I have to say that Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was not lacking suggestions as to how to catch the Ripper. Queen Victoria – yes, THE Queen Victoria - suggested the Ripper might work on one of the cattle boats that docked in London every Thursday and Friday. It was investigated.
It was suggested that East End boxers might be dressed as women and sent out as decoys. No boxers volunteered. Mr Fred Wellsely wrote the Times, suggesting the police should be mounted on bicycles, to cover more ground. It was never acted upon.
Congregationalist Dr. William Tyler, reverend of the King Edward Street Mission, assured a meeting of the Young Men's Christian Association that the murders were, “largely brought about by the wholesale importation of the scum of other countries.” Closing the borders was considered an over reaction. It was often suggested that a reward should be offered. The government always said no.
Mr. Percy Lindly, wrote the London Times on Sunday, 1 October that, “...as a breeder of bloodhounds...I have little doubt that had a hound been put on the scene...it might have done what the police have failed to do.” The police were receiving 1,200 letters a day offering suggestions, and 800 of those mentioned bloodhounds
And it wasn't that Sir Charles had no ideas of his own. He did a house-to-house search of Gouldston Street - over 2,000 people were questioned, 300 were “investigated” and 80 were detained. The effort produced nothing. Elsewhere in Whitechapel, 76 butchers and animal slaughterers were asked about their employees, going back 6 months. Nothing, again. Doctors were investigated. Again, nothing.
But always fueling the public's frustration was Sir Charles’s huge ego. On 12 October The Paul Mall Gazette, declared that washing the message off the wall above the bloody apron provided “...the last conclusive demonstration...of the utter unfitness of Sir Charles Warren....” And when the Home Secretary reaffirmed his confidence in Warren, the Gazette pounced. “Mr Matthews is satisfied with Sir Charles Warren," said the newspaper, "But he is alone in his satisfaction.”
And when the Whitechapel District Board of Works passed a resolution urging “Sir Charles Warren...to regulate and strengthen the police force...", Sir Charles took the opportunity to respond in a lengthy written lecture about the difficulties of police work, before adding, “I have also to point out that the purlieus about Whitechapel are most imperfectly lighted...” It other words, the murders were in part the board's fault.
The London Daily News responded to “the oracle of Scotland Yard”, by asking that if the problem was lack of lighting, “why he waits until he is challenged...then only delivers this important suggestion by way of a crushing retort?”
It was arrogant public relations disasters such as these which drove Home Secretary Henry Matthews to push Warren to at least try one of the public's suggestions. So after the “double event” Warren contacted North Yorkshire dog breeder Mr. Edwin Brough, in Scarborough. Doubtful as well about how the dogs would do on the crowded streets of London, Mr. Brough still sent two of his best bloodhounds – Barnaby and Burgho – for a series of tests in Regent's Park, “as much to please the public as for any other reason”.
After endless calls for Warren to “do something”, as early as Monday, 8 October, the Daily Telegraph threw cold water on the new project, pointing to the many ways criminals might avoid the dogs, by using “...'buses, and trams, and there are the railways to be reckoned with.”
Days were spent with the dogs chasing human prey around Regent's Park. Once Sir Charles himself was even run to ground. On 20 October the Boston Police News reprinted a story describing “Sir Charles Warren, in his tight military dress...puffing and blowing with his excretions”, after running from the dogs. “He was very mad when the evening papers came out with reports of his mornings doings, which doubtless, were also read and noticed by the murderer.”
The truth was the dogs worked better than expected, but still regularly lost the trail when it was crossed by many other human paths. Still, Warren issued orders that after the killer struck again – as everyone was certain he would – the victim's body should be undisturbed until the dogs could collect “the killer's scent.”
But the real problem with the dogs was the marking of territory. Warren did not want to pay for the dogs out of his own budget, and the bookkeepers at Scotland Yard (above) didn't either. They sent the bill to the Home Office. It was the Home Secretaries' idea, wasn't it? But the Home Office accountants saw no reason they should pay for this harebrained idea either.
And while the bureaucrats were passing the bill back and forth, Mr. Brough decided he could wait no longer to be paid. At the end of October Burgho was shipped to participate in a Dog Show in Brighton, while Barnaby returned to his kennel in Scarborough. But nobody told Scotland Yard.
The scorn continued to pile upon Sir Charles. Two wits, Geoffrey Thorn and Edmond Forman, wrote a parody of the popular tune, “Who Killed Cock Robin”. “I said to the Home Secretary, I broke his neck, I killed Cock Warren...Who saw him die? I said the “Pall Mall”, for I'm not his pal. I saw him die, and the “Globe” and the “Star” fell a sighing and sobbing... And the un-muzzled dogs fell a sighing and a sobbing, When they heard of the death of poor Cock Warren...
