Madrid, 1928. 56pp. Year 1, number 13 of the 'La Novela vivida' collection.
Translation by Chris Scott:
The most interesting police mystery of the 19th. century is, without question, the series of crimes committed in identical circumstances by the same hand, apparently, to be found in London, in the Whitechapel district, during the period of time from 1st November 1887 (discovery of the first victim) and the 10th September 1889, the date when the eleventh and final victim was discovered.
The impunity with which these crimes were perpetrated, the savagery - or insanity - which their author exhibited and, above all, the unusual circumstance of all the victims being women, and women of a wretched lifestyle, wove popular fantasy to the point where it would be impossible here for us to set down all the myths that were forged about this business in London and the whole world.
The English police displayed a feeble enthusiasm in their efforts to surprise, discover and apprehend the murderer, that phantom murderer who mocked all their vigilance, who showed an extraordinary cunning and who operated with a silent sureness, focus and speed.
In October 1888, a date which also marked the finding of the seventh victim, the political will grew: rewards were offered, all citizens of good will were spurred on to make their contribution to the efforts of Scotland Yard, permanent guards were mounted in the Whitechapel district - within which the murderer had confined his terrifying business - and all happy women (possibly a euphemism for "unfortunates"), who by reason of their profession had cause to swarm those streets by night, were provided with whistles with which they could quickly raise the alarm in case of sudden attack by the Human Beast, alias Jack the Ripper.
These were the two titles in London and on the whole planet by which was known the unseen, sinister being whom nobody had seen, except his victims, the only ones unable to speak.
However, despite all precautions taken, on the 9th November, another life fell to the merciless knife of the phantom of Whitechapel.
And another in June, another in July, yet another in September.....
Nobody then dared to venture out after 10 at night into the streets of the infamous district: despite which on each corner there lay hidden a watching shadow; in every doorway eyes were watching, and in every window a hand stood ready to fall on Jack...
On two occasions, in September 1888 and July 1889, Agent Thomas McLower, attached to Scotland Yard and fervent in his job, who had made it a matter of conscience to catch the Whitechapel shadow, almost succeeded. On the first occasion he fired on the fleeing man, undoubtedly not hitting him, and on the second - anxious to take that human beast alive - dashing through the streets in pursuit until he reached the bank of the Regent's Canal, where the zealous McLower lost the trail, maybe because the man he was chasing jumped aboard one the numerous barges tied up to the quay, perhaps simply because he leapt in the water and swam for a length period without raising his head above water.
General belief inclined to the idea that the mysterious murderer, who has been named Jack, as a mark of distinction, was an insane surgeon from the London Hospital, both because of the circumstance that all his victims were found with their abdomen opened, and also the closeness of the said hospital, which allowed a belief in the truth of this hypothesis.
If Jack the Ripper had committed a further crime, them, he would probably have fallen into the clutches of the police since they already had enough information to ensnare the mysterious assassin. But the criminal's career must have ended that day, 10 September 1889, without which the history of crime could have held in its pages the biography of Jack and the doctors would have been able to closely study this most extraordinary case.
No further murder occurred to disturb the calm of Whitechapel. Jack had disappeared, never to appear again; he had returned to the shadows from which he had sprung and in his disappearance - as mysterious as his appearance - was carried off the burning secret of his name, his circumstances and of the dark forces that pushed him to commit those eleven crimes, both monstrous and incomprehensible.
ON the night of 1st October 1887, at about 4 o'clock in the morning, Major Endell called me to his office.
"I have a matter which will let you shine," he told me. "You like these underworld crimes, don't you?"
I answered in the affirmative since, in fact, from the start of my career my police duties had always been most fired by crimes committed in the underworld, whereas so called "social scandals" - with which my colleagues were dying to be involved - held no interest for me and, indeed, produced in me an irrational repugnance.
Major Endell, who had a gentle and enthusiastic character, regarded the crime in question with a clarity unlikely for a man who had seen as much as him.
He quickly informed me of what had happened.
"A woman" he said "has just been found stabbed to death in Buck's Row; I imagine it will certainly be a matter of some prostitute attacked by her lover, and when we find the lover the matter will be closed; but you may find some interesting details, from your real interest and you may be the first one there."
I thanked the Major, for the case was definitely one of those underworld tragedies which ignited the interest in my job and I made my way to Buck's Row.
Buck's Row is an alley situated in the heart of Whitechapel, a district of London, inhabited by poor folk, modest traders, sailors, women of the gutter and workmen. In truth, Whitechapel is not an English district, but a district of Jews of all nationalities and most of the signs on banks, shops, bazaars and even liquor stores are written in Hebrew.
Whitechapel comes into being on the banks of the Regent's Canal and ends at Aldgate. The life of Whitechapel is fed by the greenish waters of the canal, on which one can travel as far as Liverpool, which joins the Thames with the Irish Sea, starting at the depot in Limehouse and finishing at its counterpart, the Paddington Canal.
A wide street, Whitechapel Road, divides the district in two parts, and by day this street becomes a walking market, a main artery of that working, populous organism.
At night, Whitechapel seems entirely given over to love for sale and to alcohol. The working masses who live there sleep at this time, gathering their strength for the labours of the following day and the women of easy virtue and the drunkards assert their rule over the streets.
In 1887 Whitechapel could not have suspected the notoriety which, two years later, it would enjoy throughout the world. It is strange to consider how this renown, which had not been achieved with long years of effort and energy, was then accomplished by the devastating acts of one criminal as well known as he was unknown.
