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  • Macdonald's District: North East Middlesex

    I had this up once before but it was lost in the crash. This is a description of the North East Middlesex coroner's district, taken from an Order in Council dated 3 May 1888, as published in The London Gazette, 8 May 1888. I believe that Macdonald took office on 1 June that year. This incarnation of the district remained in effect until after Macdonald's death in 1894.

    I like this one in particular since it's relevant to the question of who really should have held Mary Kelly's inquest. Kelly was killed in Spitalfields and her body transported to Shoreditch (Colin Roberts once wrote me that the mortuary itself was actually just inside the boundary of St. Matthew's Bethnal Green). Thanks again, Robert Linford, for pulling this and to Stephen Ryder for fixing the table for me!
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Fraud and the evolution of the police as coroner's officers

    Old Bailey Online has an account of Thomas Hammond's 1892 trial and conviction for fraud against the County of London: http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/brows...=t18920111-187

    Hammond was found guilty of altering payment vouchers (amounts and signatures). He was one of three officers operating in Macdonald's district and was a figure in the Mary Kelly inquest.

    Throughout the 19th century, there were consistent charges of fraud leveled at coroners, at times unfairly I think. Yet Hammond's case provides a justification for these complaints, and when the London County Council was created in 1889, addressing fraud was on their early agenda of consolidating coronial procedure in Metropolitan London, which had recently been spread over multiple counties.

    But what's really interesting to me about Hammond's trial is that, with Macdonald and his deputy Alfred Hodgkinson testifying, it provides an inside look at how Macdonald's court operated. Macdonald talks about holding an average of twenty inquests a week, sometimes as many as "ten, twelve, or even more" inquests a day (far more inquests than could be covered in the press). It's clear that with this kind of workload, the coroner heavily relied upon his officers.

    In London, this sort of thing ultimately led to Metropolitan police constables serving as officers in London, apparently on a rotating basis (I assume other counties began following the same practice at this time). I'm not sure exactly when this took effect in the 1890s, but by 1902, Macdonald's successor Dr. Wynn Westcott was writing: I arranged with the Commissioner of Police to give me always a choice of a succession of Police Officers to do the duties of the Coroner’s Officer, and this arrangement gives complete satisfaction to me, and the people in my District. (LMA/LCC/PC/COR/1/55, Dr Wynn Westcott to Alfred Spencer, 25 July 1902.)

    Hope this is of interest to some of you.

    Cheers,
    Dave
    Last edited by Dave O; 03-29-2010, 08:07 AM.

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    • #3
      A Medical Witness Puzzle: Hannah Rees/Susannah Bees

      I've noticed something interesting in Thomas Hammond's trial, linked in the post above. Going over discrepancies in the financial records, Macdonald refers to an inquest for "Hannah Rees", which was held on 17 June 1891. He cites paying a guinea to Dr. Phillips for performing a postmortem. There's no mention of an additional guinea for his testimony at this inquest--this leads me to think he didn't attend, and this would have been the point of Macdonald bringing him up, because the records had been altered to show that he had been paid for testifying. But of course I can't say without having read an account of the inquest. I should say that I'm assuming that this Dr. Phillips is Dr. George Bagster Phillips; this may not be the case.

      When I think about possible non-attendance at an inquest and Dr. Phillips, I think of Mary Kelly. There we see that Macdonald hasn't informed Phillips to attend (Phillips has to ask whether he's wanted). I have always thought that, besides indicating to the jury that more medical evidence would be forthcoming, this bit of business between Macdonald and Phillips is an indication that Macdonald initially attended to adjourn the inquest for detailed medical evidence. After all, the cost of medical evidence, as insufficient as it was, had to have been the largest expense of the inquest (Phillips would have received two guineas), and it doesn't make sense that Macdonald would intend to hold the Kelly inquest in a single sitting without informing Phillips to come. Besides justifying the expense, without Phillips present, how could the cause of death in this case be determined?

