5 September 1888
The Coroner's inquiry into the dreadful murder of Mary Anne Nicholls was on Monday adjourned until the 17th inst., but all day yesterday informal discussions were going on among the inhabitants of the locality in which it occurred. The body of the poor woman had been removed from the mortuary the night before by some of her friends, so at least it was stoutly affirmed by the officers in charge of the place; but the public generally were unaware of this, and from time to time during the day they came in twos and threes and stopped at the top of the little paved opening, at the bottom of which the mortuary is situated, and gazed down at its gaudy green gates and talked the matter over, evidently under the impression that the mutilated victim still lay within. At every street corner gossips clustered around anybody who could give the fullest particulars of the inquest the day before, and the end of Buck's row, the spot on which the body had been found was throughout the day the scenes of eager debate as to the probabilities of discovering the criminal. Groups of hard featured, sorrowful looking women clustered together and bent over what they supposed to be the blood stained paving stones, and told strange stories of the difficulties credibly reported in obliterating the marks of human gore. One thin faced, blue eyed little old man, who no doubt at some point in his threescore years and ten had on the stage seen Lady Macbeth trying to wash her hands of the life blood of King Duncan and still retained some vague outlines of the story, recounted what he could remember as an actual historical fact. The narrative, distorted almost out of recognition, was listened to with the keenest interest, and was unhesitatingly accepted in corroboration of the general belief as to the ineradicable nature of blood stains. All through the day little mobs of twenty or thirty people thronged round the window sill under which the glare of the policeman's bullseye had detected the mutilated body and gave expression to their pity and their horror. The men for the most part are sullen and taciturn. With hands deep in their pockets, they puff at their pipes, and think a good deal but say little. But now and then they put in a word. "I shouldn't so much ha' wondered at the poor thing's throat being cut," said a woman; "that might ha' been done in a quarrel as many a one ha' been done before." "So might the other thing," said a bystander, taking a short pipe out of his mouth. "Don't you often hear chaps threaten to do just that? Ain't it common enough when a blackguard gets in a rage for him to swear he'll do just that very thing to a woman? Very well, one of 'em's been and done it, that's all. That's what comes o' that sort of talk."
People in the neighbourhood seem very much divided in opinion as to the probability of its being the work of one person or several. The women for the most part appear to incline to the belief that it is a gang that has done this and the other murders, and the shuddering dread of being abroad in the streets after nightfall, expressed by the more nervous of them, is pitiable. "Thank God! I needn't be out after dark," ejaculated one woman. "No more needn't I," said another; "but my two girls have got to come home latish, and I'm all of a fidget till they comes." It was really startling to stand by yesterday and listen to the gleanings of these poor people from the newspapers. Nothing appeared to have caught the attention of anybody, except some story of murderous outrage, every detail of which they had made themselves familiar with. The report of another desperate assault on Saturday evening was discussed with shuddering interest. The story goes that a well dressed man inveigled another of these unhappy women near to the scene of the murder of Friday morning and dragged her by the throat down a court, where he was joined by a gang of women and ruffians. They stripped her of her jewellery and her purse, and upon her attempting to shout for help one of them laid a long knife across her throat and threatened to "serve her as they did the other." She was eventually released, however, and told the police about it. On the face of it the tale is in the highest degree improbable, but it unhesitatingly accepted by the people clustering together in Buck's row yesterday, and greatly added to the general anxiety and dismay. There were some, however, who were sceptical about this latest outrage. "That a got up yarn," said one. "I rather wish it was true. If there was a gang like that, one or t'other of 'em'd split before long, and it'd all come out. Bet your money this ain't been done that way." There was general expression of a hope that some way or other it might come out, and then, with a touch of the grim humour more or less inseparable from all dark tragedy, the motley little mob of women and girls broke out in noisy protestation of what they would like to see done to the wretch who had so barbarously butchered this poor woman. By general acclamation it was agreed that the best thing the could be done would be to turn him out in the midst of the Whitechapel women; and then, seemingly forgetful of all the pain and pathos of the dreadful event, women squeezed their elbows and clenched their fists, and went through a mimic performance on the person of the murderer.
