This is a brief summary I did from Bond and Hebbert's medical notes on four of the most commonly linked torso victims of 1887, 88 and 89 from A System of Legal Medicine.
Case I July 1887 human remains consiting of eight separate parts found in Thames and Regent's canal.
the parts were:
a) lower part of the thorax and the upper part of the abdomen, from the fifth dorsal vertebra to the third lumbar vertebra
b) the pelvis below the third lumbar vertebra
c) the right thigh including patella
d) the left thigh
e) both legs and feet, the left having patella attached
f) the arms from the shoulders to the fingers.
Diaphragm was intact, lungs, heart and other thoracic viscera were absent. Liver, stomach, both kidneys and spleen present. No part of small intestines from duoedenum was found, nor the large intestine except the sigmoid flexure and rectum. In the pelvis were the uterus, vagina, ovaries and appendages and bladder.
An incision had evidently been made from the ensiform cartilage to the pubes.
Female aged over 25 to 35, fair skin of caucasian origin with dark complexion shown by the pubic hair.No mark of a wedding ring, uterus was that of a virgin, garter marks below the knee common among the lower classes.Had not borne a child and was would possibly have been unable to conceive.
Decomposition had taken place in water and some months had elapsed since death.
Cuts on the vertebrae were such as would be made by a saw, long sweeping incisions through the skin showed a very sharp knife had been used, disarticulations were neatly and cleanly done, in each case the joint being exactly opened, absence of echymosis showed all cuts made after death.
No special knowledge of anatomy shown, the cuts indicated a practical skill in amputating limbs at joints, and making clean sweeping skin cuts, such skill would be gained by a butcher or hunter, as these are in the habit of rapidly and skillfully separating limbs and cutting up a trunk into several parts. Doctors opinion that any surgeon or anatomist could not have done the work so well as they are not constantly operating, while a butcher is almost daily cutting up carcases. The limbs were separated in almost precisely the way a butcher or hunter would adopt ie making a series of cuts around the flexure of the joint and then by strong twist, wrenching out the head from the joint and cutting the capsule.
Case II September 16 1888 Whitehall torso
Right arm found first, amputation made by seven separate cuts, cleanly dividing the tissue
A few days later a portion of the trnk was found in Whitehall, it consisted of the whole thorax and upper part of the abdomen as far as the 4th lumbar vertebra.
Trunk of a female, both breasts present, comprising upper part of thorax and upper part of abdomen, head having been separated at 6th cervical vertebra, pelvis and lower part of the abdomen and at the 4th lumbar vertebra.
Heart, lungs (right one adherent to the chest wall by old adhesions) liver, spleen and kidneys present.small intestine with mesentery are in situ, a few remains of the transverse ascending and descending parts of the colon but lower parts absent as well as the pelvic viscera.
A fortnight after the trunk was found the left leg and foot were discovered, the limb had been separated from the thigh at the knee joint, the patella being absent. The joint was exactly opened, incisions had clean and well defined edges.
Trunk is that of a large well nourished female, appearance of breasts suggest she was of an age of sexual maturity and had not suckled children, it could not be decided if she had been a mother [uterus was missing ]
The trunk was mutilated after death and death had probably occured 2 months previously, decomposition had taken place in the air as shown by the presence of maggots.
The arm in the second case had been cut from the trunk in a precisely similar manner to that in the first case [1887 Regent's Canal]; Doctors believed that the modes of separation of the arms and the mutilation of the trunk was in every respect identical.
Case III Thames and Battersea area
Parts found were:
a) two large flaps of skin, the uterus and placenta
b) Both arms and hands
c) Both thighs
d) Both legs and feet
e) The trunk divided into 3 parts
Head and neck taken off opposite the 6th cervical vertebra, skin muscles and vessels divided cleanly by a series of cuts.This part was separated from the trunk below at the junction of the 7th and 8th dorsal vertebrae.
Chest opened in front by the mid line, upper part of sternum cut through, contents of chest removed.
Arms removed by 3 or 4 long sweeping cuts, joints neatly disarticulated. Decomposition had not far advanced.
Legs had been removed at the knee joint, the left having the patella attached.
Second portion of trunk included both breats and the upper part of the abdomen, also opened down the sternum.
Intestines had been removed duodenum and a piece of stomach remained. Also present both kidneys, splean, pancreas and liver.
Third portion of trunkconsisted of pelvis from below 3rd lumbar vertebra, thighs taken off by long sweeping incisions through skin and muscle, heads of joints neatly disarticulated. Pelvis contained the lower part of the vagina, lower part of the rectum, front part of bladder and urethra.
