On Saturday September the 8th 1888, The Illustrated Police News – a very early incarnation of a British tabloid which had first gone to press in 1864 and which ceased publication in 1938 – carried a report concerning the previous weeks murder of Mary Nichols that had taken place on August 31st 1888.
A descendant of the 18th century execution broadsheets, the Police News reveled in sensationalism and spared its readers few of the gory details of that it delighted in covering. Although the illustrations were crude, they were most certainly effective and the newspaper would go on to make its name for its sensational coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders in the months ahead.
Under the headline “Revolting and Mysterious Murder of a Woman – Buck’s Row Whitechapel” it treated its readers to a vivid image of Mary Nichols, the victim, showing a jagged cut across her throat that ran from ear to ear.
Accompanying illustrations showed the discovery of the victim as well as those whose names were being bandied around in the general press at the time, such as the coroner, Wynne Baxter, Dr Ralph Llewellyn, the doctor who had been called to the scene of the murder in the immediate aftermath of the crime, and various witnesses, together with members of the jury who were attending the inquest into the death of Mary Nichols which was, at the time taking place at the Working lads Institute on Whitechapel Road.
ANOTHER MURDER HAD TAKEN PLACE
Since the paper had gone to press the previous day, in order to hit its weekly publication deadline on the Saturday, it carried no mention of the fact that, that very morning, anther murder – the murder of Annie Chapman had taken place in Hanbury Street Spitalfields. In fact, Readers would have to wait for the edition of Saturday 22nd of September 1888 to read and view the News’s coverage of the latest atrocity.
In that edition informed readers that the women of Whitechapel were secretly arming themselves in order to be ready should they be approached or attacked by the “Whitechapel Fiend.”
The illustration showed two women, who were surprisingly well dressed for the women of Whitechapel, armed with a gun and a knife and demonstrating their prowess at handling their weapons should they be approached by the murderer.
No doubt many a reader was both terrified and fascinated by the middle class appearance of these East End Street women!