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Inquest Of P.C. Thompson

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Inquest Of P.C. Thompson

Post by Karen on Tue 11 Jan 2011 - 0:08



On Monday, at the London Hospital, Mr. Baxter opened the inquest on the body of Ernest Thompson, aged 32, lately residing at 1, Princes-street, Commercial-road, who was stabbed to death in Whitechapel early on Dec. 1. The court was crowded during the hearing. For quite an hour before the commencement of the proceedings large crowds gathered outside the main entrance to the court, and when Barnet Abrahams, the Jewish cigar maker, who is in custody on a charge of murdering the deceased, drove up in charge of two warders, he was loudly hooted and hissed. Abrahams was legally represented by Mr. C. Deakin.

The first witness called was Albert Thompson, residing at 41, Devereaux-street, Old Kent-road, a police-constable, 245 M. Deceased, he said, was his brother. He had been in the police force 12 years. Witness last saw him alive on the Thursday week, and he was then in good health.

Inspector Divall: His total length of service was 10 years. He joined the force on Dec. 29, 1890.

Dr. Hilliard, house surgeon at the London hospital, said that the deceased constable was brought into the hospital about 1:35 a.m. on Dec. 1. He was then dead. At the coroner's request, he made a post-mortem examination of the body. He found a punctured wound on the left side of the neck, about an inch below the angle of the jaw. It was about three-quarters of an inch long, sloped downwards and inwards, and passed into the internal jugular, almost severing the artery. The hemorrhage had been very great. The sharp-end of the instrument by which the wound had been made had gone in uppermost. Death was due to the cutting of the vessels in the neck. All the organs were healthy.
Shown the knife by which it was said the deed was done, the witness said the wound could have been made with the instrument.

The Foreman of the Jury: Do the jury understand that as the wound was downward, it would have required a taller man than the deceased to inflict it?
The coroner held that the statement of the medical officer did not allow of that deduction, and he gave a practical illustration in support of his contention by holding the knife in a downward position on the neck of Dr. Hilliard, who is a much taller man than Mr. Baxter.

Mr. Deakin said the foreman of the jury had anticipated the only question he intended to ask.
On Tuesday, William Butcher, a coffee stall keeper, residing at Silver-street, Mile-end, stated that about 1:30 a.m., on Dec. 1, whilst in Commercial-road, he noticed the accused walking slowly towards Stepney, and on the same side of the road as himself. He was about a yard from Union-street, outside Morrison's-buildings, when he first passed him. The deceased was about ten yards behind. Witness spoke to Constable Thompson for a while and then walked away. The prisoner was walking across the road. Soon after leaving the policeman witness heard a scuffle, and on looking round saw the prisoner and the constable struggling on the pavement.
The Coroner: Did you see anything in the accused's hand as you passed him? - No.
Mr. Deakin: When you saw Abrahams first, did you notice any injuries on his face? - No; I did not see any. Before the struggle I saw no one else in the roadway, and I saw no blow struck before the two fell. I saw nothing whatever done by the accused to the deceased.
And you were looking at them during the latter part of the struggle? - Yes. Witness added that the constable was uppermost.

William Butcher, son of the previous witness, said at the time of the occurrence he was in charge of a coffee-stall at the corner of Church-lane. He saw the deceased on his beat a few minutes after the stall was opened. He saw the accused about one o'clock. Abrahams came to the stall with two women and ordered some coffee, eggs, and bread and butter for them. He had nothing. After they had had their refreshments they went about six feet away towards Aldgate. Prior to that time there had been no noise; but then he heard Abrahams laughing and singing. The deceased came up from the direction of Union street towards the stall, and ordered the accused away. Abrahams said he wanted to know what he had done, and the deceased replied, "Move on."
The Coroner: Did he do so? - Yes, he went towards Union-street. The women walked towards Aldgate.
Which way did the deceased go? - He followed behind Abrahams. Continuing, witness said the deceased did not stop until he got to Morrison's-buildings. There he stood, and Abrahams walked some little distance further before he stopped. When both were standing still they were some few feet from one another. Just after, the accused walked towards deceased, and the deceased walked towards the accused. Then they closed together, and both fell.
Did Abrahams, when you saw him, appear to be under the influence of drink? - He did not.
Did you see any knife used at any time? - No. Witness added that there were no marks of injury on Abrahams's face when he was at the stall with the two women. He was not quarrelsome in any way.
Mr. Deakin: When the constable told accused to move off what did he say? - "Go away," and he went away. Abrahams as he was walking away asked what he had done.
And did the constable strike him a blow on the point of the chin? - I did not see it.
Are you prepared to swear that the constable did not strike him? - No.
William T. Ellis, a cab-washer, of Bethnal-green, said he left Abrahams and the two women at the stall. Returning five minutes later, he saw the deceased driving the accused away.
The Coroner: How was the constable driving him? - He was pushing him along, and had to push him until they got to the Old Brewery gates. There he stopped, and Abrahams went away a bit. Then the constable walked towards him, and the pair closed and fell. Up to the time the constable pushed him the accused behaved himself properly.

