The Eastern Post & City Chronicle
Saturday, 6 October 1888.
It is unhappily impossible to exaggerate the consternation created by the accumulated horrors, which, for the past few weeks, have made Whitechapel a word in everybody's mouth. The crimes are so awful in character, and so mysterious in execution, that they produce fear and apprehension in the locality where they are committed, and wonder and alarm in districts removed from the scenes of violence. That such deeds of ferocious cruelty can be perpetrated with apparent impunity in the midst of a crowded and civilised community, is sufficient cause for wonder and alarm; those in the neighbourhood have abundant excuse for the keener sentiment of fear and apprehension. It is a long time since crime has made so profound an impression. This is in part due to the nature and circumstances of the crimes, but still more perhaps to the immunity enjoyed by the criminal. It is a new terror for a community, which pays heavily to be protected from crime, to find that the protection fails when it is most needed. And it is an undesirable lesson to teach the criminal classes that the more audacity they display in their calling the more likely they are to escape detection. People stricken with fear at the presence in their midst of horrible crime undetected may be pardoned a grumble at the authorities to whom they look for protection, especially when they find that their grumble is echoed by complaints from quarters where there is less cause for anxiety. There can be no doubt that confidence in our police force has been considerably undermined of late. New masters, new methods, new rules, and new manners have not tended to improve the relations between the police and the public, nor have they increased the efficiency of the force. There is more official business and less public confidence in its management. The metropolitan police, unfortunately, are not under popular control. They are still the appendage of a state department. The privilege enjoyed by provincial towns of managing their own protective and detective forces against crime is denied the inhabitants of London, nor has Mr. Ritchie held out any hope that the Government will trust the people in this matter. The inconvenience, to say the least of it, of this divorce of police management from civil control is seen in the powerlessness of the local authorities upon emergencies such as that which has now arisen. Doubtless it would be well if there could be a more cordial co-operation between the local authority and the police; but that is just what the present system tends to prevent. What can be done in this respect will we hope be done. Every nerve must be strained on both sides to relieve the district from the terror that has seized upon it, and to restore confidence in the power and ability of the law to protect even the humblest and most despised of its inhabitants, who, because of their miserable and outcast condition, plead perhaps most powerfully for protection and help.
REPORTED ARREST OF THE MURDERER.
PURSUING AN AMERICAN.
CAPTURED IN A CAB.
EXCITING NIGHT SCENES IN WHITECHAPEL
SEVERAL ARRESTS MADE.
A rumour was circulated on Thursday morning of the arrest of a man in High Street, Shadwell, who was, it was stated, believed to be the Whitechapel murderer. It was also said that a watchman who followed him had been stabbed by the man, and killed. Nothing, however, has been heard of such an arrest or murder at Scotland Yard.
On Wednesday night the wildest rumours were afloat, and the region east of Aldgate witnessed a series of scenes unprecedented, perhaps, in the history of London crime. Again and again reports came to hand that the murderer had been captured in this and that district.
Just after 10 o'clock a well-dressed man rushed out of the Three Nuns public-house in Aldgate followed by a woman, who, in a loud voice, declared to the loungers and passers-by that he had molested and threatened her. While he was thus being denounced the stranger hailed a cab, jumped in, and proceeded to drive off. It was the universal belief that the murderer was the occupant, and a hot pursuit was given. In a moment or two the cab was stopped, and a police-constable got in, secured the man, and directed the cabman to drive to the Leman Street Police-station. Here the prisoner was formally charged on suspicion.
The cab was followed to the station by the girl who had raised the outcry. She stated to the police in the most emphatic manner that the prisoner had first accosted and molested her in the street, and that when she refused to accede to his proposals he threatened physical violence. This occurred in the Whitechapel High Street. While the woman was making her statement the prisoner held down his head and looked at the ground, and he never once attempted a denial. When, however, a man stepped forward to corroborate the girl's story, he looked up angrily and denied the truth of the allegations with considerable emphasis. The woman was then asked if she desired to make any charge, but declined to do so, and shortly after left the station.
It was, however, deemed prudent by the officer in charge to detain the man pending inquiries. He is an athletically-built determined-looking fellow, apparently about 40 years of age, with a dark moustache and clearly-cut features. On his pockets being searched no weapons of any kind were found upon him. He gave his name, but refused to state his address. When removed to the cell his attitude became defiant. In the course of the conversation, which he carried on with a slightly American accent while pacing up and down his place of confinement, the frequency with which he used the word "Boss" was particularly noticed. The man is stated to have been slightly under the influence of drink when brought to the station. Throughout the night he maintained the attitude of defiance, and little or no information regarding his identity, and the nature of his movements, could be extracted from him. He still remains in custody.
