The Whitechapel Murders Considered

By the 6th of October, 1888, the newspapers were attempting to ascertain what sort of person the Whitechapel murderer might be. There was a belief that he might be an educated person who was a homicidal lunatic.

There was also a suggestion that he was being sheltered by others, who, for reasons unknown, did not want to hand him over to justice.

The Hawick Express, on Saturday, 6th October 1888, published an editorial that pondered some of the points being raised by the police investigation into the crimes.:-


Crime is not an attractive subject, but there are times when it is forced upon public attention.

There are minds whose delight it is to feast upon sensational news, and no story of blood and murder is too much for them. To such individuals the recent horrors of Whitechapel must have been sufficiently interesting, but to the general reader the details are altogether too shocking.

Of late, certain newspapers have catered liberally from the trials of criminals whose memories might with advantage have been consigned to oblivion. The dreadful deeds of the last few weeks put such stories quite into the shade.


Even the notorious characters whose lives are recorded in the Newgate Calendar bear little comparison to the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders.

The footpads and house-breakers of the seventeenth century had motives inciting them to murder, which, happily are at the present day unknown.

At that time the idea of a gradation of punishments (of which Dr Samuel Johnson has the credit) was not yet conceived.

It was, therefore, a small matter to the highwayman who bad committed robbery to protect himself against discovery by taking a life, because he well knew that he would be hanged for the theft if discovered, so that his prospect was rather improved than otherwise by the additional atrocity.


But what are we to think of the wretch who, to all appearance, has sought and found half a dozen of human victims without a motive?

The theories which have been put forward regarding the murderer and the state of his mind are various enough, and, to our thinking, it appears reasonable to believe that he is a maniac of the worst type.

To speculate upon this, however, while he is still at large may at best be an ingenious manner of diverting the public mind until by another horrid example the supposition maybe supported or put aside.

Some of the newspaper headlines that appeared on September 10th 1888.
Newspaper Headlines From 10th September, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Possibly a better exercise for mental energy would be to devise means to unearth the culprit, but in view of the difficulty of the undertaking one might almost resign the attempt.

Among all the plans suggested, and they are not few, there is no appearance of any steps being taken to bring to justice such as may be keeping back information.

Rewards have been offered for information, which may lead to the murderer’s discovery and conviction; but, in the peculiar and altogether novel circumstances, we venture to think this only goes half way.


Accepting the theory that he is educated, and possibly well-to-do; believing also that he is a homicidal lunatic, the situation must be totally unparalleled should it turn out that he is absolutely unknown.

Our contention is that in all probability he is known to a circle, smaller or greater, who, for private reasons, deem it prudent to keep quiet about it.

That it is easy to remain in concealment in the heart of London, may readily be understood, but that crimes so full of horror should continue to be perpetrated with impunity is not to be tolerated.


Whoever, therefore, may be in possession of information of such a nature as to assist in stopping such a career, and fails to disclose it, is clearly a partaker of the murderous guilt, and there can be little doubt that the house to house visitation already recommended by the London press is not only justifiable, but to all appearance absolutely necessary.”