Things Had Settled Down

In the wake of the murders of Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman, a fearful panic swept through the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, and the district as a whole, quite literally, walked in fear.

However, as the end of September, 1888, approached, and no more murders had occurred since the killing of Annie Chapman on the 8th of September, 1888, the fear began to recede, and the people settled down to resume their daily struggle to simply get by.


Then, on September 22nd, 1888 Jane Beadmore was murdered in Birtley, a small mining village, just to the south of Gateshead, in County Durham, in the north of  England; and, since there were certain similarities between the injuries she had received and the injuries inflicted upon the bodies of his victims by the Whitechapel murderer, many people in the area started to believe that their ordeal was over and that the perpetrator of the recent atrocities and headed to the north of England.

A man reacts in horror as he finds the body of murder victim Jane Beadmore.
Finding The Body of Jane Beadmore. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Of course, this general euphoria would be a short-lived affair since, as we know with hindsight, the killer was still in the East End of London, and, on the last day of the month, he would strike again and claim the lives of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.


On Thursday the 27th of September, 1888, the following article – which captured the mood in the district – appeared in The Dublin Daily Express:-

“I have on occasions renewed my acquaintance with Whitechapel recently, and, on making a further visit this afternoon, I was not surprised in the least to find that things have quite settled down, that my old friends the gentlemen in blue perambulated their beats as if on parade in a barrack yard, and, in short, that the atrocities are forgotten.


From a conversation which I had with a gentleman of Polish extraction – originally he must have come from further East – I should question very much whether the foreign population of Whitechapel have yet heard of the four murders, or whether, having heard, they care two straws about the affair.

Their indifference, indeed, is shocking to the philanthropist.

I had to seek shelter from a shower of rain under the railway arch close by Hanbury street, where I encountered, amongst others, my Polish friend. I may say at once that the Polish Jew is miraculously dirty, excessively aggressive, and hideously ugly.

I tackled my friend under the arch, and, while I found he was most anxious to learn, he knew, or professed to know, little or nothing of what was going on about him. His English was imperfect, certainly, but even the fact that his kindred had been suspected had little or no interest for him.

A photograph showing Hanbury Street.
Hanbury Street As It Was


The whole business has drifted away from the thoughts the Whitechapel people, who have their precarious livings to be got, and who have no time to spare for the consideration of crimes of which they know little or nothing.

Still, the non-discovery of the author of those murders is a reproach, if not a disgrace, to the London police.

They have sent down into Durham to inquire into some outrage on a woman there, who was stabbed in various parts of the body, but they might as well inquire into all the thousand and one outrages which are committed on women all over the country.


The author of the Whitechapel murders is not to be dug out of the railway embankments of Durham or the slag heaps of Staffordshire; and if the murder of the two women, Chapman and Nicholls, particularly, is to remain a mystery, the authorities in Scotland Yard must expect to hear of it.

Every allowance has been made for them. It is conceded that the task was not an easy one, but they have not only failed on these crucial occasions, but on many others where the detective system has been found utterly at fault.


I was perfectly aghast to meet, a day or two ago, a detective who had been engaged in the Whitechapel cases in quite another part of Loudon, He had been withdrawn, and he was not going back.

So were all the others to resume their ordinary work.

Then, has the task been given up, and is it left to accident to bring the dangerous criminal justice?