|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist magazine. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page.|
By Neil Bell and Robert Clack
The following article is in two parts, firstly we will be discussing the photographs relating to the victims of the Whitechapel and secondly we will be discussing some of the graffiti that was found near or close to the crime scenes, to put some context to this discovery. Some of our discussion, as you will see, will overlap.
The Whitechapel Victims Photographs.
There are two official places where photographs of the victims are kept, The City of London Police Museum at Wood Street, London and the National Archives in Kew, London. We will not be discussing the photographs that are held in photographic libraries as those copies are derived from those held by the National Archives.
The City of London Police Museum.
Around 1966/67 a young City of London Police Constable Donald Rumbelow was in the process of setting up a new Museum for the City of London Police, at the newly opened Wood Street Police Station. The old museum had closed in 1959 and was situated at Bishopsgate Police Station. The remains of the old museum had been sent to a filthy attic room at Snow Hill Police Station, and while Donald was looking through the remains, he came across five photographs. Four of which he recognised as being the body of Catherine Eddowes and the other the well-known crime scene photograph of Mary Kelly. The four photographs of Catherine Eddowes are the pre post-mortem photograph of Catherine Eddowes in the coffin, and the three post-mortem photographs, the head and shoulders photograph of the right side of Eddowes head, the three quarters front view from head to thighs and the full-length view.
On the 18 February 2011, Neil Bell, John Bennett and Laura Prieto and I had a chance to view the copies held at City of London Police Museum. The four photographs of Catherine Eddowes are not original 1888 copies, but are later copies, what became of the originals is unknown at present. When these copies were made is not at present known but they are at least early 20th century and maybe earlier. The four photographs vary slightly in size from 2 ˝ inches to 3 ˝ inches, they are black and white prints, not sepia. They were originally mounted; probably in a book as the back of the photographs contain traces of glue. Also, on the back of each photograph, stamped in blue ink is 'City of London Police Photographic Dept, 22 March 1950.' Also, with the exception of the head and shoulder photograph, the back of the photographs have written on them in blue ink the numbers '27/10'. What these numbers refer to are at present unknown. The stamp and writing covers over the traces of glue and so would have been stamped and written after the photographs were removed from the book or album. What this book or album was is unfortunately not known but they could possibly have come from the “ large album of photographs” Donald Rumbelow mentions in his book “The Complete Jack the Ripper” but that is only a guess on our part.
The photograph of Mary Kelly Donald found is no longer with the City of London Police Museum, and its present whereabouts are unknown. A copy Donald had made is at the City of London Police Museum; the photograph is mounted on card and is unfortunately at present missing the top third and the bottom third.
With the permission of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Donald had a set of these photographs made and deposited with the official Metropolitan Police Files on the Whitechapel Murders in 1968 (they are stamped '24 Apr 1968' on the back). At that time, the files were kept at New Scotland Yard and are now at the National Archives in Kew.
Donald also found in the photographic department at the Old Jewry in 1966/67 a glass negative, which he instantly recognized as the exterior of Millers Court. Unfortunately, the negative is now missing, but thankfully prints were made and the photographed has been reproduced on many occasions.
There is however a newly discovered photograph of Catherine Eddowes and another photograph connected to the Whitechapel Murders. These will be discussed further on in this article.
The original files and photographs relating to the Whitechapel Murders are not usually available for viewing at the National Archives. They are available on microfilm for anybody wishing to see what they contained. It was however important to view the actual photographs for the purposes of this article and after several e-mails that went nowhere I [RC] paid a visit to Kew on the 11 March 2011 and pleaded my case in person to try to view the original photographs and I was finally granted permission to view the photographs.
There are in total eight photographs in the files not including the set of photographs Donald Rumbelow deposited in 1968. When Donald deposited his photographs there was only three photographs in the files. They were the mortuary photographs of Martha Tabram, Alice McKenzie and Frances Coles. At the time of my visit, the photographs of Martha Tabram and Frances Coles were still there, however the photograph of Alice McKenzie is a modern black and white copy. Written on the back of the McKenzie photograph is:
This is a copy of the original which is now missing
C W Edwards
The photographs of Tabram and Coles are original copies printed on card about 2 x 3 inches in size and sepia in colour. On comparing the modern McKenzie print it is likely the McKenzie photograph was exactly the same. On the back of both the Tabram and Coles photographs it is printed:
PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE UNKNOWN DEAD. In districts where a skilled operator cannot be obtained, LOUIS GUMPRECHT, of 11, CANNON STREET ROAD, E., is willing to attend on a few hours' notice, on the same terms as the Eastern District are served.