      So naturally when I saw this Hannah Rees case--an examination performed by Phillips but no testimony (apparently)--well, I wondered whether I had got things right. In other words, a look at Hannah Rees might shed some light on the Mary Kelly case. Then I noticed this:

      The next witness in Hammond's case was a doctor practicing in Bow named Walter Barber. He cites several cases where he was paid one guinea for inquest testimony, but although there are signed vouchers indicating that he was also paid an additional guinea for performing an autopsy in each of the referenced cases, Barber testifies that he performed no postmortems and wasn't paid for any (Hammond has performed some financial surgery of his own). The last case Barber mentions took place on 17 June 1891, and the deceased was "Susannah Bees".

      Same woman, but with a garbled name? Same case, with Barber testifying but Phillips, performing the postmortem, isn't there? If so, how come? I can't find a newspaper account either way, so I'm left with a lot of questions. Did the inquest take place in Bow, where Barber practiced? Bow was K division, I believe.

      Does anyone have access to death registries for June 1891? Perhaps the name or (names) can be clarified, at least.

      Dave
      Last edited by Dave O; 04-03-2010, 02:28 AM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Dave O View Post
        Does anyone have access to death registries for June 1891? Perhaps the name or (names) can be clarified, at least.

        Dave
        Hi Dave, interesting stuff.
        According to the Morning Post Dec 23 1891 the name was 'Susannah Reeks' and checking deaths on free BMD there is this death registered which seems to fit;

        Deaths Jun 1891
        REEKS Susannah 38 Poplar 1c 441

        Debs
        ,,`,, Debs ,,`,,

        I am not DJA. He's called Dave.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks Dave.Valuable finds.The way these things were conducted may have a lot more significance to the ripper case than at first thought.It may tie in with Phil"s bombshell regarding Dr Bond"s "unsigned ,unstamped" and therefore potentially bogus ,Inquest report on Mary Kelly.On the other hand it may reveal more strange anomolies in the usual ways in which these things were handled.
          Best
          Norma
          Last edited by Natalie Severn; 04-03-2010, 11:03 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Debra and Natalie,

            Many thanks for that, Debra. I'll look for Susannah Reeks.

            I think the issue with the Mary Kelly inquest was the jury and not an attempt to withhold medical evidence.

            Cheers,
            Dave

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dave O View Post
              I think the issue with the Mary Kelly inquest was the jury and not an attempt to withhold medical evidence.
              Yes, indeed. Macdonald seemed to have a riot on his hands. He also may have been trying to make a point about efficiency, as opposed to Baxter's penchant for going beyond just determining cause of death.

              Thank goodness for us, at least, that Baxter did that or we would have even less to study.

              I've always wondered where Hutchinson might have fit in if the Kelly inquest had lasted several days. There would likely not be a debate about him.
              Best Wishes,
              Hunter
              ____________________________________________

              When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dave O View Post
                Hi Debra and Natalie,

                Many thanks for that, Debra. I'll look for Susannah Reeks.

                I think the issue with the Mary Kelly inquest was the jury and not an attempt to withhold medical evidence.

                Cheers,
                Dave
                I have always thought there was a clear injustice in the way Mary Kelly"s Inquest was held, compared with the thorough way in which Baxter conducted his inquests .
                The most disturbing part for me is that no reasonable time had been allowed for Mary"s next of kin to be traced.In fact they hadnt been able to trace a single relative on the two days allowed ie the Saturday and the Sunday. So the jury did not know who the murdered girl was or where she came from, or what her age was ---they had only the testimony of Joe Barnett , a man she had lived with and left after bitter rows were reported .The jury did not really know whether Mary Jane or rather "Marie Jaenette" Kelly were her real names.
                Add to this the peculiarity over Dr Phillips not having been called,as was expected, to give his detailed Inquest report ,even though Dr Phillips had asked when he would be attending that Inquest to give this report! .
                If we add to all this the very different interpretations of the crime scene evidence between the doctors Phillips and Bond , we have a confusing scenario, a confusing set of reports and an inquest that was all over and done with in a single day,two days after the most ghastly murder in the series had been committed with the ripper still very much at large!
                Frightful really.
                Last edited by Natalie Severn; 04-03-2010, 07:48 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Norma,

                  I have a feeling that the Kelly situation, as far as the coroner was concerned, starting with the body being removed to the Shoreditch mortuary, was politically driven. Baxter seemed to be on the "outs" with some of the powers that be. Didn't help the JTR investigation but since when did professional politicians care about such tangible things. Dealing with political rivalries are more important to them.