"Who'll have his place? I said Munro (above), I'll boss that show, I'll have his place, And the bobbies and the tarts fell a sighing and a sobbing...Who'll toll the bell? Mathews" said all, For he's next to fall, He'll toll the bell. And then even he fell sighing and a sobbing, When he thought of the death of poor Cock Warren.”
Other wits rewrote a poem on hunting, to read, "So when Warren (Sir Charles), Makes a miss, he may halt
And declare, with some snarls, That 'twas Matthews's fault. Matthews vowing 'twas not, But 'twas Warren's bad shot. Then perhaps both come hard, Down on poor Scotland Yard. But whosever the miss, And whatever is said, One is certain of this -- That a criminal's fled."
On Saturday, 13 October, Mr Edward Pickersgill, Liberal M.P from Bethel Green, told a crowd gathered to call for more police, “Sir Charles Warren was doubtless a brave soldier...but he knew nothing whatever about the duties of policemen, and ought never to have been put in the position he now occupied.” After waiting for the cheers to die down, Pickersgill blamed Warren for “the demoralization and the corruption of the Metropolitan Police force,” This conclusion was met with loud applause.
Desperate to defend himself, Sir Charles sought out the friendly pages of “Murray's Magazine, a Home and Colonial Periodical for the General Reader”. Scotsman John Murray had been a Royal Marine, and found all his editors at Oxford. Being dedicated to “useful and entertaining” information, but offering “nothing offensive”, the subscription numbers barely rose above 5,000 copies each month. Sir Charles’s November 1888 article, “Policing the Metropolis”, was at once boring, infuriating, self-serving, self-congratitory, self pitying, pedantic and absurd.
“London has for many years past,” he began, “been subject to the sinister influence of a mob stirred up into spasmodic action by restless demagogues...It is to be deplored that successive Governments have not had the courage to make a stand...and have given way before tumultuous proceedings which have exercised a terrorism over peaceful and law-abiding citizens....The whole safety and security of London depends...upon the efficiency of the uniform police constable...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime , the next that of detection and punishment....criticism leveled at police…is based upon absolutely incorrect premises...If the people of London choose to create panics and false alarms, they must prepare themselves for some extra safeguards than the present number of police..."
The Daily News was not impressed. “Sir Charles Warren's splendid endowment of self satisfaction has never been so conspicuous” they said, “as...his article in the new number of Murray's Magazine... The inferential boasting is particularly striking...everyone and everything is wrong excepting Sir Charles Warren...His "poverty of originality" is shown...hundred letters on the Whitechapel murders have contained no more than four proposals...four more than occurred to the police.”
“The Star” had been gunning for Warren since the suppression of the protest in Trafalgar Square. Now, sensing their prey was wounded, they described Warren's article as “a comic interlude”, deciding “the problem is...reduced to very simple proportions....Are we going to stand for...our reactionary monomaniac in Scotland Yard?” They called his lecture, “Warrenism...The whole gospel of military despotism...of grapeshot and bludgeon...Sir Charles (above) seems to have some dim idea of isolating our criminal characters in a kind of burglars' retreat. Why not send him down to organize and manage it?”
It was the kind of stupid arrogant statement Charles Warren had made before – the self-satisfied arrogance typical of a “Gilded Age” upper crust Victorian ruling class bureaucrat But of course a Conservative Government was not going to fire Sir Warren because he was a fair representative of their base. They might, however, fire him if he was embarrassing the leadership – which he was.
On 8 November, Home Secretary Henry Matthews (above) sent Sir Charles a copy of a nine year old Home Office order that department chiefs were not to issue statements without first receiving his approval. Matthews ordered Sir Warren comply with that order in the future.
As expected Warren (above) wasted no time in refusing to take orders. That same day his reply arrived in Whitehall. "Sir....had I been told that such a circular was to be in force, I should not have accepted the post of Commissioner of Police. I have to point out that my duties...are governed by statute, and that the Secretary of State...has not the power...of issuing orders for the police force. This circular...would...enable every one anonymously to attack the police force without...permitting the Commissioner to correct false statements, which I have been in the habit of doing...for nearly three years past...I entirely decline to accept these instructions...and I have again to place my resignation in the hands of Her Majesty's Government."
Warren (above, left) was, of course, technically correct. His position was governed by law. But he served at the pleasure of the Home Secretary, who was now very displeased with his argumentative, arrogant jackass of a Police Commissioner. Sir Charles had threatened to resign too often. This time the Home Secretary had a replacement all lined up. Still, Henry Matthews waited until morning to send his reply. “In my judgment the claim ...to disregard the instructions of the Secretary of State is altogether inadmissible, and accordingly, I have only to accept your resignation.”
It was done. With that act, one of the primary sparks that ignited the Jack the Ripper case was dampened down. It would take a little while for the loss to be seen and felt because Sir Charles' resignation was accepted on the very morning that yet another victim would be found horribly mutilated in the very heart of Whitechapel.