The Recent Murders

By early October, 1888, the horror of what was happening in Whitechapel was causing terror, panic and excitement.

Newspapers across the country were commenting on the murders, amongst them The Graphic, which, on Saturday the 6th of October, 1888, published the following commentary on the crimes:-


As these horrifying incidents occupy nearly every Londoner’s thoughts and conversation, to the exclusion of almost every other public topic, it would be misplaced squeamishness to avoid reference to them here.

If their perpetrator be, as is generally surmised, a single individual, it is evident that, although he may be a fanatic or a monomaniac, he is possessed of remarkable dexterity, boldness, and discretion; and, unless he is captured red-handed in some atrocity as yet unrealised, he may altogether escape detection.


This suggests the inquiry whether he is more likely to be captured by the offer of a reward.

There may be cases where the notification of such a stimulus may seem advisable as, for example, when it is known that there are persons who are cognisant of the culprit’s whereabouts, but have reasons of their own for withholding the information.


But in these East End cases no such stimulus is needed, every man’s hand is against the, as yet, invisible monster, and the most probable effect, of the reward which the City authorities have offered will be to set a number of amateur detectives at work, who will, by false clues and baseless suggestions, puzzle the professional police still more than they are puzzled already.


Since these horrors have been perpetrated, a good deal of irrelevant sentimentality has been expended on the wretchedness and degradation of the East End population, the fact being that these crimes are of a most peculiar. and exceptional character, and might, had the fiend so willed it, have been committed in an aristocratic quarter of the town, and on a very different class of victims.


A few practical suggestions have been made, however, which deserve attention.

If the heavily-burdened ratepayers can bear the extra expense, the nooks and corners of the poorer parts of the town might be better lighted, policemen might be shod more noiselessly and (a reform we advocated years ago), and all lodging-houses of a certain rank – it would not be difficult to find a definition – should be liable to police visitation and supervision.


It is worth noting here –  in refutation of the Socialist theories which are so rife just now – that the miserable and degraded creatures who have lately been so ruthlessly butchered did not belong to an oppressed residuum crushed down by social or capitalist tyranny, they were all originally well brought-up, fairly well-to-do persons, the wives of respectable men and their terrible downward course into vice and wretchedness seems chiefly chargeable to their own misdoing.