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Evening News
London, U.K.
15 October 1888

A THEORY OF THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS.

[BY A MEDICAL MAN.]

The horrible tragedies which have from time to time during the last few months been enacted, as one might say, in our very midst have been of such an appalling nature as to set young and old, rich and poor, learned and unlearned a thinking.

Consequently one need not be surprised at the overwhelming number of would-be "theories," not only as to the mental state of the murderer, but also as to his social position and calling, which have been advanced by all sorts and conditions of men from the pot-boy to the psychopathologist, and from the dustman to the duke.

Whether the man sought for be an Englishman or a foreigner, or whether he be a butcher, a dissecting-room porter, or a junior member of the medical profession are questions for the correct answering of which the writer of these lines does not possess the requisite diagnostic acumen. But there are certain highly significant facts in connection with the crimes in question which enable one to form a decidedly distinct estimate of the mental condition of the murderer.

Before proceeding to formulate the one theory which to the writer's mind gives the only rational explanation of the dread acts under consideration it may be as well to consider those theories which have already been advanced. Homicidal mania, epilepsy, and syphilitic psychosis have one and all been requisitioned, but without success- firstly, because the peculiarity of the sexual element here presented is totally incompatible with a purely homicidal tendency; secondly, because the nature of the murders and mutilations precludes the possibility of their having been committed by an individual suffering from eroticism in epilepsy; and thirdly, because a maniac, through syphilis, must of necessity have "given himself away" long ago. There can, however, be little doubt that in the Whitechapel atrocities we are brought face to face with all the evidences of what is termed "Lustmord," i.e., murder (and mutilation too) committed from purely voluptuous motives, the perpetrator being one of those strange individuals who are otherwise unable to obtain complete sexual gratification.

This peculiar form of psycopathy is termed "Perversion of the sexual impulse (Perversion des Geschlichtstriebes) by von Krafft- Ebing, who, I his interesting and instructive work, entitled "Psychopathia Sexualis," distinctly states that in all cases of murder with mutilation, in which the bowels and genital organs have been either simply excised, or carried away as well, it may confidently be assumed that a "Lustmord" has been committed.

That there are various forms of the above-mentioned abnormal state is fully borne out by history. This Nero and Tiberius found exquisite delight in having young men and girls slaughtered before their very eyes, and Marshal Gilles de Rays (1440), who violated and murdered 800 children in eight years, not only declared that he experienced an indescribable pleasure in committing the crimes, but even preserved the heads of his prettiest victims as a keepsake.

Andreas Bichel ravished, murdered and mutilated several girls, and afterwards described the delight he experienced in the mutilations, and his desire at the time "to eat a piece."

Again Phillipe, whose custom it was to choke prostitutes post actum, calmly asserted: "I love women, but it is luscious to choke them;" and a certain Grassi, whose advances were strenuously resisted by the object of his desire, a female relative, stabbed her and her father, and then, having failed to obtain the desired result elsewhere, returned home, murdered his father, and killed several oxen into the bargain.

Instructive as the above cases certainly are, they nevertheless lack the solid value of those of a more recent date, in which either the family history of the individual concerned is given, or the results of a post-mortem examination have been made known.

In April, 1880, one Menesclou was tried and hanged for the murder of a four-year-old girl. The forearms of the child were discovered in his pockets; but certain specific organs were missing, and Menesclou, when interrogated as to their whereabouts was obviously disconcerted. Menesclou is described as being of limited intelligence, hard of hearing, and scrofulous, and had frequently been guilty of sexual perversity. His mother suffered from a form of periodical mania, one of his uncles was insane, and another a confirmed drunkard. At the post-mortem examination, pathological changes in his brain were discovered.

The case of the young shopman, Alton, in England, is also worthy of notice. This distinctly psychopathic individual one day enticed a mere child into some bushes in the outskirts of the town in which he was employed, &c., &c. On his return to business he made the following evtry in his diary: "Killed, to-day, a young girl, it was fine and hot." When arrested he exhibited no signs of emotion.

Alton's father had had an attack of acute mania, and a relation of his suffered from homicidal insanity. Again, a certain Leger, 24 years old, left his home to seek a situation, but after wandering about in the woods for eight days, he fell in with a 12-year-old girl, whom he violated and mutilated, eating a portion of her heart and drinking profusely of her blood. Leger was hanged, and a post-mortem showed pathological adhesions between the meninges and the brain.

In the case of Tirsh, a 55 year old pensioner who had already suffered 20 years' imprisonment for an attempted rape on a little girl of 10, we have to deal with a creature who added anthropophagism to his other crimes. In 1864, a widow having refused his offer of marriage, Tirsch conceived a deadly hatred for the sex; and having one day enticed an old woman into a wood, threw her to the ground, and as she still resisted, choked her to death. He then mutilated her in a typical manner, carrying home certain portions of her body, which he cooked and ate with dumplings. The remnants of this horrible repast was discovered in his house when he was arrested. Tirsch had been noted all his life as a peculiar, brutal, highly irritable and revengeful man, and shortly before his last crime had suffered from outburst of ungovernable passion even on slightest provocation.

The case of the Marquis Sade has been too often told to require mention here.

That stuprum is not nedessary for the gratification of the sexu-psychopathically afflicted is clearly shown by the fact that even wallowing in the steaming entrails of slaughtered animals has been known to answer all purposes. Gyro, also, who in ten years strangled and mutilated eight women, did not always violate them as well. The nature of the mutilations performed by Gyro, and the fact that he escaped detection for ten years, render his case one of the great importance. Many similar cases could be cited.

