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Manchester Guardian
8 October 1888

"THE EAST END MURDERS -- Excitement in Whitechapel, Police Precautions"

Throughout Saturday the inhabitants of Whitechapel were kept in a state of feverish excitement by the knowledge that threatening letters were constantly being received by the police authorities at the various stations intimating that the assassin would shortly recommence his ghastly work. Towards the evening the dismay became remarkably intensified, as reports of further threats were circulated, many of them appearing to be the pure inventions of cruel tritlers. But whether true or false, they at least served as an incentive not only to the police to adopt extra precautions, but even stimulated the residents to, if possible, prevent a repetition of the horrible murders. Soon after ten o'clock the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields assumed an almost deserted appearance as far as women were concerned, and those who ventured abroad did not do so singly, but moved about in twos and threes. Even the unfortunate class were not an exception to this rule. This plan seems to have been adopted by women of this character, and doubtless will prove a great obstacle to the movements of the murderer, who, knowing that a third party haunts his actions, will not find another opportunity so easily of carrying out his designs. The police were nervously apprehensive that the night would not pass without some startling occurrence. The most extraordinary precautions were taken in consequence, and so complete were the measures adopted, both by the City and Metropolitan Police authorities, that it seemed impossible for the murderer to make his appearance in the East End without detection. Large bodies of plain-clothes men were drafted by Sir Charles Warren to the Whitechapel district from other parts of London, and these, together with the detectives, were so numerous that in the more deserted thoroughfares almost every man met with a police-officer. The city police, far from being outdone in their exertions to ensure the protection of the public, more than doubled the patrols, so that almost every nook and corner of the various beats came under police supervision every five minutes. In addition to this measure men were stationed at fixed distances to watch for any suspicious looking persons, and when thought at all necessary to follow them. These arrangements to ensure safety and to reassure the public of the efforts taken on their behalf applied equally to other parts of the metropolis, it being thought that the murderer finding Whitechapel rather too warm for him might transfer his operations to another district. The parks, where the fiend would have no difficulty in finding victims, were specially well patrolled, and the police in the most outlying districts were keenly alive to the anxieties of the situation. Most of the men were on duty all Friday night in the East End; the extra work, therefore, was particularly harassing. But every man entered heartily into the work, and not a murmur was heard. All wore upon their mettle, and if collective and individual zeal were all that was required, the murderer would soon be hunted down. Supplementing the energy displayed by the police, hundreds of people living in the back streets sat up all night, whilst dozens of sturdy householders paid occasional visits to yards and other secluded spots in their immediate vicinity. The volunteer patrols organised by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee lent marked assistance to the police. Their patrols were told off to well planned beats, many of these amateur policemen being furnished with noiseless boots, a measure which has lately been strongly urged upon the Metropolitan police. It is supposed that the murderer is armed with a revolver, and, if detected, will shoot at the first person who attempted to capture him: in any case his knife, in such skillful hands, would, if he had the slightest chance of dealing a blow, prove mortal. The large reward offered has, however, afforded sufficient stimulus to as large a number of strong, able-bodied men as are required for the dangerous duty of tracking down the murderer. The police continue to receive many descriptions of men who are supposed to answer the published particulars, but few cases warrant an arrest. Amongst others, for instance, was one given at the Bishopsgate Police Station of a man who went on board the City of London at 9.45 on Saturday morning, and asked for the steward. He then inquired if there were any females on board, stating that he knew there were, as he could smell them. He then left in a hackney carriage for Camden station. He is described as about forty years of age, 5ft. 9in. in height, complexion fair, and moustache dark, wearing a blue serge suit, lace boots, and a black felt hat.

As a specimen of the vast amount of absurd "information" which is imparted to the police, and through which they have to wade, a man called at the Commercial-street Police Station, stating that he thought he had a clue. Upon inquiry it was ascertained that he knew a man who cut a baby to pieces twenty years ago, and afterwards escaped to America, it being his impression that the baby mutilator might have returned and committed the recent horrible mutilations. In that case he said he could give a description. A sketch-portrait of a man has been made by the Scotland Yard authorities answering as nearly as possible to the description given by Matthew Packer, 44, Berner- street, and that of two other witnesses, who assert that they saw the man, and actually conversed with him prior to the committal of the murder. Packer keeps a fruit shop next door to the yard adjoining the Working Men's Educational Club, and indignantly protests that two grape stalks were found near the body of Elizabeth Stride by a woman living up the yard. He seems positive that the grapes were sold by him to the man who murdered Stride. Tracings of the sketch made of the supposed murderer have been sent to all those who are likely to identify him, amongst them being Packer, who contemptuously states that it bears no resemblance whatever to the man he had endeavoured to describe. IF a man was found was answered to the description of the sketch in every detail he could not possibly swear that he had seen such a man. The man he saw was about thirty years of age, whereas the portrait was that of a mere boy without any expression whatever, and from what he could judge practically useless for identification. He also complained very bitterly that he had wasted nearly the whole week trying to help the police, had neglected his business, and had not received the least remuneration, though promises had been made to him that his time would be paid for.

