Tuesday, 25th September 1888
We recently drew attention to the remarkable letter of S.G.O. that appeared in the columns of the Times, commenting upon the social and moral evils that follow directly upon the overcrowding of special districts in our great towns and pointing to the conclusion that unless something speedily is done to purify the known habitations of crime, the public must expect from time to time - and even at shockingly near periods - to be startled by the reports of fresh horrors, engendered by a failure to comprehend the commonest dictates of responsibility. The Whitechapel tragedies have profoundly startled the general public mind, and the criticism that they have caused, are happily likely to bring about a course of practical action, alike upon the part of the police and of the community at large. It has been made quite apparent that the particular district named is a hotbed of crime, and bearing in mind the atrocities that recently have been committed within its bounds, the detectives and police force cannot be held wholly blameless. They must have know the wicked impulses prevailing in this modern Alsatia, and must have been aware that unless unchecked, their tendency could only be to produce crime. It is a satisfactory matter of observation that there appears to be no disposition to allow the problem to drop. The London journals are filled with articles and letters dealing with it, and there is a manifestly expressed desire that the evil existing should be probed to the bottom. Another writer in the Times remarks that the letter of S.G.O. "has led many of us to hope that the time has at last come when English statesmen of all shades of opinion will take this question of the overcrowding in our great cities and its consequent results seriously to heart, not with a view simply of affording temporary relief to the sufferers, but resolving as practical Englishmen, to find a remedy that will go to the root of the matter." What specially is pointed to in this communication is the strange phenomenon of seemng many of our great populous centres corrupted and impoverished by overcrowding, by means of a drain upon the population of agricultural districts. This is not the experience of London alone. Other great cities of the United Kingdom suffer from the same stress of circumstances, and the difficulty has now become one of the largest national magnitude. It means nothing less than to grapple with the grave work of attacking the very roots of crime. The letter quoted suggests that "what we really need is some economical legislation which will lead the population naturally to scatter itself over the land of the country in more equal proportions." This is to invite attention to a larger, and not the most pressing aspect of the question, as at present it is understood. No doubt much remains to be done in the reorganisation of our social system, but what we have to face at the moment are specific facts, and not vague theories. The influence of crime must first be counteracted, and the thoughtful public will agree in the expression of opinion, that local evils must be grappled with before general principals can successfully be applied. The popular philosopher is too often disposed to overshoot the mark, and to aim at results which are practically unattainable while the true difficulty lies much nearer within reach. It is a first duty to clear away the nests of disease and crime that exist in every great town, and we know of no instances in which such good work has been done in this direction as in Dublin. What has been accomplished in the Whitechapel district, for instance, in the way of providing more wholesome dwellings for the artisan classes? It is true that we still as a community suffer from the overcrowded tenement houses. But contrast our position with that of the London working men, and it may be asked with confidence, upon what side does the balance of advantage stand? With comparatively small opportunities, and in the midst of exceptional difficulties, we in this city have performed a social duty during the past fifteen years that the owners of overcrowded districts in the greatest and wealthiest city of the world have never attempted. We have succeeded in clearing away nests of squalor and disease, and have set up healthy dwellings, constructed upon the most approved sanitary principles of the time, in their stead. The enterprise has only commenced, but we may refer with satisfaction to the circumstance that what once was an area burdened by ruined and unwholesome dwellings is now a quarter of the city where the industrious artisan occupies wholesome and comfortable quarters, in the prosperity of which he takes a personal pride. The landlords of such districts as that of Whitechapel in London cannot avoid their responsibility, and they have had certainly enough of warning. There is no reason why a determined effort should not be made to clear away these rookeries, in which crime is bred and reared; and so long as speculative philanthropists fail to understand their practical duties, though such are perfectly apparent, the evil must preponderate over the good. No doubt the problem is large and has many aspects, but there is no use in treating it from the wrong end. Let theory be laid aside. Let the experience of Dublin - and we express the opinion with confidence - be imitated, and it will be found that the difficulty to be met is not by any means so great as many suppose. English philanthropists are disposed to talk largely in such a social crisis as that now existing. But it is desirable that the narrower actual facts of the situation should be kept before their eyes, and that their attention should be concentrated upon the experiences of other people. The English community will not tolerate the existence of a community of criminal enterprise amongst them. Their attention is not only directed to the plague spot, but they are invited to make observation how the removal of it has been undertaken in other instances. The writer of the latest letter in the Times already quoted, says:- "The English are practical if they are nothing else. Let us hope that the social plague-spots, which are by no means confined to Whitechapel, will stimulate our statesmen at last to make a serious effort at legislation which will go to the root of the matter." The business however is not one which concerns statesmen alone. The landlords of such properties can not be held free from blame, and upon them a vast responsibility devolves. No doubt the state is bound to consider the question, but there are those whose duties as individuals, ought naturally to precede legislation, and whose failure to understand them is to be reprobated. After all, it comes to this point, that while over-crowded and unhealthy tenement houses are tolerated, and while the humblest people are compelled to inhabit places that are unfit for human occupation, it must necessarily follow that hospices of crime must exist. The first step in advance is to sweep them away, and to erect in their stead wholesome dwellings, properly supervised. Theoretic schemes may come in afterwards, but as has been proved in the case most familiar to ourselves, this is the initial and healthiest step.
