October 6th, 1888
Two more atrocious murders have been committed in the East-end of London this week. These and previous crimes of the same description are believed to be the work of one man, possibly a homicidal lunatic, who is still at large. Handsome rewards have been offered for the murderer's apprehension, innumerable suggestions have been made as to the best means of tracking him, and several arrests have been effected. It is still more than likely, however, that these crimes will go unpunished, and it is even possible they may be repeated with impunity. Something like a panic prevails in East London; and throughout the Metropolis the incidents of a series of brutal crimes seem to wholly absorb public interest.
October 6th, 1888
IT is superfluous to insist on the horror of the last two murders in Whitechapel. They are in every respect similar to the four which have already been committed. There has been the same secrecy, the same impunity as yet, the same mystery as to motive and method, and in one case the same disgusting mutilations. The nature of these last is now well known, and need not be dwelt upon. The practical things to consider are the attitude which ought to be taken by the public in the presence of this outbreak of crime, and the steps which are most likely to lead to the discovery of the criminal, if there is but one, or the gang, if any gang is at work.
As regards the line of conduct to be followed by the public, there ought to be no panic. There is no occasion for one. There outrages are confined to one district and to one class of women, the most difficult to control or protect of all the community. It is very natural that Whitechapel should be terrified; but even in Whitechapel people who work all day and go to their beds at night are in no greater danger than they would be elsewhere. The victims are the miserable creatures who must needs prowl about the streets in the dark. It will be a misfortune if there is one of these outbursts of popular excitement to which we have shown ourselves rather liable of late years. To say nothing of the evil effects of these fits on the sense of the community, one of them in this case would only confuse the police and aid the escape of the criminal. As for the authorities, they must, in the first place, take more of the precautions they have taken already, and make them more effective. When that is done they may profitably bethink themselves whether the case does not require the renewed use of a resource which has not been employed for some time -- namely, the offer of a reward. What may be called the ordinary precautions, frequency of patrolling and closeness of watch, have been taken already. But they have manifestly not been taken effectually enough, and more are wanted. If a patrol every twelve minutes does not suffice, there must be one every five minutes. It may be somewhat humiliating to the community to be compelled to exert itself so strenuously by one villain, or at the most a very few lurking scoundrels. There is even something oppressive in the thought that a dozen such creatures working in different quarters might terrify all London. Happily criminals rarely possess the combination of qualities -- the daring, rapidity, coolness, and cunning -- required for the successful perpetration of crime on this scale. Even if such masters of their business were more common, it would still be necessary to take the proper measures against them, by setting more watchmen to watch and sending all available patrols into the district. When the murderers of Lord F. CAVENDISH and Mr. BURKE were being hunted down marines in plain clothes were freely employed to drive them into a corner. The same measures might be taken again. For the rest, Whitechapel is a small place. It ought not to be impossible for the police to become acquainted with the movements of every man in it -- still more of every one who can be thought likely to be guilty of these crimes. We are told that on Sunday morning a cordon was immediately drawn round the district in which the murders took place. As the most successful of the two was known probably within a few minutes after it had been committed, there ought, if the police were really prompt and vigilant, to be good reason to hope that the murderer is in the net. Certain things seem to be very clear. The criminal must have a hiding-place in Whitechapel. He can hardly be the casual resident of a lodging-house. He can be no ordinary tramp. In so limited a field, and with a definite class to pick from, the police ought not to have any insuperable difficulty in running down their man.
The offer of a reward seems to us decidedly a step which ought to be taken. We have never thought that the reasons given for ceasing to work on the cupidity of the associates of criminals were sufficient. Some of them were sentimental and entitled to no respect. Others of a more businesslike character never appeared to us to possess the force attributed to them by the Home Office. One thing at least is very much beyond dispute. It is that since we have given up the practice of offering rewards we have not been more, but less, successful in our efforts to catch criminals. There is at this moment a very long list of crimes which have been committed with absolute impunity, and it is growing with disgraceful rapidity. We need not stop to inquire whether the detective work of the police is being done well or not. There would be a good deal to be said on that subject; but it may be left aside at present. It is enough that the detection of crime is not so well performed that we can afford to dispense with an old resource of which the validity has been well proved. In this case -- to put it on the weakest footing -- what harm could the offer of a reward do? There could hardly be any increase of work to the police caused by liars in search of a little money. Scotland-yard is overrun with vague suggestions as it is. If we have to deal with a solitary criminal who is not likely to betray himself, still there is no harm done. Even in that case, however, it is still possible that information of a useful character might be given by some members of his own brutal world who suspect of know something, but will not take the trouble to help the police unless they see a chance of profit. On these grounds we are of opinion that the Home Office, however naturally unwilling it may be to revoke its decision, and apparently stultify itself, should revert to the practice of offering a reward.
(FROM A CORRESPONDENT.)
THE recent series of enormities which have excited such horror must in all probability be due to some distorted or monomaniacal appetite which has grown by what it fed on. That this theory is a probable explanation of these hideous incidents is supported by the fact that there are recorded instances of cases nearly analogous. Just ninety-eight years ago there was a general panic all over London, caused by the atrocious doings of a mysterious person, who came to be generally known as "the monster." This wretch pursued his work in the open streets, and seemed to defy detection. Women were always his victims. A lady would be walking unattended, when she suddenly felt herself stabbed from behind. Often, if her dress happened to be thick, the stroke missed, though the depth of the cut showed how sharp was the instrument and how narrow the escape. More often, however, there was a serious stab or cut. The terror thus inspired could not be conceived; and nothing was talked of but "the monster."
A Miss Anne Porter and her sisters had often encountered a man in the streets who used to come up and, "leaning his head to their shoulder," utter some horrible words and then disappear. He was known to these ladies as "the wretch," and inspired them with a great deal of alarm. One night when Miss Anne Porter was coming from a ball at St. James's, walking home to her father's, the mysterious being stole up behind her as she was entering the house and struck her a blow on the hip; after which outrage he came up and stared into her face. It proved that she was terribly wounded, the cut being four or five inches deep. Yet strange to say, though his face was familiar to the sisters, no traces of him could be discovered. Six months passed away; and a Mr. Coleman chanced to be walking in St. James's Park, when Miss Porter called out that there was the man. Mr. Coleman followed him promptly and hunted him down. He was arrested, and proved to be a respectable tradesman named Renwick Williams. It was found at the trial that he was "the monster" from whom numbers had suffered in this extraordinary fashion. The shops were filled with portraits of the Monster, and the newspapers with extraordinary stories. Seventeen witnesses at the trial gave him the highest character for humanity, good-nature, and "kindness to the fair sex." He was found guilty; but a point of law being "saved" and determined in his favour, he appears to have got off. It will be noted what a similarity there is in this case and that of the Whitechapel assassin. The victims of "the monster" were women, and he seems by preference to have attempted something like the mutilations described in the newspapers. The monster of our day is evidently a wretch with demoniac and homicidal propensities, which have been stimulated by notoriety and discussion; the other monster appears to have pursued his course for six months, and, like his successor, to have used a sharp knife several inches long. Renwick Williams was undoubtedly a maniac; but a maniac who in ordinary life was mild, bland, and to all appearances quite inoffensive.