27 September 1888
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS.
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE EVENING NEWS."
SIR- Having carefully read the evidence brought forward in the effort to throw light upon this terrible series of atrocities, I hope you will allow me space for a suggestion. To imagine that the crimes could have been carried out in all their ghastly details in a dark place, such as Hanbury-street, or Buck's-row, requires severe stretch of the imagination, and I am convinced that the murders were committed where the wretch could work at his dreadful task with sufficient light, and without any fear of being disturbed, i.e., in his own house, his cellar, or in a slaughter-house. Supposing the crimes to be the work of one man, and that he had made up his mind to commit a series of outrages, he, doubtless, took every precaution, and made all preparations beforehand. My impression is, that he provided himself with a sack-an ordinary market sack- lined it with American cloth or water-proofing, which would enable him to carry the remains of his victims without leaving any trail of blood, and it must not be forgotten that the bodies were found on market mornings, when not much notice would be taken of a man with a large sack on his back. In each of the cases above alluded to, after emptying the sack of its contents, he probably shook it, and so sprinkled the railings with blood. Being well acquainted with the locality, and knowing the movements of the police, he would feel no fear in walking away with the sack rolled up under his arm. In support of this theory I would call attention to the following:
1. As the women wanted money they would have followed the man to his house, or wherever he might have led them.
2. In the case of the Hanbury-street murder a pan of water standing not far from the body was not used, which tends to show that the murderer probably washed, &c., before starting from the scene of the murder.
3, A pair of list slippers for walking through the passage would have prevented any sounds of footsteps.
4. The clotted blood found with the victims could easily have been brought with the bodies.
A sack is easily emptied, but dissecting a body in a place where there is every danger of interruption is an act of folly which I for one cannot associate whit the cunning displayed by this ghoulish criminal. -I am, &c., S.A.C.K. London, September 25.
The theory which Mr. Wayne E. Baxter, the coroner, put forward yesterday respecting the motives which probably prompted the murderer of Annie Chapman, in Hanbury-street, a few weeks ago, adds an even deeper tinge of horror to what was already on e of the most atrocious crimes that has ever shocked a civilized community. At the first blush the crime itself and the subsequent mutilations appeared to be so absolutely meaningless that it was possible to believe them to be the work of an irresponsible maniac; and, out of regard to our common humanity, this theory became the generally accepted one. Furthermore, although the cuts on the body showed that the murderer must possess a certain amount of anatomical skill, it seemed not improbable that they might have been committed by some butcher or other slaughterer of animals; and colour was lent to this theory by the fact that many such men are engaged in the immediate neighbourhood of the murder, and also by the consideration that the murderer, who must have been stained with blood in a most marked degree, would, if a butcher, be much less likely to attract attention as he passed through the streets than an ordinary individual.
Unfortunately, it now appears that these considerations, and the theories built upon them, must give place to the still weightier considerations which Mr. Baxter puts before us. He tells us that the cuts, none of which are meaningless, must have been made by some person who possessed a high degree of anatomical skill and knowledge; and one of the organs of the body, which has been taken away, must have been cut on by some one who knew exactly where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife so as to extract the organ without injury to it. He declares that no unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognized it when found, and he is positive that no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out the operations. His conclusion is, therefore, that they must have been performed by some one familiar with post-mortem dissection - in other words, by a man of education, skill, and professional position. This conclusion is of itself repugnant to the commonly-accepted notion that education and a knowledge of the arts have a softening and humanising tendency, but all experience teaches us that no amount of education of the mind will ever make a fundamental change in the nature of a man who is innately a brute. Many doctors have been hanged for murder before to-day, but usually, as in the case of Palmer and Pritchard, their crimes take the less revolting though essentially treacherous form of poisoning, and we cannot call to mind an instance of a surgeon who wanted to commit murder preferring to utilize the knowledge he has gained in the dissecting room.
But revolting as is the suspicion that the terrible crime under notice was the work of an educated man, and not that of one of the ignorant wild beasts of the East-end, it pales altogether before the lurid horror of the coroner's other suggestion that there is a market for organs such as that which was taken away from the body of the unfortunate Annie Chapman, and that the murderer's object was to make money in that market. And yet the facts which the coroner disclosed for the first time yesterday point almost irresistibly to this conclusion. After the publication of the medical evidence the coroner received a communication that the officials of one of our great medical schools could give him information which might have a distinct bearing on the case. He in consequence went to the Pathological Museum, and was there told by the curator that some months ago an American had called on him, and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing in the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 apiece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged is request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. The coroner adds that it is known that this demand was repeated to another institution of a similar character.
