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  • Witnesses before the Inquest

    from another thread (referring to the police):

    Unlike Baxter, they knew the area and the habits of its people from a practical day by day point of view. They also had access to all the witnesses.

    HOWARD ---Um, let’s run this one by Grey Hunter, Dave O’Flaherty, etc. if they are willing to jump in. There are often claims made by various Ripper authors that 'so and so' was 'kept' from the inquest, or, that the non-appearance of a witness at the inquest was a sign that they had been discreditted by the police. I think a more detailed discussion of this is in order. I’m not entirely certain of the protocal on this point, but if one looks at the Kelly depositions, it appears that the witnesses at the inquest were drawn entirely from those who had previously made statements to the police. Who, in fact, was 'culling' the witnesses?

  • #2
    Originally posted by R.J.Palmer
    There are often claims made by various Ripper authors that 'so and so' was 'kept' from the inquest, or, that the non-appearance of a witness at the inquest was a sign that they had been discreditted by the police.
    One small point that struck me when checking references to Schwartz.

    From a letter written by Warren on 6 November 1888 (Sourcebook, p. 151), it's clear that he thought Schwartz had given evidence at the inquest. So if he had been excluded because the police had discredited him, Warren wasn't aware of it.

    Of course, the very fact that discussions continued for more than a month afterwards about the interpretation of his evidence, without any mention that it had been discredited, suggests that it had not.

    Chris Phillips

    Comment


    • #3
      Chris - Thanks for that. An interesting observation, and one that might suggest a witness being 'held back'
      Let me expand a little on my initial question, to show what I'm driving at.
      If one looks at the first page of chpt. 21 in Evans & Skinner's 'Ultimate,' you will find the following statement: "The police investigating the Kelly murder took witness statements on 9 November 1888, which are held with the inquest papers at the London Metropolitan Achives.' The chapter then goes on to give the detailed statements of Bowyer, Cox, Prater, etc., as taken by the police.
      Now fast-forward three days to the Kelly inquest, 12 November. It become painfuly obvious that the witnesses who were called before MacDonald's inquest coincided perfectly with the witnesses that the police had already interviewed.
      My question isn't so much about the legal powers of the Coroner & his jury, who had considerable leeway to question witneses, etc. I am more interested in what might be called the 'practical aspects' of running an inquest. I could be wrong, but it doesn't appear to me that the Coroner had much of a staff working underneath him, so, for practical purposes, he must have been almost entirely reliant on the police to provide the names of suitable witnesses. Yes? No? Of course, we do have cases of Coroner's bringing in their own 'private' information before the inquest --such as Baxter's information about the sub-curator of an anatomical museum-- but all & all, doesn't appear to be a very common event.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi R.J. and Chris

        Sorry for the late reply; I've been dipping in and out of the website via wireless but waited until I got home to reply. I haven't read the previous discussion. Yes, R.J., you've got it right the coroner did not have much of a staff, it's just him and his officer (if he had one) running the inquest, sometimes several in one day. The officers in 1888 seem to have been beadles or retired police officers. Shortly after, in the 1890s, they were replaced in Metropolitan London by members of the Met. Police. They served as a type of baliff, assisted with summons and other paperwork, sometimes they tracked down witnesses but more often that was done by the police. Maybe the deputy coroner might be present at an important inquest, possibly there was a clerk to take down the depositions (though that might have been seen as an extravagance). Not much of an investigative staff. Also, the coroner wasn't supposed to make an inquiry until the death was formally reported to him, so wouldn't have been involved with the crime scene investigation. In 1888, the expenses of inquests in the counties, which coroners had to initially pay out of pocket before being reimbursed quarterly, were overseen by the magistrates, and they appear to have required coroners to strictly adhere to it. Coroners and magistrates enjoyed a very tempestuous relationship . While the coroner was, and is, perceived as an autocratic figure, and it's true that he acted independently of the police and government, I think that at the same time he was also a figure dependent upon the cooperation of others.

