Joined MEPO 1871, warrant no. 53559. Resigned 1896.
Walter Beck is generally accepted as being the first policeman to arrive at the scene of the Mary Kelly murder, on the morning of 9 November 1888. The Times reported that he was also present at the Annie Chapman inquest on 13 September 1888.
Beck was on duty at Commerical Road station when McCarthy (or Bowyer, or both) ran in at around 11am on the morning of 9 November, asking for Inspector Reid. As Reid was not available, Beck spoke with the man, and quickly learned of the ghastly discovery at 13 Miller's Court. Beck followed him back to the murder scene, though whether or not other constables accompanied them at this time is uncertain. Various sources claim that Walter Dew, George Godley, or Edward Badham accompanied Beck to Miller's Court.
According to Beck's testimony at the Kelly inquest, he viewed the body and immediately closed Miller's Court - keeping outsiders out, and all possible witnesses within. He called for a doctor and began a search of the area with the assistance of several constables.
Walter Dew vividly described the events of that morning in his memoirs, I Caught Crippen, published in 1938:
If I remember rightly it was between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning that I looked in at Commercial Street police station to get into touch with my superiors. I was chatting with Inspector Beck, who was in charge of the station, when a young fellow, his eyes bulging out of his head, came panting into the police station. The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word.
At last he managed to stammer out something about " Another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful. Jack McCarthy sent me."
Mr. McCarthy was well-known to us as a common lodging-house proprietor.
"Come along, Dew," said Inspector Beck, and gathering from the terrorized messenger that Dorset Street was the scene of whatever had happened, we made him our pilot, as we rushed in that direction, collecting as many constables as we could on the way.
The youth led us a few yards down Dorset Street from Commercial Street, until we came to a court approached by an arched passage, three feet wide and unlighted, in which there were two entrances to houses which fronted on Dorset Street. The place was known as Miller's Court.
Leaving the constables to block Dorset Street and to prevent anyone from leaving the court itself, Inspector Beck and I proceeded through the narrow archway into what might be described as a small square. It was a cul-de-sac, flanked on all four sides by a few mean houses.
The house on the left of the passage was kept by McCarthy as a chandler's shop, while one room of the houses on the right was rented by a girl named Marie Kelly.
McCarthy's messenger was by this time able to tell a more or less coherent story. He told us that some of the neighbours had become alarmed at the non-appearance that morning of Kelly. They had spoken about it to McCarthy, and he had sent the youth to find her.
The door of her room was locked, but the lad looked through a broken pane of glass in the only window in the room which faced the wider part of the court, and had seen something which froze the blood in his veins and sent him helter-skelter to the police station.
The room was pointed out to me. I tried the door. It would not yield. So I moved to the window, over which, on the inside, an old coat was hanging to act as a curtain and to block the draught from the hole in the glass.
Inspector Beck pushed the coat to one side and peered through the aperture. A moment later he staggered back with his face as white as a sheet.
"For God's sake, Dew," he cried. "Don't look."
I ignored the order, and took my place at the window.
When my eyes had become accustomed to the dim light I saw a sight which I shall never forget to my dying day.
Inspector Beck quickly recovered from his shock and sent messages to the chief station by quick-running constables. From there the messages were promptly relayed by telegraph to Scotland Yard.
It should be noted that there are no surviving documents that confirm Dew was present with Beck that morning, so while the above story may be true, it should be regarded as strictly anecdotal.
Times (London) - 14 September 1888
Times (London) - 13 November 1888
Daily Telegraph (London) - 13 November 1888
The Jack the Ripper A-Z (Begg, Fido and Skinner)
I Caught Crippen (Dew)