13 February 1894
SOLUTION OF THE GREAT MURDER MYSTERY.
HIS PERSONALITY, CAREER, AND FATE.
The general impression for a long time has been that Jack the Ripper is dead. It was evident that the fiend who committed so many murders in such rapid succession - with such extraordinary daring - with such untiring ferocity - would never cease his bloody work until death or detection. Just three years have now passed away since these murders ceased to take place; and such an interruption in the series of crimes points clearly to the disappearance in some form or other of the man who was guilty of them.
But besides detection - which has not taken place - or death - there is a third solution. Such injuries could only be done by a homicidal lunatic; and a homicidal lunatic may sometimes try his hand at murder without success; inflicting, perhaps, only a wound - sometimes only causing a fright, and, caught in these comparatively minor offences and being unmistakably a lunatic, may thus be locked away, without noise, without attracting attention, without even a paragraph in the newspapers. Oftentimes a man, sentenced as a petty thief, turns out to be a long suspected and long sought for murderer. Charles Peace was first charged as a burglar; it was not till some time after he had been imprisoned that he was found to be the daring ruffian who had committed more than one murder, and for years had successfully defied all efforts to discover him.
This is, we believe, what happened in the case of Jack the Ripper. He was first brought to imprisonment on the charge of being simply a dangerous lunatic. And the evidence of his lunacy - hopeless, abysmal and loathsome - was so palpable that he was not permitted even to plead. In the brief of the counsel who prosecuted, in the instructions of the solicitor who defended, there was the same statement - that he was suspected of being Jack the Ripper. In the case of both the one and the other, the very mention of this or any other dark suspicion was precluded; for, unable to plead, the wretched creature in the dock was saved from all indictment; was spared the necessity of all defence. He was sent forthwith to the living tomb of a lunatic asylum, and there he might have passed to death without mention of his terrible secret if a chance clue had not put a representative of The Sun on the track. The clue thus accidentally obtained has been followed up by months of patient investigation, and has been thoroughly sifted. Today we lay before the world a story - consecutive, careful, and firmly knit - which we believe will offer the solution of the greatest murder mystery of the nineteenth century.
First, let us see if we can form a picture of the kind of being such a murderer as Jack the Ripper would be. That inquiry will largely help us in his identification with the man whom we decided to be he.
In the first place, he would be neither very young nor very old; not very young, because he could not have gone through the experiences which would produce such a mania as his; not very old, for he would not have had the strength or the agility, or the daring, to perform such a series of crimes.
What would be the experiences which would produce such a mania? It must be remembered that the mania of murdering women of the class who were the victims of Jack the Ripper is by no means unusual. Neill, for instance, was a maniac of this kind; and poisoned fallen women apparently in the mere wantonness of delight of such work. The writer of this article once saw a soldier - a quiet, almost gentle creature, with fine brown eyes and an intellectual face and mind - tried for the murder of an unfortunate woman whom he had not seen for nearly 20 years, and whom he murdered immediately after his return from a long period of service in India.
The originating cause of this mania in most cases is the ravages of the mind caused by constitutional disease, and the desire to avenge the wrong on the class from which it was supposed to have spring. This is one of the many reasons which make it plain that Jack the Ripper would be a man past his first boyhood; old enough to have undergone years of severe suffering - mental and physical. It is often found that the idea of having contracted the disease, though unfounded, produces the same form of mania.
Next, Jack the Ripper must have been a man of extraordinary activity. It would have been impossible for him to have escaped into the darkness and the unknown, if he had not been extremely fleet of foot. He must likewise have been a man of some strength, though not of such strength as some people have imagined. He need not have been a man of scientific knowledge, for it is popular mistake to suppose that the Whitechapel mutilations showed anything like the skill of a man accustomed to anatomy and to the structure of the human body.
Above all things, Jack the Ripper must have had several of the most pronounced characteristics of the lunatic. One of these characteristics would be such insensibility to fear - to moral guilt - to the whole horror and terror of his dreadful act - as would hake him resort to those simple expedients which are the surest method of escape. A murderer who had the full, or even the partial, possession of his senses would have resorted to all sorts of expedients for covering his tracks; would have matured his plans for days, if not weeks, before; would have used all kinds of skilful schemes for ensuring his escape; and in this way would have forgotten some detail, and this would have wound the rope of detection around his own neck. To proceed about his bloody work - as if it were just the ordinary task of his daily life - to act without any preconceived plan or preliminary preparations; to mingle in a crowd as if nothing had occurred, and he were like everybody else; in short, to conduct himself quite naturally, after the fashion of the ordinary man in ordinary circumstances - this was the best, and, indeed, the only method by which Jack the Ripper could ensure the certainty of his escape. Such a man finding himself in circumstances in which a sane man could not by the remotest possibility escape - would yet, by the sheer force of the simplicity of his methods, baffle all detection and all pursuit. He might go through even a crowded thoroughfare with a whole crowd at his heels - policemen, men, screaming women - and yet manage to escape them all, and pass through them unobserved and untouched, at the very moment when they were searching everywhere for him, and apparently had closed against him every avenue and door of escape.
