15 November 1888
The Warren incident is, we hope, terminated with the speeches of last night in the Commons. The Home Secretary had reason for the satisfaction he expressed at Sir William Harcourt's approval of his action. Sir William Harcourt was at the Home Office for five years and has a fellow feeling with the present occupant of his old chair. Doubtless the terms of Sir Charles Warren's letter of resignation made it impossible to continue him at Scotland yard, for it would never do to let the Chief Commissioner assume the irresponsible command of such an army as the London police. But whether the last act of the Commissioner was too recalcitrant or not, we believe that the spirit which dictated it was aroused through long months of disagreement with Mr. Matthews, whose manner is not, to say the least of it, conciliatory. The failure to find the Whitechapel murderer may have had, as we indicated yesterday, an indirect connection with the ill feeling. If so Mr. Matthews must not be held blameless, for the police could not compass the impossible. Their methods may have been too traditional, but they did their best with their lights. We on one or two occasions ventured to throw out hints as to the direction that inquiry should pursue, and again we would ask is there not an exaggerated tendency on their part to look for the murderer in a well dressed and apparently well to do person? If such a tendency exists, as we believe it does, it gives practical immunity to the real murderer if he be one of the common inhabitants of the East end, a labourer, or market porter, or any kind of man upon whom suspicion has not fallen. Nobody, of course, can say that the murderer is not well to do, but the search should not be confined to folks wearing thick gold chains and fashionable suits. However, the failure of the police can have only had a subsidiary influence on the bickerings of the Home Office and Scotland yard, and now that the Commissioner has disappeared we hope that should a civilian who has had experience in tracing criminals be put in his place, Mr. Matthews will learn to be more considerate in his treatment of him.
THE MURDERER IS BELIEVED TO BE KNOWN
Mr. Matthew Packer, of Berner street, the fruiterer who sold some grapes to a man who just before the Berner street murder was in company with the murdered woman, vouches for the following extraordinary statement. He says: "On Tuesday evening two men came to my house and bought twelve shillings' worth of rabbits off me. They then asked me if I could give an exact description of the man to whom I sold the grapes, and who was supposed to have committed the Berner street and Mitre square murders, as they were convinced they knew him, and where to find him.
"In reply to some questions by Packer, one of the men then said, 'Well, I am sorry to say that I firmly believe it is my own cousin. He is an Englishman by birth, but some time ago he went to America, stayed there a few years, and then came back to London about seven or eight months ago. On his return he came to see me, and his first words were, 'Well, Boss, how are you?' He asked me to have some walks out with him, and I did round Commercial street and Whitechapel. I found that he had very much altered on his return, for he was thoroughly harem scarem.
"'We met a lot of Whitechapel women, and when we passed them he used to say to me, 'How do you think we used to serve them where I came from? Why, we used to cut their throats and rip them up. I could rip one of them up and get her inside out in no time.' He said, 'We Jack Rippers killed lots of women over there. You will hear of some of it being done over here soon, for I am going to turn a London Jack Ripper.'" The man then said, 'I did not take much notice then of what he said, and I thought it was only his swagger and bounce of what he had been doing in America,' at some place which Packer says he mentioned, but he forgets the name. 'But,' continued the man, 'When I heard of the first woman being murdered and stabbed all over, I then began to be very uneasy, and to wonder whether he really was carrying out his threats. I did not, however, like to say anything about him, as he is my own cousin. Then, as one murder followed another, I felt that I could scarcely rest.
"'He is a perfect monster towards women, especially when he has had a drop of drink. But, in addition to what he said to me about these murders in America, and what was going to be done here, I feel certain it is him, because of the way these Jack Ripper letters which have appeared in the papers begin. They all begin 'Dear Boss,' and that is just the way he begins his letters. He calls everybody 'Boss' when he speaks to them. I did not want to say anything about him if I could help it, so I wrote to him, but he did not answer my letter. Since this last murder I have felt that I could not remain silent any longer, for at least something ought to be done to put him under restraint.'"
