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Likelihood that witnesses would tell truth to police?

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  • Likelihood that witnesses would tell truth to police?

    I have read a few threads now in which suggestion is made that a witness may have lied or witheld truth, and I'm wondering if anyone knows how reliable witness statements among the lower classes in Whitechapel were in 1888?

    We have all heard of cops going into the poorest quarters of their cities, whether these areas are called tenements, slums, ghettoes, barrios, etc., and that they sometimes have difficulty getting statements from neighbors of a victim, or possible witnesses to a crime.

    Does anyone know if the police could be confident that if they asked "Did you see or hear anything suspicious?" (for example), they could be confident that a response of "No sir, not a thing" was factual and true?

    Would you consider sworn testimony at an inquest to be inherently more true than that given elsewhere?
    Thank you...
    Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
    ---------------
    Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
    ---------------

  • #2
    A widespread search was conducted by the police in mid-October into residents' homes and rooms. It incorporated an area bounded by Lamb St, Commercial St , the Great Eastern Railway and Buxton St to the north, Whirechapel Rd on the south, the City boundary on the west and Albert, Dunk, Chicksand St and Great Garden St to the east.

    Every possible hiding place was examined, down to cupboards and under beds. It took a week. Of course some people resented the intrusion and the police expected trouble in some places. However for the most part they got cooperation, as police memos showed.

    Anderson wrote that the inhabitants 'showed a marked desire to assist in every way, even at some sacrifice to themselves.' The Press reported the same. ..noticeably in the most squalid dwellings the police had no difficulty in getting information.'

    Even if you allow for hyperbole, there seems to have been a general feeling of 'This fiend has got to be caught and if it means my room is to be searched, well that is what has to be'. These were exceptional circumstances, for this area contained terrible slums.

    I'd certainly place testimony given under oath a higher rating than just a statement, say, but of course it still relies on the person's truthfulness doesn't it?

    Comment


    • #3
      I think it was probably harder to lie at the inquest for one you would be under greater scrutiny. While some may have been helpful as rosella points out, Tom W also does a good job in the beginning of his bank holiday book of showing that in the emma smith murder those involved seemed to have an attitude of "keep your mouth shout and dont talk to or involve police at all". He also shows someone like Pearly Poll had no problem lying at the inquest.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by RockySullivan View Post
        I think it was probably harder to lie at the inquest for one you would be under greater scrutiny. While some may have been helpful as rosella points out, Tom W also does a good job in the beginning of his bank holiday book of showing that in the emma smith murder those involved seemed to have an attitude of "keep your mouth shout and dont talk to or involve police at all". He also shows someone like Pearly Poll had no problem lying at the inquest.
        Nor if we listen to some here, did Cross, Richardson, Mizen, Barnett, McCarthy, Maxwell and I have no idea how many others have trouble being shall I say less than totally honest, but I can assure you that witnesses lieing on oath, even over minor matters or majo0r matters is nothing unusual, in fact you often see people choosing to lie when the truth would serve them better.
        Last edited by GUT; 12-30-2014, 03:18 AM.
        G U T

        There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

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        • #5
          Would you consider sworn testimony at an inquest to be inherently more true than that given elsewhere?
          Thank you...
          Nope!

          Though some people do get an overwhelming desire to tell the truth, especially in the hands of a skilled cross-examiner.
          G U T

          There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

          Comment


          • #6
            It is quite possible that a gentleman who was in the area to seek out a prostitute actually saw something maybe actually saw a murder take place but never came forward .
            Three things in life that don't stay hidden for to long ones the sun ones the moon and the other is the truth

            Comment


            • #7
              Hello, everyone.

              Thank you for all the responses to my first thread. Thanks, especially, to Rosella for info on how extensively the surrounding area was searched! (Wow, I wonder if that would even have been possible in the United States?)

              I see I need to brush up on the case a great deal, but then, that's why I'm here!
              Pat D. https://forum.casebook.org/core/imag...rt/reading.gif
              ---------------
              Von Konigswald: Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard. -- Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, c.1970.
              ---------------

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Pcdunn View Post
                I have read a few threads now in which suggestion is made that a witness may have lied or witheld truth, and I'm wondering if anyone knows how reliable witness statements among the lower classes in Whitechapel were in 1888?
                Packer is the classic example of a witness who changed his story, that said, there are still portions of his statement(s) that bear consideration.

