I almost feel sorry for Detective Inspector Edmund Reid – “almost” because he should have known better than to rely on Mary Ann Connolly, aka Pearly Poll', who had a flimsy grasp on reality. When she did not show up for the 10 August parade of suspects at the Tower of London, the 42 year old Reid, should have written her off as a witness. In his defense he was desperate for clues, and eager to close the case before any other women were murdered. And he was getting little support from the upper management of the Metropolitan Police Service, because, in the words of the old soldier's chant, “They were playing leap frog,.” where “One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer's back.”
Conservative Home Secretary Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police in 1822 – the officers were first called Peelers, and then Bobbies, in his honor. Over the next sixty years the bobbies became a whipping boy for using too little or too much force. Budgets became political bargaining chips, and by 1886 moral within the service was on its knees. Enter the mercurial and charismatic Sir Charles Warren (above), a hot tempered, myopic martinet and firm believer in himself.
The 46 year old Sir Charles had been born to privilege and educated to rule. He had spent half of the previous 20 years in the Royal Engineers in first Palestine and then Africa, where he was Knighted for bravery. During one of his brief returns to Britain in 1885, he had run for Parliament on the Liberal ticket. He lost, but in February of 1886 the liberal Gladstone government offered him the job of running the MET police. A week into the job Warren realised a liberal in the military was not a liberal in the private sector, and he tried to resign. The Liberals were too busy to accept, and in August, when they were replaced by the Conservatives government of Lord Salisbury, Warren felt much more at home.
And on Bloody Sunday – 13 November, 1886 – Sir Charles Warren showed just how conservative he really was.
That day between 10 and 20,000 peaceful protesters in Trafalgar Square were attacked by 5,000 of Warren's constables, backed up by the Coldstream guards.
One reporter described the attacks as being of “...a violence and brutality which were shocking to behold.” By nightfall 2 protesters were dead (officially), a hundred people were in the hospital and 77 constables were injured.
The Times praised Warren as “...a man of science and a man of action…”. Overnight, Warren became a right wing political hero who could do no wrong and who could not be denied anything he wanted. Less conservative papers noted that he was “blunt, tactless and contradictory”, and had adopted policing policies that were “rigid, impractical and unimaginative”.
Members of the police service were split between the minority who hated Warren for making their jobs harder, and the majority who admired him for being tough on crime and trouble makers. And then there were those who just wanted his job.
As part of his house cleaning after Bloody Sunday, Warren appointed lawyer James Monroe (above) to be Assistant Commissioner of the Criminal Intelligence Department. He chose Monroe in part because they shared colonial experience. The 50 year old Monroe had served in India, as Inspector General of Bengal, where he had commanded a 20,000 man police force.
Home Secretary Henry Matthews (above), who had already grown weary of Warren's temper tantrums and his repeated threats to resign, approved Monroe's appointment, but also gave Monroe responsibility over the secret Section D, intelligence division. It ran informants across the city, and conducted misinformation campaigns against Irish nationalists in Ireland. Warren was excluded from all of this information, and their private meetings created opportunities for Matthews and Monroe to plot against Sir Charles.
Secretary Matthews would later admit that Assistant Commissioner Monroe was “consulted by the Home Office..". In other words, he admitted Monroe had been badmouthing Warren to their political masters.
In November of 1887, Monroe floated the idea of creating a new position to assist him, Assistant Chief Constable, and hiring Melville McNagthen for the job. Warren suggested Monroe would not need an assistant if he simply gave up running Section D. After that, Warren and Monroe stopped talking to each other, and the Home Secretary urged other members of the Metropolitan Police Force to start sharing gossip about their boss, Warren. During the investigation into the murder of Emma/Martha Turner, Inspector Detective Reid could no longer trust his superiors, who no longer trusted their subordinates.
Closer to home, Reid had the full support of the 53 year old Whitechapel Police Superintendent, and Reid's immediate superior, Thomas Arnold (above). Superintendent Arnold had no personal political ambitions, but saw himself as a facilitator for his men.
And when Pearly Poll missed her 10 August appointment, Arnold approved sending 36 year old Detective Sergeant Eli Caunter after the missing woman. Caunter's nickname was "Tommy Roundhead", because of his "excessive round head". .But he was also one of the most experienced detectives in H Division, and had a reputation for finding people in the confusing maze of Jewish poverty that was Whitechapel. He began that afternoon by going to the address Poll had given Inspector Reid - 35 Dorset Street.
Dorset Street (above) ran between Crispin Street and Commercial Street and was often described as "the worst street in London", because of the poverty and crime rampant over it's 130 yards of vice and vermin. And it was sandwiched between two large pubs.
At the corner of Dorset and Commercial Street was the Britannia (above), and at 5 Crispin street, at the corner of Crispin and Dorset, was the Horn of Plenty. Between them, along the south side at number 32 Dorset , was a smaller pub, The Blue Coat Boy.
And here was the secret of Whitechapel laid bare - three busy pubs within 150 yards of each other. In 1888 there were 48 pubs on a half mile stretch of Whitechapel Road alone. The most profitable businesses in Whitechapel were prostitution and selling gin or beer for “three ha'pence”. Volume kept prices so low it was said any customer could get roaring drunk for a shilling.
It was not the opiate of religion that kept 4 in 10 residents of Whitechapel living in crushing poverty, it was alcohol. It made safe the poison that was the only available water supply. Gin dulled the misery of their lives, and beer filled their bellies. The government even strove to keep beer cheap because it was "nutritious". And it also swallowed what little money, hope and cleverness the residents of Whitechapel possessed, keeping labor cheap and keeping the workers in constant anxiety.
Poll had given her address as number 35 Dorset Street, which was on the north side of Dorset Street. Between number 35 and 37 Dorset was Paternoster Row (above, in red) , another dark forbidding alley running to Bushfield Street, and ending next to the Oxford Arms, yet another pub. Between numbers 26 and 27 Dorset Street was another such alley, this one called Miller's Court (above, in green) . And at 13 Miller's Court a woman named Mary Jane Kelly had a true rarity in Whitechapel - a room of her own. Pearly Poll and Mary Kelly knew each other, although they do not seem to have been close friends..
Sargeant Caunter found that 35 Dorset Street, was a private doss house – a doss being a cheap straw bed. Such places were also known as a “common lodging house”. Speaking with the owner William Crossingham, Caunter learned that Poll had left her meeting with Inspector Reid very worried. Her paranoia running on full steam, she had quickly packed what little she owned and left, telling residents that she was going to drown herself. But Caunter doubted that story. Why bother to pack for your own drowning?
And he found Poll the next day, Saturday, 11 August, 1888, having moved in with her cousin, Mrs. Shean, at 4 Fuller's Court, off Drury Lane (above). When informed of Poll's presence, Inspector Reid decided not to wait until Monday. He and Sargents Caunter and Leach arrived the next morning, Sunday, 12 August, to escort Poll to the Tower of London for a parade of the soldiers.
After she had viewed the men, Reid asked Polly, “Can you see here either of the men you saw with the woman now dead?” A newspaper described her response. “Pearly Poll”...placed her arms akimbo, glanced at the men with the air of an inspecting officer and shook her head. This indication of a negative was not sufficient. “Can you identity anyone?” she was asked again. “Pearly Poll” exclaimed, with a good deal of feminine emphasis, “He ain’t here.”’ And only now did Poll add the crucial detail that the men she and Martha had been drinking with had a white band around their hats. This meant the men were in an entirely different regiment. The police would have to do it all over again.