The Whitehall Murder

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The Whitehall Murder
59556The Whitehall Murder

A horrible discovery was made yesterday afternoon in the new police buildings between Parliament-street and the Embankment. Shortly after one o'clock several workmen, on opening a bundle which they found hidden in one of the darkest archways of the vaulted foundations of the structure referred to, laid bare the remains of a woman. The corpse was a mere trunk, both head and limbs having been severed in an apparently brutal and unskilful manner. Evidently the remains were those of a young and well nourished woman, and there is every reason to fear that they form part of some person who has been murdered and made away with by an atrocious miscreant. In fact, there are strong grounds for believing that the arm found on Sept. 11 in the Thames, near Grosvenor Railway Bridge, was cut from the mutilated trunk which has been unearthed. The police were at once communicated with at King-street Station, and in a very few minutes Chief Superintendent Dunlap and Chief Inspector Wren went and viewed the remains, and took immediate steps to collect all the available evidence bearing on the case.

It seems tolerably certain that the remains were deposited in the place in which they were found between Saturday night and Monday morning. The difficulty and danger which the wretch must have encountered in bearing the body to the portion of the buildings where it was hidden increase the horror and mystery surrounding the whole proceeding. It is on the site of what was intended for the National Opera House that the new central police buildings are being erected by Messrs. J. Grover and Sons, of New North-road, N. Their exact location is between Parliament-street and the Embankment, or immediately eastward of the Clock Tower and St. Stephen's Club. When finished they will cover a considerable area of ground, and have an imposing appearance. At present only the foundations and a portion of the first storey have been built, and the place is surrounded by a high hoarding. The ground structure consists of a vast labyrinth of brick passages, archways, and vaulted chambers. As was pointed out by the foreman of the works, there are really but two possible modes of ingress to the archway where the body was found, namely, either over the high hoarding from the Embankment side, or from a little alley-way called Cannon-row, almost opposite the Home Office in Parliament-street. The difficulties of access to the ground are so great from the side facing the Embankment that the officials connected with the works regard them as well-nigh insuperable to a person loaded with so heavy a bundle as the remains must necessarily have been. Besides, it would have been far easier, from the Embankment side, to have thrown such a parcel into the river. But one avenue of approach therefore practically existed, and that was from the obscure corner at the north end of Cannon-row, over the seven foot hoarding of which the miscreant must have clambered with his awful load so as to get within the area enclosed by the builders. When there, instead of throwing the body into the large open well dug to supply water, or secreting it beneath some of the countless heaps of soil and rubbish lying about, he conveyed it, almost fifty yards, through a network of partly underground passages to a remote corner of the building. Although there are a large number of men employed on the works, very few of them, it is said, would have readily found their way through the intricate vaults to the spot where the mutilated trunk was concealed. To a stranger venturing alone among these dark corridors there would seem to be a danger of failing to find his way out again. Unfortunately no night-watchman is kept at the place, and any one once within the hoarding after dark or working hours could safely move about at leisure free from all observation. That the body was only placed in the building between Saturday night and Monday morning there appears to be little or no room for doubt. On Friday afternoon last, about three o'clock, Mr. Eraut, clerk of the works, Mr. Brown, the foreman, Mr. Franklin, surveyor, Ludgate-hill, and several others were engaged in taking measurements. Whilst doing so they had occasion to go into the archways where the remains were discovered, and Mr. Brown himself states, and is confirmed by others, that he actually stood in the corner where the corpse lay and measured the wall. Had the trunk been there at the time it would not only have been seen, but would have been otherwise indicated by the decomposed condition of the remains. Being one of the darkest and most out-of-the-way spots in the works some of the employés made use of it for the purpose of hiding their tools when they "knocked off" for the day. As the carpenters and others have lost various articles, and on one occasion the office on the grounds had been broken open and plundered, the men took this means to prevent the tools being stolen. When the men quitted work last Saturday afternoon one of the last about the place was a labourer, named Ernest Hedge. Part of his duty was to see things put to right ready for Monday morning and to nail up the openings in the hoarding. In order to do so he says that about five p.m. on Saturday he went into the middle vaulted archway between Cannon-row and the Embankment and procured one of the carpenter's hammers, lighting a match for that purpose. At that time he is perfectly sure there was no bundle of any kind in the spot, nor was there when he replaced the tool.

