Hughes Hallet Hunts For Jack The Ripper

Francis Charles Hughes-Hallett (1838 -1903) was an officer with the Royal Artillery and the Member of Parliament for Rochester.

His first wife, Catherine, died in 1875, and, in 1882, Hughes-Hallett married a middle-aged American heiress, Emilie Page von Schaumberg (1833-1923).

However, in 1887, the marriage ran into difficulties when, at a country house weekend, Hughes-Hallett was caught in a compromising position in one of the bedrooms with his first wife’s twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter, Beatrice.

The subsequent scandal destroyed Hughes-Hallett’s personal reputation in Britain, and, in consequence, he took to spending time in America, where he enjoyed a much more favourable press than he did in Britain.


In October, 1888, at the height of the Jack the Ripper scare, Hughes-Hallett was in New York, where he was sought out by a journalist who interviewed him about the Whitechapel murders.

Hughes-Hallett was more than happy to hold forth on the case, and he even went so far as to claim that he himself had turned amateur detective and had gone on a nocturnal hunt for the murderer in the slums of Whitechapel; albeit, he got an awful lot wrong about the geographical layout of the district, as well as the order and the names of the victims!

That said, it is an intriguing article in that it demonstrates how so many people wanted to link their names to the hunt of Jack the Ripper. The article spelt his name as Hughes-Hallet, so I have left it as it was spelt in the original article.

A sketch of Hughes-Hallett


The Philadelphia Times published the interview in its edition of  Sunday, 7th October, 1888:-

“So intense is the feeling among all classes in London, in regard to the bloody horrors committed with impunity in Whitechapel, that it is not surprising to hear of so prominent a member of Parliament and social luminary as Colonel F. C. Hughes-Hallet, of Her Majesty’s service, the typical London club man and gallant, turning detective and visiting in disguise the purlieus of the East End of the world’s metropolis with the deliberate intention, if possible, of meeting and apprehending the murderous monomaniac whose crimes have made the civilized world stand aghast.

Colonel Hughes-Hallet is well known in Philadelphia as the husband of Emilie Schaumburg.

He is staying at the Brevoort during his present visit to New York and gave to a TIMES correspondent today a thrilling account of his midnight expedition to the scene of the Whitechapel monster’s carnival of crime, made just after the commission of the second atrocity in that gory series which has drawn all eyes to the East End of London.

Colonel Hughes-Hallett seems to have been born a detective; and, according to his theory, detectives are born, not made.

He has travelled all over the world and achieved already feats which it would puzzle a special from Mulberry street, perhaps, or an officer from Scotland Yard to duplicate.

He is very tall, noticeably slender in figure; with a handsome head and face, a keen grey eye and a delicate. discriminating aquiline nose which might make the fortune of a Harkshaw.


“Just after the second of these crimes had been committed,” said Colonel Hughes-Hallet, “I determined to make an effort to get at the secret of their commission.
” You may remember that the second of the mutilated bodies discovered in Whitechapel was that of Martha Turner, a hawker, who was found on the first-floor landing of the George’s Yard buildings, in Commercial Street, Spitalfields.

The similarity of mutilation, the identity of the district and of the woman’s occupation with those of the first victim convinced me that I had to deal with a case of homicidal mania.

I was not without personal experience in such cases.

Not long ago, I was staying in a charming suburb of London. Close by, and on the edge of a beautiful park, lived a family high up in the aristocracy, with whom I was on terms of friendship. One evening about 9 o’clock, a fine moonlight night, the most awful screams were heard coming from the park on which the house of my friends fronted.

With several of the household, I ran to the scene of the outcry, and found a handsome young girl names Marie Williams lying on the grass, bleeding profusely from a number of frightful stab wounds and shockingly mutilated about the head and face.

There wore no indications of a darker crime.”


“No one else was visible and there were no signs of a struggle on the gravelled walk.

Some search, however, revealed in the shrubbery not far away a handsome gold-headed cane. I recognized it instantly as the property of a son of the family of my friends, whose house was close by.

The girl was taken into that house and carefully nursed back to health and strength.

It was found that she had recognized her assailant, though she knew him only by sight, and no communication of any kind had passed between them.

After a long interview with the young man’s mother, who had nursed her, the affair was completely hushed up.

It was a sudden attack of homicidal mania.


Now it was not his last, though he has fortunately been able to keep his name out of the papers.

