A Discovery In Pinchin Street

On 10th September, 1889, Police Constable Pennett discovered the torso of an unknown woman under a railway arch in Pinchin Street, East London, located just a stone’s throw away from Berner Street, where the body of Jack the Ripper victim Elizabeth Stride had been discovered on the 30th of September of the previous year.

Inevitably, speculation was rife that the Whitechapel fiend was at work once more, and the newspapers were soon speculating as to whether this latest atrocity spelt the return of the Whitechapel murderer.

Illustrations showing scenes from the finding of the torso in Pinchin Street.
The Pinchin Street Discovery. From The Illustrated Police News, 21st September, 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Western Gazette, On Friday, 20th September, 1889, published the following update in a report that was none too favourable towards the men of the Metropolitan Police:-

“The Press Association learns that what may prove to be an important discovery in connection with the recent murder in Whitechapel was made on Saturday night.

Fireman Etherden was standing on the floating fire-station, at Charing Cross, when he noticed something floating by. On reaching it he found that it was a brown paper parcel, which contained a chemise that was covered with blood.

The parcel was handed over to the police at Scotland Yard.


A London Sunday paper states:-

“The authorities have now, they believe, in the statement made to them on Saturday morning, by a gentleman of the highest respectability, obtained testimony by which they hope to elucidate a series of crimes which have hitherto baffled the ingenuity of the most experienced detectives.

It appears that not long since there resided in the Metropolis – or, rather, on the outskirts – an ordinarily well-dressed man, who lived in a house by himself, his wife having left him.

At the time of the seventh murder in Whitechapel – when the police, as they have done in each case, made great exertions to obtain the slightest clue – the suspected man, having sold his furniture, hurriedly left the locality, on the plea that he was going abroad.


Then it dawned upon one of his neighbours that the individual in question came home on the morning of one the murders in such an altered garb as to astonish those who had known him.

His explanation – that had dressed in that manner as a practical joke – was accepted, while, to account for some blood on his clothes, he said that he had been assaulted.

For some time, nothing more was thought about the occurrence, as his neighbours fully believed that he had sailed for America; but, strange to say, the man was recently seen in London, and, on the morning that the horrible discovery was made in Pinchin Street, it is now believed that he was in that district, and that he probably passed by one of the police officers who had been called to the scene.

To give further details of the voluminous statement, which has been duly reported to the Chief Commissioner of the Police, would, it is thought, tend to hinder an investigation now going on; but a search for the suspect is being actively pursued, and the authorities think that, at long last, they are on the track of the Whitechapel miscreant.”


The Press Association says that the position of affairs in connection with the latest East End murder was at midnight practically unaltered. The result of the investigation into the parcel that was taken out of the’river on Saturday night is not such as to connect the discovery with the recent murder, although it is regarded sufficiently suspicious as to warrant immediate attention.

The police do not believe the garment belonged to the victim of the Pinchin Street tragedy.

There is still no clue as to the identity murdered woman.


Several Russian organs, commenting upon the Whitechapel murders, expressed their amazement at the extraordinary immunity enjoyed by the perpetrator of the crimes.

Some very scathing strictures are passed on the London police.

In that country, where the police system is necessarily elaborately organised, any such defects or shortcomings would be promptly visited on the Minister of Justice and the administrative chiefs.


Perhaps the English police authorities might usefully emulate the Russian system so far as to employ as detectives a few men of the highest education, who would necessarily discover much which escapes the notice of men who are promoted from the ranks.

Such men, unknown to the public, and working in the darkest bye-paths of society, are available in all communities if they are sought for and are adequately paid.”