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Breaking Point

At what point, while reading Christer Holmgren's new book, 'Cutting Point', does one reach breaking point?

Well it surely has to be around page 100.  By this stage we've read all his arguments about the death of Mary Ann Nichols, and about Charles Lechmere's alleged attempt to hide his identity at the subsequent inquest, which are supposed to point to Lechmere as the murderer.  These arguments are, of course, re-hashed from Mr Holmgren's years of posting on Casebook as 'Fisherman' while having apparently learnt little or nothing from the responses to his posts which should have shown him the error of his ways.

Holmgren, of course, knows all the objections to his theory and it's amusing to see him skip over them in his book but even funnier to observe the way he twists the facts and, above all, the way he twists the English language to its very breaking point. 


Let's start with 'exsanguination'.  We are introduced to this uncommon word out of the blue, without being told what it means at page 77/78, where it is said that, 'if many enough (sic) large vessels are cut open, there will be an exsanguination that involves all the blood that is positioned over the position of the cut'.   By this, Holmgren appears to mean that there will be a loss of blood from over where the cut is (while blood positioned under the cut will remain in the body).  So why doesn't he say this? Why not say 'there will be a loss of blood from the body involving all the blood that is positioned over the cut'.  Why use the obscure word 'exsanguination'?

I'll tell you why I think he does it in a moment but the first thing to establish is whether 'exsanguination' is the correct word in this context.  What does it actually mean? 

Well, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition of exsanguinate as being:

'To drain of blood'

That doesn't seem to be what was happening to Mary Ann Nichols does it?  After all, she wasn't being drained of blood at any time.  

It's interesting to note, however, that the examples given by the OED relate to living individuals.  Thus, from 1800, we have an example from the Medical & Physical Journal which stated:

'She appeared exsanguinated and very feeble'.

And one from 1849 in which W.S. Mayo wrote in 'Kaloolah: The Adventures of Jonathan Romer' of a man who had been shot that:

'He had been so nearly exsanguinated that his recovery was necessarily slow'.

So we can see that while the word is not being used in these examples to mean a literal draining of all blood from the body, it's not being used to refer to the loss of blood after death either.

The Oxford University Press online 'Oxford Languages' definition, in addition to defining 'exsanguination' as 'the action of draining a person, animal or organ of blood' provides one more meaning namely:

'severe loss of blood'

Is that what Holmgren means?  Was he simply saying that after the cutting of a throat there will be a severe loss of blood involving all the blood positioned over the position of the cut?  Again, if it was, why not say so?

The problem really arises when we look at the Wikipedia definition of 'exsanguination' for we are told there that it means 'the loss of blood to a degree sufficient to cause death'.  There is a warning on the page about lack of verification and, certainly, this definition is not supported by the OED.  But is this what Holmgren means by the word?

Well, it can't be because he is talking about loss of blood continuing AFTER the death of Nichols.  He is certainly not talking about the loss of blood which caused her death.

What Holmgren WANTS to show is that the existence of blood supposedly coming out of the neck of Nichols' corpse, as seen by the police officers who found her body, means that Nichols must have been murdered very very recently, within minutes of the observation, in fact, so that the evidence of blood emanating from the body at this time points strongly to Lechmere as her murderer, given that he and Paul had discovered her body about four or five minutes before she was found by the police.  That, says Holmgren, is about the extreme limit for when such blood could possibly have been seen coming from the body by any witness because, he claims, there shouldn't have been any blood left within the body (or relevant part of the body) by that time.

Going back to the meaning of 'exsanguination', from an actual medical journal (Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings) we find it stated by the author of a 2003 paper, 'Managing exsanguination: what we know about damage control/bailout is not enough' by Juan A. Asensio MD and others, that:

'Exsanguination awaits better definition, not only clinically but also physiologically and biochemically'. 

It adds, however, that the lead author had described exsanguination as:

'the most extreme form of hemorrhage, with an initial blood loss of >40% and ongoing bleeding that, if not surgically controlled, will lead to death'.

That supports the Wiki use of the word in the sense of meaning bleeding to death, or potentially bleeding to death, which is not how Holmgren is using it.

So we come back to our question.  Why on earth is Holmgren using such a vague and undefined word in his book when he could have written something much simpler?  Was he just wanting to show off that he knows a long word?

Well I suggest it goes deeper than that. 

Holmgren's entire case on the blood evidence pointing to Lechmere as the killer is based on a short exchange he had with the forensic pathologist Jason Payne James about seven years ago (which Holmgren posted for the first time on 18 February 2017, under pressure from a Forum member about what had been said) as follows:

Q. Just how quickly CAN a person with the kind of damage that Nichols had bleed out, if we have nothing that hinders the bloodflow, and if the victim is flat on level ground? Can a total desanguination take place in very few minutes in such a case.

A. Yes 

Q. Do you know of any examples? 

A. No

Q. Is it possible for such a person to bleed out completely and stop bleeding in three minutes? In five? In seven?

A. I guess blood may continue to flow for up to this amount of time, but the shorter periods are more likely to be more realistic.

The first thing that will be noticed there is that Holmgren's first question to Payne James was:

'Can a total desanguination take place in a very few minutes...?'

He had there incorrectly used the word 'desanguination' which appears to be a corruption of 'exsanguination' but he obviously meant so say 'exsanguination'.  He was trying to impress the forensic pathologist with his incredible knowledge of forensic pathology but, in doing so, created horrible confusion and muddied waters.

His line of questioning was a disaster in any case.  Holmgren wanted to be told that 'exsanguination' or 'bleeding out' could occur 'in very few minutes' and, while Payne James said it could, he didn't know of any examples!

But what was he agreeing to?  An extreme form of hemorrhage leading to death in a few minutes?  In other words, was he saying nothing more than that a person lying on flat ground could bleed to death in a few minutes?  Possibly.  After all, that is what the medical journal from 2003 tells us exsanguination means.

The other problem is that if Payne-James understood him to be referring to someone suffering from a severe blood loss due to their throat being cut, as opposed to someone who was strangled to death and then had their throat cut, it might well have affected the way he answered the question.

The first three questions and answers in the exchange got nowhere but I think we can now see why Holmgren uses 'exsanguination' in his book.  He wants to link what Payne James says in his final answer to that word.

We can see that Holmgren himself regards 'bleeding out' as synonymous with 'exsanguination' although he never managed to confirm it with Payne James. And by 'bleeding out', what he really means is 'stop bleeding'. So, as we've seen, he asked Payne James:

Q. Is it possible for such a person to bleed out completely and stop bleeding in three minutes? In five? In seven?

And Payne James replied:

A. I guess blood may continue to flow for up to this amount of time, but the shorter periods are more likely to be more realistic.

The problem for Holmgren is that Payne James changed the definitions in his answer.  Because, having been asked whether a person could bleed out and stop bleeding completely (a poorly worded question because normal bleeding is totally different to post-mortem bleeding, and Holmgren never clarified that he was asking about bleeding after death), the expert discarded the silly word 'bleeding' and used the word 'flow' without any qualification, which would normally indicate a liquid that is fast moving.  Taken on its face, he said no more than that it is more realistic to say that blood could flow for three or five minutes than for seven minutes, so that blood would be expected to stop flowing after five minutes. He didn't, in other words, say what Holmgren wanted him to say, namely that no more blood would emanate from the body after this time.  Whereas Holmgren had asked how long it would take for blood to stop emanating from a body completely, Payne James only seemed to want to talk about flowing.


But what about oozing?

Because the only, and I must stress, the ONLY unambiguous word used in the evidence to describe the blood in the Nichols case is 'oozing'.

PC Neil stated clearly and unambiguously that, when he found the body of Nichols at about 3.45am on the morning of 31 August 1888, he:

'saw blood oozing from a wound in the throat'.

He chose 'oozing' not flowing.  And ooze, according to the dictionaries, means a gentle, slow or gradual discharge or leak or a trickle.

Now, what's so amusing about Holmgren's book is that it avoids the word 'oozing' as much as possible.  He has to acknowledge that Neil said it, but, having done so, it's never once mentioned again in the entire book! 


By contrast, Holmgren, by my count, in his 12 page section dealing with the blood evidence, uses the word 'running' nineteen times and the word 'flow' or 'flowing' twenty-one times, which is ironic because it's not a word in the evidence.

