The Bucks Row Project Summary Report.
Well here we are at last, the summary report on Bucks Row, long promised, also long delayed, but finally here.
This is meant only as a summary of the work, the full details and arguments are part of a 530+ page book, “Inside Bucks Row”, available as a PDF file in late November. It’s a fully interactive work, linking to the internet to allow in depth study of the scene of the murder of Mary Ann Nichols.
Enough of the plug, onto the summary report.
The report is split into various subheadings, which I hope will give an overview of the work. We will begin with Timings and Witness Statements, as other issues are heavily dependent on these issues.
Although the first part of the project was a look at the various possible timings involved in the case, that is not what I mean here.
Timings in this context applies to just how reliable are the various times quoted? The problems with time keeping and synchronization in the LVP are well know and have been discussed very often, both here and in other places.
After carefully analysis my conclusion is that we cannot accept any of the times quoted in the Bucks Row Murder as being absolute and set in stone, we must in my view allow a margin of up to 5 minutes in either direction. I am sure this is not a surprise, nor news to most observers.
However, what we can do is use relative times, that is how quickly after event A is event B likely to have occurred, in this case an example would be what is the quickest possible time PC Neil could arrive at the body of Mary Ann Nichols, after the carmen, Lechmere/Cross and Paul depart from the site and head West down Bucks Row.
The conclusion reached, based on the evidence of the two carmen and Neil, is that the very fastest this could have occurred is between approximately 3 and 3.5 minutes depending on the exact pace walked by John Neil.
2. The Variability and Validity of Witness statements.
Part two of the project was of course an analysis of the various witness statements which are available to us today.
The major issue we have is that the official transcript of the Inquest has not survived the 130 years from 1888 to 2018; We therefore have no option but to rely on the various and numerous newspaper reports. Many of these are syndicated, but still have odd differences between reports, sometime just typos, others may be the work of the papers editor.
What we do see however is that the reports are very variable, often giving completely different accounts of the same events, such as just which of the slaughter men went to the murder scene first.
On occasions Different names are sometimes used for the same person, Emily Holland / Jane Oram being an example.
In some witness reports details are left out, such as addresses, this occurs with both Mulshaw and Llewellyn for instance.
We also have reports which are not from the Inquest, such as that of Robert Paul in Lloyds Weekly 2nd September, and that of Harriet Lilley Echo 6th, both of these reports need to be treated with great caution, for differing reasons.
In the case of Paul, because he shows a tendency to be anti police and to take the lead role. In the case of Lilley, caution needs to be shown because she was not called to the inquest. (In the case of Paul, much of what he says in the report can be corroborated by the testimonies of either Lechmere or Mizen).
While of course we have little to work with except the witness statements as given by the press, we must not treat them as being set in stone, indeed we should consider all suspect to some degree unless there is secondary corroboration.
We shall now move on to the question of the geography of the area and how it may have effected events.
3. The road layout in 1888.
The truth of the matter is that the road layout has altered greatly since 31st August 1888. Many of the roads which existed then are long gone. This includes parts of the route Lechmere may have taken from his home towards Bucks Row. The Home of Robert Paul is gone, as is the very last stretch of the road both he and Lechmere would have walked before entering Brady Street.
4. Correcting the idea that cross must have been seen by Paul
Once we have established the correct layout for the roads in 1888,(the 1893-96 OS map, available online at the National Library of Scotland is a great help here) we can start to look at the question of if Paul should, or indeed could, have seen Lechmere sooner than is reported.
The very first thing we need to be clear about here is just what information do we really have.
Robert Paul, never says when he first becomes aware of Lechmere, just that he sees a man standing in the road who is level with the body of Mary Ann Nichols.
One point which is often overlooked, is that Paul is shown the body by Lechmere. So his description of Lechmere being level or close to the body is in all probability retrospective, that is Paul in all probability does not see the body at the same instances he sees Lechmere. Paul only becomes aware that Lechmere is level with the body after Lechmere tells him, that is after the event.
Lechmere on the other hand says that he becomes firstly aware of the body, as he comes close to it position in Bucks Row, he only then becomes aware of Paul, whom he estimates is some 40 yards behind.
That is what we have, no more, no less.
Yet a case is constantly made that Paul should have seen Lechmere earlier; given that we do not know at what point Paul first becomes aware of Lechmere, this is a strange proposition to make.
In the full work, I look at the various speeds the two men may or could have been walking at that morning, the possible distance they may have been apart when Paul left his home in Foster Street., With that done, it is clear that there is every possibility that they would not have been aware of each other until well into Bucks Row.