These facts give an exceedingly probable explanation of the murderer's motive- inhuman and fiend-like though that motive be. He could not have been actuated by ordinary motives of revenge, jealousy, or robbery. The wretched position of the woman precludes any such supposition. But the facts that a particular portion of a woman's body has a market value of £20, and that it is this particular portion which is missing, lead to a conclusion which horrible as it is, we are almost bound to accept. The other fact, that a man accustomed to dissecting-rooms would be more likely than an ordinary man to hear of the American's offer, coupled with the surgical skill shown in the mutilations, points to the further conclusion that the wretch who committed the murder must have been a medical man or a medical student. These facts and conclusions ought to receive the greatest consideration from our detective force, for they point out very plainly the direction in which the murderer is to be sought, and supply, if possible, even stronger reasons for bringing him to justice than have hitherto existed.
There seems to be an epidemic of brutal crimes just at present. This morning the papers are full of stories of bloodshed, and in four cases the victims are women. There are the horrible atrocities in Whitechapel and near Gateshead, and, besides these, a young collier near Stoke-on-Trent tries to murder his paramour with a hatchet, and a draper at Ayr is in custody charged with shooting his sweetheart. In another case a timber merchant is charged at Worksop with attempting to murder a man who purchased his business from him. If things go on at this rate there will soon be need for a new form of Crimes Act for England and Scotland.
ON WADDLE'S TRACK.
The intense excitement that has prevailed throughout the northern portion of the county of Durham in connection with the mutilation of Jane Beetmoor, at Birtley, on Saturday evening, is to some extent abating. The Funeral of the victim took place yesterday.
Inspector Roots, of Scotland-yard, has also expressed the view that the Birtley affair is nothing more than a clumsy imitation of the mutilations that took place in the metropolis. An anxious search is still being made for the man Waddle, whose mysterious disappearance since the day of the murder has naturally excited grave suspicions. The search for Waddle has caused a great deal of excitement, there being an impression that he might be in the district, where, it is stated, he is not unknown. It is asserted that Waddle formerly worked at the Lizzie Colliery, near Annfield Plain.
Police-constable Minto, of Annfield Plain, has discovered on the roadside near Maiden Law a pair of old boots which answer to the description in the police placard. A rumour reached Couosett, yesterday, that a person answering the description of Waddle had been seen loitering about the remote uplands in the Saltey district, and Superintendent Oliver and some constables are diligently searching that part of the countryside.
In spite of these reports, however, the prevalent and most feasible opinion is that Waddle had committed suicide. The description given of the man's habits for a short time before the murder point to a slight mental derangement on his part.
To his fellow workmen he had been explaining for days the method he would adopt if he had to dispatch anybody, and his reading of the details of the Whitechapel murders seems to have made a powerful impression upon his mind, for he was constantly talking about them. If Waddle desired to commit suicide there was abundant opportunity for him to do so in one of the numerous disused coal shafts about the district. The latest news indeed from Birtley is that the officers in charge of the case have obtained a most important clue and that before long some light may be thrown upon the affair.
The Central News understands that a man, giving the name of John Fitzgerald, gave himself up at Wandsworth Police-station last night, and made a statement to the inspector on duty to the effect that he committed the murder in Hanbury-street. He was afterwards conveyed to the Leman-street Police-station, where he is now detained.
The Central News, in a later dispatch, says: The man in custody at Leman-street is a plasterer or a bricklayer's labourer. He says he has been wandering from place to place, and he is believed to have been more or less under the influence of drink lately. He has not yet been formally charged with the crime, but is merely detained pending further inquiries. His description does not tally with that given at the inquest by witnesses of a certain man seen on the morning of the murder. It seems that Fitzgerald first communicated the intelligence to a private individual, who subsequently gave its purport to the police. A search was made, and the man was discovered in a common lodging house at Wandsworth. He is known to have been living recently at Hammersmith. His self-accusation is said to be not altogether clear, and it is even reported that he cannot give the date of the murder, so that the authorities are disinclined to place much reliance on his statements. The police are, nevertheless pursuing vigilant inquiries and if the confession be found to contain any semblance of truth, the prisoner will be formally charged before a magistrate at Worship-street.
As a consequence of the startling statement made by the coroner, yesterday, public interest in the fate of the unfortunate Annie Chapman has been stimulated afresh, and, to-day, the subject again occupies the foremost place in conversation. The clue afforded by the coroner is, of course, being followed up by the police, who have now had the information in their possession for a week, but it has not transpired whether it has yet led to any tangible result. The inquires of the police would necessarily extend to America, and on that account it may be some time before fresh facts could be in the hands of the public.
