Bristol, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
29 November 1888
THE CONVICTS IN TWO PRISONS ON THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
A General Decision That the Murderer Is a Lunatic - All Agree That He Should Be Hanged if Captured - If Caught at All It Will Be by Accident
Reporters of the New York Evening Sun have interviewed several of the convicts at Sing Sing and at the New Jersey State Prison, on the subject of the Whitechapel murders.
At Sing Sing, Arthur Williamson, a bright young fellow who is doing a five years' term for burglary, was the first man seen. He had heard of the murders, and his first conclusion was that the man who committed them is undoubtedly crazy.
"Either he has been deceived by a woman," said Williamson, "or he has received by association with them some deep physical injury. He is probably one of the higher class of people, perhaps a medical student. He is not of the Whitechapel folks, but must be looked for outside."
Charles A Clark, a forger with a sentence of four years and eight months, was a very intelligent Englishman, and almost had a map of Whitechapel in his head. He spoke of the favorable nature of that district, with its countless courts and alleys, for the commission and concealment of crimes like these.
"If the murderer is caught I am inclined to think it will be by accident," said Clark.
George Edwards, also an Englishman and a forger, said the murderer was undoubtedly a crank. Probably he had been a medical student, as his work was done so skilfully, and he had allowed his studied to lead him the wrong way. He was probably affected by association with the class of women whom he now seeks to remove. Edwards did not believe the murderer would stop when he got fifteen victims. He would probably keep right on. Such a series of crimes would hardly be possible under the American detective system, but were undoubtedly aided in London by the nature of the locality.
"An officer in woman's clothing might be able to do something," suggested Edwards, "if he could play his part well."
John Dean is a ruggedly built fellow serving out a twenty years' term for manslaughter. He is an Englishman and has been a sailor.
"My first thought about these murders," said he, "was that they might have been the work of a revengeful Malay sailor who had been cheated by one of these women and took short voyages between the crimes to elude suspicion. The objection to that conclusion is that some of the other women would have known of the cheating and would not have kept still about it. But the final conclusion that I have been forced to is that the murderer, from some cause, is a maniac on that subject - a fanatic.
It is easy enough for him to elude the police in that locality; even if he were covered with blood, it would be nothing unusual, for there are slaughter houses near, and I myself have seen a man with a bloody knife held in his mouth run out to get a pail of beer and then hurry back."
Steve Raymond is an Englishman, too. He is in Sing Sing for life, and is the only convict serving such a term as that for forgery. He comes under the amended habitual criminals law.
Raymond believed the murderer to be a high class, well educated man, very cunning and crazy on that one point. He did not think the man accosted Whitechapel women, but that he sauntered through that locality and let himself be led; then when a suitable place was reached he would seize his victim after the fashion of the garroter, pull his knife quickly as the woman became limp and then complete his work.
"He carries, I think," said Raymond, "some little articles of disguise, perhaps an alpaca coat and gloves, which can be folded up small and put on very quickly."
All considered that the man comes from the higher class of people, and, being most extraordinary in his character and deeds, will require most extraordinary means for his capture.
At the New Jersey state prison the following opinions were obtained:
Libbie Garrabandt, who, when a young woman, poisoned her old husband to accept the love of a younger man, and who has in consequence spent the best years of her life in prison, did not seem disposed to discuss the Whitechapel murders. She said it made her shudder to hear of such horrible crimes. She believed that no one but a lunatic could be the guilty man.
John Nugent, formerly a New York policeman and who is supposed to have been concerned in the well remembered Manhattan bank robbery, but who is serving a term here for a different offense, knew more of the London murders than any of the other convicts.
This is accounted for by the fact that Nugent is one of the clerks of the prison library, and, therefore, has more facility for learning the news of the outside world.
"I doubt very much," said he, "whether it is the one man that is committing all these murders. I don't believe one man could follow it up for so long and not be discovered. I think there is a band of them, who for some devilish purpose of their own have pledged themselves to each slay on or two of these women of the street.
"Either that, or else several men of fiendish souls are acting independently of each other and unknown to each other, one having taken inspiration from the deed of another."
Some of the other convicts expressed themselves with brevity, and a number had nothing to say. Here are some of the expressions: By a man who himself narrowly escaped the Gallows: If there is one or a dozen of them they ought to be strung up as soon as found. They don't need any trial.
By a Hudson County man doing time for assault: It looks like the kind of murders a woman would commit rather than a man.
By a burglar: If they had the same kind of police in Newark I wouldn't be in prison now.
By a Camden barn burner: If it's one man doing all these murders, he's crazy as Guiteau was; but that kind of craziness ought to be punished with hanging every time.