On the morning of Sunday 30th September, 1888, London awoke to the news that, after an absence of several weeks, the Whitechapel Murderer had returned to the streets of the East End and had killed two women in less than one hour.
These latest atrocities led to a resurgence in the panic and the morbid curiosity that had been so prevalent in the wake of the murder of Annie Chapman – which had taken place on the 8th of September 1888.
But, an added twist now entered the saga in that news was beginning to circulate that the killer had taken to writing letters, in order to bask in the glory of his notoriety, and to taunt the police for their inability to capture him.
Over the next few days, the moniker that the perpetrator of the crimes had, supposedly, chosen to give himself would become common knowledge – and the name of “Jack the Ripper” would soon be circulating in newspapers all over the world.
Since the day on which the two most recent murders had occurred was a Sunday, many of the newspapers were unable to bring the details of the latest atrocities to their readers; and so it was in the editions of Monday 1st of October, 1888, that the press began giving coverage to the latest two Whitechapel murders.
In its edition of 1st October, 1888, The St James’s Gazette published an insightful article that, not only reflected the public mood in the wake of the most recent horrible news from the East End, but which also encouraged readers to remain calm, as, in all honesty, few of them were in any real danger of coming into contact with the person responsible for the horrendous crimes.
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
Under the above headline, the article in the Gazette began by stating that it was apparent that these latest crimes were by the same hand as the previous ones, and it then went on to outline their similarities:-
“It is superfluous to insist on the horror of the two last murders in Whitechapel. They are in every respect similar to the four which have already been committed. There has been the same secrecy, the same impunity as yet, the same mystery as to motive and method, and in one case the same disgusting mutilations.
The nature of these last is now well known, and need not be dwelt upon.”
WHAT THE POLICE SHOULD DO
Having established the similarities, the article went on to look at what the police should be doing with a view to bringing the perpetrator to justice:-
“The practical things to consider are the attitude which ought to be taken by the public in the presence of this outbreak of crime, and the steps which are most likely to lead to the discovery of the criminal, if there is but one, or the gang, if any gang is at work.”
NO NEED FOR PANIC
The report then went on to urge the public not to panic in the wake of two more crimes, observing that the person responsible was of no threat to the public at large.:-
“As regards the line of conduct to be followed by the public, there ought to be no panic. There is no occasion for one. These outrages are confined to one district and to one class of women, the most difficult to control or protect of all the community.
It is very natural that Whitechapel should be terrified; but even in Whitechapel people who work all day and go to their beds at night are in no greater danger than they would be elsewhere.
The victims are the miserable creatures who must needs prowl about the streets in the dark.
It will be a misfortune if there is one of those outbursts of popular excitement to which we have shown ourselves rather liable of late years. To say nothing of the evil effects of these fits on the sense of the community, one of them in this case would only confuse the police and aid the escape of the criminal.”
A REWARD SHOULD BE OFFERED
Having counselled against any displays of public unrest, the article then went on to issue a demand that the authorities should reconsider their stance on not offering a reward for information that might lead to the identification and apprehension of the perpetrator of the crime spree that would soon become known as the “Jack the Ripper” murders:-
“As for the authorities, they must, in the first place, take more of the precautions they have taken already, and make them more effective.
When that is done they may profitably bethink themselves whether the case does not require the renewed use of a resource which has not been employed for some time – namely, the offer of a reward.”
PATROLS NEED TO BE STEPPED UP
The Gazette then made an observation that was being made by several other newspapers around this time, that the authorities needed to step up their game and do whatever it would take to catch the killer, whatever the resources required:-
“What may be called the ordinary precautions – frequency of patrolling and closeness of watch – have been taken already.
But they have manifestly not been taken effectually enough, and more are wanted.
If a patrol every twelve minutes does not suffice, there must be one every five minutes.
It may be somewhat humiliating to the community to be compelled to exert itself so strenuously by one villain, or at the most a very few lurking scoundrels.
There is even something oppressive in the thought that a dozen such creatures working in different quarters might terrify all London.