Some weeks afterwards, he turned up disguised in labourer’s clothing at the house of a gentleman in an adjoining county. He looked haggard and nervous, and seemed ill at ease. He made himself known to the gentleman, who knew his father well; said that he had lost his money and asked for a night’s lodging.

In the middle of the night, two Constables dragged him from bed and arrested him for murder.

The family were disposed at first to defend him, but it was soon evident that his thirst for blood had overcome him again. He had sought shelter the proceeding night in a neighbouring poorhouse and had, after going to bed in the general sleeping apartment, deliberately gotten up, gone to the cot of a pauper close by and slit the throat of the sleeping occupant.

A third inmate of the room had been awakened by the “drip, drip” of the blood on the uncarpeted floor.

The murderer or homicidal maniac had gone peacefully back to bed and to sleep. In the confusion which followed he escaped.

The whole matter was compromised by his incarceration in an asylum.”


“I chose a bright moonlit alight night for my expedition to Whitechapel, just the kind of a night that the thug whom I wanted to trail had already evinced a predilection for.

I had already a theory of my own about the kind of man the assassin would turn out to be.


“I had made up my mind, and I have seen since no reason to change it, that the perpetrator of these atrocities is a West End man, a gentleman, a person of wealth and culture, perhaps, but certainly of intellectual qualities, finesse and keen discrimination.

His motive? Well, we will come to that later.

I was convinced my man left his club, as I was then doing, and disguised himself for his hideous nocturnal revel as I was then about to do.

So I drove to my apartments and, doffing my evening dress, got into a plain, quiet pair of trousers, heavy boots, a rough sack coat and a ‘pot’ hat.


I took plenty of money with me, but no jewellery of any kind, and, calling a cab, I gave the driver orders to drive me to Hanbury Street.

The man turned and looked at me in such a peculiar way that I am sure he suspected me.

The hue and cry had already been raised over town, for this second crime by its singular atrocity had sent a chill of horror down every spine and the police had given orders to cabmen to watch suspicious fares. The man said nothing, however, and I pretended not to notice his scrutiny.

As we drove along St. James Park, I passed a very dear old friend and fellow clubman and looked him straight in the eye. He didn’t know me, for being an amateur actor as well as detective, I had made up my face and completed the disguise effectually.

A photograph showing Hanbury Street.
Hanbury Street As It Was


The reason, or perhaps the main reason why I was convinced the murderer was a West End man was the knowledge he had shown of surgery, or rather of anatomy, the thoroughness with which he did what he set out to do and the finesse with which he instantly effaced himself of all tell-tale traces of his fearful work.

I revolved these thoughts in my mind, so I drove past the Cambridge Music Hall into Commercial-road, and I felt in my pocket to see that the revolver I had put there was ready for use.

In the light of all later developments,  I have seen no cause for changing this opinion.

I had now arrived as near to the scene of action as I felt it safe to go in a cab. Midnight had struck and the air was quiet and cool. I dismissed my cabby, looking him straight in the eye as I gave him his fare, and turned out of Commercial Road into Whitechapel.


The approaches to the scene of the maniac’s operations are not particularly squalid or filthy, or tumble-down, or, indeed, in any way calculated to attract unusual attention. But over there that night and ever since hung a brooding expectancy, a mysterious suggestion of something fearsome to be that could not fail to impress the most callous observer.

As I walked from Whitechapel into Hanbury Street, intending by a roundabout route through the short streets and alleys connecting Commercial Road and Hanbury Street to debouche into the latter and thence into Commercial Street, where the last victim had been found, I was struck with the fact that the unfortunate women who frequent that district in swarms were, as I approached the scene of the tragedy, becoming rarer and rarer.

I heard none of them singing or shouting their maudlin endearments or exhibiting in the friskiness of their behaviour the reckless glee which is so repulsive.


The sidewalks there, as in London generally, were in good order and cleanly kept. In your slums here, or in a corresponding quarter of New York, you would find your gutters full of filthy water and refuse, the sidewalk unflagged, perhaps, or torn up, littered with dirt and sweepings and the roadway even blocked with rubbish. Well, I found nothing of the kind there.

The houses on either side of these short streets are two and three-story brick houses, mostly dwellings used as small shops on the ground floor. There are no balconies or porches to them, no special pattern or distinguishing architecture about them.

The pavements are of brick and in good order and the roadways are macadamized and clean.

The gas lamps I found burning , brightly, and, indeed, not the slightest evidence of rickety, tumble-down, ill-lighted, loathsome and mysterious cul-de-sacs and blind alleys which one might suppose a favourite resort for murderer who wished to be able to lose himself at once from the police and, indeed, from all the world, as this man does.

