A definition of witness.


Called To Identify His Daughter's Body

Edward Walker had not heard from his daughter, Mary Nichols, since receiving a letter from her at Easter, 1888,

Then, he was contacted by the police and taken to the mortuary, where he had the awful task of identifying the body of the Buck's Row victim as that of his daughter.

He was the first witness to be called at the inquest into her death when it opened on Saturday, 1st September, 1888.

A week later, on Saturday, 8th September, 1888, The East London Observer, published his inquest testimony:-


An old, grey headed, and grey-bearded man, who, with head lowered and hands behind his back, came slowly up to the table and gave the name of Edward Walker, his address being at 16, Maidwood-street, Albany-road, Camberwell.

He said that he was formerly a smith.

To the best of his belief the body at the mortuary was that of his daughter, whom he had not seen for three years.

He recognised it by the general appearance, the loss of some front teeth, and a small mark on the forehead, caused when the deceased was a child.

She was 42 years old.

About 22 years ago she was married to a man named William Nicholls, who was still alive. He was a printer's machinist. He and the deceased had been living apart for seven or eight years.

The witness last heard of his daughter last Easter, when she wrote him the following letter, from a house in Wandsworth in which she had just before obtained a situation as a domestic servant:-

"I just write to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going on all right up to now. My people went out yesterday, and have not returned, so I am left in charge. It is a grand place inside, with trees and gardens back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotallers, and religious, so I ought to get on. They are very nice people, and I have not too much to do. I hope you are all right and the boy has work. So goodbye for the present.

From yours truly
"Answer soon, please, and let me know how you are."

He replied to this letter, but had not heard from his daughter since.

He last saw her alive two years ago, in June, I886. She was apparently respectable then, but he did not speak to her. It was at a funeral.

He was not friendly with her.

She lived with him three or four years ago, and after a few words she left him. He did not know what she did afterwards.

She was not particularly sober, and that was why they did not agree. He did not think that she was fast. He had me idea of such a thing. She did not stay out particularly late at night. The worst he had seen of her was her keeping company with females of a certain class.

After she wrote to him from Wandsworth he sent a kind letter back to her, but he did not see or hear anything of her until he was called to view the body. He had kept her letter because it was his habit to keep letters.

It was not the case that he turned her out of doors. She had no cause to be "like this." He had always had a home for her.

She had separated from her husband because he "turned nasty" over another man. Her husband left her, and took another woman to live with.

The deceased had had five children, of whom the eldest, a young man, was 21 years old, and the youngest, eight. The eldest was living with the witness, and the other four children with their father.

He believed that three or four years ago the deceased lived with a man who kept a smith's shop in York-street, Walworth.

He did not know that she had lived with any other man; but on one occasion the parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for her maintenance. His defence was that she was living with another man. She denied it, but summons was dismissed.

Until he heard of the murder he did not know that she had left the situation at Wandsworth. Just before taking it she was in Lambeth Workhouse.

He knew of nothing likely to throw light on the inquiry. He was not aware that she had any enemies. She was always too good for that. Her only fault was being too good."

Source: The East London Observer, Saturday, 8th September, 1888.