Wynne Edwin Baxter was born in 1844 to a printer. He was first educated at Lewes Old Grammar School, before studying law. He became a solicitor in 1867. He became Junior Headborough for Lewes in 1867, Vice-President of the Provincial Newspaper Society between 1871 and 1877, Under-Sheriff of London and Middlesex between 1876 to 1879 and again between 1885 and 1888, Junior High Constable in 1878 and Senior High Constable in 1880, and the Mayor of Lewes in 1881. He was also a member of the Law Association, the Law Society and the Solicitor's Benevolent Association. His longest-held position was as solicitor for the Lewes Cooperative Benefit Building Society, which he held for 50 years between 1870 and 1920.
By 1875 he had moved from Lewes to London
and set up a law office and an advertising agency, while still maintaining a law office at Lewes. In 1880 he was elected Coroner for Sussex, a position which he held until 1887. The most notable case he presided over at that time was that of Percy Lefroy Mapleton, the so-called "railway murderer", as well as that of Mapleton's victim, Isaac Frederick Gold. In 1885 he held two Deputy Coronerships for London and Southwark, and in 1886 he fought for and received the position of Coroner for Middlesex (Eastern District). In 1887 he conducted the inquest into the murder of Israel Lipski by poisoner Miriam Angel.
Major Story Arcs
The Whitechapel Murders
Baxter's most famous cases were doubtlessly the Whitechapel
Murders, which occurred in East London between April of 1888 and February of 1891, and claimed the lives of eleven women. Baxter conducted the inquests into nine of the murders, including three of the five canonical victims of infamous killer Jack the Ripper
. The Ripper victims that he investigated were Polly Nichols
, Annie Chapman
and Elizabeth Stride
. He was noted by contemporary press and police officers as having a particularly blunt questioning style.
Baxter personally believed that the murderer was committing his crimes in order to obtain female organs in order to sell them to doctors. He also believed that the murderer had some sort of anatomical knowledge. Soon after he suggested this theory of the organ seller, however, it was disproved.
After the Murders
In 1889 he received the position of Coroner of Middlesex (South Eastern District) which he held until 1891. Also in 1889 he was appointed a Life Governor of London Hospital, and a year later conducted the inquest into the death of the hospital's most famous patient, Joseph Merrick
, the so-called "Elephant Man" He received the Coronership for the City of London from 1892 until his death. Throughout the 1890s he was involved in the translations of several texts from French, a language in which he was fluent, to English. During the First World War, between 1914 and 1918 he conducted the inquests into the deaths of eleven German
spies who had been captured and executed in the Tower of London. In June of 1917 he presided over the inquests into the deaths of 20 of the over 160 victims of the first German bombing of east London.
He was a noted plant collector, as well as an antique book collector, with over three thousand volumes in his library concerning John Milton, on whom he wrote several academic papers. He was also involved in the Geological Society of London and the Royal Microscopical Society. He was clerk to two City Guilds and Chairman of the Public Library Committee and the Licensing Bench. He was a prominent Freemason
He died in his home in 1920 at the age of 76.