12 October 1888
Many thanks for your notice of our shelter just opened. It is wrong to suppose that we purpose soliciting or bringing in any unfortunate women, or, in fact, any one. The police have orders that if they find anyone without a shelter, or the means to obtain it, they go to our shelter. The readiness with which the police have all accepted the duty is an answer to the objectors. They are all very pleased that there is such a place, and many a one will be sheltered from the next bitter winter. How many are made thieves and prostitutes from having no shelter or means of obtaining it? The Bishop of Bedford will do well to open his home for fallen women and may bring thousands back to the good path and do mountains of good. We only profess to open the door to a poor wretch and let he or she rest in the warm until the day comes. On Tuesday night - our second at the shelter - we had fifty men, eight women, and two children, who, but for the shelter, would have had to wander about all night, or attempt to sleep on a doorstep or in a corner. They were all well behaved and grateful. Can any argument be needed that the movement is a good one, and wanted, and capable of doing great good? It is in no way an opposition to any movement to help the poor. All good movements in this direction are wanted, and deserve encouragement.
I am, yours faithfully,
212 Devonshire Road, Forest Hill.
Among the countless suggestions that have been made for the present assistance or future guidance of the powers that be, is one from Miss Frances Power Cobbe, who asks, "Why should such a thing as a female detective be unheard of in the land?" She goes on to say:- "A clever woman of unobtrusive dress and appearance (she need not be 5ft 7in) would possess over masculine rivals not a few advantages. She would pass unsuspected where a man would be instantly noticed; she could extract gossip from other women much more freely; she would move through the streets and courts without waking the echoes of the pavement by a sonorous military tread; and, lastly, she would be in a position to employ for whatsoever it may be worth that gift of intuitive quickness and 'mother wit' with which her sex is commonly credited."
Miss Cobbe is usually an extraordinarily well informed women, but in this matter she is not "up to date." I am aware that Government does not recognise the sex in connection with the police force, and that Scotland yard does not include a contingent of plain clothes - by the way, this sounds as if it would be a very unkind restriction - policewomen. But at the present moment there are scores of female detectives in London, either in the regular or casual employ of the Private Inquiry and Investigation Offices. It is one of the most curious fields of female labour that there that there is; and so, Miss Cobbe's letter in hand, I went to two of the most eminent forms, one in the City and one near Charing cross, to hear their opinions as to the practical worth of the idea in connection with recent horrible events.
In the first, the principal began by saying, "We do nothing in common criminal investigations, but only in the complications and refinements of transgressions against the laws. Women are often useful to us here; if they have certain qualifications. A good female detective is the cruellest, the most devilish creature under the sun, and I am paying a compliment to the sex in saying that she must drop all her beautiful womanly attributes to be of any service. She must not have a spark of gentleness or pity in her nature, and be fiendishly calculating and foreseeing. I employ numbers of them in, say, divorce or money cases, and I can meet the wants of all classes by providing them with women of all ranks, from a Russian princess or a Polish countess down to a factory girl. I pay some of them two hundred a year, and they are always provided with unlimited money in cases of emergency. One of my staff is indoors at this moment. Would you like to talk to her?" She came down. She wore a neatly made black dress and jacket and a pretty black bonnet with a few well chosen coloured flowers. Altogether she would have passed muster anywhere as a typical shop girl or a middle class governess. In age she said she was about 25. "What sent you into the profession?" I asked, and she replied, "I came here to Mr. _____ as a copying clerk, and I thought that the detective work seemed interesting, and would be easy to me. On one occasion, when he was in very great straits to find a young woman, I offered to try. He sent me down to Nottingham, where I had to go into a lace factory and ostensibly learn the trade of lace making, while I kept my eyes and ears open to collect the evidence, which would be of enormous value in our case, in which £25,000 was at stake. I was successful and since then I have been in houses as companion, as lady's maid, or as nursemaid. I have been in all sorts of domestic scenes, some of them terribly rough ones. I have tracked guilty parties to Berlin, and have often been dogged myself by detectives on the other side. Only a night or two ago I found I was followed to an Underground station, and had to give the pursuers the slip by taking a ticket in an opposite direction, and making them think my day's work was over." "Have you no compunction in telling the secrets, or convicting the guilty one?" I asked. "Not the slightest," was her quiet reply. "It is my business to do so."
