1. Describe Law and Order in London in the late nineteenth century.
The British Police Force was created in the nineteenth century. The Bow Street Runners were the first and set up in 1749. The Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, set up the metropolitan Police Force in 1829 and they became known as the ‘peelers’ or ‘bobbies’ after their founder. From the on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force was responsible to the Home Secretary.
Before Peel set up the Metropolitan Police Force, watchmen and parish constables patrolled the streets of Britsh towns and cities and kept the troublemakers under control. They also prevented disturbances and robberies, and in some cases, riots, which were common in many part of Britain.
Although the ‘bobbies’ duties of dealing with vagrants, prostitutes and drunkenness made the streets more orderly in the second half of the nineteenth century, as the number of street crimes decreased, the number of burglaries increased. This suggests that they were not as effective as they should have been.
The functions of the Metropolitan Police Force were to patrol the streets to keep order and prevent crime. Both the Metropolitan Police Force and the army wore ‘red-coats’ so there was much confusion. As the army had an awful reputation due to frequent deaths of demonstrators, they were distrusted greatly by the British public. At the time the navy were regarded as heroes of Britain, so they chose to wear blue uniforms to distinguish themselves from the army. The force became largely unpopular due to their methods of crowd control; the baton charge used in 1833 at Cold Bath Fields in London resulted in the death of a constable, PC Culley.
The County and Borough Act made all counties and boroughs create police forces and it provided annual government grants of 25% to help pay for the cost of police forces. In different parts of the country, the police acted in different ways. In some areas the police were used as school attendance officers and dealt with truancies, and in others to enforce the Poor Law. Near rivers, the police were often used as life-savers or inspected bridges. In many market towns the police collected tolls from traders and in larger towns they inspected tramcars.
The Metropolitan Police Force appointed the first detectives in 1842. The fears regarding using detectives were that they British public were worried that they could not distinguish the plain clothed policemen. Also the Home Office was concerned that the detectives would become too friendly with the criminals it was their job to arrest and become corrupt. After 1860, a Sargeant and an inspector were sent to investigate crimes such as murders. In 1869, the Detective department was created and in 1878 the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) was set up. During 1879 the number of arrests increased as they number if detectives increased. But in 1884 there were fewer detectives in London than there were in other major cities.
The police had learnt the value of footprints in the early 1800s. However, detective’s main jobs were to follow suspicious characters. This is very similar to the methods used by the Bobbies. In 1892 the Alphonse Bertillian method of Identification was adapted. This involved measuring parts of the human body, but in 1901, fingerprinting was seen as more significant.
Police officers in the 1880s had very little training and the time spent before the beat was learning military drills. Some police forces expected them to wear their uniforms all the time, even when not on the beat, to go to church on Sundays, and not to be seen out with women. Many of the constables learnt how to be one of the job, which as not easy. They worked up to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. In February 1886 the Metropolitan Police Force had to deal with a mass demonstration by the Metropolitan Radical Federation and were backed up by two squadrons of life Guards and two companies of foot guards.
As noticed by the British public, the police favoured the middle and upper class against the poor and working classes. This made the work of the police in poor and working class areas more difficult, the East End of London being the worst.
2. Why did the Whitechapel murders attract so much attention?
Whitechapel was and still is a cosmopolitan area in the East End of London. Many Jews fled from Russia in the 1880s and settled in the East End. This caused the Jewish population to rise steadily. Many Poles came to live in the east End after being expelled from Prussia because the rents were low and few questions were asked The majority of the inhabitants of Whitechapel were poor and lived on a day to day basis. In 1888 the Metropolitan Police Force estimated that were 1,200 prostitutes working in Whitechapel and many more women who took clients occasionally to help pay the rent. There were 200 lodging houses, which could sleep 9,000 people in long rooms with rows of beds.
The majority of children born in the East End of London died before the age of five, and many who survived were mentally or physically handicapped. This was due to the diseases from the poor sanitation. It was estimated that about 900,000 people lived in the East end. Cattle and sheep were herded through the streets to the numerous slaughter houses in the area, so the streets were stained with blood and excrement of the animals. A witness of the conditions in the east End wrote that it is ‘a vast city, an evil collection of slums that hide human creeping things.’ Another wrote, ‘here are seven people in one underground kitchen and a little dead child lying in the same room.’
