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Dora Kiernicke

Age: 29

Sex: female

Date: 29 Dec 1903

Place: 115 Whitfield Street, Tottenham Court Road, London

Dora Kiernicke was found dead with her throat cut in her bedroom on 29 December 1903.

An open verdict was returned at her inquest on 2 February 1904.

Dora Kiernicke was found bound and blind folded with her throat cut in her room and it was first thought that she had been murdered after it was said that her money was also missing, but the money was later found in her bedroom which it was said reinforced the theory that she had committed suicide.

On the night of her murder she had gone home with a young man and had told a person that she had £8 2s 4d with her.

A Frenchman who lived in the basement said that he heard her come home at about 1am and later at about 6am he heard a woman cry out as if in pain. He then heard a body fall and the sound of breaking glass like a lamp smashing. Another Frenchman then went upstairs and listened at her door and said he heard three long drawn breaths as of a person suffering, however, he then heard nothing more and went back to bed. It was not until later the following day, about 6pm, that a friend went to the flat and raised the alarm.

The Frenchman had occupied the room directly beneath Dora Kiernicke with another Frenchman and said that after retiring on the Tuesday night he had heard Dora Kiernicke come back to the house with what he thought was another person shortly after 12.30am on the Wednesday morning. He said that at about 6am he heard bumping in the room above him and that he then roused his companion and said that they then both heard a gurgling kind of noise which he said was something like a hollow cough or groan. He said that he heard the noise three times. It was said then that the other Frenchman, being concerned, had gone upstairs to Dora Kiernicke's room but said that the gurgling sound had stopped and that he then went back to bed.

When the police broke open her door they found her covered with a bedsheet up to her breast and blood all over the bed and floor.

However, no murder weapon was found.

It was thought that she had last been seen in her room at 11.30pm on the Tuesday night and to have later brought a man back with her, but the man was never traced.

A young Polish Jewess that had been in the company of Dora Kiernicke the night before she died said, 'We met on Tuesday night in the Tottenham Court Road, and stood chatting for some time just outside a public house. Dora Kiernicke took out of her pocket a handful of gold and silver, and, holding out the coins, showed them to me, with the remark that she had £6 in gold and £2 in silver. She said that this week she was going to visit her husband in prison and added that she wanted to change the silver into gold, and when she saw her husband she would be able to produce to him the £8 as a proof that she was not want of funds. Having finished our conversation we parted, and Dora told me she was then going home.

Yesterday afternoon, about five o'clock, I called at her house to see her. I had previously been to the restaurant where we usually have our meals, and was told there that Dora had not called in that day. At the house I saw the landlady. She said she had seen nothing of Dora during the day, and that the door of her room was locked. On my remarking that this was strange, the landlady began to express alarm, and remarked that during the night she had heard cries of 'Police! police!' in the house, and screams. At the time she said she paid little heed to the outcry, thinking that it was merely an ordinary quarrel, such as often occurred in the house. We went up to the room and tried to force the door, and then sent for the police.

When the officers came they at once burst the door. On looking in I saw Dora lying on the bed partly on one side. She was quite naked, but a blanket was drawn over a part of the body. The face was not covered, however, and I saw that a handkerchief was tied tightly round her mouth. Going into the room, one of the officers turned down the blanket, and I then saw blood and a terrible gash right across Dora's throat. Her arms rested on her breast, and were bound with cord, her hands being in the attitude of prayer. Her clothes were hanging in he room, her boots stood by the bed-side, and her hat was lying on the table'.

The young Polish Jewess had known Dora Kiernicke well for 12 years and said that Dora Kiernicke had married her brother, a shoemaker, their marriage taking place in Lodz in Russia.

She said that when she last saw Dora Kiernicke she was with a man who she described as:

  • Height: medium.
  • Face: thin and clean shaven.
  • Wearing a light grey suit with a cap.
  • Appeared to be an Englishman.

She said that before she left that Dora Kiernicke had told her that she was going to take the man home with her and that she saw them leave together.

She noted that Dora Kiernicke had not been wearing her rings when she was out, noting that Dora Kiernicke had told her that she had a new pair of gloves and that they fitted too tightly to wear with rings.

However, another woman, a seamstress, said that she had known Dora Kiernicke for about six years and that she saw her several times on the Tuesday evening, the last time being around 12.30am when Dora Kiernicke invited her back to her home. However she said that she declined and that she left her at the corner of Abbott Place and Tottenham Court Road at which point Dora Kiernicke told her that she was going to a restaurant to have something to eat. She said however, that when she last saw Dora Kiernicke that she was wearing her rings and that her hands were ungloved.

A doctor that examined her body said that the wound to her throat had gone from left to right and that it was quite possible for it to have been self-inflicted and added that his opinion was inclined to that view.

It was added that there were no blood stains or finger marks to show that anyone else had taken hold of her.

A Home Office expert said that he thought that her wound was self-inflicted but that owing to other bruises that he found on her that he could not rule out murder.

It was also stated that no trace of poison was found in her body.

Shortly after her body was discovered it was thought that she had been murdered and that the motive was robbery with it being initially said that with the exception of a few coppers all her money was gone, it being known that she had been in possession of £6 in gold and some silver earlier on. It was also said that with the exception of one of her rings which was found on the floor, all of her rings were also missing. However, her money was later found in her room which it was said reinforced the suggestion that she had committed suicide.

It was also reported that a young foreigner who was known to be acquainted with her was initially suspected but that the police had been unable to formulate any charge against him.

Dora Kiernicke was a Polish Jewess and was described as being attractive and a member of the unfortunate class.

The police said that the furniture was all in good order and that there was nothing to indicate a struggle and it was suggested that she might have committed suicide using the glass from the lamp chimney which was broken. They added that they thought that she had died slowly and that she could have cried out. However, they said that they could not definitely rule out murder.

When the police later found an old razor outside in a gully and three keys it was reported that there was some excitement. However, a doctor that examined the razor said that he did not think that the razor could have caused her injuries and it was noted that none of the keys would fit her bedroom door.

Newspaper reports said that the murder had caused fear in the local community and that women were huddling up together and were not going out in fear that another Jack The Ripper was about.

On 1 February 1904 a 31-year-old clerk that had lived in Rowton House in Whitechapel was charged on his own confession with her murder after he made a statement which read, 'I wish to state that about five or six weeks ago I murdered a woman in Whitfield Street, Tottenham Court Road. I do not know her name. She was a Polish or Russian Jewess. I met her in Oxford Street about eleven o'clock, and gave her half a sovereign. I won't say anything more'.

However, the police noted that he had been drinking and said that some hours afterwards when he had sobered up he told them that there was no truth in the confession and that he had been drunk when he had made it and that he could prove that what he had said was all false because on the day of the murder he had been in Wandsworth Gaol.

The police said that when they looked into his alibi they found that he had in fact been in Gaol when Dora Kiernicke died, having been sent there for being drunk.

In 1905 another man in Vancouver made a written confession that he had killed Dora Kiernicke. However, he was a confirmed opium smoker and was apparently not in possession of all his faculties. It is not clear what became of his confession.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Monday 04 January 1904

see Leeds Mercury - Saturday 02 January 1904

see Cork Examiner - Thursday 31 December 1903

see Leeds Mercury - Saturday 06 February 1904

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 12 May 1905

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 02 January 1904

see Londonderry Sentinel - Tuesday 02 February 1904

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 05 January 1904