Amateur Detectives May Catch Him

On September 10th, 1889, a woman’s torso was discovered under a railway arch in Pinchin Street in Whitechapel.

Given that this was the area in which the murders of 1888 had caused so much consternation the previous year, speculation was rife that Jack the Ripper had returned to the area and that, with this new atrocity, he had, so it seemed, changed his modus operandi.

Yet again, the eyes of the world began to focus on the East End of London, and all manner of lurid articles speculated on this latest find.


What was more than apparent to the majority of the authors, was the fact that the police were no more likely to catch the perpetrator of this latest crime than they had been to catch the unknown miscreant who had held the East End in a grip of terror the previous autumn.

In consequence, the amateur detectives began returning to the districts of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and, once more, the hunt was on to track down the person, or person, responsible for, not only this murder, put the previous ones as well.

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.


However, according to the following article, which appeared in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on September 14th, 1889, several newspapers already had their own private detectives out on the streets of the East End.

The article is interesting in that it reflects the attitude of the London Police to these, and other, private detectives:-

Newspaper Reporters Hunting For Jack the Ripper. They Have Watched For Months And The Police Are Very Much Afraid The Detectives May Succeed.

In spite of all probabilities, the belief obtains among the lower classes, as well as in the minds of many others, that the mutilated body found in the Cable street archway must be added to the list of Jack the Ripper’s victims.

Certain London and provincial journals and one prominent American paper have kept men detailed in the Whitechapel district for months past in hopes of discovering the fiendish murderer who has added a distinctive name and method to the history of crime, but, notwithstanding their watching night after night, their efforts have as yet have been of no avail.


Each one of them has a different theory, and if the wretch is finally caught or definitely ceases his murderous work, the story of their labors, their suspicions and their baffled hopes would be really interesting reading, if they could be induced to put aside wounded vanity and relate their true experiences.


The police detest these amateur detectives, refuse them any information and throw every obstacle in their way.

Their most haunting fear is that these impertinent intruders upon their sphere of action may really discover something, with the obvious result of covering them with discomfiture, depreciating their reputation below even its present status and making their stupidity a jest and byword.

They already bear the press no goodwill on account of the sarcastic remarks lavished upon their lack of shrewdness and energy, and there are, unfortunately, no signs of a better understanding.


The dailies appear to agree that the last case does not look like Jack the Ripper’s handiwork, and they might even go farther and say that there is no evidence of a murder having taken place at all. An anatomist might have desired some portions of a body and got rid of all the rest in the easiest manner possible.


Of course, the prophets, fortune tellers and mind readers are reminding their little circles of admirers that they foretold another murder some time since, and some of the believers in this class of frauds have rushed into print with their suddenly awakened recollections of such prognostications.”