Hilariously, on that one single occasion that Holmgren does mention oozing - in quotation marks as a quote from Neil, never as a word used by himself - he suggests (on page 79) that his reader may not even know what to make of that term!!!  But I think that any English speaker knows exactly what 'oozing' means.  And it's not what Holmgren would like it to mean.


What about 'running'?

Well, having stated clearly that the blood was 'oozing', PC Neil then used a different word to say that 'The blood was then running from the wound in her throat'.

The word 'running' here is ambiguous for it could be used if the blood had been fast flowing from the throat but it can obviously also be used if the blood was doing no more than oozing out.  After all, one's nose can be running and it can mean nothing more than running very slowly. Given that PC Neil had already said that the blood was oozing from Nichols' throat, when he subsequently told the coroner that the blood was running from the wound in her throat (assuming the above quote is accurate), he must have meant that it was oozing from the wound in her throat.  There is no reason to think he changed his evidence.

PC Mizen also used the word 'running' but in a more ambiguous way.  He said:

'There was blood running from the throat towards the gutter'.

If someone had drawn a line in chalk on the ground from Nichols' throat to the gutter, one could have said that there was chalk line running from the throat to the gutter.  It obviously wouldn't have meant that the chalk was physically running, or moving, just as Mizen seeing a line of blood from Nichols' throat to the gutter doesn't necessarily and unambiguously mean the blood was moving.  

Let's also look at what Dr Llewellyn said on the same day of the inquest:

"On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw."

"there was an incision about four inches long and running from a point immediately below the ear"

"Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner."

"There were several incisions running across the abdomen"

"On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards."

The use of the word 'running' in other words doesn't necessarily involve any movement.

On the face of his statement, PC Mizen could simply have been describing two points: Point A, (being the neck) and point B (being the gutter) and saying that there was a line of blood (running) between point A and point B. It doesn't say anything about the speed or movement of the blood. More importantly, though, if he saw the blood at the same time as PC Neil, it doesn't change the fact that PC Neil had already told us about the speed and movement of the blood, namely that it was oozing.  Given that HE saw it oozing, if Mizen did mean by the word 'running' that the blood was moving he could only have meant moving very slowly, i.e. NOT flowing.

And we must not forget the importance of this, namely that Payne James used the word 'flow' NOT ooze.  Payne-James has never commented on how long he thinks blood could ooze from a neck wound after death nor has he said if he would be surprised if it continued to ooze for 20 minutes. 

Interestingly, we find another example of 'running' being used by Inspector Reid when he gave evidence at the inquest of Alice McKenzie in July 1889.  Reid said he was notified of the murder of McKenzie at 12.55am, which was 15 minutes after the police estimated she had been murdered (see report of Superintendent Arnold dated 17 July 1889).  He said he then went Castle Alley and:

'I saw she had a cut on the left side of the throat, and there was a quantity of blood under the head which was running into the gutter' (Times, 19 July 1889, underlining added).

This is a problem for Holmgren.  Reid was only notified of the murder fifteen minutes after it happened and, by the time he arrived on the scene, which must have been at least a few minutes later, he noted that there was blood 'running into the gutter'.  If the blood was actually flowing, at whatever rate (including oozing), it proves that blood can still run from a body more than fifteen minutes after death.

If, on the other hand, Reid was merely talking about a line of blood that ran from the throat to the gutter which wasn't moving, it means that Mizen might well have meant the exact same thing when he spoke of the blood running. 

We may also note that Dr Phillips said in his report that he arrived at Castle Alley at 1.10am and that: 'Blood poured out from the wound in the neck'.  If he was recording what he saw at the murder scene (as one would naturally assume he was), it means we are being told of blood literally pouring from the wound of a dead woman at a time some 25 minutes after death.  How does Holmgren explain it?

Before we leave the inquest evidence, there is one more expression used by Holmgren relating to the blood.  On the basis of a newspaper report of the inquest in the Morning Advertiser, he claims on page 80 of his book that Mizen said that the blood was 'still running'.  Hence this is how the Morning Advertiser reported that part of his testimony:

'He [PC Neil] said "Go for an ambulance" and I at once went to the station and returned with it.  I assisted to remove the body.  The blood appeared fresh, and was still running from the neck of the woman'.

What is so extraordinary about this is that, on page 81, despite having claimed that Mizen said the blood was 'still running' on the previous page (i.e. on page 80), Holmgren tells us that the report in the Morning Advertiser was wrong so that it follows that Mizen never said that the blood was 'still running'.  He even tells us exactly what Mizen said which was that (as reported by the Echo):

'There was blood running from the throat to the gutter'.

As we can see, no use of the word 'still' there.

Holmgren explains that the other newspapers got confused about the timing, thinking that Mizen was speaking of the blood running after he had returned with the ambulance but, in fact, Holmgren tells us, Mizen was here being asked by the coroner about the time when he first arrived at the body.  Thus, given the report in the Echo, it must have been a newspaper reporter who had added the word 'still' into Mizen's testimony to make it seem like the blood was 'still running'  after a long period of time, when, in reality, he never used the word 'still' at all.

Although it's reasonable for Holmgren to make the argument that Mizen was referring to the time he first saw the body, not when he returned with the ambulance, it does suffer from an important weakness.  For the question and answer provided in the Echo, which Holmgren thinks is accurate, is this:

The Coroner: Was there anyone else there then?

- No-one at all, Sir. There was blood running from the throat towards the gutter.

When Mizen said there was no-one else at all at the scene, he was definitely talking about the period when he first arrived in Bucks Row at about, or shortly after, 3.45am.  This is clear because Mizen had just mentioned PC Neil sending him for the ambulance so that when the coroner asked him if 'anyone else' was there, he meant anyone other than PC Neil and, was referring to the time when Neil asked him to go for the ambulance. Mizen confirmed that it was just the two of them, an answer that could only possibly relate to his first appearance on the scene bearing in mind that plenty of people were crowded round the dead body by the time Mizen returned with the ambulance.

The problem for Holmgren is that Mizen's subsequent statement that, 'There was blood running from the throat towards the gutter' bears absolutely no relation to the question he'd just been asked by the coroner.  Having told the coroner that there was no-one else in Bucks Row when he met up with PC Neil, why on earth would he then volunteer the information that the blood was running from the throat towards the gutter?  It doesn't make any sense.  It must be obvious, therefore, that Mizen was asked another question by someone, either the coroner or a juror, which he then answered.  This makes it uncertain as to which period of time he was actually talking about.  As we've seen, other newspapers suggest he was talking about the period of time when he returned with the ambulance so that the blood was 'still' running from the neck. 

This might well have been true, especially if the body was being moved and Mizen saw blood running from her neck but it would be a disaster for Holmgren because it would mean that blood was still running from Nichols' neck after Mizen had returned with the ambulance, which must have been after 4am, and would thus contradict everything Holmgren is telling us about the inability of blood to run from a dead body for more than seven minutes.

The truth is that it's not at all impossible, or in any way surprising, for blood to run from a body, in the sense of oozing, for at least twenty minutes (which we shall come back to) but that would be the end of Holmgren's case against Lechmere based on the blood evidence so that, in Holmgren's view, Mizen must have been talking about the earlier period of time when the blood was running to the gutter.

Like I say, that's fine but then what Holmgren cannot legitimately do is claim, as he does, that Mizen used the expression 'still running'.  Because THAT does imply movement, whereas the sentence which Holmgren himself agrees is correct, namely that the blood was running from the neck to the gutter is ambiguous as to whether there was any movement at all.  Holmgren can't have it both ways.  He can't rely on 'still running' while at the same time claiming that the newspapers who reported that quote were confused as to what Mizen was saying and about what time period it related to.   

Yet, when he introduces Mizen's evidence he says on page 80:

'Mizen commented on the blood at the inquest.  He said it was "still running" and "appeared fresh" and that it was in the process of coagulating in the pool.'

As we've seen, the 'still running' quote comes from the Morning Advertiser but it's only AFTER telling his reader that Mizen said the blood was still running that he challenges the Morning Advertiser account!!! By that time, he's put the expression 'still running' into the reader's head, as if it was what Mizen actually said.  Any reader would have to be very astute to work out that there is a big question mark over whether Mizen really did say the blood was 'still running' as Holmgren has already claimed, without any qualification.

