Yours, jack (about jack the ri
Yours, jack (about jack the ri
In 1888 there was a string of murders in the London East End, near the Whitechapel region. By the end of the killing spree, (Which could have been as short as three months or as long as ten as few as five.), as many as nineteen women or as few as five would be dead, at the hands of this serial killer. And yet this man was never caught, evidence was lost, and possible I witnesses were never questioned. How did the police manage to conduct this investigation so badly?
The number of victims remains in question to this day mainly because the local East End constabulary cared little as to whether prostitutes lived or died. Although there are five definite Jack victims, there are an additional fourteen unsolved murders of prostitutes that could be attributed to Jack. The fact that so many cases went unsolved, already sets a bad president going in. It was only when the Newspapers, and the residents of the East end began to cry out for someone to do something, that the police were forced to take notice of the murderous Jack.
The reason why Jack became famous was not because he was the first serial killer, but because he was the first serial killer who struck in a densely populated area with a literate public. This sparked newspaper stories which attempted to chain together unrelated and disjointed facts in the hopes of being the first to find the killer, while attacking the police who seemed to have no leads.
The first confirmed Ripper murder took place on the 31st of August 1888. In response Robert Anderson an Irish born police official was appointed Assistant Commissioner for crime. Later Sir Anderson would become famous for saying that the police had captured Jack as a reason for the end of the murders, while refusing to state the identity of the killer.
Anderson selected his close friend, the Scottish Donald Swanson to head the case. Swanson was a Chief Inspector in Scotland Yard. Swanson was a capable officer but he had never dealt with anything like this. Also Swanson was a typical British classist, which lead to him dismissing the statements of witnesses who came forward. Witnesses such as Mrs. Sarah Colwell who stated that she had observed stains of blood on Brady street. Her testimony has lead to a theory in recent years that the body was moved.
Meanwhile stories of a murderer named "Leather Apron" began to appear. The stories mentioned brutal murders of women around the east en in grim detail. The public snap these articles up, driving reporters to make their stories more gruesome and outlandish.
The next murder came on September 8th. The woman one Annie Chapman, is found on Hanbury Street. The police still have no leads. A growingly angry public began to seek a solution without the police. Samuel Montagu a member of the Home Office offered a 100 pound reward. In addition the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee was formed with George Lusk elected president.
The Vigilance committee was essentially a neighborhood watch, but they also kept a look out for possible suspects. The committee would report any suspicious action to the police. The police however didn't like the idea of civilians stepping on their toes. Most reports of men with large knives or blood stained clothing were filled away only to be discovered years later.
This consistent refusal by the police to accept help from anyone else seems irrational if not altogether impossible. The actions of the police however, are consistent with the society which allowed for the creation of a killer like Jack the Ripper. In the newly industrialized London anonymity among neighbors was predominant, and most of the working poor occupied the East End. The poor had no real voice in government, and are of no concern to the rich, and therefore the police. Classism becomes a factor in the investigation and the poor who were the victims were not listened to. With no trustworthy "Gentlemen" in the East End, the police could not turn up witnesses who they would've considered substantial.
Throughout mid-September, the police investigated the scenes of the two crimes and sites where bloodstains had been spotted. Without fingerprinting or blood typing to aid in a forensic investigation, the officers came up with pathetically little
On September 27th the police received a wake-up call. The "Dear Boss" letter was the first of its kind, it clearly mocks the police and the author seems to take great pleasure in his crimes. The letter is the first to use "Jack The Ripper", and makes a point of laughing off the only idea the police have yet as to who the murderer my be. "They say I'm a doctor now. ha ha".
Three days later the newly named, Jack struck again, twice in one night this time. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were killed within forty-five minutes of each other. In response the Vigilance Committee asks the Home Office to increase the reward money. The request was denied.
On the first of October, one Thomas Coram found a bloodstained knife on Whitechapel Road, the blade was roughly nine inches in length. The possible murder weapon was immediately delivered to the police, who without modern techniques can do nothing with the evidence.
With the publishing of the "Dear Boss" letter sparking even more public interest in the crimes, the Financial News offers a further 300 pounds toward the award for the capture of the murderer. On top of that the Lord Mayor offers his own 500 pound reward. Sir Alfred Kirby offers a 100 pound reward and fifty militia men to help apprehend the criminal. His offer was declined. Queen Victoria herself telephones the Home Office at 3:30 pm that day to express her shock at the murders, but does nothing else.
Later that day the "Saucy Jack" postcard is received by the Centeral news service and is published by the Star in the evening edition. The handwriting of the letter is similar and describes the murders before the murders were described by any of the papers. It also continues to refer to a mythical Boss. The two letters spark a massive number of hoax letters written in the same style. Investigating all of the letters manages to tie up the city police for days.
The very next day George Lusk petitions the Home Office requesting that the police offer a reward. He receives no reply. On that same day the self proclaimed "Clairvoyant" Robert James Lees offers his psychic assistance to the police. Although it would appear to be the police's best lead thus far his offer is refused.
Meanwhile two private detectives Grand and Batchelor were making their own niche into case history. While examining the site where Elizabeth Stride was killed, they discovered a grape stalk down a near bye drain. Further investigation on their part leads them to one Matthew Packer, a street vender who claims to have sold Elizabeth and a gentleman she was with some grapes. The detectives cleverly show him the body of Catherine Eddowes, and imply that it is Elizabeth Stride. Packer passes the test by saying he does not recognize the girl. He later positively identifies the body of Elizabeth Stride as the woman he saw. This made Packer the first definite eyewitness to have seen a man who may very well been Jack The Ripper, and could be later used to make an identification. However, both the city police and Scotland Yard refuse to talk with Packer, even though a post-mortem of Elizabeth finds fruit stains on one of her handkerchiefs.