                  We should remember that this was the first murder that Anderson actually took a personal hand in and the results were decidedly different than what was seen in the previous cases... for whatever reason.

                  Abberline may have retired in '92 more out of disgust with the cronyism going on than for any other reason; though he would state as such. An experienced, capable man such as he had probably gone as far up the ladder as he was going to go.
                  Best Wishes,
                  Hunter
                  ____________________________________________

                  When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi Hunter and Natalie,

                    Ironically, given the issue that a couple of jurors had with jurisdiction, what I think the Kelly inquest needed was even more jurymen. Macdonald has 14, which happens to be the number described as a good number in the second volume of The King's Coroner (1905). I think 14 must have been totally sufficient for most inquests. But the inquests we're interested in here were sensational events, and where most inquests only lasted for one session, the ones we're most familiar with were adjourned affairs--they're not the norm. If you look at the Double Event inquests, the press mentions 17 jurors at the Eddowes inquest, 24 at Stride (this must be an error, the range available to a coroner was between 12-23, but in any case Baxter has completely maxed out the Stride jury, apparently with some difficulty).

                    Why should Langham and Baxter have followed this procedure? The answer, of course, is to be able to adjourn safely and ensure a verdict. You must have 12 jurors to return a verdict. The adjourned inquest must convene at the time and place specified during the previous session. If it does not, the proceedings "drop", the inquest is over, and you have to start over again. It's true that the coroner has the ability to fine jurors who don't return, but that doesn't help your inquest any--you must find new jurors, who have to hear all the evidence. Witnesses already heard must return, new jurors must take their view of the corpse--which may or may not already be buried, so in some cases you're looking at an exhumation. Besides being a hassle, the ratepayers are going to be burdened with expenses that could have been avoided.

                    With Kelly, the jurisdiction is questioned--this is a different situation from what the other coroners faced. And of course, it's sensational, lots of public interest. 14 jurors, I don't think, is enough for Mary Kelly. I don't think it was safe to adjourn, given the questioning of jurisdiction.

                    Really, Spitalfields should be off in Baxter's South East district, because administratively speaking, it's actually part of Whitechapel. This would be remedied after Macdonald's death in 1894.

                    Hunter, I would disagree with you that Macdonald's holding of the Kelly inquest was politically driven. As Spitalfields, Shoreditch, and Bethnal Green are in Macdonald's district, at no time is Kelly's body in Baxter's district, and without the body, Baxter cannot hold an inquest (because he and the jury must view the body else the inquest isn't valid). It's not politics at work here, just geography and location of body. As Macdonald said, jurisdiction remains with the body, and this is right.

                    Kelly's case actually comes very close to presenting us with an interesting anomaly--that of the double inquest, and this is because of the misalignment of the North East district. They nearly shipped Kelly's body out of Shoreditch to Whitechapel, in order to throw the cost of burial on the ratepayers there. With the body in his district, Baxter prepared to hold his own inquest (which may have been a brief formality). It's Henry Wilton who averts the double inquest when he pays for Kelly's burial.

                    So again, as the body moves, a coroner's jurisdiction might shift. When you talk about the bodies that did cross coroner's districts, they seem to be moving from Macdonald's district into Baxter's: Nichols (Bethnal Green) and Chapman (Spitalfields), and in March 1889, Louisa Ellesden (Spitalfields, I believe--Ellesden actually did result in a double inquest).

                    Anyway, my lunch hour is over. Past over! I am going to get in trouble

                    Cheers,
                    Dave

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi Dave,

                      Excellent response. I appreciate posters who counter with real information instead of supposition. That's the way intellegent debate should be carried out as what I proposed was theory and it was countered by information instead of another theory.

                      My basis for my assumption was twofold: one, that some of the jury questioned the jurisdiction per where the body was found and two: the prceedings seemed strange; as Norma mentioned, Phillips expected to return and give further testimony at a later date... and didn't. Macdonald and Baxter were in opposite political camps... albeit I could be reading more into this than is warranted. Of course Macdonald may have thought he had received enough testimony to render cause of death, so as far as he was concerned... that was enough for him.
                      Best Wishes,
                      Hunter
                      ____________________________________________

                      When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks Hunter,
                        Yes, there does seem to be a difference. Inspector Abberline writes in his report of 12th November 1888 :

                        the coroner remarked that in his opinion it was unnecessary to adjourn the inquiry and the jury returned a verdict of "wilful murder against some person unknown "

                        His next paragraph begins:

                        "An important statement has been made by a man named George Hutchinson which I forward forthwith ........."
                        .Abberline continues to describe what the man said etc.

