13 November 1888
On Friday last, William Wood, a waterman, was in his boat off Wapping Stairs, when he noticed the body of a woman, dressed in superior clothing, floating down the river. He secured the body and took it ashore. The police were then communicated with and the body was removed to the mortuary. It was fully dressed with the exception of the hat and boots, which were missing. Inquiries were at once set on foot by the police, and it was found that the body was that of Frances Annie Hancock, who had been missing since October 21. On that day she was seen walking along the Strand, in company with a tall, fair gentleman with a heavy moustache. She was then wearing a gold necklace, and that was the last time she was seen alive. When the body was recovered the necklace was missing. Deceased resided at Prusom street, Brixton, where it is stated she was supported by some gentleman at present unknown. At an inquiry held by Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, Coroner for the South eastern Division of Middlesex, last evening, on the body of the deceased, only evidence of identification was taken, and, owing to the mysterious nature of the case and supposition that the deceased woman has met her death by foul means, the coroner adjourned the inquiry in order that a post mortem examination might be made on the body, and to give police an opportunity of full inquiry into the facts of the case, which, it is stated, will be of a startling and sensational character, owing to the relations formerly existing between the deceased woman and some gentleman of distinction.
The resignation of the Chief Commissioner of the London Police is a matter which deserves more serious attention than the idiotic howls of delight with which its announcement was received last night in the House of Commons. It is characteristic that the news should have been divulged in answer to a question put to the Home Secretary by Mr. Conybeare. Probably the supporters of that gentleman will be of opinion that in some mysterious manner his question had an influence in getting rid of Sir Charles Warren; and no doubt there are quarters in which the reputation of having forced a Commissioner of Police to resign would be regarded as a high distinction and a badge of merit. The Opposition in the House of Commons seem to be partly of this opinion. They attribute Sir Charles Warren's departure to their own persistent hatred of him and to the bitter virulence with which they have attacked every act of his administration. Above all, he suppressed the periodical rioting and spouting of their extreme supporters in Trafalgar square; and no doubt we shall be told that the Square has been as fatal to Sir Charles Warren as it was to his predecessor, who adopted a very different line of policy in dealing with metropolitan difficulties.
The immediate cause of Sir Charles Warren's resignation is undoubtedly the rebuke administered to him by his official superior in respect of the article that recently appeared in Murray's Magazine. The Commissioner had certainly overstepped the limits prescribed to all Civil Servants in this country, who are not allowed to criticise the department to which they belong, nor, for that matter, any branch of the public service, so long as they are holding any official position. That Sir Charles Warren will be now free to express his criticisms, and to give utterance to much which he has kept under control for the last two or three years is clear; yet it is to be hoped that he will not be eager to avail himself of this freedom. The real cause, however, of the difficulty which has existed between the Home Office and Scotland yard has been the quarrel about the Criminal Investigation Department. Mr. Matthews' policy has been to withdraw the detective force more and more from the control of the Chief Commissioner. Sir Charles Warren has resented this; and it has been an open secret that for months past he and Mr. Monro have been unable to work harmoniously together. Finally, Mr. Monro had to resign his position as Assistant Commissioner at Scotland yard; but he was immediately transferred to the Home Office, and to all appearances he was still practically, though not nominally, treated as the chief authority on detective matters. That a subordinate should be preferred to the chief official, and that his opinion should be allowed to prevail, would make the tenure of any office impossible. This is what Sir Charles warren has found. The occasion of his fall is indeed the injudicious article which he allowed himself to write; but the real reason is that a personal and departmental rivalry has existed for a long time which was sure to culminate, one day or other, in the disappearance of either the one or the other.