Packer states he feels sure the men are speaking the truth, as they seemed very much concerned and hardly knew what to do in the matter. He says he knows where to find the men; one works at some ironworks and the other at the West India Docks, and the man they allude to lives some where in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel. The reporter to whom the above statement was made at once sent off a copy of it to the Home Secretary, and also to Sir J Fraser, the Chief Commissioner of the City Police.
Sir William Fraser immediately acted on the information and sent Detective sergeants White and Mitchell to investigate it. They read the letter to Packer, who said it was true, and then took the detectives to the man's house. On being questioned by the police he stated where his cousin was generally to be found. It transpired that he is sometimes engaged on the Thames, and late, last night, a search was, it is said, being made for him upon the river.
SAVAGE WICKEDNESS RATHER THAN INSANITY
Dr. Tuke, the eminent specialist, sends to the Scotsman the following statement respecting the Whitechapel murder:
Whenever a savage homicide is committed, for the perpetration of which no adequate motive can be suggested, the public mind reverts to the theory of insanity as the only one affording a possible explanation. Doubtless a diagnosis arrived at by a process of exclusion is warrantable when we have the full data of a case before us; but in the absence of full information such a process is liable to be misleading. Before any theory of madness can be accepted in a given case of crime, however atrocious and revolting the circumstances connected with it may be, it is well in the interests of justice to weigh the evidence of all the circumstances against the well ascertained facts of the natural history of insanity.
The hideous details of the Whitechapel series of murders have, it might be said, naturally led to the conclusion that they must have been committed by a maniac. I venture to point out that there are many circumstances connected with these crimes which militate against the opinion. I base my remarks on "clinical" observations, personal and otherwise, of cases of what is falsely termed "homicidal mania." In point of fact, there is no such thing as homicidal mania per se - that is to say, no case has ever been placed on record in which the sole evidence of insanity has been an impulse to kill; the homicidal tendency has never been known to exist apart from other manifestations of brain disease or defect. There are certain acute forms of insanity in which it is known to be a pretty frequent concomitant, and in certain chronic conditions a desire to kill or injure is not uncommonly met with. The public mind should be disabused of the idea of an insanity whose only characteristic is an impulse to kill. The scientific and practical view of the position is that the so called homicidal impulse is merely an incident in particular cases of aberration.
Were I constructing for myself an imaginary case of lunacy, the subject of which might be the perpetrator of the series of crimes under consideration, I should picture to myself a person partially recovered from insanity, retaining a residual delusion connected with the class of persons who have been the victims, and desirous of satisfying an insane revenge. But my idealisation would not stand the test of relation with the general characteristics of insanity. It is all but impossible for any one who has worked among the insane to imagine a lunatic possessed of steadfast, persistent determination applied to acts committed at long intervals of time, and characterised by forethought applied to their perpetration, and to evasion of their criminal consequences, each individual act calling for a nervous courage without which failure would be certain, a general promptitude and cleverness suited to exigencies as they arise, and a steady reticence.
It would not be hard to imagine the commission of an isolated act of this character by an insane person, but the whole circumstances of the commission of these crimes, save one, are outside insanity. If they have been committed by a lunatic, his is a case which in this country is without parallel or precedent. I have said the circumstances of these crimes are outside insanity, save one; that circumstance, of course, is the horrible nature of the act. But are we to deduce insanity from the revolting nature of a crime alone, when all the other circumstances point away from it? Why should we underestimate the power of strong human wickedness, and overestimate that of weak human insanity?
For my own part, I can more easily conceive these crimes being the result of savage wickedness than of insane mental action. There is a conciseness in the first idea which there is not in the second. Moreover, there is an incentive to wickedness productive of crime analogous to those now under consideration, which only those very intimately acquainted with the dark records of medical jurisprudence know of. This is not the place to speak of it, and I only allude to it in order to indicate that there are incentives to crime unappreciable by the great mass of the community.