        So the work of the police at the crime scene counted for a lot, especially for the initial proceeding of the inquest, and their cooperation and active assistance was, I think, essential to any inquest dealing with murder. There was also an onus on witnesses to make themselves known. Witnesses might turn up as the inquest went on (one reason to adjourn), but most of them would have come to the coroner's attention via the police. The coroner had a discretion as to who was relevant, and witnesses received a pittance for their testimony according to the magistrates' scale of fees. I imagine the coroner also counted on input from the police (I presume the inspector in charge of the case, who would have been much more familiar with it).

        Here's some stuff from the fifth edition of Jervis, 1888 (pp. 29-30), related to procedure as outlined by The Coroner's Act 1887. It's very general, apologies if it's not relevant to your discussion but maybe it will be of interest:


        . . . the officer makes proclamation for the attendance of witnesses; or, where the inquiry is conducted in secrecy, calls in separately such as know anything concerning the death. It is the duty of all persons who are acquainted with the circumstances attending the subject of the coroner’s inquiry to appear before the inquest as witnesses. Should one of the jury happen to be able to give evidence he may be sworn and examined, but the better way is for such a person to inform the coroner beforehand, in which case he would not be sworn upon the jury. The coroner, being guided by the information he has received, usually sends a message to those witnesses whom he thinks material. Should they neglect or refuse to attend, the coroner, as incident to his office of judge of a court of record, has authority to issue a summons to compel their appearance where he has been credibly informed that they are able to give evidence, and he may if necessary issue a summons to the constable to bring them into court. If a witness refuses without sufficient reason to obey this summons, the coroner may fine him £2 under section 19; and if a witness refuses to give evidence when sworn, or otherwise misconducts himself in court, the coroner ha power to commit him for contempt. The coroner has also power to issue a warrant against a witness for contempt of the summons, under which the constable may bring up the witness in custody.
        It is submitted, although no direct authority can be found for the proposition, that the coroner may direct the witness to bring with him any papers or documents in his possession which are, in the opinion of the coroner, likely to afford assistance on the inquiry—or if the witness is out of the coroner’s jurisdiction a crown office subpoena duces tecum may be issued.
        If, during the inquiry, it appear that there are persons whose testimony is material, and who are not in attendance, the coroner may, in the same way, issue his summons to compel their appearance. For this purpose, or where the jury suspect that undue influence has been used, the coroner may adjourn the inquest to a future day, to the same or another place, taking the recognizances of the jurors to attend at the time and place appointed, and notifying to the witnesses when and where the inquest will be proceeded with. A memorandum of this adjournment and of the recognizances should be entered on the depositions and signed by the coroner. Care should be taken to hold the Court on the day fixed, otherwise the proceedings would drop, and anything done subsequently would be coram non judice. In the use of this power of adjournment great discretion is necessary, for undue or frequent adjournment is matter and cause of complaint above, and the coroner should not practice it except upon absolutely real necessity.


        Incidentally, when we wonder how familiar Wynne Baxter was with his district, it seems to me that we ought to take into account the amount of work he was doing. When Wynne Baxter took up his office in East Middlesex in December 1886, he acted as sole coroner for the entire district (the division into Northeast and Southeast not taking place until May 1888). Some figures from an Order in Council dated 3rd of May 1888 give us an idea of the the type of district Baxter inherited from his predecessor:

        That the present district was too large in extent being 9 miles in length by 4 1/2 miles in breadth; that the population of the district had increased from 722,224 in the census of 1861 to 969,310 in the census of 1881, and had largely increased in the five years since 1881, and might be expected to continue to increase; that the numbers of inquests held in the district had increased from 1,297 in the year ending thirty-first December one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one to 1,889 in the year ending fourth November one thousand eight hundred and eighty-six, that was, upwards of 45 per cent; that the average number of inquests held per day (excluding Sundays) during the five years ended thirty-first December one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five was 5 1409/1565; that the average held per day during the year ended fourth November one thousand eight hundred and eighty-six was 6 13/313; that in addition to the actual holding of inquests, the Coroner had much other necessary work to transact in virtue of his office; that the great distances which the Coroner had to travel, the number of inquests to be held every day, added to the other duties incident to the office, constituted more work than could be efficiently performed by one person; that it was a hardship upon jurors (who were not paid for their services), and upon witnesses to be kept waiting for the Coroner, who might be necessarily detained at an inquest being held elsewhere; that the present salary of £2,207 14s. 8d. a year was sufficient to remunerate two Coroners . . .

