Why did the police in 1888 never catch Jack the Ripper

Published: 2021-07-08 11:00:05
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In the autumn of 1888, an air of mystery and terror cloaked and surrounded the city of London. An unidentified murderer who had given himself the name Jack the Ripper was loose on the streets of the east end, killing and mutilating innocent women whilst the police seemed helpless, unable to catch the killer. But why was Jack the Ripper never caught? In this essay I will investigate the reasons why the infamous murderer was never caught, including how the press interfered, how the area itself prevented the police from finding out who Jack the Ripper was and argue that the main cause was the police themselves.
Interference from the press is one example of how the police’s investigation was hindered, the Whitechapel murderers caused a massive amount of press coverage across the country, the police soon became suspicious and wary due to the idea of the articles alerting suspects of their lines of inquiry. Journalists would even go so far as to follow detectives, hoping for information to be revealed. Furthermore, they would make up false leads and suspects and publish them which would prevent the investigation from moving forward.
As well is this, there is a theory that the famous ‘Dear Boss’ letter, said to be written by Jack the Ripper himself, was actually a hoax written by the press to generate more interest in the story. This would most definitely obstruct the police’s investigation and therefore would prevent Jack the Ripper from being caught. The press would have helped Jack the Ripper indirectly, with every new lead they published and suspect they claimed to be the murderer, the true Jack the Ripper’s identity would get further and further away from the police’s grasp.
If the letter was genuine, there is evidence within the letter to suggest that Jack the Ripper was not actually a doctor, a lead which the police looked into thoroughly “I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I can’t use it. ” Meaning the murderer did not even know about blood coagulation, this meant that the police may have wasted a lot of their time on a false lead. Not only did the press hinder the police investigation, but the actual area
in which the murders took place could help Jack the Ripper get away from the police. Whitechapel at the time was practically a maze, especially at night; twists and turns with dark alleys, making escape from murder scenes much easier, Whitechapel wasn’t just hard to navigate through- the only source of light would be the occasional flickering lamp. Combine this with a dense fog and it would have been practically impossible, not just to catch Jack the Ripper at the scene of the crime, but to actually see him.
“The sights and signs are an apocalypse of evil” This line was written by a reporter working for the Weekly Herald who visited Whitechapel at the time of the murders, he also described Whitechapel as “a network of narrow, dark, and crooked lanes, every one apparently containing some headquarters of infamy”. These quotes offer a view of Whitechapel that can help you to understand how Jack the Ripper could escape from crime scenes so easily as well as move around the area without being detected by the police.
Furthermore, it would have been very difficult to get around the area quickly when there was a murder, there were no tram lines so they would have to get there by foot, this lessened the chance of them catching Jack the Ripper at the scene of the murder or where there had been sightings. The methods that Jack the Ripper used to kill his victims can also be seen as a reason to why he was never caught. His victims themselves seem to be completely random and opportunistic; this would have made sure that his next victim would remain a mystery.
Jack the Ripper evidently knew what he was doing, this is shown in the way he cut their throats, in such a direction that the blood would not go onto his clothing, another reason why it looks as if Jack the Ripper had medical knowledge was because of how he removed his victim’s organs. There was no evidence that could be traced back to the murderer and there seemed to be no motive other than killing prostitutes, this meant that the victims would not be linked in any way to Jack the Ripper. With every victim Jack the Ripper killed, the violence escalated.
What started with a simple cut across their throat ended with an extremely gruesome murder in which Mary Jane Kelly’s body was mutilated completely. This was the last canonical Ripper murder. One significant issue that contributed to the police’s inability to catch Jack the Ripper was the vast amount of witnesses providing contradictory details on suspects, on top of the actual amount of suspects themselves. According to casebook. org, over five hundred people have been seen as suspects by numerous theorists , despite the lack of evidence backing up the majority of them.
Witnesses of the Whitechapel murders who claim to have seen Jack the Ripper gave such a diverse range of possibilities that it was impossible to create a single suspect profile. In addition to this, Jack the Ripper theorist, Nicole Ward, suggests that “The majority of the population of Whitechapel had issues with alcohol”, inferring that the witnesses were often unreliable, and therefore the few statements that have been obtainable are not necessarily accurate in their description. This hamper the police’s ability to catch Jack the Ripper .
Throughout the police force in 1888 there was a lack of experience of this kind of killer. Even now, although the police have much better technology, serial killers can still be extremely hard to be caught, this is because of their motives, Jack the Ripper has been labelled by many experts as a hedonistic type of serial killer, meaning a serial killer who seeks thrill and who gets pleasure from killing. This means that they would not be able to predict who Jack the Ripper would target next because it is very unlikely he even knew his victims beforehand.
In addition to this, there were not very many detectives that had been trained to carry out investigations on such a large scale, they needed to question thousands of witnesses and suspects, many of which were lying. Add this factor to how many leads the police had to follow and you can see how much work the police would have had to do. Also, the attitude towards the police from the public themselves was not a positive one. At the time, the police used force against those in Whitechapel so the majority of the residents were against the police and therefore were unhelpful.
Another reason as to why the public did not cooperate as well as they could have was because of the lack of reward for information, you can understand why the police did this as they would not want to receive false information that would waste their time. Thus they relied on the public to provide information because they wanted to help them and not just so they would get a reward. Unfortunately, in 1888, the most advanced part of forensic science was analysing footprints which were situated at the scene of the crime.
There was no blood or DNA analysis which definitely would have been significant with regards to one of the only physical pieces of evidence-the leather apron; this is a drastic difference to nowadays where it is possible to identify someone by a strand of hair. In addition to this, a large amount of the original evidence has been lost over the years despite the fact there wasn’t that much evidence to begin with, as Jack the Ripper left little evidence of his crimes. At the time, for the police to catch the criminal, they had to catch them in the act of doing a crime, get them to confess or have an accomplice report them.
None of these things happened in this case, so because of how basic the police’s methods were, with very little technology to help them, it meant that they were very unlikely to catch Jack the Ripper in the first place, especially since it is very unlikely Jack the Ripper had an accomplice. Not only is the lack of forensic evidence a reason why the police were not able to catch Jack the Ripper but the police’s actual methods can also be blamed. The police’s lines of questioning were very narrow, only asking those who lived in the immediate area and excluding the fact that many residents of Whitechapel moved around and out of the area.
They also only questioned certain groups of people because of the idea that the murderer must have medical or anatomical knowledge to murder the way in which they did. “No mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out this operation. It must have been from someone accustomed to the post-mortem room. ” This quote from a coroner which talked to the Pall Mall Gazette about the Whitechapel murders was published on the 27th September 1888, it was a statement the police did not take into account and this was probably not the only statement they ignored.
If they had paid attention to some of the witnesses it could have saved them a lot of time and might have helped them catch Jack the Ripper. In conclusion, there are many reasons as to why Jack the Ripper was never caught. One of these would be the press and how they interfered with the case. Another example would be how the area of Whitechapel assisted Jack the Ripper with his murders. What’s more, witness statements completely disagreed with each other and therefore prevented an accurate suspect profile from being created. There was a large quantity of people suspected to be Jack the Ripper.
Additionally, the public’s negative attitude towards the police meant they would not be cooperative. Lack of technology, DNA and forensic analysis also hindered the investigation and meant they would only be able to catch Jack the Ripper if they caught him at the scene or he confessed. Individually each of these reasons can be seen as a case as to why the police never caught Jack the Ripper however it is only by looking at all of the reasons that we can get the bigger picture. The strongest argument why Jack the Ripper was never caught is the police’s methods and how they went about the case.

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