Detective Inspector Cotford's Casebook

Detective Inspector Cotford’s Casebook

Interview with Police Constable William Harper:
Harper went on duty at 10 o’clock on Monday night. He was on a regular beat during the night and morning. Nothing had attracted his attention as being unusual. It had been a quiet night. In his opinion, snow flurries and cold had kept most of the casuals indoors. He stated he was walking back along the Strand, past Lyceum Theatre and Somerset House, making for Fleet Street. Upon reaching Surrey Street, he crossed over to turn down Surrey to make his way toward the Victorian Embankment and then his usual turn back left on Arundel Street, so as to return to Strand near the Temple. It was about 25 minutes past 5, he came upon the end of Surrey Street, where he took note of a man in great haste moving from the embankment towards Arundel Street. He called out, “What’s the hurry Governor?” The man approaching Arundel Street was identified as one Gregory J. Morris, 54, of 167 Upper Thames Road. Morris stated his intention was to find a constable in order to raise an alarm regarding his discovery. PC Harper asked what it was that had him in such an early morning rush, and Morris replied, “It’s an arm. I’m bloomin’ sure of it.” PC Harper accompanied Morris past the small timber yard, Tillman’s Timber, approaching the pier; and moving a good distance along the pier towards the end. To the right, there was another pier some ways off, opposite, and Morris pointed out across the way to something that appeared to be a bundle. PC Harper stated that the bundle at first appeared to be not of any great size and was made of what he took to be loosely wrapped canvas bound about by rope. What was of significance concerning this bundle, which had become lodged in amongst the lower pilings and posts, of the opposite pier, was in that the waves of the Thames had worked their way to loosen from one end of the oblong bundle what appeared to be a human hand. PC Harper stated that it “right looked like a hand,” but from the distance he could not be sure. Constable Harper proceeded to give alarm and made his way back to the embankment toward Surrey Street. Constable Harper stated he did encounter a man coming along with a broom on his shoulder. He said to him, “You there, be a good fellow and fetch me mate at the corner.” To which the broom man replied, “What’s on, governor?” Harper said he answered, “Tell him I have got a job on. Now, make haste.” At which point the man hurried off to find Constable Edmond Baxter, whose beat adjoined Harper’s. Constable Baxter arrived accompanied by Constable George Moore both of the City Police arriving at about 35 minutes past 5. At this point Harper made assurances that no member of the Metropolitan Police had yet arrived on scene. Constable Harper with assistance from Morris was able to commandeer a rowboat which he and Constables Baxter and Moore made use of to better inspect the bundle lodged against the opposite pier. Constable Baxter upon shining his torch upon he bundle was first to confirm that there was a human hand floating in the Thames, having become free of the canvas wrapping. Constables Harper and Baxter retrieved the bundle and with great exertion of effort lifted it into the rowboat. Upon opening the parcel they discovered an arm, which had been severed from the body just above the elbow. From location of thumb it was determined to be a left arm. By appearance it appeared to be that of a woman. “You got yourself a murder,” Constable Baxter exclaimed. “It was then that we took the arm back to the Embankment and set about to secure it. At quarter past 6, Constable Moore proceeded to the Thames Division to make a report. PC Baxter was sent up the embankment to assure passers by were told to move along. At 6:35 City Detectives arrived with several officers, who were first assigned to assist Constable Baxter in keeping those heading to work from gathering about. and to secure the general area. Harper turned over supervision of the scene to myself.