Now that we've seen the inquest evidence, let's return to what Payne James is supposed to have said about the time it would take for blood to stop oozing.  Well, we've seen Payne James' actual words quoted above. He doesn't mention oozing!  It's very amusing to see how Holmgren, who doesn't quote Payne James in his book, summarizes the expert's words.   Holmgren says (on page 82):

'I inquired about how long time a woman with the damage that Nichols had would bleed from the neck before the blood had been emptied out and stopped running.  I asked whether it could be a matter of perhaps three, five or seven minutes.  Professor Payne-James's response was that all three suggestions could be per se correct, but he personally favoured three or five minutes as the likelier answer'.

When compared to what Holmgren actually asked and what Payne-James actually said in response, the misrepresentation of these questions and answers is so great as to be considered quite shocking.  

The truth is that Holmgren did not ask Payne-James how long it would take before the blood had been 'emptied out and stopped running' from the hypothetical person (not woman) in question. What he did ask him was something vague and impenetrable about desanguination, which wasn't defined, and about 'bleed out' which also wasn't defined.  At no time did Payne James comment (because he wasn't asked) as to how long it would take for blood to stop running from the body.  What he actually directed his mind to was how long it would take for the 'flow' of blood to stop.  But he wasn't asked the obvious question which is how long it would take for any blood to stop oozing out of the body after death.  It just wasn't asked and thus wasn't answered.

This is really important because it's obvious, as a matter of pure mathematics, based on there being a finite amount of blood in a human body, that, if there is an initial gush and flow of blood from a body at the time of death, Holmgren's 'bleeding out' process is going to conclude sooner - and perhaps significantly sooner - than if the blood only oozes out from the start (as to which Payne James himself said in the 2014 documentary that, if Nichols had been strangled to death before her throat was cut, which he believed to be the case, there would have been 'no arterial spray', that it would have been a relatively 'bloodless' murder and that, as in any case where the carotid arteries are cut after death, the blood, 'may just leak out or dribble or drain out around the contours of the neck in this case over a period of minutes').

We can also see that Payne James was guessing.  He admitted it!  Thus, he began his answer with the words, 'I guess...' and spoke of how blood 'may' continue to flow for up to five minutes.  In his book, Holmgren totally omits to reveal to his readers that Payne James was doing no more than guessing as to how long blood could flow.

This is also really important because either Payne James was speaking of personal experience or he was basing his answer on data provided by others.  If the latter, why hasn't he provided any source references?  If the former, one has to ask how much personal experience he can possibly have had of seeing at first hand a bleeding neck wound of an individual who has died a sudden and violent death (as a result of that wound) within 15 or 20 minutes of their death? In virtually all cases, unless by some miracle he was very close by at the time of death, it's going to have taken him at least an hour to get to the body, isn't it? So what can his actual personal experience of this subject be?

Holmgren also claims that Payne James said that he 'personally favoured' three or five minutes when he did not, in fact, use that expression.  He said, or appeared to say, that these shorter time periods were 'more realistic'.  But the key thing is that Payne James was talking about blood flowing. He wasn't talking about the time it would take for the blood to empty out or stop running completely.  He used the word flow.  But Holmgren fails to use the word 'flow' in the summary in his book, thus clearly and deliberately misrepresenting what he had been told by the expert. 

The only thing Payne James should have been talking about was the time it would take for blood to ooze.

And here, hilariously, Holmgren is forced to admit that Payne-James (to the extent that he might have been saying blood would stop oozing after five minutes, which, of course, he wasn't) was contradicted by his own Swedish expert forensic pathologist, Professor Ingemar Thiblin!!!  For, on page 88 of his book, Holmgren is forced to admit that Thiblin told him that there is 'not much empirical data to go on' as to how long 'a seeping bleeding' could go on for (and, again, the word 'oozing' is avoided for some reason) but that it could possibly be 'a process' of 'ten to fifteen minutes'

So now the failure of Holmgren's questioning of Payne James is even more apparent. For he only asked him about seven minutes.  He asked nothing about ten or fifteen minutes and Payne-James said nothing about ten or fifteen minutes, only saying that he guessed that blood may continue to flow for up to seven minutes.  We have no idea if Payne James himself would have said it was realistic for blood to ooze (or seep) for up to fifteen or even twenty minutes.  

Once again, though, with Thiblin, not a single quote from the expert is provided and everything is filtered through Holmgren's own interpretation.  Apparently, Thiblin 'very much agreed' with Payne-James that 'five minutes of bleeding' was a 'more likely' suggestion than seven minutes of bleeding and I personally would love to read the actual words of Thiblin saying this because I find it very difficult to believe that he said it.  Anything filtered through Holmgren on this subject cannot be considered to be reliable bearing in mind the proven way that he has subtly changed what Payne-James actually said.

But Holmgren gets carried off into ecstasy by the idea of five minutes of 'bleeding' being the upper realistic limit, claiming that, 'Two professors in forensic medicine, renowned specialists in the field, agree that as we enter the seven-minute mark of continued bleeding, we have entered a time where they are both are (sic) inclined to think it likely that the bleeding should have stopped'.

This is just completely untrue.  Payne-James, whose actual words we know, never said anything of the sort for, when we read his own words, he was only speaking of blood flow.  He did not say anything about oozing and, thus, cannot be regarded as having said that 'bleeding' (an inaccurate term for a period after death, because only living persons truly bleed) should have stopped before seven minutes.  Crikey, he didn't even say that blood flow should have stopped AFTER seven minutes, merely that he regarded it as more realistic that it would continue for five minutes rather than seven minutes, while admitting that it could continue for up to seven minutes.  Whether, in his view, the blood could continue to flow after seven minutes post-mortem is something we don't know for sure.  And we certainly don't know if he believes oozing could continue after seven minutes or not.  He said nothing on the subject.

As for Thiblin, no quote from the man has ever been provided and Holmgren has already admitted that he was told by him that blood could seep for ten to fifteen minutes.  On that basis, how could Thiblin possibly have said it was 'likely that the bleeding should have stopped' after seven minutes?  The two statements would be wholly inconsistent and, in any event, no expert would ever say any such thing.  For that reason, Thiblin clearly said nothing of the sort.  It's just Holmgren's ludicrous interpretation.  If Thiblin said that he thought it was more likely that seeping would go on for five minutes than fifteen minutes, this is still a million miles away from saying that it should stop after five minutes.  I mean, if it can go on for fifteen minutes, as Thiblin appears to have said, it's a complete nonsense for his view to be summarized as that it should have stopped after five! Pure and utter nonsense. 

And even if Payne-James was speaking of blood oozing rather than flowing, exactly the same would be true of him; because in saying that seven minutes of oozing blood was 'more realistic' than three or five minutes (if that's what he did say) he hasn't said that blood should stop oozing after five minutes. He wasn't even asked if he could rule out blood oozing after ten or fifteen minutes.

This is all a complete disaster for Holmgren.  Because anything over nine minutes of oozing time - which is CLEARLY possible - means that the killer could have been Lechmere or it could have been someone else.  In other words, we have got absolutely nowhere.   Holmgren's nonsensical and ludicrous summary of the experts' findings on page 89 that, 'Charles Lechmere is very much likelier to have been the cutter than another killer preceding him in Bucks Row' and his outrageous conclusion that, 'the bleeding times...leave us with only one truly reasonable candidate' simply crumble into dust.

I might add that I say all this as someone who was once interested in whether it was possible to establish the time of Nichols' death from the fact that blood was oozing from her neck when PC Neil discovered her body at about 3.45am.  I raised the subject in the Forum but Trevor Marriott then went off and asked his expert forensic pathologist contact, Dr Michael Biggs, if it was possible to estimate time of death from this oozing.  Dr Biggs categorically stated that it was not and that he had personally seen blood leak from a body for SOME HOURS after death.  For that reason, I gave up the entire idea.  It was the only rational thing to do. 

Furthermore, in respect of oozing, Dr Biggs said:

"I think that, though it might seem unlikely for a significant quantity of blood to be flowing out of a body several minutes after death, it would certainly be possible for blood still to be dripping / oozing out of a body 20 mins later."