In the smaller and shorter streets between Whitechapel and Hanbury Streets, the gas-lamps are, of course, not so near together. We do not plant them in London, as you do here, with reference to the street corners. The lamp-nests there run straight along the sides of a street irrespective of its corners, at regular distances apart.

And, just before reaching George’s Yard, I saw what brought more forcibly than before to my mind the thrill of terror which pervaded the neighbourhood.


The sidewalk was almost deserted. At the next corner stood a ‘bobby’ – a policeman, I mean – looking away from me. There were several women and a group of men on the opposite side of the street.

Another policeman was in the act of approaching them to warn them to move on; when just in front of me I heard a long-drawn, shivering sigh, an agonizing catching of the breath, such as denotes invariably mortal agony or an extremity of terror.

An unfortunate woman, not twenty feet ahead of me, was standing reeling in the bright circle of light just under a gas-lamp.

By a peculiar defect or blur in the lamp, her shadow was projected on a dead wall just on her right, with a misshapen distinctness which, in the unsettled and maudlin condition of her nerves, was too much for her. She gave one awful shriek and fell, fainting

The police and passers-by rushed up at once, and when she came to she told of the horrible shape she had seen at her elbow, and the sagacious bobbies dispersed incontinently in search of the Whitechapel fiend, wondering how he could have gotten so close to her without their seeing him, and congratulating her on her narrow escape.


And just here I may say that I would gladly give up my seat in Parliament if I could become the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, that never needed a head worse. Our detective system in London is, in my opinion, all wrong. It is very differently managed, as I understand it, from your system here in New York.

According to my ideas, the executive department of a municipal police system should be entirely distinct and separate from the detective or investigating department. In London they are confused; in New York, I believe, they are clearly defined. In London, the head of the detective department is under the control of the head of the executive department.

But the Chief of Detectives and his agents in a great city should be independent of the control of the routine police organization.

A policeman needs to be honest, strong, brave and obedient. He may be, and often is, stupid. He is not required to have finesse, strategy, penetration and the power of analysis. These belong to the detective, who may be in person actually neither brave nor strong, but who must have a brain, a mind developed so that he can plan out work for the policemen to do, lay traps and nab villains when they least expect it.

A detective may well be a gentleman. He must or, indeed, ought to know literature and history, to be a student of both men and affairs.

This is a great hobby of mine.


But, to return to Whitechapel.

I had not been out on my expedition more than three-quarters of an hour and I was now at the door of the house in which ‘Emma’s” body had been found.

There was a policeman a rod away watching it, but not another soul was in sight just at the time but one unfortunate woman, who seemed too besotted to appreciate the situation.

All was silent as death.

I crossed the street and succeeded finally in getting the bobby to describe the body to me as he had found it. I wanted to test my theory as to who the murderer was.


My theory is that the Whitechapel murderer is an army doctor, or a medical student, or a gentleman who has read medicine and studied anatomy as a fad, or simply as a
part of liberal education. I have no idea he is a practising physician or a hospital student. I believe him a gentleman and a man of leisure, or perhaps a retired army surgeon. He is a man of the world.

His homicidal mania, it seems to me, is probably the result of the effect on the brain of the malady acquired from some woman of the class he has now taken or perhaps only begun taking his vengeance on.

The mental distress produced by such a malady is frequently, the authorities say, inconceivable. It might readily breed such a butcher’s mania as this. The mutilation of the bodies, the parts of them removed by the avenger’s knife, point to this idea the most strongly.


And just thereby I would detect him, although it is as likely as not that he will never be caught. He very likely preserves the parts he removes from his victims to gloat over them at his leisure. He may bury them, preserved in alcohol, but put underground to avoid detection. Or he may burn them in his chamber, dancing around the sacrifice.

But he has them in all probability and by them he should be caught. I do not believe that the police will find him by searching Whitechapel, or even the West End. They must branch out and look where suspicion has never heretofore pointed. They must find this viscera, or at all events trace them.


The murderous maniac will probably continue to return to Whitechapel in search of victims when the mania seizes him. The scene of his first crime will probably be the scene of his last.

But it is not there that he must be found. It is where he lives, at his club residence or lodgings. When the mania is on him he will be too cunning to admit of easy detection. It is when he returns to his normal life as a man of the world that he may betray himself by telltale blood on his clothes, by the knife, by the portions of the body which he has carried away – the treasures of his madness.”