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Was John Richardson A Reliable Witness?

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  • Was John Richardson A Reliable Witness?

    The evidence of John Richardson causes more controversy than the evidence of Albert Cadosch and not just because it contradicts Dr Phillips TOD estimate. We all know the basics (as well as the details) : Richardson said that he arrived at number 29 between 4.40 and 4.45 (according to The Times report) or between 4.45 and 4.50 (according to The Telegraph) and that he went to check on the cellar doors in the back yard. Whilst there he sat on the step and attempted to trim some leather from a shoe that was causing him some discomfort. He said that he could see all of the yard and that he couldn’t possibly have missed a corpse had it been there at the time. There are questions of course.


    The Knife

    For me, this is the most difficult part of Richardson’s testimony to reconcile. It’s certainly difficult to explain why, after saying that he’d cut a piece of leather from his boot, he went on to say that it wasn’t sharp enough (after the Coroner pointed this out to him when he saw the knife) and that he had to borrow one from someone at the market.


    Those that believe Richardson was unreliable point to this apparent change of story as evidence that he wasn’t to be believed, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful purpose behind this change. It’s been suggested that Richardson simply brought up the story of the other knife to ‘prove’ that he’d actually sat on the step to fix his shoe when he hadn’t actually done so. But how does this second knife help in any way? He said that he’d borrowed the knife from someone at the market because his own knife wasn’t sharp enough. He didn’t suggest that he borrowed the knife and then returned to the steps of course. Such a suggestion would have been nonsense. So this surely meant that he borrowed the knife at the market and that any further shoe repair would have been done at the market so the story of the second knife doesn’t help him prove he sat on those steps. So why did he say it? Could it simply have been that Richardson did some repair work to his boot (on the steps) but that his knife wasn’t sharp enough to do a complete job and so he borrowed a sharper one at the market. He wouldn’t have felt any need to mention the second knife at the Inquest until the Coroner pointed out how blunt his knife was. Was Richardson just saying that he finished the job at the market with another knife? Did an element of incorrect wording from the Press add to the confusion? Thoughts welcome of course.


    The Interview In The Passageway

    This has caused controversy as some see this is a pointer away from Richardson’s reliability. As we know, Inspector Chandler spoke to Richardson in the passageway and Chandler said at The Inquest that Richardson didn’t mention sitting on the steps. This raises questions that I’ll go through individually.



    a) Was Chandler Correct?


    The short answer is that we have no way of knowing but we have to remember that this wasn’t a recorded interview and there is no one to corroborate Chandler. It look place in a passageway during the initial stages of a murder investigation. It’s unlikely to have been a long interview. Pretty much all that Chandler would have needed to know was whether Richardson was involved or not and was there a body in the yard at 4.50? We also have to remember that Richardson testified before Chandler so he never got to respond to this.


    b) Could Chandler Have Lied?


    Anyone can lie but there’s no reason to suspect that Chandler might have done.


    c) Could Chandler Have Been Mistaken?


    It’s certainly possible that he might have misheard ‘sat on the steps’ for ‘stood on the steps’ especially in a passageway with distractions going on.


    d) Could There Have Been An Innocent Explanation For Richardson Not Mentioning Sitting On The Steps?


    It’s my opinion that there certainly could have been. This wasn’t an in-depth interview. Chandler wanted to know if Richardson was involved, if he’d seen anything suspicious or knew anything useful and whether the body was there at 4.50. Part of the conversation might have gone like this:

    Richardson - I got here at 4.50 and I went to the back door to check on the cellar doors and there was no body in the yard.

    Chandler - You’re certain that you couldn’t have missed seeing it?

    Richardson - Absolutely certain. I could see all of the yard.


    I’ve suggested previously that Richardson might have ‘neglected’ to have mentioned the knife because he didn’t want to put himself under suspicion. On further reflection though Richardson had no need to mention the knife at all (or the story of fixing his boot for that matter.) He had easier options:


    “I pushed the back door open all the way back to the fence so I could see all of the yard.”


    “I sat on the back step for 5 minutes having a breath of air.”


    “I sat on the step and smoked my pipe for 5 minutes.”


    He had no reason to mention repairing his shoe simply to prove that he hadn’t seen the body. If it was a lie it was a lie that served no purpose.



    Could He Have Missed A Mutilated Corpse?