This answer is not only entirely consistent with what Payne-James said, namely that blood would only FLOW for a few minutes after death, but it means that one expert, at least, would not be at all surprised for blood still to be oozing from a wound 20 minutes after death.  Astonishingly, Holmgren has never asked his own two experts if they would be surprised to find this happening. If they would not, it's game over for his entire attempt to pin the murder on Lechmere on the basis of the oozing blood. The same is true if blood could still be oozing from a wound 15 minutes after death (which even one of Holmgren's own experts agreed is possible!) or even 10 minutes after death.

Holmgren's attempt to try and fix the murder on Lechmere to the exclusion of anyone else from the fact that blood was oozing out of Nichols' neck when PC Neil discovered her body (which might have been no more than five minutes after Lechmere had first found it, and no more than six or seven minutes after her death) is ludicrous.  It's notable that he asks neither expert to comment on such a suggestion.  I have no doubt that both of them would have said it wasn't realistic, to use Payne-James' expression. 

When I was posting on the forum I repeatedly asked Holmgren this question:

'Given that PC Neil said in his sworn testimony that he saw blood oozing from the throat wound of Nichols, could she quite easily, and very possibly, have been murdered 20 minutes before the time he saw this oozing?'

One would not be allowed to repeatedly ask an author such a question on the Forum today because, under the new (secret) rules, it would be regarded as harassment and badgering.  But, despite me pressing Holmgren repeatedly to answer this simple question, he never did.  He dodged and dodged and dodged. At one point, hilariously, he changed the word 'oozing' in my question to 'running' and it was only then that he felt able to answer it.  But I didn't ask that question.  I asked him about 'oozing' and he simply couldn't answer because Payne-James said nothing about the time it can take for blood to continue to ooze out of a wound after death.

Incredibly, with his Swedish expert, he still doesn't appear to have asked about oozing.  The word 'seeping'  appears to have been used but that wasn't a word used in the evidence.  Even when writing a book, Holmgren continues to stick his head in the sand and avoid any kind of focus on blood oozing.  While it might help him unfairly pin the murder of Nichols onto Lechmere, it doesn't get us anywhere near the truth.

As far as I'm concerned, Dr Biggs answered the question that oozing can continue for 20 minutes after death and that a forensic pathologist would in no way be surprised to find it happening.  Holmgren knows exactly what Dr Biggs said and has been unable to find an expert to contradict it.  It's now officially the end of the line for the blood evidence pointing to Lechmere's guilt. 


Our next word is 'about'.  Holmgren doesn't seem to know what it means.  Here's the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

'Expressing approximation.  Nearly, approximately, more or less.'

You will see that any element of exactitude is missing from this definition but Holmgren seems to think it should be there.

For, in attempting to bolster his attempt to pin the murder of Nichols on Lechmere, Holmgren claims on page 92 of his book:

'Most papers speak of Lechmere saying that he left home at 3:30, but the time 3:20 is also mentioned in one paper'.

That is false.  Most papers speak of Lechmere saying that he left home at about 3:30.  That is very different and makes a big difference, especially in circumstances where Holmgren's calculations about the time available to Lechmere to commit the murder are down to the minute.

But Holmgren goes on to say that Lechmere told the inquest that 'he left at 3:30 on the murder morning'.  He did not.   He said he left at ABOUT that time.

Holmgren has been discussing this subject for years and he undoubtedly knows that one criticism that has been made of his theory is that Lechmere didn't say he left home 'at 3.30' he said he left home at 'about 3.30'. 


Indeed, I personally raised it with him on the Forum. Yet, despite this, astonishingly, when writing his book, he fails to inform his readers of this, but bamboozles them into thinking that Lechmere gave a precise and exact time when he left his house that morning, which can be relied upon.  And he doesn't just do it once, he does it repeatedly (e.g. on page 96 he writes that: 'If Lechmere left home at 3.30 - as he himself claimed he did - he could have been in place at the murder scene for nine minutes when Robert Paul arrived there').

Holmgren then tells us that his own walk from Lechmere's home at 22 Doveton Street to the murder site took him seven minutes and seven seconds.  He doesn't reveal what route he took (there are two possible routes) and when I asked him on the Forum he simply and remarkably refused to tell me, but my timing of the quickest route in 2014 was seven minutes and thirty five seconds at what I would regard as normal walking speed.  

Holmgren does confirm that:

'the walk between the two addresses is not the same today as it would have been back in 1888'.

This contrasts to the voiceover in the 2014 documentary on Lechmere, in which Holmgren participated, which stated:

'The street layout is the same now as it was over a century ago'.

Amusingly, Holmgren tells us that 'Author Michael Connor' suggests that the same walk would have taken only six minutes in 1888 but what that can possibly be based on, other than guesswork or imagination, is not stated.  In any case, if Holmgren is referring to an article on Casebook by Michael Connor Did the Ripper work for Pickfords? then what he says isn't correct. Connor stated in that article:

'Walking time between Doveton Street and the Bucks Row murder site today is approximately six minutes - it would have been quicker in 1888.  Even on the basis of this modern timing, if he left home that morning about 3.30 then he would have been in Buck's Row about 3.36.'

So much for Conner saying it would have taken six minutes in 1888!  He's saying it would be six minutes today!!  So much for Connor's credibility.  Even Holmgren tells us that the walk today, at normal walking speed, is at least seven minutes.  It looks like Connor was simply guessing as to the walking time. He doesn't say he timed the walk himself.  He provides absolutely no reason to think the walk would have been faster in 1888.  In my view, Bath Street was further to the north than the current path beneath the modern supermarket leading into Brady street, requiring a diagonal walk across Brady Street into Bucks Row, something which could only have added to the walking time. 

Anyway, working on his timing of 7:07 minutes, Holmgren tells us that Lechmere should have been in Bucks Row at 3:37 'if he left at 3:30'.  Well sure, that's the maths, but there's no evidence that Lechmere did leave his home at 3.30 or even claimed that he did.  He said he left his home at 'about' 3.30.   If he left his house only a few minutes after 3.30, he would have arrived at Bucks Row at or shortly after 3:40am.

As it happens, the lead investigating officer of the Nichols murder, Inspector Abberline, wrote in his report of 19 September 1888 that the discovery of the body of Nichols was made 'about 3.40am 31st Ult'.  In other words, Lechmere's evidence that he left his house at about 3.30am, perfectly satisfied Inspector Abberline who had concluded that he arrived at Bucks Row at about 3.40am, meaning that all the timings in the case fit perfectly. 

Now, in this respect, we come to one of Holmgren's most disingenuous attempts at trying to pin the murder on Cross.  For, on page 90 of his book, he deliberately implies for the unwary reader that Inspector Abberline's report was written by Chief Inspector Swanson who then changed his mind in a later report.  Thus, Holmgren says:

'Two police reports signed by Donald Swanson, the man who was made responsible for collecting and sorting all information pertaining to the Ripper case by Robert Anderson [Lord Orsam note: it was actually Sir Charles Warren] concern themselves to a significant degree with the Nichols case'.

Holmgren then notes that the first report states that Lechmere met Paul at 3.40am but that, in the second report, the time 'is amended to 3:45' and thus, says Holmgren, 'it would seem that the police ultimately settled for Paul's timing being correct' and, indeed, he claims that the police 'ultimately rejected' the 3.40am timing.

We can see that Holmgren deliberately withholds from his readers the crucial fact that the first report was written by Inspector Abberline, whose report was merely countersigned as a formality by both Chief Inspector Swanson and Superintendent Shore before being forwarded to the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. But the author was Abberline. The report is in his handwriting.

Nothing can be more nonsensical than for Holmgren to say that the time of 3.40 was 'amended' by Swanson so that it shows that the police 'ultimately settled' for a time of 3.45 and 'rejected' the 3.40 timing.  Swanson's report of 19 October for the Home Office was a big picture report and he used broad brush timings. This is clear from other timings in his report of the Chapman case written on the same date which don't fit precisely with the known evidence. 

