Returning to the Suspect Charles Cross – A More Interesting Character than First Meets the Eye

Charles Andrew Cross is asked to give evidence as a witness to the murder of Mary Ann Nichols to Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for South-East Middlesex, at the Working Lad’s Institute on the Whitechapel Road on the Monday after the murder (3 September 1888). On reporting his testimony the Times and the Morning Advertiser newspapers report his name as ‘George’ and ‘Charles Allen’ respectively, while the coroner’s recorder names him as ‘Charles Andrew.’ These discrepancies need not over worry us at this point. As a member of the lower social order’s (a carter by profession) the exact details of his name were not likely to have been greatly important to newspaper reporters more interested in the print value of the more gruesome details of a murder story. What is important is that they all concur that he gave his name as ‘Cross.’ It is intriguing that of the five civilian witnesses who gave evidence at the coroner’s court that day he alone did not provide his home address, offering rather the carriers Messrs. Pickford and Co. as his place of employment. Neither the court nor the newspapers appear to pick up on this evasion. As to why his address is accepted now as 22 Doveton Street, Mile End will have to wait for another discussion.

Accepting, for the moment, that his home address was 22 Doveton Street – as it was reported in the Morning Advertiser that he crossed Brady Street to enter Buck’s Row he certainly was coming from that direction – we do find a ‘Charles A.’ living at that address less than three years later in the 1891 census, but this is a Charles A. Lechmere. This man is a forty-one year old carman, who was born in Soho, and living with his wife Elizabeth and their seven children. This man, Charles A. Lechmere, was born at St. Ann’s in Soho in 1849 and was one year old at the time of the 1851 census. After the death of his father, John Allen Lechmere, his mother, Maria Louisa Roulson, remarried in 1858 a police constable by the name of Thomas Cross. By the time of the 1861 census the family are living at 13 Thomas Street, St. George East and the eleven year old Charles has taken the name Cross. At twenty-one (census of 1871) he has married Elizabeth, is employed as a carman and has reverted to the name Charles A. Lechmere. In the census of 1881 we find him named Charles Allen Lechmere, and still working as a carrier. Charles Allen Lechmere would have been thirty-nine in 1888 and would have been employed as a carman for about twenty years – as stated by Charles A. Cross at the Nichols’ inquest. His stepfather, Thomas Cross, appears to have died at St. George East in 1869 and at no point after this does Charles use the name Cross again for official records, save at the Nichol’s inquest.

We are left with two pressing questions which merit further examination: why was Lechmere not forthcoming with his full address, and why did he feel the need to use an alias at a murder inquest? Considering that he was alone when he discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols, that he was alone with her for between ten and twenty minutes without raising an alarm, and that he left the scene of the crime, he is a figure who demands further investigation.

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