On Saturday 25th August 1888, The East London Advertiser felt compelled to justify to its readership the coverage it had been giving to crime in the East End of London.
“It has been our unpleasant duty, these last few weeks,” its article began, “to chronicle an exceptional amount of crime which has been committed in the East End. We readily admit that it is to the sensitive mind unpalatable reading, but the obligation is laid upon a newspaper to reveal in its social diagnosis the worst as well as the best features of human action.”
CRIME SEEN DIFFERENTLY
The article went on to comment on the fact that crime in Whitechapel and Bethnal Green was perceived differently than it was in the more salubrious, and wealthier districts of London, such as Mayfair and Belgravia.
The main thrust of the article was that “crime clothed in greatness…or in wealth” was likely to be viewed with sympathy by most of the better off London citizens, whereas crime in the “howling wilderness of the East End” was seen as being expected since “…particular parts of our district are all ruffians…who acquired a taste for thieving and violence in their mother’s arms.”
In many ways the article was making a valid point since, to the majority of West-enders, the inhabitants of the East End of London were a lawless bunch of savages to whom criminal behaviour and activity was second nature.
But, as the article went on to make abundantly clear, “Such opinions and sentiments are so ridiculous that were it not for the harm they do it would not be worth while to notice them.”
NO MORE CRIME IN THE EAST END
The area, so the article opined, suffered no more crime, than any other part of London or, for that matter, anywhere else in Great Britain.
Whilst conceding that, in recent weeks at least, the area had seen an unusual amount of crime “in which the worst human passions have been shown in all their fiendish ignominy”, the article went on to assure its readers that, year on year, things were most certainly improving in the district and the area was most certainly not in the grip of a moral decline. Indeed, as far as the lower strata of the populace, “in which most of these evils arise,” was concerned the article was adamant that the East End was, most certainly, enjoying “a happy improvement” in conditions.
BEDS LET BY THE NIGHT
Reports had also started appearing in various newspapers that were suggesting the tenants of George Yard Buildings, where the murder of Martha Tabram had occurred, were involved in the dubious practice of letting out by the night to travellers and that, according to one press report, “men go there with women, whom they represent to be their wives.”
Francis Hewitt, the building’s superintendent, felt it necessary to respond to these media allegations of beds been let for immoral purposes and, on behalf of the tenants, he duly wrote to The People to set the record straight. “I beg to give these statements an unqualified denial,” his letter stated. “Beds are let by the night in this locality, but never in these buildings.”
COMING TO TERMS WITH THE HORROR
But, for those living in George Yard Buildings, and the local residents as a whole, the events of the previous few weeks had proved a huge shock and they were struggling to come to terms the viciousness of the murder that had happened in their midst.
With the inquest into Martha Tabram’s death over, and the police still unable to track down the fiend responsible for her murder, they could only hope that the crime was an isolated incident that would not be repeated.
IT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING
Little did they realise that, within a week, another atrocity would occur that would be even more barbaric than Martha’s murder and that it would presage a series of such killings in which each one would be more horrific than its predecessor.
The East End’s autumn of terror was about to begin.