    We’ve all seen the photographs. We’ve all seen the massive gap between the door and the ground. I find it next to impossible to believe that he could have missed a mutilated corpse. Richardson said that he’d had his feet on the flags so, going down two steps in a normal way, he’d have pushed the door back a considerable amount surely revealing the corpse?

    We also have to remember that he’d actually seen the corpse in situ so he knew it’s exact position and exactly how much floor space it took up so if it could have been concealed by the door it’s impossible to believe that Richardson wouldn’t have realised this.

    We also have to realise that Richardson was absolutely certain that there was no corpse there.



    Conclusion


    There are definitely unknowns here but I see nothing that leads me to doubt Richardson’s evidence. The only reason suggested for him lying was the age old “15 minutes of fame” but would he have placed himself at the scene of a murder in possession of knife for this? Richardson was absolutely certain that Annie’s body wasn’t there at 4.50 and there’s no solid evidence of him lying (unless we accept the Phillips TOD which experts tell us was unreliable of course) And so I conclude that Richardson was telling the truth, that he sat on the step with a view of the whole yard, and that Annie wasn’t there.
    16
    Richardson was reliable
    87.50%
    14
    Richardson was unreliable
    6.25%
    1
    Unsure
    6.25%
    1
    Regards

    Herlock






    "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

  • #2
    Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post
    Conclusion

    There are definitely unknowns here but I see nothing that leads me to doubt Richardson’s evidence. The only reason suggested for him lying was the age old “15 minutes of fame” but would he have placed himself at the scene of a murder in possession of knife for this? Richardson was absolutely certain that Annie’s body wasn’t there at 4.50 and there’s no solid evidence of him lying (unless we accept the Phillips TOD which experts tell us was unreliable of course) And so I conclude that Richardson was telling the truth, that he sat on the step with a view of the whole yard, and that Annie wasn’t there.
    I think we can rely on the essential elements of Richardson's evidence, but that he was a poor communicator, restricting the information he provided to the narrow confines of the questions he was asked. He only expanded on this as new questions were asked of him. This does make his evidence sound continually up-dated, which may look suspicious, but I believe it to simply be his communication style.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by etenguy View Post

      I think we can rely on the essential elements of Richardson's evidence, but that he was a poor communicator, restricting the information he provided to the narrow confines of the questions he was asked. He only expanded on this as new questions were asked of him. This does make his evidence sound continually up-dated, which may look suspicious, but I believe it to simply be his communication style.
      I agree Eten. He gave a fuller account at the Inquest than his conversation with Chandler. I think that this explains the knife issue best perhaps combined with error in print.
      Regards

      Herlock






      "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

      Comment


      • #4
        All the points you made Herlock are spot-on, Richardson was reliable in my view. There is no basis for those objections to his story.
        Regards, Jon S.

        Comment


        • #5
          The very fact that the question is asked highlights how we simply cannot know whether Richardson was a reliable witness or not. What we DO know is that high profile cases tend to attract publicity-seeking "witnesses", that the victorian East End was notoriously known for being hostile to the police and justice system, that Richardson wasn´t able to produce a consistent testimony resulting in how Chandler´s version of what he said differed materially from what Richardson said at the inquest and that he falsely claimed to have cut leather from his boot in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.

          Does this make him a good or a bad witness? And is that the same as asking whether he was a reliable or an unreliable witness? Obviously not.

          At the end of the day, regardless if he was a good, a bad, a reliable or an unreliable witness, he may simply have missed the body even if it was there. And the fact that he himself said that he should have seen the body if it was there takes us right back to the fact that we don´t now whether he was reliable or not - and we cannot answer that one.

          All we can do is to offer our own sentiments, which are useless in trying to answer the question. "Seems like a good dude", "I would not trust him on anything", "He got it wrong, we know that much", "He simply misworded himself, anyone can do that".

          So...?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
            The very fact that the question is asked highlights how we simply cannot know whether Richardson was a reliable witness or not. What we DO know is that high profile cases tend to attract publicity-seeking "witnesses", that the victorian East End was notoriously known for being hostile to the police and justice system, that Richardson wasn´t able to produce a consistent testimony resulting in how Chandler´s version of what he said differed materially from what Richardson said at the inquest and that he falsely claimed to have cut leather from his boot in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.

            Does this make him a good or a bad witness? And is that the same as asking whether he was a reliable or an unreliable witness? Obviously not.

