J. Hall Richardson, 1927
POSSIBLY who was the author of what were quite erroneously called the Whitechapel murders, will be a mystery to the end of all time. This series of atrocities began in April and continued until November 9th, 1888. The victims all belonged to the unfortunate class, and the distinguishing feature was the mutilation of the bodies. Further, the murders were all done in the open streets, save the last, that of Jane Kelly, in Dorset Street, taking place in a bedroom. To me, personally, it was a time of great nightmares, as one never knew when there would be a repetition of the tragedies. It involved the most unpleasant work, long hours of vigil in the streets of the East End, contact with repulsive people, constantly " up against " the inventions and fictitious stories of competitors in journalism.
I do not propose to follow these horrors in detail, but there were one or two incidents which cannot very well be forgotten. For example, it would scarcely be believed that the Metropolitan Police held the clue to the identification of the murderer in their own hands and deliberately threw it away under the personal direction of the then Commissioner of Police, Sir Charles Warren, who acted in the belief that an anti-Semitic riot might take place if a certain damning piece of writing were permitted to remain on the walls.
Following the murder in Mitre Square, which is within the precincts of the City and, therefore, came under the direct cognisance of the City Police, the murderer threw away a portion of the apron of the murdered woman, upon which he had wiped his bloodstained hands, in the doorway of some model dwellings in Goulstone Street, not far from Petticoat Lane, and then some freak of fancy had led him to write upon the wall this sentence : " The Jewes are not the men to be blamed for nothing."
I have never learned that any photographic record was made of this inscription, and when the City Police came to hear of it they were horrified that their colleagues in the Metropolitan Force had wiped away what might have been an important piece of circumstantial evidence as to the class to which the murderer belonged.
In April, 1910, Sir Robert Anderson, who was then writing his reminiscences, objecting to criticism, wrote to one of the daily papers:
" In your notice of my article in this month's Blackwood, you refer back to what I wrote last month about the Whitechapel murders, and you add: `In that connection he might have recalled - but did not - the crass stupidity of Scotland Yard men, who wiped out from the wall of the labourers' buildings in Goulstone Street, the only tangible piece of evidence ever obtained pointing to the identity of Jack the Ripper.'
" I beg to assure you that here you do an injustice, not only to me, but to the Criminal Investigation Department. The night on which the murder in question was committed I was on my way home from Paris, and great was my indignation when, next day, I heard of what you rightly call an act of 'crass stupidity.' But the Scotland Yard men were in no way responsible for it - it was done by the officers of the uniform force in the division, upon an order issued by one of my colleagues. The exact words of `the mural inscription' which the murderer chalked upon the wall were, 'The Jewes are not the men to be blamed for nothing.'
"May I add that all this was in the MS. of my article, but a wish to avoid what seemed to reflect upon others, led me to strike out the paragraph."
I had a personal experience of some interest. An evening paper had commissioned a private detective agency to take the inquiry in hand, and an extraordinary story found its way into print of the Whitechapel murderer having been actually seen by a dairyman. From my collection of criminal portraits I evolved a composite profile and full face, such as a type of murderer of the class that was then supposed to be one which would provide a criminal of that kind, namely, a butcher on a cattle-boat.
Armed with the sketches, I took them to the dairyman, and much to my astonishment he declared that they resembled the man whom he had seen. Scotland Yard would not, however, accept this as being of any value at all, rather on the contrary, and an official notice was issued in The Police Gazette of October 26th, 1888, disavowing the drawings as being in any way official.
This was the notice in The Police Gazette:
My enterprise led, it will be seen, to this tangible result. For the first time descriptions of the supposed "Whitechapel murderer " were forthcoming.
METROPOLITAN POLICE DISTRICT.