At the Birmingham Police Court on Saturday a man giving the name of Alfred Napier Blanchard, canvasser, from London, was charged on his own confession with the Whitechapel murders. Prisoner was arrested on the strength of a statement he had been making in a public-house containing a circumstantial account of his proceedings. He now denies any connection with the murders, and explains his confession by pleading mental excitement, caused by reading about the tragedies. He was remanded till to-day. The police do not consider his arrest important.

For some days past the inhabitants of Eltham, especially the female portion, have been alarmed at a strange-looking man sleeping in the woods and fields, and occasionally emerging into solitary places to beg. Complaints were made to the police, many persons thinking he was the Whitechapel assassin. The police turned out to find him, and Sub-inspector Harris on Friday night found him asleep, covered over with grass, in a field abutting on Mottingham Lane, Eltham. He was taken to the police station and charged with being found wandering abroad and sleeping in the open air without visible means of subsistence. He gave the name of Bertram Knutson, aged 23, and said he was a Norwegian sailor. He was arraigned before Mr. Fenwick at the Woolwich Police Court on Saturday, and was told that he must not go about in the present disturbed state of the public feeling alarming people in the woods and fields. He directed the police to take him to the workhouse.

With reference to the identity of Elizabeth Stride, the Woolwich newspapers of the time of the Princess Alice disaster have been referred to, and it has been found that a woman of that name was a witness at the inquest, and identified the body of a man as her husband, and of two children then lying in Woolwich Dockyard. She said she was on board and saw them drowned, her husband picking up one of the children, and being drowned with it in his arms. She was saved by climbing the funnel, where she was accidentally kicked in the mouth by a retired arsenal police inspector, who was also clinging to the funnel. The husband and two children are buried in Woolwich Cemetery.

The following letter from the Home Secretary has been received by the president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee:--

"Whitehall, october 6, 1888.

"Sir,--The Secretary of State for the Home Department has had the honour to lay before the queen the petition signed by you, praying that a reward may be offered by the Government for the discovery of the perpetrator of the recent murders in Whitechapel, and he desires me to inform you that though he has given directions that no effort or expense should be spared in endeavouring to discover te person guilty of the murders, he has not beed able to advise Her Majesty that in his belief the ends of justice would be promoted by any departure from the direction already announced with regard to the proposal that a reward should be offered by Government.--I am, sir,you obedient servant, E. LEIGH PEMBERTON."

The New York Herald declares that the seaman named Dodge, who recently stated that a Malay whom he met in London threatened to murder a number of Whitechapel women for robbing him, said that he knew the street where the Malay stayed, but that he would not divulge the name until he learned what chance there was of a reward. He stated, however, tha the street was not far from the East India Dock Road, but he was not certain about the house where the man lived. Another seaman said he thought the Malay was now on a vessel plying in the North Sea.

Up to last evening the police had obtained no further definite news as to the identity of the Whitechapel murderer, but they had been busily engaged during the day in piecing together the information in their possession wiht a view to tracing his course on the night of the last murders, and his movements generally, and also in dealing with the mass of communications volunteered by inhabitants of the locality in response to the request which has been officially issued. The bulk of the statements are on the face of no use, but by collating those which seem to bear on the crimes the police believe that they are gradually narrowing down the area of inquiry. At the present time there is no person in custody, and there was yesterday a marked freedom from the false alarms which have taken place during the past week. The weather being fine a great number of people visited the district, but the extra force of police still on duty was able to prevent any disorder or obstruction.

Telegraphing at midnight a correspondent says:--It transpires that there have been a dozen arrests during the last two days. In most of the cases the persons taken into custody were arrested on the information of private residents, and the police state that though in several cases there appeared to be good grounds for suspicion, upon inquiry being made the explanations which were forthcoming were satisfactory and the suspected persons were released. The most important arrest, as it was thought, was that of a man who to-night was in the neighbourhood of Commercial-street, and whose movements were considered to be suspicious. He was followed by two private persons until they met a constable, who on their information took him into custody. On being searched, at Commercial-street police station it was found that in a black bag which he was carrying were two razors. At first it was stated that he gave two false addresses, but it appears that he had come up from the country to-day, and having explained his movements the police considered there was no reason for detaining him.

Related pages:
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       Press Reports: Illustrated Police News - 20 October 1888 
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       Press Reports: Evening News - 18 October 1888 
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