        If that increase continued to hold true from December 1886 through 1 July 1888 (when Roderick Macdonald appears to have taken office in the Northeast), Wynne Baxter had spent a year and a half criss-crossing a territory 9 by 4 1/2 miles with a very dense population, holding a (I admit very tentative) 2,700 inquests. Math isn't my strong suit, so let's just arbitrarily halve the number to 1300 inquests for that period, inquiring into all the sudden and suspicious deaths in the East End (since Baxter was also simultaneously a corner in Sussex during part of this period, his deputy George Collier may have been unusually active, I don't know). Wynne Baxter may not have been familiar with the procedure of obtaining organs, but I think it may be safely argued that he knew the East End and the habits of its people.

        Cheers,
        Dave

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Chris Phillips
          From a letter written by Warren on 6 November 1888 (Sourcebook, p. 151), it's clear that he thought Schwartz had given evidence at the inquest. So if he had been excluded because the police had discredited him, Warren wasn't aware of it.
          I was under the impression that Anderson wrote this and that it was subsequently forwarded on with Warren's name. No doubt Anderson's confusion came from reading Swanson's report and assuming that Schwartz had appeared at the inquest - a logical assumption given Swanson's endorsement of his evidence.

          While I believe the Star was probably accurate in that the police did not wholly believe Schwartz at first (when they were being inundated with "witnesses"), they apparently came to put some stock in his evidence, though this may have been only becuase they were grasping at straws by mid-October. I do not believe that Schwartz had been discredited before the inquest (or else why did Swanson include him in his report?) but was being held back. The Star report of Oct. 1st mentioned that the police were wanting Schwartz's name and address kept mum, so that's probably why he wasn't put on at the inquest.

          Yours truly,

          Tom Wescott

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
            I was under the impression that Anderson wrote this and that it was subsequently forwarded on with Warren's name.
            I don't see anything to indicate that in the letter as printed by Evans and Skinner. Anderson did write to the Home Office under his own name on other occasions, so I'm not sure why he shouldn't have done so this time, but who knows?

            Perhaps RJ was thinking of somebody else when he spoke about suggestions of witnesses being held back, but Schwartz was the one who sprang to mind, and I'd been struck by the reference in the letter.

            In the thread on the Seaside Home, you mentioned that you thought Schwartz had "lost favor" much earlier than Anderson's "identification" (whenever that was!). Do you think that happened later than these October/early November references?

            Chris Phillips

            Comment


            • #7
              Chris,

              It's apparent from the correspondence in October through first of November of 1888 that hardly anyone above Swanson's head had even heard of Israel Schwartz, with the possible exception of Anderson. Since his suspect description was on a very short list (along with PC Smith and Lawende) that was circulated amongst the police, it's clear they had not 'discredited' him in the way they had Packer ,for instance, or any score of witness descriptions that we've never heard of. But at some point not long after October, Schwartz's name and his evidence seem to disappear from the writings of the police and press. Lawende, who initially was considered a very poor witness by Swanson, becomes considered as the only guy to have seen the killer. This is strange because Schwartz got a much better look at his man and gave a positive ID of the victim, something Lawende was unable to do. So, it's not the evidence itself that caused Schwartz to disappear from the record. What might it have been?

              Even if Schwartz migrated out of London (possibly to New York) in or after 1891, and thus was not available as a witness, that doesn't explain his absence from memoirs, reports, and articles. If he really was a star witness, we'd find him mentioned after Nov. '88.

              Yours truly,

              Tom Wescott

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                It's apparent from the correspondence in October through first of November of 1888 that hardly anyone above Swanson's head had even heard of Israel Schwartz, with the possible exception of Anderson.
                If that's your reason for thinking the 6 November letter signed by Warren was actually written by Anderson, I'm not convinced.