THE WOODCUT SKETCHES, PURPORTING TO RESEMBLE THE PERSONS LAST SEEN WITH THE MURDERED WOMEN, WHICH HAVE APPEARED IN "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH," WERE NOT AUTHORISED BY POLICE. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE PERSONS SEEN:
AT 12.35 a.m., 3oth SEPTEMBER, WITH ELIZABETH STRIDE, FOUND MURDERED AT 1 a.m., SAME DATE IN BERN ER STREET - A MAN, AGE 28, HEIGHT 5ft. Sin., COMPLEXION DARK, SMALL DARK MOUSTACHE ; DRESS, BLACK DIAGONAL COAT, HARD FELT HAT, COLLAR AND TIE; RESPECTABLE APPEARANCE. CARRIED A PARCEL WRAPPED UP IN NEWSPAPER.
AT 12.45 a.m., 3oth, WITH SAME WOMAN, IN BERNER STREET - A MAN, AGE ABOUT 30, HEIGHT 5ft. 5in., COMPLEXION FAIR, HAIR DARK, SMALL BROWN MOUSTACHE, FULL FACE, BROAD SHOULDERS; DRESS, DARK JACKET AND TROUSERS, BLACK CAP WITH PEAK.
INFORMATION TO BE FORWARDED TO THE METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICE, GREAT SCOTLAND YARD, LONDON, S.W.
AT 1.35 a.m., 3oth SEPTEMBER, WITH CATHERINE EDDOWS, IN CHURCH PASSAGE, LEADING TO MITRE SQUARE, WHERE SHE WAS FOUND MURDERED AT 1.4.5 a.m., SAME DATE-A MAN, AGE 30, HEIGHT 5ft. 7 OR Sin., COMPLEXION FAIR, MOUSTACHE FAIR, MEDIUM BUILD ; DRESS, PEPPER-AND-SALT COLOUR LOOSE JACKET, GREY CLOTH CAP WITH PEAK OF SAME MATERIAL, REDDISH NECKERCHIEF TIED IN KNOT ; APPEARANCE OF A SAILOR.
INFORMATION RESPECTING THIS MAN TO BE FORWARDED TO INSPECTOR McWILLIAM, z6, OLD JEWRY, LONDON, E.C.
The Police and Press received many letters from the " Ripper," mostly written in red ink, and I give one:
" 29th inst.
" BEWARE I shall be at work on the 1st and 2nd inst. in `Minories' at 12 midnight and I give the authorities a good chance but there is never a Policeman near when I am at work.
" JACK THE RIPPER."
" Prince William St., L'pool.
" What fools the police are I even give them the name of the street where I am living.
" JACK THE RIPPER."
During after years I came into contact with all the police-officers engaged in the investigation and one or two of them on such intimate terms that I wrote their reminiscences, but from first to last I never heard any word which led me to suppose that the police had solved the mystery. I did find in the police records photographs of the last victim after the murderer had done his worst, and I can well understand why the authorities refused to allow reporters to that particular inquest.
From time to time there have been various guesses as to the identity of Jack the Ripper. Mr. William Le Queux, for example, in his book, " Things I Know," linked up the Whitechapel murderer with Rasputin, the Russian monk, who hypnotised the Czarina. Among the papers placed in Mr. Le Queux's hands by Karensky, there was one in French, which professed to give the identity of the Ripper. This narrative alleged that the Ripper was a Russian surgeon named Alexander Pedachenko, formerly of Tver, who lived with his sister in Walworth. It adds that he was aided in his crimes by a man and a woman. The latter engaged the victims in conversation, while the man kept watch for the police patrols.
This story, narrated by Mr. Le Queux in 1924, was at once dismissed by the police, who on this occasion availed themselves of The Star to deny it, and I have every reason to believe that the account is semi-official. I quote it textually:
" The next piece of nonsense in this story is that Pedachenko, ` the greatest and boldest of all Russian criminal lunatics, was encouraged by the Russian Government to go to London to commit that series of crimes ' in order to exhibit to the world certain defects of the English police system.' " We can believe many crimes of the Tsardom, but not that, and certainly not on the authority of a rascal like Rasputin. MYSTERIES STILL 221 " But Mr. Le Queux lets a large cat out of the bag when he reveals that the disclosure of the author of these atrocities originates with a ' Russian well known in London, named Nideroest, a spy in the Russian Police, who was a member of the jubilee Street Club, the Anarchist centre in London.'
