Orsam Books

Denizens of Whitechapel

Were you aware that Sir Charles Warren thought that the Whitechapel murderer did NOT live in Whitechapel?

I'm guessing not.  The letter in which he said this is in a Home Office file which doesn't appear to have been reviewed by Ripperologists.

On 25 October 1888, Sir Charles wrote a five page letter to the Home Office in which the Commissioner concluded by saying:

'I do not think there is any reason whatever for supposing that the murderer of Whitechapel is one of the ordinary denizens of that place.'

The file in which this letter can be found is in the National Archives with reference HO 45/979B/B5239 which is a Home Office file relating to disorderly houses.  The letter was written by Sir Charles after a petition from the women of Whitechapel for stricter regulations regarding brothels was submitted to Queen Victoria by Henrietta Barnett of St Jude's Vicarage, Whitechapel, and the petition was forwarded to the Home Secretary who wrote to Sir Charles on 22 October 1888 for his views.

The reason I don't think that this letter of Sir Charles is well known is because I googled the above quote from his letter and only found one hit.  This came from the book by Paul Gainey and Stewart Evans, 'Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer' (1996 edition) but the result wasn't from Sir Charles Warren's letter.  Gainey and Evans had taken the quote from a document they found in MEPO 3/141 which they assumed was 'A study of reports from officers on the beat'.  They had, in fact, misunderstood what they were seeing.  It wasn't any form of 'study'.  It was actually a draft of Sir Charles Warren's letter of 25 October 1888.

By the time Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner came to publish 'The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook' in 2000 the authors had twigged that the 'study' was actually the text of a letter to the Home Office from the police, although they were evidently uncertain that Sir Charles Warren was the author of the letter because it is simply referred to as a 'police reply'.

But the actual letter in the Home Office file shows that it was signed by Warren:


While the statement that there was no reason to suppose that the murderer was one of the 'ordinary denizens' of Whitechapel is a little ambiguous in that it could have been a non-ordinary denizen of Whitechapel, it doesn't look like the Commissioner was saying this.  Consistent with his belief that 'a secret society' was possibly involved in the murders, Warren appears to have been saying that the murderer was NOT a local man but someone who had come into Whitechapel for the specific purpose of committing his awful crimes.

To the extent that this was the view of the Commissioner it is probably something that should be more widely known.


18 September 2021