Both Charles Allen Lechmere and Robert Paul agree that the latter arrived on Buck’s Row when the former was already at the scene. We can therefore safely focus our attention, for the time being, on the first man on the scene of the crime. On the afternoon of the Mary Ann Nichols murder Robert Paul gave an interview to Lloyd’s Weekly. His interview is important for a number of reasons: he gave it on the same day of the murder, before Charles Allen Cross (later discovered to be ‘Lechmere’) had come forward, and before the media hype surrounding a serial killer. Nichols’ murder was being treated as a routine murder case in the city. It is of great interest because a number of the more important details contradict the evidence given at the inquest on 17 September; more than two and a half weeks later. Paul states that he is a carman in the employ of Covent Garden Market, and that at exactly a quarter to four in the morning he arrived on Buck’s Row. It was so dark that he could not see blood on the body, and so it stands to reason that he would not have been able to see blood on Lechmere if he had blood on him. Paul says that he was hurrying along,
“When I saw a man standing where the woman was. He came a little towards me, but as I knew the dangerous character of the locality I tried to give him a wide berth. Few people like to come up and down here without being on their guard, for there are such terrible gangs about. There have been many knocked down and robbed at that spot. The man, however, came towards me and said, ‘Come and look at this woman.’”
– Robert Paul Interview, Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday 2 September 1888
Lechmere, in this first statement, is not standing in the middle of the road, but “where the woman was.” Charles Lechmere was at the body when Paul arrived on Buck’s Row, yet by the time that this is all reported again, more than two weeks later, he says that he “saw a man standing in the middle of the road.” Lechmere’s deposition says that they both (Paul and himself) “crossed over to the body,” yet this is different to that given by Paul who “stepped in the roadway to pass [Lechmere].” The impression that one gets from Paul’s account is that he is walking on the same side of the road where the body is lying (which Paul does not see for the darkness), that Lechmere is standing in his way on the footpath (alternative reading of “in the middle of the road”), and that he steps onto the road in order to pass Lechmere. Such would certainly make sense in light of the comment that the woman was “lying across the gateway,” an immediacy which implies proximity and not on the other side of the road.