Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

William Wess

Posted: August 23, 2009 in Obituaries
Find below, an obituary of William Wess, the very first witness who testified at the inquest of Elizabeth Stride, murdered in Dutfield’s Yard.
William (Woolf) Wess Obituary: Death of Anarchist Veteran; Echo of Bryant and May Strike
George Cores
Death has taken from us, in his eighty-fourth year, our comrade William Wess, on May 23rd of this year. His body was cremated at Golder’s Green Crematorium.
We have lost a true comrade; the world a real noble man. His life was an epitome of the mind and activity of a genuine anarchist in present-day society.
He was born in Lithuania in 1861. As a lad he worked in Dvinsk, and in 1881 followed the great emigration of the Jews after the terrible pogroms which occured in Russia at that period. He came to London, and after learning the English, German and Russian languages, became one of the founders of the International Working Men’s Educational Club in Berners Street, Commercial Road, E. and later its secretary (the title of the club deserved to be "Germinal", so much has been its outcome.) Here was started the "Workers’ Friend" (a journal in the Yiddish language) which lasted for many years. In 1895 William Wess became editor for some months.
During Wess’ secretaryship the Berners Street club became famous as a centre of enlightenment and propaganda. Among well-known people who lectured or addressed meetings there were William Morris, Annie Besant, John Burns, Peter Kropotkin, Stepniak, John [Johann] Most, Elisee Reclus and Errico Malatesta. Active British comrades of the time, such as Charles Mowbray, Frank Kitz, David Nicol [Nicoll], Ted Leggatt, John Turner and George Cores also addressed meetings from its platform. It was the headquarters of the famous strike of the match-box girls of Bryant and May, in which Annie Besant and Herbert Burrows figured prominently. But the club, true to its practical Anarchist character, did not merely gather the poor girls and women together to listen to speeches, and to parade them in strike processions, but fed them, to the best of its ability, with bread and butter, cake, tea, etc., to maintain their stamina. There were no strike funds to draw upon and street collections had to be made to sustain the poor workers who were in revolt against making match-boxes in their own homes for twopence-farthing a gross.
Wess was Secretary of the club when it organised a mass-meeting in the Great Assembly Hall, Mile End, E., on November 1st 1890, to protest against the foul persecution of the Jews in Russia.
The exploitation of the immigrant Jewish workers was very severe, especially in the East End of London, and Comrade Wess, in co-operation with others, was most active in trying to bring about an amelioration of their conditions.
William Wess played an important role in the Jewish trade-union movement in Britain. He helped to establish almost all of the Jewish unions in the 1880’s  and 1890’s.
He was proud of the part he took in the great East London Tailors’ strike in 1889. The strike lasted from August 27th until October 2nd, and its aim was to reduce the working-day to 10 1/2 hours. Wess was the secretary of the strike committee and worked hard day and night for it. Funds had to be raised to provide the necessaries of life for the strikers and their families. Wess obtained a donation of £75 from Lord Rothschild and Samuel Montague (afterwards Lord Swaythling), gave the sum of £30 10s. 0d.! The strike was won – at least for a time. It is pleasant to add that the dockers contributed £100 to the strike funds, while other English trade-unions, including the Tailors, also gave smaller sums of money.
In 1890 Wess founded and became Secretary of the East London Workers’ Unions. In the 1890’s he was secretary of the International Tailors, Machinists and Pressers’ Trade Union, and later of the United Ladies’ Tailors and Mantle Makers’ Association.
And yet his activity in the Jewish Workers’ movement is by no means the whole story. He was a member of the (original) Socialist league in the ’80’s – when the present writer first met him – and when "Freedom" was published by Mrs. Wilson, Peter Kropotkin and the other comrades he joined with them in their English propaganda of Anarchism, and was associated with the Freedom Group until 1914. (Both "Freedom" and the Freedom Group" have long passed out of existence, and are not to be confused with any present paper using the same name. He learned type-setting and at one period, when the offices of the journal were in St. Augustine’s Road, Camden Town, N.W., set up the type there.
As a man his nature and conduct were of the kindest and most tolerant character. He sought to win others by persuasion to sympathy with the principles and ideals of our movement.
As can be seen by his work in the Jewish trade unions he was in favour of direct action methods, although the phrase was not in general use in those days.
As a man in his private life he was a good husband and father. He won the respect and esteem of numerous people, and many, both in his country and the U.S.A. will deeply regret the fact that he is no longer with us.
Of course, he was not a believer in any theological superstition. Almost to the last he was, in spite of his age, actively associated with the movement. This year, 1946, he was present and made an encouraging speech at a social meeting at the Workers Circle House in Alie Street, Aldgate, E. which was held to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the publication of the "Freie Arbeiter Stimme" (Free Workers Voice") of New York, the well-known Jewish Anarchist journal.
William Wess’ life was that of a man wholly devoted to the service of humanity; and especially to the betterment of conditions of the workers, and to their
emancipation from the slavery and misery of modern times.
From: Direct Action (monthly organ of the Anarchist Federation of Britain), v.1, no.10 (August 1946).

