Orsam Books

Crossing The Line

The Star of 3 September 1888, reporting on the proceedings of that day's inquest on the body of Mary Anne Nichols, recorded that 'Carman Cross' stated that he lived at 22 Doveton Street, Cambridge-road, and was employed by Pickfords.

That all seems clear enough but, according to Christer Holmgren, the fact that none of the other contemporary newspaper reports mentioned Cross's address means that Cross didn't state his address in his evidence and that the Star man must have obtained it privately from the clerk to the inquest. 

This theory is baffling for a number of reasons.  Even if we accept the proposition that the clever Star journalist obtained Cross's address from a clerk, the most likely reason for doing so would surely be that he hadn't quite heard what Cross said in evidence.  All the other civilian witnesses had obviously stated their name and address at the start of their evidence.  Indeed, they would have been asked (and required) to do so by the coroner.  What possible reason would there have been for Cross to have been excluded from this process?  Once he had been asked for his address he would have had to have given it.  He couldn't have kept it secret, if that is what Holmgren is suggesting.

The notion that there were bad acoustics, or difficulties in hearing the evidence, in the library of the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, where the inquest was being conducted, is clearly demonstrated by the number of errors made by the various newspaper reporters covering the inquest.  We see that the Star man himself says that Cross walked across 'Bradley-street' and then to Bucks Row.  Other newspapers (Evening Standard/Morning Post) say that he went down 'Parson Street'.  But neither Bradley Street nor Parson Street are known to have existed.   The Times reporter on the same day appears to have heard Ellen Holland (referred to as 'Emily Holland' in other reports) give her name as 'Jane Oram' (N.B. not Orsam!) while Inspector Helson was said to be 'Inspector Helston'.  In short, if the Star reporter did privately confirm Cross's address with the clerk to the inquiry, it is far more likely to have been because he didn't hear it clearly when stated by Cross while giving his evidence than that Cross did not reveal it.

But the theory of the Star reporter going to the trouble of asking for Cross's address but then not including his full name in his report doesn't make sense. For he simply refers to him as 'Carman Cross', suggesting he wasn't too bothered by precise details.  The Evening Standard (also Morning Post) gave Cross's full name correctly as Charles Allen Cross.   Yet we find the Times reporter referring to him as 'George Cross'.  The Daily News reporter (perhaps not quite hearing the middle name) only called him 'Charles A. Cross', the Evening Post abandoned the middle name completely and called him 'Charles Cross' while the reporter for the Daily Telegraph for some reason called him 'Charles Andrew Cross'.  Given that one would surely have assumed that his middle name was 'Alan', unless it was spelled out, we might wish to conclude that the reporter for the Evening Standard and Morning Post might have spoken to the clerk to get the correct spelling. But does that mean that Cross didn't actually state his full name in court?  Of course not!  Given the variations here, it seems daft to draw conclusions from the fact that only one newspaper has reported something or got something correct.  

When it comes to addresses, we can see just from the Nichols inquest that reporters were not consistent across the newspapers as to whether they included them, either in full or at all.  Most newspapers reported that Henry Tomkins was a horse slaughterer living at 12, Coventry-street, Bethnal Green, but the Echo reporter didn't bother to include the house number, simply reporting the address as 'Coventry-street, Bethnal Green'.  The reporter for the Evening News reported it as '12, Coventry-street' but omitted 'Bethnal Green'.   The Evening Standard has it, wrongly, as '112, Coventry-street, Bethnal Green'.   The report in the Nottingham Evening Post (as in a number of other regional newspapers) simply says 'Henry Tomkin, horse slaughterer, who was working in Winthorp-street...', thus omitting Tomkins' address entirely.   This is the same thing from the South Wales Echo:

 

You can't draw safe conclusions, in other words, from the absence of such details in newspaper reports about what was or was not said said by a witness during a hearing.

But one person who does seem to think you can draw such a conclusion is our old friend Gary Barnett.  In about October 2017, he found a report of an inquest in the Islington Gazette of 29 December 1876 at which a Pickfords carman called Charles Cross gave evidence.  This is a copy of the same report as it appeared in the North Metropolitan and Holloway Press of 30 December 1876:

According to Barnett, posting on JTR Forums on 13 October 2017 (thread; 'Our Charles Cross? #21): 

'It's also interesting that the carman's address was omitted from the press report.' 

