Liz Stride

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

36 BLOODHOUNDS

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This tale begins with a bark and ends with a bite. Bloodhounds have a sense of smell that enables them to follow trails up to two days old over difficult country. Their long noses are able to distinguish the scent of one individual from that of others.  The bark mentioned above appeared in the form of a letter to the Star newspaper.  The letter appeared on 8th September 1888, the day Ripper victim Annie Chapman was murdered.   The suggestion in the letter that bloodhounds could be used to help apprehend Jack the Ripper was not novel.  Bloodhounds have a sense of smell and so on.  In 1876 J H Ashforth of Nottingham had urged Lancashire Police to recruit bloodhounds. The dogs helped the police to convict murderer William Fish, so much for the rumour about cat food. The letter to the Star on 8th September alerted J H Ashforth. He raised his head, sniffed the air and wrote to the Commissioner Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren. The Commissioner replied to the letter but took no further action. The letter from Warren has been described as courteous. Warren had consulted the police doctor. The view of Dr Phillips was that the bloodhounds would trace the blood of the victim rather than the killer.

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The opinion of Dr Phillips did not settle the matter. The double slaying of Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes on 30th September 1888 prompted an editorial in The Times the next day.  Readers were reminded about the success of the Lancashire Police when they had used bloodhounds. This inspired Percy Lindley to write to the newspaper.   Lindley, who just happened to be a breeder of bloodhounds, suggested that a couple of trained dogs be kept at the Whitechapel Police Station.   Lindley was not a lone voice.   H M Mackusick boasted he had the largest kennel of bloodhounds in existence. Mackusick added empiricism to the argument. ‘Ten well-trained bloodhounds would be of more use than a hundred constables in ferreting out criminals who have left no trace beyond the fact of their presence beyond.’ Not everyone agreed with top of the world Mackusick. Up in Yorkshire there was a long-standing suspicion of fancy ideas that were peddled by city types down south. Edwin Brough was a bloodhound breeder from Wyndgate near Scarborough. He doubted that English dogs were sufficiently well trained to operate in the crowded streets of Whitechapel.

Without ever being enthusiastic, Sir Charles Warren asked the Home Secretary Henry Matthews to approve a £50 purchase of a bloodhound and an additional £100 maintenance allowance for subsequent years. This would allow puppies to be trained and mentored by the original £50 bloodhound. Matthews approved the £50 purchase but refused to authorise the £100 annual allowance. In the money of today £50 is equivalent to £20,000.  Henry Matthews is remembered for his timidity as Home Secretary and even today the Home Office is not regarded as an example of streamlined efficiency.

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Back in 1888 on 6th October no nonsense Yorkshire man Edwin Brough left the Yorkshire Moors and arrived in London.   Brough had two trusted companions. These were his bloodhounds Barnaby and Burgho.   Trials began in Regents Park two days later on 8th October.  Barnaby and Burgho were able to track for nearly a mile a man who had been given a fifteen minutes start.  In the evening there was a second trial at Hyde Park. The trials continued and were successful. There were six in total. The hounds were not quick, presumably because they were a bit sniffy, but Barnaby and Burgho were able to follow a scent and trace its owner.

But if there were a heaven, that place where good doggies go in the Elvis song Old Shep, someone would complain about the altitude. A less than principled journalist reported that the dogs had been lost on Tooting Common. This was not true. What happened was that on 18th October a sheep was killed on the Common and this incident inspired invention by journalists. The Press and its readers expected Barnaby and Burgho to be put to work.  Unfortunately, they were back up North with Edwin Brough and breathing fresh Yorkshire air.   Brough was not an enthusiast like top of the world Mackusick. His relationship with the Metropolitan Police soon became odorous. The Metropolitan Police were not quick in making payments to Brough for the use of his dogs, and Brough needed some brass to live on and perhaps buy more bloodhounds.  Burgho was versatile and had an alternative career.  He was put into a show in Brighton.

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In the spirit of compromise Barnaby had been lent to a friend of Brough that lived in London. When Barnaby was summoned to assist in catching a burglar, Brough was unimpressed. Policemen had walked all over the burgled premises and ruined the scent. The burglary had also been committed at five in the morning and some hours before Barnaby was recruited to help. Brough did not receive any payment from the police for the efforts of Barnaby. Nor was he given assurance about compensation if Barnaby were injured by a criminal.

Meanwhile Warren was making limited progress. Matthews somehow relented and gave approval for Warren to pay for Barnaby to be insured and to cover the cost of hiring a puppy that could be trained with the accomplished bloodhound from Yorkshire.  By then, though, Brough had said enough was enough. He was almost as sniffy as his bloodhounds. By the time the money was approved Barnaby and Brough were already home in Yorkshire, two disillusioned creatures bored with fighting crime and dealing with what they regarded as southern softies.