Constable Albert Pimms, 100 H, spoke to answering a police whistle and finding the deceased kneeling on the accused and holding him. Witness saw blood pouring out from the left side of the deceased's neck. He was then unconscious.
The Coroner (surprised): And he was still holding the prisoner? - Yes. His hold was so tight that it took another constable and myself some seconds before we could release it. We drove him to London hospital; but he died before getting there. Witness added that the deceased had not been using his truncheon, as it was found in the usual place.
Mr. Deakin: Had the accused any injuries on the face when you saw him lying on the ground? - None.
And you cannot say how he came by them? - I cannot.
The first witness called on Wednesday was William Ward, a waterside labourer, of Leyes-road, Custom house, who stated that he was in Commercial-road, at 12:40 a.m. on Dec. 1, and met Thompson at the corner of Union-street. Witness had been a warder at Pentonville, and therefore knew Thompson. He stood speaking to him for about 12 minutes, and while there seven men and two women created a disturbance. Thompson threatened to take the men into custody, and six of them moved away. Abrahams, who was there, called witness and the constable a foul name, and witness assisted the constable to disperse them. Abrahams was with the two women, and asked Thompson why he pushed him, but witness and the constable moved to the other corner again. The six men then returned and with Abrahams and the women made a united rush at Thompson. The six men were again dispersed and went across Commercial-road.
In reply to Mr. Deakin, witness said he had seen, prior to that day, a representative of a London evening paper and made a statement. He denied that it differed from his evidence. What happened was, the person who took the statement from him asked if he might add a little more to it (laughter).
Did you say "Thompson was using his fists freely, that there was a fight with foreigners, and that Thompson struck one of his assailants in the mouth." - No.
You say that is a pure invention? - Yes; I do.
In answer to a further question, witness stated that he had been a warder at Pentonville, but was dismissed for unpunctuality.
In answer to the coroner, Inspector Divall stated that every effort had been made to trace the women, but without avail.

Constable Zieba Beckett, 414 H, deposed that he left Leman-street police-station about 1:20, in company with six other officers, in order to escort five prisoners to Arbour-square station. On reaching Commerical-road one of the other constables said, "Joe, run, there is a policeman in trouble." Witness looked across the road and saw Thompson and a man struggling opposite Morrison's-buildings, and at once went across. The two stopped struggling when witness got about 10 yards from the men, and he then noticed blood spurting from the left side of the constable's neck. Abrahams's back was turned to witness. Witness at once blew his whistle. Deceased did not blow his whistle either before or after that, but other whistles were blown. Thompson exclaimed to witness, "I am done. He has stabbed me. Hold him," and then fell over on his left side, still clutching the prisoner's coat with both hands. Abrahams tried to rise, and witness tried to loosen Thompson's grip with one hand, and with the other held Abrahams down.
The Coroner: Did he struggle? - Yes, Sir. Constable Timms then arrived and assisted in getting Thompson's hands free from Abrahams's coat.
What were you doing? - I got the prisoner to his feet, and as he was still very violent I drew my truncheon. I dealt him a heavy blow on the left shoulder. Another constable at the same time struck him in the face with his fist. We then took him to Leman-street police-station. There was no one near Thompson and Abrahams when witness first saw them struggling.
Mr. Deakin: What violence did the accused show to necessitate your using your truncheon? - He was very violent, and struck me in the chest. Witness added that when he saw the accused the first time he had no mark on his face. So far as he could tell, there was only one blow struck on accused's face after the witness hit him with the truncheon. It was Constable Atkinson who struck him in the face.
What sort of a blow was it? - Full in the face.
But where was the necessity for it? You had settled him with your truncheon. - And he had settled my mate.
Can you account for his other injuries to the face? - They might have been caused whilst he was on the ground. Witness denied that the accused had been knocked about out of revenge, either on the way or at the station.

Constable Hurding, 51 H R, said that he was in charge of one of the prisoners going to Arbour-square, when he noticed Thompson struggling with Abrahams. He went across with his prisoner, and rendered what assistance he could. He was positive that when he first saw Abrahams there were no injuries to his face. When Abrahams was got on to his feet he commenced to struggle, and a number of roughs who gathered round threatened the officers with violence. Constable Beckett then struck Abrahams on the left shoulder with his truncheon, and as that did not quiet him Constable Atkinson struck him a blow with his fist between the eyes. He then calmed down, and was taken to the station. After that witness found the pocket-knife produced with the blade open, just on the spot where the prisoner had been lying.

Walter Atkinson, 231 H, another constable, gave similar evidence, and said that he struck the accused with his fists twice in the face.
Mr. Deakin: For what reason?
Witness - Because he had done an injury to my colleague.
You admit that as the sole reason? - Yes, I do.

Police-constable Tittle, 400 H, said he saw the accused raise his right hand above his head, and apparently strike the deceased on the left side of the head. The deceased immediately seized the accused by the collar of his coat with both hands. A struggle ensued, and the deceased threw the accused on his back, falling on top of him. The witness did not see the accused battered with a truncheon. He did not see everything that happened, his immediate attention being occupied by the deceased.

