Some Preliminary Hypotheses Concerning Charles Allen Lechmere in Relation to the Murder of Mary Ann Nichols – Friday 31 August 1888

An Aside

It is entirely possible that as Lechmere entered into Buck’s Row from Brady Street that, as he heard Robert Paul approaching, he too was heard by the killer, and disturbing him (assuming it was a man and a single person), who then may have walked, under the cover of darkness, to the west. While PC Jonas Mizen (56H, Whitechapel) was on his beat in the area of Hanbury Street to the west, there are at least six different routes the perpetrator could have taken to escape the scene. In this scenario Lechmere did simply happen upon the woman lying at the gateway, but it fails to answer for the time he spent at the scene without raising the alarm. As the place was an area known for street prostitution, he may have had reasons for tarrying about the area – possibly explaining why he never gave his correct name and withheld his address. He was a married man with children.

If he was the killer it is possible that he solicited Mary Ann (‘Polly’) Nichols for sex in the locality and brought her to the darkness and seclusion of Buck’s Row or found her already there. In this second scenario, had he lied about the time he left home, then he had enough time to carry out the deadly assault, and had he told the truth he still had time to perpetrate the same. This latter case is greatly facilitated with the possibility of the victim being on Buck’s Row as Lechmere arrived. With Mary Ann subdued, and almost decapitated, he would have heard Robert Paul coming around the corner from Brady Street and would have had time to step back from the body and size up the potential threat from the newcomer. It is altogether possible that hewaited to see the reaction of Robert Paul before continuing on with the pretence of having discovered the body.

One other possibility is that both men – Lechmere and Paul – were in league with one another. This theory, although farfetched, is not as farfetched as it might seem. PC John Neil (97J, Bethnal Green) reports that he had seen two slaughterhouse-workmen at work in the area about a quarter past three in the morning, and again when he discovered the body of Nichols. Only seconds after Lechmere and Paul leave the scene Neil arrives, and before PC Mizen gets to him, two men wander towards PC Neil and the body of Mary Ann Nichols. May these two men be Lechmere and Paul? This would explain the confusion of Mizen stating that the two men told him that another policeman wanted him on Buck’s Row. This theory is not very strong at all, and is mentioned here only to highlight the logical possibility.

An Examination of the Actions of Charles Allen Lechmere at the Place where the Body of Mary Ann Nichols was Discovered

At the Baxter inquest into the death of Mary Ann (‘Polly’) Nichols, whereat the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown, we know that Charles Lechmere both, for reasons yet not known, used an alias he had not been known to use before, and evaded giving his home address. Alone, this information makes him a character worthy of greater attention. Despite the fact that he was “behind time” for work he lingered alone on Buck’s Row, in the near complete darkness, with the body of Mary Ann for somewhere between ten and twenty minutes before the arrival of Robert Paul without supposedly examining the body or raising the alarm. Again, this is deeply suspect behaviour. It is evident that he hears the sound of Paul’s boots on the cobbles resounding through the empty and quiet streets even before he turned onto Buck’s Row from Brady Street. He makes no attempt to make for the assistance of Paul, but rather waits silently by the dead or dying woman until Paul reaches the place on the Row where he is standing. That Lechmere didn’t have blood on him certainly cannot be determined for the darkness.

The Working Lads Institute on the Whitechapel Road

When Paul has been made aware of the woman in the gateway he and Lechmere investigate the body, presumably for the first time since even Lechmere arrived on Buck’s Row. With her skirts pulled up and her legs extended both men assume that she has been raped, and while Paul thinks she has fainted, without evidence of blood, and with her legs, upper arms and torso still warm, Lechmere leaps to the conclusion that she is dead. Further to this, Charles Lechmere expresses a desire to shift the woman; an oddity that Paul obviously picks up on and refuses. Not able then to move the body, Lechmere seems to be the one who encourages Paul to help him rearrange her skirts, seemingly to restore to her some decency – an odd action in that they then decide to leave her. Considering that her genitals and lower abdomen had been so severely cut up by her attacker, the move to cover her lower parts over may be interoperated as an attempt to hide these injuries from Paul or the policeman that Lechmere states he had heard. Even after hearing a policeman, a fact he doesn’t share with Paul, and after Paul found evidence that indicated that the woman may still be alive, Lechmere moves off with Paul in the direction of Church Row to the west in search of a policeman.

All of this evidence is circumstantial and cannot be used as conclusive proof in a case against Charles Allen Lechmere, yet it does have an accumulative effect. Add to this his haste to leave PC Jonas Mizen (after waiting with the body so long), his reluctance to provide his address and correct name, and the fact that he does not present himself to the inquest until the day after Robert Paul’s interview appears in Lloyd’s Weekly newspaper, and quite a convincing, albeit still circumstantial, case exists against Lechmere. We can only wonder why this man was not of more interest to the investigation.