Still On The Track

By the 23rd of September, 1888, it was becoming more than apparent that the police were no closer to catching the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities than they had been the previous week.

Several promising leads had simply not panned out, most notably the idea that John Pizer had been the notorious “Leather Apron.”

Indeed, the fact that the case against Pizer had collapsed so dramatically had led to press criticism of the police for evidently arresting the wrong man.


However, all sorts of theories and suspects were being sent to the police, and potential perpetrators were turning up all over the country.


On Sunday, 23rd September, 1888, in his “Mustard and Cress” column in The Referee, journalists and playwright George Sims, opted to highlight some of the theories that were then in circulation as to who, or what, the Whitechapel murderer might be.

He began his article with a dig at the police for, in the case of John Pizer, having arrested the wrong man.

His dig out of the way, he then went on to show – somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it must be said –  how easy it was for a perfectly innocent person to find themselves accused of the crimes that were now the talk of the whole country.

A photograph of George Sims.
George Sims.


The article read:-

“The police are still on the track of the Whitechapel ladykiller, and several really remarkable clues have been obtained and followed up.

The wrong man has not been arrested this week quite so frequently as he was last, and there are undoubted signs that “a clue” has at last rewarded the efforts of the police authorities.

In fact, there is rather an embarrass de richesses [An embarrassment of riches is an idiom that means an overabundance of something, or too much of a good thing] in the matter of clues, as the reader will readily imagine when he peruses the following, which are carefully selected from the published list as per the daily morning and evening Press.


Some ten years ago it has transpired that a man in Scotch attire used to stand outside a tobacconist’s shop in the Whitechapel-road. He was generally to be seen in the act of taking a pinch of snuff,

The police have had their attention called to the fact that this Scotchman has mysteriously disappeared, and they are making inquiries with regard to him, as they consider it quite possible that he may be the Whitechapel murderer.


A man was seen on Monday evening last in High-street, Camden Town, evidently in a state of considerable excitement.

A lady who was passing at the time thinks she saw a knife up his sleeve, but she is not sure.

The police are following up this clue to the Whitechapel murderer with the greatest caution, and from their reticence, it is evident that they attach considerable importance to the facts brought to light.


A boy of twelve years old, living at Slush-in-the-Marsh, has, it is stated, told his grandmother that one of the boys at the national school told him that he believed that the schoolmaster, who had recently given him a severe whipping, was the Whitechapel murderer.

The grandmother at once communicated with the local police, and the local inspector left at once for Scotland-yard.

After a long and earnest consultation with the heads of the departments, several Scotland-yard detectives returned with the local inspector to Slush-in-the-Marsh, where they are prosecuting the most rigid inquiries!

It is believed that a genuine clue to the Whitechapel murders has at last been obtained.


A well-known dramatic author has, it is understood, been placed under close police surveillance, although the fact is not generally known.

It has transpired that one evening last week he was heard at the club to remark that the Whitechapel murders wouldn’t make a good play.

“It’s not the sort of murder that goes,” he said. “I’ve often done murders of that sort, but I’ve never found them answer. When I kill a woman, I do it better than that – more effectually.”

The police are not inclined to give any information to our reporter; but, from certain facts which have transpired, it is evident that they have now a definite clue to the mystery which has for so long a time enshrouded the metropolis in gloom.


Should any new clues arrive before we go to press, we shall not fail to place them at the disposal of the public.


The statement that the police believe the Whitechapel murders to have been committed by a baboon which recently escaped from a ship in the East India Docks is authoritatively denied, but Sir Charles Warren is understood to have said that it wanted Edgar Allan Poe at the yard to give them something to work on.”