Wire through “H.”
The three photographs were head and shoulder photographs and were not taken to show the extent of the wounds but were taken to be used to help identify the victims.
That is where things stood until the centenary of the murders in 1988.
Around the time of the centenary, two anonymous parcels were sent to New Scotland Yard, the first in 1987 contained the Dear Boss letter and envelope, the Bond report, and other papers including a few Crippen papers. The second which is of interest to us was received in 1988 and this was an album of photographs, which contained six photographs of the Whitechapel victims, one each of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and two of Mary Kelly. The six photographs are all sepia photographs, five of which are about 2 ˝ x 3 ˝ inches in size. One of the photographs of Mary Kelly is about 4 x 5 inches; this photograph is the same view as the photo Don found in Snow Hill Police Station. The other Mary Kelly photograph is the view from the other side of the bed. These are the only known crime scene photographs of a Whitechapel Murder victim.
The photographs of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride are all head and shoulders photographs and like the Tabram, McKenzie and Coles photographs, were taken to help aid identification. The Elizabeth Stride photograph is not at the National Archives and its present whereabouts are unknown. The photograph of Catherine Eddowes is the same as the full length photograph in the City of Police Museum, the only difference, is this copy has a bit more information at the sides of the image and what is noticeable, is what looks like the corner of a mortuary table on the left of the image and what could be another table on the right of the photograph.
The photographs have since been removed from the album and are now mounted onto a sheet of white card; they are not glued to the card but are held in place by slots in the white card. The photographs are blank on the reverse except for a modern 'Public Record Office' stamp. The photographs are kept in a clear cover so it is impossible to tell if they were printed onto paper or thin card. To my eye it looks like paper. The sepia colour on these photographs is a little bit darker then the sepia colouring on the Tabram and Coles photographs, this could be due to the medium used to print them. The date of these photographs are difficult to judge but it is our opinion that they were photographs taken from the original copies or negatives for specific use in the album mentioned, which William Waddell described in his book “The Black Museum” as used for 'CID training.'Despite no 'Gumprecht' stamp on the back of the photographs, it is our opinion that they are contemporary prints.
A new photograph.
Going back to what we said earlier, during the visit to the City of London Police Museum. While looking through the photographs there, one caught our attention. It was a photograph of Catherine Eddowes, it was the familiar full-length photograph but of a much better quality then the ones seen before which were all-dark and faded looking. What was also unique about this photograph was that there was another photograph next to it on the same print. This other photograph is of what looks like wood panelling, but with a chalked message on it. The message reads:
“I am going to do one on the 27th
While not complete, this is the only known photograph of graffiti that was photographed by the Police, in this case the City of London Police. Researcher Debra Arif found a reference to this letter in 'Reports of the meetings and discussions held in London August 10 - 17 1891' a public health book. A visitor to the museum at the City Coroners Court, Golden Lane, saw a photograph of the chalk message and the full wording was:
“I am going to do one on the 27th”
“Jack the Ripper”
The visitor mentions that the chalked message was 'found on one of the blocks of Artizans' Dwellings.' Which Artizans' Dwellings we do not know. The chalk message was presumably on City Police territory since it is their photograph. Any theory as to where this message was written has to be purely speculative. There is no mention in any official police files, City or Metropolitan or even in the Home Office reports. There are a couple of mentions to writing being found on 'King's Block', part of the Artizans' Dwellings between Harrow Alley and Stoney Lane. Moreover, they are from newspaper reports written in 1905 on the retirement of Detective Inspector Robert Sagar. The reports are contradictory and should only be read as possibilities.
The Seattle Daily Times, Saturday 4 February 1905, stated that just before the discovery of Catherine Eddowes body on the morning of the 30 September 1888, that at 1:45 a.m. …..a police officer met a well-dressed man of Jewish appearance coming out of the court. Continuing on his patrol he came across the woman's [Eddowes] body. He blew his whistle, and sent the other officers who rushed up in pursuit, the only thing to guide them being the sound of retreating footsteps. The sounds were followed to King's Block in the model dwellings in Stoney Lane, but the search got no further. On the wall was found scrawled in chalk, 'The Jews shall not be blamed for this.' Most of us are familiar with the case to notice a few errors in this newspaper article. The police officer mentioned, would be Police Constable Watkins, and at no time did he mention seeing anyone leaving Mitre Square before he entered the square on his beat. Watkins also never had a whistle to blow. It was the night watchman for Kearley & Tonge; George Morris who blew his whistle after Watkins went to him for assistance. The chalked message was actually found on different Artizans' Dwellings, Wentworth Model Dwellings and was worded 'The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing'. The Mercury, Saturday 14 January 1905, published a few weeks earlier told the same story but transported the chalked message and included Catherine Eddowes torn apron to a common lodging house in Dorset Street. It is possible that King's Block was mistaken for Wentworth Model Dwellings, so until further evidence comes along a cautious approach should be taken to where the graffito that was photographed was written.
