29 September 1888
THE MYSTERIOUS "AMERICAN STUDENT"
The Daily Telegraph says:
Assurances have been given by responsible officers of the medical schools attached to all the London hospitals, with two exceptions, that no such extraordinary application was ever made to them of the nature described by Mr. Wynne Baxter, the coroner, in his recent summing up/ At the schools of the University College Hospital and of the Middlesex Hospital the authorities, for some inscrutable reason, decline to give any information as to whether the "American student" did prefer his singular request to them or not. From certain admissions of the gentlemen concerned there does not appear to be reason to doubt that to one or other of these two institutions belongs the distinction of having given certain information to the coroner which he subsequently communicated to the Scotland yard detectives and upon which he based his theory which has caused such consternation. After Mr. Baxter had insisted that Mr. Phillips, the police divisional surgeon, should no longer withhold the most important part of his evidence respecting his post mortem examination of the body of Annie Chapman, and even when the report was published, it is clear that on the next day the coroner received a communication from an official connected with a leading London hospital, and that in consequence he attended at the pathological museum belonging to the institution, where some one made him acquainted with the outlines of a rumour which had circulated in the dissecting rooms during the past summer, and to which not the slightest importance was attached until the murder in Hanbury street occurred and the startling medical evidence was published. The rumour, at most, appears to have been an idel one, and in respect of the sum mentioned to the coroner - namely £20, as the price offered, and the object of the American as stated by him - the story is discredited. At the Middlesex Hospital the official, who on other points refused to elucidate the matter, characterised the tale, as far as the above details are concerned, as a silly story.
Furthermore, at University College, where pains were taken to return an unqualified answer of "no information," it was hinted that the story as it has been made public had, in some way, become mixed with error, and that it was very certain that it provided no explanation of the motive of the crime. Those gentlemen who assert that they have "no information" somewhat indignantly repudiate the suggestion that it was a hoax, or that the matter has no importance. In fact they talk somewhat mysteriously about "the interests of justice" being imperilled by disclosure.
After all this I suppose I shall be expected to sum up in some sort of way on the Whitechapel murders; but I feel much more inclined to say, the facts are before you, judge for yourselves. Yet I may suggest a few points of special interest. First, the murders may not have all been committed by one man. There is a fashion in murder, or rather, there are epidemics of similar crimes; or, again, the imitative action may have come into play. I do not think that any epileptic or drunken maniac would have so cunningly selected his victims and avoided detection, and the failure to identify any one is in favour of there being only one agent. A mere lust for blood would not have been satisfied by the selection of victims. The skill with which the murders were perpetrated and the skill of the mutilation point to some one with some anatomical knowledge. This might be possessed by a butcher or some one who had had medical knowledge; but there are so many nowadays with mechanical knowledge of the body, in the form of post mortem room and anatomy room porters, that to suppose the murders to be the work of a medical man is, to my thinking, going too far. The cunning of the evasion, the ferocity of the crimes, the special selection of the victims, seem to me to depend either on a fiendishly criminal revenge, or else upon some fully organised delusion of persecution or world regeneration.