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Differences in reporting the Inquest(s)

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  • Differences in reporting the Inquest(s)

    I thought it might be a good way of discussing one of the most nagging elements of the Case ( at least to me at the moment ) by starting up this Forum.

    This initial post comes from the Inquest of Mary Ann Nichols,conducted on September 3rd,1888 and provided by The Times. It may be found on page 39 of the Ultimate.

    Let me preface this thread before I begin....

    Recently,Tom Wescott has been providing valuable excerpts from other papers that covered the victim's Inquests and some of these statements were previously overlooked by me ( perhaps you too? ) since I did not read any of the other newspaper accounts of the Inquests much to my current chagrin.

    One such excerpt dealt with the "sprinkle of water" mentioned by James Kent ( in relation to the Chapman murder) which has been discussed here and on Casebook.

    Another was in regard to the same murder and dealt with the gender of the voice that Albert Cadosch heard as he turned back into 27 Hanbury Street.

    I could add others,but these will suffice since they are good examples of the differences in the Times and other Inquest accounts.

    For some,this thread or Forum may seem like a "wild goose chase" since some of the excerpts found or not found in these Inquest reports aren't earth shaking or "proof" of anything other than an oversight at that time. I understand that.

    However,there are some issues here that I hope others will find worthy of contributing to.

    One such issue deals with the aforementioned Nichols deposition and is in regard to the testimony of Henry Tomkins.

    Tomkins worked on Winthrop Street,one street over from Bucks Row ( where Nichols was found ) at a slaughterhouse.

  • #2
    "Tomkins was the only one of the three who testified at the Nichols inquest on 3 September:

    Henry Tomkins, a rough looking man, was next called. He was a horse slaughterer, he said, and lived at 12, Coventry-street, Bethnal Green. He was in the employ of Mr. Barber, and was working in the slaughter house, Winthorpe-street, from between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday night till twenty minutes past four o'clock on Friday morning. He and his fellow workmen generally went home after ceasing work, but that morning they did not do so. They went to see the dead woman because Police-constable Thain had passed the slaughter-house about a quarter-past four and told them that a woman had been murdered in Buck's-row. Two other men besides the witness had been working in the slaughter-house. They were James Mumford and Charles Britten. He and Britten had been out of the slaughter-house previously that night - namely, from twenty minutes past twelve till one o'clock, but not afterwards till they went to see the body. The distance from the slaughter-house to the spot where the deceased was found was not great, Buck's-row being behind Winthorpe-street, and both running in the same direction.
    The Coroner: Is yours noisy work?
    The Witness: No, sir: very quiet.
    The Coroner: Was it all quiet on Friday morning? - say after two o'clock?
    The Witness: Yes, sir: quite quiet. The gates were open, and we heard no cry.
    The Coroner: Did any one come to the slaughter-house that night?
    The witness replied that nobody passed except the policeman.
    The Coroner: Are there any women about there?
    The Witness: Oh, I know nothing about them. I don't like them.
    The Coroner: I don't ask whether you like them. I ask whether there were any about that night?
    The Witness: I did not see any.
    The Coroner: Not in Whitechapel-road?
    The Witness: Oh yes, there, all sorts and sizes. It's a rough neighbourhood, I can tell you."


    • #3
      The previous post came from the East London Observer,which also apparently covered this Inquest.

      Here is the link to the depositions found on Casebook in their archived section:

      Now...having posted this material,the question there really that much of a difference in what the Times reported and what the E.L.Observer provided?


      • #4
        Here is the Times from the same Inquest ( reported 4 days before the East London Observer hit the newsstands...)

        Again,this excerpt can be found in the Ultimate as well as in Casebook's wonderful newspaper archives.
        Henry Tomkins, a horse-slaughterer, living at 12, Coventry-street, Bethnal-green, stated he was in the employ of Mr. Barber. Thursday night and Friday morning he spent in the slaughterhouse in Winthrop-street. Witness commenced about his usual time--between 8 and 9 o'clock p.m. On Friday morning he left off work at 20 minutes past 4 and went for a walk. It was their rule to go home when they did so, but they did not do so that morning. A constable told them of the finding of the murdered woman, and they went to look at her. James Mumford, Charles Brittan, and witness worked together. At 12 o'clock witness and Brittan left the slaughterhouse, and returned about 1 o'clock. They did not again leave the slaughterhouse until they heard of the murder. All the gates were open, and witness during the night did not hear any disturbance; the only person who came to the slaughterhouse was the constable. At times women came to the place, but none came that night. Had any one called out "Murder" in Buck's-row he might not have heard it. There were men and women in the Whitechapel-road. Witness and Mumford first went and saw the deceased, and then Brittan followed. At that time a doctor and three or four constables were there, and witness remained there until the body was taken away. At night he and his mates generally went out to have a drink. It depended upon what time their work was done when they went home. The constable was at the slaughterhouse at about a quarter past 4, when he called for his cape. It was then that they heard of the murder.