Between Saturday night and Monday morning, therefore, the remains must have been secretly deposited in the vaulted chamber of the basement arches of the new police-buildings, at a spot not eighty yards removed from the Home Office. On Monday morning, at six o'clock, a carpenter named Fred Wildbore, who made the place the store-room for his kit, went to fetch his tools from where he had laid them on Saturday afternoon. In doing so he also lighted a match, and noticed in a sort of alcove or recess at the opposite corner of the blind archway, what looked like some cast-away garment of a workman. Shallow trenches for drains have been dug along the archways in question, and the rough soil and builders' debris are heaped about in all directions. It was in the corner, and partly concealed by a bank of dirt, that the garment lay, and it might have been, he thought, part of one of the labourers' attire. Yesterday morning Wildbore casually looked at it again, saw it was a bundle, noticed an unpleasant odour, and spoke to some of the workmen about it. Three of the labourers fancied it might be some thieves' plunder, and at the dinner hour determined to drag it out. George Budgen picked the bundle up and carried it about a dozen yards into a partially-lighted corridor, daylight streaming down through the rough scaffolding boards overhead. The bundle was done up in some black stuff, and was firmly tied and bound with strong twine. Several persons gathered around to see what the contents were as Budgen proceeded to cut the string. To their horror they uncovered the trunk of a well-formed woman. The corpse was deprived of head and limbs, the legs with the lower portion of the body above the pelvis having been cut away. A representative of The Daily Telegraph, who saw the remains within half-an-hour of their discovery, states that the body, placed on its back, was wrapped in a skirt of some stuff like black mohair, and the steel dress improver was included in the parcel. The flesh had a dark reddish hue, as if it had been plentifully sprinkled with antiseptic, such as Condy's fluid. Decomposition, however, had made rapid strides within, for the remains were in an advanced state of putrefaction. The criss-cross marks of the cords had sunk deeply into the skin, but otherwise there were no appearances of wounds except where the rough edges indicated the brutal, bungling manner in which the head, limbs, and lower part of the body had been dissevered. Evidently the corpse was that of a mature, well-formed, and perhaps an unmarried woman, not over forty years of age, and who was probably alive about twenty days ago. The remains might have weighed over 50lbs, no light load for even a strong man to carry any distance. Two constables were placed in charge of the body, and Detective Inspector Marshall, aided by several colleagues, instituted the most searching inquiries on the spot. Sir Charles Warren was quickly notified, and instructions were issued to inform the coroner and summon Dr. Bond to view the body before it was further moved. Subsequently the police took the statements in King-street of the officials and employés at the works, including those of Messrs. Grant and Brown, Mr. Charles Cheney, the assistant-foreman, the carpenter Wildbore, and half a dozen of the labourers, including Budgen and Hedge. Their account coincides with the circumstances already narrated above. During the afternoon Divisional-Surgeon Dr. Bond examined the remains, and the coroner for the district, Mr. Troutbeck, ordered their removal to the mortuary in Millbank-street. Although the police were fairly certain, after the discovery of the young woman's arm at Grosvenor Bridge, about three weeks ago, that a crime had been committed, still it was impossible to hold an inquest upon a limb. The law requiring that a "vital part" could only form the subject of a coroner's inquiry, this will now take place at once. One of the breasts (the left) of the body appeared either to have been surgically operated upon at some period of the deceased's lifetime, or else the process of decomposition at that part of the body became abnormally active from some as yet unexplained cause. It is intended by the police to photograph the remains in the course of to-day, after which they will be disinfected and a post-mortem examination will be made by Dr. Bond and a medical colleague. From the general character of the trunk, the police are of opinion that the arm found at Pimlico was severed from the remains now discovered, As to the second arm found near the Blind School, in the Lambeth-road, on the 28th ult., the authorities are quite positive that it was not amputated recently, and in fact they have received some assurances as to the source from which the bones in question were derived.

The police have already made a search of the ground to see whether any other portion of the body had been hidden away within the area enclosed, but so far without success. To-day the pool or open well will be drained and a more careful investigation made, whilst the workmen will now be on the alert to watch for any traces of ground or debris having been turned over to conceal any portion of remains or traces of the crime. Mounds of soil and rubbish from old tenements strew the ground, so that the task will be no easy one. The present horrible discovery will no doubt recall to many people in the metropolis the somewhat similar dismemberment of the remains of the woman Harriet Lane, killed by the Wainwright brothers. In that case the body was disinterred that it might be more securely hidden elsewhere. Whilst being conveyed to the Borough a workman, who, prompted by curiosity, had discovered the horrible nature of Wainwright's bundle, followed the cab, and ultimately succeeded in attracting the attention of the police, and securing the capture of the murderer. A few years ago also there was the case of Kate Webster, who at Richmond murdered her mistress, and, fiend-like, cut the body up piecemeal, and tried to dispose of it in various ways by small portions. The brutal manner in which the present victim has been dealt with suggests an equally callous and ferocious murderer as living and moving about among the community. For weeks he must have kept the body concealed near either his office or apartments, waiting for favourable opportunities to make away with the body piecemeal. The smell must have attracted the notice of some one living or going about near the place, and only by the freest use of antiseptics could it have been prevented from attracting considerable attention. Again, the murderer must have purchased the antiseptics and disinfectants in considerable quantity, and possibly some chemist may be able to supply the police with a clue. It is to be hoped that every effort will be made to drag the criminal to justice, and that in a few days the public may learn of the arrest of this new monster in human shape.

It is satisfactory to state that, in view of the possibility of a discovery such as that made yesterday, the arm found at Westminster a short time ago was not buried, as had been supposed. It has been preserved in the usual way, and will be taken to the mortuary in which the trunk now lies. One of the first things which the surgeons will have to do to-day will be to test whether the dissevered limb belongs to the trunk found yesterday, and the result will be awaited with profound interest. The question naturally arises whether there is any connection between the present crime and the series of murders which have been perpetrated in Whitechapel? It is known that certain portions of the abdomen are missing, but there is also another theory equally well-founded. It is that the young woman of whose body portions are now coming to light in such a mysterious manner has been the victim of an unlawful operation, and in order to conceal this the miscreant has removed that portion of the body which would almost undoubtedly have decided such a point.

This work was published in 1888 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 135 years or less since publication.

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