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New Zealand Observer
New Zealand

13 October 1888


London is panic stricken. High and low, rich and poor, are aghast, paralysed with horror at the unexampled series of murders which have latterly been of almost daily occurrence in the great Metropolis. Mighty Scotland Yard, the head quarters of the detective forces, is powerless, seemingly, to cope with this fiend who goes about murdering and mutilating women. I have said "This fiend" as if there were but one individual concerned in these appalling crimes, but the strong probability is that they are the work of several persons acting in concert.

It is almost incredible that, with a detective force second to none in the world and a costly and elaborate system for the entrapping and running to earth of criminals, to perfect which has involved years of careful organisation and extraordinary mental effort, the police authorities of London should in an emergency of this sort be helpless. All London is ringing with the horror of the thing. A universal feeling of dread and uneasiness is manifesting itself. The woman who reads, with hair standing on end, the details of some fresh outrage to-night cannot feel sure that on the morrow she may not be the next victim.

It is remarkable in this connection that all the victims are women and that they are all mutilated in the same way. Various theories have been advanced as to the object of the murderer or murderers. Our luminous evening contemporary endeavours to shed some light on the subject by suggesting that "the murders are being committed by or at the instance of some anatomist or medical man who wishes to make special study of the female system and its diseases...These horrible murders....will, we doubt not, prove to have been instigated by some unrecognised surgical school pursuing surgical studies under difficulties." To which, with all due respect, I would beg to remark - bosh!

Ample facilities exist in this day for the pursuit of anatomical studies, and any number of subjects are available for the experiments of both student and professor. Why should men risk their necks in securing that which may be had without risk of any sort? Things have altered considerably since the days of Burke and Hare, who, for a long period carried on a lucrative trade with the surgeons in supplying them with bodies for dissection, said bodies being those of persons murdered by the enterprising firm. And the "resurrectionist" who robbed graveyards and family vaults and sold the newly buried dead for the same purpose, he too has long ceased to ply his trade, simply because, with the changed order of things, that trade would no longer pay.

It is far more probable that these extraordinary murders are the work of some madman, or madmen, but be that as it may the tardiness exhibited by the police in unravelling the mystery and in bringing the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of these terrible crimes to light is very far from creditable.