vault in search of his tools, which his labourer had left on the Saturday previous at two o'clock. He was not at the place himself on Saturday. When he went to the vault at six o'clock on Monday morning he noticed what he thought was an old coat lying in a recess. It was very dark in the vault, even in daylight. He did not find his tools there, as his labourer, named Richard, had shifted them previously. He went to the vaults again in the evening about half past five o'clock and noticed the same parcel, and he drew the attention of his mate who was with him to it. He struck a light and looked at it. He did not form any idea at the time what the parcel was. He saw it again the next morning, and at one o'clock he told Mr. Brown, an assistant foreman, about it. They went and looked at the parcel, but it was not opened in his presence. He had not been at the works for eight days before, and when he was last in the vaults, he did not notice anything. He was told three quarters of an hour after he had left the parcel with Mr. Brown that it contained a portion of a body. The parcel was not changed in position from the first time he saw it until Mr. Brown's attention was called to it. There as no smell about the parcel. There was nothing else in the vault but debris from the drain which they had been making. The vault had been used to put the men's tools in until three weeks ago, when they got a lock up. He only put his tools there from Saturday to Monday. He had not seen any person carrying such a parcel. He pointed out the position of the vault on a plan produced. He said that there would be difficulty in finding the way to the vault by any one not acquainted with the way.
By the jury: There was a hoarding all round the works. On each occasion when he saw the parcel he struck a light. He struck the light to assist him to find his tools. He at first thought that the parcel was one of the workmen's old coats. George Brigden, labourer in the service of Messrs. Gurner and Son, said he was in the vault Tuesday afternoon last. Mr. Cheque, the foreman bricklayer, told him there was a parcel in the vault, and asked him to get a light and bring it out. He thought it was a parcel of bacon. He drageed it into the light and, with his pocket knife, cut the strings. (The strings were produced.) He found it was the body of a woman. There were a lot of old wrappings round it, but no paper. Mr. Cheque, Mr. Brown, and the last witness were present. The police took charge of the parcel.
Detective Thomas Hawkins said that Mr. Borwn went to the King street police station on Tuesday afternoon, and in consequence of what he said the witness was sent to the building in Cannon row. He saw a parcel containing some human remains wrapped in some dress material which had been tied with string. The material produced had since been washed. The body was black and much decomposed. The way into the vaults was very dark, and he should say that it would be impossible for a stranger to find his way there except with a light.
Frederick M. Moore, of Great Peter street, said he found an arm at a quarter to one o'clock on the 11th of September, near the place where he worked - a deal wharf in Grosvenor road. A number of workmen were looking over the Embankment and drew his attention to an arm lying on the mud. It was not wrapped in anything. There was a string tied tightly round the upper part of the arm. He gave the arm to the police.
Police Constable William James said he received an arm from the last witness. He had searched up and down the Embankment since, but no more remains had been found.
Charles William Brown, of 5, Hampton terrace, Hornsey, assistant foreman to Messrs. Gurner and Son, said he was working at the new police offices. The buildings were shut off from the street by hoardings 7ft. high. There were two entrances into Cannon row and one by the Embankment. The vaults had been completed about three months. Only the workmen and those who had business with the clerk of the works were admitted. All the gates were locked up on Saturday except one small gate in Cannon row. There was no watchman and no one was left on the premises when the workmen left. The small gate was on a latch, which the workmen knew how to open. There were no watchmen outside. The approaches to the vault were made by planks laid crossways. It was a wide road. The vault was very dark. There were no appearances that the locks had been forced on Monday morning. From his knowledge of the works he thought it would require a previous experience of them to get to the vaults. He had been several times in the in the vault recently. He had noticed no smell. He had not used lights as he knew his way about pretty well. Wildbore drew his attention ot the parcel. Charles Cheque, forman bricklayer, corroborated the evidence of Wildbore and Brown.
Ernest edge, of 9, Peabody buildings, Farringdon road, general labourer, said he was in the vault on Saturday at twenty minutes to five in the evening for the purpose of getting a hammer. He struck a match, and there was nothing in the vault then on the spot where the remains were subsequently found. He might have been in the vault once or twice on Monday, but not in the same place. He was there again on Tuesday when the body was brought out. It was his duty to lock up the premises, and all the workmen had gone when he locked up on Saturday and Monday nights. All the workmen knew that the latch could be raised by the pulling up of a string, and this gave admission to the works.
Dr. Thomas Bond said that on Tuesday, the 2nd. inst., he was called to the site of the new police station, and was shown the decomposed trunk of the body of a woman. It was lying on the basement in a parcel, the strings of which had been cut. He visited the place where the body had been discovered and found black stains on the wall. He though the remains had lain there several days. He directed their removal to the mortuary. On the following morning, assisted by Mr. Hebburn, he made an examination. The trunk was that of a woman of considerable stature and well nourished. The head had been severed from the trunk through the sixth cervical vertebra. That had been sawn through. The lower limbs and pelvis had been removed. The length of the trunk was 17in. and the circumference of the waist 35in. The arms had been removed at the shoulder joints by several downward cuts over the body. There were clearly defined marks of where the string had been tied. The parcel had been wrapped up in a skilful manner. The neck had been divided by several incisions and then sawn through. The woman had recently had severe pleurisy. There were indications that the woman did not die of suffocation or drowning.
The inquiry was proceeding when this report left.