The photograph which is at the City of London Police Museum is not the photograph mentioned in the 'Reports of the meetings and discussions held in London August 10 - 17 1891' book, but is a cropped copy. The sides of the Catherine Eddowes photograph are also cropped. There is a white border separating the two and interestingly there looks as if there was another or possibly more photographs attached to this one. The combined photograph is about 2 x 4 inches and is a sepia print. There is no writing on the back but from the appearance and quality of photographic paper, it could be a print from around the early 1900s. To find out how the original graffito writing got to the museum at the City Coroner's Court, It is worth quoting the relevant passage in 'Reports of the meetings and discussions held in London August 10 - 17 1891'
1-THE CORONER'S COURT
A compact block of buildings, which includes the keeper's lodge, the mortuary chapel, an unconsecrated building used for the reception of bodies; the Coroner's Court, post-mortem room, and chemical laboratory. In connection with the last-named there is an unpretending but interesting nucleus of a museum. In the collection is a photograph of the writing found on one of the blocks of artizans' dwellings: “I am going to do one on the 27th;” signed, Jack the Ripper. Here also may be seen such objects of interest as have accumulated from the daily routine work of the sanitary department, such as old-fashioned lead D traps, riddled with holes from the action of gases of decomposition; sections of pipes blocked by incrustations of calcium carbonate and in various other ways; specimens of holes gnawed by rats in lead water-pipes; large photograph of the horse ambulance, which may be used for the conveyance of any citizen, without payment; and also of the hand hearse used for the conveyance of bodies to the mortuary, both of these vehicles being kept on the premises. One side of the block of buildings is occupied by a furnace or refuse destructor and a disinfecting chamber, built by Leoni, which has been in constant use for the past twenty-one years. It is constructed to act with either dry or moist heat, or both. Articles, before being treated by heat, are passed through a sulphur chamber.
The original photograph was part of exhibits which also included some from the sanitary department. A connection between the photograph and the sanitary department in Doctor William Sedgwick Saunders, he was the Medical Officer of Health for the City of London and he was also present at Catherine Eddowes post-mortem and he had examined her stomach contents in the City Laboratory. Whether Doctor Saunders had any involvement in placing the photograph in the Chemical Laboratory Museum remains to be seen and a question which hopefully future research can answer. At present the copy that does survive is a mystery and how it ended up at the City of London Museum. Research is constantly on going to answer this question and to also answer the question of is there anymore photographic evidence out there?
These are the known photographs at the time of writing.
One original 1888 photograph in the National Archives.
MARY ANN NICHOLS
One original c1888 photograph in the National Archives. From the CID training album returned to Scotland Yard in 1988.
One original c1888 photograph in the National Archives. From the CID training album returned to Scotland Yard in 1988.
Present whereabouts are unknown.
There are six known photographs of Catherine Eddowes.
One photograph of Eddowes, taken in a coffin before her post-mortem. Not an original photograph but a later copy, possibly from the early 1900s, date stamped '22 March 1950' and with the numbers '27/10' written on the back. This copy is in City of London Police Museum.
One copy of the head and shoulders photograph taken after the post-mortem. Not an original photograph but a later copy, possibly from the early 1900s, date stamped '22 March 1950.' This copy is in City of London Police Museum.
One copy of the three quarters head to thighs view, taken after the post-mortem. Not an original photograph but a later copy, possibly from the early 1900s, date stamped '22 March 1950' and with the numbers '27/10' written on the back. This copy is in City of London Police Museum.
Three copies of the full length photograph. Two copies are with the City of London Police. None of their copies are the originals but later copies. One possibly from the early 1900s, one is date stamped '22 March 1950' and with the numbers '27/10' written on the back. The other is undated but probably from the early 1900s as well, this copy has a photograph of the chalk writing next to it. The third copy is an original c1888 copy in the National Archives. From the CID training album returned to Scotland Yard in 1988.
There are three photographs of Mary Kelly. All were taken at the crime scene.