My next informant considered that the scope in which a woman was of value as a detective was extremely limited. "She can go," he began, "into a house, a shop, or a factory, or anywhere else where a woman may reasonably be employed. But for outdoor watching and tracking she is of little use, for there are so many situations in which it is common and usual to see a man, but noticeable to find a woman once, remarkable twice, and alarmingly suspicious the third time. Not long ago, I received orders to observe the not always satisfactory movements of a lady who lived in a London suburb. It was suggested that a female should be employed, as the lady believed that she was watched by men. But, in spite of my female agent's quick changes and resource, the lady soon saw reasons for suspecting espionage, when she observed how often another woman had to go to the same places in town as she had. And, despite her dread of male detectives, it was they who obtained all the information needed. I do not think women would be of the slightest use in the East end, while I cannot imagine that any one of them would undertake the work. But, putting that aside, there is no reliance to be placed on women who are not respectable and self respecting; while I wonder how Miss Cobbe imagines a woman, who was morally all that she ought to be, would behave as if she was on night duty as a plain clothes detective? A man comes along and offers her a drink - if she refuses it, why should she be out alone after dark? There is something suspicious at once. If she accepts it, in the exercise of her calling, it places her in company that is possessed of the keenest eyes in the world, and who would certainly 'spot' her. No; for criminal investigation of the ordinary kinds it is far less productive of suspicion to employ men, who can go into public houses, give and take quantities of drink, and act the blackguard among blackguards, as criminals generally are, if necessary, in the interests of justice. Women have been tried enough already as detectives to enable us to say that, save in investigations of domestic nature, men of small or average stature, ordinary appearance, cool head and rapidity of action, are the best at this class of work.
SCENE OF EXCITEMENT.
An exciting scene was today witnessed in Whitechapel. Shortly before noon a Polish journeyman butcher, named Alec Schiolish, employed at 139 Wentworth street, was cutting a piece of beef, when the knife, very sharp and tapering, slipped, and inflicted shocking abdominal injuries. His cries and groans, as he lay helpless in the shop, soon attracted attention, especially as the premises are within a few yards of the corner of Goulston street, where the piece of apron belonging to the Mitre square victim was discovered. Police Constable Frederick Medhurst, 22HR, together with other officers, at once repaired to the spot, where several hundred persons had already assembled, a false rumour speedily spreading that the unfortunate occurrence had some connection with the recent crimes. The sufferer, who lodges at 7 Pelham street, Brick lane, was removed in a cab to the London Hospital, crowds of excited persons running alongside the vehicle until it reached its destination. The patient's injuries, which were of a serious character, at once received the attention of the surgical staff.
FOUR MEN ATTACK A FOREIGNER.
SCENE IN FLOWER AND DEAN STREET.
Mary Hawkes, 18, and James Fordham, 21, the latter with several aliases, were charged, on remand. at the Worship street Police court today, with having been concerned, with others not in custody, in assaulting Carl Edwin Neuman, and robbing him of a pair of trousers and a sum of £4. Mr. Phillips appeared to defend Fordham.
The prosecutor, a Scandinavian, who described himself as student, met a woman, with whom he went to Flower and Dean street, Spitalfields. He was taken by her into a common lodging house there, where he paid 8d. for a 'double' bed, and was shown to a room. He found fault with the accommodation, and the woman left the room. Almost immediately afterwards her companion was attacked by four or five men, who burst into the room, and seized him, throwing him on the bed, and rifling his pockets of a purse containing £4 in gold, as well as stealing his trousers. Two police constables heard the prosecutor's cries, and entered the place just as he was thrown down the stairs. The room he had been in was searched, and in the adjoining room the prisoners were found in bed. The trousers and purse were also found there, the purse being minus £2 10s. of its contents. Fordham denied having taken part in the assault on the prosecutor but the latter identified him.
