East End News
Tuesday, September 11th, 1888.
The series of shocking crimes perpetrated in Whitechapel, which on Saturday culminated in the murder of the woman Chapman, is something so distinctly outside the ordinary range of human experience that it has created a kind of stupor extending far beyond the district where the murders were committed. One may search the ghastliest efforts of fiction and fail to find anything to surpass these crimes in diabolical audacity. The mind travels back to the pages of De Quincey for an equal display of scientific delight in the details of butchery; or Edgar Allen Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" recur in the endeavour to conjure up some parallel for this murderer's brutish savagery. But, so far as we know, nothing in fact or fiction equals these outrages at once in their horrible nature and in the effect which they have produced upon the popular imagination. The circumstance that the murders seem to be the work of one individual, that his blows fall exclusively upon wretched wanderers of the night, and that each successive crime has gained something in atrocity upon, and has followed closer on the heels of, its predecessor - these things mark out the Whitechapel murders, even before their true history is unravelled, as unique in the annals of crime. All ordinary experiences of motive leave us at a loss to comprehend the fury which has prompted the cruel slaughter of at least three, and possibly four, women, each unconnected with the other by any tie except that of their miserable mode of livelihood. Human nature would not be itself if these shocking occurrences, all taking place within a short distance of one another, and all bearing a ghastly resemblance, had not thrown the inhabitants into a state of panic - a panic, it must be feared, as favourable to the escape of the assassin as it is dangerous to innocent persons whose appearance or conduct is sufficiently irregular to excite suspicion.
The details of Chapman's murder need not be referred to here at length. It is enough to say that she was found, early on Saturday morning, lying, with her head nearly severed from her body, and mutilated in a most revolting way, in the backyard of No. 29 Hanbury-street, Spitalfields. She was not an occupant of the house, which is a tenement let out to many families of lodgers. It is nearly certain that she made her way into the yard, which is easily accessible through the house at all hours of the night, in company with her murderer, for the purpose of privacy, and that she was not killed in another place and then carried to the spot where she was found. The fact that no cry from the poor woman reached any of the inmates of the house shows that the assassin knew his business well. The wounds inflicted by him were exactly similar to those which caused the death of the woman Nichols eight days before. Nichols, it will be remembered, was found with her throat cut, and frightfully mutilated, upon the pavement of Buck's-row. Rather more than three weeks previously Martha Tobran [Tabram] was picked up dead on the stairs of George-yard-buildings, Whitechapel, with 39 stabs on her body. It is important to notice that, although some of the stabs might have been inflicted by an ordinary knife, others, according to the medical evidence, were far too formidable to have been produced by anything but "some kind of a dagger." The case of Emma Smith, who died from the effects of a barbarous assault in the early morning of Easter Tuesday last, is different, and possibly it ought to be entirely dissociated from the murders of last month. Smith lived long enough to describe the outrage, and her account was that at half-past one in the morning she was passing near Whitechapel Church when some men set upon her, took all the money she had, and then inflicted the most revolting injuries upon her. If this murder is to be classed with the three recent ones, then the theory that they were the work of a gang of black-mailers is more than tenable. But the crimes of August and September naturally separate themselves from the other, both by reason of the considerable interval which elapsed and by the more determined method of the later assassin or assassins. Probably Smith's assailants did not mean to kill her outright. But there is no room for doubt that the slayer of Tabran, Nichols, and Chapman, meant murder, and nothing else but murder.
So many stories of "suspicious" incidents have cropped up since the murder, some of them evidently spontaneously generated by frantic terror, and some, even where credible, pointing in contrary directions, that it would be idle to refer to them. A valuable hint may be found by the detectives in some of these volunteer reminiscences, but there is also a danger and they be diverted from the broad and obvious lines of investigation by distracting suggestions. If the perpetrator of crimes so numerous and so extraordinary is not speedily brought to justice, it will be not only humiliating, but also an intolerable perpetuation of the danger. Although the Whitechapel murders are without example, the police have also an unexampled number of data from which to draw their conclusions. The most salient point is the maniacal frenzy with which the victims were slaughtered, and unless we accept, as a possible alternative, the theory that the assassin was actuated by revenge for some real or supposed injury suffered by him at the hands of unfortunate women, we are thrown back upon the belief that these murders were really committed by a madman, or by a man whom a sottish passion interlaced with a lust for blood places too far outside the pale of human feelings to be governed by commonly recognized motives. However, if the police are right in believing that certain flash rings were torn from Nichol's finger, this is a circumstance which slightly disconcerts the idea that the murderer was a simple maniac. But, on the whole, this is the most plausible theory, and, without any intention to accentuate alarm, it may be pointed out that, if it is correct, the ordinary motives of prudence which deter murderers from a speedy repetition of their crime cannot be reckoned upon in aid of the safety of wretched women in Whitechapel. - Times.