                Packer does place Stride with a client at 12:30 am standing opposite Dutfields Yard, corroborating the statement by PC Smith, but he had initially told the police he saw no-one, so what do you do with a witness who changes his mind?
                My take is that his original response was his way of staying out of it, he didn't want to get involved, but something changed his mind.

                In most cases though, the suggestion of the "lying witness" is raised when there is a theory to defend. They have one witness who is quoted as saying something that damages the theory, so the counter to this problem is to claim, "the witness is lying".

                The theory can't be wrong, hell no, ...the witness must be lying!


                We have all heard of cops going into the poorest quarters of their cities, whether these areas are called tenements, slums, ghettoes, barrios, etc., and that they sometimes have difficulty getting statements from neighbors of a victim, or possible witnesses to a crime.
                Prior to the Whitechapel murders, there was an inbred distrust of the police across the East End, but as the murders progressed the population came on board and wanted this killer caught just as much as the police did.


                Would you consider sworn testimony at an inquest to be inherently more true than that given elsewhere?
                Thank you...
                No, an inquest is not a trial. The pressure to tell the truth is different.
                At a murder trial the solicitors will challenge the witness likely on every point, but at a Coroners inquest, apart from being expected to clarify a point here and there by answering a few questions, for the most part the witness testimony is not challenged.
                We have a couple of examples where contradictory testimony was given, so testimony was challenged, but those were exceptions.
                Regards, Jon S.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wickerman View Post
                  P
                  No, an inquest is not a trial. The pressure to tell the truth is different.
                  At a murder trial the solicitors will challenge the witness likely on every point, but at a Coroners inquest, apart from being expected to clarify a point here and there by answering a few questions, for the most part the witness testimony is not challenged.
                  We have a couple of examples where contradictory testimony was given, so testimony was challenged, but those were exceptions.
                  Very true. I think the pressure aspect shouldn't be ignored however. (hence my "emboldening")

                  For police officials inquest procedures would be routine and pretty much mandatory. A member of the public without any prior experience probably wouldn't have seen it quite the same way.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Rosella View Post
                    A widespread search was conducted by the police in mid-October into residents' homes and rooms. It incorporated an area bounded by Lamb St, Commercial St , the Great Eastern Railway and Buxton St to the north, Whirechapel Rd on the south, the City boundary on the west and Albert, Dunk, Chicksand St and Great Garden St to the east.
                    Wow, I've never heard of this before. Do you have a source to read on this.

                    What sounds interesting is that if I were Jack and the police searched my house in mid-October I'd be scared enough to give up killing for a month.
                    "Damn it, Doc! Why did you have to tear up that letter? If only I had more time... Wait a minute, I got all the time I want! I got a time machine!"

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                    • #11
                      The information about the October search comes from Sugden 'The Complete History of Jack the Ripper' (new edition) Pages 290-292.
                      I love this book as a reference. Philip Sugden was an historian and always careful about his sourced material. I think the book is a must-have for anyone interested in the Ripper murders.

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                      • #12
                        There was another house-to-house conducted in and around Dorset St. on the weekend following that murder.
                        Regards, Jon S.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wickerman View Post
                          There was another house-to-house conducted in and around Dorset St. on the weekend following that murder.
                          That's a good reason why JtR stopped.
                          Bona fide canonical and then some.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            In most cases though, the suggestion of the "lying witness" is raised when there is a theory to defend. They have one witness who is quoted as saying something that damages the theory, so the counter to this problem is to claim, "the witness is lying".

                            The theory can't be wrong, hell no, ...the witness must be lying!
                            I guess that if one's theory is that the witness was the killer it's an argument which will inevitably follow. This risks the circular argument scenario of course:- the witness is lying; he's lying because he's the killer and the proof that he's the killer is the 'fact' that he's lying. Lechmere, Richardson, Hutchinson, Barnett - take your pick.
                            "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Indeed, but then there is the witness that is not directly involved in the case, to whom no suspicion is attached. These include PC Long, Richardson, Thomas Bowyer, Mrs Maxwell, Maurice Lewis, Mrs Kennedy, Paumier, and the like.
                              All labelled "liars" at one time or another because their statements injure a particular modern theory.
                              Regards, Jon S.

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