This is even more probably when we take into account the possible lighting that morning. Both Paul and Lechmere say it was dark, and PC Neil adds that he needed to use his lamp to see the body clearly. The question of lighting in Bucks Row is unfortunately one for which no definitive conclusion can be drawn on, it was however dark.
A further point which needs to be considered is one of personal perception, if this was a route Paul took every day, he may well have switched off so to speak, true he said the spot was a possible trouble spot, which may lead to his switching back on as he walked along Bucks Row, and could account for him noticing Lechmere at this point.
The next issue, may or may not be somewhat controversial, those which immediately follow on from it certainly are.
5. Pc Neil the Centre of all things.
Here I will go back to the issue of relative time, and doing such suggests that John Neil may be viewed as the most important witness of all. Every event from the moment that Lechmere becomes aware of Paul until the arrival of the ambulance can be related to back to John Neil. And even the murder itself happens after his pass at 3.15.
Let me explain: we know the carmen did not, see, hear or pass PC Neil as they went West down Bucks Row, we also know that PC Neil was not aware of them.
We can therefore assume that he was not within sigh of them as they passed along Bucks Row. From this we can asses where he may have been for this to occur.
Some claim that he may have been skiving, either with the constable in Great Eastern Yard or at Harrison, Barber, but there is absolutely no evidence to back such ideas up.
If we therefore disregard this possibility, we have to look at where Neil could be to allow mutual non-detection.
It would help if we knew is exact beat of Neil, which we don’t. However we can look at the various possibilities, from the very short route as shown in the documentary “The Missing Evidence”, the medium length route as in “CSI Whitechapel by Begg and Bennet, up to the longer route in the Echo 20th September.
While I personally favour the later, we need to look at the possible positions in ALL
the alternative beats.
Here I was not looking for the furthest away Neil could have been, but the closest. We end up with Neil being positioned either in the Whitechapel Road, or in the very bottom few yards of Thomas Street, or in a yard in Bakers Row or in the top section of Queen Ann Street or in Cross Street between Queen Ann and Thomas Streets.
Using a reasonable walking pace for the carmen and the regulation beat speed for Neil we can say that the closest that Neil could have been to the body after the carmen left was about 3.5 minutes away at 2.5mph.
Of course it has been suggested in this forum that 3mph may have been walked at night, and I have allowed for this possibility too, which would reduce that time by about 30seconds.
From here we can estimate the quickest time Paul and Lechmere could have reached Mizen relative to the Neil’s arrival at the body, and thus estimate when he (Mizen) should have arrived back at Brown’s Yard, and did he come close to this estimate, based on Neil’s testimony.
We can then also estimate when Mizen could have arrived back with the ambulance from Bethnal Green police Station.
We can also estimate when Thain would have arrived, when he would have got to Dr Llewellyn. We can then compare these estimates to the testimony of Llewellyn.
We now move onto what certainly are two controversial areas.
6. The so called Scam.
In “Inside Bucks Row”, I give 5 separate explanations for the differences in the accounts of Lechmere, Paul and Mizen. I propose a scenario that is highly controversial, in that it is Mizen, who does not tell the truth, he lies there is no other term to use.
I provide numerous pieces of evidence to back this up, this incudes Witness statements, Press reports, timings and the interpretation of Official Police Reports. It should be noted that this option for the scam is actually backed by early comments attributed to Mizen himself.
7. The Blood Evidence.
This is another very controversial area, It has been claimed that this theory actually places Lechmere at the murder site when the Wounds area inflected on Mary Ann Nichols, let me be very clear here, IT DOES NO SUCH THING.
The theory at first appears to be very persuasive, apparently backed by the noted medic Jason Payne-James. However one needs to look carefully at what he actually says, which is far from conclusive.
The hypothesis produced by Researchers fails on several fronts, firstly it uses open ended arguments, no fixed point is given for bleeding to stop. Secondly “bleeding” is not defined clearly.
Thirdly bleeding under pressure, given the nature of the wounds to Nichols will cease in all probability before John Neil can possibly arrive at the body, and certainly long before Mizen arrives.
The actual descriptions used to support the idea that Neil and Mizen see flowing blood are open to question. Neil says the flow is oozing, yet press descriptions of “Profusely bleeding” are used as if they are direct quotes from Neil. There is no evidence at all to suggest that is the case, and indeed it can be argued that as used in the Lloyds Weekly account on 2nd, it is clearly not a quote at all, but journalistic licence.
It seems clear that the theory of being at the “eye of the storm” fails completely. At best the evidence indicates that the attack takes place close to the arrival of Lechmere, maybe less than 5 minutes before, it certainly indicates no more than that. It is not the smoking gun.
