How To Catch Him

Following the night of the double murder – the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, which both took place in the early hours of 30th September, 1888, many newspapers began drawing attention to the sad plight of the class of  the women from whom the victims of the killer, who was now becoming known as “Jack the Ripper”, were drawn.

Indeed, the theme that had been promulgated by certain newspapers, since the murder of Annie Chapman earlier in the month, that the victims were as much victims of society as they were victims of the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders – was developed even further in early October, 1888.

On 3rd October, 1888, The Pall Mall Gazette published the following interview with a young “missionary woman” who was labouring to help the prostitutes in the East End of London to turn their lives around:-


While the visible excitement over the murders actually perpetrated is dying down somewhat, the dread of the mysterious murderer is deepening.

Upon the unhappy class of women from whom the victims have thus far been taken the effect has been profound, as was to have been expected.

Pathetic in the extreme, says the Daily News reporter, are some of the stories that one hears from those whose benevolent efforts are directed to the reclamation of these unhappy women, especially of those who try to reform when they have got on a little beyond their young womanhood.

Said a young missionary woman last evening:-

The terrible difficulty we have to encounter is that of trying to find them work.


We had last year a very touching case of a woman who seemed sincerely desirous of amending, but who was over the age at which they are usually admitted to homes.

After a great deal of difficulty, we found an opening for her, and she went to the home; but some of these places, I am afraid, are managed too rigorously, and the matrons of them are sometimes wanting in sympathy with their inmates, who find it extremely difficult to submit to the discipline.

It was the case with this woman.


She found the discipline of this place more than she could endure, and she left, but she came to us again, and still seemed sick and weary of the wretched life she led.

If she could only find something to do she really would try, but of the “Home” she seemed to have a positive horror.

We could find her no work, and she tried charing and washing, and I believe did her earnest best to maintain herself that way.


But it was gradual starvation: often we found she was whole days without a bit of food, and those she lived with say that only at the last extremity did she allow herself to be driven again to her old courses.

I am afraid, however, she drifted back, but still she would come to our meetings, and would borrow from our library books that you would never imagine she would care to read.

She came to a meeting one Tuesday night ill, and scarcely able to stand, and on Thursday she died.


The woman who looks after these mission rooms (continued the speaker), was another of the same class, and she used to be an associate of the poor creature murdered in Berner-street. [This is a reference to Elizabeth Stride, murdered in Berner Street on 30th September, 1888.]

She saw her only last Thursday, and she – that is the murdered woman – said then that she felt she was coming to some bad end.”

Elizabeth Stride.
A Sketch of Elizabeth Stride.


The article then went on to list some of the many suggestions that were coming in from the public as to how best to bring the unknown miscreant to justice:-

“The suggestions from the public as to the Whitechapel murders, their perpetrator, and their prevention are becoming positively idiotic.

Here are a few examples from the morning papers:-

A hint from Mr. Archibald Forbes. -That the murderer is the victim of a specific contagion, and is avenging himself. Possibly a medical student, from the knowledge of anatomy displayed in the murders.


Try the clairvoyant. Several correspondents suggest that the spiritualists should be called in. Where are Messrs. Stuart Cumberland and Irving Bishop??

Handwriting expert. – Jack the Ripper’s letters may be genuine. Why not have them photographed and widely circulated?

People Gathered round a table holding a seance.
A Seance In progress


Baby-faced pugilists. – Policemen have beards, bass voices, and big feet. Give the pugilists a chance. There are numbers of well-trained pugilists in Shoreditch and Whitechapel, who are, many of them young, and, as is the custom in their profession, clean-shaved. Twenty game men of this class in women’s clothes loitering about Whitechapel would have more chance than any number of heavy-footed policemen.


Jekyll and Hyde. – Possibly the culprit is an army doctor suffering from sunstroke.

He has seen the horrible play, lives in Bayswater or North London, in perhaps a decent square or terrace, dresses well.

Goes out about 10 P. M. straight to Whitechapel.

Commits deed.

Home again to breakfast.

Wash. Brush-up. Sleep. Himself again – Dr. Hyde.

Meantime, everybody scouring the scene of the tragedy for the usual type of a murderer.

Actor Richard Mansfield transforming himself into Mr Hyde
Jekyll and Hyde


The enterprising newspaper (4d. ). – Seek the person who profits by the crime.

“I venture,” says a correspondent, “to affirm that no one will be bold enough to deny that the occurrence of these murders has caused a very large sum of money to be diverted into the pockets of the proprietors of some evening papers.

The inference is obvious:- the silly season is sillier than was ever known.

A syndicate could easily be formed to provide the £20 which Mr. Wynne Baxter’s experience as a coroner teaches him is sufficient inducement to an unscrupulous person, and the amount of ‘copy’ produced by the expenditure of this moderate sum is practically unlimited.”

A photograph of Coroner Wynne Baxter.
Coroner Wynne Baxter. From The Illustrated London News.


The lunatic of Leavesden. – Twelve months ago an inmate of the lunatic asylum at Leavesden escaped.

The local paper warned females against being out at night in the neighbourhood, as this man was dangerous only to women.

Where is he?


The cryptogrammatic dagger. – In examining the chart representing the locality of the Whitechapel murders, says one, it is curious to observe that lines drawn through the spots where the murders were committed assume the exact form of a dagger, the hilt and blade of which pass through the scenes of the sixth, second, first, and third murders, the extremities of the guard making the fourth and fifth.

Can this possibly afford a clue to the position of the next atrocity?”