The Murder Mysteries

In September, 1889, the discovery of a female torso beneath a railway arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel, led to speculation that, not only had Jack the Ripper returned and struck again, but that he had also changed his modus operandi.

This latest murder occurred at a time that coincided with the first major strike amongst the East London dockers, and many of the police resources were being directed towards keeping order amongst the strikers.

At the same time, the detectives of the Metropolitan Police were still coming under attack for their inability to bring the perpetrator (or perpetrators) of the Whitechapel murders to justice.

It was also being noticed around this time that both the strike and the murders had had a negative impact on the local economy by dissuading visitors from coming into the area, and had also encouraged locals with money to move out of the area.

Policemen standing under the arch where the body was found.
From The Penny Illustrated Paper, 21st September 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


On Saturday, 14th September, 1888, The Tower Hamlets Independent And East London Local Advertiser, published the following article which considered all these issues, and proffered an opinion on what was to be done to bring Jack the Ripper to justice and avenge the deaths of his victims:-

“The world woke up on Tuesday morning and learnt that another crime had been added to London’s long list of unavenged murders; but because for twelve months murder has been in the very air of the East End, and is no longer a new thing, and because, forsooth, the victim was presumably an unfortunate, the world interested itself no more in the matter, other than to buy a newspaper in which to read the details.


“Another Whitechapel Murder” is now so ordinary a street cry that the public are no longer startled by it, nor do they realise its true significance.

Outsiders regard the East End as a den of infamy so deep as to be impenetrable. We are, one and all, so to speak, branded on our brows with the mark of Cain.

That the stain has been fixed on the locality by reason of the crimes committed with such impunity in its area, who can doubt?


This most recent atrocity may or may not be the work of that hitherto invisible being “Jack the Ripper,” it may or may not be the dastardly deed of the perpetrators of the infamous Whitehall, Battersea and Rainham outrages; one thing alone is certain, that some steps must be quickly taken to remove the justification for making East London “a by-word of blood.”

The moral and material interests of the district imperatively demand some prompt action in the direction of improving its reputation.


Never before in the course of its history has East London so needed thoughtful care on the part of its chief men and recognised leaders.

For us the times are critical;  on all sides can be seen the blackness of the times through which we are passing.


The great shipping industry on which quite half the population of the Tower Hamlets either directly or indirectly depend for their daily bread is in jeopardy, by reason of the great labour strike.

No sooner has trade shown signs of improving than it is paralysed by the workmen.

It is stated on high authority that East Londen is continually growing poorer, while the pauper community is steadily on the increase.

With no prospect of cessation, the indigent foreign element continues to sap the capital of our workers – their labour.


And, for a crown of sorrow, a series of dreadful crimes are perpetrated within a stone’s throw of the “limbs of the law,” and no one can lay hands on the perpetrator to stop his pitiless ravages,

These awful deeds steadily, though at irregular intervals, continue to be wrought, damaging both retail and wholesale business by keeping from entering our region visitors who leave behind them yellow metal.

Not only so, but the better classes leave the district, taking with them the money which in many cases has been earned by successful trading in our midst.


Often in these columns have we defended East London against the attacks of unscrupulous libellers, who, for pecuniary interests of their own, desire it to bear the worst of names so that philanthropy will empty its pockets in their laps.

But what can be said when crimes of such purposeless infamy are continuously recurring?


The necessity of discovering the slayer of these women – unfortunates though they are simple justice decrees even their protection – grows in importance as each week is added to the record of the past.

Naturally, the question presents itself, what is to be done?

We do not mean to blame the police, for, although doubtless they have made mistakes yet in their endeavours to discover the murderer or murderers, we believe that they have zealously put forth every possible exertion.

That nothing has come of their labours is not a matter of surprise, for, although they have the whole machinery of the law at their back, with the advantage of the complete organisation of the force as an additional aid,  so cleverly, and with such consummate skill, are these deeds of darkness performed, that not the shadow of a clue is left to guide them in their work of vengeance.


As far as is possible, the police are watching every court and alley in Whitechapel – and have been doing so for months.

But, their skill has been matched against skill, and the criminal has triumphed.

The whole circumstances and surroundings of the case are so abnormal in all their features that no precedent in the annals of sin is of the least practical use.

Therefore, unusual crimes must be met by unusual methods.

Their most prominent feature is that the victims are women of the lowest class.

Then this class must be pressed – would they need any pressing? – into the service of the law, and be all eyes and ears fora clue and a sign to aid the detectives.

Let every East Londoner henceforth be converted into an amateur policeman, and, as he or she goes about the daily task, let every sense be on the alert.


True there have been Vigilance Committees and funds raised, but what has been their constitution. and how has the money been expended?

The question needs no answer.

Before now we have asked the latter query – for no balance-sheet has been rendered  – but we have received no reply.

Is it a matter of impossibility for prominent local men – men in whom people have faith – to organize a committee to whom money can be sent with the assurance that it will be spent well and wisely.

Private detectives are always more successful than the police detectives for the simple reason that they have more latitude and are generally better supplied with the necessary funds.


It would appear that there are sufficient rewards out to make the modest fortune of the man who secures the slayer of  “Dark Annie” and her unavenged companions.

There can be no lack of incentive, rather is it a lack of organisation, and we commend the suggestion to those gentlemen who have the real interests of East London at heart.

To continue to regard these crimes with indifference would be a reproach on that humanity of feeling for which even the worst of us like to receive credit, even if we don’t possess it.”