                Obviously Schwartz's story had been included in Swanson's report, sent to the Home Office, and the Home Secretary had obviously read it closely enough to direct that Warren be asked what investigations had been made into "Lipski". That was the enquiry to which Warren was replying. No doubt Warren would rely on his subordinates for information, but that's hardly the same thing as someone else writing the letter and Warren signing it.

                Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                Since his suspect description was on a very short list (along with PC Smith and Lawende) that was circulated amongst the police, it's clear they had not 'discredited' him in the way they had Packer ,for instance, or any score of witness descriptions that we've never heard of. But at some point not long after October, Schwartz's name and his evidence seem to disappear from the writings of the police and press. Lawende, who initially was considered a very poor witness by Swanson, becomes considered as the only guy to have seen the killer.
                Like all arguments from silence, this worries me a bit, though. Do we have that many witnesses mentioned by name, or even clearly identified without being named, in later police and press writings? In fact, do we really have any clear reference to a witness later than, say, the end of 1888, other than the press reference to (apparently) Lawende being asked to identify Sadler in 1891? (Not counting Macnaghten's "City PC".)

                Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                Even if Schwartz migrated out of London (possibly to New York) in or after 1891, and thus was not available as a witness, that doesn't explain his absence from memoirs, reports, and articles.
                Maybe I've not been paying proper attention, but is there reason to think he went to New York?

                I did have a quick look, a while ago, at the newly indexed BT 27 embarkation lists, but couldn't find a likely match. But I believe they cover only long-distance journeys, not cross-Channel voyages. And another possibility is that Schwartz just changed his name - particularly if he was really "in the theatrical line".

                Chris Phillips

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                  If that's your reason for thinking the 6 November letter signed by Warren was actually written by Anderson, I'm not convinced.
                  And for good reason, because I didn't even address this topic in my last post. Just go to your copy of Ultimate, to the letter signed Warren, and flip a few pages back and see if you don't see the same words with Anderson's name under them.

                  Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                  Maybe I've not been paying proper attention, but is there reason to think he went to New York?
                  London was a midway stop to America for most Jews and most these Jews went to New York. I'm suggesting that Schwartz was not used as a witness later because he was no longer in London. That he went to New York is just a theory of mine.

                  Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                  In fact, do we really have any clear reference to a witness later than, say, the end of 1888, other than the press reference to (apparently) Lawende being asked to identify Sadler in 1891? (Not counting Macnaghten's "City PC".)


                  I believe Macnaghten was referring to Swanson's report when taking notes for his memoranda and misinterpreted a sentence (likely due to both the handwriting and poor wording) which is how he ended up thinking the Mitre Square witness was a City PC. But that's another story. I would say the police still using Lawende as a witness for Sadler and (possibly) Kosminski is a pretty darn indicator that he was their top witness. I believe Henry Smith also felt Lawende was the best witness, though that may be only because he was a City witness. Many police said no one saw the Ripper, or got a good look at him. Schwartz got a good look at his man so obviously they were either discounting him or unaware of him. Either way it's a good measure of his importance (or lack of).

                  Yours truly,

                  Tom Wescott


                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "While I believe the Star was probably accurate in that the police did not wholly believe Schwartz at first (when they were being inundated with "witnesses")...

                    I tend to think this is a long-standing myth. Let me show you why.

                    Here are the last three sentences of The Star report:

                    "The police have arrested one man answering the description the Hungarian furnishes. This prisoner has not been charged, but is held for inquiries to be made. The truth of the man's statement is not wholly accepted."

                    To whom does that last sentence refer? I have never believed that 'the truth of the man's statement,' is a reference to Schwartz's statement, but, rather, a refence to the statement of the 'prisoner' who had been arrested in consequence, and was now being held pending inquiries. At least that's how I've always read it.

                    Actually, I wasn't specifically thinking of Schwartz being 'held back,' but he's certainly the best example.

                    Let's take Dave's quote from Jervis, 5th edition. (Thanks, Dave)


                    If, during the inquiry, it appear that there are persons whose testimony is material, and who are not in attendance, the coroner may, in the same way, issue his summons to compel their appearance.

