A definition of witness.


Second Man On The Mary Nichols Murder Scene

At around 3.45am, on the morning of August 31st, 1888, Robert Paul was walking along Buck's Row, when a man approached him and asked him to come and look at a woman who was lying in a gateway.

Given the roughness of the locality, Paul was a little apprehensive at first, but he went over and saw the body of Mary Nichols.

Later that day, he told a reporter from Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of his experiences that morning:-



On Friday night Mr. Robert Paul, a carman, on his return from work, made the following statement to our representative. He said :-

"It was exactly a quarter to four when I passed up Buck's-row to my work as a carman for Covent-garden market. It was dark, and I was hurrying along, when I saw a man standing where the woman was. He came a little towards me, but, as I knew the dangerous character of the locality, I tried to give him a wide berth. Few people like to come up and down here without being on their guard, for there are such terrible gangs about. There have been many knocked down and robbed at that spot.

The man, however, came towards me and said, "Come and look at this woman."

I went and found the woman lying on her back. I laid hold of her wrist and found that she was dead and the hands cold. It was too dark to see the blood about her. I thought that she had been outraged, and had died in the struggle.

I was obliged to be punctual at my work, so I went on and told the other man I would send the first policeman I saw. I saw one in Church-row, just at the top of Buck's-row, who was going round calling people up, and I told him what I had seen, and I asked him to come, but he did not say whether he should come or not. He continued calling the people up, which I thought was a great shame, after I had told him the woman was dead.

The woman was so cold that she must have been dead some time, and either she had been lying there, left to die, or she must have been murdered somewhere else and carried there.

If she had been lying there long enough to get so cold as she was when I saw her, it shows that no policeman on the beat had been down there for a long time. If a policeman had been there he must have seen her, for she was plain enough to see. Her bonnet was lying about two feet from her head."

Source: Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, 2nd September, 1888.

On Monday, 17th September, 1888, Robert Paul appeared as a witness at the resumed inquest into the death of Mary Nichols.

The Lakes Herald published a brief report on what he had to say in its edition of Friday, 21st September, 1888:-


Robert Paul, a carman, said that he lived at 30, Forster Street, Whitechapel. On the morning of the crime he left home just before a quarter to four.

He was passing up Buck's-row and saw a man standing in the middle of the road. The man touched him upon the shoulder, and said, "Come and look at this woman here."

He went and saw the woman lying right across a gateway. He felt her hands and face. They were both cold. The morning was very dark.

The other man and he agreed that the best thing to be done was to tell the first police man they met.

He arranged the clothes as well as he could. He put his hand to the woman's breast and felt a slight breath, such a one as might be felt in a child two or three months old.

He saw no one running away, nor did he notice anything whatever of a suspicious nature."

Source: The Lakes Herald, Friday, 21st September, 1888.