MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1888
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH"
SIR - I was much interested in reading the letter signed "Ratepayer," in your impression of to-day, having special reference to the existing sad state of things in common lodging-houses. The excellent scheme of Lord Radstock has been productive of an immense amount of good both morally and physically, and so thoroughly am I impressed with the beneficial results emanating therefrom that I am now preparing an establishment in North-East London upon a similar basis. As a close observer of the London masses for upwards of 30 years I have a strong conviction, amounting to absolute certainty, that a very large per centage of crime and misery is due to the total absence and disregard of the ordinary requirements of domestic life. Although I am perfectly willing to admit - indeed, it should be a sine qua non, that the improved establishment should not be treated simply and solely in a commercial point of view, and thereby obtain the somewhat questionable character of "a paying concern," I am equally as firm in insisting that, after all legitimate expenses, there should be a margin of profit of not more than 4 per cent. As stated by "Ratepayer," Lord Radstock's establishment is the only one that I know of where the lodger, be he permanent or casual, can obtain plain and wholesome refreshment on the premises with all necessary appliances. It is not only surprising but perfectly alarming that the sanitary arrangements of the common lodging houses should be deemed sufficient, with due regard to health and morals, by the authorities whose duty it is to supervise such places. A supply of hot and cold water, together with approved ventilation, should be the rule and not the exception as it is now.
As to the subject which has, through recent deplorable occurrences, invited comment, can nothing be done whereby the model lodging-house may be regarded as an auxiliary in the cause of justice instead of being too often a hindrance? I think it can, and, inter alia, I should require the names, &c., of all persons applying for accommodation, and have the particulars registered in a book kept for the purpose de nocte per noctem. Then why could not the police attend daily and inspect this book, from which they might obtain information of paramount importance? These and other precautions of an equally salutary character are universally adopted in France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and other countries. I am well aware that a system of espionage is abhorrent to Englishmen generally; but the time clearly has arrived when false delicacy and puerile sentiment must sink into insignificance where the safety, honour, and welfare of the community at large are concerned. - Yours obediently,
85, Whitecross-street, E.C., Sept. 21.
SIR - Your admirable leader on "Dark Annie" will doubtless draw attention to a subject that has been dormant almost ever since the then Mr. Cross, Home Secretary, brought in a bill for artisans' dwellings in London. I have often wondered how this question has been allowed to slumber. I am sure if the intelligent, industrious artisans and labourers of this great metropolis had made this a burning question these miserable dens in which they dwell would have been demolished years ago, and the vampires and their deputies who fatten on the weekly rents extracted from them would have disappeared along with them. Instead of Trafalgar-square demonstrations and vestry squabbles in which the most blatant and interested parties join to oust the present vestrymen, all hands should concentrate their energies on this most important question, affecting as it does the prosperity, health, and morals of the industrious classes; they should incessantly importune their M.P.'s and the Government and obtain what they want, and thus give tens of thousands employment. This subject is of paramount importance, and I hope that you will not lay down your pen and that others will also take the matter up and prosecute it to a successful issue. - Yours, &c.,
London, Sept. 22.
On Saturday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter resumed the inquest upon the body of Mary Ann Nicholls, aged forty-seven, the victim in the Buck's-row murder, one of the series of Whitechapel tragedies. The inquiry was held at the Working Lads' Institute. Signalman Eades was recalled to supplement his previous evidence to the effect that he had seen a man named John James carrying a knife near the scene of the murder. It transpired, however, that this man is a harmless lunatic who is well known in the neighbourhood.
