Elizabeth Stride - Inquest


The inquest was opened on 1 October, at the Vestry Hall, Cable Street, St George's in the East, by the Middlesex coroner, Wynne Edwin Baxter. The following day conflicting testimony as to Stride's identity was heard. The police seemed certain that Stride was the Swede Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, but Mrs Mary Malcolm swore the body was that of her sister, Elizabeth Watts. Over the course of the inquest, other witnesses identified the dead woman as Stride, including the clerk of the Swedish Church in Prince's Square, Sven Ollsen. Malcolm's story was only finally dismissed on 24 October when Elizabeth Watts disproved her sister's story by appearing personally at the inquest as living proof that she was not dead and PC Walter Stride (Stride's nephew-by-marriage) confirmed her identity.

Coroner Baxter believed that Stride had been attacked with a swift, sudden action. The murderer could have taken advantage of a checked scarf she was wearing to grab her from behind before slitting her throat, as was suggested by Blackwell. Baxter, however, thought the absence of a shout for assistance and the lack of obvious marks of a struggle indicated that she lay down willingly. She was still holding a packet of cachous (breath freshening sweets) in her left hand when she was discovered, indicating that she had not had time to defend herself. A grocer, Matthew Packer, implied to two private detectives employed by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, Le Grand and Batchelor, that he had sold some grapes to Stride and the murderer; however, he had told police sergeant Stephen White that he had shut his shop without seeing anything suspicious. At the inquest, the pathologists stated emphatically that Stride had not held, swallowed or consumed grapes. They described her stomach contents as "cheese, potatoes and farinaceous powder". Nevertheless, Packer's story appeared in the press, and private detectives did discover a grape stalk in the yard. When re-interviewed by the police, Packer described the man as aged between 25 and 30, slightly taller than her and wearing a soft felt hat, but he had told the private detectives that the man was middle-aged and heavy set. Neither of his descriptions matched the statements by other witnesses who may have seen Stride with clients shortly before her murder, but all the descriptions differed.

In his book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, Stephen Knight linked the prominent physician Sir William Gull to Stride on the basis that both were reported to carry grapes, which another Ripper author, Martin Fido, dismissed as a "wild allegation". Further doubt is cast on the story by the character of Le Grand, also known as Charles Grand, Charles Grandy, Charles Grant, Christian Neilson, and Christian Nelson, one of the men hired by the Vigilance Committee to investigate the crimes. He had an extensive criminal record, which included assault on a prostitute and conviction for theft. In 1889, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and served two years' imprisonment. After his release, he was arrested in possession of a revolver and charged with demanding money with menace, a crime for which he was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. The overall commander of the Ripper investigation, Donald Swanson, noted "any statement would be rendered almost valueless as evidence".

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