21 March 1910
By A Veteran Diplomat.
Sir Robert Anderson, for more than 30 years chief of the criminal investigation department of the British government, and head of the detective bureau at Scotland Yard, has at length raised the veil of mystery which for nearly two decades has enveloped the identity of the perpetrator of those atrocious crimes known as the Whitechapel murders.
Sir Robert establishes the fact that the infamous "Jack the Ripper", as the unknown slayer had been dubbed by the public, and at whose hands no less than fourteen women of the unfortunate class lost their lives within a circumscribed area of the east end of London, was an alien of the lower, though educated class, hailing from Poland, and a maniac of the most virulent and homicidal type - of a type recorded, by reason of its rarity, in medical treatises, but one with which the world at large is not familiar.
But the most important point of all made by Sir Robert is the fact that once the criminal investigation department was sure that it had in its hands the real perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders it procured from the secretary of state for the home department a warrant committing the man for detention "during the kings's pleasure" to the great asylum for the criminal insane at Broadmoor five or six years ago.
"Jack the Ripper" was consigned to Broadmoor by virtue of a warrant of the secretary of state for the home department, acting in the name of the sovereign, and not by means of any judicial process.
In Great Britain the guiding principle of the state in connection with the criminal insane is that its first and most important obligation is the protection of the citizens from harm, and that in all instances where through defective legislation or legal technicalities the courts are unable to furnish this protection, it should be supplied by the government.
In order to illustrate how this scheme works out in actual practice, let me explain what would have been the fate of Harry Thaw if the crime laid at his door had been perpetrated on yonder side of the ocean instead of in the United States.
Until the enactment of the trial of lunatics law in 1883 he would, on the ground of the evidence produced, have been, as here, held guiltless, on the ground of irresponsibility. But if tried subsequent to the passage of that act of parliament, he would have been adjudged "guilty but insane."
No matter whether there be a conviction of this character or an acquittal on the score of insanity, the presiding judge gives orders that the prisoner "be detained during his majesty's pleasure." This means the consignment of the prisoner to the great penal asylum at Broadmoor, one of the most remarkable institutions of the kind in the world, which is situated near Crowthorne, in the fairest portion of the county of Berks.
In 99 cases out of 100 the court of criminal appeal, should it be called upon to try the prisoner anew, will merely confirm the decree of "guilty but insane," and then the prisoner returns to Broadmoor, to share the fate of those acquitted on the score of insanity. He, like them, passes beyond the jurisdiction of the courts of law and into the power of the sovereign, acting in conjunction with his secretary of state for the home department. He remains at Broadmoor "during his majesty's pleasure" and can only be freed from thence by the warrant of the secretary of state.
The secretary of state is very chary about the grant of such warrants, and when in doubt usually follows the excellent rule of refraining from exercising the royal prerogative.
Several other classes of prisoners are kept in custody at Broadmoor, subject to the orders of the home secretary. There are, first of all, the men and women who have lost their reason while serving terms of hard labor or penal servitude.
Still another category of patients, and perhaps the most interesting of all, are those who are sent there in order to avoid bringing the stigma of crime and felony upon the escutcheon of some great house.
Behind the walls of Broadmoor are hidden away in this fashion some of the grandest names of the United Kingdom and terrible secrets affecting the old houses of nobility, which are known to few save the officials of the home department in London and perhaps to some of the superior officers of the London police force. Prisoners of this class seldom, if ever, procure their liberation. Their entire existence is passed behind the walls of the asylum, and they are classed among those graphically described by Lord Rosebery in a public address some time ago as "intellectually dead."
Although strict secrecy is observed with regard to the names and identity of the inmates, I can remember during my several stays at Broadmoor as the guest of the late Dr. Meyers, who was its first director, and a very old and dear friend (he had been an associate of Florence Nightingale in the organization of the hospital service at Scutari in the Crimean war), to have seen and talked with a number of prisoners possessed of a certain amount of historical interest.
Chief among them was Edward Oxford, who in 1849 attempted to shoot Queen Victoria with a double-barreled pistol when she was driving with the prince consort back from Hyde Park down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace. Oxford, when I saw him, was an old man, apparently in good health, and showed more signs of insanity then the director of Broadmoor.
There, too, was detained that extraordinary "Boy Jones" (when I met him an elderly and respectable looking man) who one night just as Queen Victoria was getting into bed was found concealed under a lounge in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace, one of his feet peeping out attracting the attention of one of the queen's dressers. To this day nobody knows how the boy got there, or what his object was in thus concealing himself in her majesty's bedroom. Such elaborate precautions were and are always adopted to prevent the intrusion of any stranger, and so strictly is Buckingham Palace guarded by the police and the military, that it seems inconceivable that the boy, who was unarmed and who refused to give any account of himself , should have been able to make his way unnoticed to the queen's bedroom. Nor would he ever afford any explanation of the object of his intrusion or of the methods which he had employed to reach the private apartments of the queen.
Another strange inmate of Broadmoor was old Mrs. Brough, who had been the nurse of King Edward, who, in spite of what has been said, was not nursed by his mother, the queen. Mrs. Brough, as a reward for her services to the heir apparent, was accorded a cottage in the grounds of the royal palace of Claremont (now the home of the Duchess of Albany), her husband being employed as one of the gardeners on the place. King Edward spent much of his boyhood there, owing to the fact of its being within reach of Windsor castle. When he was about 14 years of age, and while he was staying at Claremont House, a terrible tragedy took place.
Mrs. Brough, having quarreled with her husband to such an extent that he left the cottage vowing never to return, became, during the following night, afflicted with homicidal mania, and before morning she cut with a razor the throats of all her six children, subsequently making a vain attempt to kill herself.
Mrs. Brough was put on trial for this sextuple murder, acquitted on the score of insanity, and ordered to be detained during his majesty's pleasure at Broadmoor, where I remember her as a kindly looking old woman of 82, who, save for that one night of homicidal mania, had never suffered from a moment of dementia in her life.
Dr. Meyers himself was killed by one of the inmates of the asylum, who one Sunday during divine service rose from the place where he was kneeling, and, using his handkerchief as a sling, hurled a large and sharp flint at the head of the kneeling doctor, striking him with great force on the temple.
The man was regarded as sufficiently sane to be permitted to work in the extensive gardens of the doctor, and later on to assist him in secretarial duties, being much liked and even trusted by Mrs. Meyers and her children. He was an Oxford graduate and a most intellectual and cultivated man. Yet he was confined at Broadmoor for having coolly hacked off the head of his aged mother with a carving knife.
To cap matters, he had put the head on a dish and covered it with a silver cover, engraved with the family crest and coat of arms. Then he placed it on the table before his wife and sisters, who had until that moment been in total ignorance of the fact that there was anything the matter with his mind.
Dr. Meyers, in reply to an appeal from this prisoner, pointed out to him that he could not be set at liberty without a warrant from the secretary of state for the home department and that the latter would probably be reluctant to take any such step in view of the unfortunate incident what had led to his being confined at Broadmoor.
Whereupon the man exclaimed:
"Oh! You mean that little affair with my poor dear mother? She did not mind it a bit!" It was the refusal of the doctor to take any steps toward his liberation which probably exasperated the man into killing him.