The Coroner then summed up. Having reviewed the career of the deceased from the time she left her husband, and reminded the jury of the irregular life she had led for the last two years, Mr. Baxter proceeded to point out that the unfortunate woman was last seen alive at half-past two o'clock on Saturday morning, Sept 1, by Mrs. Holland, who knew her well. Deceased was at that time much the worse for drink, and was endeavouring to walk eastward down Whitechapel. What her exact movements were after this it was impossible to say; but in less than an hour and a quarter her dead body was discovered at a spot rather under three-quarters of a mile distant. The time at which the body was found cannot have been far from 3.45 a.m., as it is fixed by so many independent data. The condition of the body appeared to prove conclusively that the deceased was killed on the exact spot in which she was found. There was not a trace of blood anywhere, except at the spot where her neck was lying, this circumstance being sufficient to justify the assumption that the injuries to the throat were committed when the woman was on the ground, whilst the state of her clothing and the absence of any blood about her legs suggested that the abdominal injuries were inflicted whilst she was still in the same position. Coming to a consideration of the perpetrator of the murder, the Coroner said: It seems astonishing at first thought that the culprit should have escaped detection, for there must surely have been marks of blood about his person. If, however, blood was principally on his hands, the presence of so many slaughter-houses in the neighbourhood would make the frequenters of this spot familiar with blood-stained clothes and hands, and his appearance might in that way have failed to attract attention while he passed from Buck's-row in the twilight into Whitechapel-road, and was lost sight of in the morning's market traffic. We cannot altogether leave unnoticed the fact that the death that you have been investigating is one of four presenting many points of similarity, all of which have occurred within the space of about five months, and all within a very short distance of the place where we are sitting. All four victims were women of middle age, all were married, and had lived apart from their husbands in consequence of intemperate habits, and were at the time of their death leading an irregular life, and eking out a miserable and precarious existence in common lodging-houses. In each case there were abdominal as well as other injuries. In each case the injuries were inflicted after midnight, and in places of public resort, where it would appear impossible but that almost immediate detection should follow the crime, and in each case the inhuman and dastardly criminals are at large in society. Emma Elizabeth Smith, who received her injuries in Osborn-street on the early morning of Easter Tuesday, April 3, survived in the London Hospital for upwards of twenty-four hours, and was able to state that she had been followed by some men, robbed and mutilated, and even to describe imperfectly one of them. Martha Tabram was found at three a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, on the first floor landing of George-yard-buildings, Wentworth-street, with thirty-nine punctured wounds on her body. In addition to these, and the case under your consideration, there is the case of Annie Chapman, still in the hands of another jury. The instruments used in the two earlier cases are dissimilar. In the first it was a blunt instrument, such as a walking-stick; in the second, some of the wounds were thought to have been made by a dagger; but in the two recent cases the instruments suggested by the medical witnesses are not so different. Dr. Llewellyn says the injuries on Nicholls could have been produced by a strong bladed instrument, moderately sharp. Dr. Phillips is of opinion that those on Chapman were by a very sharp knife, probably with a thin, narrow blade, at least six to eight inches in length, probably longer. The similarity of the injuries in the two cases is considerable. There are bruises about the face in both cases; the head is nearly severed from the body in both cases; there are other dreadful injuries in both cases; and those injuries, again, have in each case been performed with anatomical knowledge. Dr. Llewellyn seems to incline to the opinion that the abdominal injuries were first, and caused instantaneous death; but, if so, it seems difficult to understand the object of such desperate injuries to the throat, or how it comes about that there was so little bleeding from the several arteries, that the clothing on the upper surface was not stained, and, indeed, very much less bleeding from the abdomen than from the neck. Surely it may well be that, as in the case of Chapman, the dreadful wounds to the throat were inflicted first and the others afterwards. This is a matter of some importance when we come to consider what possible motive there can be for all this ferocity. Robbery is out of the question; and there is nothing to suggest jealousy; there could not have been any quarrel, or it would have been heard. I suggest to you as a possibility that these two women may have been murdered by the same man with the same object, and that in the case of Nicholls the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and having failed in the open street he tries again, within a week of his failure, in a more secluded place. If this should be correct, the audacity and daring is equal to its maniacal fanaticism and abhorrent wickedness. But this surmise may or may not be correct, the suggested motive may be the wrong one; but one thing is very clear - that a murder of a most atrocious character has been committed.
The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. A rider was added expressing the full coincidence of the jury with some remarks made by the coroner as to the need of a mortuary for Whitechapel.
About nine o'clock yesterday morning the body of a woman named Jane Savage, 28 years of age, unmarried, was found on a railway siding near Birtley, five miles south of Newcastle. She had evidently been dead for some hours. Her throat was cut from side to side, and there was a horrible gash in the abdomen. The woman lived with her stepfather and her mother near Birtley, and when last seen she was walking from a public-house, in which she had been drinking, towards a place in the opposite direction to which she resided. There was no sign of a struggle at the spot where the body was found, and no clue has been discovered as to the murderer. The affair has caused the wildest excitement in the neighbourhood.