Two are the full-length photograph.
The present whereabouts of the copy found by Donald Rumbelow the 1960s is unknown.
The other is in an original c1888 copy in National Archives. From the CID training album returned to Scotland Yard in 1988.
There is one copy of Mary Kelly taken from the other side of the bed.
This is in an original c1888 copy in National Archives. From the CID training album returned to Scotland Yard in 1988.
There was a photograph taken of the exterior of Millers Court, the only known photograph of one of the crime scenes taken at the time of the murders by the police. No original prints were found except the original glass negative, which is now missing.
One photograph, a copy of the original, which was noted as missing in 1980 and is in the National Archives.
One original 1891 photograph in the National Archives.
The Writing on the Wall
“The spot where the writing was in the ground of the Metropolitan Police, and they insisted on having it rubbed out” - Detective Constable 607 Daniel Halse, City of London Police force, at the inquest into the murder of Catherine Eddowes on 11th October 1888.
The series of murders throughout the area of Whitechapel and its surrounds during 1888 caused great interest, none more than the connecting events during the early hours of the 30th September 1888 concerning the discovery of a small chalked message in Goulston Street. The writing, which reads “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing,” was found near to a piece of blood stained and faecal smeared apron belonging to one of the victims of Jack the Ripper, and the decision to erase this potential written clue has polarised students and experts of the case for many years. Some state that is was an error to eradicate the writing, saying that it should have been photographed before removal. Others argued its destruction was necessary due to its potentially inflammatory content. Interestingly enough this debate sparked into life from the very moment the message was discovered. The City of London Police, on whose jurisdiction the apron owners' body was found, Catherine Eddowes, pushed for a photograph to be taken. The Metropolitan Police force, on whose jurisdiction the apron piece and message was found (as well as the previous murders had occurred) were adamant it was to be erased and, as it was their patch, they won through. The writing was removed before a photograph could be taken, the chance was lost. However...
The recent discovery of a photograph of wall writing within the City Of London Police archives has brought fresh hope in regards of new material being out there and is also a reinforcement of the City of London Forces progressive thinking at the time. There are other reported examples of such writing connected to these murders scattered throughout London and the land, which are recorded in various memoirs of former Police Officers, contemporary official reports as well as news reports.
One of the earliest reports of chalked wall writing occurs not long after the murder of Annie Chapman, who was found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street. Hours after her murder The Echo, Saturday 8 September 1888 reported:
THE “WRITING ON THE WALL”
It is currently reported in Hanbury-street that this morning the following paragraph, written in chalk, was seen upon the wall of one of the back gardens there, and four persons distinctly stated they had actually seen the writing. The words are, “I have now done three, and intend to do nine more and give myself up, and at the same time give my reasons for doing the murders.” Whether there is any truth in the matter remains to be seen.
The same day The Star, ran a report of a seemingly different chalked message:
The people, and even the police, were so excited that all sorts of rumours were flying about. The woman living next door declared that this morning there was written on the door of No. 29, “This is the fourth, I will murder sixteen more and then give myself up.” There was no basis for this story, however, there being no chalk mark on the door except “29.”
A Lloyds Weekly reporter, most likely tipped off by The Star, report, ran this the following day:
On the wall near where the body was found there was, according to one reporter, subsequently discovered written in chalk :-
“FIVE: 15 MORE, AND THEN I GIVE MYSELF UP.”
On the place being subsequently visited by our representative this was not to be seen.
Some weeks after Chapman's murder, and a day before the 'Double Event' murders of Elisabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, The Evening News, Saturday 29 September 1888, submitted the following:
The police state, as an extraordinary circumstance, that when they went on duty, about half-past ten last night, they saw the word “Look' written in chalk on the pavement, on both sides of a lamp-post. Under the lamp-post was also written, “I am Leather Apron.” Under this was drawn two figures- one of a woman and the other of man holding a knife in his hand. Again under this were the words, “Five more, and I will give myself up.” The matter was treated as a joke at the time, but the officers say it is very strange that such a singular case should come to light so soon after.
There are no details as to where this writing was located, or if it existed, it's similarities with the alleged chalked messages found in Hanbury Street and the mention of Leather Apron who was the chief suspect for the murders during the early part of September. Would suggest the story was made up of earlier press reports.
Indeed, The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Monday 1 October 1888, reported that this chalked writing in Hanbury Street was a myth, confirmed by the Police. They stated that:
A statement appeared in the papers after the murder of Mrs Chapman that the Murderer had chalked up on a wall that he had already committed four murders, six others would follow, and the he would give himself up. This story was declared by the Police to be a myth, and certainly no evidence was forthcoming in support of it at the inquest.