Buck's Row, the alley to which I made my way that December night, is situated opposite the London Hospital and the houses along it are humble, dirty and old.
I was running beneath the rain, keen to get to the upper part of the district and I saw the outline of the dark shape of the hospital, when I was approached by a colleague named Fly.
"You going to that business of the woman murdered in Buck's Row?" he said.
"Yes. Major Endell sent me. He says he's confident the business will interest me," I answered without stopping.
Fly laughed and started to walk alongside me, his steps eating up the path.
"Major Endell is a joker who wanted to have a laugh with you," he exclaimed. "This Buck's Row business is a completely run of the mill crime. I've just come from there."
"Nothing. A series of random stab wounds on an unfortunate woman by her lover in a moment of jealousy or drunkenness. If that is of any interest, I don't mind letting myself be thrown in the river with my hands tied."
I quickened my pace. Why did the words of my colleague, which on any other occasion would have served to dampen my enthusiasm, on this occasion excited it even more? I don't know. But probably it was all due to the sudden triumph of instinct over reason. A voice inside told me that here was something more than an everyday crime, and when we reached Buck's Row, both Fly and I were gasping for breath.
We went over to a group of people we could see beside the gutter. The group was made up of a few constables, and a number from the neighborhood whose light sleep had had allowed to find out what was going on, a detective from the plainclothes branch and various women of pleasure of the lowest class. They were awaiting the arrival of the Magistrate and a travelling seller of hot tea had taken advantage of that unexpected assembly to deal out mouthfuls of his merchandise, which came boiling out a ceramic container strapped to his side.
I introduced myself to the constables and the detective and they allowed me to draw close to the body.
The sight of the victim confirmed to me my first instinctive thoughts that we were faced with an unusual event. My attention was first drawn to the fact that on those parts that were visible I counted more than fifty different wounds. This was undoubtedly a woman, and a woman of the town, but this could hardly be seen apart from her long hair and her clothes. A knife - probably a large one - had caused havoc on this body, which seemed to be young. It lay on its left side with the right arm drawn up on the chest, perhaps in a defensive movement, and the little that could be seen of the face amid that network of wounds, contusions and bruising, seemed peaceful and undisturbed. Her skirts were pulled up above the waist and the wound to the abdomen - the characteristic wound to the abdomen which I was to see in the ten other victims that followed - was the most the most significant of all, as the assassin's knife, starting at the mount of Venus a startling trajectory upwards which finished at the breastbone.
The blood and the mud prevented a more considered and thorough examination, and, moreover, I had neither the skill nor the authority to carry out such a task. I had to content myself with that cursory, superficial examination in the reddish light of two torches that two constables held up and under that slight, cold rain in the dawn.
When the magistrate arrived, I was amazed what little importance was attached to the event. Like Fly and Major Endell, those gentlemen were content with the opinion that this was all the work of a drunkard or a jealous lover.
An interrogation was carried out of the people forming that expectant group; but an interrogation so brief and of such little interest that, in truth, that it was just a formality.
The victim was not identified either then or during the time spent on the deposition.
At quarter to five, Fly and I made our way back down Whitechapel Road; he, cheerful, happy and joking; me, very preoccupied and thinking that there was more going on here - much more - than a commonplace crime between low life people. I was foolish enough to repeat this to Fly and my friend laughed again even more strongly than before.
"How pretentious! he said. "Anyone would think it was your first day in the job. Why this insistence on imagining a novel where there is nothing more than an event that happens every day?"
"Do you see wounds like that in her abdomen every day?" I couldn't help but protest.
"To me it's the same if the main wound is on the abdomen as on the nose," said Fly
But I was not willing to admit defeat.
The rain had eased a little, and Fly and I walked along slowly in silence.
Now and then we passed men who were on their way to work on the canal.
The district was starting to wake from the lethargy of a dreaming night.
A drunk passed us, keeping his balance on the fronts of the houses, and quietly singing the song Darby and Joan. (*A footnote explains: A typical song of the poor districts of London which tells of the life of elderly working people who, in return for spending their lives working, will die in an institution) The ground was damp and muddy and everything exuded a strong fragrance of sadness.
I continued developing in silence the hatchling of my ideas. I was thinking that Fly, in fact, might be right and my suspicions that the crime concealed something extraordinary could be nothing more than a mirage or an excessive imagination. But the memory of that terrible abdominal wound, the indifference with which all dismissed the case, and, in the end, the urgings of my instinct that I had felt from the first moment, all made me again believe that I was right to assume that we were not dealing with an everyday crime.
We arrived at Scotland Yard as Major Endell was leaving to sleep. He came straight over to us. "You've come from there? What do you think?"
I went to speak but Fly beat me to it.
"Frightful, terrible!" he said, with extravagant gestures and lowering his voice. "McLower has just discovered that we are faced with a mystery that will checkmate all the police in the United Kingdom."
And he backed up his words with a gesture that was so comic that Major Endell and all those present burst out laughing.
I stayed silent and went to the office in a very bad mood.
Winter passed and I began to forget the woman murdered in Buck's Row. From time to time the matter came back to mind and every time this happened it left me feeling thoughtful. Then I would tell myself it was all just an obsession of mine. However...
However, the murderer had not been found and the crime was still enveloped in mystery, which seemed to support my ideas.
IN the early days of August I requested leave to go and relax at the beach but bosses refused this, quoting job related reasons. As I never dreamed that they would refuse me, I had prepared everything I needed for a short holiday and finding myself having to forgo that quiet break, soured my outlook during this time. I carried out my duties with an ill will and Major Endell had me in the office two or three times about this.