It cannot be denied, however, that Sir Charles Warren has done good work. He has once for all, we hope, made it clear to the riotous element in the metropolis that it will not be permitted to work out its sweet will upon peaceful and law abiding citizens. He was appointed at a time when a perfect panic had seized upon London, and the wildest rumours of thousands marching to plunder the City were recklessly circulated and greedily believed. It was his duty to stem the tide of lawlessness, which, under the specious guise of exercising liberty of speech, threatened to turn the capital into a centre of disorder and violence. The noisy orators who claimed Trafalgar square as their own, and were only too pleased if the police, whom they regard almost as their natural enemies, could not cope with the violence of the roughs, have been satisfactorily taught that they must go and air their eloquence elsewhere. Even the mistaken enthusiasts who rushed upon the police for the purpose of getting their heads broken, and who reproached Mr. Labouchere for his drawing room radicalism because he did not charge with them, have learnt wisdom, or, at least, that kind of prudence which is a fair cloak for wisdom. Sir Charles Warren supplied at a critical moment the very elements of strength and resolution which were lacking in the government of the metropolis. He was quick in making his decision, and firm in acting upon it. We wish that Mr. Matthews could lay claim to the same reputation. The police had in Trafalgar square a harder task to perform than any which had fallen to their lot since the time of Sir Richard Mayne and the Hyde Park railings. They performed it well and successfully, too; but they did it without much support from the Home Office, where their real chief is, or ought to be, placed. They have been exposed to the most brutal obloquy, though we must admit that the attacks on Mr. Matthews have been quite as stinging as those made upon his subordinates, rank and file as well as officials. London is certainly indebted to Sir Charles Warren for much which he has effected during his term of office. He has not made himself popular, it is true; but when a man is in such a position that to gain popularity he must satisfy the noisiest and most discontented portion of the community, it is rather to his credit that he fails to achieve this kind of distinction. The office of Chief Commissioner of Police in London is a difficult one, more particularly because it is regarded as a quasi political post, and the Government is rightly held responsible for the public acts of this official. It may come about ere long that the responsibility will be shifted, and that the new County Council will have the control of the police. This would relieve the Government from much undeserved violence of criticism; but it is to be hoped that the example of firmness and determination set by Sir Charles Warren will under any circumstances be imitated by his successors.
Dr. McDonald, the coroner who yesterday conducted the inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of the unfortunate woman Mary Jeanette Kelly, set an example which other coroners would, in a general way, do well to follow. He laid down the sound proposition that the duty of a coroner's jury was to find out the cause of death, and return a verdict accordingly. They have nothing to do with the prosecution of criminals; and when they stray into that region they are merely essaying to do work which can be much better done by other agencies to which it more properly belongs. Long drawn out inquests, such as we have too often had to suffer of late, are in every way a mistake. They are wastefully expensive, they cause a quite unnecessary amount of trouble, and put witnesses and others to inconvenience which is at once uncalled for and unjustifiable. Once the jury is satisfied as to the cause of death, whether it was murder, suicide, accident, or what not, its duty is at an end and, if there is any suspicion or a certainty of criminality involved in the matter, the affair then becomes one for the police. In the case of the Whitechapel murders, one is so much like another that these considerations tell with redoubled force. No coroner's jury is at all likely to throw any fresh light upon the modus operandi of the monster who has selected the East end as his sphere of action, and therefore it is sheer waste of time for a coroner to go on travelling over and over again what is practically old ground.
That Her Majesty's Government is fully justified in refusing to offer a reward for the apprehension of the perpetrator of the Whitechapel horrors will most clearly be shown in the Home Secretary's statement to the House last night. The excited state of public opinion in the East end and the consequent danger of false charges being preferred against individuals would, as Mr. Matthews argued, be additionally strong reasons for not departing from a practice which has been in vogue for some years, and has been found to work well. The temptation of a big reward would be quite enough to secure a sufficient combination of witnesses to swear an innocent man's life away, and it is well not to lose sight of such a danger in moments of excitement like the present.
