Everybody Is Talking

The following intriguing article appeared in The St James’s Gazette on Monday, 10th September, 1888.

It is of interest because it highlights the fact that, just two days after the murder of Annie Chapman, the press and the public had, so it would appear, lost faith in the abilities of the detectives of Scotland Yard to bring the perpetrator of the crimes to justice.

The article read:-


Everybody is talking of the Whitechapel murders, and nobody has anything to say about it.

The thing remains a mystery – the more tantalizing because the margin between the known and the unknown is so small.

We know practically all about them – or at any ralte about the last two – except the name and personality of the murderer.


A very small exercise of the imagination, indeed, is required to realize all that took place between the time that the wretched woman Chapman was turned out of the common lodging house in Dorset-street and the time when her mangled remains were found in the back yard in Hanbury Street.

A photograph of the yard in which the murder occurred.
The Backyard Of 29 Hanbury Street.


We know that these poor creatures, dazed and stupefied with drink, are taken to some quiet spot in the streets, or just off them, and are swiftly and silently despatched.

How the murderer manages to get time to do his subsequent work of ghastly butchery unobserved and unnoticed is no doubt puzzling enough.

But it is not so puzzling as it appears at first sight.

There is scarcely a street in London in which it would not be tolerably easy to get twenty minutes or so for any deed of darkness in the small hours of the morning.


We are not making this a reproach against the police.

As we have said over and over again, the force under Sir Charles Warren’s control is ridiculously inadequate to its numerous duties.

How can 13,000 men watch and patrol by day and by night every yard of hundreds of leagues of pavement, of hundreds of square miles of courts, alleys, dark areas, and similar places?

Even if the London police force were twice as strong as it is, it could not prevent an insane wild beast getting possession of some wretched drunken outcast, taking her into a dark corner, and then and there quietly assassinating her.

This is a point worth remembering at a time when wild deductions are drawn from this affair, which, startling and terrifying as it is, it does not in the smallest degree warrant.


The capture of the person who has leapt into sudden notoriety during the past few days, “Leather Apron”, will tend to allay to some extent the sort of panic which has been setting in in Whitechapel during the past forty-eight hours.

Whether “Leather Apron” is the insane hero of these four atrocious murders, or of any of them, it is, of course, quite impossible say, nor would any prudent person so much as venture a conjecture on the subject.

The general suspicion with which “Leather Apron” has been regarded, which was at once confidently expressed by those who had the best means of forming an opinion, was itself a reason why the man should have been hotly pursued and promptly captured.

A Victorian poster reading Capture Leather Apron.
The Leather Apron Poster


It could not be said till today that the police had shown exceptional acuteness in failing to track a man whose dress, appearance, and manners were well known and fully described.

It may be an easy thing for a man to escape arrest when he has nobody to pursue him except the detectives of Scotland-yard.


In the case of an ordinary criminal, even if he is a murderer, provided that it is not of the very worst type, the sympathies of a public that lives in courts and alleys is divided between the pursued and the pursuers.

The hunt has all the excitement and interest of any other kind of sport, and there are many decent folks who would not willingly interfere between the police and their game to help the criminal or to stop him.


But, in this case, every man’s hand and every woman’s has been ready to help the police.

There is not a man or woman who would not point out “Leather Apron’s” hiding-place to the ministers of justice.


Meantime, it is to be hoped that the capture of the supposed criminal will not serve to relax the energies of pursuit.

It is not by any means certain that “Leather Apron” is the man.


Indeed, it is already reported that another man, a more likely man, has been captured at Gravesend and that, but for the popular suspicion, Leather Apron would not have been arrested at all.

The public must not suppose that this or any other single arrest has settled the question.

It is not certain that either of these men is the man who is wanted, nor is it absolutely certain, though of course most probable, that we have to deal with a single ruffian and not with more than one.”