The Whitechapel murders were investigated by two police forces: the Metropolitan police and the City of London police. Although many police officers were involved in the investigation several main players are mentioned throughout the Autumn of terror . In addition several private detectives and vigilance groups would devote their energies to bringing Jack the Ripper to justice.
Sir Charles Warren
The Metropolitan police commissioner was Sir Charles Warren who at the time of his appointment seemed to be the perfect man for the job. By 1888, however, his reputation had taken a downward plunge due largely to his disastrous handling of the Bloody Sunday riots when on 13th November 1887 he used heavy handed soldiers and baton wielding police officers to break up a socialist demonstration in Trafalgar square. From that day onward the radical press would hound Warren, especially over his inability to catch the Whitechapel murderer. This would continue until his resignation in November 1888.
Dr Robert Anderson
Dr Robert Anderson, a Dublin born lawyer was appointed assistant commissioner on 31st August 1888, the same day as the murder of Polly Nichols. He came to the post suffering from stress and exhaustion and within a week of taking his new role was off on a recuperating break to Switzerland. He would return after the double event on 30th September 1888 to take personal charge of the investigation. Years later he would write his memoirs stating the killer had been identified.
Chief Inspector Donald Swanson took over the Ripper investigation in Anderson’s absence and every report, document and statement passed through his hands. This gave him an unrivaled knowledge of the Jack the Ripper murders. He would continue the investigation up until Robert Anderson returned at the end of September 1888. He would later name Kosminski as a prime suspect.
Abberline was 45 years old in 1888. He was a portly, balding officer with a thick moustache and bushy side whiskers. He had already spent fourteen years as a detective with the local police force, H division, and had gained an unrivaled knowledge of the area’s streets and criminals.
In early 1888 he was transferred to Scotland Yard. He had barely settled in to his new position when it was decided that his knowledge of the East End villains was just what was needed in the hunt for the Whitechapel Murderer. Thus, in early September 1888, he found himself recalled to his old stomping ground of Spitalfields and Whitechapel.
A fine detective, he has been glamorised in movies about the Ripper and over the years has been portrait by actors such as Michael Caine and Jonny Depp. He retired in 1892.
Henry Smith was the acting commissioner for the City of London police, his involvement started when Catherine Eddowes was murdered in Mitre Square which came under the jurisdiction of City police. He took overall command of the investigation. The press viewed the City police as frank and helpful whereas the Metropolitan police were viewed as obstructive and secretive. Smith would later launch a scathing attack on Sir Charles Warren’s methods following the removal of the Goulston Street graffiti and ridiculed Robert Anderson’s claim that the ripper had been identified.
George Lusk and the Mile End Vigilance Committee
Following the death of Annie Chapman, local business and tradesmen joined together to form the Mile end Vigilance committee. Their president was a local builder by the name of George Lusk. Organising patrols of the area they aided the police and campaigned for a reward to be offered to bring the Whitechapel murderer to justice. They would patrol the streets at night and gained much publicity in the papers. It was George Lusk who would receive a parcel containing half a human kidney two weeks following the death of both Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.