Margaret Brown, a young woman, mow deposed that she acted as "deputy" of the house in questions, No. 34 Flower and Dean street, erroneously stated last time by the witnesses to be No. 35. The house was owned by a Mr. Coates, who kept a chandler's shop in Dorset street, and lived in Whitecross street. Replying to the Magistrate, the witness said that there were nineteen "double" beds, and seven "singles" in the place. She did not know the four men who attacked the prosecutor - there were no other men that she knew of up there. She had sole charge of the place, and was paid six shillings a week. Police Constable Dennis, 57 H, recalled, said that when he entered the place the deputy was not to be seen. After going in a second time she came from the kitchen. The witness explained that the "single" beds were undivided, and stood in rows in a large room, the "double" beds being in small rooms partitioned off. The partitions did not touch the floor or the ceiling, a space of about eighteen inches being left top and bottom. A person might pass from one room to other "rooms" by a good squeeze.
The prisoners were then committed to the Sessions.
The scare in East London is seriously affecting the profits of the keepers of the common lodging houses. On the night before last a lodging house, which usually accommodates nearly five hundred persons, only let out twenty beds. The effect upon the streets is even more conspicuous. The nocturnal rowdy is clearly in a state of depression, and has prudently made his way to "pastures new" for the present.
THE ARREST AT BELFAST.
A MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER.
EVASIVELY ANSWERS THE POLICE.
At the Belfast Police court, today, John Foster, who was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the Whitechapel murders, was brought up.
Constable Carland said - From information I received I proceeded to No. 11 Memel street. The prisoner was not there when I went first. I went back about half an hour afterwards, when I found the prisoner in, and went upstairs to the room occupied by him and rapped at the door. The prisoner said "Come in." I went in and found the prisoner in bed. I asked him his name, where he had come from and how long he had been in Belfast. He gave the name of William John Foster, and said he had no fixed address. He arrived in town on Sunday from Greenock, where he had spent two days, but he could not say where he stopped. Previous to that he was in Glasgow for four days, and, before that, in in Edinburgh; but he did not know how long he was there, nor did he know anyone living there.
I found a clasp knife (produced) in his coat pocket, a purse containing £19 4s. 5d. halfpenny, and the chisel and handle (produced, which were lying on the table in the bedroom. They, when separated, fit into the bag (produced). In the bag I found three razors, a table knife, a small knife, and a number of watch making appliances. He said that he was a watchmaker, but that he did nothing at the trade, as he had an income of his own, which he got from his father, who lived in London. He said his father was a brewer, but could not give the address. I found the silver watch and chain and locket (produced) in his pockets. He said the watch was his own. It bears the monogram "A.M.R."
The watch and chain were then handed to the Bench for examination.
Witness (continuing): There was a piece of broken necklet in his coat pocket. I got the keys (produced). The watch is a lever, without the maker's name. examined the clothes of the prisoner, and found he was wearing boots similar to those worn by military men.
The prisoner was remanded for a week.
Police sergeant Gibbery took into custody this morning, at the Duke of York public house, Clerkenwell road, a man who had asked a person to sign some papers with reference to a pension. The name appearing on the papers was that of Conway, and they referred to a man who had been in the Hussars. The supposition was that the man was the husband of the woman Eddowes, who was murdered in Mitre square. He was conveyed to Bishopsgate Police station. Thence he was taken to the Old Jewry. There, however, it was found that he was much younger than the woman's husband must have been. The police, therefore, did not think it necessary to send for Mrs. Phillips, the murdered woman's sister, and the man was allowed to go away.
A report was current late last night that the police have good reason to suspect a man who is at present a patient in an East end infirmary. He was admitted since the commission of the last murder, and, owing to his suspicious behaviour and other circumstances, the attention of the authorities was directed to him. Detectives are making inquiries relative to his actions before being admitted to the infirmary, and he is kept under constant and close surveillance.
On Monday The Echo published descriptions of nine men, concerning whom the police were said to require information. One of these was a young fellow designated by his sobriquet of "Colorado Charley," who was formerly attached to the "Mexican Joe's" Company at the Albert Palace. He was aid to have been seen in the Battersea Park road, and to answer the description of a portrait of the supposed murderer. "Colorado Charley" called at our office today. A smart, well knit fellow, he was very indignant at the idea of any suspicion attaching to him. He stated that he had himself called at Scotland yard, that his explanation had been deemed satisfactory, and that they had made no effort to detain him.
"You can't do less than repeat this for me," said he. "It's an insinuation which hasn't the slightest justification" - and his sincere manner gave additional strength to his assertion.