29 September 1888
To the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette
Three weeks have now passed since Annie Chapman was discovered and mutilated in a squalid back court in Hanbury street, and this, the last of a series of terrible outrages that have recently been perpetrated in Whitechapel, within a few hundred yards of each other, already promises to join the majority of undiscovered crimes of cruel London. Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner before whom the case has been investigated, may certainly be congratulated on the fascinating and astounding theory he propounded on Wednesday in his charge to the jury, though he can scarcely be congratulated on his powers of logical sequence. According to Mr. Baxter, an American gentleman called some months back on the curator of the Pathological Museum, and having explained that he was publishing a medical work, with each copy of which he was desirous of issuing an actual specimen of the part treated therein, he offered the forementioned official £20 for every such specimen he could procure for him. Without wishing to appear frivolous, surely I must ask at what price a work whose "supplement" is to cost £20 is to be published at; and if the cost of production is expected to be covered by the publishing price, where a market is to be found for so costly a work? But the most ingenious part of Mr. Baxter's theory now follows. According to him, a market for such specimens of the human frame having been found to exist, the hour beings forth the man, and a ruffian is found who, tempted by the reward, hastens to procure the object of the American gentleman's desire. Did it not strike the coroner that under the circumstances the murderer left himself no loophole for escape? A work published with so unusual a "supplement" must at once attract considerable notice; and, considering the world wide excitement caused by the late murders, would the author not be immediately called upon to account for every specimen in his possession, the dates on which procured, and every conceivable data relating to each? Had the murderer's object been the one suggested by Mr. Baxter, would he not rather have inveigled his victim or victims into some secluded place, where his crime could have been committed without at once being detected, and therefore not only at once stopping his or her depredations, but beside at once closing his market? Why, again, should he in each case have so arranged the appalling details as specially to intensify the sensationalism of his crimes and so attract the notice of the entire civilized world to them? Again, why within a few weeks commit three different crimes all almost precisely similar in their details, and all in precisely the same neighbourhood, instead, say, of committing one in Whitechapel, another in Bermondsey, and a third in Camberwell? Does this not rather show that the murderer lives in and is acquainted with the locality where the murders were committed? And yet Mr. Wynne E. Baxter remarks: "There is little doubt that the deceased (Annie Chapman) knew the place (the little back court where the murder was committed, one out of hundreds similar to it in the neighbourhood), for it was only three or four hundred yards from where she lodged. If so, it is quite unnecessary to assume that her companion had any such knowledge."
May I ask Mr. Baxter which of the two had most need of security - the woman who entered the court for an immoral purpose, or the man who, according to him, deliberately entered it to commit a terrible murder followed by a long and delicate surgical operation. But, again - which is even more astounding - Mr. Baxter asks us to believe that this human fiend, a comparative stranger, if not a total one, to the locality, at six o'clock on a light September morning, in a neighbourhood where at that hour half the inhabitants are up and hurrying to their work, quietly issues out of No. 29, Hanbury street, "with a brown hat on his head and a dark coat on his back," reeking with blood, with every proof of the crime about his person - a crime which he has not only taken no pains to conceal, but every detail of which he had prepared with almost fiendish ingenuity so as to create excitement, and with the knowledge that within a very few hours ot must be the main topic of conversation throughout the town - and walks carelessly to some distant spot through the now fairly crowded streets, unnoticed and unsuspected, and calmly remits, probably by parcel post, the desire specimen to his American patron.
Charles Ed. Jerningham.