            At the end of the day, regardless if he was a good, a bad, a reliable or an unreliable witness, he may simply have missed the body even if it was there. And the fact that he himself said that he should have seen the body if it was there takes us right back to the fact that we don´t now whether he was reliable or not - and we cannot answer that one.

            All we can do is to offer our own sentiments, which are useless in trying to answer the question. "Seems like a good dude", "I would not trust him on anything", "He got it wrong, we know that much", "He simply misworded himself, anyone can do that".

            So...?
            I am inclined to agree. There are clear and obvious conflicts in both his inquest testimony, and what is reported in the newspapers. Where does the real truth lie? 130 years later we cannot establish the real truth, and it is pointless researchers keep coming up with explanations to explain away the conflicts in a way that suits their own belief.

            Did he miss seeing the body,? based on one of his accounts yes he could have.

            If the same killer was responsible for the other victims, he was taking a chance by killing at that time of the morning in a dead end location where he might have been seen or even detained. If the same killer did he take those same risks previous, would he take them again? The answers are no to both. So that might help to try to accept or reject Richardson's testimony.

            As to bump and bangs, and the echo of a voice early in the morning in Whitechapel when people were getting up, and moving about again from an evidential perspective these aslo doesn't stand up to close scrutiny either.

            www.trevormarriott.co.uk

            Comment


            • #7
              No one really disputes wether Richardson had a nose in the yard, of course his timings are as open to debate as anyone else's. It is purely the fact that Chandler states that Richardson did not mention sitting on the step when questioned on the morning of the murder, a crucial detail because if he did sit on the step he could not have missed Annie's body.
              So, just to throw some speculation out there, what if Richardson checked the yard and did not see a body (regardless of whether it was there or not). He goes to work, finds out a murder has been committed in his back yard and returns. Questioned by Chandler, he gives an accurate statement 'I had a look in the yard, didn't notice a body'.
              Afterwards, concerned about being at the scene of a crime, and possibly about his workmates mentioning to the police that he had to borrow a knife that morning, he crafts the story of sitting on the step to make it undisputable that the body was not there, as such he didn't do it.
              Was the story of the steps just to reinforce what he believed but worried he couldn't prove, that when he had a check of the yard, he saw no body?
              Not a personal theory, but hey, we need something to debate.
              Your evening of swing has been cancelled.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Al Bundy's Eyes View Post

                So, just to throw some speculation out there, what if Richardson checked the yard and did not see a body (regardless of whether it was there or not). He goes to work, finds out a murder has been committed in his back yard and returns. Questioned by Chandler, he gives an accurate statement 'I had a look in the yard, didn't notice a body'.
                Afterwards, concerned about being at the scene of a crime, and possibly about his workmates mentioning to the police that he had to borrow a knife that morning, he crafts the story of sitting on the step...
                Alternatively, he added those further (genuine) details at the inquest prompted by the coroner's and/or jury's questions.
                Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sam Flynn View Post

                  Alternatively, he added those further (genuine) details at the inquest prompted by the coroner's and/or jury's questions.
                  But were they genuine. If you know you have provided false information whether that be deliberate or accidentally and you have been found out you are going to try to rectify the situation.

                  He shou'd have been asked "Did you tell Insp Chandler ___________________________?

                  That might have given a clearer picture. People do lie on oath !

                  www.trevormarriott.co.uk

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Al Bundy's Eyes View Post
                    No one really disputes wether Richardson had a nose in the yard,

                    And noone can confirm that he actually WAS in the yard. There is no corroboration, quite simply.

                    of course his timings are as open to debate as anyone else's. It is purely the fact that Chandler states that Richardson did not mention sitting on the step when questioned on the morning of the murder, a crucial detail because if he did sit on the step he could not have missed Annie's body.

                    Yes, he could. It is all a question of how he sat on the stairs - which in it´s turn is of course not a proven thing that he even did in the first place.

                    So, just to throw some speculation out there, what if Richardson checked the yard and did not see a body (regardless of whether it was there or not). He goes to work, finds out a murder has been committed in his back yard and returns. Questioned by Chandler, he gives an accurate statement 'I had a look in the yard, didn't notice a body'.
                    Afterwards, concerned about being at the scene of a crime, and possibly about his workmates mentioning to the police that he had to borrow a knife that morning, he crafts the story of sitting on the step to make it undisputable that the body was not there, as such he didn't do it.
                    Was the story of the steps just to reinforce what he believed but worried he couldn't prove, that when he had a check of the yard, he saw no body?
                    Not a personal theory, but hey, we need something to debate.
                    If he could invent a bogus story about cutting the leather, then why would he not be able to invent one about being in the yard and checking it out? You see, although some will tell you that he could not have invented it all, the fact is that he could well have.