For example, Swanson said in his report that the body of Chapman was discovered by John Davis at 6am whereas, in his evidence, Davis said no more than that he woke up at 5.45 and discovered the body 'soon afterwards' (after having first drunk a cup of tea). Swanson also wrote that Chapman was last seen alive by John Donovan at 2am whereas Donovan said in his inquest evidence that he last saw her at 'about ten minutes to two a.m.' according to the report in the Daily Telegraph.  In respect of John Richardson's evidence, Swanson said that he sat on the steps of 29 Hanbury Street at 4.45am whereas, in his inquest evidence, Richardson didn't give a precise time for this, only referring to a time of 'between a quarter and twenty minutes to 5' according to the report in the Times or 'between a quarter and ten minutes to five' according to the Daily Chronicle or 'between 4.45am and 4.50am' according to the Daily Telegraph or 'about 4:40am or 4:50am' according to the report in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper.  Swanson, incidentally, said in his report that Richardson was 'of 29 Hanbury Street', seemingly unaware that he didn't live at that address but resided at 2 John Street.  He wrote that Albert Cadosch went into the yard of his house at 5.25am whereas Cadosch said that he got up at 5.15 and went out into the yard of his house, returning 'three or four minutes afterwards' according to the report in the Times, or at 'about twenty minutes past five' according to the Daily Chronicle. In respect of Mrs Long's evidence that she saw a man and a woman talking, Swanson noted this occurred at 5.30am whereas Mrs Long herself said this happened at 'about 5.30'.  She did also say that she heard a church clock strike 5.30 'just before I got to the street' but this suggests that what she heard happened shortly after 5.30.

Exactly the same is true in the case of the Stride murder in which Swanson gave precise times in his report where only approximate times were known.  Hence, for example, he said that PC Smith saw a man and woman in Berner Street at 12.35am whereas, in his inquest evidence, as reported by the Times, Smith said only that he was in Berner Street 'about half past 12 or 12.35'.  

When we look at Swanson's report of the Tabram murder, we find him saying that John Reeves found the body of a woman the landing of George Yard at '4.50am 7th Augt. 1888'.  Yet, in his inquest evidence on 9 August 1888, Reeves stated that 'he left home at a quarter to 5 to seek for work' and that, when he reached the first floor landing of his apartment building, he found deceased lying on her back in a pool of blood (Times 10 August 1888).  Are we supposed to believe that Swanson carefully calculated that it took Reeves a full five minutes to walk from his front door at 37 George Yard Buildings down to the first floor landing of George Yard Buildings? I don't think so!  It looks like he simply took the time of 4.50am from Inspector Ellisdon's report of 10 August 1888.  Presumably, though, Holmgren would tell us that there is a mysterious gap of five minutes between Reeves leaving his home and him discovering the body within the same apartment building!

In the Nichols case, there is no reason to think that Swanson gave any thought to a particular timing, just like he obviously didn't given any particular thought to other timings in his reports.   There was no reason for him to do so.  None of them seemed to be critical. 3.45 was the approximate time spoken of by all witnesses, including Mizen and Neil, as to when everything happened in and around Bucks Row.  Swanson simply commenced his report by saying: '3.45am 31st Augst. The body of a woman was found lying on the footway in Bucks Row, Whitechapel, by Charles Cross & Robert Paul carmen on their way to work'.  It obviously wasn't intended to be an exact time, just like his other times weren't intended to be exact.  It certainly wasn't intended to amend any times from other reports!

What is so interesting about Inspector Abberline's report is that none of the witnesses mentioned 3.40 am at the inquest, so it looks as if Abberline actually did give the matter some thought and concluded that Neil's timing of about 3.45 when he discovered the body was likely to be correct so that Lechmere and Paul must have arrived in Bucks Row about five minutes prior to this.  It makes perfect sense for him to have made this calculation, bearing in mind that Mizen corroborated Neil's timing by saying that he was told about the body in Bucks Row at about a quarter to four, while he was in the process of knocking up (and thus, considering that he was getting people out of bed at an ungodly hour in the morning, must have had a reasonably good idea of what the time was).

The coroner, when summing up, said that the discovery of the body 'cannot have been far from 3.45' which is another way of saying 'about' 3.45 and is consistent with a discovery at about 3.40, which is not far from 3.45.

Anyone with any sense will know that Holmgren is embarking on a fools errand here by trying to pin down exact times in circumstances where no-one was wearing a watch, and any clocks might have been running fast or slow.  All times can only have been estimated.  Not a single witness relating to the Nichols murder was even asked how they fixed the time.

Nevertheless, Holmgren relies heavily on the timings of two other witnesses, Robert Paul and Dr Llewellyn.

In respect of Paul, the evidence he gave at the inquest was nothing more than that he left his house at 'about' 3.45 (according to the report in the Times) or 'just before a quarter to four' (according to the report in the Morning Advertiser).  But that can very easily encompass 3.40am.  So, with the actual inquest evidence in the case not being terribly helpful, Holmgren relies instead on a newspaper report in which Paul apparently stated to a reporter for Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper that it was 'exactly' 3.45 that he walked into Bucks Row.  At first blush this might seem impressive, even though Paul didn't say how he fixed the time, but what Holmgren doesn't inform his readers is that what Paul was angrily responding to was a newspaper report that it was THE POLICE who had found the body of Nichols at 3.45am.  What he was trying to say was that this was wrong and that HE and another carman (Lechmere) were the first to discover the body at that time.   Indeed, Paul would have been under the impression that the only reason the police knew about the body was because he and the other carman had informed Mizen about it.  

The short point is that we cannot possibly rely on Paul's timing in these circumstances because he was trying to argue a point.  He was trying to say that it couldn't have been the police who found the body at 3.45am because he did.  If we were to assume that he and Lechmere discovered the body at 3.42 or 3.43 and that Neil stumbled across it at 3.47 or 3.48 then both men would be entitled to say they discovered the body at 3.45 and Paul would very likely have said that he discovered it at 'exactly' 3.45, something which would have been impossible for him to have said with certainty unless he had checked the time on a timepiece which was known to be 100% accurate. But he never said this and he certainly never said he heard any bells ringing or anything like that so, even if accurately reported, his comments to a newspaper reporter - which were not repeated in his sworn evidence at the inquest - cannot possibly be taken as gospel.

We may also note that in another context, on page 66, Holmgren warns us that the Lloyd's article 'contains material that needs to be treated with caution' but when he deals with this timing point from the same article on page 89 he doesn't treat it with any caution, accepting that this part of the article is 100% accurate!

The other evidence on which Holmgren relies is Dr Llewellyn stating that he was woken up by a police constable at 'around four o'clock'.  On this occasion, Holmgren does include the qualifying word 'around' which means that it might easily have been 3.50 or 3.55.  Indeed, Holmgren relies on a statement of the doctor reported in a newspaper which says that he was woken up 'at about five minutes to four' which shows that even Holmgren accepts that 'around four o'clock' can easily be five minutes away from that time.  But we're back to the word 'about' again.  Holmgren takes it literally as being that the doctor must have been woken up at exactly 3.55.  Given that the doctor lived about two minutes walk from the murder site, then taking the timing literally, Thain must have set off from Bucks Row to wake him at 3.53.   If Neil found the body at 3.47, Holmgren would say that leaves a six minute gap in the timing between the discovery and Thain being sent off to fetch the doctor.  But, of course, it doesn't leave any gap if the doctor was woken up at 3.52 or 3.53, meaning that Thain set off at 3.50 or 3.51 (and that's not including the time it would have taken Thain to have informed the doctor's servant that he needed to wake the doctor).  There is no reason why Neil couldn't have taken three or four minutes to have examined the body of Nichols and look around before Thain appeared (and, as Holmgren notes, Thain would himself have taken about a minute to walk from Brady Street up to where the body lay).  Indeed, we don't have any kind of timing for the gap between Neil finding the body and Thain's appearance.  Nor can we say with any certainty whether Neil and Thain had a discussion about the apparent murder before Thain ran off to fetch the doctor.  

Above all, though, we have no information about how Dr Llewelyn fixed the time that he was woken up.  What if he looked at a clock which was running a few minutes slow, or fast?  We just don't know.  It's why this entire business is a fool's errand; one which only someone who is used to living in a modern world, where exact times are generally more accurately known, would attempt.

Truly, it's a joke to try and match up all these estimated timings to fix a precise timeline to within minutes.  You just can't do it.  The police would have had trouble in 1888 but today it's simply impossible and a complete waste of time.  About 3.30 could truly and easily mean any time fifteen minutes either side, the same for about 3.45 and about 4.00.  Indeed, depending on the circumstances, the inaccuracy could be even greater than that.  People can be hours out in their estimates, so being a few minutes out is not surprising.