After the first two murders, several newspapers published descriptions of Whitechapel. In one was written, ‘The main thoroughfares of Whitechapel are connected by a network of narrow, dark and crooked lanes. Every one apparently containing some headquarters of infamy. The sight and sounds are an apocalypse of evil.’ Another writer says that Wentworth Street is teeming with men lounging at the doors of shops, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to steal from. However, these descriptions were not written by residents of Whitechapel, and instead by middle class people who were horrified by what they saw. There are no descriptions of Whitechapel by people who actually lived there.
Also the writers lived to tell the tale without being attacked, so Whitechapel was not perhaps as bad as it was portrayed in their descriptions. However, the truth is that the majority of the large population lived on the wrong side of the law, but did not commit their crimes in Whitechapel itself. Instead, they went to richer areas of London. Whitechapel was certainly a dismal place, frequented by many people, mostly men, from the west End, in search of prostitution, and is definitely a place from which the Ripper could emerge.
There were several attacks on prostitutes in Whitechapel in the spring and summer of 1888. One of which was Emma Smith, a forty-five year old prostitute, who was attacked and robbed on 2 April. Her face and head were badly injured by a group of men but no one was arrested for her attack. On 6 August, Martha Tabram, another prostitute was found dead in George yard, only a hundred yards from where Emma Smith was attacked. According to her post mortem report she had been stabbed thirty-nine times on her ‘body, neck and private parts with a knife or dagger.’ The time of death was estimated at 2:30am. It appeared that there was a killer on the loose preying on prostitutes in Whitechapel. However, it was obvious that the two crimes were not connected. Emma Smith had been the victim of a much more vicious crime.
The atmosphere in Whitechapel in the summer of 1888 was very tense and people were afraid to leave their homes. On Friday 31 August 1888, a woman named Polly Nicholls was found dead in Buck’s Row by a man named Charles Cross. Her throat had been slashed from ear to ear and her clothes were soaked in blood. A doctor, Rees Llewellyn, was sent to the scene of the crime, and upon arrival pronounced the woman dead. She had been killed by the wound to her throat. Policemen carried out house to house enquiries, but no one had heard anything suspicious. At the mortuary, they discovered that her body had several deep wounds caused by a long bladed knife. The next day her father and husband identified her as Mary Ann Nicholls (it was common for prostitutes to change their name). Mary Ann Nicholls was
forty-two when she was killed. She was married to William Nicholls and had five children, but her heavy drinking had led to the breakdown of the marriage. For the last few years she had lived off her earnings as a prostitute. She was sad, lonely and destitute, but liked by most people who knew her. The East London Observer, like most people in Whitechapel, found a connection between the murders of Martha Tabram and Polly Nicholls, and they published it in the newspaper. According to the article, ‘The two murders which have so startled London within the last month are singular for the reason that the victims have been of the poorest of the poor, and no adequate motive of shaped and plunder can be traced. The excess of effort has been apparent in each murder suggests the idea that both crimes are the work of a demented being.’ Despite this, the Home Secretary refused to provide a reward for catching the killer, and stated that it was the Metropolitan Police Force that should catch him instead.
Just over a week after the death of Polly Nicholls, another body was found by John Davies in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, and was later identified as Annie Chapman She had been beaten and mutilated according to Dr. George Phillips, a police surgeon who was called to the scene of the crime. Her face and tongue were badly swollen. Her abdomen had been cut open, and some of her organs had been placed around her. Like Polly Nicholls, her throat had been cut and reached right round her neck. She was lying in a pool of blood.
Dr. George Phillips estimated the time at 4.30am. The knife used for the murder, he had guessed, was a narrow, thin blade and about six to eight inches long in length, one similar to the ones used for amputations by doctors. According to the coroner, Wynne Baxter, the injuries made on the victim were done by somebody with anatomical skill or knowledge. They therefore knew where to find the organs he wanted and how to use a knife. Only a skilled person could know where to find the organs and recognise them when they were found. Elizabeth long, a witness, described the man as a ‘shabby genteel,’ who ‘looked like a foreigner.’ He had dark skin and was wearing a deerstalker hat, perhaps a dark coat.. She believed he was tall and aged over forty.
