Sir Charles Warren’s Proclamation

By the 18th September 1888 it was becoming more than apparent that the Metropolitan Police were no nearer to catching the perpetrator of the Whitechapel Murders than they had been at the beginning of the month.

As a consequence, the detectives who had been tasked with hunting down the killer were now doing so under a barrage of press criticism.


One aspect that had been raised at the inquest into the death of Mary Nichols (which had taken place in Buck’s Row on the 31st August 1888) was the fact that the victims were all from the lower stratum of society and, as a consequence, it was generally believed that the crimes were not being taken as seriously as they would have been had the killings occurred in other, more affluent, parts of the Victorian Metropolis.


On the 18th September the Pall Mall Gazette reported that the foreman of the inquest jury had stated his conviction that:- “if the victims had been rich instead of poor, a large reward would have been offered.”

A Punch Cartoon showing Sir Charles Warren.
A Punch Cartoon Lampooning Warren

The police, so the article went on to state, were much shocked at this statement, and the coroner told the foreman that “he had no right to make it.”

But, as the article pointed out, the foreman was only :-

“…giving expression to what is a very wide-spread belief. Ask any man in the street, or any woman in the kitchen, and that is what they will say: the murders would not have been taken so calmly – (and of “the first murder, which,” said the coroner himself, “was the most horrible of all, no notice was taken”), – had the scene of them been Mayfair instead of Whitechapel.”

The article went on to opine that readers might find it to be somewhat shocking that “people should thus suspect the law and the police of being respecters of persons.” But, “unquestionably”, the paper stated,  the suspicion existed and, because such a suspicion did exist then, “the jury did well to let the authorities know it.”


The Gazette also directed its ire towards the man whom many newspapers were blaming for the police’s inability to bring the murderer to justice, Sir Charles Warren

As the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Warren was, so many in the press – and in particular the left-leaning press – believed, a hindrance, rather than an asset, in the attempts at trying to solve the Whitechapel Murders.


An image of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren

To that end, the Pall Mall Gazette couldn’t resist commenting on the inadequacy of Sir Charles Warren’s stewardship of the Metropolitan Police.

Under its column “Occasional Notes”, the paper assured its readers that:-

“…we understand that the resources of the detective department at Scotland-yard are by no means yet exhausted.

The following is a proclamation which, it is said, will be issued immediately, and which, it is hoped, will in the future largely diminish the number of undetected murders.”

If Warren read the paper’s “proclamation” it must have made him bristle with indignation as he made his way to Scotland Yard on that particular day. Barely concealing the Gazette’s contempt for the police failures, the supposed proclamation read:-

“I, Charles Warren, hereby give notice that from and after this date, all loyal subjects are required, with the view of aiding the police in the discovery of crime, to leave on the body of any person they may have murdered their engraved or printed address card, or failing this, a paper with full name and address legibly written.

Constables will be in attendance night and day at all police-stations to receive murderers desiring to give themselves up.

A list  of the stations may be had on application.

Scotland yard, September —, 1888.”


With hindsight, Warren may have been advised to dig in for the long haul as, over the weeks ahead, he would find himself subjected to similar sarcastic and savage maulings in many more newspapers, and not all of them left-leaning in their politics.

A cartoon showing Sir Charles Warren With Mr Puncg.
Mr Punch With Sir Charles Warren

It must have appeared to him that Jack the Ripper’s victim pool was spreading out of the slums and streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and into the top echelons of the Metropolitan Police!