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The Lancet
September 22, 1888

The Whitechapel Murders

To the Editors of THE LANCET

Sirs--Possibly before your next issue the theories as to the sanity or insanity of the perpetrator of perpetrators of the Whitechapel murders will be set at rest. I venture to trespass on your valuable space to express most emphatically my opinion that these murders were committed by some person or persons who were perfectly sane. Some years ago I was consulted as to the state of mind of one Frederick Hunt. This man had murdered his wife and two children. It was proved beyond doubt that the prisoner was on terms of the greatest affection with the victims of his impulse He had nothing to gain by the act, and he had at the time a balance of over 150 at his bankers. After the deed was done, he attempted suicide by placing his head on the line of a railway, from which position he was rescued by a guard and immediately given up into the hands of the police. He made no attempt to escape, or to conceal his crime, the details of which he [unreadable] described to the authorities. I had several interviews with him in Horsemonger-lane Gaol, and I had no doubt whatever from symptoms, which it would take too long here to enumerate, that the man was a victim of a homicidal impulse. He was tried before Justice [unreadable] at the Croydon Assizes, and found not guilty by the jury, on the ground of insanity. Subsequently, Dr. Orange, of the Broadmoor Asylum, confirmed my diagnosis in a paper he communicated to a medical contemporary on criminal responsibility, in which Hunt's case was described at length.

Now as to the Whitechapel murderer. He was most probably a stranger to his victim, and not bound to her by ties of blood as was the criminal Hunt. In all probability he was a poor man. The fact tath the jewellery he he stole from the woman was false goes for nothing. It is not unlikely that at such a time even an expert would be nice as to these distinctions. The deed of the first Whitechapel murderer was complicated by a subsequent mutilation of the body of his victim which was of so barbarous a nature as to make one of our own profession shrink from describing it. And this statement would also apply to the second murderer. It is well known to experts in insanity that although the anticipation of the deed may be long cherished, yet the act itself is sudden, unexpected, uncomplicated by any subsequent mutilation, or attempt to conceal the act, and very frequently followed by some suicidal attempt. As far as we have yet heard, there have been no suicides in Whitechapel lately. And any reader of the daily papers must be well aware how common is this tendency when an insane person has committed a murder.

From these data, imperfect as they must necessarily be, I have no hesitation in giving an opinion that should the Whitechapel murderer or murderers be apprehended, it will be proved that he or they are of perfectly sound mind, that at the time the act was committed they were evidently in want of money, which they imagined could be obtained from the sale of their victims jewellery, and that if there be any necessity to explain away the mutilation of the corpses, it will be found in the fact that such mutilation was effected with a view to the concealment of the crime, which there is every reason to believe was committed before the murders took place. I am, Sirs, your obedient servant, Richmond-terrace, Sept, 16th 1888. HENRY SUTHERLAND, M.D.

To the Editors of THE LANCET

Sirs,--Being more or less responsible fo the original opinion that the individual who committed the wholesale slaughter in Whitechapel was a lunatic, I beg to trouble you with this communication.

In the interview I had with the officials at Whitehall-place I gathered that this was also their theory. In your issue of the 15th inst. you say, "The theory that the succession of murders which have lately been comitted in Whitechapel are the work of a lunatic appears to us to be by no means at present well establish." Of course, it is impossible to give a positiveness to the theory unless some more evidence can be established; nevertheless, to my mind the case appears tolerably conclusive. the horrible and revolting details, as stated in the public press, are themselves evidence, not of crimes committed by a responsible individual, but by a fiendish madman. You go on to add that "homicidal mania is generally characterised by one single and fatal act." Having had extensive experience incases of homicidal insanity, and having been retained in the chief cases during the last twenty years, I speak as an authority on this part of the subject. I cannot agree with your statement. I will give one case which recalls itself to my recollection. A gentleman entered my consulting-room. he took his seat, and, on asking what it was he complained of, replied, "I have a desire to kill everyone I meet." I then asked him for further illustration of his meaning. He then said: As I walk along the street, I say to myself s I pass anyone, 'I should like to kill you'; I don't know why at all." Upon my further pressing him on the matter, he jumped up and attempted to seize a weapon from his pocket, and to give me a further, more practicable, and more realistic illustration. I was enabled, however, to frustrate him in this desire. Another case in which I was retained as expert was that of Mr. Richardson, who committed murder at Ramsgate (his homicidal tendency was not confined to one individual) and was tried at Maidstone this year; and there are many others that I could mention. Homicidal lunatics are cunning, deceptive, plausible, and on the surface, to all outward appearances, sane; but there is contained within their innermost nature a dangerous lurking after blood, which, though at times latent, will develop when the opportunity arises. That the murderer of the victims in Whitechapel will prove to be such an indiviual is the belief of your obedient servant

L. FORBES WINSLOW, M.B., LL.M.Camb, D.C.L. Oxon.
Wimpole-street, W., Sept. 19th, 1888

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