I was amazed to discover that London in 1888 - a city of 5.6 million people - had only 63 recorded murders – including 9 abandoned newborns and the 5 victims of Jack the Ripper. That is a rate of less than 1 murder for every 200,000 people. In modern day London (2014) there are more than 16 murders for every 200,000 people – about the same number as New York City, but less than the 13 in Los Angeles or the 23 murders per 200,000 residents of Houston or Dallas, Texas.
Of course a lot of murders went unrecognized in 19th century London. Was a death murder by poisoning or a result of ingesting spoiled meat or polluted water? The police had no way of telling, and coroners were not required to have a medical license until well into the 20th century. Suspicious deaths of professionals and the wealthy were investigated.
But a worker on the London docks, a scullery maid, a “hawker” who sold trinkets in the street, a porter at the Spitafield Market or a middle aged prostitute, when these working class were mugged on Whitechapel Road, garroted into unconscious, knocked senseless outside a pub or left bleeding and robbed in a dark alley, these crimes were rarely reported to either the police or the newspapers. One researcher has discovered that according to official records, no women in Whitechapel had their throats slashed during all of 1886 or 1887. That contention seems so unlikely as to be absurd.
It wasn't that the officials did not know what they were dealing with, even if they could not give it a name. “The Spectator” had speculated as early as the middle of September, “...the motive was blood thirst,— that is, the crime itself was its own impelling cause”. The magazine added that knowing the details of the victim's life was “...of comparatively little use, for it usually helps only to detect motive, and here the motive is...useless as an aid to identification” But, The Spectator admitted, there were a few things that were know about the killer. “He must...know that district of Whitechapel well...And he is not a man to excite by his mere appearance...or his victim would not have gone with him...Those seem the only facts fairly clear, and they...scarcely help the police, and they do not help the population at all...” But this last time, the killer had left a new clue behind.
The latest victim was Catherine Eddowes, a 46 year old cheerful prostitute who was a loud and argumentative drunk, and had been in police custody at the Bishopgate station until 1:00 a.m. that Sunday morning. As she left the station house, her last words to the desk sergeant were a cheery “Goodnight, old cock.” She was a ten minute walk from Mitre Square. At 1:45 that Sunday morning she would be found in the square, killed in the now classic Ripper fashion. She had been first strangled from the front, and once unconscious or dead was lowered to the ground where her throat was slashed. Then and only then was she mutilated.
Her inquest started on Thursday, 4 October, and Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, the City Police Surgeon described the condition of her body. “She lay on her back. Head turned toward her left shoulder. Arms at her side...Clothes were pushed above her abdomen, Thighs were naked..Abdomen exposed. Bonnet at back of her head...
"Face disfigured. Throat was cut. Intestines were drawn out and placed over right shoulder. Another section of intestines were placed between left arm and body. Clotted blood on pavement near left side of neck...Fluid blood under neck and right shoulder.” Dr. Brown did not share with the public that her vagina, her womb and part of one kidney had been removed and taken away by the killer. But he did add, “My attention was called to the apron - it was the corner of the apron with a string attached...”.
City of London Detective Sergeant Daniel Halse had also noticed the apron, because “a piece of her apron was missing. About half of it. It had been cut with a clean cut.” They were ubiquitous in Whitechapel, (Above, left) used by the working poor women to protect their dresses. Dr. Brown even had the opportunity to compare the section found on the dead woman, with another piece of white cloth found on Goulston Street, in Whitechapel. “I fitted the piece of apron,” he told the inquest, “the seams of the borders of the two actually corresponding - some blood and apparently fecal matter was found on the portion found in Goulston Street"
Goulston Street was a north south byway which connected the east west running Wentworth to the Aldegate High Street. Like George Yard, it had undergone a slum clearance project, with the worst slums on its northern end cleared out and replaced in 1887 with the Brunswick Buildings, new “model dwellings”.
And it was in the open entryway of numbers 108 to 119 Brunswick Buildings on Goulston (above), near the corner of Wentworth, that the majority of the white cloth apron had been discovered just before 3:00 a.m. that Sunday morning by Police Constable Alfred Long – 1 hour after Catherine Eddows was discovered murdered, and no more than 1 hour 15 minutes after the murder had been committed.
PC Long had passed this same doorway at about 2:20 a.m. while walking his beat, and he was positive the bloody cloth had not been there, then. A careful reading of all accounts makes it clear the apron was not far inside the doorway, but in the open, visible to anyone. Other police officers, moving by prearranged plan to blanket the area between the murder scene and Whitechapel, questioned all the men they saw, and saw no one suspicious.
Specifically, Detective Sergeant Halse had come down Goulston, passed the same doorway about 2:25 a.m. and also saw nothing and no one. So the killer had come this way sometime between 2:30 and 2:55 a.m. It reinforced the belief that the killer had escaped Mitre Square - just over the border of the City of London - by retreating into Whitechaple, where he felt safe. Where he lived.
The most direct route would have been to exit Mytre Square (above, lower left) next to the Great Synagogue, then turn south on Duke Street to Aldegate High Street, turn right and walk past the Aldegate East Underground Station before turning left, heading north up Goulston street to where the apron was found (above, red dot). That path was the most public, the mostly heavily covered by police.
Or the killer might have gone north on Duke Street, cut east to Houndsditch Street, jogged south 1 block to Grave Lane, then south to the short New Goulston Street, or jogged north to Turn Alley, ending opposite 108-119 Goulston Street (above, blue circle). However he had jogged, turned and hidden in the dark, he had remained unseen while the alarm was raised all around him. Walked briskly he could have covered the distance in about ten minutes. Moving carefully, Detective Halse had done it in 20 minutes. And we know he beat the Ripper to the Goulston Street because the bloody apron fragment was not there when he passed the spot at about 2:15 a.m..
The most logical explanation for taking the apron was to carry away his trophies, the organs stolen from Catherine Eddowes. But the missing organs were never found - overlooking the infamous kidney mailed to George Akin Lusk (above), the 49 year old self-made Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, which was probably just another journalistic publicity stunt. The organs were in that entryway and stairwell with the killer, sometime between 2:20 a.m. and 2:55 a.m. - a 35 minute window.
And they left with the killer. Only the bloody apron fragment remained behind. But how did he carry the organs after he left this entryway? Did he live in the new buildings? Every resident was questioned, all the apartments and buildings were searched. It seemed clear the killer paused here, to transfer his stolen goods to another container or bag. But where did he go from here?
The question was never fully asked because of what PC Long discovered next. Scrawled on the door jam above the bloody apron was a message written in chalk - “The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing.’ What it meant was not and is not clear, other than being antisemitic and written by a non-native English speaker. And different officers remember the wording differently.
They reacted to the message differently, as well. Basically, the City of London Police wanted the message left right were it was until it was light enough to be photographed. The Metropolitan Police, in whose area this was, wanted it washed away, at once.
In a couple of hours (it was not approaching 4:00 a.m.) Goulston Street would be filling with Jewish and Gentile peddlers and Gentile and Jewish customers. When they heard about the murder and saw the writing, a riot would be a real possibility. Except of course for other nasty writings scattered around Whitechaple.
The issue was settled at about 5:15 a.m., when Sir Charles Warren, head of the Metropolitan Police arrived on Goulston Street (above). He ordered the writing to be washed away at once. And that was when all hell broke loose, breaking right on top of Sir Charles' head.
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