                    At any point after October 1st, all Baxter or a member of the jury would have had to do was to pick up a copy of The Star, and start wondering who this Hungarian was, and why he wasn't making a deposition before the inquest. Baxter could have telegrammed Superintendent Arnold and asked for the Hungarian's name and then issued the summons. He didn't. I can only imagine that there must have been some 'give and take' going on behind-the-scenes between the coroner and the police, and perhaps an occasional power struggle. There must have been times when the coroner relented, and other times when the police held back witnesses.

                    I was actually thinking more along the lines of the witnesses who did appear before the inquest. It is seemingly being argued on another thread that the Berner Street witness James Brown had been discreditted. I don't think this is the case. His appearance before the Stride inquest on Oct 5th tells me two things; 1) the police considered him a relevant witness; 2) the alleged couple by the board school had not been identified, otherwise Brown's deposition would have been meaningless. Brown's identification of Stride has often been disparaged, but it was a more positive identification than Lawende made in regards to Eddowes, and both men saw their respective victims only minutes before they turned up dead.

                    P.S. In regards to Schwartz, the naturalization papers for an "Israel Schwartz" exist in the PRO. The application was made quite late --1911, if memory serves-- but I've never bothered to order these to find out if it is the same man.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      RJ,

                      Regarding Schwartz not being taken seriously at first, the Star of Oct. 2nd is pretty explicit:

                      'In the matter of the Hungarian who said he saw a struggle between a man and a woman in the passage where the Stride body was afterwards found, the Leman-street police have reason to doubt the truth of the story. They arrested one man on the description thus obtained, and a second on that furnished from another source, but they are not likely to act further on the same information without additional facts.'

                      The Star itself, on Oct. 1st, described Schwartz's story as 'a priori incredible', so I imagine even the journalist who interviewed him wasn't all that impressed.

                      Regarding James Brown, the fact that he wasn't certain that he saw Stride was a knock against. Why wasn't it a knock against Lawende? Because Lawende was supported by 2 witnesses and there was no conflicting evidence. Because of Schwartz and Mortimer's 'couple on the corner', the police may have had reason to believe Brown saw a different couple.

                      Also of interest is the fact that Brown's man, with his dark overcoat, resembled Pipeman, and the police did not suspect Pipeman enough to even circulate his description along with BS Man. Now there's a conundrum I'd love an answer to! If Brown DID see Stride, then he likley saw Pipeman with her. Schwartz felt (though was not certain) that Pipeman was an accomplice to the man attacking Stride. So, Pipeman is one of three things a) the murder, b) an accomplice to the murderer, or c) a very important witness. With this in mind, why was there no attempt to find him or circulate his description?

                      Yours truly,

                      Tom Wescott

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tom -- Interesting points, particularly in regards to The Star of Oct. 2, which slipped in beneath my radar. Let me respond further on the 'Stride' board.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                          And for good reason, because I didn't even address this topic in my last post. Just go to your copy of Ultimate, to the letter signed Warren, and flip a few pages back and see if you don't see the same words with Anderson's name under them.


                          Thank you. Yes, there is a draft reply by Anderson, which closely resembles Warren's reply (p. 142). That does seem like rather good evidence that Warren's reply was initially drafted by Anderson.

                          But that does leave me puzzled by what you were getting at when you said "
                          hardly anyone above Swanson's head had even heard of Israel Schwartz, with the possible exception of Anderson". But perhaps I'm just being slow on the uptake.

                          Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                          London was a midway stop to America for most Jews and most these Jews went to New York. I'm suggesting that Schwartz was not used as a witness later because he was no longer in London. That he went to New York is just a theory of mine.


                          Thanks for clarifying that.