An important point yet to be made clear is as to whether the object of the murderer was the same in the cases of the women Nichols and of Annie Chapman. The coroner, in the former case, when he summed up last Saturday, appeared to think that it was, and at the time of expressing that opinion he must have been in receipt of an important communication from the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum attached to one of the metropolitan hospitals, to which he referred in his summing-up on the body of Annie Chapman. The opinion he expressed last Saturday regarding Nichols' case thus carries weight. The "shabby genteel" man who was seen in Chapman's company shortly before her murder is being sought for, but up to the present it would appear without success.
From inquiries made at some of the great medical institutions, it has been ascertained that requests similar to that of the American gentlemen have before been made, but the peculiar conditions attaching to the requests could not possibly be complied with unless the operation were performed before or immediately after death. Ever since the Coroner communicated the facts to the police authorities, no stone has been left unturned to follow up the clue, and active inquiries are still proceeding.
RESUMED INQUEST ON ANNIE CHAPMAN.
THE CORONER'S SUMMING-UP.
At the Working-Lads' Institute, Whitechapel, yesterday afternoon, the inquest on the remains of Annie Chapman, the fourth victim of the unknown Whitechapel murderer or murderers, was resumed and concluded.
No further evidence was given, and the Coroner (Mr. Wynne Baxter) proceeded at once to sum up. He said:
I congratulate you that your labours are now nearly completed, Although up to the present they have not resulted in the detection of the criminal, I have no doubt that if the perpetrator of this foul murder is eventually discovered, our efforts will not have been useless. The evidence given is now on the records of this Court, and could be used even if the witnesses were not forthcoming, while the publicity given has already elicited further information, which I shall presently have to mention, and which, I hope I am not sanguine in believing, may perhaps be of the upmost importance.
We shall do well to recall
The deceased was a widow, forty-seven years of age, named Annie Chapman. Her husband was a coachman living at Windsor. For three or four years before his death she had lived apart from her husband, who allowed her ten shillings a week until his death at Christmas, 1886. She had evidently lived an immoral life for some time, and her habits and surroundings had become worse since her means had failed. She no longer visited her relations, and her brother had not seen her for five months when she borrowed a small sum from him. She lived principally in the common lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where such as her herd like cattle. She showed signs of great deprivation, as if she had been badly fed.
The glimpses of life in those dens which the evidence in this case discloses is sufficient to make us feel that there is much in the nineteenth century civilization of which we have small reason to be proud; but you who are constantly called together to hear the sad tale of starvation, or semi-starvation, of misery, immorality, and wickedness, which some of the occupants of the 5,000 beds in this district have every week to relate to coroner's inquests, do not require to be reminded of what life in a Spitalfields lodging-house means. It was in one of these that the older bruises found on the temple and in front of the chest of the deceased were received, in a trumpery quarrel, a week before her death. It was in one of these that she was seen a few hours before her mangled remains were discovered.
On the afternoon and evening of Friday, September 7 she divided her time partly in such a place at 35, Dorset-street, and partly in the Ringers public-house - where she spent whatever money she had; so that between one and two on the morning of Saturday, when the money for her bed is demanded, she is obliged to admit that she is without means, and at once turns out into the street to find it. She leaves there at 1.45 a.m. She is seen off the premises by the night-watchman, and is observed to turn down Little Paternoster-row into Brushfield-street, and not in the more direct direction of Hanbury-street. On her wedding finger she was wearing two or three rings, which appear to have been palpably of base metal, as the witnesses are all clear about their material and value.
We now lose sight of her for about four hours, but at half-past five Mrs. Long is in Hanbury-street on her way from home in Church-street, Whitechapel, to Spitalfields Market. She walked on the northern side of the road going westward, and remembers having seen a man and a woman standing a few yards from where the deceased is afterwards found. And although she did not know Annie Chapman, she is positive that that woman was deceased. The two were talking loudly, but not sufficiently so to arouse her suspicions that there was anything wrong. The words she overheard were not calculated to do so. The laconic inquiry of the man, "Will you?" and the simple assent of the woman, viewed in the light of subsequent events, can be easily translated and explained. Mrs. Long passed on her way and neither saw nor heard anything more of her, and this is the last time she is known to have been alive.
