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Packer, and White, unreliable witnesses?


Guest Stephen Turner
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Guest Stephen Turner

I would like to examine the witness statements of Mathew Packer, and Sergeant Stephen White (allegedly)As I believe these highlight the difficulty contemporary researchers have in determening how much evidential weight to proportion to ALL eyewitness accounts in this perplexing case. After examining both statements I shall endevour to explain what I mean... First Mr Packer.

"On Sat night (29th Sept) about 11pm. a young man from 25-30, about 5ft 7ins with long black coat buttoned up, soft felt hat, kind of Yankee hat, rather broad shoulders, and quick in speaking rough voice. I sold him half pound of black grapes, 3d. A woman came up with him from back of Church end( the lower end of the street) She was dressed in black frock and jacket, fur round bottom of jacket, a black crape bonnet, she was playing with a flower like a geranium whit outside, and red inside. I identify the Woman at the St georges mortuary as the one I saw that night.

"They passed by as if they were going up Commercial rd, but instead of going up they crossed to the other side of the road, to the Board School, and were there for about half an hour till I should say about 11-30, talking to one another. I then shut up my shutters. Before they passed over opposite to my shop they went near to the club for a few minutes apparently listening to the music, I saw no more of them after I shut up.

I put the man down as a young clerk, he had a frock coat on-no gloves. He was a little bit taller (1-3ins) than she was."

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Guest Stephen Turner

And here is Whites (allegedly) strange tale if indeed he is the "City PC in Mitre Sq"

"for five nights we had been watching a certain alley just behind the Whitechapel Rd. It could only be entered from where we had two men posted in hiding, and persons entering the alley where under observation by the two men.It was a bitter cold night when I arrived at the scene to take the report of the two officers. I was turning away when I saw a man coming out of the alley, he was walking quickly, but noiselessly, apparantly wearing rubber heels, which were rare in those days. I stood aside to let him pass and as he came under the lamp got a good look at him.

He was about 5ft 10ins, and was dressed rather shabbily, though it was obvious that the material of his cloths was good. Evidently a man who had seen better days, but such men are common enough down East and that of itself was not enough to justify my stopping him. His face was long and thin, nostrils rather delicate, and his hair was jet black. His complextion was inclined to be sallow, and altogether the man was foreign in appearance. the most striking thing about him, however was the extraordinary brilliance of his eyes, they looked like two very luminous glow worms coming though the darkness.The man was slightly bent at the shoulders, though he was obviously quite young- about 33, at the most-and gave one the idea of having been a student or professional man. His hands were snow whits, and the fingers long and tapering."

It goes on to recall in very florid prose that the man stumbled, and talked with a "soft musical voice, with a hint of melancholy, quite out of keeping with the squalid east end" and that shortly after this the body of a Woman "A pool of blood streaming along the gutter from her body" is found.

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Hello Stephen

I think the account attributed to City policeman Sergeant Stephen White is highly questionable partly because it appeared so many years later, in People's Journal after White's death in 1919. As you say, it is written in "in very florid prose" and while the account is usually taken to apply to the Mitre Square murder of Catherine Eddowes the details do not exactly fit the circumstances of that murder, and we don't know if White was in fact on duty at Mitre Square at the time of the crime.

The article giving the White account appeared, as discussed on the Casebook message boards, supposedly written by "a Scotland Yard man." I should think therefore that there is a good possibility that the article was either a journalist's invention or an embroidered version of White's story that could have easily have been about one of the other Whitechapel murders if in fact he was on duty in the East End during the murder series. A number of people, as you know, feel that the suspect described fits the description of William Holt, a doctor at St Georges hospital, an amateur detective, who donned various disguises and went patrolling the East End hoping to capture Jack the Ripper.

I believe that Packer's testimony is at least worthy of more scrutiny because it is known that he was tending his fruit stall in Berner Street about the time Elizabeth Stride was murdered. But it also appears that he embroidered on his statements for the newspapers. Thus his testimony is questionable too for that reason. Dave Yost wrote an excellent discussion of Packer's testimony for Ripperologist some years back and it can be found on Casebook at "Matthew Packer - Final Thoughts."

All my best

Chris

Edited by Christopher T. George
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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Stephen Turner

Hi Chris, sorry its taken me so long to reply, (JFK) As you rightly say more notice should be taken of Packers evidence, simply because we are sure of its provinence, the White story has always struck me as Chinese whispers at best, and seems the usual lurid penny dreadful stuff, " Elvis alive, on the Moon" ;)

I hope to take a sharpe knife to Packers tale within the next few days, meanwhile I recommend Chris's Casebook link to any lurkers, first class stuff. Regards, Steve.

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