The Press Association, in reference to Sir Charles Warren's resignation, learns on the highest authority that the relations between Sir Charles Warren and the Home Office have for some time been strained. The action of the department in reference to the resignation of Mr. Monro caused the first serious difference of opinion. Sir Charles took exception to certain of the methods of the Assistant Commissioner, and he intimated to Mr. Matthews that either he or Mr. Monro must resign. A few days afterwards Mr. Monro's resignation was announced. Sir Charles Warren complains that Mr. Monro's resignation was accepted without consultation with him, and that prior to the Home Secretary's statement in the House of Commons last evening he (Sir Charles Warren) was not even aware of the reason assigned by his subordinate for severing his connection with Scotland yard. Since Mr. Monro's transference to the Home Office, matters have become worse. Sir Charles complains that, whereas he has been saddled with all the responsibility, he has had no freedom of action, and in consequence his position has become daily more unbearable. Although Mr. Monro has been no longer in evidence at Whitehall place, he has to all intents and purposes retained control of the Criminal Investigation Department. Indeed, Mr. Matthews last evening admitted that he was deriving the benefit of the advice of Mr. Monro in matters relating to crime, and was in communication with him at the present time on the subject of the organisation of the detective staff. This division of authority Sir Charles Warren has strenuously fought against. He maintains that if the Commissioner is to be responsible for the discipline of the force, instructions should be given to no department without his concurrence. Latterly, in spite of the remonstrances of Sir Charles Warren, the control of the Criminal Investigation Department has been withdrawn more and more from Whitehall Place. Every morning for the last few weeks there has been a protracted conference at the Home Office between Mr. Monro, Mr. Anderson, and the principal detective inspectors, and the information furnished to the Commissioner in regard to these conferences has been, he states, of the scantiest character. These facts will explain how, apart from any other consideration, it was impossible for Sir Charles Warren, holding the views he did in regard to the function of the Commissioner, to continue in command. The reproof of the Home Secretary last week in reference to the article in "Murray's Magazine" completed the rupture. Sir Charles thereupon took counsel with his friends, and immediately tendered his resignation to the Home Secretary. Yesterday morning his books and papers were removed from the Commissioner's office, and this was the first intimation in Whitehall place that he had relinquished his position.
The names of Mr. Monro, late Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police; Mr. Malcolm Wood, Chief Constable of Manchester; and Mr. Farndale, the Chief of the Birmingham Police Force, are mentioned in connection with the vacant Chief Commissionership.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBABLE MURDERER
The police, yesterday evening, received an important piece of information. A man, apparently of the labouring class, with a military appearance, who knew the deceased, stated that on the morning of the 9th inst. he saw her in Commercial street, Spitalfields (near where the murder was committed), in company with a man of respectable appearance. He was about 5ft 6in in height, and 34 or 35 years of age, with dark complexion and dark moustache turned up at the ends. He was wearing a long, dark coat, trimmed with astrachan, a white collar with black necktie, in which was affixed a horseshoe pin. He wore a pair of dark gaiters with light buttons, over button boots, and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain. His appearance contrasted so markedly with that of the woman that few people could have failed to remark them at that hour of the morning. This description, which confirms that given by others of the person seen in company with the deceased on the morning she was killed, is much fuller in detail than that hitherto in the possession of the police.
During yesterday several arrests were made, but after a short examination in all cases the persons were set at liberty, as it was felt certain that they had connection with the crime. Dorset street still continues to be a thoroughfare of great interest, and during the whole of the day people, who were evidently drawn thither solely out of curiosity, passed up and down the street while before the entrance to Miller's court a crowd collected. They were not, however, allowed to enter the court, which was guarded by two police constables.
