Since the 30th September 1888 was a Sunday, few newspapers went to press that day and so Londoners at large only heard rumours of another two murders in the East End of London that had happened that day.
The first of the two murders, that of Elizabeth Stride, had occurred in Dutfield’s Yard, a narrow dark turning of Berner Street. The second, that of Catherine Eddowes had taken place in Mitre Square, on the City of London’s Eastern fringe.
NEWS OF THE DOUBLE EVENT
Although news of these latest two atrocities had not yet filetered out to society as a whole, on the actual streets of Whitechapel news of what would become dubbed “The Double Event” led to a flurry of activity in the vicinity of the latest crimes as crowds converged on the murder sites to glean whatever information they could about the latest atrocities.
TERROR AND EXCITEMENT ON THE STREETS
The Evening News reported in its issue of the following evening reported on the ripples of excitement that had been coursing through the district throughout that Sunday and provided its readers with an insight into how the latest crimes were gripping the imaginations of the public at large:-
“It would be impossible for any pen to do justice to a description of the excitement which prevailed in Whitechapel and its immediate neighbourhood all yesterday, from the time that the first news of these fresh horrors was bruited about until long after midnight.
Terror and amazement were depicted in almost every face that one met in the streets of that now notorious district. I moved about the dense throngs which had grown to enormous proportions as the day wore on and whose numbers seemed to culminate in the afternoon, when people came trooping in from distant parts athirst for the latest news bearing upon these awful tragedies.
PEOPLE TRAVELLING IN TO THE DISTRICT
Trains, trams, and omnibuses disgorged their hundreds of passengers, who wended their way to the two localities… “God help us,” exclaimed a poor creature, whose tawdry dress and hardened countenance indicated all too clearly the wretched calling she pursued. “If the human devil who murdered all these women isn’t caught, and that pretty soon, too? Why, I might be next! It makes my blood run cold.”
POLICE GUARDING THE MURDER SITES
The City of London Police, who had now been brought fully into the hunt for the Whitechapel Murderer due to Catherine Eddowes being murdered in their jurisdiction, sealed off every entrance into Mitre Square, whilst their Metropolitan Police counterparts did likewise with the narrow turn into Dutfield’s Yard over on Berner Street.
TWO MURDERS IN ONE NIGHT
By the time the newspapers came out on the morning of Monday 1st October 1888, it was widely known that the killer had upped his game and had claimed two victims. many newspapers felt compelled to comment on this apparent escalation. As The Daily News put it:-
“One victim for one night was his former rule. He now, with unerring precision, cuts off two within an hour. No more time was required than might have enabled him to pass from Berner-street, Commercial-road, the scene of the first murder, to Mitre-square, the scene of the second, and to complete the indispensable preliminaries of each deed of horror…”
PRESS CRITICISM OF THE POLICE
The Metropolitan Police found themselves subjected to a barrage of press criticism as they hunted the perpetrator in the East End streets. According to The Daily News “The most agonizing of the East-end mysteries is the mystery of the utter paralysis of energy and intelligence on the part of the Police.
The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, spoke of how “A Reign of Terror is setting in over the East-end of London”, and commented on the fact that the locals had formed themselves into Vigilance committees “…with a view of securing closer protection than the police have been able to afford…”
The Evening News, no doubt reflecting a common consensus amongst the residents of the district posed the simple question “where were the police?”
JACK THE RIPPER’S LETTER
Word was also getting out that a letter, purporting to come from the murderer, had been received.
“EXTRAORDINARY LETTERS THROUGH THE POST A BLOOD SMEARED POST CARD FROM “JACK THE RIPPER””
Screamed the headline in The Evening News and, having quoted the full text of the infamous “Dear Boss” letter, went on to comment that:-
“The whole of this extraordinary epistle is written in red ink, in a free bold clerkly hand. It was of course, treated as the work of a practical joker, but it is singular to note that the latest murders have been committed within a few days of the receipt of the letter, and that also in the case of the last victim the murderer made an attempt to cut off the ears, and did actually mutilate the face in a manner which has never before been attempted. The letter has been placed in the hands of the Scotland yard authorities.”
THE STAR GOES ON THE ATTACK
The police must have been dreading the appearance of the 1st of October’s edition of The Star, and, true to form, when it hit the streets that night it didn’t pull any punches:-
“The terror of Whitechapel has walked again, and this time has marked down two victims, one hacked and disfigured beyond discovery, the other with her throat cut and torn. Again he has got away clear; and again the police, with wonderful frankness, confess that they have not a clue. They are waiting for a seventh and an eighth murder, just as they waited for a fifth, to help them to it…”
Of course, the newspaper couldn’t pass up on the opportunity afforded by these fresh murders to lay into its established whipping boy Sir Charles Warren:- “The police, of course, are helpless,” the evening edition jeered, “we expect nothing of them. The metropolitan force is rotten to the core, and it is a mildly farcical comment on the hopeless unfitness of Sir CHARLES WARREN that when red-handed crime is stalking the streets he has assigned his men the fresh duty of sharing with providence the looking after drunken men.”
POLICE OFFICERS BOUGHT DRINK AND TOBACCO
The newspaper was equally as scathing of the activities of some of the Metropolitan Police constables at the scene of the Berner Street tragedy and it was almost incandescent with rage when it reported how in the “midst of the excitement following on the Berner-street murder, some of the police were mean enough to try to purchase tobacco and drink from some of the members of the Jewish club. Money was tendered when request was made, but was, of course, refused. The police were not so entirely absorbed in endeavoring to catch the criminal but that they could attempt to inveigle innocent persons into committing a petty crime for the sake of securing a paltry conviction.”
THE DAY DRAWS TO A CLOSE
But for the people of the East End as a whole, the fact the an unknown maniac was loose on their streets, killing with total impunity, must have been absolutely terrifying and, as they retired to the security of their homes or rooms that Sunday night they must have done so with a great deal of trepidation as the knowledge that their autumn of terror was far from over.