How Rufus Wade Would Catch Him

Following the murder of Mary Kelly – which took place in Dorset Street, Spitalfields, on 9th November, 1888, newspapers across the globe began pondering whether the London police force was up to the task of tracking and finding the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities.

The fact that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, had resigned his position was being attributed by some newspapers as being because his men were unable to solve the Whitechapel murders. This was, in fact, the wrong reason, as his resignation had been caused by the fact he had published a defence of his force in a magazine, and had been publicly reprimanded by the Home Secretary, Sir Henry Matthews, for breaking with official protocol.


In America, newspaper reporters had found a ready source of opinion in the number of local police chiefs who were only too willing to hold forth on the progress, or lack of it, that was being demonstrated by the London police.

On Tuesday, November 13th, 1888, The Boston Daily Globe, published an interview with Rufus R. Wade, head of the Massachusetts State Police.

In the interview, Chief Wade was quite supportive of his London counterparts and was unwilling to criticise them for their inability to catch Jack the Ripper.

Indeed, as he confessed to the journalist who conducted the interview, his own force had its fair share of unsolved murders and mysteries.

A portrait of Rufus wade.
Rufus R. Wade


The interview read:-

“Rufus R. Wade, the chief of the State police, was busy at work, but he found the time when interviewed by a GLOBE reporter this morning to give up some of his valuable time to talk about the mysteries of Whitechapel.

He had no criticism to make on the efforts of the London police in their efforts to find out the man who had committed the crimes.

“No man,” he said, “can sit in an office and lay out a plan for the detection of any criminal. Although, if we knew the full particulars and all the investigations that have been made, a plan could be made that would answer, yet conditions that arise at any moment would so alter the plans that they would be useless.


The state force has some very able men on it, yet when a case occurs we have to be governed solely by the new conditions.

No cast-iron plans will do in police work. If the police do not succeed in finding the murderer, it will not be because they have not had experience enough in such cases, nor because they have not capable detectives.
cap4ble detectives. Front all that I

From all that I have read, I should say that they are doing all in their power to find the man, and it is no fault of theirs that they have not.


The chief of police there has resigned probably because he could not stand the unfavourable criticism that has been directed against him.

In cases like these, you will always find that there are more people who will criticise than there are that will assist the police, and this class will be the ones who will give the least assistance to the police.


In the present condition of affairs in London, the excitement must be very great, and every person in the city is virtually a detective, and any information that they may find will be promptly turned over to the police.

Although men may not be giving their time to the discovery of the murderer, yet the suspicious action of any stranger would be reported at once.

Therefore, we may say that the whole city is one great army of detectives.

The crimes have been committed in a section of the city, and among a class where ordinary disturbances or noises would attract no attention.

That makes detection doubly difficult.


The man that perpetrates these fearful murders is evidently the worst kind of his class – a man insane on that subject and on no other.

He appears probably to all his friends as rational on all subjects, and as no third person knows of his ideas, even much less his deeds and as he leaves no clew, the case is doubly difficult.

He will be discovered in time.

If he keeps on he will make some slip that will undoubtedly lead to his identification.

A photograph of Rufus R. Wade.
Chief Wade In 1903.


We have in this State a half dozen murders that have never been solved, yet it would be a great injustice to say that officials have not done everything in their power to discover the persons who committed the deeds.

The Bell murder and the Mitchell woman are two cases.

In the former case, the murderer was seen to walk up Tremont street and disappear near the railroad, yet he has never been found.

In the Mitchell mystery, detectives worked on the case for months without securing evidence that would convict anybody.

In the mysterious disappearance of Carrie Whitney, the pretty post office typewriter, every effort was made to find her, and yet the mystery is as great today as it was the day after she

Yet, in all these instances, no one can say that every effort was not made to solve the mystery.

The Carlton murder at Watertown has never been cleared up.


The smartest detective has not yet formulated a rule that will work in any two cases, and for that reason, I forbear to criticise the London police, for we know that they have good men, and then the conditions there are different than any other city in the world.”


When asked if the French method would have any advantage over the English, Chief Wade was in doubt.

The French have a system of espionage over citizens and strangers that would not be tolerated in any English liberty-loving country, and, for that reason, the two could hardly be compared, although he doubted if, under the circumstances, the French detective would do better work,

The greatest publicity that can be given in a case like this helps to discover the murderer, and that plan should be followed always. It does no harm at any rate.”