The Analytical Detection Of Crime

On the 4th of October, 1888, Mr. A. Eubule-Evans had written to the London Evening Standard to offer advice to the police on how they might best catch the man who had carried out the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.

In his letter, he had made the point that the killer must be of respectable appearance as, “nothing else would account for the willingness of his last two victims to be led into danger while the whole of the neighbourhood was still aghast at the crimes previously committed. Each must have said to herself, “Well, I am quite safe with him” – that is there can have been nothing rough or suspicious in his appearance.”


He also cast doubt on the widely touted belief that the killer actually lived in Whitechapel, opining instead that, “he is probably a lonely, brooding monomaniac, well provided with money, occupying, very likely, a house by himself. Then, at night, he puts on his murder suit, lets himself out with the latch-key, does his deed of horror, and quietly returns home, none knowing when he went out, or when he came back, or having any reason to suspect him.”


Following the murder of Mary Kelly. Mr. A. Eubule-Evans, felt compelled to write another letter to the Standard, which the newspaper duly published on Thursday, 15th November, 1888:-


“Sir, – So far, everything that has occurred and transpired tends to confirm the theory with respect to the Whitechapel murderer, which you did me the honour to publish on the 4th October.

We have it, for instance, in evidence, that the last victim had her mind full of the previous tragedies, yet this does not prevent her from trusting herself with a stranger.

Taken by itself, this is a pretty clear proof that his appearance must be such as to disarm suspicion.


But we also have, for the first time, a detailed description of him, according to which his age, his dress, and various other characteristics are just such as I, a month ago, said that they would prove to be.

Even the peculiar appearance of his eyes, which I described in a letter to a contemporary, is referred to by a recent witness.

Various sketches of the crimes and the suspects.
A Round Up Of Suspects And Events. From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 24th November, 1888. Copyright, the British Library Board.


In this latest murder, we have fresh data for calculating the personal equation of the assassin.

Finding that it is no longer so easy as before to murder his victims in the open street, he does the deed of horror in a room: and these altered circumstances enable him to carry out to a fuller extent than before the work of butchery.

Two things are clear from this – the man is not only cunning, he is original also. He has struck out a new line in crime, and he is capable of changing its method to meet specific exigencies as they arise.

It is this originality of mind, far more than his cunning, which has rendered him such a baffling study to the detective police, who are very clever in working along traditional grooves, but are powerless before the unexpected.


Another proof of the originality which mingles with this man’s cunning is to be found in the curious limitations of the area within which he commits his crimes. This has generally been regarded merely as a proof of his extreme audacity, but I cannot doubt that it has had much to do with his prolonged impunity, and that, in acting thus, he has had his own security in view; for by thus limiting the area of outrage, he has also limited the area of suspicion.

In this way, he induced the police to believe that he must have his habitat in Whitechapel, and he succeeded in confining the search after him almost entirely to that district.

Living, however, as he does, elsewhere, he needs only a quarter of an hour’s start to get out of this district, and practically to place himself beyond suspicion.


I cannot say that I think the least blame attaches to the police for not having detected him. Being what they are, they have done all that they can. They exist for the prevention and detection of ordinary crime: it is unreasonable to expect them to be able to grapple with crime which is wholly abnormal in its nature.

Within the limits of their training, they are prompt and clever enough. In this case, they fail because, like greyhounds, it is their nature to hunt only by sight (in their own phrase, they must have a “clue”), and they can get no glimpse of the criminal or any of his belongings.


But profounder students of human nature than the police can be expected to know that there is such a thing as the detection of the unseen, and that, if you can learn enough about the unknown criminal to calculate his personal equation, you can calculate also the orbit of his activity and lay your plans accordingly to catch him.

Every man must act in accordance with the law of his specific nature, and the Whitechapel murderer, cunning though he be, is no exception to the rule.

For instance, he betrayed himself, to some extent, by the periodicity which he suffered to mark his crimes. They were committed at certain definite times in the month.


A detective of original character would have noticed this, and would have turned it to good account. He would have felt a moral certainty that between November 7th and 10th another attempt at murder would be made, and he would have organised for those nights a special service of decoys.

No doubt, such a service has its dangers, but these dangers might be reduced to a minimum.

In fact, the assassin is hardly dangerous except to the unsuspecting and unwary. His terrible procedure cannot be carried out against those on their guard.


Bloodhounds in the heart of a great city are a patent absurdity. A Government reward (always a premium on false witness) is valueless when an assassin has no accomplices. Vigilance Committees are as if kites should gather in council to catch a mole; detectives are powerless without a clue.

What is wanted is a man in authority possessing originality and imagination. Such a man would divine beforehand when the next attempt will be made – the cycle will be changed now – and he would devise a trap for the assassin. Such a trap might easily have been devised before this.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

A. EUBULE-EVANS. November 13th, 1888.”