Very rough and very coarse were many of these women and girls who from hour to hour gathered about the little thoroughfare to talk over this awful mystery; but somehow it was not their roughness or their coarseness which most impressed the observant bystander. If any word was said to the prejudice of the unhappy victim, it was instantly met by such an emphatic expression of pity and compassion and charitable extenuation of the hapless woman's faults and frailties,that the critic was abashed into silence. "No matter what she was, poor thing. 'taint for the likes of us to judge her now." "No," said another; "that's right enough, whatever she was it was an awful cruel thing to do to her."
"It's the drink as seems to ha' dine it all," said one. "Ah, curse the drink!" said another, a woman with a hard, deeply furrowed face and thin grey hair. Then the conversation turned on the mischiefs which originated in the public houses, and of course they were condemned heartily and unanimously. Fresh arrivals came up now and wanted to know all about it. Once more the supposed stains were pointed out and the whole of the circumstances discussed again in the light of Monday's evidence and people stood and silently stared at the pavement and the brickwork of the adjacent house and minutely examined the scratches and other marks in the wall, as if these things helped them to realise the horror of it all. The same thing of course happens whenever murder takes place; but very rarely has anything occurred even in this quarter of London that has created so profound a sensation, and seldom have this people been so appalled by a sense of insecurity. There seems to a prevalent confidence that the police are doing all in their power to discover the criminal, but there is at least an equally general conviction that until this mysterious assassin is taken this neighbourhood should have a stronger contingent of police for its protection. "Life ain't no great things with many on us," said one little woman, whose sprightly manner and rosy cherub face rather belied her pessimism, "but we don't all want to be murdered, and if things go on like this it won't be safe for nobody to put their 'eads out o' doors."
The Central News furnishes the following additional particulars respecting the state of affairs at Scotland yard:
Friction between the Home Secretary and Sir Charles Warren commenced about the time of the Trafalgar square disturbances, the immediate cause being that Mr. Matthews showed favour to the Receiver of the Metropolitan District, against whom the Chief Commissioner had brought charges of disregarding police regulations, and giving orders to superintendents without consulting his official superiors. Sir Charles Warren protested against the course pursued by the Secretary of State, and finally threatened to resign, a threat which was repeated later on. It became necessary at length to bring the matter under the notice of the Cabinet, and Mr. W.H. Smith and Mr. Goschen were deputed by their colleagues to bring about a settlement of the points in dispute. Early in May Mr. Smith, Mr. Gischen, Mr. Matthews, and Sir Charles Warren met in Downing street, and as the result of a conference, which lasted nearly all the afternoon, the Chief Commissioner was adjudged to have made out his case. The disputes between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro arose out of representations made by the latter respecting the numerical weakness of the staff of the Criminal Investigation Department, coupled with a request for the appointment of an assistant chief constable and a few additional subordinate officers. Sir Charles Warren was not at first inclined to accede to Mr. Monro's request, but ultimately, taking into account the fact that Chief Constable Williamson was st the moment absent through illness, he agreed to the appointment of an assistant chief constable. A gentleman of large Indian experience was recommended for the post with the acquiescence of the Chief Commissioner, and the recommendation was formally made to the Secretary of State. But before the appointment had been actually made, Sir Charles Warren withdrew his recommendation, on the ground that circumstances had come to his knowledge which made it undesirable that the gentleman in question should be appointed. The appointment was never made, and the question of creating the new post remained in abeyance. This did not improve the relations between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro. Matters reached a crisis early in July, when the Chief Commissioner and Mr. Monro went to the Home Office and had a long interview with the Secretary of State, at which it was decided that Mr. Monro should immediately take leave of absence with a view to his subsequent resignation. Nothing of an authoritative character has yet transpired as to the intentions of the Government in regard to Sir Charles Warren, and the officials at the Home Office and at Scotland Yard have been warned against giving information to the Press. Sir Charles Warren who has been taking a quiet holiday in the south of France, will return to Scotland Yard within the next few days.