Saturday Nights Precautions

By Monday, October 8th, 1888, the two most recent murders – those of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, both of which had occurred in the early hours of the 30th of September, 1888 – had led to the terror of the local population in the area reaching fever pitch.

The police were coming under intense criticism for the fact that their endeavours had, quite evidently, led them nowhere, and, by way of a reaction, the police patrols in the area had been stepped up.

In addition, the local householders, the vigilance patrols and countless “amateur detectives” were also out on the streets by night, all of them desperate to bring the murderer to justice and end the panic in the district.

The authorities had also made the infamous Dear Boss letter public, but, far from helping with their enquiries, it had encouraged hoaxers to imitate the letter-writer, and numerous missives purporting to come from “Jack the Ripper” were being sent in to police stations, as well as to other institutions and individuals.

The mood in London, and the strenuous endeavours being undertaken to catch the killer, were captured perfectly by the following newspaper article, which appeared in The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer on Monday, 8th October, 1888:-


“Throughout Saturday, the inhabitants of Whitechapel were kept in a state of feverish excitement by the knowledge that threatening letters were constantly being received by the police authorities at the various stations intimating that the assassin would shortly recommence his ghastly work.

Towards the evening the dismay became remarkably intensified as reports of further threats were circulated, many of them appearing to be the pure inventions of cruel triflers.

But, whether true or false, they at least served as an incentive, not only to the police to adopt extra precautions, but even stimulated the residents to alertness, if possible, to prevent a repetition of the horrible murders, for that night at least.


Soon after ten o’clock, the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields assumed an almost deserted appearance as far as women were concerned, and those who ventured abroad did not do so singly, but moved about in twos and threes.

Even the unfortunate class, to which the murdered women belonged, were not an exception to this rule.

This plan seems to have been adopted by women of this character, and doubtless will prove a great obstacle to the movements of the murderer, who, finding that a third party haunts his actions, will not find another opportunity so easily of carrying out his designs.


The police were nervously apprehensive that the night would not pass without some startling occurrence.

The most extraordinary precautions were taken in consequence, and so complete were the measures adopted, both by the City and Metropolitan police authorities, that it seemed impossible for the murderer to make his appearance in the East End of London without being detected.

Large bodies of plain-clothes men were drafted by Sir Charles Warren to the Whitechapel district from other parts of London, and these, together with the regular detectives were so numerous that, in the more deserted thoroughfares, almost every man met with was a police officer.

An illustration showing detectives on the Jack the Ripper case.
Some of the Detectives


The City police, far from being outdone in their exertions to ensure the protection of the public, more than doubled their patrols, so that almost every nook and corner of the various beats came under police supervision every five minutes.

In addition to this measure, men were stationed at fixed distances to watch for any suspicious looking person, and, when it was thought at all necessary, to follow them.


These arrangements to ensure safety and to reassure the public of the efforts taken on their behalf applied equally to other parts of the metropolis, it being thought that the murderer, finding Whitechapel rather too warm for him, might transfer his operations to another district.

The parks, where the fiend would have no difficulty in finding victims, were especially well patrolled, and the police in the most outlying districts were keenly alive to the anxieties of the situation.


Most of the men were on duty all Friday night in the East End; the extra work, therefore, was particularly harassing.

But every man entered heartily into the work, and not a murmur was heard.

All were upon their mettle, and, if collective and individual zeal were all that was required, the murderer would soon be hunted down.


Supplementing the energy displayed by the police, hundreds of people living in the back streets sat up all night, whilst dozens of sturdy households paid occasional visits to yards and other secluded spots in their immediate vicinity.

The volunteer patrols organised by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee lent marked assistance to the police.

Their patrols were told off to well-planned beats, many of these amateur policemen being furnished with noiseless boots, a measure which has lately been strongly urged upon the Metropolitan Police.


It is supposed that the murderer is armed with a revolver, and, if detected, will shoot at the first person who attempts to capture him.

In any case, his knife, in such skilful hands, would, if he had the slightest chance of dealing a blow, prove mortal.

The large reward offered has, however, afforded sufficient stimulus to as large a number of strong, able-bodied men as are required for the dangerous duty of tracking down the murderer.


At many of the street corners and on most of the hoardings were posted up facsimiles of the letter and post-card covered with blood stains received by the Central News, with a request that anyone recognising the handwriting would give information to the nearest police station.


The police continue to receive many descriptions of men who are supposed to answer the published particulars, but few cases warrant an arrest.

Among others, for instance, was one given at the Police Station of a man who went on board the City of London at 9.45 on Saturday morning, and asked for the steward.

He then left in a Hackney carriage for Camden Station. He then inquired if there were any females on board, stating that he knew there were, as he could smell them.

He is described as about 40 years of age, 5ft. 9in. in height, complexion fair, and moustache dark, wearing a blue serge suit, lace boots, and a black felt hat.


Intimation was also given to the City Police on Saturday morning that Messrs. Bryant & May had received a letter from a person signing himself J. Ripper, couched in the following terms:-

“I hereby notify that I am going to pay your girls a visit. I hear that they are beginning to say what they will do with me. I am going to see what a few of them have in their stomachs, and I will take it out of them, so that they can have no more to do on the quiet.

Signed John Ripper.

P.s. I am in Poplar today.”


The following postal telegram was received by the Metropolitan Police at 11.55 p.m. on Friday night. It was handed in at an office in the Eastern district at 8 p.m.:-

“Charles Warren, head the Police News, Central Office. Dr. Boss. If you are willing enough to catch me I am now in the City Road, lodging, but number you still have to find out, and I mean to do another murder tonight in Whitechapel.

Yours. Jack the Ripper.”

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.


A letter was also received at the Commercial Street Police Station by the first post on Saturday morning.

It was addressed to the “Commercial Street Police Station” in blacklead pencil, and the contents, which were also written in pencil, were couched in ridiculous language, the police believing it to be the work of lunatic, was signed “Jack the Ripper,” and said he was “going to work in Whitechapel on Saturday night.” He added that he was going to commit another murder in the Goswell Road, and spoke of having “several bottles of blood underground in Epping Forest,” and frequently referred to “Jack the Ripper under the ground.”


As a specimen of the vast amount of absurd information which is imparted to the police, and through which they have to wade, a man called at the Commercial Street Police Station, stating that he thought he had clue.

On inquiry, it was ascertained that he knew a man who cut a baby to pieces twenty years ago, and afterwards escaped to America, it being his impression that the baby mutilator might have returned and committed the recent horrible mutilations.

In that case, he said, he could give a description.”