Who The Murderer Might Be

On Tuesday 2nd October 1888 the newspapers were bursting with the latest information on the two new murders that had occurred in the early hours of the 30th September.

The press criticism of the Metropolitan Police showed no sign of abating. Indeed, another crime had taken place right under the noses of the police officers as they searched for the murderer of both Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.


The Daily News headlined its article about this crime with “DARING BURGLARY AT ALDGATE POST-OFFICE” and informed readers that the Post-office on Aldgate High Street, which was just s short distance form Mitre Square where  the murder of Catherine Eddowes had taken place, had been opened by a clerk the previous morning and, on entering, he found that burglars had broken in to and  had robbed the premises and had forced open  the safe. The article went on to point out that the general consensus was that the robbery must have taken place on the evening of Saturday 29th September 1888 as, “…it seems astonishing that any thieves should have been daring enough to enter the premises after the great commotion caused by the discovery of the murder but a few yards away, and the consequent presence of so many police in the district…”


As far as the murders went The Daily News reported that there was, in fact, nothing to report, adding that “…The Police might telegraph “All quiet at “Mitre-square…”



There had, however, been a major change now that the City of London Police were involved in the hunt for the Whitechapel Murderer in that the City authorities had done that which the juries at the inquests and the Vigilance Committees had been badgering the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police to do since the onset of the killing spree and had offered a reward of £500 for information that might lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrator of the murder of Catherine Eddowes.


The newspapers were also reporting that a number of arrests had been made over the previous few days, although nothing had come of them and “no real importance” was attached to any them.

Many of the newspapers were wondering who the perpetrator of the crimes might have been and several readers had written in with suggestions. One suggestion was that he might have been a she who had gained knowledge of anatomy whilst studying to be a midwife.

Another reader, Fred W. Ley, contacted The Star to suggest that the murderer might be a religious fanatic. Mr. T. Barry, on the other hand, wrote to the same newspaper to proffer the opinion that the killer was most certainly a man “who, having been ruined by dissipation, is having his revenge.”

C. J. Solomons, who lived in Hanbury Street was anxious to scoff at suggestions that the murderer was living in one of the district’s common lodging houses. “Signs of blood on such a man,” he opined,  “would certainly be noticed. It must be some person who has a room where he can go at any time unnoticed and have a change of clothing.”


The Daily News  had managed to conduct an interview with what it termed ” a responsible police officer.”

One suggestion that was gaining credence in the district was that he had done so by using the sewers beneath the streets of the East End. Whilst acknowledging that it was a feasible theory, the officer was dismissive of it, observing:-

“”Have you ever been down into the sewers?”….Then you know something of the difficulty which would be experienced in getting about underground. Besides, how would he get up again? He would require a key to get down, and he must shut down the grating and the iron flap after him, and even with a key I don’t think he could get up again. If he could he would be more likely to be observed creeping up out of a sewer than by walking quietly off through the streets. No,” concluded the officer, “I don’t think there’s much in that notion.””


Another aspect of the press reportage over this period was how many readers were writing in to offer suggestions on how to catch the criminal.

G.E.K writing from Rivermere, Old Windsor, for example, wrote to The Daily Telegraph observing that “…something out of the ordinary must be done to capture the being who perpetrates these awful deeds, I venture to send the following proposition, in the hope that it may be of some use, or that some more useful suggestion may be gained through it.

For instance, say that a square mile, or any distance that would cover the worst parts of the neighbourhood, where the lowest classes live, and where these crimes have been committed, were divided into so many temporary stations, where an inspector and constable could be, and that every man sleeping in this specified area should be compelled, before going to his bed, to report himself, or not be allowed to enter his lodging until he could show that he had done so. Of course this would mean a great number of police to strictly enforce the regulation….”


