JACK THE RIPPER'S CLUE
THE JUWES WILL NOT BE BLAMED
A short walk away from Mitre Square is Goulston Street. On either side of the road are to sturdy blocks of flats that date back to 1886 when they were built as Wentworth Model Dwellings.
The ground floors of both blocks are occupied by shops, one of which is now the Happy Days Fish and Chip Shop. It was in the doorway that now forms the entrance to the take away counter of the Fish and Chip shop that Jack the Ripper's only clue was discovered.
At around 2.55 am on the 30th September 1888 Police Constable Alfred was passing this doorway, which then led to the staircases of 108 to 119 Wentworth Model Dwellings, when he found the missing portion of the Catherine Eddowes apron.
The fragment was stained with blood and faeces, one section of it was wet and the blade of a knife had apparently been wiped on it. Long had earlier passed the doorway at around 2.20am, and was sure that the fragment had not been there then.
The piece of bloodstained apron offers certain clues about the killer's behaviour in the wake of the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.
Firstly it provides us with a geographic clue as it tells us which direction he was heading in when he hurried out of Mitre Square after the killing of Catherine Eddowes.
Having murdered twice in less than an hour, he would have been aware that the area was rapidly filling with police officers who were determined to track him down. It would have been to risky for him to have stayed on the streets much longer so he must have been going to ground and heading home. The positioning of the apron in a doorway to the east of Mitre Square means headed in that direction and, therefore, suggests that he lived in the area.
The apron also answers a fundamental question about the killer’s appearance as he fled the scenes of his outrages. It is commonly believed that, having committed such gruesome murders, the killer must have been drenched in blood. The evidence, however, suggests that Jack the Ripper asphyxiated his victims before he commenced his mutilations, so by the time he cut their throats, their hearts had all but stopped beating and so you wouldn’t get the arterial spurt that would have covered him in blood when he cut the carotid artery .
It is also worth remembering that his victims were all prostitutes and that when they went with him into the dark corners of squares and passageways they were only doing so for one reason. Suppose when he met them he was wearing a heavy buttoned up overcoat? They wouldn’t be in the least bit suspicious if he were to unbutton the coat, or even if he took it off altogether. In fact they’d probably have been more suspicious if he didn’t remove his coat. He could, therefore, have got blood all over his shirt, jacket and trousers but by putting the coat back on once he had murdered and mutilated his victims he would have covered the bloodstains, which would then have remained hidden until he got home and was able to clean himself up at his leisure.
Personally I believe he was heading back into the East End from Mitre Square, with the apron, his hands and the knife in his pockets. To have stood still in the streets and proceeded to wipe away the bloodstains may have attracted attention. But a recessed doorway on Goulston Street provided sufficient cover for him to do so quickly and safely, and once clear of any visible incriminating signs he simply dropped the apron in the doorway and continued on his way.
Long’s first thought on discovering the portion of apron was that someone may have been attacked and could at that very moment be lying injured or dead on a staircase or landing inside the dwellings.
So he stood up intending to search the block and, as he did so, he noticed a scrawled chalk message on the wall directly above the apron which read ‘The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing.’ It should be noted that different police officers later recalled slightly different versions of the graffito.
Moments later another officer arrived at the scene, and Long asked him to guard the building - telling him to keep a careful watch on anybody entering or leaving it – whilst he took the portion of apron round to Commercial Street Police Station and handed over to an inspector.
Soon officers of the Metropolitan Police were gathering around the doorway and were gazing at the graffito with feelings of great trepidation.
Mindful of the strong feelings of anti Semitism that had surfaced in the area in the wake of the Leather Apron scare, and realizing that Wentworth Model Dwellings not only stood in a largely Jewish locality but was also inhabited almost exclusively by Jews, the Metropolitan Police began to fear that if the message was left it could lead to a resurgence of racial unrest in the district and the consequences could be dire. They were therefore anxious to erase the message, and sooner rather than later.
But both the portion of apron and the graffito pertained to a murder investigation being carried out by the City Police force, detectives from which had soon crossed the boundary and were also gathering around the doorway. They were not so keen to erase what they saw as an important clue in their investigation and the two forces clashed over what should be done about the graffito.
The City Police were adamant that it should be photographed. The Metropolitan Police pointed out that that would mean waiting until it was light, by which time gentile purchasers would be arriving in their thousands to purchase from the Jewish stallholders at Petticoat Lane and Goulston Street Sunday markets.
Since there was no way of keeping it hidden from these crowds the Metropolitan Police were convinced the result might be a full scale riot against the Jews.
Inspector Daniel Halse of the City Police suggested a compromise whereby only the top line, “The Juwes are,” would be erased. But, as Superintendent Arnold of the Metropolitan Police later pointed out in a report, “Had only a portion of the writing been removed the context would have remained.”
The bickering was still going on when Sir Charles Warren arrived at the scene between 5 and 5.30am. Since the doorway stood on Metropolitan Police territory, his word was final, and he immediately concurred with his officers that leaving the graffito any longer would lead to far greater crimes against innocent Jews. So he ordered that the message be erased without delay, and before any photograph of it could be taken.
It would prove the most controversial order he gave in the entire investigation and Major Smith, the acting City Police Commissioner considered it a huge blunder and could barely disguise his contempt for Warren’s actions in the days and weeks that followed.
On the 6th November, in a report to the Home office, Warren defended his action:-
“…it was just getting light, the public would be in the streets in a few minutes, in a neighbourhood very much crowded by Jewish vendors and Christian Purchasers from all parts of London…The writing was on the jamb of the open archway or doorway visible to anybody in the street and could not be covered up without danger of the covering been torn off at once. A discussion took place whether the writing could be left covered up or otherwise… for an hour until it could be photographed; but after taking into consideration the excited state of the population in London…the strong feeling which had been excited against the Jews, and the fact that in a short time there would be a large concourse of the people in the streets, and having before me a report that if it was left there the house was likely to be wrecked (in which from my own observation I entirely concurred) I considered it desirable to obliterate the writing at once… I do not hesitate to say that if the writing had been left there would have been an onslaught upon the Jews, property would have been wrecked, and lives would probably have been lost…”