We can now turn to other equally controversial issues,
8. [b]The Mortuary[/B
The evidence given by Spratling & Enright, that they had not instructed the removal of clothing, appears to undermine the testimony of Helson who claims the body was undressed in his presence. Indeed the testimony of all 3 officers is in direct contradiction of that of the two mortuary attendants, Spratling later claims not only did he not tell the attendants to undress the body, but that he gave specific instructions not to undress the body. Such statements were not needed if the body was still clothed when Helson arrived.
In effect it appears to be a direct attempt to blame the attendants for something which Helson claims did not occur, the body being undressed with no Police present.
It seems very probable that the body was undressed, at least to some extent, before Helson arrived, and that the police simply were out of their depth and did not take control of the situation.
9. The Slaughter Men.
That the slaughter men did not tell the whole truth seems very clear. There are different stories about who went with whom to the murder site and when, and who stayed behind in the yard. It could be of course that they were just covering up for the fact they left the yard unattended. Alternatively it could be a simply a matter of being economic about the hours actually worked.
Or maybe that the police were skiving at the yard, and the slaughter men were merely covering for them.
Alternatively and more controversially perhaps is the suggestion that a pimping operation was operating from or near to the yard. The response about girls coming to the yard from Both Tomkins and Mumford is interesting when taken along with the comments of Mrs Green, who goes over the top perhaps to say there are no such girls in the area. This appears to be in contradiction to the comments of the police themselves in their report of the 19th September: “Bucks Row is a narrow quiet thoroughfare frequented*by prostitutes for immoral purposes at night ”
Finally it cannot be ruled out that the workers were involved somehow in the murders, it was certainly believed to be the case by locals immediately after the murder, and hinted at by press, the Echo in particular. The police however investigated and said there was no evidence against the men, but who knows.
All is covered in some depth in the full report.
10. The Doctor
While not wishing to disrespect Llewellyn, some of his comments are very unlikely to say the least. His assertion that the abdomen wounds were first, while possible is unlikely, and there are no details of the wounds which he claims would lead to instantaneous death. His comment that the blood had gone into the “loose tissue” again seems highly unlikely and appears to be produced to account for what he believed to be the lack of blood he observed.
However it seems he did not carry out a full study of Nichols clothing or the large amount of blood which had been absorbed by such and had even clotted between the layers of clothing according to Helson.
I respectfully suggest that he did his best, but that he was simply out of his depth, the very fact that he had to return and carry out a second examination, at the request of Baxter of the body, strongly suggests that his first examination was less than through.
11 The Press
There is little doubt that the press as a whole saw two agendas here apart from simply reporting the news. There was an immediate attempt to link this murder to earlier one of Tabram and Smith and a drive for sales which fuelled sensationalism.
Secondly there was an opportunity to attack the police force and thus by implication the commissioner Sir Charles Warren, a man unpopular with large sections of society following “Bloody Sunday”.
12 The Police.
The police response can be divided into two distinct areas: pre and post the arrival of Abberline.
The initial response was very poor, from allowing the removal of the body from the scene before a senior officer arrived, in this case by Kirby, up to and including the debacle at the mortuary and the initial search of the area, which was much criticised by Baxter.
Put simply the local inspectors Spratling and Helson appear to have been completely unable to control the situation or even record the events adequately.
They also seem to initial link the murder to Gangs, for which there appears to have been little or no actual evidence of.
Once Abberline arrives, this starts to change, he interjects at the inquest when Baxter asks questions, providing sensible solutions, such as sending for items of clothing.
There is the real possibility that the police were aware of the real course of events at the meeting between Mizen and the carmen, that the event is described in the report of 19th September as per that of the two carmen, and not as per Mizen is intereresting.
Of Course it is not possible to look at the Bucks Row murder
, without looking at the candidature of Charles Lechmere.
While on several issues: the “Scam” and “Blood” theories, I conclude that the arguments made for each, which relate to Lechmere are much weaker than is sometimes suggested, he does remains a viable candidate
for the killer of Mary Ann Nichols.
That is simply that he lived local and had opportunity, if he left home earlier than he claimed to that morning.
However, and it is a very big however, being viable, does not mean that he is probable. At present there appears to be very little actual evidence, if any which points in his direction.
He is just another of those whom lived locally and discovered a body, he is not in any way, shape or form unique in that.
Of course it may well be that there is other evidence, either not discovered or no published, such may of course change things completely.
This summary report, does not touch on the history of the murder site, whiCh is covered in great detail in the complete work, nor the comments of foreign Press also touched upon in the complete work.
Steve Blomer 17/10/18