There is some conflict in the evidence about the time at which the deceased was dispatched. It is not unusual to find inaccuracy in such details, but this variation is not very great or very important. She was found dead about six o'clock. She was not in the yard when Richardson was there at 4.50 a.m. She was talking outside the house at half-past five when Mrs. Long passed them. Cadosh says it was about 5.20 when he was in the back-yard of the adjoining house, and heard a voice say "No," and three or four minutes afterwards a fall against the fence; but if he is out of his reckoning but a quarter of an hour, the discrepancy in the evidence of fact vanishes, and he may be mistaken, for he admits that he did not get up till a quarter-past five, and that it was after the half hour when he passed Spitalfield's clock. It is true that Dr. Phillips thinks that when he saw the body at 6.30 the deceased had been dead at least two hours, but he admits that the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood may affect his opinion; and if the evidence of the other witnesses be correct Dr. Phillips has miscalculated the effect of those forces.
But many minutes after Mrs. Long passed them cannot have elapsed before the deceased became a mutilated corpse in the yard of 29, Hanbury-street, close by where she was last seen by any witness. This place is a fair sample of a large number of houses in the neighbourhood. It was built, like hundreds of others, for the Spitalfield weavers, and when handlooms were driven out by steam and power, these were converted into dwellings for the poor. Its size is about such as a superior artisan would occupy in the country, but its condition is such as would to a certainty leave it without a tenant. In this place 17 persons were living, from a woman and her son sleeping in a cat's-meat shop on the ground floor, to Davis and his wife and their three grown-up sons, all sleeping together in an attic. The street door and the yard were never locked, and the passage and yard appear to have been constantly used by people who had no legitimate business there. There is little doubt that the deceased knew the place, for it was only 300 or 400 yards from where she lodged. If so, it is quite unnecessary to assume that her companion had any knowledge- in fact, it is easier to believe that he was ignorant both of the nest of living beings by whom he was surrounded, and of their occupations and habits. Some were on the move late at night, some were up long before the sun. A carman, named Thompson, left the house for his work as early as 3.50 a.m.; an hour later John Richardson was paying the house a visit of inspection; shortly after 5.15, Cadosh, who lived in the next house, was in the adjoining yard twice.
Davis, the carman, who occupied the third floor front, heard the church clock strike a quarter to six, got up, had a cup of tea, and went into the back yard, and was horrified to find the mangled body of the deceased, it was then a little after six a.m. -a very little, for at ten minutes past the hour Inspector Chandler had been informed of her discovery while on duty in Commercial-street.
There is nothing to suggest that the deceased was not fully conscious of what she was doing. It is true that she had passed through some stages of intoxication, for although she appeared perfectly sober to her friend who met her in Dorset-street at five o'clock the previous evening, she had been drinking afterwards; and when she left the lodging-house shortly before two o'clock, the night watchman noticed that she was the worse for drink, but not badly so, while the deputy asserts that though she had evidently been drinking, she could walk straight, and it was probably only malt liquor that she had taken, and its effects would pass off quicker than if she had taken spirits. Consequently, it is not surprising to find Mrs. Long saw nothing to make her think that the deceased was the worse for drink. Moreover, it is unlikely that she could have had the opportunity of getting intoxicants. Again, the post-mortem examination shows that while the stomach contained a meal of food, there was no sign of fluid and no appearance of her having taken alcohol, and Dr. Phillips is convinced that she had not taken any alcohol for some time. The deceased, therefore, entered the house in full possession of her faculties, although with a very different object to her companion.
From the evidence which the condition of the yard affords and the medical examination discloses, it appears that after the two had passed through the passage and opened the swing-door at the end, they descended the three steps into the yard. On their left hand side there was a recess between those steps and the palings. Here a few feet from the house and a less distance from the paling they must have stood. The wretch must have then seized the deceased, perhaps with Judas-like approaches. He seized her by the chin. He pressed her throat, and while thus preventing the slightest cry, he at the same time produced insensibility and suffocation. There is no evidence of any struggle. The clothes are not torn. Even in these preliminaries the wretch seems to have known how to carry out efficiently his nefarious work. The deceased was then lowered to the ground, and laid on her back; and although in doing so she may have fallen slightly against the fence, this movement was probably effected with care. Her throat was then cut in two places with savage determination, and the injuries to the abdomen commenced. All was done with cool impudence and reckless daring; but, perhaps, nothing is more noticeable than the emptying of her pockets, and the arrangement of their contents with business-like precision in order near her feet.
The murder seems, like the Buck's-row case, to have been carried out without any cry. Sixteen people were in the house. The partitions of the different rooms are of wood. Davis was not asleep after three a.m., except for three-quarters of an hour, or less, between five and 5.45. Mrs. Richardson only dozed after three a.m., and heard no noise during the night. Mrs. Hardman, who occupies the front ground-floor room, did not awake until the noise succeeding the finding of the body had commenced, and none of the occupants of the house by which the yard is surrounded heard anything suspicious.