As The Star, and Lloyds Weekly, reporters clearly wrote that they did not see the writing themselves, and The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, stating the Police declared it a myth, one must question if this often quoted piece of wall writing did actually exist.
The 'Double Event' bought forth the most well-known of Wall Writing messages, The Goulston Street Graffito. It is probably the most keenly debated aspect of the Whitechapel Murder case and is the only piece of Wall Writing to be presented at an inquest. At around 2.55am on the chilly wet Sunday morning of the 30th of September 1888, PC 254A Alfred Long was walking his newly acquired beat of Goulston Street, which lays between Houndsditch to its west and Commercial Street to its east. PC Long had been drafted into the Whitechapel district from Whitehall as part of a group of Constables seconded in to supplement H Division, Whitechapel. He had only been patrolling this beat as a matter of days when he came across the newly built Wentworth Model Dwellings on the north eastern corner on the street. The dwellings had four entrances from Goulston Street and as PC Long entered the entrance to 108-119 he spotted a rag in the stairwell. Upon inspecting the rag he noted one corner was wet with blood. He had been brought into the area due the fact that there had been a recent spate of murders within this district and this played upon his mind as he began to search for further blood splatters inside the stairwell. As he scanned his lamp upon the wall he came across the chalk written words 'The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing'. PC Long then shifted his attention to the rest of the building, searching the stairs he half expected to find a body. He did not. He then headed back downstairs and sort further assistance.
PC Long's find of this chalked message during the dark early morning hours of that Sunday was to become hotly debated within minutes. Soon the entrance was guarded by fellow PC 190H William Bettles as Long reported his find to the station. The reason why the Police paid so much attention to that spot was because of two things. Firstly two women had been found murdered within an hour of each other. Elizabeth Stride was discovered in a yard entrance just off Berner Street in St George in the East. Catherine Eddowes was found 45 minutes later in Mitre Square in the City of London. The rag that PC Long had found was actually a detached piece of apron which corresponded exactly with its remaining piece belonging to Catherine Eddowes. This meant that most likely whoever killed Eddowes had actually disposed of this apron piece in Goulston Street. Secondly the apron piece was located in a stairwell inside of which was found the chalked writing 'The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing'. Whilst there was nothing within the writing itself to suggest the Eddowes killer had written it, its location near her apron piece indicated that this was a possible clue and therefore needed to be treated like one.
However an issue arose. Goulston Street came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Force. Catherine Eddowes was murdered in Mitre Square and that came within the jurisdiction of the City of London Police Force. As both the Metropolitan and City began to swarm around the stairwell in Goulston Street it was becoming apparent that each force had a differing agenda. One of the Policemen who went to immediately assist in relation to the murder of Eddowes was Detective Constable 607 Daniel Halse of the City of London Force. As the course of events unfolded Halse heard that a piece of apron had been found in Goulston Street and he, along with a colleague DC Baxter Hunt, made their way over to the Wentworth Dwellings. Upon arrival at the stairwell he noted the chalked message and sent Hunt off for instruction from their Inspector James McWilliam (Head of the City of London Detective Force). In fact Halse stated at the Eddowes inquest that he sent Hunt off for 'Mr McWilliam for instructions to have the writing photographed'. This is an indication of the City Forces perspective. They felt the chalked message was important enough of a clue to have it photographed.
As Halse waited upon further instruction, it became clear the Metropolitan Force had a different opinion. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, had been summoned to Goulston Street to view the scene. In a report to the Home Office on the 6 November, Sir Charles Warren wrote that the message would inflame 'the public mind against the Jews.' There had been reports of attacks upon Jews after the murder of Annie Chapman and there was a genuine fear of rioting upon the streets with the predominantly Jewish occupancy of the Wentworth Dwellings bearing the brunt. At that time of the morning, life was beginning to stir, people were about to awake for work and soon the area would be full of men and women going about their business. There was a fear that the writing would be seen and seen soon. With that in mind, Warren made the fateful decision to erase the writing from the wall. It seems Halse protested on behalf of the City Force, even compromising that only the top line be erased but Warren declined to meet the Detective Constable halfway. At around 5.30am, just after copies were noted, the chalked message was removed, never to be viewed again. This was the only officially reported wall writing ever made in relation to the Whitechapel Murders, and now it was gone.
