THE MURDER OF ELIZABETH STRIDE
At 1 a.m. Louise Diemshutz, the steward of the International Working Men's Educational Club, returned to Dutfield’s Yard from Westow Hill Market, near Crystal Palace, where he had spent the day hawking the cheap jewellery.
As he turned his pony and cart into the yard his pony shied to the left and refused to go any further. Looking into the yard, Diemshutz saw a dark or lying on the ground close to the wall of the club. Leaning forward he prodded it with his whip and tried to lift it.
When this proved unsuccessful he jumped down to investigate and struck a match to get a better view. It was windy that night and the match was extinguished almost immediately. But in the brief seconds flickering light, he saw that it was a woman lying on the ground.
Thinking it might be his wife he went into the club by the side entrance and finding his wife safe, told several club members, “There's a woman lying in the yard, but I cannot say whether she is drunk or dead.”
Taking a candle, Diemshutz returned to the yard with several other club members. Now he noticed blood by the body, and those present winced in horror, when they saw that the woman's throat had been cut.
The various club members rushed from the yard and hurried off into the surrounding streets to find a police constable. Diemshutz and a companion headed along Fairclough Street shouting “Murder” and “Police.” At its junction with Christian Street, they met Edward Spooner. He asked what all the fuss was about and when they told him he returned with them to Dutfield’s Yard where around fifteen people were gathered.
Spooner stooped down, lifted the woman’s chin and found it to be slightly warm. As Spooner tilted the head back Diemshutz got his first glimpse of just how terrible the wound to her throat was. “I could see that her throat was fearfully cut,” he told a journalist later that day. “There was a great gash in it over two inches wide.”
A stream of blood ran from the woman’s throat and up the yard towards the door of the club. There was also a doubled up piece of paper in the woman’s right hand, which it later transpired was a packet of cachous, or breath fresheners.
Morris Eagle and another club member had headed out of Berner Street and gone right along Commercial Road. Here they met PC Henry Lamb and told him “Come on! There has been another murder.” Lamb alerted PC Edward Collins and together they followed the two men back to Dutfield’s Yard where the crowd had now swelled to some 20 or 30 people.
Lamb ordered the bystanders to keep back lest they get blood on their clothing and “find themselves in trouble,” and told Collins to go at once for Dr Frederick William Blackwell who lived at 100 Commercial Street. He then sent Morris Eagle to Leman Street Police Station to summon further assistance.
As the two men headed off, Lamb stooped down and felt the woman’s face, it was still slightly warm. However, when he felt her wrist he could detect no sign of a pulse. When asked by the Coroner at the subsequent inquest whether the woman’s clothing had been disturbed, Lamb replied “No. I could scarcely see her boots,” and added, “she looked like she had been quietly laid down.”
Dr Blackwell arrived in the Yard at 1.16am and having pronounced the woman dead, gave it has his opinion that she had been dead for between 20 – 30 minutes. He noted that the woman was wearing a check silk scarf, the bow of which was turned to the left and pulled tightly. At the inquest he stated that he had formed the opinion that the killer had first taken hold of the back of the silk scarf, and pulled his victim backwards onto the ground. He, however, couldn’t be certain whether the woman’s throat was cut whilst she was standing or after she had been pulled backwards.
Once the killer had cut her throat, slicing through the windpipe, she would not have been able to cry out, and would have bled to death within about a minute and a half.
Shortly after Dr Blackwell’s arrival PC Lamb gave orders to close the gates into Dutfield’s Yard and told everybody to remain where they were. He then carried out a search of the club premises, examining people’s hands and clothing for bloodstains in the process.
Having found nothing suspicious, he went round to the cottages at the rear of number 42 Berner Street, and woke the residents who had apparently remained asleep throughout the excitement of the previous 30 or so minutes. The residents appeared very frightened, and when they asked Lamb what had happened he told them "nothing much," as he didn’t want to alarm them further.
Lamb then returned to the body to find that Inspector West, Inspector Pinhorn and Dr Phillips had arrived at the scene.
Inspector Edmund Reid was alerted by telegram at 1.25am and headed directly to Berner Street from Commercial Street Police Station. When he arrived Phillips and Blackwell were examining the woman’s throat.
All the people in the yard were then interrogated and there names and addresses taken. Once they had given a satisfactory account of themselves and their movements, and their hands and pockets had been inspected and searched, they were allowed to leave.
A more thorough search was then made of the cottages and the names of the residents ascertained. Hopes of apprehending the killer in his hiding place were briefly raised when the door of a loft was found to be locked from the inside. But on forcing it open the police found it empty. Reid then minutely inspected the wall near to where the body was lying and found no traces of blood on it.
At 4.30am the body was removed to St George’s Mortuary in Cable Street and at 5am PC Albert Collins washed the blood away from the yard.