Although it may be objected that not one of the above-mentioned crimes agrees in every detail with the Whitechapel mysteries, yet the extraordinary similarity of the latter to the former fully justifies the assumption that the "demon" at present at work in the East-end of London is in all probability an anthropologically degenerate individual, suffering from "perversion of the sexual impulse."

NOTE. - Caesar, Narses, Napoleon I, and Mahomet all suffered from epilepsy.


NOTES.

Mr. Matthews, the Home Secretary, has just shown once more how little he is in touch with public opinion, and how little he cares about it. The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee requested that a free pardon might be granted to an accomplice or accomplices of the murderer. Mr. Matthews' reply is simply stupendous in the profundity of its stupidity. He says: "It is obvious that not only must such a grant be limited to persons who have not been concerned in contriving or in actually committing the murders, but the expediency and propriety of making the offer must largely depend on the nature of the information received from day to day, which is being carefully watched, with a view to determining that question." These murders have been going on for months, and Mr. Matthews is still carefully watching them with a view to determining what shall be done! It is quite probable that the East-end murderer has no accomplices. If he has, the offer of a pardon might do good; if he has not it can do no harm. The material fact is that such an offer would tend to allay panic in the East-end, and so be of the greatest value. But Mr. Matthews is careless of all this, and goes on his own blundering stupid way.


THE EAST END MURDERS.

JACK THE RIPPER'S HANDWRITING IDENTIFIED.

A CLUE WORTH ACTING ON.

Superintendent Farmer, of the River Tyne Police, has received information which, it is considered, may form a clue to the Whitechapel murders. An Austrian seaman signed articles on board a Faversham vessel in the Tyne, on Saturday, and sailed for a French port. Afterwards it was found that his signature corresponded with the facsimile letters signed "Jack the Ripper," and that the description of the man also corresponded with that of the Whitechapel murderer circulated by the Metropolitan police. Superintendent Farmer will, to-day, telegraph the result of his inquiries to the Criminal Investigation Department.

AN ARREST AN CHORLEY.

This morning, at Chorley, a stranger, giving the name of John Williams, was brought before the magistrates under singular circumstances. On Saturday night he went into a public-house, drew a long sharp knife from a sheath, boasted that he was "Jack the Ripper," and had polished four off, and meant to do another. A paper was found on him, showing that he had recently travelled in the neighbourhood of London.

The Chief Commissioner of Police has caused the following statement to be circulated: "With reference to a statement in various journals that the word "Jews" is spelt "Juwes," in the Yiddish jargon, the Commissioner of Police has ascertained that this is incorrect. It is not known that there is any dialect or language in which the word "Jews" is spelt "Juwes."

THE HOME SECRETARY ON FREE PARDONS.

The following communication has been received by the chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in answer to a request that a free pardon might be proclaimed to an accomplice or accomplices of the murderer:

"October 12th, 1888.
"Sir- I am desired by the Secretary of State to thank you for the suggestions in your letter of the 7th inst. On the subject of the recent Whitechapel murders, and to say in reply that, from the first, the Secretary of State has had under consideration the question of granting a pardon to accomplices. It is obvious that not only must such a grant be limited to persons who have not been concerned in contriving or in actually committing the murders, but the expediency and propriety of making the offer must largely depend on the nature of the information received from day to day, which is being carefully watched, with a view to determining that question.

"With regard to the offer of a reward, Mr. Matthews has, under the existing circumstances, nothing to add to his former letter. - I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

(Signed) "Godfrey Lushington."

"JACK THE RIPPER" WRITES TO THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE.

Last Friday, Mr. George Lusk, who is a member of the WHitechapel Vigilance Committee, received the following letter:

"I write you a letter in black ink, as I have no more of the right stuff. I think you are all asleep in Scotland-yard with your bloodhounds, as I will show you to-morrow night (Saturday). I an going to do a double event, but not in Whitechapel. Got rather too warm there. Had to shift. No more till you hear me again. "JACK THE RIPPER."

This letter was shown to the police. It bears a Kilburn postmark, and the handwriting is very similar to that of the post-card sent to a news agency, which has been copied and posted on the hoardings throughout the East-end by the police.


SELF-ACCUSED OF MURDER.

A man giving the name of William Russell, and stating that he was discharged a week ago from an American ship, the National Eagle, at the Victoria Docks, Liverpool, has given himself up to the police at Maidenhead, accusing himself of having committed a murder in London on Tuesday night last. He says that on the night in question he had been drinking with a prostitute, whom he calls "Annie." They subsequently quarreled, and he threw the woman over the parapet of Westminster Bridge into the Thames. He then ran away, and has since been hiding at Kew and Windsor. Haunted, howeverm by the belief that he was being hunted down, he became so uneasy that he could get no rest, and consequently surrendered himself to the police. He describes the woman as rather good looking, of dark complexion, and rather stout - "the type," he says, "of a London girl."

Russell was detained by the police, and late last night the attention of Sergeant Meade was attracted by a strange gurgling sound, as of some one suffocating. The officer went to the room where the prisoner was confined, and found him black in the face from an attempt to strangle himself. He had tied a silk handkerchief tightly round his throat, the sergeant arriving just in time to remove it and save the man's life. He was charged before the magistrates, to-day, with attempting suicide, and remanded for a week for inquiries to be made.


Related pages:
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       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 11 October 1888 
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       Ripper Letters: Ripper Letters 
       Ripper Media: Dear Boss... Three letters attributed to Jack the Ripper 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: Letters From Hell 
       Ripper Media: Three Letters From Hell 
       Witnesses: Emily Marsh 
  William Russell
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