Due to its exposure at the inquest, the writing in Goulston Street bought an explosion of reports regarding chalked messages supposedly left by the killer. However, it was another piece of communication that gave these wall writers a signature to adopt. The Central News Agency, in New Bridge Street, received an envelope date stamped 27th September 1888, days before the murders of Stride and Eddowes. Inside it was an extraordinary letter written in red ink. Dated 25th September 1888, it read:
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn't you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I'm a doctor now. ha ha
The letter was one of many received throughout the period and the Central News Agency treated it as a joke. It was forwarded to the Metropolitan Police the very day of the 'Double Event' and was superseded by another missive; this time dated a day after these murders. Yet again The Central News Agency received the correspondence, a postcard, in seemingly the same hand as the 'Dear Boss' letter days before. Smeared with an inky fingerprint, again in red, the postcard read:
I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you'll hear about Saucy Jacky's work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off. ha not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper
The killer now had a chilling name, and so did the wall writers. And it was this name that began to appear on walls, doors, shutters and even pavements. A young H Division C.I.D Constable by the name of Walter Dew (who worked upon The Whitechapel Murder enquiry and was, as Inspector, later to find fame as the man who caught Crippen) noted this in his memoirs 'I Caught Crippen' declaring that “There was no reason, so far as I can see, why this particular message should have proved more useful than many others which Jack the Ripper was supposed to have written”.
The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Monday 1 October 1888, analysing the killer and his 'weak points' noted that:
On Saturday morning there appeared in the London papers a statement that near a spot where two women said a man flourished a knife in their faces there was written in chalk on the pavement that so many murders have been committed, and that others were about to take place. If the Murderer is a maniac, chalk writing on pavements and walls might be one of his weak points; and it is a remarkable thing that the hideous determination in both of these alleged chalk writing is in course of fulfilment. Trifles, even absurd in their character, have led to the discovery of great criminals ere this.
Again, without corroborating evidence, this story must be treated with caution.
Police & Photographers
The events surrounding the message found in Goulston Street highlighted the approach of The City of London Police Force. Halse clearly expressed his wishes that a photograph was to be taken. His Head of CID, Inspector James McWilliam ordered that the writing be photographed. There is a clear message here with regards the City of London Police and their intentions regarding such finds, they were to be photographed. While the Metropolitan Police appointed an official photographer in 1901, The City of London Police had no official Photographer until 1939, when amateur Photographer and Police Constable Arthur Cross was given a room in the basement of Bishopsgate Police Station. However it would seem that private Photographers were used from around the 1870s according to Major Henry Smith, who was Acting Commissioner during the Autumn of Terror. Albums containing images of many of the City's criminals were stored at the Old Jewry Headquarters. It is most likely that one single photographer was used, or at least a minimal few, because working for the Police required discretion and trust of ones paymasters.
By using photographers, the Police were able now to take images of new and known Criminals, and circulate these images should they be required for identification purposes. Prisoners were often marched to the photographer's studio and held in position whilst the Photographer did his work. Not only did they take photographs of the living, they were also required to take photographs of the dead, this for identification purposes. City of London Police Order Books entry dated 18th April 1882 gave guidance on what to do if a person was found dead and not identified. It states that:
18th April 1882
The Commissioner orders that in future whenever a person is found dead or in The Thames or may die after being taken to a hospital and who has not been identified, A photograph of such person be taken prior to an inquest being held on the body.
In ordinary cases it may be desirable to wait until a description of the deceased has been circulated, but in urgent cases if the body in becoming decomposed, or notice has been received that an inquest will be held on the forthcoming day the photograph should be taken as soon as possible.
Arrangements have been made with Mr Edgar, No 121 Cheapside to take the photograph.
The Chief Insp &
Insps of Detectives
& Insps of each Division
Thanks to the excellent research of Debra Arif and Robert J McLaughlin, we know that Mr James Edgar seems to have disappeared in late 1882 and the responsibility of taking photographs for the City of London Police Force may have moved on to another. We certainly know that William G Parker of 40 High Holborn was employed by the City Police at some stage in 1887, as he took the group shot of some City PCs proudly displaying their Jubilee medals atop Snow Hill Police Station (including Sergeant Byfield, PC Harvey and PC Hutt who were all involved with the Eddowes enquiry), as his stamp is on the reverse of that photo.
