An Apocalypse Of Evil

Following the murder of Annie Chapman, which took place on the morning of the 8th of September, 1888, people living in the neighbourhood where the murders were occurring began talking of their belief that the police response to crime in the district had been totally inadequate.

The South Wales Echo decided to investigate and published the findings of that investigation in its edition of Tuesday, 18th September 1888:-



A correspondent writes:-

Passing through Whitechapel in the evening, I have visited the scenes of the murders, or rather of two of them, as I was assured in the neighbourhood that to enter the yard in which the other was committed at that time of night would be as much as my life was worth.

The interval which has passed without an addition to the chapter of crime has made the public breathe more freely but the most casual observer could not fail to see that this relief is not shared in the immediately affected district.


The general feeling of dissatisfaction about the police is loudly expressed.

A resident a few doors away from one of the fatal spots told me that he had been to the police to complain of the dangerous state of the streets, and especially of that particular street, some time before the first murder was committed.

The Punch Cartoon Blind Mans Buff showing a blind-folded police officer being taunted by criminals.
Blind Mans Buff – A Punch Cartoon From 1888.


Disorderly gangs (who obtained refreshment hard by quite openly at any hour) met outside his door talking undisguisedly of thieving enterprises, and threatening to throw any one who meddled with them over a certain wall.

This is a wall six or seven feet high. Scramble up, and you see deep down the glimmer of rails.

It is where the Metropolitan Railway runs.


My informant demanded at that time that the police on the spot should be strengthened, more vigilance exerted, and some kind of order insisted on in the street by night.

He warned them that murder would ensue if matters were left as they were.

He was referred from one police office to another, but without making any impression. “We hope not,” said the officials.


Then came the first fulfilment of his prophecy.

He went again to the police, and warned them that there would be more mischief unless they could clear the streets of the open and defiant ruffianism which continued to make night hideous.

Again he was told, “We hope not.”

Then came another murder.

The poor man now despaired of the police, and told them that he should carry a revolver for self-defence.


At present it is said that detectives and constables shoulder each other in the streets.

I saw two of the latter and one of the former.

But he is by no means satisfied yet, and it is gruesome to note the settled expectancy with which the people generally speak of “the next murder.”


Opposite the now famous house in Hanbury-street a ring of lurid faces discussed the situation, and echoed the sombre tone of my informant.

The main thoroughfares of the district are connected by a network of narrow, dark, and crooked lanes, every one apparently containing some headquarters of infamy.

The sights and sounds (which are said to be “nothing just now to what they were before”) are an apocalypse of evil.

Underneath the prosperous stratum of Jewish dealers the district seems to swarm with a nomadic mob of dehumanized men and women and unchildish children.

An external view of number 29 Hanbury Street.
29 Hanbury Street.


The detective officers continue their investigations, but no arrest has been made, neither is there any apparent prospect of an arrest being effected.

The public of the neighbourhood continue to make statements, which are committed to writing at the Commercial Street Police Station, and in several instances the police have been made cognizant of what the informants consider to be suspicious movements of individuals whose appearance is supposed to tally with that of the man wanted.

Every clue given by the public to the police has been followed up, but without success, and the lapse of time, it is feared, will lessen the chances of discovering the perpetrator of the crime.