A PPolice Constable keeps and eye on a group of men.
A Police officer In Middlesex Street

CLM wrote from Connaught-square, Hyde park with a suggestion that, in many ways, resonates with today’s much debated stop and search police policy:-

“After the awful details of the two murders recorded in the papers, which occurred on Saturday night, surely some stronger measures should be taken to ensure no repetitions of such atrocities which are outrages on civilisation. These horrible mutilating murders may, and probably will go on for some length of time, as there seems to be no possible clue in any of the cases. What I should suggest would be that after dark in certain parts of London every policeman ought to have the right of stopping and searching anyone, to see if he carries a knife such as must have been used in all these hideous crimes. Surely no innocent man would object to this ordeal, and it might have the desired effect of bringing the guilty one to justice, or at any rate checking any further outrage of the kind. I do not know how far the authority of Sir Charles Warren goes, as head of the police, but in such a case surely additional power might be obtained from the Home Office.”


The Star newspaper published an article wondering if the perpetrator of the recent murders might be a man who “..a few months ago committed a series of remarkably brutal murders in Texas.” The article went on to observe that the fact that the murders had now ceased in Texas but had commenced in London suggested that “The fact that he is no longer at work in Texas argues his presence somewhere else. His peculiar line of work was executed in precisely the same manner as is now going on in London. Why should he not be there?”


The Star had also received a missive from somebody claiming to be from the man responsible for the crimes in Whitechapel and which was clearly influenced by the “Dear Boss.. Jack the Ripper” letter that the newspapers had been reporting on the previous day. The letter read:-


As you take greate interest in the Murders i am the one that that did it wouldent you like to see me but you shant just yet i mean to do some more yet i have done 6 i am going to do 14 More then go back to america the next time i shall do 3 in one night i dont live a thousand miles from the spot not in a common lodging house

Yours in luck



As with many of the other newspapers, readers were writing in to The Star to offer their own suggestions as to how the murderer might be brought to justice. “Lex,” writing from Oxford, put forward the idea that armed detectives disguised as prostitutes should patrol the East End by night.  “Greek,” meanwhile, was of the opinion that about 24 of the  “oldest of the loose women in the district should be entrusted with police whistles, pawn brokers in the vicinity being notified not to receive the whistles.” Greek also suggested that the police should adopt a policy of setting a thief to catch a thief by employing  “…some well-known clever members of the criminal class should…for a month at a small salary to endeavor to catch the murderer on their own account…”


A press sketch showing one of the slaughterhouses in Whitechapel.
A Whitechapel

“W.A.G,” on the other hand felt certain that the answer to the mystery lay amidst the slaughterhouses of the district and suggested that every slaughterman should be compelled by the authorities “to submit himself to medical examination, and those men where homicidal tendencies are found to be abnormally developed, let them be compelled to prove an alibi for any one of the dates on which the murders were committed…”


Mr Mooney, on the other hand, wrote to point out how the proliferation of slaughterhouses in the district where the murders were occurring was, in fact, aiding the killers escapes since it was common to see men in bloodstained clothing about the streets of Whitechapel during the hours of darkness. Sir Charles Warren, so Mr Mooney suggested, should, therefore,  “…issue an edict prohibiting slaughterers or butchers to wear their gory clothing in the street after dark or before dawn. The murderer would not then so easily escape in repeating his crimes…”


The wonderfully named “Frangipanni” was convinced that the solution lay in every man, woman and child in Victorian London making “…the detection and capture of the murderer a matter of personal interest” adding that, if the entire population were to do this the “he could not escape for long.” ”


The prize for the most elaborate method of catching the killer must surely go to W. H. Spencer-Howell who ventured that “…a few young men of somewhat feminine appearance should be got up disguised as females. They should wear around their necks steel collars made after the style of a ladies’ collaret, coming well down the breast, and likewise well down the back. My reason for this is owing to the fact that the assassin first severs his victim’s windpipe, thereby preventing her raising any alarm…”

What quickly becomes apparent, reading the various press reports of the 2nd October 1888, is that the police’s inability to catch the murderer, coupled with the long and drawn out inquests that were going on into the deaths of the victims, was generating a huge amount of public interested in the East End murder spree and almost every one who could read was becoming an armchair detective with their own opinions on what the police should be doing.

This public interest was about to result in numerou letters finding their way to the police whose, already bogged down investigation, was about to become swamped by a veritable Tsunami of Jack the Ripper correspondence.