        • #5
          Here is a newspaper report from the Daily News ( September 11th, week after the Times and 3 days after the ELO report ).

          I have emboldened the section which I wanted to use as a starting point for this particular thread within the Forum as a whole....

          DAILY NEWS 11-09-88 ( the British put the day before the month ).

          "Among the earliest uses to which the phonograph may advantageously be put is the recording of evidence in courts of justice. Nobody can be present in court for a quarter of an hour without being struck by the sad waste of everybody's time involved in the tedious process of taking down the evidence of witnesses word by word. To the lazy mind it is not very clear why shorthand, which is sufficient for almost all other purposes under the sun, is not to be trusted for this. At the latest Whitechapel inquest, for example, a great number of witnesses, policemen, jurymen, and others, are detained three times as long for the recording of the evidence by the deliberate longhand system of Mr. Baxter as is necessary for the mere hearing of testimony. Business is interrupted, justice is impeded, expense is incurred, and everybody grows tired of the slow procedure, simply because it is deemed necessary to dribble out what has to be said sentence by sentence, with long pauses between. When each witness box has, as a part of its furniture, an infallible recorder of words and tones, hesitations, and emphases, for reference wherever and whenever required, the summons to serve on a jury will be a far less serious matter, the steps of Justice will be quickened, and the cost of legal proceedings will be considerable reduced."


          • #6
            As you can is mentioned,from those who attended these Inquests ( the person or persons who scribed for the Daily News in this instance ) that the words were tediously written down word for word.

            My suggestion...and again,I defer to those,like Tom,who have read ALL of the various accounts of individual Inquest that those articles which appear in the other newspapers have been embellished for marketing purposes or to encourage readership,much like W.T. Stead provided space for a fantasy writer such as Stephenson 8 years later in Borderland.

            I'd like to confine,if thats fine with you,all comments about the discrepancies within the Inquest reports here on this thread.and then in the Individual Inquest reports...anyone may take the differences found here and begin discussion on the Individual Forums in time.

            Allow me to start...

            What significances do you,as a Ripperologist,see within the Inquest materials that affects how you percieve the individual murders?

            Thanks for your time people.


            • #7
              How, one point that interests me is the pace at which testimony was given - apparently quite slow.

              Shannon Christopher has argued that Barnett wasn't expecting to be called so close to the start of the inquest, and consequently gave a story that should have aroused suspicion at the time. Well, it looks as though Barnett would actually have had quite a bit of time to think.

              On the other hand, one can imagine witnesses losing the thread of what they are saying, under the necessity of not leaving the longhand recorder behind.



              • #8

                Believe it or not,I was asked a long time ago to appear before a Federal Grand Jury and I had to make a deposition myself.

                I know that the pace is slow...and you've brought up a damned good point.

                This pace is one of the things that disturbs me here. If it was at the pace that it appears to have been....then how or rather why did some depositions "come out" so differently ? I simply do not understand these differences if they were reported as they were delivered.

                Thanks buddy....

                Anyone else? Please voice you views in either direction


                • #9
                  The newspapers make the inquest seem like fairly orderly occasions, not unlike a trial, where the coroner directs and controls the flow of testimony.

                  However it seems to be quite the opposite in real life, with jurors posing questions directly to the witnesses, arguing with the coroner and so on.

                  It's possible that the inquests were more chaotic than were realise, leaving the reporters to try and convey the information in a more understandable way. So that the information published reflects what the reporter thought was most significant, rather than a true, undiluted account of what was said.
                  "The Men who were not the Man who was not Jack the Ripper!"


                  • #10
                    Due to my line of work, I'm frequently on scene of many incidents right after they've happened. I also spend alot of time listening to the resulting court room testimony. All too often I'll go home to watch the news only to find myself saying things like, "it didn't happen that way" or "that's an exaggeration of the facts" or "they left that out" etc. One news station will tell it one way while one will put another twist on it and then the news paper will have a third different version.

                    I can very easily see how each reporter would have a different account of the events, and wrote about what they felt was important.


                    • #11
                      Mag & Debbie:

                      Thanks for your points !

