Published December 1888
"A few months ago a murder of a peculiarly atrocious character was committed in the district known as Whitechapel, London. The victim was a woman of the lowest class of that particularly low section of the metropolis. Not content with simply killing the woman, the murderer had mutilated the corpse and had inflicted wounds altogether unnecessary for the accomplishment of his object. Three or four months afterwards another woman of the same class was found dead with over thirty stab wounds in her body, and in quick succession other similar crimes were committed, until now the number amounts to nine. The efforts of the police to discover the perpetrator or perpetrators have up to this time been utterly fruitless, and every supposed clew that has been followed has proved to be without foundation. All kinds of theories have been indulged in by the police, professional and amateur, and by legal and medical experts, who appear to have exhausted their ingenuity in devising the most strained hypotheses in their attempts to account for these murderous crimes. In the foregoing remarks relative to madness and murder I have brought forward examples in illustration of several forms of mental derangement, any one of which may have been the predominating motive which has been the starting point of the crimes in question.
This they may have been committed by a person who kills merely for the love of killing, and who has selected a particular class from which to choose his victims, for the reason that being of very little importance in the social world, they could be killed with a minimum amount of risk of detection. The fact that unnecessary wounds and mutilation were inflicted gives additional support to this theory. The more hacking and cutting the more delight would be experienced.
They may be the result of a morbid impulse which the perpetrator fells himself unable to resist, and which, after he had yielded to its power, is followed by the most acute anguish of mind. It may be said against this view that if such were the fact the murderer would, in his moments of mental agony and repentance, surrender himself to the authorities; but in answer I think it may be properly alleged that fear for his own safety would prevent him doing an act which he might feel to be right, but which he would know would lead to his speedy execution. To test the correctness of this hypothesis it would be necessary to offer him free and unconditional pardon. If he is the subject of a morbid impulse which he cannot resist, he will give himself up if immunity be promised him.
The murders may have been committed by one who is acting under the principle of suggestion. He may have recently heard or read of similar crimes (for such murders have been committed before) and has been impelled thereby to go and do likewise, until after the first two or three murders he has acquired a love for the act of killing, and for the excitement attendant on the risk which he runs. This last incentive is a very powerful one, with certain morbidly constituted minds, and has apparently been the chief motive in some notable series of crimes.
Again, they may have been committed by several persons acting under the influence of the power of imitation. This force, owing to the extensive publication of reports of crimes through the newspapers, is much more influential at present than at any other period in the history of the world. The more ferocious the murder the more likelihood that it will be imitated. It is not at all unreasonable to suppose that there may have been as many murderers of these women as there are murders.
I am inclined, however, to think that the perpetrator is a reasoning maniac, one who has received or imagines he has received some injury from the class of women upon which his crimes are committed, or who has assumed the role of the reformer, and who thinks he can annihilate them one by one or strike such terror into those that remain that they will hasten to abandon their vicious mode of life. He is probably a person whose insanity is not suspected even by those who are in constant association with him. He may be a clergyman, a lawyer, a physician, or even a member of the titled aristocracy; a cashier in a bank, a shopkeeper, an officer of the army or navy. All apparently motiveless crimes are exceedingly difficult of detection. It is quite conceivable that this man may leave the dinner table or the ballroom and pass a dozen policemen on his way towards the accomplishment of his purpose. The higher he appears to be in the social scale the less he would be liable to suspicion.
If the perpetrator of the so-called Whitechapel murders were to case now his career of crime, there is no reason to suppose that he would ever be discovered. But it is not at all likely that he will fail to go on in the course which has now become second nature to him. His love for murder has become overpowering, and immunity has rendered him bold. Little by little he will become less cautious, and eventually he will be caught.
When arrested the question of how to dispose of him will arise. In what I have said I have assumed him to be a lunatic of some kind. If a certain degree of maudlin sentimentality should prevail he will be placed in a lunatic asylum and in the course of a few years may be discharged as cured. But such insanity as his is never cured. Doubtless while an inmate of the asylum his conduct will be of the most exemplary character. He will dissemble for years and will deceive the very elect among experts in insanity. Superintendents and clergymen and various other high personages will unite in testifying to his thorough change of heart and Christian bearing, and when he is discharged with the blessings of all with whom he has been associated he will begin to commit another series of murders fully as atrocious as those for which he has been sequestrated.
There is but one way to deal with a person like this Whitechapel murderer, and that is to hang him as soon as he is caught. He is an enemy of society and is entitled to no more consideration than a wild beast which follows his instinct to kill. Laws are not made for the purpose of enforcing the principles of abstract justice; they are enacted solely for the protection of society.