One night, the 7th of August, instead of going to carry out some investigations which had been assigned to me in Charing Cross Road, I went to a bar in Cable Street in Whitechapel. I had been there only a short time when I saw Fly pass by in the pavement outside. I don't know why - just to entertain myself, perhaps - I called him by tapping my nails on the window glass. When Fly saw me his face lit up and he came into the bar immediately. His look was that of a worried man, which was very unusual for him. He came up to my table and said:
"I think you were right."
"This business of thinking the Buck's Row murder was definitely not an everyday crime."
I found that comment amusing after so long without speaking about the matter, and I replied jokingly:
"Have you become friends with the killer?"
"I have not become friends with the killer," replied Fly, completely serious. "But, on the other hand, I have just seen the second victim."
I don't know quite how I got up, probably with a leap, and when I spoke again I was already out in the street, grasping Fly by the arm and asking him which way we had to go.
"That dead woman was found an hour ago in Hamburg Street, " Fly explained. "But she's now in the London Hospital mortuary because they are going to do a post mortem."
We took a can and quickly went to the hospital. On the way, Fly gave me some details. The victim was named Hemma Sher, and she was a woman of the street (literally a "happy woman", a euphemism) and she lived in the same street where she was found. Two hours earlier she was seen buying a wall calendar from a street market stall and, no doubt when she returned home she succumbed to the murderer's attack because the calendar had been found a few steps from the body, creased and trampled on. This was a case of a crime committed in a very short time and with great nerve, because the district at that hour was full of people and if there were no eyewitnesses it was only by pure chance. However, there were thirty-eight wounds, the largest being that in the abdomen which, as in the first case, went upward from the genitals to the stomach. Fly continued to add details.
Meanwhile we had arrived at the London Hospital and I ran inside leaving Fly grumbling about having to pay the cab.
The porter let me pass freely but not so the orderly in the basement who told me he was under orders to let no one see the body on the instructions of Dr. King.
First I pleaded then I shouted - I said I couldn't care less about Dr. King or all the doctors in the world and finally I caused Fly to come down there and Dr. King to appear in the mortuary doorway at the orderly's shoulder.
Dr. Patrick King, at that time sub director of the London Hospital, was a very tall man, more than seven feet in height and amazingly thin. He was about fifty years of age and he always wore spectacles with dark lenses which gave his face a hard and unpleasant expression. The doctor leaned forward a little as he walked and he had a nervous habit of constantly toying with a silver chain which hung from his belt, on the end of which was attached a key ring.
Patrick King brusquely interrupted the argument I was having with the orderly saying drily that entry to the mortuary was forbidden to everyone and that for the time being he had no inclination to make exceptions.
I was about to make a violent reply to the doctor when Fly intervened:
"This gentleman," he said, pointing at me "is Detective McLower of Scotland Yard and he has a special interest in seeing the body of the women murdered a few hours ago in the alleys of Hamburg Street."
"Ah! You are McLower?" the doctor exclaimed, casting a glance at me that glittered through his spectacles. "Are you the man who put forward I don't know what fantasies about the event in Buck's Row? Well then, in that case I am even less inclined to let you enter. You have an excessive imagination and I want to hear nothing from such people."
And before I could recover from the effect of his words, Patrick King marched back the way he had come, slamming the door.
Fly was as amazed as I was, though much less indignant. It took a great deal for him to convince me that it was useless to see the dead woman and that I should leave the hospital.
In the street, on the corner by the Pavilion Theatre, he still had a struggle to get the idea out of my head of going back in and demanding an explanation from that idiot King.
Finally, about twelve at night, Fly's good nature had managed in part to calm me down, succeeding in this by resorting to joining his own insults to mine. By means of this I was somewhat stifled and Patrick King had to bear a great variety of offensive names. But inside I promised myself that I would never forgive the doctor his stupid stubbornness which had prevented me drawing conclusions on that second victim of the phantom killer, whose strange character began to form itself in my brain.
I spent the whole month of August in a state of inexplicable excitement. I am of an excitable nature and when all is said and done I was able to confirm that those dark forces, which some call telepathy and others call predictions, have a decisive influence on my nervous system.
I had the vague feeling that something important was about to happen within a few days, and driven by this belief, which at times seemed ridiculous to me, I requested and got from my bosses a transfer of employment from Bloomsbury, a quiet district if there is one, to Whitechapel, a supremely troublesome district, then more so than ever.
I was well acquainted with Whitechapel - indeed there are few things in London that are not known to me - but during that month of August I got to know it inch by inch, and I became familiar with every corner where there was heard spoken more Russian, German and Polish than English. While going on my rounds down to Aldgate I considered many times the innumerable quantity of drunk men and women that Whitechapel provides in the daily statistics of the United Kingdom, and I found nothing more repugnant than seeing mothers leave the baby's pram at the tavern door, to come out shortly after with their jar of beer or whisky in their hand.
Basically, all these inhabitants of Whitechapel seemed brutalized by alcohol; their lives were unpleasant, bestial and based, perhaps, on a desperate lack of morals.
IN the bars, served by young girls, in the crowds that formed round the tooth pullers, outside the popular theatres and the eating houses, I, turned into a common passer-by, overheard snatches of conversation about the Buck's Row and Hamburg Street crimes, and it was then that I heard the name of Jack the Ripper for the first time, the name which the common voice had dubbed already the phantom killer. The people spoke badly of the police and made nervous fun of the obsession for opening abdomens from which the attacker seemed to suffer. I detected a deep-seated fear and unease.
