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Pearl Bryan: chapter one continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

The crowd Carothers describes at the funeral parlour shows how fast news of Hewling's grim find had got out. Contemporary reports agree that hundreds of curious visitors made their way to Lock's orchard that day, despite the heavy rain that fell all Saturday afternoon. They came on foot, on horseback, in their own carriages, or via Cincinnati's streetcar system, which had a convenient stop near the site. In the process of scouring the orchard for keepsakes, they destroyed what may otherwise have proved crucial evidence, as the Cincinnati printer Barclay & Co's 1896 account of the case makes clear.
"Relic-hunters were out in great force," Barclay says. "They almost demolished the bush under which the body was discovered, breaking off branches on which blood spots could be seen. They peered closely into the ground for blood-spotted leaves, stones and even saturated clay. Anything that had a bloodstain on it was seized upon eagerly. Hairs of the unfortunate woman were at a premium, men and boys, and even young women, examining every branch and twig of the bush in the midst of which the struggle took place." Any evidence Crim and McDermott had not recovered already, they would have to do without.
While all this was going on, Carothers was back in Newport, preparing for the autopsy. Surrounding him in the room at White's as he began were the various effects police had collected from the scene. These included a blood-stained suit of long underwear found wrapped round a stone near the girl's body, the white corset with the severed shoulder strap, a chequered kimono and the dead girl's shoes, which lay perched on the room's mantelpiece.
Carothers could see from the softness of the girl's hands that she had not been engaged in any kind of manual labour. A number of pale impressions on her fingers told him she'd worn rings there until very recently, and Carothers guessed that these - like the head - had been removed by her killer to make identifying his victim as difficult as possible. There was no sign she'd been raped, but that was where the good news stopped.

People were even more fascinated when they learnt the dead girl had been pregnant

"I determined that the woman was young, probably 20 or 21 years old, that she had been alive at the time immediately before her head had been completely severed, and that she had been between four-and-a-half and five months pregnant," Carothers writes. "The stomach contents also revealed a large quantity of cocaine."
He had good evidence for all those conclusions. It was the underside of the leaves they'd found that were most stained, so police knew the blood must have been travelling upward when it hit them. The torn-up earth showed the girl was flat on the ground when her neck was severed, and if she hadn't still been alive at that point, the blood would have had no heartbeat to propel it so high into the bushes around her. Judge NL Bennett, who'd been at the scene that morning, testified that as much as six pints of blood had drained from the girl's body into the surrounding earth, and Carothers knew that cutting the head off a dead body could not have produced that result.
The detail of his examination showed signs that the killer had slashed at the girl's throat before getting her down on the ground, and then cut through her neck from the back forwards. The fresh cuts Carothers found on her hands suggested she'd tried to fight off the attack.
"The free flow of blood from the arteries proved beyond doubt that the girl was alive just immediately before her head was completely severed," Carothers writes. Later, when asked by reporters to expand on this, he added: "It would be easy for a man to cut a woman's head off with a knife, even if he had no knowledge of anatomy. I could cut a woman's head off with a small penknife, and it wouldn't take long to do it."
As soon as news leaked out that the dead girl had been pregnant, interest in the case jumped up another notch. Carothers decided that he had better preserve the dead baby, so he sent a message to his friend John Youngblut, who ran a drugstore just one block away from White's. Did Youngblut have a container of any kind that might be suitable to keep a human foetus in? "Mr Youngblut looked around, and really didn't think he had anything that could be used," Carothers writes. "Then he noticed his counter full of candy, and all those lovely jars containing peppermint sticks.
"He picked up a jar, emptied all the peppermint sticks on the counter, and handed the jar to the messenger, who delivered it to me as fast as he could. I put the foetus in the jar, added a preservative, and carried it back to Mr Youngblut's store to show him. I set it on the counter, and it immediately aroused the curiosity of the customers in the store. Within a few hours, Mr Youngblut's soda water business rose to enormous heights. The people in the neighbourhood heard about the 'baby' in the candy jar, and they all came for a look."
As Youngblut's customers examined the foetus, a train carrying Arthur Carter's famous bloodhound team was pulling in at Cincinnati's Grand Central Depot. Plummer had summoned the three dogs, handled on this occasion by Arthur's son William, from their home in Seymour, Indiana, to help police find the girl's missing head. Jack, Wheeler and Stonewall were canine celebrities in all the surrounding states, with the Carters boasting their tracking skills had helped to jail over 20 criminals and hang at least one more.
Plummer took Carter and his dogs to White's, where he collected some of the dead girl's clothes, and then they set off for the orchard. It was dark by the time they got there at about 6:30pm, but Plummer had brought enough lanterns to let them continue.
"Sheriff Plummer had the corset and the sleeve of an undergarment, and gave the dogs a scent," the CE reports. "The dogs, with noses close to the ground, ran hither and thither in a confused manner. It was evident that the dogs were useless, as all tracks left by the murderer and his victim had been obliterated by the thousands of people who had crossed over the place where the body was found."
Plummer and Carter persisted, leading the dogs to a less trampled place where police had earlier spotted those tracks leading up to Covington Reservoir. This time, they had more luck. "The dogs took up the trail and silently followed it," the CE says. "[There was] no sound beyond the sniffing of the hounds and the clink-clank of the chains by which the dogs were held. The officers felt they were on the right track. Arriving at the edge of the water, the three dogs stopped, gazed from side to side , and then, with heads thrown back, simultaneously emitted a prolonged howl. The howl was repeated, and Carter said: 'You'll find the woman's head right in there'."