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Outrage in the Nation
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Outrage in the Nation
“The ghoul-like creature who stalks through the streets of London… is simply drunk with blood, and he will have more.”
The Star newspaper, 8 September 1888

THE DOUBLE MURDER sent shockwaves round the country, and Whitechapel began to make headlines around the world. Despite the fact that the killings were confined to prostitutes in a small area, letters to the national press showed how afraid ordinary women elsewhere were.

At huge open-air meetings, irate speakers demanded the resignation of the police commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, and Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary. Incensed residents petitioned Queen Victoria for the government to offer a reward. Others urged her to seek the closure of the “bad houses” of the area “within whose walls such wickedness is done”. The queen clearly took a close personal interest in the murders, firing all telegrams to the government asking awkward questions and demanding action.

The month of September saw another significant development. Three letters arrived at the Central News Agency appearing to reveal an inside knowledge of the murders. One of them anticipated “a double event”. Sinister in tone, they began “Dear Boss” (referring to the head of the agency), and were signed with a nickname which no one had used before… Jack the Ripper.

The murder of MARY JNE KELLY in a ding room of Miller’s Court early on 9 November was the most horrific of all the Whitechapel murders. In arrears with the rent, Kelly had been drinking more heavily than usual the previous night. The landlord’s assistant, having knocked on her door mid-morning, was horrified to see through the window her barely recognizable body – the bloody work of a killer who had had time to act out his terrible fantasies.

Whether because of increased police and vigilant presence or through other factors, no Ripper type murders were committed during the winter, and the patrols were gradually withdrawn.

However, two further deaths in the 1889 and one in 1891 sparked fears that another spree was about to begin. On 17 July 1889 ALICE McKENZIE was found with her throat cut and minor wounds to the abdomen, and in early September that year a dismembered torso was found in Pinchin Street. In February 1891 another prostitute, FRANCES COLES, was found with her throat cut in the same way as previous murders, but no other mutilations.

Despite the nationwide clamour for results, the heavy police presence and huge detective effort (see page 10), the Ripper was never identified.

One positive outcome of the murders and the subsequent future was to make the nation aware that such sink areas as Whitechapel did exist, and that if such events were not to be repeated, something had to be done about the social conditions which had spawned them.

Outrage in the Nation

The landlord’s assistant makes a gruesome discovery. Mary Jane Kelly’s murder was particularly horrific.

Outrage in the Nation

A dismembered torso left near Whitechapel was at first thought to be the work of Jack the Ripper.

Outrage in the Nation

Spitafields, where Mary Jane Kelly was murdered. She frequented the Ten Bells pub (left), walking daily past Christ Church (right).

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