The first event on the night of September the 30th was the death of Elizabeth Stride. Her throat was cut but there were no other injuries as the murderer was interrupted. But it did not stop the Ripper and later that night Catherine Eddowes was murdered brutally. Her throat had been cut and there had been deep cuts on her face. She was disembowelled and some of her organs, such as the uterus and her left kidney were missing.
As the Double Event occurred, the media started to use bigger font types for their headlines and larger, detailed illustrations to attract more readers. Since some letters had arrived to the Scotland Yard and to the Central News Agency, one of them signed as ‘Jack the Ripper’ (the ‘Dear Boss’ letter) the media quickly picked up the nickname which later turned out to be the most known – and unknown – culprit in the history of crime.
The Times avoided to blame the police, focused only on details in its lengthy editorial comment.
Next day the Times and the Star mentioned the ‘Jack the Ripper’ letter, the Morning Post even published it but the word ‘whores’ was carefully left out.
The Globe described the first victim’s clothing and throat cut and mentioned that there had been ‘other indescribable mutilations’. The Evening News stepped ahead slightly further by publishing the fact that ‘the clothes had been raised up to the chest’.
The Star also gave the events its front page with the usual sensation horror headlines emphasizing how short the time was the murderer needed to commit these brutal attacks. The Star’s reporter also quoted the constable’s statement which described the victim’s clothing as ‘thrown up breast-high.’
In its next issue the Star demanded not moral, but political ‘crusades’ from the West End, the rich of the society:
On the face of it, the Whitechapel murder and a revision of our system of taxation seem wide enough apart […] We come round, then, to our old friend, the ground landlord, to our old problem that landlordism is the enemy, to our old moral, that the proper basis of taxation is the land values of which the ‘masses’ are deprived, and which the ‘classes’ absorb.
It is clear that the Star wanted radical changes in the unfair taxation system and they found these murders to be useful to highlight the problems and terrible social conditions of the poor of the East End. The Daily Telegraph tried to bring the government leader, namely the Home Secretary Matthews, on ‘his knees’, by holding him responsible and calling him ‘the helpless, heedless, useless figure’ in his office.
The Pall Mall Gazette collected ridiculous suggestions from the morning papers and published them only to mock the conservative mainstream media. An excellent example for their cutting remarks: ‘Policemen as women – That policemen should disguise themselves as women, and act as decoys. The policemen say they have beards and bass voices.’ Or:
Everyone to report to the police before going to bed – Another idea is to draw a line round the area of the murders, constitute a number of temporary police-stations, and make every man living in the area report himself before going to bed.
As the number of the murders increased, the news regarding them spread much quicker. An Edinburgh magazine, the Scotsman compared the situation of the East Londoners to (East) Indians, who had to confront a man-eating tiger. The New York Times started to cover the Ripper news on a daily basis. They backed the theory of a ‘savage’ Malay by publishing the following lines in their October 6th issue:
The police place confidence in the story of George M. Dodge, a seaman, who states that in August last he met a Malay cook named Alaska, with whom he had previously been acquainted on shipboard, in a music hall in London, and that Alaska told him he had been robbed of all he had by a woman of the town, and threatened that unless he found the woman and recovered his property, he would kill and mutilate every Whitechapel woman he met. The police are searching everywhere for the Malay.
As the press, both local and mainstream had plenty of material to dwell on, the reports started to be more and more detailed. The inquests gave them more opportunity to describe the wounds and mutilations and the People and the Lloyd’s published several columns focusing on the victims’ clothing, injuries, habits and lifestyles, but none of them mentioned Dr. Gordon Brown’s inquest testimony about the missing wombs.
Although the sensation-horror news replaced even the conservative newspapers’ law and order reporting, one of the Sunday papers, the Weekly Times stepped over the discretion boundary by quoting Brown’s words: ‘Nor was there any evidence of recent intercourse’. (Doing a search in the Press Archive only 17 matches come up with the word ’intercourse’ – most of them in a non-sexual context.) Furthermore, the author implied that at least some kind of medical knowledge was necessary to carry out these outrageous murders.
The Star published Rev. Samuel Barnett’s article in their October 5th issue. Under the title ‘The Moral of the Murder’ the reverend stated that it was irresponsible to accuse only the rich because of the terrible East End conditions. He accused the working-class men who abused their wives, the neighbours who did not know each other at all and pointed at the lack of public spirit. Giving space to this article is in contradiction with the Star’s earlier attitude towards good intentioned but inefficient ‘moral crusades’.
Press on the Eddowes Inquest
Since the murderer had been interrupted while committing his act, the injuries of Elizabeth Stride were not the type they did not want to reveal. Most newspapers dealt with the only mutilation she had: the throat cut.
The body of Catherine Eddowes was mutilated horribly. Although evidence came out that the left kidney and the uterus was missing, the Star was too quick and careless to announce that no body parts were missing:
And, first, let us examine the facts, and the light they throw on any previous theories…There is no suggestion of surgical neatness, or of the removal of any organ, about the Mitre-square murder. It is a ghastly butchery – done with insane ruthlessness and violence.
But as the description of the injuries arrived at the pelvic area, the precise and descriptive style of language of the report suddenly becomes vague and elusive.
Even the Times published some details of gore about the facial and stomach injuries on the 5th of October but refused to go further in details. They reported the missing kidney, adding that ‘the greater part of the organ similar to that’ from Chapman was absent as well – an obviously elusive reference to the uterus.
The representative Times articles on both inquests were limited in their manner dealing with the descriptions of the mutilations. Despite the occurrence of several inquests and their well-detailed official transcripts, the press filtered out some obvious clinical details on the victim’s injuries. The pelvic organs, the ovaries, the uterus and some appendages were precisely removed. Not publishing these details cannot be explained by The Times’ conservative attitude, since they were very detailed and explicit in describing the wounds of the upper bodies. Another explanation must be considered, namely the prudery of conservative Victorian Press and their attitude towards prostitutes. Dr. Brown’s testimony raised another dilemma for the editors. By stating that he did not find any signs of ‘recent connexion’ the profession of the victim became obvious even for the prude. The elision of this statement by most of the newspapers clearly indicates the editors’ concerns about publishing sexual matters.
Lloyds’s revealed the fact about the missing kidney and womb as most of the evening sensation newspapers started to reveal the same. The Evening News even had subheadings such as ‘Certain organs completely cut out’ or ‘the doctor’s evidence – A startling blood-curling story’. The Daily Chronicle’s article repeated four times that the womb was missing.
But the respectable morning papers still refused to go into further details about the extent of pelvic mutilations. Neither The Times, nor the Morning Post or Daily Chronicle named the missing organs.
Clearly, the penny press started to realize that the increase of their circulation lied behind the words they did not want to publish before.