ON THIS DAY – 16th December 1898
The nude body of an unknown young woman, which was found floating in a box in the Yarra River near Chapel-street Bridge on the 16th December 1898, had, it is estimated, been in the water for about a week. Deliberate murder was first suspected, but the post-mortem examination conducted by Dr. Neild indicates that death resulted from the use of chloroform administered, it is supposed, for the purpose of performing an illegal operation.
The box was first seen by some boys, one of whom, having previously had experience of a coroner’s court, had his suspicions aroused by the way it was floating, and reported the matter to the police. The box, when dragged ashore, was found weighted with a heavy stone tied on by a strong wire clothesline. In pulling the box ashore they broke a portion of the side away, revealing the foot and leg of a human being. On arrival at the morgue the body was found to be bunched into the box, the head being forced into one corner, and the whole tied parcel wise with a clothesline. There was no clothing on the body, but a flour bag was loosely wrapped round it. The bag is branded “Alex Clement, Snowdrop patent roller flour, Wangaratta.” The body was finely developed, and is that of a woman under 30. The hair is closely cropped, and the fingers covered with needlemarks. Identification is likely to prove difficult, as the features are distorted in addition to being in a decomposed state. Every indication leads to the belief that the deed was committed under the influence of chloroform, probably as an illegal operation was about to be committed, the woman being enciente. The stomach has been forwarded to Dr. Blackett, the Government Analyst, to make sure that suffocation was not caused by the action of poison.