Meanwhile I was trying to observe, gather information, study men who could be potential Rippers, and my taste for the colourful and the shady was more than satisfied wandering the district at all hours, among the smoke from the workshops, the mud, the disease, the alcohol, and walking through that wormhole lit by the light of the serene days, by the reflections of the gas lamps and by the yellow lamps of the private houses, in whose doorways fierce women with pale faces stood smoking, waiting for customers. I became inclined to look kindly upon such women, for in them I saw new victims to come for the knife of Jack the Ripper.
On the 31st of that same August, at 3:15 in the morning, I stopped to light a cigarette with my back to the Pavilion theatre, in the same spot where Fly and I had spoken on the night when Dr. King forbade my entrance to the London Hospital.
I was just striking the match when I clearly heard a sharp cry, a shriek that seemed to be that of a woman, somewhere near, towards Hamburg Street. Towards Hamburg Street, again...
I was going to say I ran, but the word does not clearly convey the speed with which I dashed through the alleyway in question. The shadows, interrupted from time to time by a smoky lamp, barely allowed me to make out anything around me. I ran forward at an athlete's pace, with my revolver cocked, down the middle of the street until I ran into an obstruction, which I had not seen in my excited state, and I fell face down in a puddle, dropping my revolver in the fall.
I got up covered in red - the puddle was a pool of blood and the obstruction that I had just stumbled over was the body of the third victim of Jack the Ripper.
But Jack the Ripper had melted away without leaving a trace.
Everything had happened so quickly and so silently - apart from that cry which would only have attracted the attention of man who, like me, was ensnared with an obsessive idea - that, after making certain that there was no sign of the killer, I was able to quietly study the victim, by the light of my pocket lamp.
She could have been at the most thirty years old and she had the appearance of one who sold cheap pleasures. She was stretched out on her back, her clothes disarranged, a wound on the neck and the abdomen opened upwards, in a manner already characteristic of those crimes. Her lower limbs were stretched out; her hands, wrists and face were all warm and there was no sign of a struggle.
On the left side of the face I saw a small circular bruise, which could well have been made by the pressure of the killer's fingers as he inflicted the wound in the neck. The wound in the abdomen was extraordinarily deep and in its upper part surely reached the stomach. The body smelt of whisky. In a purse made of oilcloth that lay one and a half metres away, I found various papers of no importance, two portraits, twelve pennies and a prostitute's business card with the name of Elisa Whinter, native of Glasgow.
I thought about all this; I quietly studied the position and attitude of the body, and I concluded that the first, fatal wound had been that to the neck and that the woman had cried out in the very instant she was attacked, being unable to cry out again because the murder weapon had immediately severed her windpipe. When on the ground, the wound to the abdomen was inflicted on the victim and I attributed the lack of any other kind of wounds to my swift intervention. The murder weapon was undoubtedly a very sharp knife of large size. The manner and direction in which the killer had fled were something I was not yet thinking about.
As there was really nothing else for me to make note of, I set to in raising the alarm and then, with not a little surprise, and from where I knew not, I saw that I was not alone. A tall, thin man was beside me, watching my movements.
It was Dr. Patrick King.
Why was the doctor there? How had he found out what had happened? What coincidence brought us two to be the first to discover the new crime of the Ripper of women?
This, and many other things, I would have asked the sub director of the London Hospital.
But Patrick King did not give me the chance. He turned on his heels and aid to me:
"You nuisance of a policeman, always meddling in what you don't understand!"
After saying this, with a few large and hurried strides, he was lost in the darkness down the street.
And I let him leave without knowing for sure what to think about all this.
In the days that followed, until the 8th September, exactly one week, fear began to be centred on Whitechapel. People spoke of nothing else except Jack's crimes, and some hardened drinkers even forgot to get drunk some evenings.
The powers at Scotland Yard were taking ever more drastic and energetic measures and Major Endell arranged it so that all "registered" women would be provided with a whistle which was only to be used if they were about to be attacked by the unseen killer of Whitechapel. Raids were carried out and many villains arrested but nothing could be proved against them and they were released as quickly as they were arrested.
My status as a wise man grew among my colleagues since they now all remembered that I had been the one, in the light of the Buck's Row crime, who had first sniffed out the sensational nature of the business.
The Press was agitating and criticising. The case had already leapt all barriers and the fantastic name of Jack the Ripper embarked on its career of universal renown. Popularity takes at times tortuous paths.
In that week at the urging of Major Endell, Fly and, indeed, myself, I redoubled my vigilance and again considered the whole business. The strange intervention of Dr. King was what preoccupied me the most, and although logic forcefully suggested many hypotheses, none favourable to the doctor, I resisted accepting any of them until the facts on which I relied were clearer.
ON the very morning of that day, 8th September, I was again in the area of the London Hospital, a place uniquely favoured at the time by Jack the Ripper, when an auxiliary from Scotland Yard on a bicycle brought me an official note. It was from Major Endell and in it, with an irritating terseness, my boss had written in pencil these lines:
"While you cling like a limpet to the hospital building, another dead woman has just been found in Commercial Street. Do the London detectives feel they are not able to combat this criminal who will end up by bringing shame to us all?"
I bit my lips furiously and asked the auxiliary for his bicycle to get me to Commercial Street, which, although in the same district, was some distance away; but then I thought better of it and handed the machine to the lad and told him to return to Scotland Yard with the reply that I had been informed.
I was annoyed, almost as much as having lost an opportunity to run into Jack, at the unfairness of my boss, that they had already forgotten the laughter with which my first suspicions had been greeted, only to be confirmed in such a terrible way.