He then added (#23)

'It's strange that an address was given for every other witness but the carman's was omitted. Perhaps it was deliberately withheld because of the boy's father's belief that he was at fault. If it was CAL, it's an intriguing precedent for the Nichols inquest.' 

That's what some people might call a misinterpretation of a newspaper report.  Others might say that Barnett just hadn't read it properly. For we see that the second witness at the inquest, George Porter, described as a traveller, also has no address given.  As a traveller, which presumably meant a commercial traveller, or salesman, he may or may not have had a permanent address but he must have been living somewhere. One can certainly find plenty of examples in newspapers and elsewhere of travellers stating an address when giving evidence in court proceedings.  Here is an example of such a witness from an Old Bailey trial in December 1876 (of Isaac Marks):

This is Jacob Newsead who said, 'I am a traveller, and live at 16, James Street, Cannon Street Road'.  Other examples are not hard to find.

This means that Cross wasn't the 'only' witness with an address 'omitted' as Barnett claimed. If we exclude the medical man, there were just three other witnesses.  Of those, two are men, yet, while Walter Williams is said to be a jeweller, no occupation is stated for William Warner of 25, Henry Street, although Cross himself is said to be a carman.  Is it 'interesting' that no occupation is given for Warner?  Does it mean he didn't have one?  Or was it just not reported because it wasn't relevant?

Let's take a look at another inquest reported in both the Islington Gazette and the North Metropolitan and Holloway Press during the 1870s, quite possibly by the very same court reporter who reported the inquest into the death of Walter Williams.  This is a report in the Islington Gazette of 10 May 1878 of an inquest in Islington into the death of the Rev. Henry Jones who was knocked down by a horse and cart driven by a carman called William Whittaker.  

 

So we have the following witnesses:

1. Denton Jones of 11A Myddleton Square (son of deceased).

2. Rev George Herbert Rust (curate to the deceased).

3. Henry William Bloomfield, butcher, of 279 Goswell-road.

4. Dr Day of Chapel Street.

5. William Hardy, Labourer.

6. Mr Bracey, bootmaker.

7. Isaac Heywood, carpet warehouseman, Islington Bazaar, High Street.

8. Chief Inspector Harnett.

9. William Whittaker, carman in the employ of Messrs Barrett & Sons, poulterers, Goswell-road.

So what are we supposed to make of that?  Some witnesses have an address stated, some just an occupation.  Should we conclude that, having given the address of his employers, Whittaker didn't state his own address? 

Well if that was your conclusion, you would have been wrong.  Let's see how the North Metropolitan and Holloway Press reported the same inquest on 11 May 1878:

Here we can see that William Whitaker's address is given as St. John's Street, West Smithfield.  From proceedings at the police court on the previous day, we know that Whitaker actually lived at  55 St. John's Street and this fact would certainly have been stated by Whitaker at the inquest.  It's just that it evidently wasn't reported.

 We may also note that in the second report, while his employer's name is stated, Mr Barrett is not stated to be a poulterer in this report and his premises being in Goswell Road isn't mentioned.  There are other differences too. We learn that Isaac Heywood is a carpet dealer of Upper Street, whereas in the Islington Gazette the fact of his business being in Upper Street was not expressly mentioned.  Dr Day from the Islington Gazette has become Dr William Hay in this newspaper. Some witnesses are omitted, such as Denton Jones.  So perhaps we are learning that omissions of inclusions of details of addresses of witnesses, or even the very witnesses themselves, are not terribly meaningful or interesting.

There was another inquest reported in the Islington Gazette of 10 May 1878.  This was of the death of a young boy called Thomas Hoare, knocked over by a coachman. Here is the report:

 

So the mother's address of 1 Madras place is included and the addresses (without the exact street numbers) of the banker and ironmonger in St James's-road who witnessed the accident are provided.  But the address of William West, the driver, is not given.  Interesting?  Not really.

This is from the Islington Gazette of 9 October 1878 reporting on the inquest of a 12-year-old girl called Alice Ada Ching who was knocked down by a runaway horse:

 

So the full address of the grandfather is given but a carman, who was a witness to the event, is only referred to as 'Overy', without even his first name given, and certainly not his address or the name of his employer.