Inspector Divall said that at seven o'clock in the morning he saw Abrahams at Leman-street police-station. After receiving a reply from him that he understood English, he formally charged him with killing the deceased by stabbing him with a knife whilst in the execution of his duty. The witness showed him the knife, remarking "with this knife," and the accused nodded his head, and said, "Then I am charged with maliciously killing?" and the witness replied, "You are charged with feloniously killing." After a pause the accused said, "It is possible, but I don't remember anything about it; I had no cause to do any injury to anybody."

Serjeant F. Wensley, H division, stated that he was present at the station when Abrahams was charged. Whilst taking a description of Abrahams he said, "I did do it; it was an unlucky minute for me." He paused, and then added, "May his soul rest in peace;" after a further pause he added, "I regret it, but it can't be helped." These statements were quite voluntary on the part of the accused.

Police-constable Gallyer, 452 H, who was also present, corroborated hearing the statement.
The inquiry was again adjourned.


On Thursday, in the presence of an enormous gathering, the funeral of Constable Ernest Thompson took place at Bow Cemetery. The cortege left the house of the deceased officer in Princes-street, Stepney, shortly before one o'clock, and, headed by the band of the division to which the deceased had been attached, and which played the "Dead March" in Saul, proceeded on its journey. Behind the carriages containing the relatives and friends, there followed considerably over 3,000 officers and men of the Metropolitan police, and representatives of the City and Thames police and the Metropolitan Fire brigade. All along the line of route the streets were densely packed with spectators. The blinds of the houses were drawn, and in some cases the shopkeepers closed their establishments entirely whilst the procession passed by. A service was held at two o'clock at Christ Church, Jamaica-road, Stepney, conducted by the vicar, the Rev. F.J. Hobbins, assisted by several neighbouring rectors. The Bishop of Stepney gave an address. Amongst those present were Mr. Spencer Charrington, M.P., and Mr. Harry Samuel, M.P. At the conclusion of the service the procession was continued to Bow. At the cemetery an impressive service was held, the Rev. J.A, Faithfull, rector of Whitechapel, officiating. The coffin, which was covered with wreaths, bore the inscription, "Ernest Thompson, who departed this life Dec. 1, 1900, aged 32 years." The remains were slowly laid to rest at the side of those of two other police officers who also met their deaths whilst on duty.



At the Thames police-court, on Friday, Barnet Abrahams, an English Jew, of 50, Newark-street, Commercial-road, was charged on remand, before Mr. Dickinson, with the wilful murder of Police-constable Ernest Thompson, 240 H, on the 1st inst.

Mr. Sims, who appeared to prosecute on behalf of the Treasury, now gave the official version of the tragedy. Thompson, who had been 10 years in the police service, and was a married man with four children, was on duty in Commercial-road and some adjoining streets. The former thoroughfare, to use the words of one of the witnesses, was "as light as day." About half-past 12 a man named William Ward, who had been in the convict service, met the constable and had a conversation with him. While they were talking several men, including prisoner, and two women, appeared on the scene. They were shouting, singing, and creating a disturbance. The constable requested them to go away, and they did so, but returned and gathered round the constable. Ward went to Thompson's assistance. Abrahams was anxious to know why he was ordered away, but at length went, after having used threatening language. When last seen he was going down Union-street. Ward then wished the constable good-night and went on his way. About one o'clock a man named Butcher pitched his coffee-stall near the spot, and the prisoner, accompanied by two women, came there. Abrahams seemed in a merry mood, and was laughing and singing. The constable came along and told him to go away. The prisoner eventually did so, followed by the constable. On getting to the top of Union-street he stood still, and the constable was then about 10 yards distant. Butcher would state he saw no blow struck, but a constable did. Thompson's last words were, "I am done for. Hold him; he has stabbed me." His truncheon was found in his pocket. The prisoner struggled and resisted so much that the police had to resort to harsh measures. When at the station prisoner said, "They nearly murdered me with their truncheons, and it is a wonder I am alive." The next morning, when formally charged, he made the two statements given in evidence at the inquest. Those were the facts, and it would be clear the prisoner and the deceased were the only two persons together. Two or three witness were called, after which Mr. Dickinson remanded the prisoner until Friday next.


Mr. W.E. Gordon, M.P. for Stepney; Mr. S.M. Samuel, M.P. for Whitechapel; the Rev. F.J. Hobbins, vicar of Christ church, Stepney; the Rev. J.A. Faithfull, rector of Whitechapel; and the Rev. E.C. Carter, vicar of St. Jude's, Whitechapel, in an appeal on behalf of the murdered constable's widow and children say: - She is left with four children under four years of age, the youngest being only a few months old. We understand that she will receive a small pension from the Police fund, but this will not be sufficient to maintain her and her little children. Police-constable Thompson died in the execution of his duty, and we venture to hope that his widow will not be allowed to want.

Subscriptions will be gratefully received and acknowledged by the Rev. F.J. Hobbins, Vicar of Christ Church, Stepney, 25, Stepney-green, E.; or may be paid to the account of the "Thompson Fund," London and South-Western Bank (Stepney branch), 368, Commercial-road, E.; or to the London and Westminster Bank, Whitechapel-road, E.

Source: Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, December 9, 1900, Page 5

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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