In the early hours of Sunday, 30th September, 1888, the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes occurred, and the people of the East End faced up to the alarming news that the East End Murderer had returned.
Of course, because the murders had occurred in the early hours of the morning, the news had not filtered out into the country as a whole. In consequence, the newspapers that people were reading that day – although containing mentions of the Berner Street and Mitre Square murders – were mainly focussed on the investigation into the previous murders – those of Annie Chapman, Mary Nichols and Martha Tabram.
The inquest into Annie Chapman’s death had concluded that week, and so the newspapers were reporting on the final stages of this inquest, along with some astonishing information that the Coroner, Wynne Edwin Baxter, claimed to have uncovered.
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
The following article appeared in Reynolds’s Weekly Newspaper that day:-
Another arrest was made in connection with the Whitechapel crimes, but the police seem to have lost any real clue they may have had last week; indeed, they seem now quite bewildered and helpless.
The action of Dr. Phillips in withholding his description of the wounds at the inquest on the body of the last Whitechapel victim still forms matter for comment.
The late deputy-coroner for Crickhowell, Breconshire, says that “by the Statute de Coronatore, the coroner is bound to inquire the nature, character, and size of every wound on a dead body, and to enter the same on his roll.” Mr. Williams comments upon the fact that the body of the victim was washed before the inquest – a contempt of the coroner’s court.
CONTROL OF THE POPULATION
Another correspondent suggests measures for the more efficient control of the population of the locality.
An Act in operation in New Zealand was passed so long ago as 1867, and amended in 1882.
By it the police are authorized to arrest, without a warrant, children having no means of subsistence, whose parents are in indigent circumstances and unable to support the child; or children found begging or wandering about or frequenting streets, or residing in a house of questionable character.
A precisely similar statute is in force in South Australia.
THE ARREST OF FITZGERALD
The last arrest is a man named Fitzgerald, who gave himself up at Wandsworth Police-station, and made a statement to the inspector on duty to the effect that he committed the murder in Hanbury-street. He was afterwards conveyed to the Leman-street Police-station. The man is a plasterer or bricklayer’s labourer. He says that he has been wandering from place to place, and he is believed to have been more or less under the influence of drink lately. His description does not tally with that given at the inquest by the witnesses of a certain man seen on the morning of the murder. A search was made, and the man was discovered in a common lodging-house at Wandsworth.
He is known to have been living recently at, Hammersmith.
His self-accusation is said to be not altogether clear, and it is even reported that he cannot give the date of the murder, so that the authorities are disinclined to place much reliance on his statements. The police are, nevertheless, pursuing their inquiries, and if the confession is found to contain any semblance of truth the prisoner will be formally charged.
The officers engaged in the case have been tracing his movements about the time of the murder, but their inquiries had not been completed. The police have succeeded in tracing the prisoner’s antecedents, and they have ascertained definitely where he spent the night of the murder, as well as his movements on the following morning. Their information shows conclusively that he could not have committed the crime, and on Friday he was released.
The police at Dalston state, as an extraordinary circumstance, that when they went on duty about half-past ten, on Thursday night, they saw the word “Look!” written in chalk on the pavement on both sides of a lamp-post. Under the lamp-post was also written, “I am Leather Apron.” Under this was drawn two figures – one of a woman, and the other of a man holding a knife in his hand. Again, under this were the words, “Five more, and I will give myself up.”
HOW THE DEED WAS COMMITTED
Mr. Wynne Baxter, on Wednesday, resumed the adjourned inquest at the Working Lads’ Institute, Whitechapel, on the body of Annie Chapman, which was found on the morning of the 8th inst. dreadfully mutilated in the back yard of 29, Hanbury-street. The Coroner at once proceeded to sum up the evidence to the jury.
After describing the finding of the body, he said as to the deed:-
“All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but, perhaps, nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet.
The murder seems, like the Buck’s-row case, to have been carried out without any cry. Sixteen people were in the house. The partitions of the different rooms are of wood.
THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. This accords but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggests either that he had at length been disturbed, or that as the daylight broke a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running.
There are two things missing. Her rings had been wrenched from her fingers, and have not been found, and the uterus had been taken away. The body has not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by someone who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge.
There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife, so as to abstract the organ without injury to it.
No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been someone accustomed to the post-mortem room. The conclusion that the desire was to possess the missing organ seems overwhelming. If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. The difficulty in believing that the purport of the murderer was the possession of the uterus is natural. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but when rightly considered, the reasons for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt.”
A STARTLING COMMUNICATION
“It has been suggested that the criminal is a lunatic with morbid feelings.
This may or may not be the case, but the object of the murderer appears palpably shown by the facts, and it is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the missing organ.
To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afford in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the morning papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the court, I received a communication from an officer of one of the great medical schools that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry.
I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that, some months ago, an American had called on him and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged.
He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a cold condition, and he wished them sent to America direct.
It is known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character.
Now, is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen?
It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man, but, unfortunately, our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible. I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the detective department at Scotland-yard.”
FURTHER ELUCIDATION REQUIRED
“Of course, I do not know what use has been made of it, but I believe that publicity may possibly further elucidate this fact, and, therefore, I have not withheld from you the information.
By means of the press, some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here.
Gentlemen, I have endeavoured to suggest to you the object with which this crime was committed, and the class of person who must have committed it.
If the theory of lunacy be correct (which I very much doubt), the class is still further limited; while, if Mrs. Long’s memory does not fail, and the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to the deceased at half-past five was the culprit, he is even more clearly defined. In addition to her former description, we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over forty years of age, a little taller than the deceased, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deerstalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back.
If your views accord with mine, you will be of the opinion that we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed, not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which still disgrace our civilization, mar our progress, and blot the pages of our Christianity.”
The jury returned a verdict of – Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”