Cloak Lane wall writing
No murders occurred in the area throughout October however the air was charged. It seems nothing else was talked about; even the smallest of crimes were somehow connected to the murders and wall writing. On 30th October 1888, The Morning Post ran a curious story. Charles Edward Randall, a Clerk, was charged before the Lord Mayor for extinguishing a Gas Lamp located in Black Raven Avenue, Upper Thames Street. The report continues:
Dennis Hart, employed at The City of London Brewery, deposed that about six o'clock Saturday evening he saw a light extinguished and upon running out found the prisoner going away. He told him to relight the lamp, and the prisoner said he would if he fetched a ladder. - Detective Saunders, who came up at that time, stated that at the Police Station the prisoner admitted that he had put the light out with his umbrella. This light had been repeatedly extinguished during the last month, and five houses were placed in total darkness when it was extinguished. There had been some writing found on a wall in Cloak Lane [Authors emphasis], and the utmost terror prevailed among the inhabitants of the houses in question. - Prisoner said he did not think he was doing any harm in extinguishing the lamp - The Lord Mayor: The penalty for extinguishing lamps is 40s, and if you young Gentlemen go about the streets indulging in this kind of practical joking you must pay for it. You have, no doubt, done this with the object of creating panic in the neighbourhood. There is quite enough of that already without your larking and you must pay a fine of 10s.
What this writing is we can only guess. The fact it was found in Cloak Lane, home of the Cloak Lane Police Station - the very station acting Commissioner Major Henry Smith was roused from his slumber to be told the news of the Eddowes murder - must draw a degree of logical conclusion that it was related to the murders. The Lord Mayor alludes to the terror and panic of the inhabitants whose homes were plunged into darkness by Randall, and states that “there was quite enough of that already.” again enforcing ones opinion that this mysterious writing was possibly somehow Ripper related. It is also tempting to speculate that the writing was connected to the photograph of graffiti writing considering that the Saturday Charles Edward Randall was arrested was the 27th of the month. However it must be mentioned that there were no Artizan's Dwellings located on Cloak Lane.
Wall writing after Kelly
This October lull in murders bought the opinion the Murderer had either left or stopped. As the City and East end started to settle back into normality, the discovery of Mary Kelly's body in her small Millers Court room in Spitalfields bought the panic and fear flooding back. Kelly was brutally mutilated by her assailant and this only fanned the new frenzy which occurred in the weeks after she was discovered. Just over a week later, on 16th November 1888, The Evening News, Friday 16 November 1888, ran a report on some wall writing discovered south of the River Thames in Bermondsey. It simply stated that:
Early this morning the attention of the police Barmondsey [sic] was drawn to some writing chalked on Wren's buildings, Thomas-street. It was as follows “Dear Boss - I am going to do three more murders. Yours, Jack the Ripper.”
The self-promoting Albert Bachert claimed he had also been the recipient of wall writing. One time Member and Chair of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, it was reported in various newspapers that a chalked messaged appeared on the wall of his home on the very day of Mary Kelly's funeral. The Morning Advertiser, Tuesday 20 November 1888 stated that:
The Press Association is informed by Arthur Bachert (sic), the young man who gave to the police a description of a man seen in the neighbourhood of Berner-street at the time of the murder of Elizabeth Stride, that he was awakened at his home in Newnham-street yesterday morning by a policeman, who called his attention to some chalk writing on the blank wall of the house as follows:
“Dear Boss, I am still about; look out. Yours, Jack the Ripper.”
It is stated by Bachert that the writing resembles that on the now famous postcard and letter published by the police, especially the B in “Boss” and the R in “Ripper.” A crowd collected, and Mrs. Bachert partly removed the cause of their attraction by washing out the letters; otherwise the police would have photographed the writing.
This report ran in many newspapers and one may note the final line that had the writing not caused such a stir and erased, the Police would have photographed it.
As stated, such was the press frenzy stirred by Kelly's murder that even the smallest of news reports on the most insignificant of incidents were being presented, and all across the United Kingdom. The Gloucester Citizen, Saturday 17 November 1888, ran a report across the Welsh border in Cardiff where a -
Mr Edward Rowland, deaf and dumb Missionary, residing at Pontypridd, writes - When I was passing Wyndham Crescent, Canton on Tuesday night, at seven o'clock, a young man with dark clothes and black moustache, came and walked a little way with me. I touched my ear to say I was deaf, and he put his hands in his pockets for paper and pencil, and at a shop window he wrote with chalk on the sill this: - “Can you tell me the names of the fallen women?” I was terrified and left him.