                      Debbie...thats exactly what I meant,but you stated it best. I really think that quite a few of the comments made regarding Inquest deposititions that we find in newspapers other than the Times are flawed.

                      Examine the style that the Times published the Inquest material in....its consistent from murder to murder,to me a sign of dedication to detail.

                      However, when papers like the Star, which I might add is usually the one paper everyone in the field warns one another about for their content...publishes Inquest testimony, often the material is considered true or just some "extra details" that the Times didn't mention. I don't buy it. If the Star had a reputation for exaggerating or manufacturing details in other areas....then why are the Inquest reports considered reliable when some of the "details" aren't accompanied by the "tedious,elaborate" work that the Times was conducting at the very same time? It seems that these extra details,and some are startling for their revelations,would have been mentioned by the Times,since they have as much relevance as anything else within the text of the individual Inquests.

                      In fact,it seems that from paper to paper...not just the Star....there are unique "details" that appear only in that paper,whether it is the ELO,the Star,Daily News,etc....

                      When I put together a package for Wecht,like I said before...I used the Times Inquests and not the other papers versions. I should have,but didn't. When I was in the hospital last year,I took the Ultimate with me ( actually my kid brought it to me ) and read the same Times inquest reports again...and jumped over the ones we are discussing now.

                      Back to you....


                      • #12
                        I can very easily see how each reporter would have a different account of the events, and wrote about what they felt was important.--Debbie D.

                        So can I Debbie and this is the problem. It is easy to see how someone from a newspaper could intentionally add on a "comment" from these trials for a variety of reasons.

                        back to you....


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by How Brown
                          I can very easily see how each reporter would have a different account of the events, and wrote about what they felt was important.--Debbie D.

                          So can I Debbie and this is the problem. It is easy to see how someone from a newspaper could intentionally add on a "comment" from these trials for a variety of reasons.

                          back to you....
                          There's one of the problems. How do we know that the comment was intentional or just that reporter's point of view?

                          Carmine curls his lip when he gets in trouble. Anyone not familure with dog behavior would think he's going to bite me. I know that lip curling in dogs can be (in his case is) a sign of submission. But you didn't know that so you might tell everyone that "Debbie D can't control her dog... it wants to bite her when she tells him get off the couch." So, from the journalists point of view, he may have truly believed that was what happened as he saw it.

                          I could only suggest in this case to look at the reliability of the publication or author, in general. If they have a history of stretching the truth for the dramatic effects, then I would only take what they say with a grain of salt.


                          • #14
                            Deb & All....

                            I was thinking today that maybe it would serve a purpose (Maybe to some author or fledgling one ) if someone or some together....and put together a list of "unmentioned" details which appear in the other newspapers,but not in the Times.

                            Lets say that after reading the Times, someone then takes the Star,East London Observer,Manchester papers,Daily News,PMG, etc....for that specific Inquest ( any victim,including Tabram and even the usually and sadly overlooked McKenzie & Coles ) and list the additional info found in those papers and see what we can come up with.

                            I might not be expressing what I mean as well as I hope to here. What I "mean" is that it might give us a list of some of the accepted or influential beliefs we have based on these Inquests and perhaps we can discuss them.

                            Using Tom's commentary from last month on the "sprinkle of water" only as an example...

                            Did James Kent really say this at the Inquest? I understand,as I have already stated,Tom's opinion which he gave previously on another thread. However,if Kent said it...maybe only one paper mentioned it....and we ought to know why.

                            Of course,no solution to the case is intended by examining the differences and in truth,some comments found in one paper may be pretty trivial.

                            But what I'd like to see is how the unique-to-one-paper comments have influenced ourselves. Evidently,the "sprinkle of water" comment has influenced Tom ( not necessarily incorrectly,of course,but perhaps its as Debbie D. mentioned...a feeling or misheard remark by one lone paper).

                            Back to you fine folks.......


                            • #15
                              I'm back on this again...

                              Okay,here's what I wanted to ask before,but my neurons weren't firing in sequence.

                              IF...the Inquest reports that the Times provided for the public do not contain several of the other comments that can be found in the other papers ostensibly covering the same Inquests...

                              ...are the other papers ( The Daily Telegraph,Echo,etc...) still available to peruse their "complete" inquest reports for their readership?

                              Its hard to express this...but its almost as if the Times got together with the other papers and said, "Look write all the stuff down that we won't.." I know you might think this is really obtuse,but I can't help but feeling that some of the other comments made by the other papers might have been embellishments of statements.