                          Originally posted by Tom_Wescott
                          I believe Macnaghten was referring to Swanson's report when taking notes for his memoranda and misinterpreted a sentence (likely due to both the handwriting and poor wording) which is how he ended up thinking the Mitre Square witness was a City PC. But that's another story. I would say the police still using Lawende as a witness for Sadler and (possibly) Kosminski is a pretty darn indicator that he was their top witness. I believe Henry Smith also felt Lawende was the best witness, though that may be only because he was a City witness. Many police said no one saw the Ripper, or got a good look at him. Schwartz got a good look at his man so obviously they were either discounting him or unaware of him. Either way it's a good measure of his importance (or lack of).
                          I have some problems with the logic here:

                          (1) "the police still using Lawende as a witness for Sadler"

                          Yes, so it seems (1891). But if as you suggest "Schwartz was not used as a witness later because he was no longer in London" that obviously tells us nothing whatsoever about the relative merits of Lawende and Schwartz.

                          (2) "and (possibly) Kosminski"

                          I don't see that we have any positive evidence that Lawende, rather than Schwartz, was the witness used to identify Kozminski. After all, that was what you were trying to argue on the other thread, by saying that Schwartz had "lost favor".

                          (3) "I believe Henry Smith also felt Lawende was the best witness"

                          Maybe, though I don't know what statement of his you're referring to.

                          (4) "Many police said no one saw the Ripper, or got a good look at him".

                          How many police made statements like this? There is Macnaghten, of course (though you suggest he was confused), and I've seen a similar statement by Abberline quoted. Any others?

                          What I don't understand is how they are meant to have concluded that the men seen by all the apparent witnesses were not the Ripper. Had all the apparent witnesses been discredited?

                          Chris Phillips

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                            Yes, so it seems (1891). But if as you suggest "Schwartz was not used as a witness later because he was no longer in London" that obviously tells us nothing whatsoever about the relative merits of Lawende and Schwartz.
                            I'm suggesting two alternatives for why Schwartz was not given precedence over Lawende, and obviously weaker witness in terms of evidential value. Either Schwartz was discredited partially or wholly, or he was no longer in London and thus not available to serve as a witness. If the Samuel Street Schwartzes are the same, then Schwartz was still in London in 1891.

                            Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                            (2) "and (possibly) Kosminski"

                            I don't see that we have any positive evidence that Lawende, rather than Schwartz, was the witness used to identify Kozminski. After all, that was what you were trying to argue on the other thread, by saying that Schwartz had "lost favor".
                            We have to work with what we have, Chris, and we have Lawende as a Ripper witness used for identification of Sadler in 1891. That makes him the most obvious choice for having been Anderson's Jewish witness.

                            Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                            What I don't understand is how they are meant to have concluded that the men seen by all the apparent witnesses were not the Ripper. Had all the apparent witnesses been discredited?
                            I don't want to get sidetracked into a wee-weeing match here. I never stated that Schwartz was discredited, merely suggested it as a possibility, and a rather strong one. I certainly never suggested that all witnesses were discredited. Quite the opposite actually as I've pointed out that Lawende was 'the man' as far as the police were concerned, even though he was a terrible witness as far as identifying a suspect goes.

                            Yours truly,

                            Tom Wescott

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Chris Phillips
                              Yes, there is a draft reply by Anderson, which closely resembles Warren's reply (p. 142). That does seem like rather good evidence that Warren's reply was initially drafted by Anderson.


                              Of course not, because that would be a simple explanation, and you don't like those much.

                              Here's what Anderson wrote on Nov. 5th:

                              I have to state that the opinion arrived at in this Dept. upon the evidence of Schwartz at the inquest in Eliz. Stride's case is that the name Lipski which he alleges was used by a man whom he saw assaulting the woman in Berner St. on the night of the murder...'

                              Here's what Warren wrote on Nov. 6th, the next day:

                              '...the opinion arrived at upon the evidence given by Schwartz at the inquest in Elizabeth Stride's case is that the name "Lipski", which he alleges was used by a man whom he saw assaulting the woman in Berners [sic] Street on the night of the murder...'

                              From this I don't think it could be any clearer that Warren was merely copying almost verbatim what Anderson had written the night before. Therefore, it's not Warren's mistake when stating that Schwartz appeared at the inquest, it's Anderson's. And Anderson clearly made this presumption based on reading Swanson's notes, where Swanson played Schwartz up as a key witness.

                              Yours truly,

                              Tom Wescott

                              Comment

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