The Metropolitan Police In 1888

Sometimes it is interesting to focus on the background to the police investigation and look at the bigger picture of what was going on in the Metropolitan Police at the time of the murders.

There was a huge amount of infighting between senior officers of the force and politicians.  Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was at loggerheads with the Home Secretary, Henry Mathews, and also with h

is Assistant Commissioner, and head of the CID, James Monro.  As a result of their constant clashes Monro resigned his post on 31st August 1888 – coincidentally the date of the first Jack the Ripper Murder, and was replaced by Dr Robert Anderson.  Monro, however, remained head of the Secret Service section of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch, causing Warren to complain that the detectives were providing information on the murders to Monro and thus undermining his (Warren’s) authority.

Anderson – who in addition to being head of the Detective Department was also working for the Secret Service – was embroiled in a campaign to discredit the Irish politician Charles Stuart Parnel by way of several forged letters to The Times which implicated Parnell in the Fenian terrorist bombings that had taken place in London throughout the 1880’s.  

In order to combat the terrorist threat Monro and Anderson had numerous casual “spies” in the East End of London where a huge population of Irish immigrants dwelt. These “spies” were ordinary men and women and it has been suggested that two of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly, may have been providing nuggets of information to police handlers.

The result of the in- fighting between their senior officers and the politicians meant that the ordinary detectives who faced up to the task of catching Jack the Ripper had to do so in an atmosphere of mistrust and animosity that meant their morale was at an all time low.

In addition the Metropolitan Police as a whole were severely under manned and lacked sufficient constables to police the whole of London, let alone combat the activities of a lone murderer who was creating havoc in the East End of London and stretching their limited resources to breaking point.