It may be noted that the girl's grandfather wrote in to the newspaper on the following day which printed his letter on 11 October 1878:

 

So there is a good example of a reporter at an inquest not correctly noting the surname of a witness.  It was Charles Rogers, not Roberts. And what Rogers had actually said (as appeared in a later report) was that his grandaughter had a mother but no father. As it happens, Rogers wasn't entirely correct because a technical (legal) definition of an orphan was someone who had lost either one of their natural parents but the usual meaning, of course, is someone who has lost them both.

What I'm going to do next is to set out the results of an exercise I carried out, comparing some newspaper reports of inquest and police court proceedings with their corresponding depositions from those proceedings. 

Let's start with quite a famous one, with a Ripper connection.  The case of Israel Lipski accused of murdering Miriam Angel in June 1887.  At a hearing of the inquest on 1 July 1887, the witnesses were as follows, according to the Standard of 2 July 1887: 

1. Charles Moore, living at 96, Back Church-lane, St. George's-in-the-East, manager at an oil shop (at the same address).

2. Mary Lipski, living at 16, Batty-street, wife of a tailor (no relation to Israel, would you believe).

3. Dr. Kay (a recalled witness).

4. Harris Dywien of 22 Fairclough-street, St. George's, general dealer.

4. Richard Pitman, a boy (or, per the Daily News of the same date, 'a lad') who had been engaged to work by Israel Lipski.

5. Simon Rosenbloom, 37, Philpot-street, Commercial-road, who worked with Lipski. 

The other witnesses were an assistant to Dr Kay and two police constables.

So 'Pitman' was the only (non-medical/non-police) witness whose address was not stated at the hearing that day. 

So do we conclude from the fact that the addresses of the other four civilian witnesses were included in the report but not the address of Pitman that, therefore, Pitman did not state his address at the inquest?  Perhaps because he was only a boy? Of course not!  For that would be absurd.  All non-professional witnesses (i.e. excluding policeman, medical men from hospitals and other professionals when giving evidence in their professional capacity) would be asked as a rule to state their name, address and occupation.  We know that Pitman (whose surname was actually spelled 'Pittman') did, in fact, give his address at the inquest because the deposition for this inquest has survived.  In fact, as Wynne Baxter was the coroner, the depositions have survived in both their original handwritten form and as a beautifully printed booklet because that's what Baxter did for all his inquests after 1885 (including the Ripper ones albeit that they have not, apparently, survived).

 

We can see from the deposition (CRIM 1/26/5) that Pittman gave his full address as 2, Whites' Gardens, Starr Street, Commercial Road, St George's.  The notion that we can draw any conclusions from what was said about his address at the inquest from the newspaper reports is exposed as a false assumption.

Let's now take a look at the reporting of the inquest into what was known as the Hoxton Murder in February 1887 (being the murder of Lydia Green).  Again the inquest was conducted by Wynne Baxter.  According to the report in the Times of the proceedings at the inquest on 11 February 1887 (as reported on 12 February 1887), the witnesses that day were:

1. Annie Manton, 2, New-street, Drysdale-street, a surgical instrument coverer.

2. Thomas Attrill, 8 Baches-street, Shoreditch, bricklayer.

3. Inspector Pearn, G Division .

4. Robert Cracknell (who deposed that he had known the murder suspect, Thomas William Currell for five years).

 

No address was given for Robert Cracknell but that is not the point I really wish to draw attention to. The reason for the absence of an address at this point is evidently because Inspector Pearn had already stated in evidence that he had been to 22 Fanshawe Street where he saw the occupier of the room, Robert Cracknell.  So we can see it was unnecessary for the newspaper to include Cracknell's address again, although the deposition shows that he did, indeed, state his address as being 22 Fanshawe Street.  The point that I want to make is that, in the deposition (CRIM 1/25/8), Cracknell says, 'I am a boot and shoe repairer'.  This was not reported in the Times even though the occupations of the previous two civilian witnesses, Manton and Attrill, were reported. So should we read something into that?  I don't think so.

