15 September 1888
The police at the Commercial street Police station have made another arrest, on suspicion, in connection with the recent murders, and the prisoner is detained at their station. Among the numerous descriptions of suspected persons are several agreeing with that of the man now in custody, but beyond this the police know nothing, at present, against him. throughout Thursday this man's movements are stated to have crested suspicion amongst various persons; but it was not till last night that he was arrested by a constable on duty in the neighbourhood of Flower and Dean street. On his arrival at the police station in Commercial street, the detective officers and Mr. Abberline were communicated with, and an investigation was at once commenced concerning him. On being searched, an odd collection of articles was found upon him - pieces of dress fabric, old and dirty linen, two or three pocket handkerchiefs, one a comparatively clean white one, and a white one with a red spotted border; two worn purses, with several compartments; two small tin boxes, a small cardboard box, a small leather strap, which might serve the purpose of a garter, string, and a spring onion. The prisoner is slightly built, about five feet seven or eight in height, and dressed very shabbily. He has a careworn look. Covering a head of hair, somewhat sandy, with beard and moustache of the same colour, was a cloth skull cap, which did not improve the man's miserable appearance. Suspicion is the sole reason for his detention; for the police, while making every inquiry about him, do not believe his apprehension to be of any importance.
As to the man Pigott, who was apprehended at Gravesend, nothing has been discovered which can identify him with the murder. The lunatic who was arrested at Holloway has been missing from his friends for some time. The police have been actively prosecuting inquiries concerning him, and it is understood that the result, so far, increases their suspicion. He is at present confined in the asylum at Grove road, Bow.
A woman named Lloyd, living in Heath street, Commercial road, has stated that while standing outside a neighbour's door, about half past ten o'clock, on Monday night, she heard her daughter, who was sitting on the doorstep, scream, and, on looking round, saw a man walk hurriedly away. The daughter states that the man peered into her face, and she perceived a large knife at his side. A lady living opposite states that a similar incident took place outside her house. The man was short of stature, with a sandy beard, and wore a cloth cap. The woman drew that attention of some men who were passing to the strange man, and they pursued him some distance until he turned into a bye street, when, after assuming a threatening attitude, he disappeared. The description of this man exactly agrees with the description of a strange man seen in Flower and Dean street, Whitechapel, on Sunday afternoon, with whom a woman named Lyons went into a neighbouring public house, and whose suspicious behaviour, coupled with the fact that he carried a large knife, led the woman to communicate with the Commercial street police.
The funeral of Annie Chapman took place yesterday morning. The utmost secrecy was observed in the arrangements, and none but the undertaker, police, and relatives of the deceased knew anything about it. Shortly after seven o'clock a hearse drew up outside the mortuary in Montague street, and the body was quickly removed. At nine o'clock a start was made for Manor Park Cemetery, the place selected by the friends of the deceased for the interment, but no coaches followed, as it was desired that public attention should not be attracted. Mr. Smith and other relatives met the body at the cemetery and the service was duly performed in the ordinary manner. The remains of the deceased were enclosed in a black covered elm coffin, which bore the words "Annie Chapman, died September 8, 1888. Aged 48 years."
The bloodstained newspapers which were found in Bailey's yard, close to Hanbury street, and upon which it is conjectured the murderer wiped his hands after committing his crime, have been subjected to analysis, and the stains have been certified to be those of human blood. The police that the paper was not there when they made the search on Saturday, and, though they have been closely cross examined on this point, they adhere to this statement. It is not clear, moreover, that the murderer could have thrown the newspapers in the spot where they were found from the back yard in Hanbury street; but if he threw the paper, which was rolled up into a round mass, over the wall, it might easily have been blow, or kicked, into the corner in which it was found.
Mr. Cadoche, who lives in the next house to No. 29 Hanbury street, where the murder was committed, has stated that he went to the back of the premises at half past five on the morning of the murder, and as he passed the wooden partition, he heard a woman say, "No, no." On returning he heard a scuffle, and then some one fell heavily against the fence. He heard no cry for help, and so he went into the house.
The Central News says:- "The police were yesterday in communication with the pensioner who was said to have been seen in the company of the murdered woman, Chapman. He has explained his relations with the deceased, and his antecedents. His statements are understood to be entirely satisfactory, and he will be produced as a witness when the inquest is resumed."
A week has now passed since the last of the Whitechapel murders took place. During that period there has been something more than the customary show of police activity. The Coroner has done as much as it lies in the power of a Coroner to do to probe the mystery; yet not the smallest approach appears to have been made towards the apprehension of the criminal, or even towards an elucidation of the circumstances of the crime. No trustworthy clue has been obtained; and the only issue of the exertions made is to lessen whatever hope was at first entertained that the terrible secret might somehow be brought to light. We know that the woman Chapman was killed and mutilated in the gloomy backyard of a common lodging house in Hanbury street, in the same deliberately brutal method as was employed in the Buck's row murder just a week previously, and the George yard buildings murder a month before. But, beyond the facts which the post mortem examination in each case has disclosed, there is not a shred of information. That the victim belonged in the three instances to the same wretched class, and that the work of death was done silently, has been ascertained. But we are as far as ever from knowing, or from any probability of knowing, who the murderer was, or what determined the particular form of the butchery. We assume that the police have done their best, and we are far from charging them with incapacity because their best amounts only to failure. The fact that the crime has so painful and so engrossing an interest for the public ought not, in the tribunal of reason, to affect our judgement concerning the efforts of the detectives. No doubt, the publicity given to everything, however remotely connected with the tragedy, may in one way reduce the chances of escape for the murderer. If he still moves in his old haunts, he must come daily into contact with many who, if anything were known to suggest suspicion, would, assuredly, not be wanting in eagerness to bring him to justice. As yet, however, all that the acumen of the officers has been able to extract from the communicativeness of the public is material for some gratuitous and rather discreditable blunders. They have not arrested any many against whom a reasonable prima facie case could be made out; but they have arrested more than one whom there never was the faintest warrant for suspecting. It would be the height of absurdity to denounce Scotland yard for incompetence, because it has not tracked out, through all the intricacies of the teeming population of the East end, the retreat of the criminal. But we are entitled to express our surprise that the police have pounced on persons who were plainly innocent. That they have not succeeded in arresting the culprit is a pity; but that they have been energetic in the wrong direction is distinctly a reproach. There is a worse thing than doing nothing; that is, doing something that ought not to be done.
