Saturday, 8 September 1888
The mystery of the Whitechapel murders becomes more mysterious as time goes on. Theories abound, but facts are scarce. One party starts the very likely hypothesis that the criminal is a maniacal homicide of the type of Williams, De Quincey's horrible hero, and that disclosures await us as terrible as those which made the Ratcliff Highway murders a daily and nightly terror to the inhabitants of the locality. There are some curious parallels between the two cases; and there are some fairly remarkable contrasts. If the one man then is disposed of, there are others at hand. If "Leather Apron" proves to be either a harmless lunatic, or can prove a satisfactory alibi, or is even a mythical outgrowth of the reporter's fancy, we have the "High Rip Gang" to fall back upon. With the Regent's Park murder in view he would be a bold man who would say that the London rough, hedged round with a number of choice and congenial spirits, is incapable of committing a very hideous crime. But it seems an aspersion on the London larriken to suppose that he is capable of the peculiarly meaningless and utterly loathsome barbarities of which the Whitechapel murder is distinguished. Failing again, the street rowdy, organised for murder as well as plunder, there is the slaughterman. A band of theorists have decided that one of the men in the slaughter-house must be the guilty person. That is hard on his innocent companions, whose social relations in Whitechapel are not likely to be improved by the stigma attaching to their body. Moreover, beyond the fact that slaughtermen have knives, and that the murder was certainly committed by a man armed with a knife, there does not seem to be a superfluity of reasoning for connecting the slaughter-house with the loathsome crime committed within a few yards of its hospital doors. By a process of exhaustion then we get back to our homicidal maniac. In favour of this theory of the murder there are several obvious reasons. These are: (1) The unnatural character of the crime; (2) the absence of apparent motive, both in the case of the woman Phillips [sic] and of the other two murders; (3) the similarity of the wounds inflicted in all three cases; (4) the suspicion - amounting almost to certainty - that mutilation was inflicted after death; (5) the extraordinary secrecy and cunning displayed by the murderer; (6) the impossibility of supposing that a gang of men could keep their crime secret, and would not be betrayed by a timid accomplice; (7) generally, the unlikely character of the crime, suggesting an unlikely cause. No reasons of anything like equal strength can at present be alleged in support of any other theory of the crime. Others may emerge when more facts are at our command, but at present there is not sufficient cause for casting on the lower classes of London the aspersion that they are guilty of crimes so foul and so meaningless as the Whitechapel murders.