1. The body of the Buck's Row victim was identified as Mary Nichols late in the afternoon of 31st August, 1888.
  2. The police succeeded in tracing her father, Edward Walker, who identified the body as that of his daughter.
  3. They also traced her estranged husband, John Nichols, who was genuinely distressed when he viewed her body at the mortuary.




At first the police had no idea who the victim was. So they began canvassing the area in an attempt to discover her identity.

Soon several women had come forward and identified her as a woman known as "Polly" who had been living at a nearby lodging house at number 18 Thrawl Street.


Meanwhile, Inspector Spratling had noticed the mark of the Lambeth Workhouse upon her petticoats, and later that day a resident of the workhouse, Mary Ann Monk, was brought to the mortuary and shown the victim’s body.

She immediately recognized the victim as, Mary Nichols, a fellow resident at the workhouse up until May 1888.


Mary, or “Polly” Nichols, was a 43 year old prostitute who had begun the morning of her death drinking in the Frying Pan pub on the corner of Thrawl Street, where she was seen at 12.30am.

From there she had walked along Thrawl Street and, a little the worse for drink, had tried to get a bed in the lodging house at number 18 Thrawl Street.

But, she didn’t have the required four-pence, so the deputy keeper turned her away. "I’ll soon get my doss money," she told him as she left, "see what a jolly bonnet I'm wearing."

Evidently she intended to resort to prostitution to raise the necessary money and considered that the bonnet would be an irresistible draw to customers.

Her belief may not have been ill-founded, for she seems to have had reasonable success.


The last person to see her alive, apart from the murderer, was her good friend Mrs Emily Holland, who met her at 2.30am outside a grocer's shop at the junction of Osborne Street and Whitechapel Road.

Mary was obviously drunk and was leaning against the wall.

Emily Holland tried to persuade her to return to the lodging house, but Nichols refused, boasting that she had made her lodging house money three times over but had spent it.

She was off, she said, to make it one last time. "It won’t be long before I’m back," she told her friend and, so-saying, staggered unsteadily off into the night.


At some stage in the next hour and fifteen minutes, Mary Nichols would meet her murderer and go with him to the dark gateway towards the top of Buck's Row.

There he would suddenly clasp his hand across her mouth, probably asphyxiate her by strangulation, ease her onto the ground and there cut her throat with a strong bladed knife.


And despite the fact that several people were either sleeping lightly or lying awake in premises that either adjoined or stood opposite the site, none of them would hear a thing or even be aware of the final moments of Polly Nichols.

Not Mr Purkess, the manager of Essex Wharf that stood on the opposite side of the street directly across from the murder site.

Not his wife who spent a restless night and who may well have been pacing up and down their bedroom - the window of which looked over at the gateway - when the murder occurred.

Not Mrs Emma Green who was, by her own admission a light sleeper, but who had slept on, undisturbed, until awoken by the police in the aftermath of the discovery of the body.

Not the keeper of the Board School, the towering walls of which still gaze down on the now vanished site of the murder, the only remnant in the vicinity from that long ago night.

Not even the Police Constable who had been on duty at the gate of the Great Eastern Railway Yard, some fifty yards from where the body was found.


The killer had committed his crime with ruthless and silent efficiency, and had then melted, unseen and undetected, into the night.

He had probably skirted the Board School into Winthrop Street, and dived down one of the narrow passageways that headed out onto the busy Whitechapel Road. Here he could lose himself in the crowds that thronged it, even at that early hour.

As the Coroner observed in his summing up at the inquest:-

“It seems astonishing at first thought that the culprit should have escaped detection, for there must surely have been marks of blood about his person.

If, however, blood was principally on his hands, the presence of so many slaughter-houses in the neighbourhood would make the frequenters of this spot familiar with blood- stained clothes and hands, and his appearance might in that way have failed to attract attention while he passed from Buck's-row in the twilight into Whitechapel-road, and was lost sight of in the morning's market traffic.


As the day progressed the police continued their investigations throughout the district, desperate for a breakthrough.

There appears to have been a general consensus amongst the police, press and public throughout that Saturday that the murder was the work of one of the local gangs, and that the same gang had been responsible for the previous murders of Emma Smith and Martha Tabram.

The Evening News informed its readers that:-

“...these gangs, who make their appearance during the early hours of the morning, are in the habit of blackmailing these poor unfortunate creatures, and when their demands are refused, violence follows, and in order to avoid their deeds being brought to light they put away their victims.

They have been under the observation of the police for some time past, and it is believed that with the prospect of a reward and a free pardon, some of them might be persuaded to turn Queen's evidence, when some startling revelations might be expected.”


Meanwhile the police had also been busy tracing relatives of the deceased, and had located her father, Edward Walker, as well as her estranged husband, John Nichols.

In the early hours of the 1st of September, John Nichols was taken to the Old Montague Street Workhouse to view his wife’s body.

Genuinely distressed by what he saw, he shook his head disbelievingly and whispered to her "I forgive you, as you are, for what you have been to me."

The Body Taken To The Mortuary

The Funeral Of Mary Nichols

Other Victims