I don't believe Scotland Yard got its name because the Thames riverfront was a vacation home for Medieval Scottish royalty. I prefer the story that Cardinal Wolsey stole the strip of land in 1519 from a family named Scott, and used it as a boat landing for his new mansion - until Henry VIII had the Cardinal beheaded and stole the mansion and the landing from his corpse. The important thing is that by 1880, the collection of office buildings, stables and storage sheds along Whitehall Street, facing the river, was the headquarters of Metropolitan Police. The back of this hodgepodge complex - the city side, through which most people had access during the two decades while the Victorian Embankment of the Thames river was being built - was a central courtyard called Scotland Yard (above).
A few hundred yards downstream, at the Westminster Bridge, was the new Westminster palace, which housed the houses of Parliament. Just behind was 10 Downing Street, which housed the Prime Minister. And a few hundred yards inland was Buckingham Palace, originally Cardinal Wolsey's palace but which now housed Queen Victoria. It was a perfect place to locate the Metropolitan Police Force, which had come to be known simply as Scotland Yard.
It should be clarified that the Metropolitan Police were not the London Police. The old walled City of London remained as much a political and financial entity as it did when Wat Tyler marched his pre-tea party tax rebels across London Bridge and threw open the Aldgate gate in 1341. The authority of the London Police police ended pretty much where the long gone city walls had. Scotland Yard had authority for “Greater London”, which meant the only way to get from Scotland Yard to Whitechapel was to either cross London Police territory, or take to the river – which was also policed from Scotland Yard (above).
With the same fervent Christian militarism that empowered William Bazalgette to overcome all opposition and build the Thames Embankment to house his new London sewer system, Sir Charles Warren (above), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after February 1886, believed in his own divine mission to make London safe. And Sir Charles was the original advocate of "community based policing". He wrote, “The whole safety and security of London depends...upon the efficiency of the uniform police constables acting with the support of the citizen...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime. The next is the detection and punishment of offenders if a crime is committed.”
Sir Charles saw the Sherlock Holmes intellectual plain-clothes detective as supporting the uniformed officers, not leading them. Warren's temper exploded whenever his decisions were questioned, and he insisted on making all the decisions, from when to promote officers, to where they should live. As a modern writer has pointed out, “Warren believed, probably rightly, that he had been appointed...to reorganized a demoralized police force and had been given a free hand in how he achieved that.”
But Warren was not an easy man to work for, as his subordinate, Assistant Commissioner for the Criminal Intelligence Division – plain clothes detectives - James Munro (above), could testify. And Warren was an even harder man to have as a subordinate, as Sir Charles' boss, Home Secretary George Matthews could also testify. But Secretary Matthews was a far better politician than Sir Charles.
It was Matthews who gave Assistant Commissioner Munro (above) the additional duty of running Section D - 4 CID Inspectors and 79 Officers recruited from Scotland and Ireland, whose public job was to keep track of Irish militants both in Ireland and in England.
Irish bombs were already going off in England, one of them, in 1884 (above), in the Section D offices in Scotland Yard itself. The secret assignment of Section D was to disrupt, smear and blackmail Irish politicians, using prostitutes, thugs and forged letters to newspapers.
Housed in a 2 story building in Scotland Yard (above), Section D was strictly “black ops”, shielded from parliamentary budget oversight. That also meant it was shielded from Sir Charles' oversight. Although Commissioner Warren could look down on Munro's office from his own, he had little idea what as going on in that building, or in the private meetings between his subordinate Munro and his boss, Matthews.
Munro (above) shared Sir Charles' self-confident moral vanity - and his mustache. He saw his own recovery from a bout of infantile paralysis – polio – as his own divine endorsement. And he made up for the limp it left him with by carrying a very big walking stick. He was “very unwilling to give up an opinion once he had formed it”. The two mustaches were bound to bang heads.
When Munro wrote a memo bemoaning his heavy workload, and suggesting he needed an assistant, Sir Charles (above) replied that the Assistant Commissioner should “...be allowed to devote his time and energy to his legitimate work, and that he should not be burdened with the care and anxieties of duties...” outside the Metropolitan Police. In other words, Commissioner Warren told Assistant Commissioner Munro, if you are too busy, give up running the Special Irish section, Section D.
As expected Munro appealed to Home Secretary Matthews (above), who happily agreed to fund an additional Assistant Chief Constable.
The victorious and confident Munro was quick to suggest just the man for the job – Sir Melville Macnaughten (above). Munro had known him in India, and knew him to be a man of courage and good sense. And loyal to Munro.
Sir Charles (above) did not agree. He reminded Secretary Matthews that during a New Delhi riot, Sir Melville had been so far ahead of events that he was knocked unconscious by a rioter, making him “...the one man in India who has been beaten by the "Hindoos".” There were lots of men more qualified for the position of Assistant Chief Constable, said Warren. And if Mcnaughten were offered the job, Warren said he would resign.
It was not Warren's first resignation threat, but once again, it worked. Secretary Matthews (above) caved, and would not offer the job to Mcnaughten.