Dr. Bond’s Suicide

Posted: August 20, 2009 in Obituaries
Dr. Bond, the famous medical coadjutor of the British Criminal Investigation Department, the man whose name has been professionally associated with practically every sensational London murder mystery for the past quarter of a century, has himself become the central figure of a tragedy. He committed suicide on June 6 by throwing himself from the third floor window of his residence, 7, the Sanctuary, Westminster. He was carried across the road to Westminster Hospital, on whose staff he had been for twenty-six years when he retired in 1899. He had been suffering from melancholy and was confined to his bed.
In was in the De Tourville case in 1875 that Dr. Thomas Bond’s name first came prominently before the public as that of a medico-legist. De Tourville was a waiter in a French restaurant, who was taken into service by a travelling Englishman, with whom he visited a number of places. The Englishman mysteriously disappeared, and De Tourville came to London, entered the Temple, was called to the Bar, cut a great dash at Scarborough as a French count, married a young woman of fortune, and killed her mother. But no suspicion was aroused at first. The body was buried after a brief inquest, and it was not until both the first and second wives of De Tourville died strange deaths, leaving their large fortunes in his hands, that the body of the first wife’s mother was exhumed. De Tourville had declared she had accidentally shot herself while looking down the barrel of a pistol. Dr. Bond’s examination of the skull proved that she had been murdered from behind.
Then came the Wainwright case, when Dr. Bond discovered three bullets embedded in the brain of the victim, Harriet Lane – bullets which had been overlooked in the first post-mortem examination. His researches also led to the establishment of identification conclusively.
In after years Dr. Bond’s knowledge and skill were employed in the Richmond (Kate Webster) case, the Lefroy and Lamson murders, the Whitechapel series, and the Camp train crime, to detail a few of the many occasions in which Scotland Yard called him as an expert.
Source: Star, Issue 7149, 13 July 1901, Page 4