To attempt anything like the exercise Holmgren sets out in his book, you need to know how the relevant witnesses fixed the time and whether any relevant timepieces were tested for accuracy.  As this didn't happen in 1888, we can't possibly reconstruct it now.   Any feeling that there are five or ten missing minutes can easily be rectified by adjusting the chronology in various directions which will still fit the rough estimates provided by the witnesses. 

But the damage all starts with Holmgren falsely claiming that Lechmere said in his testimony that he left his house 'at 3:30'.  By not informing his readers that he actually said that it was about this time - so that there is a potentially significant margin of error - he leads them down a crazy rabbit hole where apparent certainties of timing are nothing more than mirages.  His failure to note the author of the police report in which a timing of 3.40 is given - surely knowing that his readers might think that Inspector Abberline of all people might have got it right - is unforgiveable.

Every disadvantage to Lechmere is given by Holmgren. 

And there's one more false claim made by Holmgren in respect of the timing aspect. This is that the day of the murder was:

'a day when Lechmere was late for work and presumably in a hurry'.

There is no evidence, or even good reason to believe, that when Lechmere left his house that morning he was late for work.  He never said so in his evidence.  What he did say was that, after having been delayed by about five minutes in looking at the body in Bucks Row, 'I was behind time'.  That gives us literally no idea if he was behind time before stopping in Bucks Row.

Holmgren, in his ingenious way, speculates that because one or two newspaper reports wrongly stated that Cross said he left his house at 3.20, this means that he probably said that he normally left his house at that time but did so that morning at 3.30, so that he was running ten minutes late.  There is no warrant for this claim and, if that were the case, it must considered surprising that not a single newspaper reported that he said in his evidence that he normally left at one time but, on this day left, at a later time.  Surely the most likely explanation is that the single time he mentioned was misheard or mis-reported.  

In any event, what Cross believed the time to have been is neither here nor there.  Even if he had thought it was 3.40 when he left his house, so that he was running very late, he might have been completely wrong. In reality it might only have been 3.35.  That's the problem with basing reconstructions on what witnesses say the time was.  There is a huge issue with reliability.  


When discussing Lechmere's use of the name 'Cross' at the inquest, Holmgren tells us on page 96 of his book:

'Using an alias was no uncommon thing in the Victorian East End'

Words matter.  Holmgren has now planted the idea in the minds of his readers that Lechmere used an alias at the inquest.

What is an alias?

According to the Collins Online Dictionary:

'An alias is a false name, especially one used by a criminal.'

The Oxford Online Dictionary gives the meaning of 'alias' as:

'A false or assumed identity'

So Holmgren has actually planted in his readers' mind that Lechmere was using a FALSE name at the inquest.  

He then says:

'There are numerous police reports that call people by two different names and make it clear that although you may be recorded by a specific surname in the registers, you could choose to use another name colloquially'.

This is a bizarre and terribly messy sentence.  In the first place, I have no idea what Holmgren means here by 'the registers'.  What's he talking about? Secondly, why on earth is he referring to police reports?  Police reports will normally be talking about criminals and, of course, criminals frequently uses aliases or false names in order to hide their identity.  Thirdly, the issue of Lechmere calling himself 'Cross' at the inquest has nothing to do with someone choosing to use another name 'colloquially'.

Holmgren surely must know better than this.  At any time, but especially in the twentieth century, it is possible for someone to have two surnames, both of which are entirely legitimate.  They are not aliases but alternative names with no sense of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

We find it today with women who marry but continue to use their maiden surname at work, perhaps because they have developed a professional reputation under that name, while also using their new married name in other contexts.  It's both perfectly legal and normal to do this and is not a case of hiding identity.  If you were a work colleague of such a woman and were to claim she was using 'an alias' you would probably very quickly get a call down for a chat with HR!

The same is true of someone who is adopted.  He or she might be born with one surname - and registered with that name - but is then adopted by a family with a different surname (and even in the twentieth century babies were sometimes just given away to another family rather than legally adopted). So they have two surnames. Which one is their real surname?  How can anyone possibly say?  If they prefer to use the adopted surname they naturally have every right to do so.  Equally, they could use the name they were given at birth.  At different times, they might use different names, depending on circumstances. 

This is even more true with someone who was born to one father, and is known by their father's surname for some years, but that father leaves or dies so that they are brought up by a stepfather and thus known by a new surname.  That boy might decide live the rest of his life with the new surname of his stepfather.  Perhaps he hated his birth father.  Or vice versa.  But confusion has already been caused because for part of his life he's been known by a different surname.  It's not a case of that man choosing another name.  Both names have been thrown upon him by circumstances.  

In legal terms he is perfectly entitled to use either name.  But Holmgren doesn't make this clear.  He says it's 'not unreasonable to think' that Charles might have taken on the name Cross which is itself a ludicrous way of putting it, but then falsely states that 'he was always registered by the name Lechmere'.  That can't be true if he was recorded in the 1861 census as Charles Cross, which he was.


Furthermore, Holmgren says that, from the presence of the name 'Cross' in the 1888 police reports, Lechmere must have 'chosen' not to give his 'real name' to the police and therefore, 'He withheld it, for whatever reason'.  This isn't correct for two reasons.  Firstly, had he given both names to the police in his statement, there's no reason to think that Abberline and Swanson would have bothered to repeat them both in their summaries, being irrelevant.  But the real problem here is that it assumes that there was a need or obligation for Cross to provide the police with both names. There wasn't.  If he was known as Cross at Pickfords then he only had to tell the police that his name was Cross.  We really don't know if he said in his statement to police that he was also called Lechmere but the point that Holmgren misses and completely fails to inform his readers of is that there was no need for someone with two alternative names to state both those names.  One was sufficient for both the police and inquest purposes.  He was just a witness to the discovery of the body.  His life history and the fact that his father had died when he was young, so that he was brought up by his stepfather, could not have not have been more irrelevant to his discovery of the body.

One other thing.  To use the expression 'real name' without putting 'real' in inverted commas gives a totally false impression.  Cross was Charles's real name too!  It's just that it wasn't the name he was given at birth.  But if he used the name Cross in his daily life, including his life at work, then it was a real name.  Just as real as Lechmere.  The fact of the matter is that we don't have enough data to know whether Charles was known as Cross at work and whether he used this name among friends and acquaintances. 


Holmgren also attempts to undermine the notion that Charles might have taken on the name 'Cross' by saying:

'around a hundred documents have been found with the Carman giving his name to different authorities, either by having his name signed for him or by signing it himself'.

On page 100, he then says: 

'going by the more than one hundred signatures we have, he always called himself Lechmere' 

What is a signature?

According to the Oxford English dictionary it is:

'The action of signing one's name; authorization or authentication of a document, letter etc. by signing it.  Also: an instance of this.'


'A person's name written (esp. in a distinctive way) so as to authenticate a document, authorize a transaction, or identify oneself as the writer or sender of a letter. Also a distinctive mark or cross serving this purpose.'

Both these definitions involving signing or identifying oneself.  It is not something that a third party does.

It's a nonsense for Holmgren to be talking about having a hundred signatures of Charles signing as Lechmere when he defines this to include instances of 'having his name signed for him'

For anyone who says, 'Ah well, Holmgren is not a native English speaker, we need to make allowances', the fact of the matter is that I picked him up on this on the Forum as long ago as June 2016 and told him that a 'signature' is something that one does oneself.  So he is fully aware.

Returning to the subject in January 2017, when I repeated the point, he quibbled and told me that a search on Google of "I will sign for you" brought up thousands of examples.

I then checked and found that these were examples of people signing a document themselves (in their own name), having been requested by someone else to do so, or signing to enable another person to do something or have something.  Realizing that he'd blundered, he then changed the search to 'I signed his name' for which he again said there were thousands of hits but it transpired that these mainly about forgeries, fake signatures and cases of fraud (or, if not, about people who physically couldn't sign their own names).  I told him in January 2017 that the correct word is 'recorded' so that, if he wanted to make this point, he should be saying that Charles' name had been recorded as 'Lechmere' on one hundred documents, to which he responded that 'I may well be mischiveous (sic) enough to do the exact opposite'.  He knows perfectly well, in other words, that using the word 'signature' is incorrect and involves being 'mischievous' yet he decided to continue do so in his book, knowing full well that it was the wrong word to use. 

