A Savage Animal

It is noticeable that, as the Jack the Ripper murders began to increase in ferocity, in September, 1888, the newspapers struggled to convey the full horror of what was occurring in the East End of London to their readers, and many journalists, tasked with reporting on the crimes to their readership, were at a loss as to how to explain the possible motives of the type of person who could carry out such barbarous crimes.

In the wake of the murder of Annie Chapman, newspapers began reflecting on the type of woman that was evidently the target of the Whitechapel murderer, and writers began expressing their opinions that, no matter what the lifestyles of the victims had been, their horrendous fates were undeserved.

As they attempted to put across the awful facts of what was occurring on the nighttime streets of Whitechapel, a lot of journalists began seeing the murders, and the perpetrator, in almost Gothic horror terms, and biblical comparisons were also being used extensively in the attempt to explain the inexplicable.

This style of reporting is much in evidence in the following article, which appeared in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Monday the 10th of September, 1888:-


“A savage animal is at large in the East End of London.

A fiendishly unclean creature is creeping about the dark corners and quiet alleys seeking for an opportunity to hack and hew defenceless women.

It is remarkable that the victims of this monster are all women, and are selected from that one unfortunate class whose dishonoured and defenceless position create a call on our sympathy, despite their mode of life.


These wretched women are too often the prey of pestilent fellows who, by bullying and blackmailing, increase the misery of a life of shame.

There are indications that in one of this despicable fraternity may be found the author of crimes than which there is nothing more awful in the history of murder.

It may be that “Dark Annie,” and three other victims whose murders preceded her fate, refused to pay, or had not the means of paying, the disgusting tribute demanded by the inhuman black-mailer, and that they were killed with the idea of intimidating others engaged in their unhappy calling.

The body of Annie Chapman in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street,
From The Illustrated Police news, Saturday 29th October, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Far-fetched as this idea may seem, it is not much more improbable than the police theory that the murders are the work of a semi-lunatic.

It is like the trick of a madman to slash and carve his victims as if they were sheep in the shambles.

It is also the act of a madman to leave this gruesome message behind him:- ‘‘Five, fifteen more, and then I give myself up.”


Jut while these circumstances are consistent with the idea of lunacy, they are equally consistent with the supposition that a hardened ruffian has adopted this terrible method of exciting terror in the breasts of a too complaisant class.


There are natures so depraved, so bereft of humanity, that vanity is the sole surviving sentiment they hold in common with their fellow-men.

To such a debased nature, the notoriety attending the discovery of the murder of the woman Nicholls [sic] would act as an incentive.

The tigerish lust of blood and the immunity from detection would incite the ruthless creature to fresh atrocities.

In this condition, he is, sane or insane, a terrible blot on civilisation, and one that must be wiped out with as much celerity as is consistent with the due observance of legal procedure.


We say this in the knowledge that the murderer, at the time of writing, is still at large. That he will be captured there can be little doubt. The millions of horrified dwellers in London are one vigilance committee, whose efforts will be joined to those of the police in tracking down the missing murderer.


Indeed, there is already a glimmering of a clue.

A wild unkempt creature, whose aspect terrified the two women who beheld him, and whose raiment was spotted with blood stains, has been seen in an ale-house.

If this monstrous being be not a creature of the imagination, the clue is one that is likely to be followed up successfully.


London is proverbially a safe place of refuge for a criminal. Its vast masses of population, and its miles of labyrinthine courts and alleys, do, under ordinary circumstances, render concealment comparatively easy to a man of keen wit and cool courage.

In the present case, however, circumstances of exceptional horror will render the people among whom the murderer will move eager to deliver him to justice, and lynx-eyed to discern the tell-tale stains of blood.


The personality of such a monster as the murderer of “Dark Annie” will probably be strongly marked. There must be something unearthly and inhuman in the outward aspect of so fiendish a nature.

Moreover, it can hardly be that he completed his hellish crime without bespattering his clothes with blood.

Awaiting with anxiety news of the capture of the demoniac assassin, we can afford to put aside the fact that “Dark Annie” was an outcast of society.

A portrait of Annie Chapman.
The Hanbury Street Victim, Annie Chapman. From The Illustrated Police News.


Thinking of her as she lay a stark, mangled heap of outraged humanity, we can afford to dwell on the fact that the owner of the brown wavy hair and blue eyes was a woman, a victim of lust and sin, but one whom it is not meet for men to judge, for we have ever before us the memorable example of He whos gracious words may be paraphrased in this wise phrase – Let him that hath no sin cast the first stone.”