Flaps of skin consisted of 2 long irregular slips taken from the abdominal walls, left piece included the umbilicus, greater part of the mons veneris, left labium majus, and labium minus. Right piece included the rest of the mons veneris, right labium majus amd minus and part of the skin of the right buttock. The upper part of the vagina was attached to the uterus, both ovaries and broad ligaments present and posterior wall of bladder. Uterus had been opened on the left side by a vertical cut 6 in long through the left wall, inside uterus were the placenta, cord and membranes.
Pegnant female, pregnancy advanced to between 6 and 7 months, Undelivered at the time of her death, the foetus had been removed by an incision throught the walls of the uterus after death. Decomposition partly in water, partly in air, death occured 24 hours before the first discovery.Marks made on the left ring finger by forcible removal of a ring, scar on the left wrist.
24 to 25 years old with sandy coloured hair and fair complexion.Well formed and well nourished.
Mutilations carried out after death by some person with considerable technical knowledge of the speediest mode of cutting up animals. the system of division of the parts gave evidence of design and skill, not the anatomical knowledge of a surgeon but rather the aptitude learned by a butcher, horse knackerer or other person used to dealing with dead animals and to readily separate limbs at the joints.
Victim later identified as Elizabeth Jackson
Case IV September 11 1889 Pinchin Street Whitechapel
Remains consisted of the trunk and arms of a female body, head cut off at lower part of neck, thighs sparated at hip joints.
Rigor mortis had passed off, the cut surfaces of the hips were black and dry but the surfaces at the neck moist and red.
The skin of the abdomen had been cut by a vertical incision, running from two inches below the ensiform cartilage downwards and ending on the left side of the external genitals, just opening the vagina but not opening the peritoneal cavity. There were a number of small round bruises on the forearms and arms, most on the inner surface of the forearms and varying in size from a shilling to a sixpence.On the left wrist were 2 cuts one just grazing the skin.
Incision sparating the head was 2 in number. The spinal column was divided at the junction of the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae.
Thighs separated at hip joints, the skin cut through by 2 or 3 sweeping circular incisions. the capsule of the hip joints were opened and the heads neatly disarticulated.
Age above 25 but not yet reached menopause, possibly over 25 but under 40. Had not borne children. Apparently not a virgin. Skin fair and hair dark brown, hands shapely and the skin soft with right little finger showing a small circular hardening, as might be made by writing.
No mark on the ring finger.
Immediate cause of death was syncope, as shown by the condition of the heart and general bloodlessness of the tissue which would indicate hemorrage as the cause of syncope.
All cuts made after death with a sharp knife and all made from left to right except those separating the right thigh and right arm which had been carried from right to left across the flexure joints so probably done by a right handed man.
The incisions were made with skill and design and were skillfully performed as by a man who had some knowledge of the position of joints and the readiest means of separating limbs, such as a butcher or slaughterer would possess. No secial knowledge of anatomy of the human body shown.
This is a brilliant overview of these intangible crimes, and I must surely congratulate you on your research and findings.
One thing though, that has always bothered me, with these torso murders, especially when they are associated with dispersal through the medium of flowing water courses, is the fact that the registered boatmen of London were able to earn as much as five pounds for every corpse they found in the rivers and streams of the metropolis... or part of a corpse they found.
In other words, I have often imagined such boatmen coming across a five pound corpse in the river, and then turning that into a fifty pound corpse by turning it into a torso with all its associated bits and pieces.
Money for old rope?
Thanks Cap'n Jack...nice to have you here
I think I read though that before a certain date (which I forget now, late 1880's maybe) the finders of torso's had to share the reward money between them and didn't get paid per piece, although I believe one coroner did bring this up as being unfair and changed the rules for that case.
Anyway, only two of these four particular cases involved water, they would certainly have had to go to a lot of trouble to chop up Elizabeth Jackson's body and then reparcel it up again in smaller segments using her own own clothing to do it....and then have some of their precious and valuable portions found by non boatmen!
Yeah Stan I think that's right, the 1887 Rainham was thought to be a miss Cross right up until the finding of the lower legs....then they decided the feet were too tiny to be her, as she was known to be a bit of a clodhopper. After finding the lower legs they also decided it was a the body of a woman of good breeding because she had delicately formed calves, ankles and heels!
I think Grey Hunter covered the identification of the Pinchin St torso as Lydia Hart on the old boards, didn't she turn out to be still alive or something? and I think Chris Scott also found another alternative name for this victim in the Spanish press, can't remember what it was offhand though. I'm not sure about the Whitehall one, I haven't come across anything yet.
I meant to mention something else in connection with the torso's when putting up those details, but forgot.
The Whitehall torso killing actually may have been around the same time as the Nichols murder. Although the actual torso was found in October according to casebook, the arm that was said to have been part of the same body was found a little earlier than that. The doctors gave the opinion that the Whitehall torso murder had been committed 2 months previously, possibly at the end of August.