On Saturday Mr. Wynne Baxter, coroner, resumed the inquest respecting the death of Mary Ann Nicholls, who was found murdered in Buck's-row, Whitechapel, on the 1st inst; and, in summing up, drew attention to the great similarity of this crime with that which occurred a week later in the same neighbourhood. He suggested the possibility that both women might have been murdered by the same man, that in the case of Nicholls the wretch was disturbed before he had accomplished his object, and that, having failed in the open street, he tried again in a more secluded place. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown, and added a rider expressing their full concurrence with some remarks by the coroner as to the need of a mortuary in Whitechapel.
Nothing material, in so far as it related to the discovery of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the demoniacal crimes known as the Whitechapel murders, was elicited at the adjourned inquest on the body of MARY ANN NICHOLLS, the victim of the Buck's-row tragedy. The jury intimated through their foreman that they had arrived at the sufficiently obvious conclusion that the murder was one committed by some person or persons unknown. In the case of ANNIE CHAPMAN the proceedings stand adjourned until Wednesday next before deciding upon the precise terms of the verdict; but there is, unhappily, little reason to believe that this few days' postponement will enable the jury in that inquiry to arrive at any other decision. Such researches as the police have made have been hitherto utterly and egregiously futile; the testimony adduced before the coroner has been wholly voluntary, and in the main sheds only the feeblest glimmer of light on the circumstances of the crime; while the arrests effected on the strength of more or less panic-stricken rumour have been nothing but a series of random shots, bringing down nothing tangible, palpable, or even suggestive, concerning the real criminal or criminals. There have, meanwhile, arisen from those East-end inquests two incidental side-issues on which it is expedient to dwell. The first is the obstinacy on the part of the Government in refusing to offer a reward for the discovery of the murderer or murderers. It was stated at the Buck's-row inquest that a reward of one hundred pounds had already been promised by Mr. SAMUEL MONTAGU, M.P., and from the efforts of private committees it is expected that another two hundred pounds may be raised; but, as one of the jurors very sensibly remarked, "there is more dignity in a Government reward." Mr. Secretary MATTHEWS, who would make an admirable president of an asylum for deaf mutes, or consulting physician to a hospital for incurables, but who is decidedly out of place at the Home Office, has written a letter to the inhabitants of Whitechapel, in which he states that there is nothing in the circumstances of the recent murders to justify a departure from the rule not to offer rewards for the discovery of murderers. His epistle should be preserved as a phenomenal specimen of official ineptitude and purblindness. Does he know the history of Government rewards in criminal matters? has he ever read or has anybody ever told him that these premiums for the detection of crime were a wholesome substitute for the abominable system of "blood-money," which meant forty pounds payable to every police officer who succeeded in obtaining a capital conviction against a malefactor? It was found that the worse sort of the old Bow-street runners were in the habit of enticing and alluring loose characters into criminal paths until they had become guilty of a capital felony. Then, being "forty-pounders," they were pounced upon by the instigators of their misdeeds, who cheerfully drew the blood-money so soon as the Judge had assumed the black cap. A Government reward for the discovery of a murderer is an entirely different transaction. It very frequently leads to the hunting down of the criminal; while to the particular interest of justice it does not matter one doit whether the grim guerdon goes into the pocket of an honest man or a knave.
