The Police And The Whitechapel Murders

In the wake of the murder of Mary Nichols, which took place on August 31st, 1888, there was a belief in the area, as well as amongst the police officers who were trying to trace the perpetrator of the crime, that the atrocity had been carried out by one of the local gangs, and, in consequence, people were beginning to question the efficiency of the local police in bringing the gang problem under control.

By Tuesday 4th September, 1888, it was being mooted in the newspapers that some members of the local community were intending to form themselves into vigilance patrols in order to keep the local gangs under surveillance.

The Punch Cartoon Blind Mans Buff showing a blind-folded police officer being taunted by criminals.
Blind Mans Buff – A Punch Cartoon From 1888.


There were also press reports that Mary Nichols had not actually been murdered where her body had been found, but that she had been murdered elsewhere and her body had been carried to the spot in Buck’s Row where it was discovered.

Mention was being made of the fact that a trail of bloodstains had been found, leading from a nearby street to the spot in Buck’s Row where Mary’s body had been found.

Ultimately, both of these rumours would prove to be unfounded as it was soon stated that the murder had, in fact, taken place on the spot where her body was found.

The Edinburgh Evening News, on Tuesday, 4th September, 1888, published the following article, which mentioned the rumours concerning the location of the crime and which also took a look at the gang problem in the area.

The article read:-


“A sort of vigilance committee is being formed in the East End of London to keep an eye on the gangs of “roughs” which infest certain of the streets about Whitechapel.

It is quite time that something were done to make the streets of that part of London more secure.

It is simply monstrous that there should be in the heart of the capital not only courts and alleys, but whole thoroughfares down which a decently attired man cannot walk in safety even in broad daylight.

What human life is worth in the dead of night – even to the poorest –  has been amply shown by the horrible tragedies which have created so deep an impression on the public mind.


There is a growing feeling (says our London correspondent) that the police do not come out well out of the recent affair at Whitechapel.

It turns out that there were several constables close at hand about the time of the murder, and that the beat of the particular constable who found the body is a very short one.


The murderer must have had a very heavy, as well as very ghastly, burden; and how he managed to stagger along with it for the great distance indicated by the blood-stains is a puzzle which cannot be solved by assuming any special vigilance on the part of the police.


No doubt the locality is a perilous one.

Drunken women lying in the gutters, drunken men staggering from side to side of the street;  shrieks, groans, and blasphemy are all too common to attract much attention there, and a man may do in Whitechapel unobserved what in Bayswater would lead to instant detection.

But, there is a strong feeling in the mind of the public that the time has come for the adoption of vigorous measures.”