Finally, such a man would have the strange mixture of cunning and simplicity which belong to true madness. At one time we have often pictured Jack the Ripper caught red handed, and have always figured him as a poor, rather simple creature who would blandly proclaim that he had really done nothing, but whose terrible tiger soul would be betrayed by the lurid eyes and by the sallow face and the worn figure.
While the cunning was uppermost he would baffle detection, would proclaim his innocence, would make good his escape. But on the other hand, when he had relapsed into the insane mood, he would come to the very first stranger, reveal to him - with apparent unconsciousness - the burden of his soul, the horrible secret of his life; present the indisputable proof of his guilt, and offer himself almost for arrest. Finally, there is one point - it is rather a small one, apparently, but its bearing will be seen by and by. He must from the nature of the wounds on his victims be either left handed or able to use both hands with pretty equal facility.
We believe that all these signs and tokens of the Whitechapel murderer ill be found united in the man whom we shall by and by - and though the same process of reasoning and investigation as we have passed through ourselves - declare to be the murderer.
Only one word more of preliminary remark. We have had to examine a vast number of persons in the course of this lengthened and difficult inquiry. In nearly every case we have been implored not to reveal names, for the very obvious reason that, even remotely, people shrink from possible and almost certain annoyance of being associated in even the remotest degree with his hideous crime. And now we introduce the reader to the first scene in this story across which Jack the Ripper throws his awful shadow.
At 10.30 on a March night in 1891, a man was seen lurking in the vicinity of a ruined building in the North of London. This is close to a street past which the train runs, and W K got out at this point with his sweetheart. As they walked the figure of a thin, tall, young man approached them in the dark.
He was very excited and weird looking. His coat collar was turned up about his throat, and his hat was pulled well over his face. He entered into conversation with them, begging that they would hide him, as the runners were after him, and £500 was offered for his apprehension. As he said this a cab drove by and he shouted, "There they come!" and bolted up to the door of a house and raised the knocker as if about to knock, but did not. Seeing that the cab passed, he left the door and joined Mr. K who attempted to calm and quieten him, pooh pooing his apprehensions; but he would not be soothed. He made a long, rambling statement with great vehemence, saying he was wanted for a very serious charge. "You must know," said he, "that they say I am Jack the Ripper - but I am not, though all their inside are open and their bowels are all out. I am a medical man, you know, but not Jack the Ripper - you must not think I am. But they do, and they are after me, and the runners are after me, for they want the £500 which is offered for my capture, and I have only been cutting up girls and laying them out." So ran his curious confessions and entreaties to hide him away, and he explained that money was no object, as he had plenty of it, and rich relations. When they explained they had no place to hide him, he said, "Then show me the way to the fields - where I shall be safe!" Mr. K's statement continues as follows:
"But I did not like to say so at the time, as I did not want to frighten my sweetheart. He said so much in the twenty minutes we were talking that I cannot recall all, but I remember well that he impressed me at the time as being Jack the Ripper. He said £500 was offered for him, and begged me to take him home and hide him. I was half afraid of him, but he begged so hard of me that I pitied him, and I was glad not to have to interfere with him. I understood from his statements that he was in the medical profession. When he had left us I got curious, and we followed him, making up our minds when we met a policeman we would charge him. We followed him up Camden street, past Georgians street, across Camden road, and by the side of Winkworth's wine place by Bayham Wharf, where I went down, but he did not, and I missed him completely."
The only comment which it is necessary to make in producing this statement is in reference to the remark about the reward of £500 which the fugitive said was upon his head. There was only one official reward offered for the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders. This was made in 1888 by the City Police, and the sum was £500.
Here we leave W k for the present; we shall return to him by and by. In the meantime, here is a remarkable letter. It is written on a fly sheet, and undated:-
"Some three weeks ago I went to a surgeon's shop for advice. I explained that I felt rather unwell, and attributed it to having too much wine. The fact is I never had any wine at all. I said this because I was ashamed to own to my own beastliness and inclination. He told me that I need not trouble, as there was nothing the matter with me, and he gave me a bottle of mixture. I thought no more of the matter until a day or so afterwards, when I came on very ill. All the nerves and bones in my head seemed dropping to pieces. The nerve muscles of my face and jaw were greatly agitated - spots with large, red irritant patches came out on my face, and a dreadful burning pain in my left side. I was speedily in a state of great and terrible anxiety and fear. I went to him again four days after and explained the state I was in, and he said, "Yes, I will give you something for it." I have since then received three bottles of medicine. Iron, sarsaparilla, strychnine &c. My face is disfigured and illegible. I have been burning up till last night when I took some Epsom salt and applied illegible to the back of my neck and shoulders. After using the salve the prime agitation eased."
The letter is in a peculiar sloping backhand writing which its writer sometimes employed. The curious fact is that there was nothing the matter with him save the diseased condition of his mind.
The letter will be found to be a very important link in the chain of evidence in the identification of its writer.