Between 9 and 10 o'clock on Wednesday night another arrest was effected in the Ratcliff Highway by Sergeant Adams, of the H division. The officer in question, hearing a woman screaming for help in an adjacent court, proceeded in the direction of the cries, and met a man, who was evidently a foreigner, leaving the place. He took the fellow into custody, more especially as it occurred to him that he bore a striking resemblance to the published police description of the man who is said to have been seen with "Long Liz" on the Saturday night preceding her murder. The captive, who went quietly to the Leman Street Police-station, told the sergeant he was sailing from this country for America today. At the police-station the man told the inspector that he was a Maltese, and willingly furnished his name and address. No weapons were found upon him. The inquiries that were instituted proving to be quite satisfactory, the unlucky foreigner was released in the course of the morning. This capture gave rise in the course of the night to some wild and grossly exaggerated rumours. Not only was it currently reported that the murderer had been captured, but it was asserted that the police officer in securing him had been stabbed. This report even reached the headquarters of the City Police at Old Jewry.
A third arrest was also made in Shadwell at a late hour in the neighbourhood of Cable Street, and the man brought to Leman Street. Here again the man was able to give a very straightforward and satisfactory explanation as to his identity and other particulars, and there was no other course open to the police than to at once discharge him.
Within an hour of going to press our representative visited the various police stations, and interviewed some of the officers engaged in the investigation. There was no disposition evinced to give any information, and considerable care was shown lest any word should escape them that could be in any way used as news to the public. Each of those seen admitted that up to the time of speaking nothing further had occurred, nor had any additional clue been discovered.
The very temperate and brief resolution passed by the Whitechapel District Board of Works, anent the Whitechapel atrocities, and forwarded to Sir Charles Warren and to the Home Secretary, has called forth from the former a long letter of explanations, complaints, apologies and promises.
A more skilful letter writer would have imitated the brevity of the communication received, and in a few terse sentences he would have asserted the dignity of his responsible position, probably without laying himself open to adverse criticism. The resolution forwarded was of the simplest character:- "That this board regards with horror and alarm the several atrocious murders recently perpetrated in the district of Whitechapel and its vicinity, and calls upon Sir Charles Warren so to regulate and strengthen the police force in the neighbourhood as to guard against any repetition of such atrocities. "
We might have thought that the reply would have been - " I sympathise with you in the horror and alarm excited by the atrocities, and you may depend that I am doing all in my power to guard against any repetition of them."
But although Sir Charles says all that in his answer, he ventures upon a general defence, which lays him open to much criticism.
The Whitechapel Board carefully abstained from censuring the police, and we should be sorry to say anything that would discourage them in their very onerous and difficult work. But when it is stated "and the very fact that you may be unaware of what the detective department is doing is stronger proof that it is doing its work with secrecy and efficiency," we reply, that with secrecy it may be, but certainly not with efficiency, so long as the perpetrators of the crimes remain undiscovered. Again, Sir Charles says the prevention of murder "is reduced and brought to a minimum by rendering it most difficult to escape detection." But this is just what we complain that the police have not done. Murder has followed upon murder, and the perpetrators have evidently escaped detection with the greatest ease. Sir Charles Warren's force, large as it is, and highly drilled as it is supposed to be, did not make it any more difficult for the murderer to escape detection from Berner Street and Mitre Square than for the miscreant who was the first operator in the series of atrocities.
We merely appeal to facts, Sir Charles argues. He suggests that if there had been more public lamps in the streets the murders might not have occurred. He hints that the force is not numerous enough. He throws blame upon the poor women; "the victims actually connive at their own destruction". In fact, it cannot be the fault of the force that the murderers go free. If some one will only hand them over to the police, then they will do their duty, but the difficulties of the case altogether put the discovery of them by the police out of the question.
That is what the public complain of, and they have the right to complain loudly. They pay very heavily for an efficient force for the discovery and condign punishment of criminals. If crimes are committed with impunity they are sure to multiply as have the Whitechapel murders, and the public do not get what they pay for and have a right to expect.
One crumb of comfort we get from Sir Charles Warren's letter, and that is "that every nerve has been strained to detect the criminal or criminals, and to render more difficult further atrocities."
We are thus left to hope, but our hearts are getting well nigh sick by hope so long deferred, and we seriously and respectfully caution Sir Charles that should another similar atrocity occur with the same impunity Londoners will insist upon some very radical changes in the organisation of their police.