13 April 1892
A STRANGE STORY
A STRANGE STORY
It is two years and a half since the last of the Whitechapel murders shocked London to the deepest depths. This "mystery" has remained a mystery, and we (says the St. James's Budget) have been to content to regard it as impenetrable. But there is a gentleman holding a rather responsible position, who thinks he has unravelled it, who says he knows who the criminals are, and where they are to be found. This is his case which he has put into print and is circulating. He maintains that a person, the murderer or murderers, might be expected to be Portuguese, of Oporto, because (so he says) Portuguese of Oporto are more likely than other people to commit crimes of that sort; and he quotes a ghastly passage from Napier's "Peninsular War" to show the ways of the Oporto Portuguese three quarters of a century ago. This is not very conclusive. But he further asserts that the murders invariably occurred just after two vessels, trading with cattle from Oporto to London, had arrived on the Docks, and at no other times, except in one instance. When those boats had been "spotted" by him the police took to watching them closely, and thereupon the murders ceased.
But he goes further. He says that on each occasion there was on board these ships one or other of four Portuguese cattle men, whom he names and can identify. On the only occasion when a murder was committed, without either of the two vessels referred to being in the Docks, another cattle ship from Oporto ad just arrived: and one of his four suspects was on board her. All these four men are now engaged as boatmen or bargemen (?) at Oporto; and our informant thinks that the police ought to have their eyes - if not their hands - upon them. Such is the theory, which is both curious and interesting, and may have something in it.
In the volume called Later Leaves, by Mr. Montagu Williams, Q.C., a remarkable passage occurs with reference to the Whitechapel murders; and this, we have reason to believe, bears upon the information in the hands of our correspondent. When Mr. Montagu Williams's book was published this passage attracted a good deal of notice. It is as follows:-
"I have something to say in reference to the Whitechapel murders that I think will be read with interest by many of my readers. I was sitting alone one afternoon, on a day on which I was off duty, when a card was brought to me and I was informed that the gentleman whose name it bore desired that I would see him. My visitor was at once shown in. He explained that he had called ofr the purpose of having a conversation with me with regard to the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of the East end murders. He had, he said, taken a very great interest in the matter, and had set on foot a number of inquiries that had yielded a result which, in his opinion, afforded an undoubted clue to the mystery, and indicated beyond any doubt the individual or individuals on whom this load of guilt rested. My visitor handed me a written statement in which his conclusions were clearly set forth, together with the facts and calculations on which they were based; and I am bound to say this theory - for theory it, of necessity, is - struck me as being remarkably ingenious and worthy of the closest attention. Besides the written statement, this gentleman showed me copies of a number of letters that he had received from various persons in response to the representations he had made. It appeared he had communicated his ideas to the proper authorities, and that they had given them every attention. Of course, the theory set forth by my visitor may be a correct one, or it may not. Nothing, however, has occurred to prove it fallacious during the many months that have elapsed since the last of that terrible series of crimes. As I have said, I cannot take the reader into my confidence over this matter, as, possibly in doing so, I might be hampering the future course of justice. One statement, however, I may make, and inasmuch as it is calculated to allay public fears, I do so with great pleasure. The cessation of the East end murders dates from the time when certain action was taken as a result of the promulgation of these ideas.
The following is a statement of the facts observed by our informant which led to his conclusions. He gives all the names in full. We have preferred, however, to suppress the names of ships and men, indicating the former by numbers and the latter by letters of the alphabet:-
On the 30th August 1888, at 7 p.m., the "No. 1" entered the London docks, having on board A, aged thirty seven, a Potuguese cattleman. On the morning of 1st September Mrs. Nicolls (sic) was found murdered; this man was again here on 19th September, and again on 15th October. Whether the hue and cry which was raised after the double murder acted as a deterrent, this fact is clear - he returned to Oporto, and has not been over since. He is now employed as a lighterman at Oporto. I have traced this man's movements from the time of the first murder, and they prove conclusively that he has never been here when any of the other murders have taken place.
On the 7th September, 1888, at 2 p.m., the "No. 2" entered the London docks, having on board B (aged forty one) and C (aged twenty six), both Portuguese cattlemen. On the 8th September Annie Chapman was found murdered.
On 27th September, 1888, at 4 p.m., the "No. 2" entered the London docks, again having on board B and C, both Portuguese cattlemen. ON the 30th September Elizabeth Stride and Mrs. Eddowes were found murdered. ON the 19th October, 1888, the "No. 2" entered the London docks, having on board B, no longer as a cattleman but an able seaman. C had disappeared. The log-book of the "No. 2" explains this. It says: "13.10.88: C, cattleman, deserted from ship, and did not appear up to the time of ship sailing." The cattleman who took his place on this voyage says he was working in a stevedore's gang, and that B induced him to change places with him. From that time C does not appear to have come over. No murder took place during the month of October.
On the 8th of November, 1888, at 2.30 p.m., the "No. 2" entered the London docks, having on board B, now, as on the previous voyage, as able seaman. Early the following morning Mary Jane Kelly was found murdered, with unheard of brutality. This man B is a most experienced cattleman, having made several voyages to this country in that capacity previous to these murders, and, being a man of mature age, the sang froid displayed upon the occasion of this murder is easily accounted for. This man's coolness seems to have stood him in good stead, as, in order to avoid any suspicion, he continued to come over until the month of March, 1889, upon one occasion as quartermaster - in fact, in any capacity but his rightful one as cattleman. After this murder I gave information to the police on the 10th November that when the "No. 1" or the "No. 2" were in, then, and then only, did these murders take place; that I was certain it was the cattlemen who were on board these vessels. I informed them on 19th November that these men were Potuguese, and that made me more confident than ever that they were the ones. Although the police were at this time watching the arrival of cattle boats, they were not aware these vessels carried cattle until I gave them the information. Immediately after I had given them the information the "No. 2" was closely watched, but was allowed to proceed to sea on the Ides of November without any arrest being made. As soon as these vessels were watched the outrages ceased. Although these vessels have made many voyages since then no outrage has taken place when either of the vessels has been here.
On the 17th July, 1889, Alice Mackenzie was murdered. This was evidently an attempt on resuming these outrages. At that time there were two vessels here from Oporto; The "No. 3" and the "No. 4", each having a Portuguese cattleman (?) on board. D (aged twenty three) who was on board the "No. 4", lying at Fresh Wharf, was formerly a seaman in the "No. 1" at the time A and C were in the habit of coming over in that vessel. Notwithstanding my urgent request that these men should be detained to be seen by the police who were on duty in the neighborhood of the murder, they were allowed to return to Oporto. D is now employed there as a stevedore."