There can be no doubt that the Jack the Ripper murders presented the Victorian public with a series of crimes the details of which were so shocking that people found themselves genuinely disturbed and terrified by them.
Yet, when you peruse the newspaper pages from 1888, you find descriptions of crimes the details of which were equally shocking – some might even say more shocking.
Many of these were not murders, but they almost certainly exposed the sordid underbelly of Victorian society in such a way as to make those who chance upon them today really start to wonder about the depraved state that some segments of the 19th century populace had been allowed to descend into.
Indeed, as you read these accounts, you begin to appreciate some of the contemporary commentators who were questioning whether the Jack the Ripper murders were not an inevitable consequence of official indifference to the everyday lives of the poverty-stricken slum dwellers who inhabited large sections of London in general, and the East End in particular.
One such story appeared in The Northern Whig on Tuesday October 16th 1888:-
A TERRIBLE REVELATION
“Many terrible revelations are made in the London police courts. Stories of shocking wretchedness and depravity are by no means rare in these major temples of justice.
A case has just been adjudicated on in the Westminster Police Court which, in certain respects, stands unparalleled for revolting hideousness.
CHARGED WITH FRIGHTENING HER DAUGHTER
Louisa Eldridge, aged thirty years, described as a dissipated-looking woman, was charged with frightening her daughter. This was a very mild way of styling the offence the woman had committed.
The frightening consisted of compelling the poor child to occupy the bed on which the corpse of her father lay.
A police constable on the previous night was called into the house in which the parties resided. Here he found a little girl, about ten years of age, crying bitterly and in a state of genuine hysteria. He questioned the child as to the cause of her agitation.
When she had so far recovered self-possession as to be able to speak she stated that her mother, who was drunk, had forced her into the bed in which the dead body of her father was lying.
The woman, moreover, said that she should remain there all night.
THE MAN’S LAST MOMENTS
The landlady of the house gave a piteous account of the poor man’s last moments.
He had been ill for a fortnight. His wife was drunk for nearly the whole of that time. She shamefully neglected him.
When the final moment came she, who had sworn to be the partner of his joys and sorrows, left him to die alone in the squalid apartment.
The unfortunate and forsaken man in his struggles to breathe sprang out of bed, only to fall back exhausted.
When his model wife returned he was dead.
DRAGGED HER DAUGHTER INTO THE ROOM
On the night that the constable was called in, she, as stated above, dragged her little daughter into the room where the corpse was lying, and insisted that the child should sleep beside the dead body of her father.
To show the utter callousness of the accused, it was mentioned that the draughts of alcohol that the parish doctor used to send to the dying man were seized on and drunk by his wife.
A CRUEL WIFE AND AN UNNATURAL MOTHER
The magistrate truly described her. He said that she was a cruel, good-for-nothing wife, and a most unnatural mother. In indignant tones he told her that she was a disgrace to humanity.
He inflicted the highest possible punishment on her that the law allowed him to order – namely, a month’s hard labour.
THE GIRL WILL BE CARED FOR
The proceedings in the Police Court will, in all probability, be conducive of good.
They will direct, it is to be presumed, the attention of some of the philanthropic bodies in London, whose mission it is to look after juvenile waifs and strays, to the case of the poor little girl Eldridge.
At all events, it is earnestly to be wished for that she may not again be placed under the control of her unnatural mother.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO HER?
With regards the fate of the little girl, who had undergone such an horrific and traumatising ordeal, The Cheltenham Chronicle, in its edition of Saturday November 3rd, 1888, was able to report that:-
“…We are glad to learn that the child Eldridge has been sent to one of the Church of England homes for Waifs and Strays, whence the mother, when she leaves prison, will not be able to remove her without an order from the Home Secretary.”