The Pinchin Street messages
As the autumn of 1888 subsided, so did the murders; however they did not cease completely. In July of 1889 Alice McKenzie was found murdered in Castle Alley, which ran between Whitechapel High Street and Wentworth Street, just behind the Wentworth Dwellings where the Goulston Street message was found. Some months later, in September, a torso of a female was found in a Railway arch in Pinchin Street belonging to the Whitechapel Board of Works as storage and work place for cutting of granite rocks, which were used for road making and preparing flagstones as pavement. The arch was only a minute walk from Elizabeth Strides murder scene in Berner Street. It was in relation to the Pinchin Street torso that The Birmingham Daily Post, Thursday 12 September 1889, commented upon some wall writing found on the junction of Frederick Street, a small alley off Pinchin Street. The writing commented upon a 'Jos Cleary' which is undoubtedly a reference to John Cleary. Days prior to the torso being found, The New York Herald, Wednesday 11 September 1889, stated that a John Cleary had entered their office commented upon a murder in Back Church Lane, which junctions Pinchin Street. Once the torso had been found the Editor reported this event to the Police. Upon reading his name in the news, Cleary (whose real name was John Arnold) came forward and it seems was cleared by the Police. The Birmingham Daily Posts report ran:
Yesterday Superintendent Arnold and Inspector Reid were informed of some chalked writing on a wall at the corner of Frederick Street, a dark passage in the immediate proximity of the scene of the discovery. The name of 'Jos Cleary' was introduced along with five or six other words written on the wall, and this being the name given by a man who made some communication about a murder to a newspaper on Sunday morning, the coincidences attracted attention. The Police, however, do not consider the matter of much importance.
Unconfirmed newspaper, The Manchester Times, Saturday 14 September 1889 for example, reported that the message 'John Cleary is a fool' was written in chalk on several dead walls in the area of Pinchin Street.
Another wall message was claimed to have been written on a black palings opposite the archway in which the torso was found. This time it was in reference to Israel Lipski who was found guilty of murdering Miram Angel in nearby Batty Street during 1887. The writing simply stated 'Lipski' and The East London Advertiser, Saturday 14 September 1889 reported it as:
Not far from the arch where the headless trunk was found, a pedestrian exploring the neighbourhood would find himself in Berner-street, where Elizabeth Stride was brutally murdered on Sept. 30 last year, and if he proceeded a little further he would traverse the dull and wretched Batty-street, where Lipski foully murdered his landlady, for which he was afterwards hanged at the Old Bailey. That the memory of this notorious criminal is still fresh in the minds of the inhabitants around is shown by the fact that on a black paling opposite the arch under which the unknown body was hidden someone had written the word “Lipski” in large chalk letters. Whether done before the discovery or after no one seems to know, but the name was there.
The evidence we have presented is an indication that wall writing existed around the murders connected to Jack the Ripper. This find of this new photograph showing wall writing upon shutters is further evidence that not only did it exist, but is was photographed by the Police. Why this particular wall writing was photographed we can, as of this moment, only speculate. There may have been other photographs taken of wall writing. None of which at this moment in time have survived, however some, like the 'Lipski' writing, are obvious pranks and would have had no reason to be photographed.
We feel there must have been deemed of some importance by the Police else otherwise it would have simply been removed. Maybe its location gave the police and their photographer some sanctuary to do their work, which they were unable to do with other wall writing finds. We don't know as of yet. Whilst this discovery will not add anything new to the case, it does emphasise the City of London Police Forces progressive thinking and mentality regarding new technology.
It also gives hope that there are more discoveries out there to be made.
A huge debt of gratitude is given to Debra Arif for her gift of finding obscure information and her important discovery of the Reports of the meetings and discussions held in London August 10 - 17 1891, book.
Thank you to Chris Phillips for his help and supplying copies The Mercury and The Seattle Daily Times reports.
We are also grateful for the help and advice given to us by Paul Begg, Stewart Evans, Keith Skinner and Adam Wood.
Finally, we would like to express our fullest gratitude to Catherine Coulthard, The Curator and Records Officer of the City of London Police Museum, who not only very kindly allowed us access to the City Police Museum and its archives but also supplied us with copious amounts of tea and bourbon biscuits.
Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates, by Stewart P. Evans and Donald Rumbelow, Sutton Publishing 2006.
The Black Museum, by Bill Waddell, Little Brown and Company, 1993.
The First Jack the Ripper Victim Photographs, by Robert J. McLaughlin, Zwerghaus Books 2005.
Reports of the meetings and discussions held in London August 10 - 17 1891, Published for the Society of Medical Officers of Health by E. W. Allen, 1891.