" The fact is that Johann Nideroest was not a Russian at all, but a Swiss. He was a member of the Russian and Lettish Socialist Club, in the East End, but Chief-Inspector McCarthy gave evidence in 1909 that Nideroest was not an Anarchist, but had been selling to newspapers information about bombs being made in Whitechapel, which the police found to be ' all nonsense.'
" Mr. Le Queux says that he did not include this Jack the Ripper yarn in his book on Rasputin, because he wanted to verify the facts in it. He now adds this wonderful corroboration:
` I have only recently discovered that a doctor named Pedachenko did actually live in Tver.
" ` Again, I have further found that a man named Nideroest was a member of the jubilee Street Club, and was known in connection with the Anarchist affray at Tottenham, and also with the Sidney Street affair.'
" The first fact proves nothing at all. The second, that Nideroest was known in connection with the Sidney Street affair, is pure fiction, and the reference to the Tottenham Anarchists in January, 1909, is utterly misleading.
" Nideroest had nothing to do with the Anarchists or the shooting, but when one of the captured menPaul Hefeld-was lying in hospital, Nideroest arrived under a false name, pretending falsely to be Hefeld's brother.
" As it was difficult to prove ` felonious intent,' Nideroest escaped with a reprimand from the Bench, but in June, 1915, he was brought up at Bow Street and deported as an undesirable alien.
" In April, 1916, he turned up in his native Switzerland with a story that he had been a passenger on the Sussex, and with other passengers had been wrongfully coerced by the British and French authorities to swear that they had seen the torpedo which sank the Sussex, whereas she was, in fact, sunk by a mine.
"He was proved on that occasion to be an unscrupulous liar, and the fact that Mr. Le Queux's theory rests on his testimony, is sufficient for us to regard it as fiction, quite apart from the inherent internal improbabilities which we have mentioned."
But there is one later version which appeared in rather an unexpected quarter, that is, in a paper published in the interests of wireless, The Radio Times (1924). Sir Basil Thomson, K.C.B., advocating broadcasting as a new detective force, said that the Jack the Ripper outrages are now believed by the police to have been the work of an insane Russian medical student whose body was found floating in the Thames immediately after the last of the outrages.
I venture to say that if any reliance is to be placed on this story it is because Sir Basil Thomson had access to the records of Scotland Yard. I do not think he would have obtained them first-hand from any officer who was engaged in the investigation of the Whitechapel murders, as no officer who had the personal experience remained in the force at the time that Sir Basil Thomson was occupying his special suite of rooms at Scotland House, a building which did not, by the way, form part of New Scotland Yard.
I, therefore, remain of the conviction that the police never knew and are never likely to know who actually was the Whitechapel murderer. The Commissioner at that time, Mr. Monro, was a great personal friend of mine, and I am sure that if he could possibly have given me the faintest clue he would have done so.
Most extraordinary theories were invented to account for the motive of these crimes. One of them alleged that an American medical specialist was issuing a book on anatomy, for each copy of which he required parts of the human body. Hence the wholesale mutilation. For some reason, I, with a colleague, was ordered to inquire at every hospital mortuary in London. A gruesome experience, for the friendless patients who die are, as a rule, handed over to the dissecting students. I have seen corpses piled in heaps, with awful pipes pumping into their arteries a preserving liquid. But, generally, the dead were kept in chambers, from which each body was slid out of its niche, much as one nowadays pulls out a docket from a nest of record boxes. As for the theory - it was simply ridiculed. In these times the Burke and Hare would stand no chance of adequate reward ; the human corpse is not a rare commodity to the anatomist.