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In 1904 Edwin Brough became an author.   His book was titled The Bloodhound And It’s Use In Tracking Criminals. The pages are now dog-eared but this text remains valuable if controversial, something to chew on. ‘It is a very significant fact that at the time of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ outrages in the East End there were no murders committed during which Sir Charles Warren had arranged for a couple of Bloodhounds to be kept in London, but directly it was announced that the hounds had been sent back, another of this series of horrible murders was perpetrated.’

Aye, happen, as they say in Yorkshire. Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered on 30th  September, and Mary Jane Kelly was murdered on 8th November, forty days or not quite six weeks later.   Brough, though, did not arrive in London until 6th October.  Bloodhounds were not seen on the streets of Whitechapel.  Barnaby was used in one instance and his purpose was to detect crime. The dogs were not a deterrent. But dog lovers may take offence and believe that it was Barnaby that drove the Ripper indoors to kill Mary Jane Kelly. When the police arrived at the home of Kelly after her murder, they waited outside her home for two hours before breaking down the door. The reported reason is that the detectives were waiting for Barnaby to arrive and to somehow detect the scent amidst the heat and carnage that was inside the home of Mary Kelly. No one, it appears had told the detectives that Edwin, Burgho and Barnaby were already in Scarborough.

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The bite that ends the tale is this. The typical Ripper book is fattened with indexes that detail the various participants, victims and suspects. Reference is made to what happened to Brough, Barnaby and Burgho within the various accounts but their names are usually overlooked in an index. Brough was at least able to write a book and be remembered that way. Barnaby and Burgho were willing workers and compared to their colleagues in the Metropolitan Police the two bloodhounds had a special kind of integrity.   A mention in the index for Barnaby and Burgho is not too much to ask.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

 

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

29 THE TORSO MURDERS

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Most men make mistakes in their pursuit of love and female companionship. The majority survive but some need serious help. On the 2nd of October 1888 The Times contained a report about the female torso that was discovered in the foundations of Scotland Yard the day before. The body was decomposed, infested with maggots and missing a head, arms and legs. The Times correspondent admitted that it was a ‘horrible spectacle’ but he somehow decided that the victim was a ‘remarkably fine young woman’. We are obliged to wonder where that particular journalist found love and companionship.

In 1882, 554 corpses were recovered from the River Thames. 227 of these were given open verdicts by the coroners because no one was sure just what had happened. In 1887 there were 18,004 persons reported as missing. London had plenty of private detectives and they, the police and others located about half. Those located were returned to family and friends and/or the people the missing had walked away from.  Apart from the 85 suicides half of the 18,004 disappeared into the crowds of London.

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Thankfully the victims that were killed, decapitated or dismembered were fewer. Most of them were women but not all. In 1857 a carpetbag full of male body parts was found somewhere around where beautiful Vivian Leigh met handsome Robert Taylor in the classic weepie movie Waterloo Bridge.   The owners of the carpetbag and the male body parts were not identified.   Even more gruesome was the discovery of a headless woman in September 1873.   Parts of the body were scattered across Battersea, Nine Elms and Woolwich but an additional frisson of horror was provided by the face and scalp that were washed up on the shore at Limehouse.

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Almost twelve months later in June 1874 a headless body with no arms and just one leg was recovered from the riverbank at Putney. In 1879 a box washed up against the shore at Barnes. The box contained the torso and legs of Julia Martha Thomas. Her skull was subsequently discovered in Richmond in 2010.   Well before that in 1836 the head of Hannah Brown was found at the Regent’s Canal near Edgeware Road. In 1884 the unidentified head of a woman was found in a mews near Tottenham Court Road.

There are four more abandoned torsos and, because their discoveries occurred in a period that ranged from May 1887 to September 1889, they may or may not have connections with Jack the Ripper. Carpenter Frederick August Wildbore discovered the torso that was left in the foundations of Scotland Yard. The discovery happened the day after Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered. The victim had been murdered some time before the torso was found. The torso had decomposed and was wrapped in a newspaper dated the 24th of August although that does not necessarily date the death of the victim.   Maggots cannot talk and they are invariably reluctant to be witnesses but in this instance they existed as important evidence. Dr Bond examined what was left of the body and concluded that the torso belonged to a 20 years old Caucasian woman, which may or may not have been a relief to the correspondent from The Times.