In order to arrive at the truth of the conflicting statements which have appeared as to the use or non use of bloodhounds in the attempts to track the murderer of Marie Janet Kelly, the last Whitechapel victim, a representative of the Central News had an interview with Mr. K W Taunton on the subject yesterday evening. It will be remembered that at Sir Charles Warren's request Mr. Brough, the well known bloodhound breeder, of Scarborough, was communicated with shortly after the Mitre square and Berner street tragedies, and asked to bring a couple of trained hounds to London for the purpose of testing their capabilities in the way of following the scent of a man. The hounds were named Burgho and Barnaby, and in one of the trials Sir Charles Warren himself acted as the quarry, and expressed satisfaction at the result. Arrangements were made for the immediate conveyance of the animals to the spot in the event of another murder occurring, and in order to facilitate matters Mr. Brough, who was compelled to return to Scarborough, left the hounds in the care of Mr. Taunton of 8 Doughty street. Mr. Taunton said: After the trial in Regent's Park, Burgho was sent to Brighton, where he had been entered for the show, which lasted three days. In the meantime Barnaby remained in my care. Burgho would have been sent back to me, but as Brough could not get anything definite from the police he declined to send the dog, and wrote asking me to return Barnaby. I did not do so at first, but acting on my own responsibility, retained possession of the dog for some time longer. About a fortnight ago I received a telegram from Leman street Police station asking me to bring up the hounds. It was then shortly after noon, and I took Barnaby at once. On arriving at the station, I was told by the superintendent that a burglary had been committed about five o'clock that morning in Commercial street, and I was asked to attempt to track the thief by means of the dog. The police admitted that since the burglary they had been all over the premises. I pointed out the stupidity of expecting a dog to accomplish anything under such circumstances and after such a length of time had been allowed to elapse, and took the animal home. I wrote telling Mr. Brough of this, and he wired insisting that the dog should be sent back at once, as the danger of its being poisoned if it were known that the police were trying to trace burglars by its aid was very great, and Mr. Brough had no guarantee against any pecuniary loss in the event of the animal being maltreated. Therefore there has not been a "police bloodhound" - that is to say, a trained hound - in London for the past fortnight. The origin of the tale regarding the hounds being lost at Tooting whilst being practised in tracing a man I can only account for in the following way: I had arranged to take Barnaby out to Hemel Hempstead to give the hound some practice. The same day a sheep was maliciously killed on Tooting Common, and the police wired to London asking that the hounds might be sent down. I was then some miles away from London with Barnaby, and did not get the telegram until my return late in the evening. Somebody, doubtless, remarked that the hounds were missing, meaning that they did not arrive when sent for, and this was magnified into a report that they had been lost. At the time Burgho was at Scarborough. Under the circumstances in which the body of Marie Janet Kelly was found I don't think bloodhounds would have been of any use. It was then broad daylight and the streets crowded with people. The only chance the hounds would have would be in the event of a murdered body being discovered, as the others were, in the small hours of the morning and being put on the trail before many people were about.
Some surprise was created among those present at the inquest in the Shoreditch Town Hall by the abrupt termination of the inquiry, as it was well known that further evidence would be forthcoming. The coroner himself distinctly told the jury that he was only going to take the preliminary portion of Dr. G.B. Phillips's evidence, the remainder of which would be more fully given at the adjourned inquiry. No question was put to Dr. Philips as to the mutilated portions of the body, and the coroner did not think fit to ask the doctor whether any portions of the body were missing. The doctor stated to the coroner during the inquiry that his examination was not yet completed. His idea was that by at once making public every fact brought to light in connection with this terrible murder, the ends of justice might be retarded.
The examination of the body by Dr. Phillips, on Saturday, lasted upwards of six and a half hours. Notwithstanding reports to the contrary, it is still confidently asserted that some portions of the body of the deceased woman are missing.
Another letter, signed Jack the Ripper, of which the following is a copy, was received by post last night by the Metropolitan Police, and was published by them today:
"Dear Boss - I am now in Queen's Park estate in the Third Avenue. I am out of red ink at present, but it won't matter for once. I intend doing another here next Tuesday night about ten o'clock. I will give you a chance now to catch me. I shall have check trousers on and a black coat and vest, so look out. I have done one not yet found out, so keep your eyes open.
Yours, Jack the Ripper."
The police are receiving a very large number of letters on the subject of the murder.
The Central News learns that the police now have no one in custody. All has been quiet in the district during (the) night, and there is very little excitement apparent. The police are as busily engaged as ever, and are now actively following up fresh information gathered from yesterday's inquest. So conflicting, however, are various descriptions of the supposed criminal, that there is but slight ground for anticipating successful investigation.
The Central News says: Last night the police made a careful inspection of all the casual wards, and at one of three places near Holborn a man was arrested, who had a knife of formidable proportions in his possession. His account of himself was very confused, and he was arrested. The excitement in the East end has materially abated.
Miller's court, this morning, is still guarded by two police constables, but persons having business to transact are allowed to enter the court. The room in which the murder was committed is still closed. There is a considerable crowd in Dorset street. Nothing has yet been definitely settled respecting the funeral, but it is expected that all details in connection with it will be settled in the course of today.
