On Saturday 22nd September 1888, The East London Advertiser reported that the inquest into the murder of Mary Nichols – which had taken place in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel on August 31st 1888 – had resumed on the previous Monday.
WHY WAS NO REWARD BEING OFFERED?
The foreman of the jury had raised an issue, which was also being discussed in several newspapers – why was no reward being offered that might lead to the apprehension of the murderer? The newspaper quoted him thus:-
“He said it was terrible that monsters were going about cutting females to pieces to satisfy their hellish thirst for human blood. He would give £25 himself and would be pleased to do it. If it were a person of importance that were murdered, the Home Secretary would be sure to offer a reward. The unfortunate had souls as well as the great.”
The Coroner, Wynne Baxter, pointed out that the government had dropped the police of offering rewards many years before and there seemed to be no possibility of one being offered at the present time.
NOT SATISFIED WITH THE CORONER’S ANSWER
The foreman was not in the least bit impressed by the answer and even went so far as to state that the murders of both Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman would never have happened had s “substantial reward” been offered in the wake of the murder of Martha Tabram.
VIGILANCE COMMITTEES HAD BEEN FORMED
Meanwhile, several of the East End citizens had taken up suggestions in various newspapers and had formed themselves into Vigilance Committees “for the purpose of considering what steps should taken for the detection or prevention of crime in the district, and for strengthening the hands of the police, by individual action on the part of the citizens.”
One such Committee had held its inaugural meeting at the Crown Tavern on Mile End Road and its Chairman, Mr. Aarons, had categorically stated that “the Committee was in no way antagonistic to the police authorities, who were doing their best, as he believed they always did, to bring the culprits to justice.”
SOON IN A POSITION TO OFFER A REWARD
He also stated that “in a few days” the Committee would be in a position to do that which the jury foreman had criticised the authorities for not doing and offer “…a substantial reward for the apprehension and conviction of the murderer or murderers.”
Spencer Charrington, of the Anchor Brewery, Mile End Road had contributed £5 to the reward fund and a “similar” amount, he stated, had been pledged by local builder Mr George Lusk – the very same Mr. Lusk who, less than a month later, would be the recipient of the notorious “From Hell” letter, which would ensure that his name would be remembered in connection with the Whitechapel Jack the Ripper murders long after many of the other players in the saga were dead, buried and forgotten, thus assuring him a gruesome immortality.
THE GOVERNMENT WERE ENTIRELY WRONG
Mr. Aarons also stated that:-
“There was one important matter in connection with his canvass, which he thought, the Press should know, and that was that every one he saw, whether a donor or not, expressed a decided opinion that the Government were entirely wrong in declining to offer any reward for information leading to the conviction of an escaped murderer.”
AN INTRIGUING COMMUNICATION
The Star newspaper reported on the 22nd September, in a manner that almost teased its readers that:-
“Since the publication of Dr. Phillips’s evidence on the inquest on the body of Annie Chapman, Coroner Baxter has received a communication from a person of good standing in the medical world which affords an important clue to the murderer’s probable motive. The coroner thinks the clue well worth following up, and has personally attended at Scotland Yard to confer with the heads of the detective department.”
A VERY SHARP WEAPON
The British Medical Journal, on the other hand, was a bit more forthcoming about Dr. Philips’s inquest testimony:-
“DR. GEORGE BAXTER PHILLIPS gave some remarkable evidence at the adjourned inquiry respecting the mutilations found on the body of Mary Anne Chapman [sic], who was found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, on the morning of September 8th. He expressed the opinion that the length of the weapon, which must have been very sharp, was at least five or six inches, probably more. The mode in which the knife had been used, he said, seemed to indicate some anatomical knowledge. The reposts published in the daily press are incomplete. It is there desirable to state that the parts removed were a certain portion of the abdominal wall, including the navel; two thirds of the bladder (posterior and upper portions); the upper third of the vagina and its connection with the uterus; and the whole of the uterus.”
AMATEUR DETECTIVES OUT ON THE STREETS
The 22nd September 1888 edition of Echo, felt that it could be a little bit more light hearted in its reportage of the crimes and under the headline, “AMATEUR DETECTIVES AT WORK. THEIR SUCCESS IN THE EAST END, it informed its readers that there is:-
“…occasionally a comic side to the worst of crimes. Since the last murder in the East end, two men became suspicious, the one of the other, and spent their days and nights in following one another about. Such a proceeding could only have the effect of increasing the suspicion on both sides.
A few days ago one became so convinced that his distrust was well founded that he pointed out the other to a constable, whereupon the second man, thinking that this was a favourable opportunity, gave the first one into custody.
The policeman took both to the station, where the Inspector, so the London correspondent of the Sheffield Independent has been told, could with difficulty listen to the men’s statements for laughter. What their opinions were of each other when they were sent about their business is not known, but they probably resolved to play no more at amateur detectives.
