East London Observer
Saturday, 20 October 1888.
Another Series of Atrocities.
Is the Murderer a Cannibal?
Three weeks have now passed since Elizabeth Stride was murdered in Berner-street, and Kate Eddowes was butchered and mutilated in Mitre-square, by - so far as circumstantial evidence can prove it - the same ruthless hand which had previously dispatched, and mutilated Emma Smith, Martha Tabram, Mary Ann Nicholls and Annie Chapman, and yet to all appearances the police are as far off the scent of the murderer as when the discovery of the Buck's Row victim first set them seriously to work. That so many murders should have been committed with impunity; that very nearly a year should have elapsed since the first "unfortunate" fell a victim to the destroyer's hand; and that the murderer should still remain undiscovered, is a condition of things - taking into consideration the vastly increased efficiency of the police force - absolutely without a parallel in this country. Williams, the Welsh lawyer's clerk, who, about a century ago, went about stabbing indiscriminately at women in the public streets, was speedily caught; John Williams, better known as "the Marr murderer" of Ratcliff, was caught within a comparatively short time after the commission of his fifth crime, and even Burke, of Edinburgh, only managed to dispatch his third victim before the law had its iron hand round his throat. Indeed, to find anything like a parallel to the present atrocities and the present circumstances, it is necessary to go to Texas in the early days of primitive civilisation, when two white women and several negresses of loose character were found with their throats cut, while the question as to who was their murderer was as much a mystery then, as it remains to the present day. One curious feature of the Texas atrocities, was that the murders were invariably found to be committed when the moon was full, from which fact it was generally believed that the murderer was a lunatic.
The history of the week has been little more than a repetition of previous weeks - a series of false alarms, false arrests, fruitless theories, and useless house to house visitations on the part of the police. The only startling event worth chronicling is the following: From inquiries made at Mile End, we are enabled to give particulars, on the most reliable authority, concerning the receipt of certain letters and a parcel at the house of a member of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. A letter, delivered shortly after five o'clock on Tuesday evening, was accompanied by a cardboard box containing what appeared to be a portion of a kidney. The letter was in the following terms: "From Hell. - Mr. Lusk. - Sir, - I send you half the kidney I took from one woman. Prasarved it for you. Tother piece I fried and ate; it was very nice. I may send you the bloody knife that took it out, if you only wate whil longer - (Signed.) CATCH ME WHEN YOU CAN, MR. LUSK." The receiver was at first disposed to think that a hoax had been perpetrated, but eventually decided to take the opinion of the Vigilance Committee. Mr. F. S. Reed, who is assistant to Dr. Wiles, on Thursday examined the contents of the box in the presence of several members of the committee, and declared the substance to be the half of a human kidney, which had been divided longitudinally; but in order to remove any reason for doubt, he conveyed it to Dr. Openshaw, who is Pathological Curator of the London Hospital Museum. The doctor examined it, and pronounced it to be a portion of a human kidney - a "ginny" kidney - that is to say, one that had belonged to a person who had drunk heavily. He was further of the opinion that it was the organ of a woman of about 45 years of age, and that it had been taken from the body within the last three weeks. It will be within public recollection that the left kidney was missing from the woman Eddowes, who was murdered and mutilated in Mitre-square. On Thursday, two members of the committee took the parcel to Scotland Yard, but the police authorities there referred them to the detectives at Leman-street. At the latter place the officer who is directing inquiries took down the statement of the receiver. The box and its contents were left in the care of the police pending further investigation.
At the meeting of the Board of Works (Whitechapel) on Monday, on the reading of Mr. Chas. Warren's letter to the Board on the administration of the police, Mr. CATMUR said that although the outward excitement occasioned by the recent murders had somewhat abated, the uneasiness felt by the inhabitants of Whitechapel had not diminished. In fact it was growing deeper as time went on, and the perpetrators of the atrocities were not discovered. What had the chief of police really done about the matter? There had been great apparent fuss in pouring a large number of constables into the district, and Sir Charles Warren's letter suggested that other action of a "secret" nature had been taken; but whether "secret" or apparent, both actions were alike ineffective. "Every nerve has been strained" according to Sir Charles Warren, and "no means have been spared" according to the Home Secretary, and yet nothing was discovered except the weakness and incompetence of the existing police system. He was forced, therefore, to the conclusion that the organisation of the police was out of order, and that a through revision of the system was needed. The object of a police system was to detect crime and bring offenders to justice; this the metropolitan police were failing to do. Under these circumstances he thought it was the duty of the Board to go a step further and with that object he moved: "This Board hereby expresses it's intense disappointment that the perpetrators of the recent East End atrocities are still undiscovered, notwithstanding that the Chief Commissioner of the Police stated a fortnight ago 'that every nerve has been strained to detect the criminal;' and that a large force of police has been drafted into the Whitechapel district to assist those already there to the full extent necessary to meet the requirements; and that the Home Secretary promised a week since that 'no means will be spared in tracing the offender, and in bringing him to justice.' This Board therefore regretfully concludes that the metropolitan police as at present organised are not sufficient, either in numbers or efficiency so to protect the lives and property of the ratepayers, as to secure, in the words of Sir Charles Warren, that crime is reduced and brought to a minimum by rendering it most difficult to escape attention. This Board therefore asks that a Committee of the House of Commons may be appointed as early as possible to inquire into the whole subject of the police arrangements in the metropolis. That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Sir Charles Warren, the Home Secretary, to the Prime Minister, and to each of the Vestries and District Boards, reminding them that while the police were unable to bring criminals to justice, the safety of life and property is in danger throughout the entire metropolis, and asking them for their support in the demand for early inquiry."
