|A Ripper Notes Article|
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Floating on the periphery of violence inflicted by Jack the Ripper upon the unfortunate Catherine Eddowes in the early hours of 30 September 1888 was the 2.55am discovery by a beat constable of a dirty, blood-speckled rag at the bottom of a stairwell in the entrance to a block of flats known as Wentworth Dwellings, Goulston Street. On the brickwork edging the entrance, a chalked message proclaimed, "The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing. "
Although ambiguous, it has nevertheless passed into criminal folklore, filed away with the notorious letters allegedly written by the Ripper. Yet the writing - with its double negative and written in a rounded `schoolboy' hand - did not correlate with the vicious, jagged scrawl and positive vein found in the infamous `kidney' letter posted to George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, after the murder of Eddowes (whose left kidney, it was found, had been taken by her murderer).
Curiously, Stephen Knight, author of Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, came to the conclusion that the Goulston Street Graffito was part of a jig-saw of evidence that implicated the Freemasons in the Ripper atrocities. Astonishingly, he proposed that a group of highly placed persons - and members of the Brotherhood - were actually involved in a murderous conspiracy to suppress knowledge of a secret and illegal marriage between Prince Albert Victor, Heir Presumptive to the throne, and a shop assistant named Annie Crook, who duly delivered the Prince a child.
Sharing the forbidden knowledge - by way of Mary Kelly, supposedly a former nanny to the couple - were a number of East End harlots. Accordingly, the Masons set out to silence Kelly and the whores. . .enter the Ripper.
Remarkably, this fancy story seems to have been accepted as fact by quite a number of people. As to the killers, their work done, they withdrew back into the shadows. However, they seem to have overlooked a most important point. All of the victims were heavy drinkers or alcoholics who spent most of their free time in public houses. And like Arab women at the well, the choice piece of gossip they allegedly shared would have sent the news of Prince Eddy's supposed secret marriage racing like wildfire throughout the East End. And no power on earth - least of all the Masons - could have prevented it.
Clearly, to accept that a group of highly placed, intelligent men sought to suppress knowledge of a secret Royal marriage by means of a series of sensational murders is to accept the unbelievable. Nevertheless, quite a number of modern-day writers seem convinced that the Goulston Street Graffito was the work of Jack the Ripper. And yet ...it neither mentioned nor alluded to either of the two murders committed that night. Nor was it signed by the hand of that fearsome shadow. As to the graffito, it was small, chalked in rounded letters similar to a schoolboy's hand, covering an area of two or three bricks only. And as such, its appearance was negligible.
If the Ripper had really sought to blame the Jews for his crimes, why would he choose such an insignificant location for his purpose? Better by far to leave such a condemnation at the scene of one of his crimes, where the impact would have been far greater. Or even in one of the notorious letters attributed to him. But he never did. The writing on the wall merely blamed the Jews for some unknown offence. Furthermore, it appeared unfinished, as if the writer had been disturbed in his work; perhaps by someone entering the street or coming down the stairs.
Unfortunately, the argument over the meaning or authorship of that chalked statement, which has lasted to this day, has pushed to the side another more important and perplexing question: the reason as to why the killer of Catherine Eddowes not only disposed of part of her apron in Goulston Street, but why he took it in the first place!
Obviously, after his despatch of Eddowes in Mitre Square, Aldgate, the murderer was now racing for a bolt-hole. And the find in Goulston Street clearly - or assumedly - demonstrated that his flight from Mitre Square had taken him in an easterly direction towards Spitalfields, an area where police inquiries would naturally focus. But were they looking in the right direction?
As to Mitre Square, this could be entered by any one of three passageways; from the east by way of Church Passage, from the west by way of Mitre Street, or from the north by way of St. James' Square. At about 1.40 am, PC Harvey came along Church Passage and looked into the square, but he did not enter. A pity, for had he done so, he would surely have stumbled across the murderer in the middle of his ghastly butchery. Five minutes later, PC Watkins entered the square from Mite Street and came across the body of Catherine Eddowes lying on the pavement in the southwest corner. Yet neither Watkins nor Harvey reported seeing a man pass them or leaving the square hurriedly around the time of the murder. Therefore, presumably, the only route the killer could have taken was the north passage leading towards the City.
Immediately after the discovery of Eddowes' body, DC Halse, who had been summoned to the murder site by a frantic fanfare of police whistles. found himself hurrying through a complex of streets in search of the fugitive. At 2.20am, he passed along Goulston Street. Halse later reported that he believed the writing had been placed on the wall after his search of Goulston Street, because when he examined the entrance to Wentworth Model Dwellings, he had found nothing of interest there.(1)
But PC Alfred Long did! At 2.55am, as he made his way along Goulston Street, he stopped at the entrance to the Dwellings and made two finds; the writing on the wall and the dirty, blood stained rag. And for some reason never explained, Long found them very interesting indeed.
But why? Why did he reason that a few lines of writing on a wall or a discarded rag were of any importance? After all, tossed rubbish on his beat would surely have been a common sight, especially with a street market nearby. And graffiti, even some purported to have been scrawled by the Ripper, defaced many buildings throughout the East End. There was nothing new or unusual here.(2)
And Long was certainly not aware of any murder having taken place that night. If he had, then his actions might have been understandable. Yet, curiously, he only copied the writing down in his notebook and reported back to Commercial Street Police Station. Confirmation of his ignorance is found at the Eddowes inquest where, in due course, Long to his consternation found himself being rebuked for not searching for the murderer in the rooms which made up Wentworth Dwellings. However, this was no more than hindsight, for the scrap of apron cloth was not confirmed as having any real importance until some twelve hours after its discovery, when it was matched to Eddowes' clothing in the mortuary.