Happily, criminals rarely possess the combination of qualities – the daring, rapidity, coolness, and cunning – required for the successful perpetration of crime on this scale.
Even if such masters of their business were more common, it would still be necessary to take the proper measures against them, by setting more watchmen to watch and sending all available patrols into the district.
THE PHOENIX PARK MURDERS
The article then went on to detail how plain clothes soldiers had actually been used in the search for the perpetrators of the fatal stabbings of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke in Phoenix Park in Dublin, which had taken place on the 6th May 1882, and question whether a similar ruse might not be used in the hunt for Jack the Ripper?:-
“When the murderers of Lord F. CAVENDISH and Mr. BURKE were being hunted down, marines in plain clothes were freely employed to drive them into a corner.
The same measures might be taken again.”
A CORDON AROUND THE MURDER SITES
The article also mentioned some of the police actions in the immediate wake of the discovery of the bodies of the victims :-
“For the rest, Whitechapel is a small place.
It ought not to be impossible for the police to become acquainted with the movements of every man in it – still more of every one who can be thought likely to be guilty of these crimes.
Last night we are told that a cordon was immediately drawn round the district in which the murders took place.
As the most successful of the two was known probably within a few minutes after it had been committed [this is referring to the murder of Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square], there ought, if the police were really prompt and vigilant, to be good reason to hope that the murderer is in the net.”
WHERE IS THE CRIMINAL HIDING?
Another point that the article made was that, given the fact that the murders were being confined to just one London district, it shouldn’t be that difficult for the police to ascertain who amongst its populace might be the guilty party – a suggestion which, given the density of the population in Whitechapel, was, perhaps, not the most sensible suggestion the article could have made:-
“Certain things seem to be very clear.
The criminal must have a hiding-place in Whitechapel. He can hardly be the casual resident of a lodging-house. He can be no ordinary tramp. In so limited a field, and with a definite class to pick from, the police ought not to have any insuperable difficulty in running down their man.”
A REWARD MUST BE OFFERED
The author then returned to the necessity of a reward being offered, whilst giving details of the reasons why one hadn’t been offered to that point:-
“The offer of a reward seems to us decidedly a step which ought to be taken. We have never thought that the reasons given for ceasing to work on the cupidity of the associates of criminals were sufficient.
Some of them were sentimental and entitled to no respect.
Others of a more businesslike character never appeared to us to possess the force attributed to them by the Home Office.
One thing at least is very much beyond dispute.
It is that since we have given up the practice of offering rewards we have not been more, but less, successful in our efforts to catch criminals.
There is at this moment a very long list of crimes which have been committed with absolute impunity, and it is growing with disgraceful rapidity.
We need not stop to inquire whether the detective work of the police is being done well or not.
There would be a good deal to be said on that subject; but it may be left aside at present.
It is enough that the detection of crime is not so well performed that we can afford to dispense with an old resource of which the validity has been well proved.
In this case – to put it on the weakest footing – what harm could the offer of a reward do?
There could hardly be any increase of work to the police caused by liars in search of a little money.
Scotland-yard is overrun with vague suggestions as it is.
If we have to deal with a solitary criminal who is not likely to betray himself, still there is no harm done.
Even in that case, however, it is still possible that information of a useful character might be given by some members of his own brutal world who suspect or know something, but will not take the trouble to help the police unless they see a chance of profit.
On these grounds we are of opinion that the Home Office, however naturally unwilling it may be to revoke its decision, and apparently stultify itself, should revert to the practice of offering a reward.”
REWARDS WERE OFFERED
It is worth noting, incidentally, that, although the Home Office refused to sanction a reward that might encourage someone to give information that might lead to the killer’s apprehension, several private individuals and organisations had been offering rewards.
In addition, since Catherine Eddowes was murdered in the City of London, her crime was investigated by the City of London Police, rather than by the Metropolitan Police, and the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of the City of London did offer a reward, but no useful information was forthcoming, and so the murderer remained at large.