The evidence given by her is not entirely reliable as he had his back to her. Near the body of Annie Chapman were several objects. The first was an envelope with “Sussex Regiment” on and containing two pills. From her pockets a piece of cloth, and to combs were found next to her body. Also a leather apron, a nailbox and a piece of steel were found in the backyard of number 29. The evidence, however, did not help catch the killer. According to someone from Annie Chapman’s lodgings she had put her pills in the envelope when her pillbox broke. He leather apron, nailbox and steel belonged to John Richardson, whose mother lived in the house where the objects were found. Richardson was one of the witnesses who gave evidence about the murder.
After the murders of the three women, the streets of Whitechapel were deserted at night, Newspapers featured articles on the murders and local people bombarded the police with information about anybody who acted strangely. Attention was drawn to the Jewish community who inhabited the East End. This was because in Elizabeth Long’s statement she said that the man who was talking to Annie Chapman looked like a foreigner and partly from simple Anti-Semitism. A group was set up by the middle of September naming themselves the ‘Mile End Vigilance Committee.’ It consisted of businessmen, mostly Jewish, and the MP for Whitechapel, Simon Montague, also a Jew, offered a reward for the killer. Then on 11 September, John Pitzer, ‘Leather Apron’ was arrested for the murder of Polly Nicholls.
On the 27 September, a letter was sent to the Central News Agency, and became known as the ‘Dear Boss’ letter. He begins the letter with, ‘I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won’t fix me just yet.’ He then tells the readers that ‘the next job I shall do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send them to the police officers.’ Towards the end of the letter he writes, ‘My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. At first it was thought to be a hoax, as they received so many from people claiming to be the killer, but after the next murders, the police had it reproduced on posters and newspapers. It was signed ‘Jack the Ripper.’ It was only until after the third murder that the police believed the letter to be genuine.
Elizabeth Stride, another prostitute, was found dead by Louis Diemschutz, and immediately ran to get a policeman. Dr. Frederick Blackwell, who was called to the scene, writes in his inquest that her right hand was smeared with blood, and her left hand contained a packet of breath fresheners. There was no money on the body. Like the other victims, her throat had been slashed and her windpipe cut in two.
There were several witnesses that saw Elizabeth Stride talking to a man, who perhaps was the killer. At 11:45pm, William Marshall saw her talking to a middle aged man, who was about five feet six inches in height. He was wearing a round cap with a peak and appeared to be educated. Later at 12:30am, Police Constable William Smith saw her talking to a man. He described him as thirty years old, about five feet seven inches tall, with dark hair and a moustache. He was wearing a deerstalker hat, a black coat and a white collar and tie. He had a large parcel in his hands.
The chairman of a club stated that he had walked through the yard at about 12:40am and had seen nothing. She was later seen by Israel Schwartz at 12:45pm, talking to a man. According to Schwartz, the man trued to pull her to him then threw her onto the pavement. He then called to a second man, who was on the other side of the road. Schwartz thought that the man was called Lipski. He then ran away because he thought he was going to be followed. Schwartz identified that the woman was Elizabeth Stride, and described both the men. The first man was about thirty years old, and five feet five inches tall.
He had dark hair and a dark moustache, and was wearing a dark jacket, trousers and a black cap. The second man, he described, was thirty-five years old and five feet eleven inches tall. He had light brown hair and a moustache. He was wearing a dark overcoat and a black wide-brimmed hat. Finally, James Brown saw Elizabeth Stride talking to a man, although he guessed the time at 12:45am. The man was five feet seven inches tall and was wearing a long dark overcoat. Brown heard Elizabeth say, “Not tonight, some other night.” Every one of Jack the Ripper’s victims were found dead with their throats cut. However, Elizabeth Stride’s body had not been mutilated like in all the other murders. This suggests that the Ripper had been disturbed and fled to avoid being caught.