Long now stated that he did not know of Eddowes' murder(3) when he made his find. If this is true, then why did he seize on that apron rag in the first place? For at that time (in his professed ignorance), it clearly had no meaning whatsoever for him. When the body of Catherine Eddowes was found, it was discovered that she had been disemboweled, "cut up like a pig, " her old and distressed clothing pushed up above her waist And no-one knew then that part of her apron was missing. How could they, considering the ghastly, blood-soaked sight that confronted them?
Goulston Street was part of Long's beat. It was a street he had already patrolled earlier at 2.20am. But at that time, there was no sign of any writing or rag in the entrance to Wentworth Dwellings - a fact also recorded by Halse, who had checked the entrance himself at 2.20am, when he passed along the very same street. And in doing so, he must have encountered Long, who was also in Goulston Street at this time. Now we find two sources - two policemen and two different notebooks - both recording their presence and times in the same street. And Halse would naturally have informed his brother officer as to the murder which had so recently taken place in Mitre Square. Thus, Long was made aware of two facts: a woman had been murdered, and her killer was on the loose. There had been no mention of a missing piece of apron, because at that time no-one knew of its existence.
Clearly, then, Long would not have reported his finds unless he had some reason to believe one or both were connected to the Mitre Square murder. Yet how did he arrive at that conclusion?
For later, at the inquest, we find Long denying all knowledge of Eddowes' murder when he picked up that portion of her apron in Goulston Street. Stung by a juror's rebuke for not conducting a search of the building we find Long, confused and off-balance, struggling for an answer. But then, springing to his feet to defend the constable in his hour of need, came Henry Crawford, a solicitor acting for the police. He suggested to Long that, on discovering the cloth, he might have thought the victim of a rape, not a murderer, might be inside on the staircase or landings. And Long readily agreed.
However, the quick-thinking solicitor had no time to consider the implications of his suggestion. For in all logic, how could a piece of cloth have ever led to the conclusion that a rape had taken place? And Long, in willingly accepting this excuse, dug himself a pit from which he can never be extricated.
As to Halse, in Goulston Street that night, he was looking for a killer who had been on the move for some thirty-five minutes, and Mitre Square was no more than four minutes away for a running man. So how did the writing and rag come into existence one hour and ten minutes after the Mitre Square murderer had fled the scene of his crime?
It is inconceivable that the murderer - with the sound of police whistles echoing on the night air - would have hung around Goulston Street all that precious time simply to rid himself of a piece of rag. Yet somebody or something did. And a curious fog clouds our view.
We might, of course, speculate that a dog sniffed out that piece of material in Mitre Square and scurried off with it before loosing his catch in Goulston Street. But if we rule out a dog and the Ripper, then whom do we have left. . apart from PC Long?
Consider for a moment that startling news he must have received from DC Halse. It surely must have had some effect on this thirty-four year old constable who had so recently been drafted in from Westminster as part of the increased Ripper patrols. There must, indeed, have been a considerable amount of excitement. What, then, if he had made his way to Mitre Square to view the murder site for himself? And by chance noted and picked up the rag, surmising that it was connected to the crime. He then returned to Goulston Street and wrote the chalked message on a wall in a street which, incidentally, formed part of the commercial centre of the Jewish East End, stretching as it did from the corner of Goulston Street through Wentworth Street and Bell Lane. The purported finds might, of course, come to nothing; but in any event, by reporting his suspicions to his superior, had he not shown he was a diligent officer?
Not a bad thing if he was angling for a promotion.
Is such a theory too absurd? Too far fetched? Maybe so. But nevertheless, it is recognised that the practice of planting evidence has been shamefully resorted to by many police officers hoping to advance their careers. And we have found that Long - simply because he had been rebuked by a juror - covered what he saw as an attack on his professional standing by resorting (with the help of a police solicitor) to perjury in a Coroner's Court.
But did he also plant evidence? If he did, then he deliberately perverted the course of a murder investigation for his own ends. For that reported find in Goulston Street focused attention on the enclaves of Spitalfields and not towards the City, in which direction the killer most probably escaped.
As to that piece of cloth, one commentator has suggested the killer used it to wipe his knife with; however, such an act could easily have been performed by the murderer upon the clothing of his victim. Certainly the Ripper never took away any part of the garments of his previous victims (Nichols and Chapman) after he had finished them off. And Chapman, like Eddowes, also had some of her internal organs removed. Obviously, then, this apron cloth played no part whatsoever in the wrapping or carrying of any human trophies. Therefore, we must consider an alternative use.
It has been noted that the speed in which the Ripper carried out his butchery on Eddowes impressed even the doctors who examined her body. And such rapid work might easily have resulted in self-injury. Consequently, the murderer may have cut a strip of cloth from his victim's clothing to bandage a cut hand. Arriving in Goulston Street, he spied a water trough; removing the apron-bandage, he threw it into the entrance to the flats and quickly washed his hands before moving on.
And such an injury may, perhaps, explain the Ripper's six week leave of absence which ended with the murder of Mary Kelly. Naturally, the question that now arises concerns the severity of such a cut. Did it require medical attention? If so, then a medical record may still exist, somewhere, which bears a name of interest.
As to PC Alfred Long, he would eventually be discharged in July 1889 for being drunk on duty.SOURCES
1. Jakubowski, Maxim and Nathan Braund, eds., The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper (Robinson, 1999).
2. Page 146 of The Jack the Ripper A-Z (3rd edition, Headline, 1996)contains information about Walter Dew, a PC in East London in 1888. In his memoirs, Dew drew attention to the Goulston Street graffiti, stating that this particular example was but one of many in the district.
3. Ibid., p. 256.