Robert Anderson Gives Up Drink

I am always intrigued to find press clippings concerning the various police officers who worked on the Jack the Ripper case. I particularly like to find articles that give us a view of their lives and careers away from the Whitechapel murders, since I feel this provides us with an insight into their characters and personalities that can be overlooked by simply taking a one-dimensional look at them through their work on the ripper case.


To that end, I was recently rather intrigued to discover an article in the Dundee Evening Post, dated 29th August 1900, in which Dr Robert Anderson openly boasted that he hadn’t been thirsty for more than 25 years!

Software: Microsoft Office
Software: Microsoft Office


Apparently, and by his own admission, Anderson had once been “a martyr to thirst.” However, he had then made the conscious decision to “give up taking drinks” and, although he found it a bit of a struggle at first (or should that be thirst(!), he had soon lost the desire to drink. Impressively, he claimed that “on the hottest day of the year I can walk, or ride, or bicycle, or play tennis in the sun without suffering from thirst or needing a drink.”

However, he did admit that following a days exertions he would take take a tumbler of water with his dinner. But that was it, the sum total of his liquid intake even in blazing hot August weather!

If his claim that he had not drunk more than a tumbler a day for over 25 years was, indeed, true, then that would mean that he had given up “taking drinks”, as he put it, around 1875 – meaning that. when the Whitechapel murders began in 1888, he had been “dry”, so to speak, for over 13 years.


Now, there is today a growing amount of evidence that a major cause of anxiety is dehydration. Indeed. we’re positively encouraged to ensure we drink enough water to flush out toxins and keep our minds clear.

So, is it possible that the cause of the nervous exhaustion that afflicted Anderson as he took charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, in early September 1888, was down to the fact that he was, in fact, dehydrated?

This bout of anxiety, you may recall, resulted in his doctor ordering that he take a recuperative break in Switzerland just as the murders of Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman spelt the beginning of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. It could not have helped the moral of his detectives, who were still recovering from the departure of their old chief, James Monro, to have their new boss head off to Switzerland before he had even left an imprint on his desk chair.


In turn, this lead me to ponder the possibility that Anderson’s lack of thirst may have been in part responsible for the police inability to solve the case. In other words, is it at all remotely possible that the World’s greatest murder mystery of all time would have been solved back in 1888 if only Dr Robert Anderson had drunk a little more water?

There’s a thought!

Anyway below is the full article for your delectation. I suggest you read it whilst drinking a glass of cool, clear water.


The article in which Robert Anderson Claimed not have drunk.
Dundee Evening Post, 29th August 1900. Copyright The British Library Board