Munro (above, center) had already assured Sir Melville that he had the job, and was embarrassed and furious when he could not deliver it. And on Friday, 31 August, 1888, he submitted his own resignation to Sir Charles (above, left), who happily accepted it, replacing him by promoting Robert Anderson to Assistant Commissioner of CID. Sir Charles Warren had won.
Matthews immediately offered Munro a job as consultant to the Home Office, while retaining Munro as chief of Section D - housed in Scotland Yard (above). So Munro had been removed, but he had not gone. And Secretary Matthews would remember he had been manhandled by Warren, again. And the tool the Home Secretary would use to remove his troublesome Commissioner would present itself that very morning.
At about 3:45 that same Friday morning, 31 August, 1888, 39 year old Charles Cross left his apartment at 22 Doveton Street, at the eastern edge of Whitechapel. He was heading for the Pickford & Company stables beneath the London and Northwestern Railroad Broad Street elevated station, where he worked as a driver on a delivery wagon. Pickford was the largest shipping company in England, and kept some 600 horses at the Broad Street stables, from where they were dispatched each day to move cargo from factories and shops in London to and from the NW Railroad and the London Docks..
Charles' walk (above) usually took him about 20 minutes, but this morning, as he headed west across Cambridge Road to Oxford Street, he was already late. He walked briskly through the cold drizzle. Lightning flashed as he took the shortcut around St. Bartholomew’s Church, and thunder followed him down Trapp Street. He made a left on Sommerford, and a right on Brady, before turning right again and heading down Buck's Row.
He was about half way down the north, private home side of the dark cobblestone street and about half way to work, when across the street, on the warehouse side, in the shadows thrown by the only gas light on that side of the street, Cross saw a bundled tarp lying in front of the closed stable gate for the Brown and Eagle Wool Warehouse.
Charles wasn't sure why, but he impulsively started to cross the road toward it. Perhaps the idea of snatching a new tarp gave him reason. Perhaps he could use it to cover himself from the rain today, or sell it when he got to work. But another flash of lightning revealed the lump in the shadows had a human outline. Charles slowed, but continued another two steps for a closer look.
He stopped when he realized what he thought was a discarded tarp was actually a woman, lying on her back, her head away from him, her legs open toward him, her dress pushed up above her knees (above) He could not move for a long moment. Was she drunk? She must be drunk. She was going to drown in this weather, Could a person drown in the rain?
He heard the click of an approaching hob nail boots on the cobblestones. It was a man, hunched shouldered and collar turned up against the rain. Charles suddenly felt ashamed, as if he had been staring at the woman's private parts. It was absurd, in the dark, that he would do such a thing, he couldn't even see her private parts, he never...Still, he realized he must confront this false image of himself. Charles didn't want this stranger suspecting he had been involved with this woman, lying in the street. He stepped toward the approaching man, and saw he was dressed, as Charles was, in a workman's clothes. Charles called out, “Come and look over here, there's a woman."
The other man stopped, and for a second Charles thought he might turn and run. It was to be expected that he might run. Charles could be a mugger or part of a gang. But Charles pointed toward the woman, and the man came on again, but this time angling toward the body. As the man passed him, Charles said, “I think she may be dead.” The man knelt down and touched her face and hands. “Cold” was all he said. Then he put a hand on her chest. The man said, “She has a heartbeat. It's faint.” Then he said, “I think she's breathing. But it is little, if she is.” The man stood, and said, “I've got to get to work. I'm late, already.”
They stood for a long moment side by side, in silence, looking down at the body, but not seeing it. Then the other man suggested, “We should move her out of the way.” The words hung in the cold damp air for a long moment. Charles could not make himself move, for some reason. He said, “I don't want to do that.” He'd meant to say we shouldn't do that, but the words had already escaped in the cold damp air. They could not be withdrawn. Again a silence fell upon them. They had to do something. Didn't they? Charles saw the other man glance back up Bucks Row. The street was still empty. It would not be, it couldn't be for much longer.. London Hospital was two blocks away. The rain was growing lighter. Charles said, “We have to do something.” Then, the other man squatted between the woman's legs, like a midwife, Charles thought, delivering a newborn, and he pulled her dress down over her legs. As he stood again, the other man said, “I have to be at Corbetts Court by four.” Charles understood. The man said, “We can look for a Bobby on the way.” The man took two steps toward toward Brady Street, then paused, waiting for Charles.
Charles realized he was not looking at the woman's body. What was he doing here? Why did he have to be the one who found her? If he had just gone the other way, down Little North Street, and he would not have seen her at all. Many mornings he did just that. But this morning, he had turned down Buck's Row. She was probably just drunk. Charles turned on his heel, and blocked her out of his mind. Both men walked to the west end of Buck's Row together, without saying another word to one another.
Behind them, where the killer had released another of his demons into the world, the woman's soul slipped from her body and floated away in the dark, evaporating in loneliness until it was so thin there was nothing left of her but air. And then not even that.