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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Victims > Elizabeth Stride

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  #1  
Old 05-11-2015, 07:42 AM
Trevor Marriott Trevor Marriott is offline
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Default The Cachous

In an attempt to try to resolve the issues surrounding the cachous and Stride being found still gripping them I posed several questions to my forensic pathologist.

The questions and his interesting replies are set out below

Q One of the victims who had her throat cut was found still clutching cachous "firmly" in her hand. Is there any plausible explanations of this, bearing in mind if she were standing when her throat was cut would they not fall out or would there be some form of spasm which would make her grip them tight, and hold onto them, and would this be different if she had her throat cut whilst laying on the ground?

A. One of the phenomena handed down through the generations in forensic folklore is so-called “cadaveric spasm”. This is supposed to be where the normal stiffening of a dead body after death doesn’t take several hours to develop, but occurs “instantaneously” at the point of death. Classically sited examples are things like soldiers being found on the battlefield “clutching” their weapons or bodies recovered from water with bits of grass, weed or straw clutched in the hand… hence the expression “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”.

I think most forensic pathologists these days don’t believe that such “instantaneous” rigor mortis really happens, although it is known that rigor can develop very quickly after death. So it is possible that someone can die holding onto something, and by the time they are found (even only a short time later) the fingers can feel quite stiff around the object being grasped. I doubt anyone would refer to it as “cadaveric spasm” these days, but you will see it recorded in the books.

For the case you mentioned, there would be no difference (i.e. between lying or standing) than can reliably be inferred from such a finding. All it means is that she was probably holding them at the time of death, and they were still there by the time she was found and rigor mortis had already started. This is not unusual… the modern equivalent would be a driver found inside a mangled car, still clutching a mobile phone tightly (with a half-typed text message on the screen).

I hope that clarifies the situation, even though I know it probably doesn’t help take you much further.

www.trevormarriott.co.uk
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  #2  
Old 05-11-2015, 07:53 AM
John G John G is offline
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Hello Trevor,

Thanks for this. I don't think anyone would seriously doubt that Stride was still holding the cachous at the time she was killed, particularly if she was the victim of a sudden, unexpected attack from behind; the only other alternative being that she was posed with the cachous by her killer. Of course, the central issue is whether she could have retained them during the preceding assault described by Schwartz.

Last edited by John G : 05-11-2015 at 08:09 AM.
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  #3  
Old 05-11-2015, 08:01 AM
Jon Guy Jon Guy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trevor Marriott View Post
In an attempt to try to resolve the issues surrounding the cachous and Stride being found still gripping them I posed several questions to my forensic pathologist.

The questions and his interesting replies are set out below

Q One of the victims who had her throat cut was found still clutching cachous "firmly" in her hand. Is there any plausible explanations of this, bearing in mind if she were standing when her throat was cut would they not fall out or would there be some form of spasm which would make her grip them tight, and hold onto them, and would this be different if she had her throat cut whilst laying on the ground?

A. One of the phenomena handed down through the generations in forensic folklore is so-called “cadaveric spasm”. This is supposed to be where the normal stiffening of a dead body after death doesn’t take several hours to develop, but occurs “instantaneously” at the point of death. Classically sited examples are things like soldiers being found on the battlefield “clutching” their weapons or bodies recovered from water with bits of grass, weed or straw clutched in the hand… hence the expression “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”.

I think most forensic pathologists these days don’t believe that such “instantaneous” rigor mortis really happens, although it is known that rigor can develop very quickly after death. So it is possible that someone can die holding onto something, and by the time they are found (even only a short time later) the fingers can feel quite stiff around the object being grasped. I doubt anyone would refer to it as “cadaveric spasm” these days, but you will see it recorded in the books.

For the case you mentioned, there would be no difference (i.e. between lying or standing) than can reliably be inferred from such a finding. All it means is that she was probably holding them at the time of death, and they were still there by the time she was found and rigor mortis had already started. This is not unusual… the modern equivalent would be a driver found inside a mangled car, still clutching a mobile phone tightly (with a half-typed text message on the screen).

I hope that clarifies the situation, even though I know it probably doesn’t help take you much further.

www.trevormarriott.co.uk
Thanks for putting this to your pathologist, Trevor.

Did the pathologist see the actual inquest reports as reported in the news papers ?

The answer was as I expected, but Stride`s hand was relaxing after death, and wasn`t yet in any stage of rigor mortis.
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  #4  
Old 05-11-2015, 08:41 AM
Trevor Marriott Trevor Marriott is offline
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Originally Posted by Jon Guy View Post
Thanks for putting this to your pathologist, Trevor.

Did the pathologist see the actual inquest reports as reported in the news papers ?

