A definition of witness.


Discovered Annie Chapman's Body

John Davis lodged in the top front room of number 29, Hanbury Street, sharing it with his wife and three sons.

On the morning of 8th September, 1888, he was woken by the nearby clock of Christchurch, Spitalfields striking quarter-to-six, and got out of bed and made himself a cup of tea.

He then went downstairs to the backyard, presumably to perform his morning ablutions.

Opening the back door, he discovered the body of Annie Chapman, lying on the ground between the steps and the fence.

He raced back through the house and into Hanbury Street itself, where he summoned James Kent and James Green - who worked three doors down from number 29 - and urged them to follow him.

Having seen the sight in the yard, the three men went off in separate directions to fetch police assistance, John Davis making his way to nearby Commercial Street Police Station to report his discovery.

On Monday, 10th September, 1888, he gave evidence as to what he saw at the inquest into Annie Chapman's death.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, published his inquest testimony on Sunday, 16th September, 1888:-


John Davies, a carman, employed at Leadenhall Market, and who had lodged at 29, Hanbury-street for a fortnight, deposed:-

"I occupy the top front room on the third floor with my wife and three sons, who live with me.

On Friday night I went to bed at eight o'clock, and my wife followed about half an hour later. My sons came to bed at different times, the last one at about a quarter to 11.

There is a weaving shed window, or light, across the room. It was not open during the night.

I was awake from three a.m. to five a.m. on Saturday, and then fell asleep until a quarter to six, when the clock at Spitalfields church struck.

I had a cup of tea and went downstairs to the back yard.

The house faces Hanbury-street, with one window on the ground floor and a front door at the side leading into a passage which runs through into the yard. There is a back door at the end of this passage opening into the yard.

Neither of the doors was able to be locked, and I have never seen them locked. Any one who knows where the latch of the front door is could open it and go along the passage into the back yard."

Coroner "When you went into the yard on Saturday morning was the yard door open or shut?"

Witness "I found it shut. I cannot say whether it was latched - I cannot remember."

Coroner "Will you describe the yard?"

Witness "It is a large yard. Facing the door, on the opposite side, on my left as I was standing, there is a shed, in which Mrs. Richardson keeps her wood. In the right-hand corner there is a closet. The yard is separated from the next premises on both sides by close wooden fencing, about 5ft. 6in. high."

Coroner "I hope the police will supply me with a plan. In the country, in cases of importance, I always have one."

Inspector Helson "We shall have one at the adjourned hearing."

Examination resumed:-

"There was a little recess on the left. From the steps to the fence is about 3ft. There are three stone steps, unprotected, leading from the door to the yard. which is at a lower level than that of the passage.

Directly I opened the door, I saw a woman lying down in the left-hand recess, between the stone steps and the fence.

She was on her back, with her head towards the house and her legs towards the wood shed. The clothes were much disarranged.

I did not go into the yard, but left the house by the front door, and called the attention of two men to the circumstances. They work at Mr. Bailey's, a packing-case maker, of Hanbury-street. I do not know their names, but I know them by sight."

Coroner "Have the names of these men been ascertained?"

Inspector Chandler "I have made inquiries, but I cannot find the men."

Coroner "They must be found."

Witness "They work at Bailey's; but I could not find them on Saturday, as I had my work to do."

Coroner "Your work is of no consequence compared with this inquiry. You must find these men out, either with the assistance of the police or of my officer."

Examination resumed:-

"Mr. Bailey's is three doors off 29, Hanbury-street, on the same side of the road.

The two men were waiting outside the workshop. They came into the passage and saw the sight. They did not go into the yard, but ran to find a policeman. We all came out of the house together.

I went to the Commercial-street police-station to report the case.

No one in the house was informed by me of what I had discovered. I told the inspector at the police-station, and after a while I returned to Hanbury-street, but I did not re-enter the house.

As I passed I saw constables there."

Coroner "Have you ever seen the deceased before?"

Witness "No."

Coroner "Were you the first down in the house that morning?"

Witness "No; there was a lodger named Thompson, who was called at half-past three.""

Source: Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, 16th September, 1888.