The London police came in for a huge amount of criticism for their inability to solve the Whitechapel murders mystery and bring jack the Ripper tour justice.
From early September, 1888, the detectives on the case ere subjected to an almost daily barrage of press hostility, and one can only imagine how dispiriting the likes of Inspector Abberline and his fellow officers must have found these attacks.
But it wasn’t just the newspapers that were attacking them.
Indeed, police forces over the world were happy to give their opinions on the subject, and many of those opinions showed nothing but contempt for their London counterparts.
Evidently, the idea of professional courtesy was not a concept that loomed large in the world of the 19th-century detective!
IN DEFENCE OF THE LONDON POLICE
But, in early October, 1888, the Metropolitan police detectives found themselves being defended by John Cornish, the Superintendent of the legendary Pinkerton’s Nation Detective Agency, who gave a press interview in which he argued that the American police officers, who were so ready to criticise the London police, were, in fact, ignorant of the problems posed by the area in which the East End murders were occurring.
The Boston Daily Globe published the interview with Cornish in its edition of Saturday, October 6th, 1888:-
SUPT. CORNISH’S VIEWS
Ability Of The London Police To Work The Whitechapel Mysteries.
John Cornish, the genial superintendent of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in this city, has had probably as wide professional experience as any officer or detective in the United States.
He was educated in his business in London, spent the early years of his life on the continent of Europe, and then came to America where he is now one of the Pinkertons’ most trusted agents.
The opinion of such a man on the Whitechapel mysteries is of value because he is as familiar with the surroundings of London’s great sensation as he is with the disreputable sections of Boston and New York, in which some of his best work has been done.
HIS OPINION ON THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
In conversation with the writer yesterday he said:- “I have read, with much amusement, the comments of numerous New York and Western detectives upon the all-engrossing question, Who committed the Whitechapel murders, and why the London Police have not run him to earth?
There are several things which are to be taken into account before a man can speak intelligently of the case.
AN IMMENSE AREA TO COVER
If you take the map of London and note the size of Whitechapel, with its narrow streets and alleys, crowded tenement houses and thickly settled population, you will see an area which represents a section as large as the Charlestown district in Boston.”
“So you see the extent of country to cover in placing the crimes is rather larger than Fourteenth Street, New York, should the same means of protection be adopted as has been suggested by Inspector Byrnes of New York.
NOT AS BAD AS IT HAS BEEN DEPICTED
Moreover, Whitechapel is not the disreputable locality it has been stated to be by the American newspapers.
It is a residential district, in which there are a large representation of poor laborers and tradesmen, living so thickly together that it would be next to impossible to estimate their number.
SCOTLAND YARD DOES NOT SEEK PRAISE
In the next place, we have no knowledge of what the London police are doing in the case, Scotland Yard differs from our American police departments inasmuch as it keeps what it knows to itself, until at least it has run its game to earth.
It does not seek notoriety and newspaper distinction, and, therefore, even if it should have accurate information as to the perpetrator of the bloody deeds in question, we would not know it in all probability.”
NO BETTER-REGULATED POLICE FORCE
“I know that there is no better-regulated police system in the world than that of London, and therefore I believe that it is unjust for any of us who are ignorant of what is being done by Scotland Yard to pass comments upon their work.
AMERICAN DETECTIVES COULD NOT DO BETTER
It is certainly very doubtful if any American detective can do better work at Whitechapel than the men who are at work on the case, other opinions by our professional countrymen to the contrary notwithstanding.
It has been stated that such atrocious crimes could not have been perpetrated in New York, Boston and Chicago.
MORE MYSTERIES IN US CITIES
Perhaps not, but if I were to hear any resident of these cities, or in fact of any other cities in the country, say the same, I think I could by investigation show them, and I speak with knowledge regarding New York, Boston and Chicago, that they have in their respective communities a great many more unsolved mysteries than Whitechapel will if an half score victims fall under the wily murderer’s knife and his identity is never known.
Why not solve these mysteries first and then if necessary criticise the action of the London police!”
AN AMERICAN DETECTIVE SPEAKS OUT
The London police force were similarly defended in early December 1888 by Detective Michael Powers, who gave the following brief, but melodramatic, interview to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which was published on Sunday, December 9th, 1888:-
WE HAVE NOT HEARD THE LAST
“Speaking of the Whitechapel murderer, a few nights ago, Detective Michael Powers, of the Eighth, said impressively: “Mark my words, sir, we have not yet, heard the last of this ultra morbid misogynist, this demon incarnate, whose unholy delight it is to dye his hands in the blood of his foully murdered victims.
He has a nature which Moloch might have envied, and, in my opinion, is not one to rest content with a paltry half dozen offerings.
HE WILL KILL AGAIN
Before long his hellish hands will again find work to do.
Soon will the death groan of another unfortunate punctuate the stillness of some Whitechapel purlieu, and next morning palsy-stricken London will again cry, “Where are the police?”
The police are not to blame, my boy; they are doing the best they can, but all their efforts are as nothing when pitted against the superhuman cunning of this combination of Nero and Mephistopheles.
A PASSING MANIA
It may be that this is but a passing mania with which Jack the Ripper is possessed, and which, in time, he may outgrow, but I hardly think so.
He was born under a flat star, and such as he (there is not more than one in a century, thank goodness) have always turned out to be utterly and irretrievably bad.”