The police themselves are occasionally victims to similar mistakes.
Only recently a plain clothes officer, investigating a murder in the northern part of London, was taken into custody by an inspector, who deemed his appearance and movements suspicious.
On one occasion, it is stated, Superintendent Littlechild was arrested by one of his subordinates.”
PEOPLE WERE BEGINNING TO RELAX
What is noticeable from the press coverage in the newspapers on 22nd September 1888 is that people were starting to relax, as no murders had occurred for several weeks. Some newspapers beginning to wonder what lessons might be drawn from the crimes by society as a whole.
SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE
Chief amongst the latter was The Daily Telegraph which, on this day in 1888, carried a genuinely poignant editorial that used the murder of Annie Chapman to demand change in the area where it had occurred and which insisted that something be done for those unfortunates who, like Annie, had fallen through the net of Victorian society and who had ended up on the streets of the East End of London. It is worth reproducing a large section of the article:-
DARK ANNIE’S SPIRIT
“”DARK ANNIE’S” spirit still walks Whitechapel, unavenged by Justice. Most miserable, most desolate, most degraded, most forgotten and forsaken of all her sex in this vast Metropolis, Destiny also reserved for her to perish most awfully and mysteriously of all the recent martyrs of neglect by the hand of some horrible assassin, who, not content with slaying, desecrated and mutilated the body of his victim.
The inhuman murderer still comes and goes about our streets free and unpunished, hiding in his guilty heart the secret known only to him, to Heaven, and to the dead.
And yet even this forlorn and despised citizeness of London cannot be said to have suffered in vain.
On the contrary, she has effected more by her death than many long speeches in Parliament and countless columns of letters to the newspapers could have brought about.
She has forced innumerable people who never gave a serious thought before to the subject to realise how it is and where it is that our vast floating population – the waifs and strays of our thoroughfares – live and sleep at nights, and what sort of accommodation our rich and enlightened capital provides for them, after so many Acts of Parliament passed to improve the dwellings of the poor, and so many millions spent by our Board of Works, our vestries, and what not.
It is comparatively easy to be virtuous when one retires, at the first feeling of sleep, to a cosy bedroom, with luxurious appointments, all kinds of comforts, and the bright firelight, perchance, dancing upon soft pillows and snowy sheets.
It is easy to be respectable even with simple comfort without luxury; but “Dark ANNIE’S” dreadful end has compelled a hundred thousand Londoners to reflect what it must be like to have no home at all except the “common kitchen” of a low lodging-house; to sit there, sick and weak and bruised and wretched, for lack of fourpence with which to pay for the right of a “doss”; to be turned out after midnight to earn the requisite pence, anywhere and anyhow; and in course of earning it to come across your murderer and to caress your assassin.
The lodging-house keeper’s evidence at the inquest upon ANNIE CHAPMAN said: “She was, in her way, a decent woman, and would pay eightpence, which is the price of a double bed, instead of fourpence, so that she might have it to herself. At about a quarter to two in the morning I found her sitting by the kitchen fire, and asked her if she was not going up to bed. She said she had no money, and I saw her out of the house, she remarking as I did so that she would soon get the price of a bed and would then come back again.”
As all know, she never did come back, and Mr. MATTHEWS, who will not spend a hundred pounds of public money to find her butcher, has not the ghost of an idea where to look for him.
Nevertheless, “Dark ANNIE” will effect in one way what fifty Secretaries of State could never accomplish. By her ghastly fate, incurred upon that hard errand to earn a few hours’ sleep, she has constrained all London to meditate once more upon these hideous holes and corners where our very poor huddle at night to hide and slumber; these fourpenny and eightpenny resting-places; these filthy dens and gloomy cellars of the slums, whither the poverty and misery of our huge population settle down after daylight, as the dregs fall to the bottom of a vessel in the dark; these foul breeding-places of vice and filthy refuges of recklessness, where womanhood must unsex itself, and self-respect abandons everything to despair, and where to be decent is out of the question and to remain virtuous is unpermitted and impossible. Some mention was made at the inquest upon ANNIE CHAPMAN of a wild proposal to photograph her glazed eyes, and so try if the dying retina would present any image of the cruel monster who killed and mutilated her.
Better have listened with ear of imagination at her poor swollen lips, for, without much fancy, a Home Secretary or a Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works might have heard them murmuring, “We, your murdered sisters, are what the dreadful homes where we live have made us. Behind your fine squares and handsome streets you continue to leave our wild-beast lairs unchanged and uncleansed. The slums kill us, soul and body, with filth and shame, and spread fever and death among your gentry also, while they are spawnbeds for crime and social discontent. When it is possible for the poor of London to live and sleep in decency you will not pick up from backyards so many corpses like mine.”