Another consideration, quite as important, arises from the stupid and ill-conditioned refusal of the Detective Department and the local superintendents and inspectors to furnish requisite information to the accredited representatives of the press. We have heard all about the morbid craving for ghastly details exhibited by the public, and the sickening greed for "the latest information" concerning a great crime manifested by every section of the community; but in this connection we have only to repeat that which we have already said on more than one occasion, that the public have a natural disinclination to have their throats cut, and that they feel a lively interest in the detection of the miscreants who are going about cutting the throats of other people. We say unhesitatingly that the wider the ramifications of the newspaper press have become, the larger its circulation, and the more powerful its influence, the greater have been the services which it has been enabled to render to the cause of justice in throwing light on the minutest episodes of deeds of unusual turpitude. In short, there is not the slightest exaggeration in saying that the press is in many respects the very best and most trustworthy friend and assistant that the Detective Department can have. A hundred and fifty years ago, when the head of the murdered husband of CATHERINE HAYES was discovered in the Thames, the London newspapers were few and their circulation was small; and the authorities, at their wits'-end to procure the identification of the grisly relic of mortality, were fain to set it upon a pole in the churchyard of St. Margaret, Westminster, that all who ran might read its features. And mainly by these means the murderess CATHERINE HAYES was brought to the gallows and the stake - for the murder of a husband was then petty treason, and the wretched wife was burnt as well as hanged. Were such an exhibition made in these days it would surely be stigmatised as "sensational," "morbid," "sickening," and so forth; and superfine critics would apply the courteous epithets of "ghouls" and "vampires" to the parish officers who set the head of a murdered man on a pole. In our times the newspapers do what the headborough and constables of St. Margaret's did in the reign of George I. Everything pertaining to the crime is exhaustively described; the details are, no doubt, often very shocking and very ghastly; but the general public are no more compelled to read them than they are to peruse the shipping and market intelligence; whereas, on the other hand, the minute chronicling of the incidents surrounding a crime has, in hundreds of instances, tended directly to the discovery of the criminal.
People with short memories, or those too obstinate to have their preconceived convictions disturbed by incontrovertible facts, would have us believe that exhaustive publicity touching the commission of exceptional atrocities is a thing of yesterday. They are too oblivious or too opinionated to bear in mind that fifty-two years ago GREENACRE was tracked to his doom chiefly through the agency of the newspaper press of the day. The dismembered fragments of the body of the unfortunate woman whom he had slain turned up piecemeal in various parts of the Metropolis; and every fresh discovery stimulated the police to renewed efforts, and culminated at last in the bringing home of the crime to GREENACRE. The more recent case of LEFROY is another instance eminently in point. In tracking this blood-stained young desperado the police were hopelessly at fault. They had absolutely got hold of him for a moment, but, by an almost inconceivable blunder, had let him go again; but it was through the perusal of a newspaper describing his personal appearance, and the endeavours which were being made to find him, that the tenant of the house in which he had taken refuge was able to give the ruffian up to justice. Instances might be multiplied of the substantial assistance which journalism has for years and years rendered to the cause of justice by affording publicity to the most intimate details of crime; but, not at all unnaturally, the police resent and are jealous of the aid extended to them from a voluntary and independent source. The policy thus adopted is obviously a stupid and dog-in-the-manger one; but it suits official uppishness and the pride of police subordinates dressed in a little brief authority to snub and to thwart the representatives of the press, and to be either sulkily silent or barrenly communicative on topics concerning which the public, through their journalistic delegates, justifiably demand ample information. If the detectives would frankly say to the reporters, "We do possess a clue; we have received certain information; but it is of the highest importance to the interests of justice that the clue should not be indicated, nor the information divulged," the utmost deference would be shown to their wishes, their reticence would be respected, and, in proverbial parlance, the journalist would wait for the pear to become ripe, and forbear to pluck it; but to all appearance the less the police have to communicate the more desirous they are to enshroud their ignorance in mystery. They can find out nothing definite for themselves, and they are reluctant to mention any circumstances which might enable people with clearer brains than they have to make independent investigations. Unfortunately this blundering and narrow-minded system finds a half-hearted support in the less instructed organs of the press. We are told that in Scotland the criminal law is more successful in procuring convictions than in England, since in North Britain all preliminary investigations of crime are secret. As a matter of fact, the Scottish system, in which the Procurator-Fiscal fulfils the functions of a "juge d'instruction," and the Lord Advocate those of the Procurator-General, is a frigid and meagre analogue of the system pursued in France; but in both countries, when a great crime is committed, the so-called "secret" investigations are of the most transparent kind. In France, through the agency of the Gazette des Tribunaux, which was quoted by all the other journals, the minutest incidents of the "instruction" against the murderer PRANZINI were known from day to day. Had it been otherwise, the public would be convulsed by indignation as deep as would arise in England were magisterial investigations to be heard "in camera," and were coroners' courts to sit with closed doors.