So he knows perfectly well that he can't properly say that there 'a hundred signatures' of Charles Lechmere in circumstances where they are not signatures at all, but simply examples of someone else recording the name of Lechmere on a document.  By happy coincidence, though, saying that there are one hundred examples of signatures of the name Lechmere sounds so much more impressive than simply saying there are this many records with the name, which is presumably why Holmgren has stubbornly decided to persist with using this misleading and mischievous word in his book.

But what about these supposed hundred plus examples of Charles calling himself Lechmere or having the name recorded on his behalf?  Do they exist?

Well I first heard this number in the 2014 documentary seven years ago. In, fact 119 documents were then mentioned.  Since then, no evidence has ever been provided of the existence of these 100+ examples nor has anyone ever explained what they are.  In the 2019 book, 'Who was Jack the Ripper?', Ed Stow wrote that, 'We know that in over 100 records of his life (including several in 1888) he called himself Lechmere and never Cross'.  Thankfully, Stow, who has a little bit more sense, didn't claim there were 100 signatures but, again, there was no explanation of what these 100 records were.

Why are they being kept a top secret?  Why, seven years after the broadcast of the documentary, do we still not know what these records are?

The answer is obvious.  The bulk of the 100 records are the electoral registers in which year after year (and possibly multiple times a year) Charles was entered with the name of Lechmere.  But this tells us very little.  If he was entered once with the name of Lechmere we would expect that to continue throughout his life.  It would certainly be extremely odd if, being entered on the electoral role, Charles decided to randomly provide a different surname in future years when the register was being updated.  

The fact of the matter is that the 'more than one hundred' examples probably only comprise a very small number of different categories of records.  Furthermore, in the case of the electoral registers we don't have 'signatures' of any kind because these are printed records.

Sure there may be some other property and tax records, some school records and, of course, census, birth, marriage and death records which contain the name 'Lechmere', not Cross, but in terms of different categories it is nowhere near the amazing sounding 'hundred records' with which Holmgren and Stow like to blind us all.  I strongly suspect there will be less than ten different categories and this is supposed to make us think that Charles never used the name 'Cross' in his life outside of inquests!

As Holmgren knows perfectly well but simply avoids dealing with in his book, the argument against him is that, having been known as Charles Cross while he was a teenager living with his stepfather, he probably started to work for Pickford & Co under the name of Cross and was known to his employer and his work colleagues under that name. Hence, on the two occasions when he appeared as a witness at an inquest, where he was known to be a carman working for Pickfords, he (sensibly) gave the name he used at work

Now, there is no evidence one way or the other to confirm or dispute this but it is entirely conceivable and Holmgren knows it.  This would mean that Charles was perfectly entitled to give his name at the inquest as Charles Cross.  There would be nothing unusual about it, least of all would there be anything wrong with it.  As Holmgren knows, I have found examples of other men of the period with alternative names who used one surname in one context and another surname in another context, which was perfectly normal (as can be seen here, here and here).   

Even if Charles was in some way wanting to hide his identity by using his stepfather's name (on the assumption that he had abandoned it), it might simply have been that he didn't want his name associated with the discovery of a gruesome murder.  It could be that simple.

There is just nothing suspicious about it that should make us think he was responsible for the murder of Nichols.

I say this even if Lechmere was the murderer.  There was simply no obvious advantage to him in giving a different name.  The police knew who he was.  They had his home address and his employer's name. 

Holmgren has to resort to mental gymnastics by which Charles for some speculative reason didn't want his wife to find out that he had discovered the body of Nichols.  Presumably, in Holmgren's mind, she would have suspected he'd murdered her. But it's a huge stretch.

The thing is that it was the discovery that Charles Cross was also Charles Lechmere which seems to have thrown suspicion on him in the first place.  So people like Holmgren think it can't be abandoned.  But it's a terrible and unconvincing point. 


When you thought there was no more bottom of the barrel to scrape, Holmgren, following Ed Stow, manages to find some.

There is some significance apparently in the fact that Cross was wearing his work clothes when he testified at the inquest.  Without any evidence, Holmgren tells us it was 'the rule' for 'amateur witnesses' to give evidence in their best clothes.  This is a deduction he appears to have made simply because the reporter for the East London Observer (possibly the same person who provided the report for the Daily News) noted in an extended report that Cross 'appeared in court with a rough sack apron on'.

The reporter didn't say there was anything unusual about this, nor was there any hint of criticism of Cross for his attire.  It was just noted.

As it happens, this particular reporter wrote a very unusual report of the inquest proceedings that day, one that you simply don't normally find in newspaper reports of inquests for the entire Victorian period.  In fact, it's a real shame he didn't continue reporting on all other inquests during the period of the Whitechapel murders because it would have enhanced our knowledge greatly.  His reports are full of colour and descriptive details.  Thus, we are told (exclusively) that Polly Nichols' father, Edward Walker, was 'an old, grey-headed, and grey bearded man' who came slowly up to the witness table 'with head lowered and hands behind his back', that PC Neil was 'a tall fresh-coloured man, with brown hair and straw coloured moustache' with an 'imperial' bearing, that Dr Llewellyn was 'quiet and sedate', that William Nichols attended the mortuary wearing 'a long black coat, with a black tie, trousers of dark material, and a tall silk hat', and was carrying an umbrella, that Inspector Spratling was 'a keen eyed man with iron-grey hair and beard, dressed in the regulation blue of the force', that Henry Tomkins was 'a rough looking man', that Emily Holland wore 'a brown dress, with a dolman and bonnet' and that Mary Ann Monk was 'a young woman with a flushed face and a haughty air, who wore a long grey ulster'.

These descriptions are there to add colour to the report, not to make the point that there was something unusual going on.  Perhaps Holmgren thinks that it was unusual for someone to carry an umbrella to the mortuary as Edward Walker did or for a police inspector to appear at an inquest wearing the regulation blue uniform.  If not, why is the description of Cross' outfit singled out by Holmgren as supposedly being unusual?

If you're wondering how Cross, who was a carman, wearing a carman's outfit, can possibly point to his guilt I'm not even going to bother to tell you.  Read the book if you're in any way interested in the ludicrous suggestion.  All I'm going to say is that if Cross had been described as being dressed in his best clothes, Holmgren would surely have said that there was something funny about this and that Cross was doing his best to seem like a respectable person. 


There is one other point in relation to the blood evidence that I'd like to comment on briefly. 

On page 79 of his book, Holmgren says that, if there had been any blood visible on the ground when Lechmere and Paul were examining the body of Nichols, they would 'arguably' have been able to see it.  And boy it's a tenuous argument.

Of course, Holmgren wants to say that there was no blood there at the time, because Nichols had only very recently been killed, so the fact that the two men didn't see any blood is meant to indicate that it's because it wasn't there, not because it was too dark for them to possibly do so.

The problem for him is that Paul was asked if he could see blood and he said he could not but that 'it was very dark'.  Lechmere also made the point that he couldn't see if the woman's throat was cut because 'the night was very dark'.   Both men corroborate each other in this respect.

To try and show that there was sufficient light, Holmgren tells us the carmen could see Polly's bonnet on the ground and that Paul could see that her clothes were pulled up to her stomach.  But it's ludicrous to suggest that because they could see this they would have been able to see what even Holmgren admits would have been 'dark blood' on the ground.  Holmgren says that, 'What light there was would have been reflected in the surface of the blood', which is just nonsense of the highest order.   Without a lantern, as Neil possessed, in the middle of the night, where Lechmere originally thought the body of Polly was a tarpaulin, any blood would have been all but invisible.


A big problem for Holmgren is that, if Lechmere lied to Mizen about there being a policeman in Bucks Row, Robert Paul must have heard the lie.  So, while he never makes it entirely clear what he is saying, Holmgren unconvincingly tries to twist the evidence so that it shows that only Lechmere spoke to Mizen.

The problem is that Mizen expressly confirmed in his evidence that there was 'another man in company' with Lechmere when he was informed of the existence of the constable.  Lechmere in his evidence says that he was with Paul when he spoke to Mizen and that Paul spoke to the constable.  Paul says that he and Lechmere 'walked on together until they met a policeman...and told him what they had seen'.  All three witnesses therefore agree on this point!  When summing up, the coroner said:

'The carmen reported the circumstances to a constable...'