We might take, as one illustration out of many that suggest themselves of this fussy wrongheadedness, the apprehension and detention of the man Piser. There was absolutely nothing to connect him, either with the Hanbury street affair, or with either of the others. But somebody started the cry that a man known by the nickname of "Leather Apron" might have had something to do with the murders. How the idea grew, or whether it was spontaneously broached by the neighbourhood, no one now pretends to say. But it got into print, and that appears to have been enough for the active and sagacious officers concerned. Possibly, the circumstance that Piser did not leave his home for some days after his soubriquet had become so painfully notorious was held to corroborate the assumption of his complicity. The explanation tendered by the man himself, that had he stirred out of the house he would have been torn to pieces - though it is not flattering to East end civilisation - will, to ordinary minds, appear, under the circumstances, sufficient. But the police did not give him the benefit of so obvious a theory. It must, in justice to the station house authorities, be admitted that, having satisfied themselves that Piser was the "Leather Apron" to whom local excitement pointed, they managed to discover his whereabouts, and succeeded in taking him into custody. But the man had only to tell the plain, unvarnished take of the places he had slept in, and the occupation in which he had been engaged during the critical period, not merely to secure his discharge, but, it must be hoped, the rehabilitation of his character in the eyes of his neighbours. The incident is farcical enough to relieve the gloom of the whole sad business; but it is not well that the police should furnish such interludes. Every mistake committed reduces the chance that Justice, at last, may lay its hand upon the miscreant. We do not, we repeat, make it matter of accusation that the police have not obtained a clue. But can Sir Charles Warren persuade himself that adequate care has been exercised on the search for one? Take a single fact that has come out at the inquest. The Inspector first on the spot says that he made an examination of the neighbouring yards. Yet we find it was not till some days after that marks were detected on one of the walls of the neighbouring houses, which bore sufficient resemblance to blood stains to be mistaken for them. It is true that the medical expert does not believe they will prove - after analysis - to be due to blood; but what are we to think of the scrutiny which left unobserved anything whatsoever that could excite suspicion? Again, one would have imagined that no precaution would have been neglected to secure the fullest opportunities for an accurate examination, by experts, of the murdered woman's body. On the assumption that someone was made amenable to law, the question of guilt or innocence might depend upon the precise condition, as regards some minute detail, of the corpse at the moment it was found. Yet, what does the evidence show? That the doctor made a comparatively rough examination while the body lay in the yard; that it was then removed to the mortuary; and that when, later on, the doctor went to complete his inspection, he found it had, in the interval, been washed. Washed! when the existence of a single mark might make all the difference between acquittal and conviction? The Police Inspector has nothing to say, save that he did not tell the nurses to wash the body. Yes; but did he caution them to leave it precisely as it was? Why, indeed, did he not take steps to render any tampering with it impossible? There is only too much reason to know that the defects of our system in such cases cooperate with the want of judgement on the part of individuals. The medical officer complained, with just warmth, of the scandalous condition of the mortuary in which the post mortem examination had to be conducted. The Coroner and Jury concurred in his protest; and the public will certainly look to the Home Secretary for immediate measures to secure the necessary accommodation.
It is, of course, only too true that the slips and defects to which we have adverted have not, in this instance, had any connection with the probable failure of justice. Till the assassin is tracked there is little advantage in accumulating evidence of the precise character of his crime. We are afraid that the secret of the Whitechapel murders is destined to be added to the long catalogue of such secrets which the criminals have carried to their graves. The excitement which shows itself still in so painful - we had almost said so humiliating - a way in the locality of the tragedy will subside by degrees and some fresh horror will, before long, be sure to efface the recollection of this horrible series. That the escape of the criminal should be possible is one of the most melancholy incidents of the teeming life of East London. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the successive atrocities were the work of one hand. Nor is it merely the unusual - that all but unprecedented - character of the method employed, and its virtual identity in all three instances, that supports this view. There is a contagion in crime which often shows itself by stimulating imitation. A suicide of a novel type is often - as every student of this morbid subject is aware - followed by others which reproduce the new feature. But, as regards the Whitechapel murders, we have to note that they are confined to one locality, and to a comparatively limited period of time. Whether, however, the butchery was the work of one man, or of more than one, it is vain to speculate. The murderer has emerged from the darkness to vanish into darkness again. He has left no trace and no clue. It is not likely that a creature capable of such cold blooded brutality will betray himself by any casual indiscretion. Yet it is but too probable that he has only himself to fear. Murder will out, says the proverb; but the statistics of undiscovered crime show that the proverb does not hold true. It is a disquieting reflection that civilisation gives no absolute guarantees against the scoundrelism that trusts to luck, and is master of its purpose; but it is doubly disappointing to find that those whose duty it is to prevent crime, by bringing criminals to justice, have fallen short, not only of success, but of a reasonable standard of vigilance and skill.