Another member of the police force that tackled the Ripper case in 1888 was Robert Anderson. In a two-part series, we will be taking a look at his early years, as well as what followed when he became involved in the investigation.
Dr Robert (later Sir) Anderson was born in 1841 to a solicitor in Dublin and later went on to be Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police CID at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. He was appointed at the time of the first canonical Ripper killing – that of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols) and stands as a modern-day Ripper suspect/co-conspirator. He was also a firm believer that the second coming of Christ was imminent.
After a private education in Ireland and on the continent (including Paris and Boulogne), Anderson began his livelihood, working for a brewer, before entering Trinity College Dublin and being called to the bar at King’s Inn, Dublin and the Irish Bar. He made his name in preparing cases against several high profile Fenians (Irish nationalist terrorists), along with his two brothers in 1865.
Two years later, he came to London to serve as deputy head of an anti-Fenian intelligence branch, which was short-lived. He was, however, retained by the Home Office as an advisor on Political Crimes and a spymaster. While in London, he was called to the London bar in 1870. He continued his covert work during the 1870s and early 1880s, including being made Home Office liaison with the newly formed Irish Bureau at Scotland Yard in 1883.
However, due to various political machinations, mainly caused by Edward Jenkinson (the Private Secretary to the Liberal Viceroy, Lord Spencer, who told the Home Secretary Anderson was a ‘second-class detective), Anderson was looked over for promotion and cut out from the chain of information.
This resulted in him receiving a downgrading of status (and salary) with an appointment as secretary to the Prison Commissioners. Despite this though, Anderson’s early spy, Thomas Beach, would refuse to report to anyone else, believing Anderson to be the only one with the discretion to maintain his safety.
This would all change when Anderson’s political enemy, Jenkinson, was dismissed at the start of 1887 and James Monro (Assistant Commissioner CID) amalgamated Jenkinson’s duties with the Special Irish Department at Scotland Yard. Anderson was appointed as Home Office assistant in secret work at this time.
When Munro resigned his post (thanks to arguments with Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren), Anderson was appointed his replacement on 1st September 1888. However, he was suffering from acute stress due to workload and had been prescribed sick leave to recuperate.
Sir Charles Warren agreed to this on 28th August, but as he was on leave himself, Anderson would need to wait until his return on 7th September.
On the day of the murder of Annie Chapman, Anderson departed, heading for Switzerland on 8th September. Following criticism from the press and pressure from the public and government, he was recalled to London after the “Double Event” on 30th September. At this point, Anderson was made head of the investigation and he writes in his memoirs “The Lighter Side of My Official Life” that the day of his return, he spent the day reviewing facts and evidence, only to be followed by a meeting with Sir Charles Warren and the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews.
So, now you know a little more about Robert Anderson’s early years, why not join us on one of our Jack the Ripper walks and see if you can put the puzzle together on who you think the Ripper was!