Obituary Of Coroner John Troutbeck

Posted: August 12, 2009 in Obituaries
Find below another obituary of John Troutbeck, Coroner for Westminster, who held the inquest into the murder of an unknown woman whose dismembered remains were found in a vault below the site slated for the new Scotland Yard building. This case is known to many as the Whitehall tragedy.
(From Our Own Correspondent.)
The official life of Mr. John Troutbeck, the Westminster Coroner, who died yesterday, spans quite a long period in the development of legal enquiries in this country. One is almost astounded, in view of the freedom and independence of the press today, to read of his methods so recently as the ‘nineties.
Mr. Troutbeck was not an old man – only fifty-one – and he was first appointed a Coroner for the City and Liberty of Westminster in 1888. First of all Mr. Troutbeck came into conflict with the medical profession by his employment of what he called a "special pathologist," a medical witness who should give evidence entirely on the results of his post-mortem and independent of anything the medical attendant of the deceased person might have to say. He was accused by the Medical Association of actually withholding from the jury the evidence of the medical attendant, and in one case of severely censuring the medical attendant for absence, when in point of fact he had not been summoned to the inquest. Lord Halsbury said he was not in favour himself of the Coroner’s practice, but he could not say that grounds had been established for his removal.
The next outburst was in 1908, when Mr. Troutbeck insisted on holding an inquest on a woman who had died after an operation had been performed by Sir Victor Horsley. The case, Sir Victor said, was such a usual one that there was no necessity for an inquest, but Mr. Troutbeck held that operations were clearly to some extent the cause of death, and therefore such cases came under the Coroners’ Act, 1887. After a long correspondence, The Times declared the practice intolerable to the whole medical profession.
Another of Mr. Troutbeck’s idiosyncracies was the holding of private inquests at which even the Press was not represented. The most famous of these was on the late Duke of Bedford, who died in 1891. It was given out that the Duke had died a natural death, but a week later it transpired that he had committed suicide, and that Mr. Troutbeck had held an inquest in private. This, of course, led to a violent discussion, the result of which was to vindicate the right of a Coroner to hold inquests in private. There was the other celebrated case of the Gaiety girl, Miss Manton, who died under suspicious circumstances. The inquest was never reported, Mr. Troutbeck refusing absolutely to communicate his notes to anyone. In those days, it ought to be explained, reporting was more or less in the hands of cliques of professional reporters, who retailed their reports to the Press at large, and cornered the business. Mr. Troutbeck himself refused to give any information to accredited representatives of individual papers.
A cultured linguist, Mr. Troutbeck often dispensed with the services of interpreters at his enquiries. He was also a skilled musician, and played the viola in the orchestra at the Coronation last year. He was appointed Coroner by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.
Source: Evening Post, Volume LXXXIII, Issue 84, 9 April 1912, Page 8

The end of Mr. Thomas Bond, the consulting surgeon to Scotland Yard, was sudden and tragic. For six months he had been suffering from an irritating internal malady, which latterly caused melancholia, and for four or five months past he had an attendant at No. 7, The Sanctuary, Westminster. For six weeks he had been confined to his bed. He showed signs of improvement at the beginning of the week, and on Wednesday night, although he said he felt "something wrong with his head," he slept soundly. About 7 o’clock yesterday morning the nurse left the room for a moment, and then Mr. Bond, the mania suddenly seizing him, leapt from his bed, clad only in his nightshirt, and threw himself from the window on the third floor. He fell nearly 50 ft. on to his head into the area. Passersby rushed to his assistance, only to find a portion of the brain protruding, and the unhappy man at his last gasp. By the time he had been carried across the road to Westminster Hospital, where he had so often during the last quarter of a century attended people in like plight, he was dead.
The late surgeon, who was in his 60th year, contributed many articles to medical journals, and was active in his experiments and researches. But he bulked largest in the public eye as Scotland Yard’s consultant in criminal cases. His first case was in connection with the victims of the foundered Princess Alice, his last couple those of Dr. Collins and Dr. Whitmarsh, charged with murder as the result of their illegal operations on women. In 1875 he was called in to make a further examination of the remains of Harriet Lane, on the charge of murdering whom, at Whitechapel, Henry Wainwright was arraigned. Mr. Bond’s evidence as to the discovery of three bullets which had been previously overlooked, and as to other points in connection with the case, helped to place the rope round the neck of the prisoner. Mr. Bond examined the bodies of the victims of "Jack the Ripper," and he arrived at the conclusion that in all the cases the same man was concerned. In 1879, he gave evidence in the case of Katherine Webster, who was convicted for the murder of her mistress, Miss Thomas, at Richmond; and two years later his evidence helped to convict Percy Lefroy of the murder of Mr. Gold. Other notable cases in which he had to make autopsies and give evidence were the Wimbledon and Neil Cream poisoning cases and the murder of Miss Camp on the South Western railway.
He was a formidable witness, for when once he made up his mind he gave his evidence with confidence, and without the least hesitation; and cross examination was more likely to drive another nail into the murderer’s coffin than to afford the prisoner a loophole of escape.