Besides, why would I want to go to Commercial Street if the removal of the body had already been ordered? I was uncertain what to do when I saw that Dr. King heading towards the hospital and that he was beckoning me to go over to him.
I went towards him. Instead of his normal gloomy character, that day he seemed more friendly and talkative. I wondered if what he was pleased about was not having come across me at the scene of the event.
"Have you been told?" he said to me.
"Yes, sir," I answered, coldly.
"I have just come from there," he added, attempting a smile,
"I'd already guessed that," I exclaimed, looking at him with a brash intensity, which he seemed not to notice.
"Another worthy inhabitant of the underworld. They have just identified her under name of Mirka, the Pole. She is more mutilated than any of the others," the doctor exclaimed quickly. "On a preliminary examination I noted that the uterus was missing and also some abdominal organs. They will bring her in very soon for the autopsy. Would you be interested in attending?"
"No, sir," I said with the same brusqueness. "I'm more interested to know what you think of the murder and to know the reasons why you are always the first one on the scene of the crime." King did not reply immediately. He looked at me from on high and walked towards the door of the hospital. From there, taking a step back, like a man who had omitted to say something, he exclaimed:
"You are an idiot!"
And he walked off forcefully.
IN the afternoon, while I was sitting over a glass of gin, a ray of light pierced the cloud of conjecture in which my mind was wrapped. Until now the crimes had always been committed in the vicinity if the hospital. But when Dr. Patrick King realised that I was watching that area, the newest crime took place in Commercial Street, that is far away from that closely watched area.
The uproar that these unpunished crimes produced was huge. By night Whitechapel had a sinister appearance and those who were passing through the streets looked upon us with undisguised hostility. The newspapers dedicated whole columns to theories, comments and criticism of the police. I would have liked to get hold of some of the editors and some of the reporters from the main newspapers, scatter them around Whitechapel and see how they went about hunting a killer whom no one had seen and for whom getting rid of someone was as easy as snuffing out a match.
In this frame of mind, there passed the month of September, which, in this year of 1888, happened to be glorious. I was thinking with horror that the Whitechapel killer would decide to carry on his vile trade during the winter, in the season of rains and fogs for if he now had skill enough to disappear after having committed these crimes then - enclosed and protected in the impenetrable over of the fog - he would not leave one abdomen untouched in the whole of London.
My bosses were thinking about this too, and the patrolling of the Ripper's district was such that nobody could walk twenty paces without finding himself searched by a detective or a constable. In the bars a large number of the customers were policemen in disguise and jack must have laughed heartily at these precautions if - as seemed logical - he passed through Whitechapel from time to time.
Dr. King, whom I had seen on various occasions, was the same as that first day: surly, withdrawn and disagreeable. For my part I rarely lost sight of him, though I tried to do this without him noticing.
So dawned the 30th September amidst fears, doubts, hesitation and anxiety. I spent the whole day in a cheap eating-place in the Whitechapel road where the sailors used to gather between voyages.
At ten at night I went out into the street, determined as usual that everything that happened in this godforsaken place would receive my attention.
At 12:30 as I was passing for the seventh time the corner of Hamburg Street I heard garbled voices, calls, whistles and an outburst of alarm from the direction of Buck's row. I ran there, catching up with the detectives who joined up with me as I passed the door of a blacksmith's, and when we reached the alleyway next to the London Hospital, where jack the Ripper had made his first appearance, we saw a small group of detectives and constables standing around a body laying on the ground.
It was the fifth victim of the Ripper of women.
Two terrified and trembling prostitutes who had joined the group said the dead woman was a companion of theirs called Maria Gray, but they didn't dare make certain of it. In truth the body was so terribly mutilated that any attempted identification would be speculative and foolish. All that was there was a human wreck.
The magistrate arrived, ordered the removal of the corpse and left without questioning anyone. All this happened very quickly, with almost dizzying speed. It was obvious that the authorities, shamed by their powerlessness, were trying to rush through this business of Jack the Ripper, who was becoming ever more irritating and violent.
The constables immediately broke up the crowd of onlookers and Buck's Row was once again deserted. Only I remained, leaning against the front of a house, smoking silently by the place where that fifth unfortunate victim had fallen and I was trying to calm, with inventive reasoning, the anger which gradually overtook me when I thought about the difficulties which existed in getting to the bottom of this mystery.
I was about to leave that place when, as I moved, I noticed a glint on the ground from some metal object that lay in the same place where the body had been and which nobody had noticed until now. Assuming it was something which belonged to the victim, I bent down to pick it up.
And when I had the object in my hands, I could not help letting out a cry of surprise.
It was the silver chain and key ring of Dr. Patrick King.
The discovery was of so serious a nature that for some time it left me reflecting. I walked a long while through the city without being aware of where I was going, and it was growing light when I reached the Victoria Docks. The lamps were still lit From time to time I met a constable who would greet me and ask for news of the latest crime. I needed to sort out my thoughts, and seeking somewhere quieter, I crossed through Blackfriars tunnel and came out in Upper Thames Street, the high street of the Thames. The reddish glow of the sky slowly lightened and gradually took on a subtle yellow shade.
To my eyes the guilt of Patrick King seemed beyond doubt. But it was possible to construct a reasonable explanation to accept that the doctor was the Whitechapel Ripper and to me this seemed to be that there was in him a form of insanity.