Mr. TARLING, in seconding this, expressed the opinion that crime would never be effectively dealt with until the control of the police was vested in local authorities.
Mr. HARRIS, C.C., questioned whether the circumstances justified a resolution of such a strong and sweeping character, and he counseled deferring action for a time until they saw whether the extensions of the police were meeting with better fortune. To his mind the railing of the police was unjustified, for they were doing all they could.
Mr. RYCROFT remarked that Sir Charles Warren had twitted the Board for its defective lighting, and he desired to say that after some hours perambulation of the district he had come to the conclusion that the lighting generally was excellent, though there were places here and there where some arrangements of the lamps would be an improvement.
Mr. ILSLEY (Metropolitan Board) expressed his reluctance to support so sweeping a resolution; and, in fact, he was of opinion that it would be unbecoming of the Board to commit themselves to it. The notion that to the absence of local control the failure to arrest the criminal was to be ascribed seemed ridiculous, when it was remembered that the Mitre-square atrocity was committed in an area where the police are under local control, and where, withal, there was a private watch on duty. That the murderer has not been discovered yet was no doubt deplorable, but that was no reason why a public Board should sanction random and violent denunciations of the police for not succeeding where - owing to the peculiar circumstances - success was nearly impossible.
Mr. KARAMELLI said it was intended that there should be a considerable permanent addition to the strength of the police force in the Whitechapel district.
Mr. BALHAM said he should support the resolution, for it was monstrous that respectable people could not use the streets without serious risk of robbery and assault. They were not complaining about the police as a body, but of the system by which the police were managed.
Mr. RICE said the great mistake consisted of making a man Chief of Police who knew nothing whatever of the force under his control. There were members and subordinate officers who knew London's wants and peculiarities intimately, and promotion to the chief control should have been made from among those, and not from the army. The first thing in London police reform was to get rid of the military element of command, and to throw promotion open to the best qualified man in the force itself.
Mr. NICHOLSON said he felt quite ashamed to hear the violent and unjustified attacks upon Sir Charles Warren. Why could it not be remembered that in every case of the series of atrocities, the murderer and his victim were alike engaged in hiding from the police? Did any body really suppose that, were the police reconstituted on the newest principles which Radical talkers imagine, the force could be answerable for the safety of those who sneaked away into dark corners on purpose to avoid the constable? The fact was that Sir Charles Warren, a good soldier, was a good administrator, and a first-rate Commissioner of Police, and the partizans of rioting were finding in the recent crimes, a pretext for attacking him and misrepresenting him.
Mr. BROWN, supporting the resolution, ascribed much of the notorious inefficiency of the police and the district with which they were regarded, as due to their having been employed for political purposes; and the control of the police had, at the same time, become far too military.
Mr. A. TURNER (the clerk of the Board) expressed the opinion that the resolution was a very unwise one, and not one that a deliberative assembly should like to sanction. Apart from the suspicion of political feeling, it would be a pity to lend countenance to charges so sweeping upon evidence so slight and undefined.
Mr. CATMUR protested that the ascription of political motives to him was totally unjustified. A case of reform, or at least inquiry, had been made out, and all he asked was that Parliament investigate it.
The CHAIRMAN questioned whether the Board were prepared to ask Parliament to open an inquiry, and he had heard nothing which seemed like a case for submission to Parliament. It had been declared that crime had "culminated" in these atrocities, but the truth was that these atrocities were sui generis. Nothing of the kind had occurred before; they had a character peculiar to themselves, and that character made detection - under any imaginable police system - most unlikely. He counseled them to reflect, as men of business, whether they really had anything tangible to take to the House of Commons and whether it was really desirable or necessary, for instance, to largely increase the police force of London, and so largely increase taxation.
After some further discussion, the resolution was put from the chair, and rejected by a majority of 15 against 13; and, on a division, by 16 against 15.