Source: The Advertiser (Adelaide, S. Australia), Monday 15 July 1901, page 11

Isaac Salomon van der Wood

Posted: March 15, 2009 in Obituaries
Isaac Salomon Van der Wood, son of Solomon Isaac van der Hout was a political and social activist, and is more than likely the man who represented the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee at the inquest of Mary Jane Kelly. A complete biography on Mr. Van der Wood (formerly Hout) can be found at this website:

Police Constable Ernest Thompson

Posted: January 11, 2009 in Obituaries
P.C. Ernest Thompson, the officer who found the dying body of Frances Coles lying under a railway arch in Swallow Gardens, was stabbed to death on December 1, 1900 while attempting to disperse some people near a coffee stall in Commercial Road. Here is a detailed account of the incident:
Three outrages were reported from the East End of London yesterday. Police-constable Ernest Thompson, of the H Division, was murdered in Commercial-road. He died shortly after being stabbed in the neck. Thompson was dispersing some people near a coffee stall, when, it is alleged, one of them drew a knife, and drove it into the policeman’s neck. He held on to Barnett Abrahams, who was charged at the Thames Police-court with feloniously killing Thompson. The other outrages are attributed to the Hooligans. A married woman, Harriet Ficken, residing in Elsa-street, Limehouse, was admitted to the London Hospital on Friday night with a bullet wound in her head. She was watching from her window the noisy rowdyism of a number of boys, and it is supposed she in some way remonstrated with them. One of the boys said, "We will shoot her," and he immediately fired. The woman fell backwards, and when found was taken to the hospital, where she was detained. Simon Sekone, a wood carver, was attacked by three ruffians in Whitechapel-road and so severely stabbed and maltreated as to necessitate his removal to the London Hospital. Three Italians are under arrest.
The Hooligan outrages which for months past have made the East End and other districts a disgrace to civilisation, reached a climax on Saturday morning, when a young constable was stabbed to death in Commercial-road, Whitechapel. The murdered man, who was named Ernest Thompson, 240 H, went on duty on Friday night at ten o’clock. His beat lay mainly in the vicinity of Commercial-road, and there is plenty of evidence to show that nothing unusual happened until about an hour after midnight, when, under circumstances which the course of judicial proceedings must elucidate, the Commercial-road immediately opposite Morrison’s Buildings became the scene of a quarrel, culminating in the lamentable tragedy that shocked the public on Saturday morning, and awakened them to the gravity of the state of affairs which makes Whitechapel less safe for peaceable people than the Transvaal. When I visited Commercial-road the purple stains which marked in gruesome splashes the site on which the fatal scuffle had occured were still fresh, in spite of the drizzling rain. Curiosity had evidently attracted a small group of gossiping women to the spot, but otherwise there was nothing to indicate that anything out of the ordinary course had happened. Morrison’s Buildings are a large block of model flats overlooking the spot on which poor Thompson fell in the execution of his duty. I interviewed the occupants of these dwellings, all of whom are respectable working people, and English. It sounds rather superfluous to say that the dwellers in a Whitechapel tenement are English people. But in this district English people are the exceptions, Germans, Poles, and Russians the rule. The flashing eyes and crisp black hair of the men and women one meets on the pavements suggest rather an Eastern city than London. The people in Morrison’s Buildings, which are the property of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, retire to bed early, for their employment compels them to be early astir. At half-past one or a little earlier on Saturday morning they heard angry shouts of "hold him down," sounds of scuffling, then the
blown long, but by degrees more faintly. To the noise of quarreling they are unfortunately too well accustomed. Brawling is the common characteristic of Commercial-road when once night has fallen, and the gangs of desperadoes who burrow rather than live in the neighborhood issue forth from their lairs in search of plunder and prey. When the people in the workmen’s dwellings heard the whistle some of them rushed to their windows, while others remained in bed, indifferent as to what was going on in the street. The occupants of No. 10, Morrison’s Buildings were awakened in the manner I have described. They had been in bed from eleven. The whistle which signalled that the forces of law and order were being overpowered, attracted them to their window. In the darkness of the newly-born month of December, they saw a couple of policemen lift a man from the pavement and put him into a cab. It was poor Thompson, being carried to the East London Hospital. They observed another party go away on foot. This was an English Jew, who was found clutched in the arms of the dying policeman, and who was arrested by the constables whom the whistle caused to hurry to the place. The couple living at No. 12 heard the disturbance likewise. But the wife was ill, too ill to leave her bed, and the husband was too sleepy to understand that underneath his windows a solitary policeman was bravely holding on to a prisoner in the face of a hostile mob.
According to the police, the story of the crime shows that Thompson, who was considered by his comrades as a most inoffensive man, was going his usual round this morning. At a coffee-stall at the corner of Church-lane he saw the prisoner with two women. He asked them to move on, and Abrahams did so very slowly and hesitatingly. The prisoner went off in the direction of Bow, while the women turned towards Aldgate. This much was witnessed by the coffee-stall keeper, who, however, did not see what is alleged to have subsequently happened. The prosecution, however, intended to submit evidence showing that Abraham, on reaching the bottom of Union-street at its junction with Commercial-road, took out a knife from his pocket and walked towards the policeman, who had been coming in the same direction. There, as is alleged, he attacked Thompson, plunging the knife into the policeman’s neck. It is the custom to remove prisoners from Leman-street Police-station to the Arbour-square court about one o’clock in the morning, and this morning some half a dozen policemen were in charge of the removal of prisoners. They were passing on the other side of Commercial-road when they saw Thompson struggling with Abraham, and one of them says he saw prisoner’s hand descending on Thompson’s neck, although he was too far off to see an instrument. Two of these
policemen at once went to their comrade’s assistance, and one of them is said to have seen