It seemed premature to me, at that moment, to denounce him. Indeed the only proof I had was that of the key ring, and this was not enough to send a man to the Central Prison. Apart from the fact that the reputation of the sub director of the London Hospital was considerable, and in case there was any doubt, any blunder could cost me dearly.
So I decided not to abandon my watch over the doctor's person for one instant from dusk to dawn, and by doing this every day I believed there was a high probability of capturing the infamous and fantastic Jack the Ripper.
At that time - and can we explain this phenomenon? - common opinion began to voice the suspicion that the killer was a mad surgeon, and when I heard this in the alleys of the Whitechapel Road. I felt the fear that my subconscious had divulged a suspicion that I though only I possessed. Later I realized that what made the crowd think this was the cleanness of the wounds in which the killer seemed to be indulging.
I spent the afternoon of that day, 30th September, in preparing myself for my nightly vigil. I managed to persuade one of the porters at the hospital to let me use his uniform and, attaching a large handlebar mustache, I thought myself sufficiently disguised to take his place.
The doctor lived in the hospital and so fortunately hardly left the building during the day. I was able to follow him at my leisure. But until ten at night all he did was visit a few patients and work on the autopsy of the latest victim of.... Jack, or of himself?
At ten in the evening, the doctor appeared wrapped up in a "carrik" (presumably some kind of scarf) topped off with a cap and seemed about to go out. I got rid of my mustache and uniform and, resuming my own appearance and climbing out of one of the windows on the ground floor, I followed his steps, catching up with him on the first corner of the Avenue.
He seemed displeased by the meeting but hid it reasonably well.
"Out for a walk?" I asked, trying to give my words an innocent, straightforward tone.
"Yes, I go out every night"
"Since the appearance of Jack the Ripper. This series of crimes interest me enormously, so similar are they to each other. And you - on duty?"
"Yes, sir. For the same reason. Do you mind if I accompany you?"
"Not at all," replied the doctor who, falsely or not, now seemed to show a certain friendliness.
"What opinion have you formed about the killer? You think it is always the same man?"
"Of course. All the wounds were made by the same hand and even with the same weapon; a large and very sharp knife."
"Do you think we are dealing with a disturbed man?"
"No. He is not a madman. Madmen are easily discovered. They take so much pride in their crimes that, in the majority of cases, they give themselves away. In my judgement, this individual works deliberately and is, to put it simply, a case of sexual abnormality. That's it. Very interesting."
"Exactly, A sadist. I'm pleased to see you are so well informed. To Jack the Ripper the act of murder doubtless gives a sexual pleasure, and this pleasure in him is so powerful, that it overcomes, at least temporarily, all revulsion for the cruelty. This is what we call sadism; pleasure which overcomes cruelty; not cruelty for pleasure, as some medical writers claim."
As we chatted we had arrived at Commercial Street, and we instinctively stopped at the spot where one of Jack the Ripper's victims had fallen. The district slept silently, and that deep and thick silence seemed to nourish the tragedy.
Suddenly the doctor seized me by the arm and murmured:
"Don't you hear that?"
Before I had time to answer, he set off up the street at a furious pace. I followed him, as soon as I recovered, but however furiously I pushed my feet on, I lost ground to him, unable to compete with the huge strides of the doctor. He turned into Wentworth Street and disappeared into the darkness. I followed, running furiously, angrily, at what seemed his fleeing from under my very nose and, four minutes later, still in Wentworth Street, I found the doctor leaning over a human body lying on the pavement.
"Do you see?" he said when he saw me arrive. "While we were chatting, Jack struck again. This time I arrived in time to catch the victim in her death throes. She told me she is French, her name is Maria Soummet and she was attacked from behind but she does not know by whom. After that, she died with a shudder."
I looked at the woman, who lay with her head turned to her left shoulder. Her raised skirts enabled me to see, as usual, the wound in her abdomen, terrible and typical.
My indignation could only make me seethe: I confronted the doctor and shouted like a madman, meanwhile taking the revolver out of my pocket.
"Liar! Murderer! You are the one who killed her! It was you, who ran away from me to commit this crime, just as you committed the others! But this time you're caught!"
I went towards him, my mind made up, while I blew the alarm on my whistle. But the doctor outwitted me - he grabbed the revolver and struck me with it on the head.
I fell senseless next to the body of the sixth victim.
When I came to I found myself surrounded by people, constables and colleagues. They asked me if Jack the Ripper had attacked me as well and I answered that he had.
Then I said that Jack the Ripper was none other than Dr. Patrick King.
This set off an incredible commotion. They searched for the doctor - but he was not to be found.
Major Endell questioned me at Scotland Yard and asked me to accompany him to the London Hospital to arrest the doctor. I gladly accepted. I was convinced that the moment had arrived for drastic measures.
We reached the hospital mid morning. But nothing was known about the doctor, as he had not reappeared.
Three says later we still had no news of Patrick King.
Public anxiety and the terror of the inhabitants of Whitechapel were reaching new heights.
I had to stay in bed for two weeks as the blow to the skull, which the doctor had given me, produced definite side effects, such as nausea, frequent headaches and a weakness in my mental faculties.
During that time Jack the Ripper made himself felt.
On the 12th October of that year of such varied emotions, the lower part of a woman's trunk was found in the Thames, which, according to the doctors, had been in the water for thirty hours. The following day there were found the thigh and the left leg on the Surrey bank of the river. And on the afternoon of that same day appeared a portion of the diaphragm and of the chest wall.
It concerned a woman called Gladys, wife of a labourer and well known in the Chelsea district.
The nervousness, fear and indignation in which London had lived for several months past now grew - if that were possible- with this new discovery.