The answer was as I expected, but Stride`s hand was relaxing after death, and wasn`t yet in any stage of rigor mortis.
Hi John
He has seen them and already commented on them. We can only go on what was described back then, if that wasn't reported accurately in 1888 then we have no chance of getting to the truth.

www.trevormarriott.co.uk
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Old 05-11-2015, 08:51 AM
Jon Guy Jon Guy is online now
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Hi John
He has seen them and already commented on them. We can only go on what was described back then, if that wasn't reported accurately in 1888 then we have no chance of getting to the truth.

www.trevormarriott.co.uk
Cheers Trevor.

Absolutely, I feel happier knowing the pathologist has seen Dr Phillips actual words, or what he is reported as saying.
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  #6  
Old 05-11-2015, 08:55 AM
Errata Errata is offline
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I'm not sure it's the physics after death that could have been the issue. She wasn't found standing up or sitting with her hand dangling. Gravity wasn't an issue. Once she was dead her hand would stay in the position it was in when she died. It might loosen her grip a little, but the fingers aren't going to magically straighten out without electrical activity in the brain telling them to. Curled or clenched fingers are a natural position, especially if the hand is in a position where uncurling the fingers takes an actual effort, like if the fingers of the fist were against the ground or her body. If she died that way she stayed that way. The question I think is more why did she die that way? Why didn't she drop the cachous while she was still alive? And there are a number of answers to that question. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to ask "Why didn't she drop them after she was dead?". It's because she was dead. And the only thing a dead person can do after dying is drop to the ground if they happened to be standing up, because standing actually requires millions of minute changes and alterations to stay standing.
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Old 05-11-2015, 09:07 AM
John G John G is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Errata View Post
I'm not sure it's the physics after death that could have been the issue. She wasn't found standing up or sitting with her hand dangling. Gravity wasn't an issue. Once she was dead her hand would stay in the position it was in when she died. It might loosen her grip a little, but the fingers aren't going to magically straighten out without electrical activity in the brain telling them to. Curled or clenched fingers are a natural position, especially if the hand is in a position where uncurling the fingers takes an actual effort, like if the fingers of the fist were against the ground or her body. If she died that way she stayed that way. The question I think is more why did she die that way? Why didn't she drop the cachous while she was still alive? And there are a number of answers to that question. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to ask "Why didn't she drop them after she was dead?". It's because she was dead. And the only thing a dead person can do after dying is drop to the ground if they happened to be standing up, because standing actually requires millions of minute changes and alterations to stay standing.
Hello Errata,

Actually that's a very good point. And presumably therefore, a dead person would drop to the ground fairly rapidly. Of course, in respect of the assault allegedly witnessed by Schwartz, she was very much alive at that point, and therefore would be in a position to take action to break her fall, i.e by throwing out her arms and spreading her hands.
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  #8  
Old 05-11-2015, 09:21 AM
Batman Batman is offline
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Dr. Blackwell tells us that the reason why the hard to see sweets where in the position found was because the hand had relaxed.

A simple easy peasy solution is that she thought it was a robbery and brought them out for him to take or already had them out and wanted to protect them.

Since he didn't display a knife how was she to know her fate???
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  #9  
Old 05-11-2015, 09:35 AM
John G John G is offline
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This makes no sense to me at all. Thus, based upon Schwartz's evidence, BS man tries to pull Stride into the street. Now, as he clearly fails, Stride must have resisted, and her natural inclination would surely have been to throw out both arms to resist, particularly as he was clearly bigger and stronger than she was .That means that she would have dropped the cachous at this point. The only other somewhat ludicrous alternative is that she gets involved in a tug of war match with BS man, as she desperately tries to hold on to the cachous as if they were the crown jewels, which makes no sense anyway as clearly her instinct, and all of her energies, at this point were clearly being focussed on preventing BS man from pulling her into the street.

However, not only do they survive this part of the assault, without any being dropped, or indeed any spillage, but they subsequently survive Stride being spun round and thrown to the ground at which point, as has been perfectly iliustrated by c.d., her natural inclination would be to throw out her arms to break the fall, thus dropping the cachous. Of course, in any event the bag would be unlikely to survive the impact of Stride being thrown to the ground.

Moreover, the idea that Stride was dim-witted enough to believe that a street robber would be targeting her for the cachous, or crazy enough to want to protect something so trivial from a violent assailant is, to my mind, completely untenable. However, maybe someone should do some research into the prevalence of Victorian cachous street robberies!

Last edited by John G : 05-11-2015 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 05-11-2015, 11:14 AM
Batman Batman is offline
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To understand this John you need to see value through the eyes of alcoholic, sick and starved people whose prized assets include a piece of broken mirror and whom would fight to blows over a piece of soap. You might have given up, but I give a streetwise woman like Stride more credit than you do.

Anyway she may have pulled out the cachous after being dragged into the yard to give to her 'robber'. So all your motions and stuff have no impact on them at all.
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Last edited by Batman : 05-11-2015 at 11:16 AM.
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