That's both of them! 


Regarding the 1876 inquest into the death of Walter Williams, Holmgren says on page 98 of his book.

'we can see that four out of the six witnesses who are quoted in the article apparently stated their addresses at the inquiry'.


With that, Mr Holmgren throws Gary Barnett under the bus!  Just compare the above with what Barnett wrote on JTR Forums on 13 October 2017 when he said:


'It's strange that an address was given for every other witness but the carman's was omitted'.


When I called him out on this in Crossing the Line he got very angry and seemed to suggest that I was wrong in challenging that statement.  So it's good to see that Holmgren agrees with me!   An address was NOT given 'for every other witness'.  It was just sloppiness on Barnett's part in saying this. Only four out of six witnesses had their addresses published in the local press reports of the inquest. 


Mind you, no doubt if we were to find a newspaper from 1876 in which Cross's address was included, we would be told by Holmgren that the reporter obtained it by asking the clerk!


Holmgren says:

'the papers would always try to write the address'


There is no evidence provided of what the papers would 'always try' to do and they certainly did not, in fact, always do so. It didn't even happen in respect of the inquests into the Whitechapel murders and Holmgren is oblivious to the evidence I presented in Crossing the Line showing conclusively that addresses stated by witnesses in court (either at an inquest or police court proceedings) were not always published in newspaper reports of those inquests and that there was inconsistency surrounding such publication. 


Holmgren also says: 


'the witnesses would always be asked to give their names, addresses and occupations'.


Right, so he must be accepting that Cross was asked his name and address and gave it! 


Yet, because only the Star reported Cross' name, Holmgren bizarrely concludes that Cross withheld his address from the coroner.  But he doesn't consider one obvious explanation (which I mentioned in my 'Crossing the Line' article from September 2019) namely that the address stated by Cross was inaudible to all reporters present and the Star reporter simply asked the clerk to confirm what Cross had said.  That is way way more likely than Cross refusing to give his address and the Star reporter getting it instead from the clerk.  But it may just be a simple matter of the Star reporter being familiar with Doveton Street and thus being able to understand what Cross was saying, which the other reporters in the room couldn't. It's certainly odd, isn't it, that the Star reporter was so keen to get Cross' address yet didn't bother to include his first name in his report nor his middle name, both of which he clearly stated in his evidence, simply calling him 'Carman Cross'?


Holmgren also claims that Cross 'seems to have withheld his address' at the 1876 inquest.  This is palpable nonsense.  How can one possibly draw such a conclusion from a newspaper report?  There is no warrant to say he withheld anything.  We would need to see the deposition in order to know whether he stated his address or not but if, in the unlikely event that it wasn't recorded, it can only mean he wasn't asked.  There is simply no chance that Cross was asked for his address and refused to give it. 




Later in his book, after the breaking point, Holmgren attempts to place reliance on something said by James Scobie in the 2014 documentary about Lechmere having a prima facie case to answer.  Unfortunately, it is now known that Scobie was given inaccurate information on which to base his opinion.


Needless to say, the briefing note given to Scobie by the documentary team has never been released for public inspection but some of it could be glimpsed onscreen.  It reveals that Scobie was told two things that weren't true.  The first is that Lechmere was reported as having said at the inquest that he left his home at 3.30, omitting the important qualifying word 'about'.  The second, quite unbelievably, is that Lechmere appeared to have initially given another time in his inquest evidence for when he left his house (i.e. 3.20), when this is nothing more than a speculative assumption which is certainly not apparent to anyone looking objectively at the matter. 


In other words, Scobie was not only being told that Lechmere said that he left his house at a time which should have meant that he arrived at the murder scene in Bucks Row at 3.37 - yet was still there when Paul entered the street at 3.45 - but he was also being told that Lechmere had apparently changed his evidence about the time he left his home, having initially stated it was ten minutes earlier, thus not only making him look shifty but also making the potential gap for him to have murdered Nichols even longer.  In the documentary, Scobie said of Lechmere, 'the timings really hurt him' and that he had 'never given a proper answer' as to what he was doing that morning and was, for that reason, 'behaving in a way that was suspicious' but we now know that the barrister was given false and misleading information about those timings, meaning that his opinion is of no value. 


When I confronted Holmgren with this on the Casebook Forum at a time when it was possible to confront authors with such things (but now prohibited) he blustered, and speculated unconvincingly and somewhat ludicrously that there might have been 'a later passage' in the briefing note provided to Scobie in which it was said that 'the timings must be looked on with less certainty'.  Perhaps he thought that the authors of the briefing note were deliberately trying to confuse Scobie!  If they were going to qualify the statement that Lechmere left his house at 3.30 they would obviously have done at the time they made the statement. They wouldn't have done it in another part of the document.




On the plus side, Holmgren HAS avoided saying that Lechmere was 'found alone' with Nichols, thus giving the appearance of Lechmere having been caught red handed. This was something he often said on the Forum but isn't included in the book. It's one of the few concessions to his critics that he's made.  


Yet, that's not enough to demonstrate to me that he is a credible and trustworthy author whose opinions are worth reading.  I haven't read the section of Holmgren's book in which he deals with the similarities between the Ripper murders and the torso murders.  Frankly, I don't know enough about the subject to be able form any conclusions on it.  And from what I've read in Holmgren's posts about medical matters (especially in respect of the estimated time of Chapman's death) I'm certain he doesn't either, but, most importantly, when I see how he uses words to subtly change meanings, it makes me lose trust in him as an author, in very much the same way as I lost trust in Michael Hawley when reading his most recent book.  If I can't trust an author when it comes to those parts of the book I know something about then I certainly can't trust him when it comes to the parts of the book about which I know little or nothing. So I can't tell you if he makes a good case that the Ripper is also the torso murderer.  All I can tell you is that with respect to the case of Mary Ann Nichols, Holmgren makes a very poor case that Lechmere was, or might have been, her murderer.


Nevertheless, since watching the 2014 documentary, I have always and consistently been of the opinion that Lechmere is a reasonable candidate.   Anyone who discovers a dead body should be treated by investigators as a suspect.  That really shouldn't need to be stated.  It's obvious. In this case, it's not inconceivable that Lechmere felt trapped by the arrival of Paul and stepped away from the woman he was in the process of murdering to pretend he'd just discovered the body.   If Mizen's evidence was accurate, the police officer was told something that wasn't true by Lechmere, which creates suspicion.  The problem for us in determining Lechmere's guilt is that there is a plausible reason why Lechmere might have told a lie on this particular issue namely that, having been delayed by the discovery of the body, he was late for work (as was Paul) and didn't want to have to accompany Mizen back into Bucks Row.  Hence, he told Mizen that he was passing on a message from another constable. 


One can see that if Lechmere was the murderer, he might well have left his house before 3.30am in order to give himself time to do some murdering and this might have caused him a problem at the inquest.  If he HAD left home at exactly 3.30, but especially if it was earlier than this, his wife and others within 22 Doveton Street might have known it (assuming there was an accurate clock in the house), which might have raised questions as to how he hadn't progressed further in his walk to work than Bucks Row by 3.45 but the evidence as it exists doesn't strike me as in any way suspicious.


What we have here is what we might want to call another Hawley situation.   Tumblety is a decent candidate but, as we know, Hawley makes a number of ridiculous arguments to support his candidature. It's the same with Hainsworth and Druitt.  And it's the same with Holmgren and Lechmere.  Why tell us fairy tales about the blood evidence when we already know from a forensic pathology expert that blood can easily ooze from a body for twenty minutes after death, meaning that it's absurd to find anything suspicious as against Lechmere in the oozing?  Why tell us fairy tales about '100 signatures' in the name of Lechmere, especially while refusing to reveal what they are?  Why omit the word 'about' from Lechmere's evidence and create a fairy tale of a supposed major gap in timings?  All these things, which Holmgren seems to term as 'mischievous' but which might well be regarded as devious, spoil the argument completely.  There is surely another way to tell the story without resorting to sophistry.  It's unnecessary and self-defeating. 


'Cutting Point' by Christer Holmgren is available from Amazon for £20.49 in hardcover or £16.10 in paperback here.



First published: 20 March 2021

Republished with amendments 21 December 2023

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