September 22nd, 1888
More fortunate than one or two innocent persons, the Whitechapel murderer continues to elude the vigilance of the police. They inquest on the body of his victim has been resumed; and the surgical evidence shows that the crime was committed by some ruffian who must be skilful and deliberate in the work of murder, as well as brutal. The Home Secretary has refused to yield to the "pressure" put upon him to offer a reward for the discovery of the Whitechapel murders. Since £300 or thereabouts has already been subscribed towards raising a reward, there can be no occasion to further stimulate the cupidity of the assassin's possible accomplices. But it may be hoped that the outcry now raised will cause the whole subject to be gone into Parliament. It was always very doubtful whether the authorities were right in dropping the reward system.
IT is no doubt a most desirable thing that a community should be disabused of any illusions as to its social condition and surroundings. On that point we shall be all agreed; and if, therefore, there be any considerable number of persons among us who have been till now under the impression that Whitechapel was a perfect home of the civil and domestic virtues, or even that it was a region in which, as the discontented Western American complained, "respectability stalks unchecked," they should be duly grateful to those philanthropic gentlemen who are endeavouring to awaken them to a perception of the true state of the case. For ourselves, however, we should have thought that the persons standing in need of this sort of enlightenment form an extremely limited class; and we are certainly not prepared to admit that the "Whitechapel horrors" as one enthusiast has just assured us, "will not be in vain" if they assist the enlightening process. Four murders of unexplained barbarity are rather heavy price to pay for opening the eyes of the people who must have been hitherto in the habit of keeping them most obstinately shut, and who must be so very little likely to use them to any purpose now that they are opened. Moreover, it must be said, with unfeigned respect for "S.G.O." and the Rev. SAMUEL BARNETT, that the particular crimes which they profess to consider so "awakening" do not form by any means an appropriate text for the particular sermon which they are preaching upon them. If they wish -- as they do, and very rightly, wish -- to enforce the truth that the normal condition of certain of the poorer and more populous districts of London is deplorable, and that the social reformer should redouble his efforts to improve it, they do not act wisely in resting so much of their case on the perpetration of certain atrocities which are of a quite abnormal character even for the crime-haunted district in which they have occurred. If the murderer or murderers of these four unfortunate women be ever discovered, it is tolerably certain, whatever else is doubtful, that he or they will be found to belong to a class of criminal which Whitechapel has no more a specialty for engendering than has any other region of the world in which a human monster from time to time makes his appearance. "Society" is in these days made responsible for much, and is accustomed to accept that responsibility without much question. But when Society is told that, if it does not at once prosecute to accomplishment certain extremely difficult social and economical reforms, it will be held responsible for the existence and growth of a class of criminals who make it their business or their pastime to murder and disembowel women, common sense revolts. And since common sense must, in the long run, direct and guide all efforts for the amelioration of the human lot, if they are to do good instead of harm, it is not well to alienate it from the cause for which Mr. BARNETT in his own day, like "S.G.O." in his, has so laudably and unselfishly laboured.
There is nothing, moreover, in the measures which the former of these philanthropists has been urging upon us which is not familiar enough to every one, or which needs to be recommended by four savage murders of a kind entirely outside all ordinary experience. "Efficient police supervision," for instance, is a detail of municipal government which ought not to be defective in any quarter of a great city; although there is no doubt much reason to fear that there is in fact a serious lack of it in Whitechapel. When provided, however, it is much more likely to be effective in preventing the "rows, fights, and thefts" which are so common in the locality than in anticipating the occasional commission of secretly planned and swiftly executed murder. "Adequate lighting and cleaning," "removal of slaughter-houses," and "control of tenement-houses by responsible landlords," are, again, all of them doubtless reforms of substantial if of unequal value. They have all of them, we admit, a more or less direct connection with the general improvement of the morals and manners of the inhabitants of this or any other locality; but their bearing upon the particular crimes with which we are now concerned is really exceedingly remote. Men with a maniacal thirst for bloodshed would still appear occasionally, even if all the slaughter-houses were removed from Whitechapel and all the tenement-houses placed under responsible landlords: nor could the most perfect system of "lighting and cleaning" the streets of the district leave such miscreants without a back-yard near at hand in which to commit a murder. It cannot possibly enlist fresh efforts on behalf of any cause to set before its well-wishers and object which they must know to be impossible of attainment. And, adverting for a moment to another question raised by these crimes, we may add that it does not hopefully stimulate the efforts of anybody in any undertaking, to make no allowance for its difficulties and to obstruct its progress by unreasonable and unseasonable interference. We are not concerned to defend the conduct of the inquiry into these murders by the police; least of all to justify the way in which they have presented the case to the coroner. But it is fair to remember that the murders themselves are of a character which make it peculiarly difficult to trace the perpetrators, and that certain sensational organs of the press have done their utmost from the outset of the case to render the work of detection as hard as possible.
It must be a very easy task to manage the London police. Everybody seems to know how it ought to be done. Unfortunately, the methods proposed by two different reformers are generally contradictory. Here is one of them writing to the Times that every policeman ought to be kept to his own beat; he would be so much more useful if he were allowed to get a thorough knowledge of his district and its inhabitants. Another amateur will tell you that the only plan is to keep the policemen in constant circulation. Let a man be kept in any particular district and he becomes dangerous accomplice of the thieves, bullies, and other persons who ply their vocations in his neighbourhood.
The adjourned inquest on the body of Annie Chapman was resumed on Wednesday. The most important evidence given was that of Dr. Bagster Phillips, who stated the further results of the examination. There were three scratches below the lower jaw and bruises on the face. He thought the face was bruised at the same time that the incision in the throat was made.
The rest of the surgical evidence, however, is mainly unfit for publication, beyond the fact that several vital portions of the body were missing. The doctor added that the weapon used must have been at least from five to six inches long, and probably longer. It must also have been very sharp, and the mode in which the abdominal wall was removed indicated a certain amount of anatomical skill. There were also other indications that the murderer had made certain calculations consequent upon the possession of anatomical knowledge.
The coroner: How long would all the injuries take to inflict?
The witness: I could not have performed all the injuries, even without a struggle being made, under a quarter of an hour. If I had done it in a deliberate way, such as would fall to the duty of a surgeon, it would probably have taken me the best part of an hour.
The inquest was then adjourned until next Wednesday. Nearly £300 has been subscribed towards the reward fund.