Whoever left the torso at Scotland Yard it took effort and a physical struggle. The Metropolitan Police Headquarters at Scotland Yard was in the process of being built, and the site was surrounded by a wall eight feet high. The embarrassment to the police caused by an abandoned torso in their new, essential and modern headquarters would be described by modern day football fans as serious banter. They All Love Jack author Bruce Robinson insists that the corpse was left by Jack the Ripper. Four days after Frederick August Wildbore stumbled over what he thought might be a slab of bacon a letter was sent to the Central News Agency by someone who signed himself as Jack the Ripper. The letter writer insisted he was not responsible for the torso left at Scotland Yard. Robinson thinks the letter was a fake prepared by someone in the Metropolitan Police to prevent the Ripper scandal being given a fresh and embarrassing dimension by the Press.   The timing of the Ripper murders and the discovery of the torso feel like more than a coincidence but not everyone will be as convinced as Robinson that the letter was a fake.   But its delivery to the Central News Agency, rather than the police or a newspaper, and it being sent so soon after the discovery of the torso justifies Bruce Robinson at least having doubts about the claims of the police.

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Less controversial but still chronologically relevant was the torso that was witnessed floating in the Thames near Rainham. The head, arms, upper chest and legs were missing. The sighting happened on the 11th of May 1887. In the next two months, 11 separate body parts were found along the Thames around Temple and Battersea and also in the Regents Park Canal. The head was not recovered.   The victim was a Caucasian woman aged between 25 and 40 years old.

In June 1889, and ten months after Mary Jane Kelly the last of the ‘canonical five’ victims was murdered, a female torso was found at Horsleydown in Southwark.   The torso was wrapped in an apron.   Body parts were found along the river at Battersea, Nine Elms and Limehouse.  Again the head was not recovered but the victim was identified.   The name of the victim was Elizabeth Jackson. She was a prostitute who lived in Chelsea. Elizabeth was eight months pregnant when she was murdered. If the torso crimes had a common murderer then there were many missing heads or mementoes, something to kiss at night before a twisted killer went to bed.   As in the disposal of the body at Scotland Yard, there was a hint of sly macabre humour. The right thigh of Elizabeth Jackson was left in the garden of a house in Chelsea Square that had belonged to Percy Shelley.   The thigh may have been a reference or even a tribute to the novel ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. A thigh in the garden would have been one less limb for the famous crazed scientist to worry about.

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Before the summer of 1889 had disappeared there was another appearance by a torso. This time the discovery was made by a policeman.   On the 10th of September 1889, Police Constable Bennett was walking his beat in Pinchin Street. Under a railway arch the policeman found a female torso wrapped in a piece of old chemise. The head and legs were missing. As with the body found in the foundations at Scotland Yard, the body was decomposing. The smell of putrid flesh had made PC Bennett curious. He has to be given some credit for persisting. The hands of the victim did not indicate that they had been used for manual labour.   Although the identification was never confirmed a news agency speculated that the victim was Lydia Hart a local prostitute. Hart had disappeared a few days before the torso was discovered.   The abdomen was mutilated, and comparisons were made with the injuries suffered by the Ripper victims.   A journalist claimed that the womb of the victim was missing. James Monro was Commissioner Metropolitan Police in 1889. In a police report he observed that the estimated date of the murder of Lydia Hart was the 8th of September, which coincided with the anniversary of the murder of Ripper victim Annie Chapman.

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Anyone who denies the possibility that the four torsos discovered between 1887 and 1889 belonged to victims of Jack the Ripper has to accept the premise that in those years there would have been two savage serial killers operating in London.  Nine female torsos were discovered in the years between 1873 and 1889, and four of them were decapitated and dismembered in the two years the Ripper was operating. The coincidence is sinister.   Afforded for his murder of Mary Jane Kelly the discrete comfort of a living room in Miller’s Court the Ripper was far from satisfied with mere disembowelling.   He was more than capable of altering his methods to suit circumstances.   The truth is that none of it adds up. Throwing bodies over walls eight feet high amounts to something more than a prank. The torsos may have been a consequence of ad hoc crimes by violent men and criminals, and the decapitations were nothing more than an overcomplicated attempt to destroy evidence. It is the admittedly small peak in numbers around the activities of the Ripper that should make anyone curious as to what happened. The possibilities are not exclusive. Not just the Ripper but also others may have left torsos behind. If only we knew what happened. There have been plenty of suggestions but the proposals defer rather than encourage decisions.   Some mysteries deserve to be accepted for what they are, events without explanation and as strange as the remark from the correspondent from The Times who imagined a ‘remarkably fine young woman’ amongst the maggots.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackso02n and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.