 

We might also usefully look at the coroner's inquiry into the death of Maria Clarke in December 1895.  According to the report of proceedings in the Islington Gazette of 23 December 1895, the witnesses were as follows (with their personal information listed as reported):

1. Mrs Mary Ann Grey, wife of a stone mason, of 10, Morton-terrace, Pimlico...

2. Mrs Alice Stroud, wife of William Stroud, a wheelwright, 22, Rochester-street, Westminster...

3. Thomas Brown, public house manager of 86, Morton-road, Essex-road...

4. Alfred Griffiths, a carman, of 13, Queensbury-street...

5. Police-constable Papper, 326, N...

6. John Stanley, the cabman, said…

7. Detective-inspector Navin, N division...

8. Dr. M.J. Robinson gave evidence as to the wound in the young girl’s throat...

It will be immediately noted that the addresses of the civilian witnesses are given, including the address of a carman, but the address of the cabman, John Stanely is not reported.

 

So experts.  What conclusion is to be drawn from this?  Do we think that - perhaps because he was a passing cabman - he wasn't required to state his address at the inquest?

Well that's not the case.  John Stanley's deposition (at CRIM 1/43/10) shows that he said:

'I am a cab-driver and reside at 57 King Street, Camden Town.' 

We might even note that Dr M.J. Robinson - full name according to the deposition being, Malachai Joseph Robinson - said in his evidence: 'I am a duly registered medical practitioner and reside at 257 Essex Road', but his address also wasn't reported in the Islington Gazette.

Going back to 1880, an inquest into the death of Jane Messenger was reported in the Morning Post of 27 October 1888.  The witnesses, as listed in the newspaper, were:

1. Henry James Messenger, 41, Edward-square, wood turner (husband of deceased).

2. Dr Wharry, house surgeon at the Great Northern Hospital.

3. John Bradley, 25, Chatterton-road, Finsbury Park, canvasser.

4. PC Taylor, 169 T.

5. Inspector MacFadden, T Division.

6. Sarah De Boo...

7. John Allcock...

8. Mr Cochraine, manager of Finsbury-park .

The depositions reveal that Sarah Deboo (sic) said she resided at 45 Stoneleigh Street, Notting HiIl and that John Alcock said he resided at 8 Finsbury Park.  We also learn that John Bradley said that he was a canvasser for a railway company.  Thomas Cochrane (sic) described himself as the Superintendent of Finsbury Park, although the reporter changed this to 'manager'.   Once again, certain information is omitted from the newspaper reports but there is no significance in it.

Let's move on to a report of proceedings at Bow Street Police Court against Thomas Neill Cream on 8 August 1892 as reported in the Times of 9 August 1892.  For this one I want to look at the general quality of the reporting in the Times when it came to identifying witnesses.

The first civilian witness that day, according to the Times, was 'Harriett Clemence, 8 Duke-street, Westminster-bridge-road, charwoman'.  However, the deposition reveals that her name was actually Annie Clements who said 'I am a charwoman and live at 18 Joiner Street, Westminster Bridge Road'.  She had been living at 8 Duke Street on 13 October 1891, which was the date of the death of one of Cream's victims, but had obviously since moved.  You wouldn't get her new address from the Times, however. 

The next witness, according to the Times, was 'Francis Linfield, 48, Surrey-street' but the deposition reveals that her name was Constance Linfield living at 48 Little Surrey Street.

Another witness that day was, per the Times, Maggie Armstead, wife of William Armstead, photographer, Westminster-bridge-road'.  There is nothing wrong with that but the deposition makes clear that she gave her address as 129 Westminster Bridge Road.  Other witnesses had their address published in full, so why not this one?  It's not a question that is capable of being answered so there is no point speculating about it. Furthermore, it was a very frequent occurrence that the full address, including the house number, was not reported.

The evidence of the final witness of the day commenced thus in the Times: 'George Rich, 15 Woodstock-street, said he was formerly coachman to Lady Russell'.  This matches what he said in his deposition except that in his deposition he said that he was formerly coachman to 'Countess Russell'.  The change here may be insignificant and to the same effect but, in some cases, something small like that that could be important. 

This was just one random comparison that I did and we can find a number of errors which are certainly small ones but if you were studying the Cream case so that every detail was important they could be significant.   

CONCLUSION

We can see that newspaper reports of inquests and police court proceedings did not faithfully record ever detail and that addresses of witnesses were often omitted from the reports for no apparent reason, even though the full addresses of other witnesses in the same report were included.  Anyone who thinks there is significance in this type of thing is clearly crossing the line.

Lord Orsam
8 September 2019