Investigative Notes:
20 minutes past 6 on Tuesday morning I was called to the Victorian Embankment just off Surrey and Arundel Streets. I went to the spot at once. When I arrived five constables were on scene. Constable William Harper had taken charge as he was the first to arrive in response to an alarm given by a pierman, Gregory J. Morris, of 167 Upper Thames Road. I questioned those gathered and no constable on duty near the spot on Tuesday morning had seen anyone with a bundle. A bundle of that nature, if seen, would have certainly attracted attention. I then positioned them to ensure that the streets were cleared of persons who were passing through on their way to work. In short order, further officers arrived from Thames Division to assist. I ordered the arriving constables to begin conducting a search of both piers and the timber yard. I then proceeded to interviewed Constable Harper in order to ascertain the situation and viewed the remains, which consisted of an arm, severed above the elbow. My immediate thought in regard to the dismemberment was it had been done cleanly with some very sharp instrument and by someone with great strength. The bone had been hewed once with no apparent sign of any attempts at hacking. The arm had been wrapped in a grey canvas and secured with ropes. The canvas and the ropes appeared to be of common usage along the piers and docks along the Thames. At approximately 45 minutes past 6, Detective Inspector Tallet arrived with Dr Clark, assistant divisional surgeon. Dr. Clark made a preliminary examination of the limb. He ascertained that it was the left arm of a woman, between the ages of twenty and five-and-twenty, who was not at all accustomed to common in service or industrial work. He hazarded a guess she performed secretarial or clerical activities. He wanted to restraint from further judgements until he had time to properly examine the arm. A general search of the immediate area, having taken place, there was no clue to be discovered. I directed the expansion of the search along the embankment. At five minutes past 7, alarm was given by Constable Moore, who had continued his search further along the Victorian Embankment up to the Waterloo Bridge. Constable Moore, having proceeded along the open embankment as it stretched up beneath the Waterloo Bridge had hazarded an inspection underneath. Thereupon he had found another bundle. This bundle rather than being wrapped in canvas was wrapped in brown paper but likewise was secured with common rope. The bundle evidenced several suspicious stains. I gave command to leave the bundle lie until the arrival of Dr Clark. Approximately three minutes passed as we awaited him and upon his arrival I proceeded to loosen the ropes to move back the brown paper, which had all the appearance of common butcher’s paper. Within I found more remains. What as revealed was the pelvis of a human female. The legs had been cut off and the abdomen severed just above the navel. Entrails seemed intact. I saw no evidence of a missing womb. Constable Baxter upon viewing the remains hurriedly stepped away so as not to contaminate the scene. I immediately had the area secured and sent Constable Moore to the Thames Division to request a photographer. Dr Clark examined the remains. His preliminary indications were that he believed there were no missing organs from this section of the lower torso. He made an observation that the dismembered pelvic anatomy was unusually devoid of blood. He suggested she had been blanched. I inquired of Constable Harper and Baxter, whose beats conjoined in the area, if there were persons who made use of the bridge’s under-structure. They reported that there were occasional casuals who did so but on nights such as the one last night, owing to the cold, and in particular the bracing wind and snow, they would have moved to areas closer to the Stand. I directed them to seek out those whom they knew to be frequenters of the bridge’s arches and under-structure. I suspected that the class of persons who used the arches and under-structure were accustomed to the neighbourhood and would know of any persons being in the arches which were not customary, or, were seen bearing any parcels or bundles. Constable Baxter in departing once again gave an alarm in having discovered, while clambering up the embankment, a woman’s purse. The purse was slightly obscured amongst some stones and dried weeds. I took possession of the purse:

Two Pounds four shillings
A small brush (1)
A comb. (1)
A fountain pen, Swan’s (1)
A small box of face powder. (1)
A powder puff. (1)
Dip-nickel tube lipstick. (1)
Underground transport ticket: Waterloo Station. (1)
A key chain, Admiralty insignia (No keys attached)
Buttons mismatched (1)
A package of cigarettes (1) with only three remaining.
A box of safety matches. (Contents – 4 matches)
Sales receipt, Hathaway Fine Books. (1)
An identification card issued from Naval Department. (1)
A folded envelope, empty (1)
Stub of Pencil (1)
Hair pins, loose (4)
Piece of paper, torn, upon which was written: “Harker” or “Parker” and below, “how much does he know

Evidence of Gregory J. Morris – Verbatim: I’ve been foremen here at Tillman’s Timber for going on four years. I arrive early of a morning, most mornings at around 5. We unload from the barges to send to Tillman’s over on City Road. There being several carriers arriving to take up what’s here on the pier and embankment, I wanted to see the lay of the land owing to the weather. I took no notice of anyone, but then again there weren’t anything to give me a-mind to, you know. And so, I was down at the end of the pier – having to relieve meself you see, when I took notice of something bobbing about across the way at the opposite pier. Don’t know why it drew my attention but having finished up, I took a turn to peer over and saw this bundle floating up against the posts. Then’s when I seen the hand. And off I am for a copper.