It is at least beyond doubt that an ordinary 3-inch blade pocket-knife, covered from tip to haft with blood, was picked up close to where the policemen and the prisoner were struggling. Thompson was at once seen to be in a serious condition. His neck and clothes were covered with blood. He had a tight hold on his man, but almost immediately his mates came up he seemed to collapse, and loosening his grip he said with great difficulty, "Hold him. I’m done." While Thompson was being speedily taken to the Hospital, his alleged assailant was conveyed to the police-station. The police say that the prisoner struggled desperately on the way. That is how the police explain the fact that Abraham was frightfully bruised about the eyes and head. When he appeared in court his face was one mass of bruises, big swellings being present under the eyes, and plaster on one or two lacerations on the top of his head. The counsel for the defence is likely to make a strong point of this in connection with the case for the prisoner. The full defence has not yet been divulged. It is suggested, however, that Thompson first attacked the prisoner when he was standing at the coffee-stall, and anything the prisoner may have done was done in self-defence. Abraham has, so far as is known, a clean record up to the present. He is an English Jew.
Thompson was the constable who came nearer than any member of the force to catching Jack the Ripper. On the occasion at the last murder there was practically only a matter of inches between the murderer and the police, and Thompson was the policeman. He was commended in this connection by the police authorities. Curiously enough, this was the first time Thompson had donned the uniform of a constable. He was always ready to speak of the night when he saw Jack the Ripper get up from where he had foully murdered his victim, and speed away into the darkness. Thompson used to exclaim, "I nearly had him. He was only an arm’s length away, and I missed him." The deceased officer is a married man with four children. Poor Thompson had 12 years’ service, being only 32 years of age. A great portion of his career had been spent in the East-end, and he was thoroughly familiar with its most dangerous quarters.
When I saw Dr. Hilliard, of the East London Hospital, he had just completed the post-mortem examination of the remains of the unfortunate constable. The young doctor was on duty at the hospital when Thompson’s comrades brought him there yesterday morning. "Nothing," said the doctor "could then be done for him. He was already dead." With regard to the statements published in various quarters that the dead man had been treated with the most relentless savagery, his back being stabbed in several places, the post-mortem examination disproves their accuracy. Doctor Hilliard found only one wound on the body. This was in the nature of a puncture on the left side of the neck, which nicked the jugular vein. "The constable had very bad luck," said the doctor, "had the weapon taken ever so slightly a different direction the result would not have been fatal." As it was Thompson’s life blood began to ebb the instant the weapon was withdrawn. He still clung bravely to his prisoner. No doubt his determination in this respect accelerated the bleeding. For a violent struggle must have taken place during the interval that elapsed between the infliction of the wound and the arrival of assistance. The fact that the deceased man is married, and is the father of four young children, intensifies the melancholy nature of the tragedy. Such, in brief, is the evidence which on Monday will be unfolded at the coroner’s inquest. Meanwhile the police are diligently pursuing inquiries, and it is expected that when the prisoner, who was taken from the arms of the dead constable, is arraigned on Friday next in the police-court, he will not stand alone in the dock.
At the Thames Police-court, later in the morning, Barnet Abrahams, 41, a cigar maker and English Jew, residing in Newark-street, Whitechapel, was charged with feloniously killing and slaying Police-constable Ernest Thompson (240 HR), by stabbing him in the neck with a knife while in the execution of his duty. Prisoner’s head was bandaged, he had two black eyes, a broken nose, one ear lacerated, and bruises on the body.
– Inspector Divall asked that only evidence of seeing prisoner with the murdered constable and that of arrest be taken in the present occasion.
– Constable 100 HR was called, and deposed that about half-past one o’clock that morning he saw Constable Thompson, who was bleeding, holding the prisoner. The constable was placed in a cab, and conveyed to the London Hospital, but died on the way thither.
At the Police-station Detective-inspector T. Divall (H Division) asked: "Do you understand English?" and accused replied, "Well." Witness then said, "Well, I am an inspector of police, and am going to charge you with feloniously killing and slaying Constable Thompson by stabbing him in the neck with this knife" (at the same time pointing to a long pocket-knife covered with blood). Prisoner asked, "Then I am charged with maliciously killing?" Witness replied, "You are charged with feloniously killing." Abrahams said, "It is quite possible. I don’t remember anything about it. I had no cause to do injury to anyone." – On that evidence Mr. Dickinson remanded prisoner.
Some startling developments may be expected at the inquest on Constable Thompson. The accused man Abrahams is of very small stature, and bears the reputation of being a quiet and harmless cigar maker. When in the dock at the police-court he bore traces of considerable ill-usage. Both his eyes were blacked and the bridge of his nose broken. It was stated he is bruised all over his body. The accused man intended to give evidence at the inquest on Monday before Mr. Baxter, and will also be represented by his solicitor, Mr. Deakin. The prisoner intends to inform the coroner how he came by his injuries, and by whose hands they were inflicted. If he does so it is probable that the charge now preferred against him may be reduced. That statement will be to the effect that while larking with two women near a coffee stall in Commercial-road Constable Thompson ordered Abrahams to move on, and because he did not quickly do so he was attacked by the officer. He used the knife to protect himself.
Source: News Of The World of Sunday, December 2, 1900, page 1