Convinced that the police are either unwilling or unable to find the murder. Grand and Batchelor persist in their own investigation of the murders. And on that basis become more trusted figures in the area than the police themselves. The two detectives question several witnesses and closely examine the scenes of all the murders. In addition they go so far as to stake out and protect Jack's possible targets, a method used to track down serial killers today.
The police meanwhile, think they have just the thing to find Jack. On October 9, 1888 the first two blood hounds to be used by the department, Barnaby and Burgho, are successfully tested out in Regent's Park. The day after the dogs were tested personally by Sir Charles Warren of the Home Office in Hyde Park. Unfortunately the dogs fail the test this time.
Jack seemed remarkably unphased by the advancements in police crime stopping technology, as on October 16th George Lusk received a package in the mail. When he opened it he discovered that it contained half of a human liver. (Later identified a similar to the half missing from Catherine Eddows.) And the "From Hell" Letter.
The letter tells of how Jack removed the kidney and supposedly ate part of it. The letter is also very threatening toward Mister Lusk himself. Jack states that he may send Lusk the bloody knife, and the author closes the letter with "Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk" This is different then the tactics seen in the other letters. While "Dear Boss" mocks the police who are after Jack, "From Hell" resorts to threats, this may be an indication that Jack is more threatened by Lusk's efforts to stop the murders than those of the police. And he refers to Lusk directly, not like the others where he refers to his "Boss" as a way of showing off, it would almost seem that Jack is angry at Lusk.
This theory would seem to match up with another recently discovered letter. Again the author refers to Lusk and his efforts and mentions keeping an eye on him. The fact that the civilian group whom the police had no respect for, was more well known by the murder says what little headway the police were making.
After deciding that it may in fact be necessary to listen to witnesses, the police took notice of how Jack was commonly described as "Foreign" or "A Jew". In response the police began rounding up immigrants and especially Jews for questioning. The tactics were racist and turned up few real suspects.
One such suspect was a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski. Evidence has been lost an rediscovered since 1888 but it would appear that both Swanson and Anderson considered him to be the ripper. In Anderson's memoirs he wrote that the police knew who the ripper was and that he was a Polish Jew who had been placed in, an insane asylum after the crimes and died shortly thereafter. The book was published in 1910 and in Swanson's personal copy he wrote "Kosminski" in the margin. However nothing would seem to suggest that Aaron was homicidal. His doctors in the asylum, described him as a docile lunatic who heard voices in his head and would only eat food from gutters. Another problem with this theory is that Aaron lived until 1919 and did not die shortly after he was put away. There is some word about another insane Polish Jew who really was dangerous, but this has never been proven.
The unlikeliness of Aaron's guilt is doubled over by the fifth murder after his detention. On November 9th, 1888 Mary Kelly was brutally murdered in Miller's Court. On that same day Sir Charles Warren resigned in disgrace as the head of the Home Office. In desperation the Home Office offers a pardon to "anyone but the murderer" in the hopes that someone with information that was afraid to come forward. No one did.
The post-mortem of Mary Kelly (which was lost until 1987) reveals how horribly mutilated she was. Her right arm was wenched off, along with both of her legs being popped out of their sockets. She was cut open and literally gutted. Both breasts were cut off, and her face was hacked beyond recognition. All of her internal organs were spread throughout the room where she was found. In addition her heart was removed and never found. Now police official ever read this report, although it is doubtful that it would have changed anything.
It is at this point that the police seem to simply give up. The inquest on Mary Kelly's murder is held and concluded in one day. More witnesses come forward but the information they supply was less than helpful.
The last statements as to who the murder might be come in March of 1889. The statements come from a letter by William Bachert, the chairman of the Vigilance committee. After the committee accused the police of growing complacent because there had not been any murders for several months. Several senior members of the police department came to visit Bachert and had him swear to secrecy in order for him to be given information about he case. In his own words he explains:
Foolishly, I agreed. It was then suggested to me the Vigilance Committee and its patrols might be disbanded as the police were quite certain that the Ripper was dead. I protested that, as I had been sworn to secrecy, I really ought to be given more information tan this. ‘It isn't really necessary for you to know anymore,' I was told. ‘The man in question is dead. He was fished out of the Thames two months ago and it would only cause pain to relatives if we said any mor than that.
The source of this letter is unknown but if true it points to one John Druit Montague, a failed barrister turned school teacher, with a history of violent mental illness. The fact that his body was found floating in the Thames in January 1889 after committing suicide, and the fact that he maintained a residence within walking distance of the East End points to him being the man talked about by the unknown police officials. However, other than the fact that he was mentally unstable and near by there is no evidence linking him to the murders. What evidence could the police have had to make this conclusion?
In recent years more evidence has been uncovered than the entire Ripper investigation in 1888. However, even armed with modern technology and a F.B.I. psychological profile. Nothing can penetrate over a century of dust covering the murders. It we'll probably still be disputed a century from now.
There is no question that the police of the times bungled the investigation, in the way they handled witnesses. But was it really their fault? Jack the Ripper was an example of a new kind of criminal, one the likes of which the world had never seen. Not only did the police have to track down the future of killers, but the origins of tabloid journalism managed to complicate the investigation. The police are guilty of attempting to look the other way when it came to the poor and prostitutes, but Jack's escape from justice is not entirely their fault. Police today have modern forensics and parapsychologists to aid in murder investigation. The city police and Scottland Yard had none of these things. If anything Jack's elusion of capture led to the police force rethinking its operations. Someone had to build a better mouse before the police could build a better trap.