However, nothing was known about Dr. King although the signs suggested that he was still in London. His photograph was posted on every police notice board in the United Kingdom but this high police profile did not suffice to being him out of the shadows.
And although public opinion affirmed that he remained hidden in the hospital, not a trace of him was found in the various searches that were carried out.
All the while winter progressed and the danger grew. We were already in November, an extremely unpleasant November; the rain and snow produced an oppressive atmosphere. In a few days the snow had blackened and the darkness of night fell in the early hours of the evening. Lamps were lit at three o'clock; on the pavements people bumped into each other and constables operated lamps on the street corners to control the city traffic. At times the fog stank of hydrogen sulphide, which was tortuous to the sense of smell.
The density of the fog - sometimes black, sometimes grey - was impenetrable as if aiding the cravings of Jack so that he could continue, more secure than ever, with his fearsome task.
On the 9th, at 11 o'clock at night, an old, unkempt woman entered a bar in Well Clase Square, where I had taken refuge, and she demanded the assistance of a constable or a detective. This was not unusual during those months of terror when false alarms were innumerable, and I offered to accompany the old woman without any great hope of finding anything of interest.
As she lead me to her house, near the London Docks, she explained that not long before she had rented a room to an amorous couple - he was tall with reddish whiskers, she a little prostitute called Alicia Ferreyns - when it seemed to her that there were strange noises coming from the room. The old woman was afraid that the man with the reddish whiskers might be none other than Jack the Ripper himself. Without knowing why, her suspicion made me smile.
When we had arrived at the house, I quickly went up a twisting staircase and found myself in a passageway that smelt of phenic acid ("ácido fénico" in Spanish), opposite the door of the room that the couple had occupied. A beam of light escaped from a crack at eye level and, borne on by impulsive logic, I looked through it - I stood there as petrified as would a granite statue.
On a bed, between wretched bedclothes, drenched in blood, I saw a woman's body laying, in the same awful position to which my eyes, unfortunately, had already become accustomed; the same wounded abdomen, the same deadly cruelty peculiar to the Whitechapel killer... A flickering candle lit the unpleasant scene.
And standing beside the bed, contemplating his grim work, I saw him. He stood in half profile - he was broad, very muscular, with coarse, powerful hands and his hair and whiskers were of a reddish blond.
I saw no more because a frantic energy overtook me and, abandoning my role as spectator, I pushed the door hard to open it quickly.
It was bolted from the inside but such was my rage, my eagerness to get at that man; I saw with such clarity the crucial importance of my taking Jack the Ripper; I reflected so quickly that London, England and the whole world were all looking at me in that instant; finally, so great was my anxiety that I threw myself like a battering ram against those pine boards time after time, again and again, with rising fury.
At the fifth or sixth attempt the door the door caved in with a crash; I jumped over it like a bullet but I could only fire my revolver until it was empty at the broad shadow of Jack the Ripper, who in that instant jumped from the window.
And my shots were useless and the sinister phantom of Whitechapel had melted into the thick shadows that hung over the docks.
The Press, at the request of Scotland Yard, hushed up my adventure. Which was for the best. If the people, boiling over with the rage of so much unpunished crime, as London was at that time, had been told that a certain Thomas McLower had been only two metres away from Jack the Ripper and had let him escape, it would not have gone too well for that Thomas McLower.
But if the Press said nothing, by contrast I was confronted all the time with the harshness of Major Endell.
"You must be mad! You must be mad!" he shouted, waving his arms so high he risked smashing the lamps. "You must me mad not to have realized that taking time to force the door would have given him time to escape!"
"And what should I have done?" I asked nervously.
"What should you have done? You still ask what should you have done?" the Major shrieked, rolling his eyes. "Shoot through the door! That's what normal people do!"
Endell's indignation became so comic that instead of humiliating me, it amused me. Moreover, there was a certain irony in his dealings with me, since all the police in London had danced from one foot to another for a whole year without finding the slightest information about the Ripper.
When the first moments of these high spirits had passed, my thoughts turned to Dr. King and I was ashamed of my lack of discretion. Excessive zeal had made me accuse the distinguished ex sub director of the London Hospital of those awful crimes, forcing him to hide so as not to end up in prison and to lead a life probably filled with problems and troubles.
I made up my mind to repair the damage by searching for him and explaining things, but after three months of fruitless investigation and I grew disillusioned and gave up the search.
The winter and spring of 1889 passed with no sign of Jack. The beast was slumbering and hope was reborn in people.
Summer returned and, with its arrival, the memory of the Ripper was fading and distant. This year, partly from the peace that reigned at Scotland Yard, partly because I had been refused it the year before, I was immediately granted permission for a summer holiday. And as I was in truth somewhat run down, I hastened to bid farewell to my bosses and my colleagues and I sought refuge - armed with fishing hooks and rods - in a small, primitive village in Brittany.
I stayed there for the months of June and July, giving myself up to the pleasures of a simple life and closing my eyes completely to news from the civilized world.
At the end of August, when my leave was running out, one afternoon I found in the dining room of the inn some issues of the Daily Telegraph which a traveller had left. I began to leaf through them, out of boredom, and read with growing anxiety that Jack the Ripper, while I was calmly fishing in Brittany, had returned to operate with his usual ferocity in London.
Two new victims, who could not be identified, had fallen to Jack's blows; one was found beneath a railway tunnel, near Pichin (sic) Street; the other, nearby, in a nook next to Well Close Square, in the clothes market called Rag Fair.