Death Of Wynne Edwin Baxter

Posted: November 25, 2008 in Obituaries
normal_baxter (WinCE)

Mr. Wynne Edwin Baxter was the East Middlesex Coroner who held the inquiries respecting the deaths of many of the Ripper’s victims. He held the inquests into the deaths of Emma Elizabeth Smith, Ripper victims Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Alice Mackenzie, and the Pinchin Street Torso.

Pursuant to the Law of Property Amendment Act, 1859.
NOTICE is hereby given, that all creditors and other persons having any claims or demands against the estate of Wynne Edwin Baxter, late of 170, Church-street, Stoke Newington, in the county of London, No. 2, The Granvilles, The Stroud, in the county of Gloucester, and 9, Albion-street, Lewes, in the county of Sussex (who died on the first day of October, 1920, and whose will was proved in the Probate Division of the High Court of Justice at the Principal Registry, on the thirtieth day of November, 1920, by Reginald Truscott Baxter and Francis William Baxter, two of the executors named in the said will), are hereby required to send the particulars, in writing, of their claims and demands to the undersigned, the Solicitors for the said executors, on or before the eighth day of August, 1921, after which date the said executors will proceed to distribute the assets of the said deceased amongst the parties entitled thereto, having regard only to the claims and demands of which they shall then have had notice; and will not be made liable for the assets of the said deceased, or any part thereof, so distributed, to any person or persons of whose claims or demands they shall not then have had notice. – Dated this 29th day of June, 1921.
      WYNNE-BAXTER and KEEBLE, of 9, Laurence Pountney-hill, in the City of London, Solicitors to the said Executors.
Source: The London Gazette, July 1, 1921, page 5278