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By Monday 3rd September, 1888, people had had the entire weekend to come to terms with the horror that was being generally felt over the recent spate of terrible murders in Whitechapel.

Spme of the newspaper headlines that appeared on Monday 3rd September 1888.
Newspaper Headlines From Monday 3rd September, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.

FROM OUR LONDON CORRESPONDENT

The weekend weather, it seems, had done little to lift the mood in the area, as was reported by The Aberdeen Journal in its edition of Monday 3rd September 1888:-

“London, Saturday evening.

The weather here today is as dismal as it is possible to imagine. Nearly all day a drizzling rain has fallen, and it is difficlut to believe that we have not yet reached the month of November, during which Londoners expect little in the way of favours from the clerk of the weather.

A wet Sunday in London prevents the working class population from enjoying the fresh air, of which so many of them get so little of during the week, and, unfortunately, during the last few months wet Sundays have not been few.”

IT MUST HAVE BEEN AWFUL

You cannot help but feel sorry for the likes of Inspector Abberline and his fellow police officers, who would have spent that entire weekend combing the streets around Buck’s Row for clues as to the identity of the perpetrator of the murder of Mary Nichols, when you consider that their investigations would have been carried out outdoors and with a perpetual drizzle raining down upon them.

An illustration showing the rain in London.
A Punch Cartoon Showing The Heavy Rain In London. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THEIR EFFICIENCY BEING CANVASSED

However, as was reported later in the Journal’s article, the police were carrying out their rain-sodden investigations under increased scrutiny:-

“The efficiency of the Metropolitan Police is, just now, being widely canvassed in connection with the atrocious murders that have been committed in the Whitechapel district.

As matters stand, three women have been found dead, their bodies terribly mutilated, and yet no trace of the murderers has been discovered.

In the various journals different theories are put forward.

On the one hand, it is suggested that these brutal crimes are the work of a gang of miscreants, whilst in other quarters a murderous lunatic is suggested as the perpetrator of the deeds.

The plucky conduct of the two constables who have just been rewarded for the capture of an armed burglar shows that there is courage and backbone in the force, but the fact that the murderers of the unfortunate women I have referred to are still at large has given rise to a feeling of general uneasiness among the respectable inhabitants of the East End.”

HER HUSBAND AND SON VIEW THE BODY

More details were published about the victim in the newspapers on Monday 3rd September, 1888.

The Evening Standard, for example, reported that an identification had been made at the mortuary by her estranged husband and her son.

The same article also emphasised that earlier suggestions that the murder had been carried out elsewhere and the body transported or carried to Buck’s Row had now been fully disproved:-

“William Nicholls, the husband of the woman murdered in Whitechapel on Friday, visited the mortuary on Saturday night, and, on viewing the corpse, identified it as that of his wife, from whom he had been separated eight years. He stated that she was nearly forty-four years of age.

The husband, who was greatly affected, exclaimed, on recognising the body, “I forgive you, as you are, what you have been to me.”

He said the absence of the front teeth was of old standing.

Mr. William Nicholls, who resides in Coburg-road, Old Kent-road, is a journeyman printer, in the employment of Messrs. Perkins and Bacon, Fleet-street.

His son, who lives with his grandfather at 15, Maidwell-street, Albany-road, Camberwell, also identified the remains of his mother.

This removed all doubt as to the deceased being Mary Ann Nicholls.

SHE SLEPT IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE

It has been ascertained that the unfortunate woman was one of those who, last year, were in the habit of sleeping in Trafalgar-square; and when a clearance of the nightly visitors was made, it being found that she was destitute, and had no means of subsistence, she was admitted as an inmate to the Lambeth Workhouse.

After her discharge from the workhouse and subsequent disappearance from service at Wandsworth, little was known of her whereabouts by her relations.

Mr Marsham arrives surrounded by soldiers.
Trafalgar Square. From The Illustrated London News, 19th November 1887. Copyright, The British Library Board.

LODGING IN THRAWL STREET

Lately, it seems that she had been lodging in a common lodging-house in Thrawle-street, Spitalfields, leading an immoral life, and known by her female acquaintances as “Polly.”

It was at first supposed that the crime had been committed by a maniac; but this opinion has been abandoned, likewise the belief that the woman was lured into a house in the vicinity and murdered, the body being afterwards removed.

NO TRAIL OF BLOOD STAINS

Inspector Helson states that the report of blood stains leading from Brady-street to Buck’s-row was not true.

The place was examined by Sergeant Enright and himself on Friday morning, and neither blood stains nor wheel marks were found to indicate that the body bad been deposited where found, the murder being committed elsewhere.

Indeed, both he and Inspector Abberline have come to the conclusion that it was committed on the spot.”

THE POLICE HAVE NO CLUES

The Evening Standard article also gave details of the lack of progress being made by the police, and revealed that they were still looking seriously at the possibility that the crimes might be gang-related:-

“The police have obtained no definite clue to the author of the crime.

Inspectors Helson and Abberline and Serjeants Godley and Enright have the case in hand, and are of the opinion that there is some connection between this and the other two murders which have taken place in the same locality.

A house-to-house investigation and inquiry has been made in all the streets adjoining Buck’s-row, but with no definite result.

GANGS AND PUBLIC CONSTERNATION

The assumption is that the crime was committed by one of the “High Rip” gangs, who are known in the neighbourhood to be in the habit of blackmailing unfortunate women, and treating them in a brutal manner.

Consternation and horror prevail in the neighbourhood, and there is a general demand for further police protection and supervision.”

ANOTHER WHITECHAPEL HORROR

The theory that a gang might be responsible for the murder was lent further credence when, on the Monday morning,  news began to circulate in the district of Whitechapel that, on the Saturday night, there had been another attack on a defenceless woman in the area.

Although this one had not proved fatal, it seemed to add credence to the theory that a murderous gang was behind the murders.

The South Wales Echo reported the incident in it edition of the 4th of September, 1888:-

“Another desperate assault, which stopped only just short of murder, was committed upon a woman in Whitechapel on Saturday night.

ACCOSTED BY A WELL DRESSED MAN

The victim was leaving the Foresters’ Music Hall, Cambridge Heath-road, where she had been spending the evening with a sea captain, when she was accosted by a well-dressed man, who asked her to accompany him.

She invited him to go to her apartments, and he acquiesced, requesting her meantime to walk a short distance with him, as he wanted to meet a friend.

They had reached a point near to the scene of the murder of the woman Nicholls when the man violently seized his companion by the throat and dragged her down a court.

JOINED BY A GANG

He was immediately joined by a gang of women and bullies [this was used at the time to describe a pimp], who stripped the unfortunate woman, and robbed her of her necklace, earrings, brooch, and purse.

She was then brutally assaulted, and upon attempting to shout for aid, one of the gang laid a large knife across her throat, remarking, “We will serve you as we did the others.”

She was eventually released.

The police have been informed of the occurrence, and are prosecuting inquiries into the matter, it being regarded as a probable clue to the previous tragedies.”