The brute who committed the offence did not even take the trouble to cover up his ghastly work, but left the body exposed to the view of the first comer. This accords but little with the trouble taken with the rings, and suggests either that he had at length been disturbed or that as the daylight broke, a sudden fear suggested the danger of detection that he was running.
Her rings had been wrenched from her fingers and have not been found, and the uterus has been taken from the abdomen. The body had not been dissected, but the injuries have been made by some one who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge. There are no meaningless cuts. The organ has been taken by one who knew where to find it, what difficulties he would have to contend against, and how he should use his knife, so as to abstract the organ without injury to it. No unskilled person could have known where to find it, or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughter of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room.
The conclusion that the desire to possess the missing abdominal organ was the object of the murderer seems overwhelming.
If the object were robbery, the injuries to the viscera were meaningless, for death had previously resulted from the loss of blood at the neck. Moreover, when we find an easily accomplished theft of some paltry brass rings and an internal organ taken, after, at least, a quarter of an hour's work, and taken by a skilled person, we are driven to the deduction that the abstraction of the missing portion of abdominal viscera was the object, and the theft of rings was only a thin-veiled blind, an attempt to prevent the real intention being discovered. The amount missing would go into a breakfast cup; and had not the medical examination have been of a thorough and searching character it might easily have been left unnoticed that there was any portion of the body which had been taken.
The difficulty in believing that the purport of the murder was the possession of the uterus is natural. It is abhorrent to our feelings to conclude that a life should be taken for so slight an object; but when rightly considered, the reason for most murders are altogether out of proportion to the guilt. It has been suggested that the criminal is a lunatic with morbid feelings. This may or may not be the case, but the object of the murderer appears palpably shown by the facts, and it is not necessary to assume lunacy, for it is clear that there is a market for the missing organ.
To show you this, I must mention a fact which at the same time proves the assistance which publicity and the newspaper press afford in the detection of crime. Within a few hours of the issue of the papers containing a report of the medical evidence given at the last sitting of the Court, I received a communication from an officer of one of our great medical schools, that they had information which might or might not have a distinct bearing on our inquiry. I attended at the first opportunity, and was informed by the sub-curator of the Pathological Museum that some months ago an American had called on him and asked him to procure a number of specimens of the organ that was missing from the deceased. He stated his willingness to give £20 a-piece for each specimen. He stated that his object was to issue an actual specimen with each copy of a publication on which he was then engaged. He was told that his request was impossible to be complied with, but he still urged his request. He wished them preserved, not in spirits of wine, the usual medium, but in glycerine, in order to preserve them in a flaccid condition, and he wished them sent to America direct. It is known that this request was repeated to another institution of a similar character. Now is it not possible that the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to possess himself of a specimen? It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of an man, but, unfortunately, our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible. I need hardly say that I at once communicated my information to the Detective Department at Scotland-yard. Of course, I do not know what use has been made of it, but I believe that publicity may possibly further elucidate this fact, and therefore I have not withheld from you the information. By means of the Press some further explanation may be forthcoming from America, if not from here. Gentlemen, I have endeavoured to suggest to you the object with which this crime was committed, and the class of person who must have committed it.
The greatest deterrent from crime is the conviction that detection and punishment will follow with rapidity and certainty, and it may be that the impunity with which Mary Ann Smith and Anne Tabram were murdered suggested the possibility of such horrid crimes as those which you and another jury have recently been considering. It is, therefore, a great misfortune that nearly three weeks have elapsed without the chief actor in this awful tragedy having been discovered. Surely, it is not too much even yet to hope that the ingenuity of our detective force will not succeed in unearthing this monster. It is not as if there were no clue to the character of the criminal or the cause of his crime. His object is clearly divulged. His anatomical knowledge carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for that knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting at post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem room. Thus, the class in which search must be made, although a large one, is limited. Moreover, it must have been a man who was from home, if not all night at least during the early hours of September 8. His hands were undoubtedly bloodstained, for he did not stop to use the tap in the yard, as the pan of clean water under it shows.
If the theory of lunacy be correct (which I very much doubt), the class is still further limited; while if Mrs. Long's memory does not fail, and the assumption be correct that the man who was talking to the deceased at half-past five was the culprit, he is even more clearly defined. In addition to his former description, we should know that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over 40 years of age, a little taller than the deceased, of shabby-genteel appearance, with a brown deer-stalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back.
If your views accord with mine, you will be of opinion that we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which still disgrace our civilization, mar our progress, and blot the pages of our Christianity.
I cannot conclude my remarks, gentlemen, without thanking you for the attention you have given to the case, and the assistance you have rendered me in our efforts to elucidate the truth of this horrible tragedy.
The jury returned a verdict of Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.