فصل 07

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فصل 07

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CHAPTER SEVEN

PANIC!

In our violent times it is difficult to imagine the shock and horror that the Whitechapel murders caused in 1888. In Victorian times the East End was also violent, but the Ripper murders were something new. Murder was usually the result of domestic quarrels, drink, or robbery. The Ripper murders were the first of a new kind of crime: serial killings, savage, without an obvious motive, no clues, and very difficult to solve.

The fury of the Ripper’s way of killing puzzled the doctors, the police, the public and the press. To them he was a lunatic. On August 7th, before the Buck’s Row murder, a woman called Martha Tabram was killed and then stabbed ferociously with a knife 39 times. This was so unusual that some writers today believe it was a Ripper murder. At the time the newspapers called it ‘unique and mysterious’ and the work of a homicidal maniac.

After the Polly Nichols murder, sensational reports in the newspapers increased the public’s fear and horror. Women became very nervous. People discussed it in the streets and large crowds visited Buck’s Row on September 4th. There were stories of a mysterious man known as ‘Leather Apron’, who demanded money from prostitutes and beat them if they resisted. When the police found a leather apron at the scene of the Hanbury Street murder, they hunted a man called John Pizer, a Polish boot-maker who always wore a leather apron for his work. They found him hiding with his family and arrested him on September 10th. But he had a very good alibi, which proved his innocence.

After the Hanbury Street murder people waited in queues outside newsagents. The Star reported the crime in very sensational language: the killer was ‘half beast, half man’, a ‘demon’, or ‘vampire’. When Mrs Mary Burridge of south London read about the murder, she collapsed and died of fright. The East End community fell into panic and hysteria. On September 8th thousands of frightened people were out in the streets. Large angry crowds gathered in Hanbury Street and at the local police stations. They attacked anybody who looked suspicious. A young criminal called Squibby, for example, was in Hanbury Street, when a detective saw him in the crowd and chased him. The crowd followed shouting, ‘Catch him!’ Squibby was terrified and finally surrendered to the police for his own protection.

The anger of the crowd also turned against Jews, who were threatened and abused. Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes were murdered near Jewish clubs, and the police were very nervous about the possibility of anti-Jewish disturbances. The message in chalk that blamed the Jews was written on the wall of a building in a Jewish area. But it is certain that the Ripper was not Jewish, and Samuel Montague, an important Jewish citizen and MP, offered a reward of 100 pounds for the arrest of the murderer. Also, some Jewish tradesmen organised a vigilance committee to help the police and offered a reward.

At night, anger changed to terror. Shops closed early; people rushed home and locked their doors. Some prostitutes left Whitechapel. Panic spread all over London. When a man called Brennan began to shout about the murders in a pub in Camberwell, the customers ran out into the street and Brennan was soon arrested. But in Whitechapel the pubs were empty, and there were only policemen and vagabonds in the dark streets. Calm began to return only after a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the newspapers continued to report sensational stories and rumours. But they could not print details of the killer’s mutilations, which the doctor did not reveal. Although the details of Annie Chapman’s murder were given on September 19th, they were not reported for reasons of decency. However, two days before, somebody sent a letter to the police, which was never published. It began ‘Dear Boss’ and there was a postscript which included the sentence ‘What a pretty necklace I gave her’. The writer was probably talking about the injury to Annie’s throat, but only the police, the doctors and the killer knew the details of Annie’s murder. The letter was signed ‘Catch me if you can. Jack the Ripper’. It was very probably from the murderer. A second letter of September 27th was signed ‘Yours truly, Jack the Ripper’. This was published on October 1st, the day that the world finally had a name for the Whitechapel killer.

After the double murder of September 30th the panic got worse. By 11 o’clock that morning, one reporter wrote, it seemed that the whole of the East End was ‘out of doors’. Thousands of people went to Berner Street and Mitre Square. Many of them paid to look at the murder scenes from windows. Sellers of fruit, sweets and nuts did a fabulous trade. But on October 3rd shopkeepers complained that they were losing a lot of business because people were afraid to go out shopping.

During the following weeks sales of newspapers, and verses and songs about the murders were enormous. Women lived in terror. Some hoaxers pretended to be the Ripper and followed women to scare them. On October 10th a woman hanged herself at 65 Hanbury Street because she was depressed about the murders. Thousands of letters offering information and help were sent to Scotland Yard. Inspector Abbeline and his colleagues had to read all of them. Abbeline himself walked around the Whitechapel Streets until four or five in the morning. He worked very hard and nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Hundreds of extra police patrolled the area, some dressed as women. Lodgers, butchers, and slaughterers were questioned. On October 13th the police began to search every house in a certain radius of the crimes. The search ended on the 18th, and the police admitted they had not found the smallest clue. But it is very possible that they interviewed Jack the Ripper.

Years later Detective Walter Dew wrote in his memoirs about the killer’s ‘amazing elusiveness’. Jack the Ripper is still as elusive today as he was in 1888.

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