                    The crux of the question asked in this thread is that reliability depends on empiri. Once we can check the veracity of a witness, we can speak of reliability of a witnesses behalf. But what is there that we can check in Richardsons case? Nothing. And I think this is where things go wrong. People tend to think that the three witnesses Richardson, Cadosch and Long mutually confirm each other, and so they reason that since Long and Cadosch claimed to have
                    seen/heard Annie Chapman at around 5.30, Richardson must have been right about the body not being there earlier, when he visited. And then they take this "fact" as evidence for Richardson having told the truth on the matter, and that elevates him to being a reliable witness.

                    It is as simple as it is fraught with danger.
                    Last edited by Fisherman; 10-21-2019, 09:41 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Trevor Marriott View Post

                      I am inclined to agree. There are clear and obvious conflicts in both his inquest testimony, and what is reported in the newspapers. Where does the real truth lie? 130 years later we cannot establish the real truth, and it is pointless researchers keep coming up with explanations to explain away the conflicts in a way that suits their own belief.

                      Did he miss seeing the body,? based on one of his accounts yes he could have.

                      If the same killer was responsible for the other victims, he was taking a chance by killing at that time of the morning in a dead end location where he might have been seen or even detained. If the same killer did he take those same risks previous, would he take them again? The answers are no to both. So that might help to try to accept or reject Richardson's testimony.

                      As to bump and bangs, and the echo of a voice early in the morning in Whitechapel when people were getting up, and moving about again from an evidential perspective these aslo doesn't stand up to close scrutiny either.

                      www.trevormarriott.co.uk
                      But surely he did take the same risks again, i.e. if you accept Eddowes was murdered by the same individual. Thus, the latter victim was killed in a location that was regularly patrolled by two police officers, and he therefore risked being caught at any time. Moreover, even being seen entering the square, by three witnesses, didn't dissuade him.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Wickerman View Post
                        All the points you made Herlock are spot-on, Richardson was reliable in my view. There is no basis for those objections to his story.

                        Cheers Wick
                        Regards

                        Herlock






                        "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Trevor Marriott View Post

                          But were they genuine. If you know you have provided false information whether that be deliberate or accidentally and you have been found out you are going to try to rectify the situation.
                          The additional detail provided by Richardson at the inquest doesn't contradict what he'd previously told Chandler, so I don't see why the info he gave Chandler was false in the first place.
                          Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                          "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            . And noone can confirm that he actually WAS in the yard. There is no corroboration, quite simply.
                            No one can confirm or corroborate that Chandler was correct and that he didn’t mention sitting on the steps either though.

                            Yes, he could. It is all a question of how he sat on the stairs - which in it´s turn is of course not a proven thing that he even did in the first place.

                            Obviously we disagree on this one. It’s asking too much to suggest that he walked through a door and went down two steps without pushing the door open easily wide enough to have seen the body. Or that he then sat on the step facing to his right with the door resting against the left hand side of his body. And even if he did do these things it’s simply unthinkable that he wouldn’t have realised the possibility that the body might have remained hidden. Especially considering the fact that he actually saw the body. He was absolutely certain that he couldn’t have missed a corpse had it been there.


                            Regards

                            Herlock






                            "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                            Comment


                            • #15



                              .

                              [B]If he could invent a bogus story about cutting the leather, then why would he not be able to invent one about being in the yard and checking it out? You see, although some will tell you that he could not have invented it all, the fact is that he could well have.
                              The problem for me is that if someone invents a ‘bogus’ story they must have had a reason for doing so. The only suggestion that has been put forward, as far as I’m aware, about why he said what he did was to add weight to his story of sitting on the steps (after the Coroner pointed out the bluntness of his own knife) to repair his shoe. But the story of the second knife doesn’t help him because nowhere does he suggest that he borrowed the second knife from someone at the market and then returned to number 29 and the back step. So why would he make this up?

                              This is why I suggest the possibility that he might have done some work on his shoe at number 29 but he needed a sharper knife to complete the job. And as Etenguy has suggested, maybe Richardson just wasn’t one of life’s great communicators? Maybe the Press made errors.
                              Regards

                              Herlock






                              "Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”

                              Comment

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