(CENTRAL NEWS TELEGRAM)
We are enabled to state that Dr Phillips, who made the post mortem examination of the body of Annie Chapman, the victim of the last Whitechapel murder, has been sent to Durham in connection with the terrible crime committed in that district. Dr Philips, who left London last evening, will examine the body of the young woman who was murdered and mutilated at Birtley, with the view to ascertain whether the injuries inflicted on her resemble those inflicted on the Whitechapel victim. We further learn that Inspector Rootes of the Criminal Investigation Department, also left London or Durham, with the object of ascertaining whether any of the facts connected with the murder of Jane Savage on Saturday night are likely to be serviceable in elucidating the Whitechapel mysteries. Up till a late hour last evening the local police had obtained no clue to the murderer, and the fact that several hours must have elapsed between the committal of the crime and the discovery of the body greatly increases their difficulty. The whole neighbourhood has been scoured, and the people everywhere shown the greatest zeal to assist the police in the search, but as stated their efforts have been so far without reward. The methods and success of the murderer so closely resemble those of the Whitechapel fiend that the local authorities are strongly inclined to connect the two crimes. As in each of the last two London cases the murder was effected without any violent struggling on the part of the victim. The actual cause of death was the cutting of the throat, and the same parts of the body were mutilated, and in a very similar manner. Even the pitiful details of the manner in which the victims hands were upheld, as though in the vain endeavour to save her throat from the murderer's knife agree in the three crimes. For the present, however, the police suspend final judgement until the results of Dr Phillips' examination have been made known. In London the detectives continue their enquiries into the recent crimes. Some hope of a clue was revived by the discovery in Devonshire street of a parcel of blood-stained clothes. The garments were submitted without delay to a medical expert, who expressed the opinion that they had not been connected with any crime, but had been thrown away by some person suffering from skin disease.
The following is the full report of the Gateshead murder, which was briefly described yesterday:- A woman named Jane Beatmoor, 28 years of age, was the victim of a horrible murder at Birtley, near Gateshead, on Saturday night or Sunday morning. It appears that the deceased, who was n delicate health, had been at the Gateshead Dispensary on Saturday for medicine, and on returning home went out to purchase some sweets with which to take her medicine. She called at several farms while she was out, and at half past 7 at night left the house of an acquaintance named Mrs Newell, evidently with the intention of returning home. She had not arrived at 11 o'clock, and her mother and stepfather went to look for her, but without success, and concluded that she must have spent the night with some neighbours. Early in the morning a miner named John Fish going to work found the body of the deceased at the bottom of a railway embankment in a horribly mutilated condition. The county police were communicated with and Sergeant Harrison and Sergeant Hutchinson, of Birtley, were soon on the spot. The body was conveyed to Birtley and a doctor sent for. The doctor expressed the opinion that the body had been mutilated with a knife. The affair has caused quite a panic in the district, the resemblance to the Whitechapel tragedies encouraging the idea that the maniac who has been at work in London has travelled down to the north of England to pursue his fiendish vocation. No arrests have been made.
A later telegram says:- Further inquiries made at the scene of the murder do not diminish the shocking brutality of the crime. The unfortunate woman is stabbed in three places, once in the body and twice in the face. The body was found only a few hundred yards from the Girls' Home by the side of the colliery railway. Beatmoor was seen at 8 o'clock on Saturday night. She was then alone. The man Fish found her about half-past seven on Sunday morning. There were no marks of a struggle and no trace of footsteps. The police are completely baffled, as the murderer has not left the slightest clue. During Sunday, thousands of persons visited the spot where the body was found. The affair has caused the utmost consternation.