A definition of witness.


Questioned At Mary Nichols's Inquest

James Hatfield was a resident pauper at Whitechapel Workhouse who assisted Robert Mann to undress the body of Mary Nichols at the Workhouse mortuary.

He appeared as a witness on the fourth day of the inquest, Monday, 17th September, 1888, into the death of Mary Nichols, and was quizzed by the Coroner, Wynne Baxter, as to the sequence of events that had unfolded at the mortuary,

The Dover Express published a brief summary of his testimony on Friday, 21st September, 1888:-

James Hatfield, another old man, also in the workhouse uniform, said he assisted Mann to strip the body, and he described how this was done.

They cut some of the clothes and tore others, to get them off.

He and Mann were quite alone.

The deceased did not have any stays on.

A Juryman (indignantly): Why when we were in the yard you showed me the stays. You even put them on to show me how small they were. (Laughter.)

The witness said had no recollection of such a thing, and the coroner remarked that it was useless to examine this witness further, as he, too, evidently had an impaired memory."

Source: The Dover Express, Friday, 21st September, 1888.


Reynolds's Newspaper, published a fuller account of his testimony on Sunday, 23rd September, 1888:-


James Hatfield, an inmate of the Whitechapel Workhouse, said that he accompanied Mann, the last witness, to the mortuary, and undressed the deceased.

Witness: "Inspector Helson was not there."

The Coroner: "Who was there?"

Witness: "Me and my mate."

The Coroner: "What did you take off first?"

Witness: "An ulster, which I put aside on the ground. We then took the jacket off, and put it in the same place. The outside dress was loose, and we did not cut it. The bands of the petticoats were cut and I then tore them down with my hand. I tore the chemise down the front. There were no stays."

The Coroner: "Who gave you instructions to do all this?"

Witness: "No one gave us any. We did it to have the body ready for the doctor."

The Coroner: "Who told you a doctor was coming?"

Witness: "I heard someone speak about it."

The Coroner: "Was anyone present whilst you were undressing the body?"

Witness: "Not as I was aware of."

The Coroner: "Having finished, did you make the post-mortem examination?"

Witness: "No, the police came."

The Coroner: "Oh, it was not necessary for you to go on with it when the police came?"

Witness: "Yes, they examined the petticoats and found the words "Lambeth Workhouse" on the bands."

The Coroner: "It was cut out?"

Witness: "I cut it out."

The Coroner: "Who told you to do it?"

Witness: "Inspector Helson."

The Coroner: "Is that the first time you saw Inspector Helson on that morning?"

Witness: "Yes; I arrived at about half-past six."

The Coroner: "Would you be surprised to find that there were stays?"

Witness: "No."

A Juryman: "Did not you try the stays on in the afternoon to show me how short they were?"

Witness: "I forgot it."

The Coroner: "He admits that his memory is bad."

Witness: "Yes."

Source: Reynolds's Newspaper, Sunday, 23rd September, 1888.