Several drunken men were brought up at the Metropolitan police courts today, each charged with shouting out "I'm Jack the Ripper," or words to the same effect. At Westminster Police court an individual, who was seen between one and two o'clock this morning to climb some railings and try to open the ground floor window of a private house, explained his action by assuring the policeman who took him into custody that he "was looking for Jack the Ripper."
HOUSE OF COMMONS
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
WHY MR. MATTHEWS REFUSES TO OFFER A REWARD
Scotland yard was the leading topic at question time. Mr. Gent-Davis had an early interview with the Speaker regarding his intended motion for the adjournment of the House, and Messrs. Pickersgill and Conybeare took a leading part in questioning the Home Secretary on the subject. The substance of the right hon. gentleman's answers was that Mr. Monro resigned his office as Assistant Commissioner because he could not get on with Sir C. Warren; that Mr. Anderson was now the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, subject to the supervision of the Chief Commissioner; and that Mr. Monro's services were retained by the Home Office in a consultative capacity. In reply to a further question, Mr. Matthews stated that it was not customary to lay papers in such cases on the table of the House, and therefore he could not produce the correspondence with regard to the resignation of Mr. Monro. "Then we might get it tonight," Mr. Gent-Davis remarked, amidst cheers from the Radicals on the other side of the House.
So far, things looked rather awkward for the Government, as it seemed settled that some house would be wasted by a motion for adjournment; but in the answers to subsequent questions the Home Secretary scored heavily, particularly in regard to his refusal to offer a reward as to the Whitechapel murders. Replying to Mr. Conybeare, the right hon. gentleman stated that the whole system of the Criminal Investigation Department was under his consideration, with a view to improvement.
Sir C. Warren tendered his resignation on the 8th instant, and that resignation had been accepted. Directly this announcement was made, there were loud and prolonged cheers from below the Opposition gangway, in which several Conservative members joined. Some surprise was felt that the First Lord of the Treasury replied to a question on Friday that Sir C. Warren had not resigned. Evidently, the Government did not decide upon accepting the resignation of the Chief Commissioner until the Cabinet Council on Saturday.
In answer to Mr. Cuninghame Graham, the Home Secretary made a lengthened statement of his reasons for not offering a reward in the Whitechapel cases. He showed that in 1881 Sir William Harcourt, then Home Secretary, decided that the practice which had previously prevailed at the Home Office of offering rewards should be discontinued. The reasons for this decision were chiefly that it had been found that rewards failed to secure the detection of crime, promoted the giving of false evidence, and in some cases the prospect of a reward for information actually led to the planning of crimes and outrages, as in the case of a projected explosion at the German Embassy. Succeeding Home Secretaries - Lord Cross in 1885, and Mr. Childers in 1886 - took the same view, and consistently declined to offer rewards. Since he (Mr. Matthews) had been at the Home Office, he had merely followed the rule laid down by his predecessors. That rule might be subject to exception, as in a case where a murderer was known, and only his place of concealment had to be discovered; or, as in a case where only some special circumstances required elucidation. In the Whitechapel murders those principles did not apply, and there was great risk of a reward producing false testimony. He knew how desirable it was to allay public feeling; and he would have been glad to offer a reward in order to show that the authorities were not negligent or indifferent, if he had felt that the circumstances would justify the course. He earnestly assured the House that neither the Home Office nor Scotland yard would leave a stone unturned in order to bring to justice the perpetrators of these abominable crimes.
This statement made a profound impression upon the House, and produced a great revulsion of feeling in favour of the Home Secretary. The right hon. gentleman was warmly cheered by both sides of the House alike; and it was at once evident that the prospect of a debate had gone by the board. A little of the comic element was supplied by Mr. Cuninghame Graham, who pompously assured Mr. Matthews that he agreed entirely with him, whereupon the House laughed. Mr. Montagu essayed to make a personal explanation as to his own offer of a reward, but was pulled up by the Speaker; and the subject then dropped. In the Lobby afterwards the remarkable demonstration which welcomed Mr. Matthews's justification was the great subject of talk. Seldom has so quick a change been witnessed in the attitude of the House towards a Minister; and it was certainly creditable to the Radicals, who have been foremost in attacking the Home Secretary, that they responded so heartily to his tacit claim that the House should do him justice.