                        Clearly the inquest began prematurely, before all witnesses could be found . The coroner also very obviously led the jury by suggesting to them that they could dispense with minutes of the evidence; dispense with further questions-[which they had declined to ask due to having understood that "more detailed evidence of the medical examination would be given at a further hearing" .

                        So frankly it was both opened and closed in what seems to have been " indecent haste'.

                        Its difficult to know how Abberline viewed all this,Hunter, he was always discreet and very professional in his approach and never wrote an autobiography.
                        Last edited by Natalie Severn; 04-03-2010, 10:26 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yes, Dave is the authority on here along with Robert on Coroners and their emit!
                          Thanks for your reply Dave. Would you be kind enough to explain, as I am not sure I understand the reasoning here:

                          a]why was the " jurisdiction" questioned by the jury?

                          b] why it would have " therefore been "unsafe" to "adjourn" ?Especially as earlier that day this is exactly what was expected to be the case by both the jury and quite obviously by Dr Phillips who would return with the more detailed medical evidence?

                          I only ask because you are one of the experts on here about this matter!
                          Best
                          Norma

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A layperson

                            Hi Hunter and Natalie,

                            Well, thanks for the kind words. But I'm no authority, just a layperson who's developed an interest in English inquests and has had the opportunity to work with a couple of great British fellows, John Savage and Robert Linford.

                            I've got to get back to work but will be back tonight to reply further--I just wanted to say that this business about the number of jurymen and not being safe to adjourn is only my opinion (what I say about the jurisdictions of Macdonald and Baxter is fact though). My theory seems to hold up though; I don't think this notion of deliberately withholding evidence does (in any case, the jury closed the inquest, not the coroner).

                            There's a saying that a little law is a dangerous thing, so I try to be careful about my theorizing. Over the past four or five years I've learned a lot about Victorian inquests and what I have read, I've read many times. But I've noticed that law and the application of law can be two different things, and of course I'm a long way from reading everything. Plus, Victorian coroners can't ever be really adequately researched, because most of their records have been lost. We are really peering at them through a narrow window.

                            Back later,
                            Dave

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dave O View Post
                              When you talk about the bodies that did cross coroner's districts, they seem to be moving from Macdonald's district into Baxter's: Nichols (Bethnal Green) and Chapman (Spitalfields), ...
                              Originally posted by Colin Roberts (JTRForums.com)

                              --- Click to View the Original Post in JTRForums.com ---

                              The boundaries were indisputable; and Baxter had no legitimate claim to the remains of Mary Jane Kelly: None!


                              Whitechapel Registration District / Poor Law Union;
                              Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works - 1888 (Click to Enlarge in flickr)
                              Underlying Aerial Imagery: Copyright Google Earth, 2007
                              Overlying Plots, Labels and Color-Shadings: Copyright Colin C. Roberts, 2010

                              Whitechapel Registration District / Poor Law Union;
                              Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works:

                              - The Liberty of Norton Folgate (Green) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, North-East District: Roderick MacDonald)

                              - The Old Artillery Ground (Aqua) (Coronership of Her Majesty's Tower of London: Thomas Ratcliff)

                              - The Parish of Christ Church Spitalfields (Blue) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, North-East District: Roderick MacDonald)

                              - The Hamlet of Mile End New Town (Orange) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Parish of Holy Trinity ('Minories') (Yellow) (Coronership of Her Majesty's Tower of London: Thomas Ratcliff)

                              - The Parish of St. Mary Whitechapel (Portion within the County of Middlesex, -1889; the County of London, 1889-1965) (Red) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Liberty of Her Majesty's Tower of London (Orange) (Coronership of Her Majesty's Tower of London: Thomas Ratcliff)
                              --- {The Liberty of the Tower}
                              --- {The Precinct of Old Tower Without}
                              --- {The Tower}

