12 October 1888
"MENE, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin!" Sir CHARLES WARREN at least will recognise the quotation, and know how appropriate it is to his present plight. MR MATTHEWS is probably more familiar with LORD BYRON than the Prophet DANIEL;-
Came forth against the wall, and wrote as if on sand:
The fingers of a man; - a solitary hand
Along the letters ran, and traced them like a wand.
And this is the interpretation which applies equally to the Home Secretary and to the Chief Commissioner: "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." Strange that it should have been the blood-red hand of the assassin which should have traced upon a wall in the East-end a message the obliteration of which has supplied the last conclusive demonstration required of the utter unfitness of Sir CHARLES WARREN for the place which he holds.
The case against the Chief Commissioner is overwhelming. The evidence given at the inquest yesterday proved that in all human probability the murderer left behind him in Goulston-street an invaluable clue to his identity. The Times this morning says that it is "unreasoning petulance" to blame the police for not discovering a murderer who is cunning enough to leave no clue behind him by which he can be traced. But in the case of the murder in Mitre-square the murderer did leave behind him a clue, an invaluable and unmistakable clue, in the shape of an inscription in his own handwriting on a wall immediately above the place where he threw away the piece of his victim's apron on which he had wiped his gory fingers. Here was a clue which, in the absence of all other clues, was of simply incalculable importance. Yet it has been destroyed, and destroyed by the direct act of Sir CHARLES WARREN himself. Strange, almost incredible though it appears, this excellent Major-General, whose first thought is ever how to repress disorder, and to whom the detection of crime is but a secondary consideration, actually persisted in destroying this clue, in face of the protests of the city police and of the suggestion of one of his own men. If we had been called upon to imagine what would afford the public an exact measure of Sir CHARLES WARREN'S utter incapacity for the work he has on hand, we could not have conceived anything more cruelly conclusive than this. If Sir CHARLES WARREN had but read pages 248-9 of Mr HOWARD VINCENT'S Police Code, he would have seen how flagrantly he was violating the first duty of a policeman in a case of murder. He was destroying evidence that might have been of priceless value, and hid that avowedly from a political motive. He feared that if the words remained on the wall, a crowd might assemble and there might be an attack on the Jews! So, rather than take the trouble of covering them up with a cloth and preventing access to the spot until the inscription was photographed, he rubbed it out, all out, refusing even to be content with erasing the one word "Juwes", as it appears to have been written in Yiddish, and so perished the only clue which the murderer has left us by which he might be identified.
That is enough for Sir CHARLES WARREN. But what about Mr MATTHEWS? By a singular fatality the morning papers published, immediately after the report of Sir CHARLES WARREN'S destruction of his only clue, the following extraordinary letter from Mr MATTHEWS'S secretary:-
I am instructed to state that Mr Matthews has been given directions, and that the police have instructions, to exercise any and every power they possess, and even to use an amount of discretion with regard, to suspected persons, in their efforts to discover the criminal. And I am further to state that the Secretary of State, after personal conference with the Commissioners of Police, at which the whole of the difficulties have been fully discussed, is satisfied that no means has been or will be spared in tracing the offender and bringing him to justice.
There we have it. Mr MATTHEWS is satisfied with Sir CHARLES WARREN, and Sir CHARLES WARREN no doubt is satisfied with Mr MATTHEWS. What a Home Secretary! He is, indeed, a worthy counterpart to the Chief Commissioner. He is quite satisfied that "every means" has been and will be used to track out the murderer. And as a practical commentary upon this astounding statement we have the evidence at yesterday's inquest that the only clue has been destroyed deliberately by the officers for which Mr MATTHEWS is officially responsible, and with whose conduct he is quite "satisfied". In making such a declaration Mr MATTHEWS countersigned the decree for his own disappearance from the Home Office, which public opinion, without distinction of party, has drawn up.
Mr MATTHEWS is "satisfied". But he is alone in his satisfaction. The City police are not the only constabulary whose chiefs are in a state of indignation over the conduct of Scotland-yard. The chief constables of our great municipalities are looking on with amazement at the incredible folly which is being displayed at headquarters, and with shame and indignation at the condition to which administrative incompetence has reduced great districts in London. We receive from all parts testimony as to the amazement which the publication of our Robbers' Record of Gray's-inn-road has occasioned throughout the kingdom. "I would not be allowed to hold my place another day", writes to us a well-known chief constable in the provinces, "if such a state of things existed under my jurisdiction". What will our correspondent say, we wonder, when he reads the Robbers' Record of Hackney-road, which we publish to-day? We have in vain attempted to keep our report within manageable dimensions. We commend it to the attentive consideration of Lord SALISBURY, and to the rest of the colleagues of the Home Secretary, as a sample of the kind of thing which Mr MATTHEWS is perfectly satisfied. It is a black and burning disgrace for the Government to allow such a state of things as we have brought to light to remain a single day without prompt and vigorous action. "Law and Order" are indeed words without meaning when thieves can levy such a tribute upon the unfortunate tradesmen of London.