All terror-stricken London again bows before "Jack the Ripper."
That dread name, the only on unfortunately by which the mysterious fiend is brought within the scope of mere human comprehension, is on the tongue of every man, woman and child in every district of that vast metropolis.
When that cry so familiar to Londoners for several months last year, "Another Whitechapel murder!", rang out a few days ago, men refused to believe that another terrible crime had been added to the mysteries of London. On the faces of the merchants and clerks hurrying to business by the morning trains, one could see incredulity pictured; but this look gave way to blank amazement when they saw Ludgate Hill ablaze with the announcements, "Jack the Ripper Again At Work!", "Another Woman Horribly Mutilated!"
Even the most abandoned women live in a state of terror, however they may try to hide their feeling under a mask of drunken gayety (sic).
The police are absolutely no safeguard. The murderer may prowl as he wishes about these alleys and lanes, even with his hands red with the blood of his victims.
There was no one more astonished than the constable who discovered the body of Alice Mackenzie. "Why," he said to a reporter, "I could scarcely believe my bloomin' h'eyes."
The entire force are completely dumbfounded, they are as helpless as children.
After the murder they make a big show, which results in nothing except the arrest and subsequent discharge of some drunken loafers who drop mysterious hints in public houses.
It must undoubtedly be admitted the police here are terribly handicapped in dealing with the "Ripper." Whitechapel and its immediate neighborhood are simply not works of narrow streets on either side of Commercial road, which is a rather fine thoroughfare. Once a man who is acquainted with the locality turns any one corner the chances are that the very best detective will not discover him. He becomes lost in the labyrinth.
Furthermore, the quarter is a large city in itself, a city of tumble-down, rickety houses and filthy courts and gateways, with a population for the most part criminal.
The lowest of the low, the most abandoned wretches, both male and female, reside here in filthy dens. They are steeped in poverty and vice, and this within a stone's throw almost of the royal mint of England.
The women are poor wretches who, as a rule, have a sort of partnership with men viler than themselves. They do a little charring by day, and supplement their earnings on the streets at night. If they have not regular partners they sleep in the low lodging houses that abound here, and pay fourpence for the "doss." Should they happen to have companions an "eightpenny doss" is engaged. Sometimes there is not enough of money left from the gin palace to pay for a bed, and in that case a cart in some gateway or alley serves the purpose.
These are the women who become the victims of "Jack the Ripper." They known the quietest nooks and corners in his abandoned portion of the great city and have no fear for the policeman whose heavy, measured tread always gives warning of his approach, and even should he flash his lantern on a dark corner the chances are that to save himself trouble he would pass on.
The fiend appears to be wonderfully dexterous at his work. He never gives the victim a chance of raising an alarm. The throat he first cuts in a single instant and then he begins the work of mutilation. The theory is that he cuts from behind, thus avoiding the blood. The abdomen he carves up with evident skill and the entrails he cuts out cleanly, as a rule taking care to place them in some position by the body which renders his terrible work more hideous. Then, his work completed, he glides away.
There is nothing left behind that can lead to his discovery, and the police and the public must content themselves with the customary coroner's inquiry and the old time verdict that the woman was "murdered by some person or persons unknown."
It is now almost two years since the first outcast was found dead and mutilated in the Whitechapel district. A murder in mystery was, however, nothing to marvel at in London and very little effort was made to discover even the customary police clew. The newspapers devoted a mere penny-a-liner's paragraph to the affair.
The following April another woman was found murdered in the same district, but Sir Charles Warren, the chief commissioner of police, was too busily engaged in endeavoring to crush the spirit of London to trouble about the affair. The papers had the usual paragraph, and the case attracted no public attention.
On August 7 there was a slight commotion over the murder of a woman named Margaret (sic) Turner. She was found on the doorsteps of a house. Her body had been pierced in several places with a bayonet. On August 31, the metropolis was genuinely alarmed over the discovery of the body of Polly Nicholes (sic) and in rapid succession the other crimes followed after and London awoke in terror, at last realizing the capacity of the fiend for his bloody work.
Sir Charles Warren was repeatedly attacked in the newspapers, and to make a struggle against his downfall he supplemented the bluecoats with a force of English bloodhounds. Sir Charles, to the amusement of the comic papers, exercised in Hyde Park with the dogs and had them set on his own track. The warrior in less than an hour was up the tallest tree he could find, with the brutes on guard beneath him. After this the hounds sickened of the business and took the first opportunity that offered to escape.
The crowded streets of London were, however, not the ground for bloodhounds.
Failure dogged him at every step and while he was actually quarreling with his assistants in Scotland Yard murder flourished. Human remains were discovered October 2 in a cellar at the foundation of the new police building on the embankment and within the precincts of Scotland Yard. The mutilated body was found here, but afterwards legs and arms were found in other parts of the city.
Mr. Monro, chief of the detective department, could not agree with Sir Charles, who wished to "boss" the whole concern after his own fashion, and consequently, he handed in his resignation at the home office and left the yard.
Warren's day of doom was now rapidly approaching.
Mary Jane Kelly, or Lawrence, was cut up in pieces almost, on November 9. Her nose and ears and breasts were cut off and placed beside her. Her heart and her liver were taken out and tied together round her gashed neck. The portion of her body carried off in all the preceding cases was not to be found. The murdered had excelled all previous efforts at diabolical butchery, and people wondered if this terrible work was never to come to an end.
The police were as ever, and as the week went on Londoners only waited patiently for the finding of the next unfortunate victim of Jack the Ripper.
Things in the meantime went from bad to worse with Sir Charles Warren.
He fell foul of his master and old defender, Home Secretary Mathew (sic), and prepared a magazine article in his own defence.
This article was spring upon the public by the "Star" long before its time and the result was that Warren went back to his soldiering and Monro was picked up again and appointed chief commissioner.
Since Monro's appointment London was not treated to further murders by the Ripper. There was little space given to the November 9 murder, the Parnell commission occupying all the attention of the newspapers.
The body of a woman was found early in June last, but it was not ascertained to a certainty that the old fiend had had anything to do with her murder.
The murder of Alice Mackenzie, a few days ago, gives Mr. Monro a chance of displaying his powers, but unfortunately there are no indications that the metropolitan force has improved either in smartness or manners since the deposition of the military chief.
It is generally believed that the late crime is only the beginning of a fresh series, and Whitechapel is being and will be closely watched by the newspapers.