                              - The Precinct of St. Katharine (Blue) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate (Portion within the County of Middlesex, -1889; the County of London, 1889-1965) (Green) (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              ---

                              The non-shaded (i.e. 'non-Whitechapel') portions of the above image are as follows:

                              Top:

                              - The Parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, North-East District: Roderick MacDonald)

                              - The Parish of St. Matthew Bethnal Green (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, North-East District: Roderick MacDonald)

                              Left:

                              - The City of London (Coronership of the City of London: Samuel Langham)

                              Right:

                              - The Hamlet of Mile End Old Town (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Parish of St. George in the East (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Parish of St. John of Wapping (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              - The Parish of St. Paul Shadwell (Coronership of the County of Middlesex, South-East District: Wynne Baxter)

                              ---

                              At no time, did the remains of Mary Jane Kelly lie within Baxter's jurisdiction.

                              In the case of Annie Chapman, however, the remains were discovered within MacDonald's jurisdiction; but then removed to Baxter's jurisdiction.

                              This was probably due to the perceived necessity of removing the decedent from view of the 'public eye', as quickly as possible. In the absence of MacDonald or anyone from his office, the 'H' Division constabulary at the scene of the crime, would probably have been unaware of the Order in Council*, by which the Parish of Christ Church Spitalfields had been placed within MacDonald's jurisdiction.

                              * An Order in Council of May 1888, interestingly - and quite inexplicably - placed the Liberty of Norton Folgate and Parish of Christ Church Spitalfields in the newly established North-East District of the Middlesex County Coronership (i.e. MacDonald's District).

                              "Inexplicably", and indeed impracticably; as the two parochial entities were both components of the Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which bore the responsibilities of mortuary-accommodation and subsequent burial of its deceased residents, as well as that of any unidentified decedents found within its boundaries. As Norton Folgate and Spitalfields were the only components of this particular District of the Metropolitan Board of Works to fall under the coronial jurisdiction of Roderick MacDonald; any deaths occurring therein, for which inquest proceedings were deemed necessary, inherently became the burden of either the Parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch or the Parish of St. Matthew Bethnal Green.
                              Nichols's body was discovered in the Parish of St. Mary Whitechapel; i.e. within Baxter's jurisdiction.

                              Her body was taken to the Whitechapel Union Infirmary Mortuary, in the Hamlet of Mile End New Town; i.e. also within Baxter's jurisdiction.

                              Perhaps you are of the impression, Dave, that the inclusion of Buck's Row, within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Force, 'J' Division, signified its inclusion in 'Bethnal Green'. It did not!


                              Metropolitan Police Force, 'H' Division - 1888
                              (Click to Enlarge in flickr)
                              Underlying Aerial Imagery: Copyright Google Earth, 2007
                              Overlying Plots, Labels and Color-Shadings: Copyright Colin C. Roberts, 2010

                              As the Nichols murder-site was not within the jurisdiction of 'H' Division; neither was the entirety of the Parish of St. Mary Whitechapel, nor for that matter, the entirety of the Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works.

                              Conversely; the western-most reaches of the Parish of St. Matthew Bethnal Green, which lay directly north of Spitalfields, were within the jurisdiction of 'H' Division.

                              The 'Whitechapel' and 'Bethnal Green' tags, which corresponded respectively to the 'H' Division and 'J' Division distinctions, were merely references to the locations of the respective Headquarters Stations: i.e. Leman Street, Parish of St. Mary Whitechapel; and Bethnal Green Road, Parish of St. Matthew Bethnal Green.

                              Originally posted by Natalie Severn View Post
                              a] why was the "jurisdiction" questioned by the jury?
                              They were not questioning MacDonald's jurisdiction, Norma. In fact, they probably could not have cared less than they did!

                              What they were questioning was their own responsibility for being part of the proceedings; as well as the monetary burden that was being placed on the rate-payers of their parish, i.e. St. Leonard Shoreditch, in terms of mortuary accommodation and subsequent burial.

                              Regardless of the fact that Kelly's remains lay in their mortuary, and that inquest proceedings were being held in their Town Hall; they naturally felt that the costs of mortuary accommodation and subsequent burial should be funded by the Whitechapel District of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that the inquest jury should be provided by the same.
                              Last edited by Septic Blue; 04-04-2010, 12:56 AM.

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