From Our London Correspondent

Throughout October, 1888, the Victorian newspapers were awash with stories on what the police should be doing to catch Jack the Ripper.

There was a general consensus that the police investigation had shown itself to be woefully inadequate in the efforts to bring the perpetrator of the crimes to Justice.

However, the Home Office – and in particular the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews – were also coming in for an awful lot of criticism, largely as a result of their refusal to sanction a reward that might lead to information that could help bring the Whitechapel murderer to justice.

Indeed, so exasperated had many Eastenders become with the total refusal by the Home Office to even consider a reward, that they had gone so far as to petition Queen Victoria in the hope that her intervention would change the minds of the government officials.

On Tuesday 2nd October, 1888, The Dublin Daily Express, published the following “special telegram” from London:-


“The appeal to the Queen from the decision of the Home Secretary by the people of Whitechapel is a serious feature, and if Mr Matthews is well advised he will offer a reward of £1,000 without delay.

He may think it foolish, ridiculous, useless. No matter. It may cast a slur on red tape theories, and cause the whole staff at the Home Office to hold up their hands higher than ever in pious contempt for “The B. P.  – their brief and contemptuous style of referring to the British public – but we may survive even that.


What the people who are now at the mercy of a peculiarly cunning and daring assassin demand is that nothing should be left undone to reach him; and the public rightly conclude that the offer of a large reward would not only stimulate at least some of the police but many of the public.


It is probable, for instance, that the arrest of the murderer will prove a dangerous business, unless he is taken off his guard, or captured under circumstances which will render resistance useless.

Making allowance for the class of persons by whom, clearly, he is surrounded – and he cannot be lurking far from the scene of his operations – it is not unreasonable to assume that a heavy reward would pull in the direction of justice.


The Home Office theory is either based on the doctrine of predestination or on a very lofty and, indeed, flattering view of human nature. It is either that if a murderer is to be caught he will be caught, or that the whole population, without fee or reward or hope of it, will devote themselves to detective work.


Alas! everyday experience teaches us, if it does not teach the Home Office officials, that, at all events, the latter theory will not hold water.

It is a painful but notorious fact, so differently are some men constituted, that lives have been lost in the Thames because, whereas there is a reward for the discovery of a dead body, there is no payment for rescuing a drowning man or woman.

This has been proved over and over again by sworn evidence at coroners’ inquests.


It is conceivable, though very superior Christian people may shake their heads at the very idea, that there are in the East End persons who have, to put it mildly, strong suspicions, most probably correct suspicions, and yet who do not say a word about the matter.

On such minds the offer of a good reward has the effect of an electric shock.

Why not try it?

It is to be regretted that Mr Matthews [the Home Secretary] was so unlucky as to have left town on Saturday.

Had he been here yesterday, and had he issued, without regard to the disarrangement of the festoons of red tape which ornament his office above all other offices, a placard offering a thumping reward, he would have scored for his own reputation, and perhaps for that of the Government, not to speak of humanity.

A portrait of Henry Matthews.
The Home Secretary, Henry Matthews. From The Illustrated London News, 14th August, 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


However, yesterday passed, and today has passed, but the Home Office is as silent and motionless as the Landseer lions in Trafalgar Square.

It is not pleasant to hear all that is said on the subject by the leading tradesmen in the East End; nor is it possible to read the reports coming in with the calm serenity which is being displayed in Whitehall.


I think it is a fair question that is being asked – Would there be such rigid adherence to red tape if a couple of Duchesses were mysteriously murdered in Belgrave Square and St James’s Street?

I greatly fear that the Home Office have made an enormous mess of it.


The police are, of course, coming in for serious notice of an unflattering character, and, no doubt, their failure is a bad thing for Sir Charles Warren.

It is of no avail for them to ask – “What more can we do? Are we doing our best?”

What the public see is blank failure throughout six weeks, during which a murderer has worked his will in the most impudent, as well as the most cruel, manner.

Instead of rising to the occasion, the police appear to have remained stuck in their regulation groove.

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. From The Illustrated London News, 1st May 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Everyone but the police, apparently, anticipated fresh murders, and the greatest surprise is felt that proper arrangements were not made to try bloodhounds.

It is well known that there are at least a dozen of these animals, well trained, in London. The police should have secured their services, kept them in readiness at the East End stations, and turned them on before the bodies were removed from where the murderer left them.

It is the undoubted and strong belief of those who have seen bloodhounds at work, that if the police had been properly instructed not to remove the bodies, and if bloodhounds had been put on the track immediately after the discovery – that is early on Sunday morning – the murderer would have been traced with unerring sagacity.

Will the police, even now, make preparations for the next murder? Or is the calling in of bloodhounds beneath their dignity?

The bloodhounds following a trail.
The Bloodhounds on the Trail. From The Illustrated London News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The mystery is a difficult one to solve, undoubtedly; but that is only the stronger reason for leaving no stone unturned.

The total amount of private rewards now offered for the capture of the assassin is £1,200, but the ignorant populace of the East End do not trust this.

What they lack is the absence of the Government action.”