The hand of Jack had left on these victims - the ninth and tenth - his unmistakeable imprint; the same awful wounds to the neck and abdomen, the same mutilation followed by the removal of certain organs.
Apparently, opinion was again stirred up, although people began to become sated with that endless repetition of the crimes, which reeked of a bestial monomania. The last attacks dated to 1st June and 17 July. Of the doctor, nothing was known.
When I returned to London Major Endell greeted me cordially in contrast to the harsh tone with which he had spoken to me on previous occasions.
"You have heard about....?" he said when he saw me.
"Yes - I happened to find out."
"Tommy," he added, putting a friendly hand on my shoulder, "this must finish once and for all. Already we have ten dead women, which is more than enough. If this carries on, I can see the Government abolishing Scotland Yard at a stroke and this building being used as a fruit shop! Now I only trust you. Return to your post in Whitechapel, Mclower. Return to your post and you yourself can let people know that they will be under you orders."
That unexpected promotion filled me with eagerness. Moreover, I had regained my full physical and mental strength and, from that moment, after instructing the detectives in whom I had the most confidence to join me, I turned my steady, watchful steps to Whitechapel.
Days later - it was 10th September - night came down quickly in the lower part of the district, in one the alleys near the canal. A few times I passed a woman of about forty who, being drunk enough to have trouble keeping her balance, wandered from side to side in the hope of finding a generous customer. She had already approached me and had left quickly when she realised that I was a policeman.
ON one of my walks I thought I heard the stifled groans of a woman and, assuming that she had fallen to the ground because of her drunkenness, I went towards the spot from which the groans came which was a passageway between tall, darkened houses.
And in the light from a yellowish lamp in one of those houses I saw what I had never seen before and would never see again; the woman fallen to the ground, now motionless, and Jack the Ripper about to carry out the task which had earned him that nickname.
Should I shoot? Or run? Again I felt rooted to the spot and helpless.
My reactions returned and it occurred to me that I should creep along the passageway, and so I did. Slowly, holding my breath, I made my way down the pavement opposite where Jack was working, engrossed in his insane work.
I was no more than ten metres away from him, when the Whitechapel phantom half turned his bearded face, which seemed to give off a reddish glow and fled up the street.
Gritting my teeth, shaking with rage and anxiety, I ran after him as I had never run before. Jack was leaping to escape and I was not catching him up. A few second later, as the Ripper came out onto the bank of the canal I saw with unspeakable joy that a shadow, standing on one corner, was blocking his way and was rushing towards him. The two men struggled for an instant and finally Jack, who had to keep the knife with which he had committed his crimes in his hand, landed a blow on his opponent who fell to the ground. As soon as this was done, Jack dashed instantly around the corner.
When I reached that same corner, the bank of the Regent's Canal was deserted.
I searched the barges tied up to the dock, I woke up some workers, I knocked at the houses on the bank. No use. The Ripper had melted away again.
And it was then that I saw clearly (as clearly as the innocence of the doctor, of which I had been convinced for some time) that Jack the Ripper, whether he was mad or sane, was no surgeon but more like a sailor. I based these deductions on three very interesting pieces of information, namely:
1) I had noted as I ran though the darkness of the night, that the Whitechapel phantom ran with his legs wide apart, a feature seen in sailors because of their habit of keeping their legs apart to keep their balance on board ship.
2) On the two occasions when he was pursued, I had seen him head in the direction of the Regents Canal, like someone whose way of life on board carried him instinctively to his native element in that unthinking moment of imminent danger and
3) That the quiet periods which always came between Jack's crimes could well correspond with the criminal's absences from London because of his sea voyages.
I considered these conclusions as I went to help the man who had been wounded by jack as he tried to stop him and who I assumed was some canal watchman. But I was about to get a pleasant surprise.
The wounded man was Dr. King.
I found him, now on his feet, brushing his clothes down; the wound was not serious and the doctor had actually fallen because he was stunned by the blow.
I held out my hands to him in genuine pleasure and started to explain. He looked at me sadly while he fixed his glasses, which had fallen to the ground, and he said to me:
"He got away..."
"Yes, doctor, he got away," I added like an echo.
And the worst thing was not that he had got away but that he had got away forever.
Because Jack the Ripper never murdered anyone again. Dr. King and I talked about him on many nights.
"It was such an interesting case," he said "and studying it attracted me so much that for a long time I saw you as a rival, since I wanted to be the first to see the victims and on occasion you got there before me. What a pity we didn't get hold of him that night at the canal! Jack the Ripper was the sort worthy of close study. Therefore, knowing the terror caused by these crimes, I was obliged to strike you that memorable night. I saw that if I did not flee, the mob would lynch me without stopping to find out if I was the Whitechapel terror or not."
And he said this with a melancholy expression.
A long time passed and I never saw the Whitechapel phantom again although I did not stop patrolling the district for even a single day.
And now, in 1918, after all these years, when the world of Major Endell, Fly and Dr. King has disappeared, I still often walk around Whitechapel.
And I hear how the visitors tell of Jack's crimes as they pass down Buck's Row, Hamburg Street, Commercial Street, Cable Street and when they stop in front of the London Hospital or on the corner of Rag Fair.
At times I see them tremble, thinking that the terrible Jack will suddenly reappear on a corner of Whitechapel Road.
And yet - oh, how far off they are! - those days when I spied on Dr. King, or ran along the bank of the Regents Canal after the fleeing shadow of Jack the Ripper.....
*Here ends the part concerning the memoirs of Thomas McLower, Scotland Yard detective, dated in London the 16th September 1918)