Evidence of Richard Hawke – Verbatim: I am a seaman. I was paid off in London some seven or eight weeks ago, and have since been in Hospital. I came out of hospital last Monday fortnight, and at the time had no money. I have been knocking about London in search of odd jobs for lodging till I was able to secure a position upon an outgoing ship. As I had had a couple of rows down in Limehouse, I decided to move up toward the West End. And so I was knocking about the streets until 20 minutes past 4 this morning. I then went to have a rest under the bridge. It was very dark at the time. I was not exactly sober. I had about three pints of beer about shutting-up time. I know the time because a policeman who was close by told me. When I entered up under the bridge I found it to be very cold owing to the wind. As I was a-feared to fall asleep for awaking to a return visit to hospital, and I didn’t want to be losing me sea-legs. So I moved back towards the Strand and found a quiet place near the Temple. I did pass by the spot to which it was told to me there had been a bundle found and I did not see one there when I was under the bridge. Else, I would have opened it and found meself a fright.

Evidence of Jeremiah Hurley- Verbatim: I live at 10 Arundel-place, Arundel -street, and I am a broom-man. I work for various establishments along the Strand where I sweep up before morning business. I was coming back round Surrey Street heading to my digs to get a bit of mother’s ruin to warm up, when a copper he come runnin’ up to me. He was a bit off the rail so to speak and winded. He told me to run off and find his mate, which I did and directed him to the pier from which the other copper had come. I was of a mind to see what was what and so I stood as to where the other coppers would let me and watched. I had not seen anything or no one earlier carrying anything. Now – I did see something a bit queer. And not likin’ to cast me dispersions in anyone’s direction like. But, as I was standin’, watchin’ where I could, before them coppers come to move me a-ways, I saw a black motorcar pull short like of the bridge there and it makes its way slowly down towards the timber yard. Not like all the ways, but just like, right there. You know. And this here copper, the one that I fetched for the first one, he walked up to it. When the window lowered, crikey there was a really nice piece in back with red-hair. She spoke to the copper. He reached in and took something from her. Could be wrong, but it looked like a purse to me. They spoke a bit and then the motorcar backs away and goes off over the bridge. The copper, he makes his way quick-like down the embankment and then comes back up. And he ain’t got the purse no more

Notes: Sought Constable Baxter at site of crime to discuss Hurley’s evidence but he had apparently gone back to Thames Division. Or so reported by Constable Morris. Need to look into this further.

Notes—Continued: PC Baxter listed as off duty. Left site of crime and failed to return to Thames Division. Did not lodge his report. Unusual to say the least. Duty Sargent indicates this to be an uncommon behaviour for Baxter – new to division but has put best foot forward. Punctual. Adherent to all divisional Protocols. Need to speak with this ‘best foot forward.’

Notes—Continued: Lengthy discussion with Commissioner Woodsworth in regards to case being transferred to the Metropolitan Police. Verbose and heated. May have spoken my mind a bit too readily – but was adamant that the worst fiend in London history had eluded and made fools of the Yard and here we go again. Female mutilation in public display. Later meeting (wasting time) with Commissioner and Detective Inspectors to have assurances City Police Criminal Division will collaborate with Metropolitan Police – there will be no more discussion of past failures. Commissioner Woodsworth ended meeting with a directive he did not want to see any references at all to JTR in any internal memorandum.

Notes—Continued: To home of victim, 85 Blackfriar Road; then to Dr. Clark for further inquiry.

Detective Inspector Cotford's Casebook

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