Friday, 20 September 1889
A BREEDER'S OPINION ON THE EMPLOYMENT OF
SLEUTHHOUNDS IN WHITECHAPEL.
It may not be generally known that Mr. Percy Lindley, of Loughton, whose name is familiar to most of our readers, is a breeder of bloodhounds. On Tuesday evening Mr. Lindley was interviewed by a representative of an evening contemporary, from which we gather that he is the proud possessor of two of the best specimens of the breed to be found in England - "Dora" a grand bitch with a massive head, and "Pathfinder," her son, a young dog of great power and promise. The latter, unfortunately, is only just recovering from a severe attack of distemper, and it was pitiful to watch the young hound dragging painfully after him his almost paralysed hind legs, and now and again falling down from sheer weakness. "He is much better now," said Mr. Lindley, "and is getting on famously."
Bloodhounds, Mr. Lindley explained, are most delicate animals to rear. Out of a litter of four, Pathfinder is the only survivor, and he seems to have had a narrow escape.
Naturally the conversation turned upon the use of bloodhounds for the purpose of tracking down the Whitechapel murderer. Mr. Lindley's hounds have been carefully trained, and are accustomed to man-hunting. About a year ago in the Evening News, an account was given of the hunting down of a reporter of that paper by Mr. Lindley's bitch Dora in the wilds of Epping Forest. The hound did all that was asked of her, and successfully tracked the reporter, who, at the finish, was literally "up a tree."
"Would it be possible," asked the representative, "to use your hounds in London to hunt down Jack the Ripper?"
"No," answered Mr. Lindley, unhesitatingly, "and I will tell you why. These hounds are trained here in Epping Forest, where every blade of grass holds the scent, and where all is quiet and still - nothing to distract the attention of the hound from its work. In London the circumstances are altogether different. First there is the roar of the traffic, which would be sufficient in itself to ruin the thing. Then the stone pavement does not hold the scent as the grass does. Moreover, the dog to do any good would have to be trained to work under the conditions which would actually arise in the case of a murder."
"I believe Sir Charles Warren, when he was Commissioner of Police, had some communication with you on the subject?"
"Yes; he wrote to me, and put a series of questions, very difficult to answer, and which showed what a shrewd, common-sense view he took of it. One of his questions was: Supposing a murder has been committed and the hound is brought upon the scene, how will he distinguish between the scent of the murderer and that of the policeman who discovered the body, and who has walked away? I answered the question in this way. The murderer's scent would probably be the stronger because as a rule he has taken away a portion of the body, or the knife covered with blood. Then there would be blood on his hands which he may have wiped on his handkerchief. The constable probably has recoiled in horror from the sight, and at once has gone away for assistance. The hound therefore would naturally take up the trail of the murderer."
"Yours was not the hound that hunted Sir Charles Warren in Hyde Park?"
"No, that belonged to a gentleman in Scarborough, but he made it a condition of the trial that it should take place in Hyde Park. There the conditions would be just those which obtain here in Epping Forest, and not in Whitechapel. You see, in London there would be so many chances that the scent would be crossed by another stronger scent. Even here on one occasion" (and Mr. Lindley laughed merrily at the recollection) "my hounds went wrong in a manner which nearly caused a tragedy. I had four puppies and Dora, and I was training them to hunt me. My method was first to let them smell some meat, drag it along the ground and allow them to find it. Then I would take them out early in the morning when they were hungry, and having smeared my boots with pig's blood allow them, in charge of a boy, to follow me, always rewarding them with meat at the end of a successful quest. One day I started as usual with boots smeared with pig's blood. I crossed an open ride and hid behind a tree. Almost immediately a man came down the ride with a basket on his arm, and crossed my scent at right angles. The hounds hunted straight enough, until they came to the new scent, when to my surprise they took clean off to the right and followed it. The old man looked back, and seeing the bloodhounds on his track, started away in a great fright, and never stopped till he reached Luffman's (the keeper's) cottage, where he sank into a chair, nearly dead with fright and exhaustion. I followed as fast as I could, and succeeded in solving the mystery. The man was a butcher, and was just returning from a pig-killing expedition. The basket on his arm contained pigs' chitterlings. I advised him the next time bloodhounds were after him and he had pigs' chitterlings to drop them at once. They were not hunting him but the remains of the porker. Now, this same thing might occur in Whitechapel. The scent might be crossed by another of a similar nature, and then the result would be a failure, and the dog, through no fault of his own, would be discredited."
"But the thing might be tried"?
"Yes, there might be a dummy murder under circumstances similar to the Whitechapel series. For instance, the carcass of a sheep might be placed in the street, and a man having dabbled his hands in the blood and carrying with him the knife might start off. Then the policeman should come and go away in different directions. After that the hound would be brought up and put on the scent. That would be a fair test, but I should not allow my dogs to enter upon such a trial until I had first privately trained them somewhat under these novel conditions. A country-trained dog is naturally at fault in a town, and he requires to be accustomed to the strangeness of his new position."
"Then you do not think that Jack the Ripper has much to fear from bloodhounds?"
"Not yet - though of course I do not say it is impossible for a bloodhound to be trained in the way I have mentioned."
"MY FRIEND THE BLOODHOUND," by Mr. Percy Lindley, illustrated by Mr. Herbert Dicksee, is in the press. The training of the Bloodhound for use in the detection of crime, and for war purposes, in auxiliary sentinel, despatch and ammunition-carrying work, are specially dealt with. The illustrations are reproductions of wash and pen and ink drawings from the life, and include portraits of typical champion hounds.