James Monro Resigns

Although the main London crime story being covered in the press during the first week of September, 1888, was the murder of Mary Nichols – who is generally regarded as being the first victim of Jack the Ripper – there was a another story being covered in some newspapers that, whereas not having a direct bearing on the case, was, most certainly, impacting on the detectives who were investigating the murder.

As those detectives were going about their business attempting to trace the perpetrator of the Buck’s Row murder, relations within the higher echelons of the Metropolitan Police were, to say the least, far from harmonious.

In fact, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, James Monro, had, that very week, resigned his position, citing an ability to work with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren.

A portrait of James Monro.
James Monro. From The Illustrated London News, 8th December 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.

FRICTION AT SCOTLAND YARD – A RESIGNATION

The Yorkshire Gazette gave details of the resignation in its issue of the 1st of September 1888:-

“Assistant-Commissioner Monro, of the Metropolitan police, whose resignation was gazetted ou Tuesday evening, has already left Scotland Yard, and Mr Robert Anderson, his successor, will enter upon his duties at an early day.

The resignation of Mr Monro is alleged to be owing to a friction between Sir Charles Warren and his assistant.

A Press Association reporter yesterday visited Scotland Yard, with the object of making inquiries as to the circumstances of Mr Monro’s resignation.

The authorities were reticent, nevertheless statements as to serious matters of dispute between the Chief and the Assistant-Commissioner stand confirmed.

SAILING ON SMILINGLY

Our representative was informed that “everything sailed on smilingly in the department for some time prior to the appointment of the present Commissioner;” but, added the informant, “no change had heretofore been made either in Chief Commissionership or Assistant-Commissionership without some little difficulty arising through the introduction of new ideas, and this may be looked on as almost unavoidable.”

The informant further stated that no doubt minute instructions now issued had increased the labours of the force five-fold, and were of no practical utility.

Similar opinions were expressed regarding Chief Constables, and preference shown for military men.”

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. From The Illustrated London News, 1st May 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THE CHANGES AT SCOTLAND YARD
PROBABLE RETIREMENT OF SIR CHARLES WARREN

Over the course of the first week in September, 1888, there were press reports – premature as it transpired – that Sir Charles Warren himself would shortly follow his deputy out of the door of Scotland Yard.

The South Wales Echo reported on the likely impending “retirement” of the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in its edition of the 4th September, 1888. The article also gave details of the new post that James Monro had been appointed to:-

“The Central News says:- Mr James Monro, C.B., late chief of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard, has received an important appointment, at the Home Office, and assumed the duties of his new post on Monday.

Colonel Wilkinson has been appointed assistant to Mr Monro, and both gentlemen were busily engaged at the Home Office during the day.

The unofficial announcement of Mr Monro’s appointment has caused considerable surprise at Scotland Yard, and in official circles generally, and much curiosity is felt as to the duties connected with his new post.

On this point the authorities absolutely refuse any information.

Mr Robert Anderson, the new chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, has formally taken over the duties of his office.

It is persistently rumoured that Sir Charles Warren will shortly retire from Scotland Yard, and that he will be appointed to succeed Sir Hercules Robinson as her Majesty’s High Commissioner in South Africa.”

The Pall Mall Gazette – a newspaper which, it must be said, had little respect for Warren – reported on the situation in its edition of the 4th September, 1888:-

THE HOME OFFICE AND SCOTLAND YARD
WHY MR. MONRO RESIGNED

“The Central News says:- Friction between the Home Secretary [Henry Matthews] and Sir Charles Warren commenced about the time of the Trafalgar-square disturbances, the immediate cause being that Mr. Matthews showed favour to the Receiver of the Metropolitan District, against whom the Chief Commissioner had brought charges of disregarding police regulations and giving orders to superintendents without consulting his official superiors.

Sir Charles Warren protested against the course pursued by the Secretary of State, and finally threatened to resign, a threat which was repeated later on.

It became necessary at length to bring the matter under the notice of the Cabinet, and Mr. W. H. Smith and Mr. Goschen were deputed by their colleagues to bring about a settlement of the points in dispute.

Early in May, Mr. Smith, Mr. Goschen, Mr. Matthews, and Sir Charles Warren met in Downing-street, and as the result of a conference which lasted nearly all the afternoon, the Chief Commissioner was adjudged to have made out his case.

The disputes between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro arose out of representations made by the latter respecting the numerical weakness of the staff of the Criminal Investigation Departments, coupled with a request for the appointment of an assistant chief constable and a few additional subordinate officers.

Sir Charles Warren was not at first inclined to accede to Mr. Monro’s request, but ultimately, taking into account the fact that Chief Constable Williamson was at the moment absent through illness, he agreed to the appointment of an assistant chief constable.

A gentleman of large Indian experience [the person being referred to here was Melville Leslie Macnaghten] was recommended for the post, with the acquiescence of the Chief Commissioner, and the recommendation was formally made to the Secretary of State.

But, before the appointment had been actually made, Sir Charles Warren withdrew his recommendation, on the ground that circumstances had come to his knowledge which made it undesirable that the gentleman in question should be appointed.

The appointment was never made, and the question of creating the new post remains in abeyance.

This did not improve the relations between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro.

Matters reached a crisis early in July, when the Chief Commissioner and Mr. Mono went to the Home Office and had a lengthy interview with the Secretary of State at which it was decided that Mr. Monro should immediately take leave of absence, with a view to his subsequent resignation.

Nothing of an authoritative character has yet transpired as to the intentions of the government in regard to Sir Charles Warren, and the officials at the Home Office and at Scotland-yard have been warned against giving information to the press.

Sir Charles Warren, who has been taking a quiet holiday in the South of France, returns to Scotland-yard within the next few days.”

CONFUSION IN THE RANKS

What these articles reveal is that, as the Jack the Ripper murders were getting underway in the East End of London, the detectives who were to be tasked with hunting down the miscreant responsible were torn as to where their loyalties should lie.

James Monro, who seems to have enjoyed a great deal of respect amongst the detectives in the CID, may have resigned, but he was still on the scene, overseeing a Department in the Home Office, a posting that, as The South Wales Echo article observed, had caused “considerable surprise at Scotland Yard, and in official circles generally.”

Robert Anderson, Monro’s replacement, was, in fact, an old work colleague of Monro’s, and the two of them would remain on cordial terms throughout the next few months as the Jack the Ripper crimes intensified.

However, Anderson was suffering from exhaustion when he came into office and, within a week of taking up his post, his doctor would insist he take a recuperative holiday, which he duly did.

Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that many of the detectives at Scotland Yard remained loyal to James Monro and were briefing him about the case behind Sir Charles Warren’s back.

MORALE AT ROCK BOTTOM

The constant bickering that was going on between those in command must have severely sapped the morale of the likes of Inspector Abberline and the other detectives tasked with bringing the Whitechapel Murderer to justice; but, when the press hostility, that was already being directed towards Sir Charles Warren, began to increase and be directed towards them, as a result of their inability to solve the ripper crimes, their morale must have hit rock bottom.

It is also worth noting that, when Sir Charles Warren did resign, in November 1888, the person who would be brought in to replace him was none other than his old adversary, James Monro.

The Metropolitan Police had not heard the last of James Monro!