An arrest was made in the Old Kent road, yesterday evening, but the man, whose movements excited suspicion, does not answer to the description of the person who is wanted. Attention was drawn to him by his leaving a shiny black bag at the Thomas a Becket public house. The police were communicated with, and on the bag's being examined it was found to contain a very sharp dagger, a clasp knife, two pairs of very long and curious looking scissors, and two life preservers. Meanwhile the man had gone to a pawnbroker's, and on emerging from the shop was taken into custody in order that inquiries might be made.
Last night a letter was received by post at Camberwell Green Police station, and the writer, who signed himself jack the Ripper, stated that it had been written in the blood of the last Whitechapel victim. He added that it was his intention to carry on operations in Camberwell during the next night or so.
Yesterday the police were busily occupied in endeavouring to obtain a clue to the identity and movements of the man with whom Kelly was last seen, and a detailed description of whom has been published. Various statements have been volunteered to them on the subject, but up to last evening their inquiries had not resulted in any definite information having been obtained. Several men were arrested during Tuesday night and in the course of yesterday under circumstances considered suspicious, but in no case did the detention last more than a few hours. Each arrest caused considerable local excitement.
One man owed his arrest to staring in the face of a woman in the Whitechapel road. She at once screamed out that he was Jack the Ripper. The unfortunate man was immediately surrounded by an excited and threatening crowd, from which he was rescued with some difficulty by the police. He was taken under a string escort to the Commercial street Police station. Here it was discovered that he was a German unable to speak a word of English. He explained through an interpreter that he arrived in London from Germany on Tuesday only, and was to leave for America today. Confirmation of this statement having been obtained, he was set at liberty.
An arrest has been made at Dover in connection with the Whitechapel murders. A suspicious looking character was seen near the railway station, and, as he answered the description given of the murderer, he was taken into custody. He made a statement to the police, and two constables were sent in charge of the man to verify it. It proved accurate, and he was released. The affair has caused some sensation in the town. The railways and Channel steamers are being watched by the police.
The relatives of the murdered woman, who were expected yesterday, have not yet arrived. The funeral has been again postponed, and may not take place until Monday. Yesterday afternoon the remains were removed from the temporary coffin in which they have been lying at the Shoreditch Mortuary, and placed in a coffin of French polished elm and oak, with brass handles, in which they will be interred. Mr. McCarthy, the landlord of the deceased, offered to defray part of the cost of the funeral, but his offer was declined, sufficient funds for the purpose having already been subscribed.
The correspondent of the Independace Belge at Berne sends the following remarkable communication: "A curious coincidence taken in connection with the London murders is now the topic of conversation at Lucerne. A possible author for the Whitechapel horrors has been discovered. It appears that some 16 years ago the population of Paris was greatly excited by the murderous exploits of a mysterious assassin who chose his victims amongst the class of demi-mondaines. He was finally discovered, and turned out to be a certain Nicolas Wassili, of Russian origin, who was born at Uraspol in 1847. He had received an excellent education at the University of Odessa. The murderer was examined by a council of physicians, who declared him insane. He had committed his horrible crimes under the influence of religious fanaticism. Wassili was consequently placed in an insane asylum, from which he received his discharge only last January. The question is whether this religious maniac has gone to London and recommenced his curious method of saving souls."
There is, it stated, no fresh intelligence upon which the police can work; while among the numerous written suggestions that the police authorities have recently received is one that the assassin has at one time been connected with the "social purity craze," and possibly is suffering from a peculiar and acute form of mania in consequence.
There is nobody now under detention on suspicion of being connected with the East end murders, the man who was detained last night having been released at about two o'clock this morning. The police authorities, though bound to investigate the story of the fruiterer Matthew Packer, attach no importance whatever to his statement. The police had ample opportunity before this of testing the value of Packer's assertions, with the result that they have been put to great trouble without any tangible result.
The Government are said to be quite resolved to select some one other than a soldier for the post of Chief Commissioner of Police, and one who has had experience to guide him in the discharge of the very onerous duties that devolve on the head of the Metropolitan Force. As already intimated, Sir Charles Warren's successor will not be actually chosen for several days to come. Meanwhile, Mr. Malcolm Wood, Chief Constable of Manchester, is still in town, and his name is prominently forward in the list of candidates.