Dog Detectives

Dog Detectives

In the aftermath of the shocking murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes in the same night, fears in Whitechapel reached fever pitch. The public demanded that Scotland Yard consider using bloodhounds to track the killer known as ‘Jack the Ripper’. By the beginning of October 1888, the career of Chief Commissioner Sir Charles Warren was already in crisis, his ability and that of his police force being seriously undermined by the continuing brutal attacks on women in the East End. Scotland Yard received hundreds of letters from the public with suggestions on how to capture this elusive killer, including using sniffer dogs to track the culprit whose clothes might well have been stained with his victims’ blood. Sir Charles finally gave into pressure and contacted Edwin Brough, a well-regarded bloodhound breeder from Scarborough. He arrived, with his dogs, a few days later.       Before their deployment in London, Brough ran some trials to test out his ‘canine detectives’. The bloodhounds Barnaby and Burgho were, according to the press, ‘magnificent animals’. Barnaby was the most experienced of the pair and had been trained from an early age. His companion, Burgho, was two years younger, and ‘a rare stamp of a hound’ with black and tan markings. He was the fastest dog ever bred by Edwin Brough. Both hounds had been taught how to track the scent of a person’s shoes through fields and brooks, and across roads. Would the dogs now be able to perform as effectively in an urban environment? TRACKING TRIALS On 8 October, the dogs were tested in Regent’s Park, in the early hours of...
Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #3

Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #3

Despite everyone in Whitechapel being on the alert for a brutal serial killer, for three weeks following the murder of Annie Chapman, the streets of the East End of London were relatively quiet. However, any hope of normality was completely shattered when two women were killed within an hour. At 1 a.m. on Sunday 30 September 1888, Louis Diemschitz, secretary of the International Working Men’s Educational Club was heading to his home in Berner Street, Whitechapel. As he drove his pony and cart into Dutfield’s Yard, just inside the gates he spotted the body of a woman on the ground. By the light of a candle he saw that her throat had been slashed. Diemschitz left immediately to look for a police officer. PC Henry Lamb, of H Division, was the first on the scene. He sent for a doctor and, whilst waiting, he blew his whistle to keep back the onlookers who had begun to gather. Ten minutes later, Dr Frederick Blackwell and the divisional police surgeon, Dr George Bagster Phillips, arrived and declared the victim dead, although her body was still warm. The woman was lying on her left side, with her left arm extended. She was holding some lozenges wrapped in tissue paper in her hand. Her legs were drawn up with her feet close to the wall, and there was a silk handkerchief around her throat. Apart from the gash in her neck, her body appeared to be intact. PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS Whilst another constable kept guard, PC Lamb searched the yard before moving onto the club, nearby cottages, water closets and even the dung heap....
A Brief History of CSI

A Brief History of CSI

I love a good crime scene investigation, both in real-life and fiction (I should have been a detective!), and CSI books and TV shows are as popular as ever. But, how did the techniques develop? What are the origins of today’s sophisticated crime-detecting practices? I delved into the history of this fascinating subject to find out more… The first formal CSI manual was published in 1893 by Austrian professor of criminal law Hans Gross. His groundbreaking book, Criminal Investigation: A Practical Handbook, was translated into English in 1906. Together with French criminalist Edmond Locard, Gross laid the foundations for modern crime scene investigation. The Handbook offered new tools, protocols and practices, which transformed the location where a murder took place, into a ‘crime scene’. His practical manual includes advice on the collection and preservation of physical evidence, the importance of trace evidence such as blood other bodily fluids, and key detective skills like observation and deduction. Gross demonstrates how to sketch a crime scene onto squared paper to plot the exact location of items and the relationship between them, and how to secure crime scene objects. He even made a checklist of equipment for investigators to take to the scene, including blotting paper, a tape measure, plaster of Paris for taking footprints, and a bar of soap for making impressions of keys or teeth.     In England, there were no CSI handbooks to rival Dr Gross’ work. The nearest equivalent was the Police Code and Manual of Criminal Law, first published by the head of the CID Sir Howard Vincent in 1881. Following a stint in Paris observing...
Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #2

Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #2

Just over a week after the brutal murder of Mary Ann Nichols in Whitechapel, another woman was found killed in a similar way. With a serial killer on the loose, the police of H Division were desperate to catch the murderer known only as ‘Jack the Ripper’ before he could strike again… Just before 6 a.m., on Saturday 8 September, labourer John Davis left his rooms on the top floor of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields to go down to the back yard. In the dark he went down the stairs and into the yard, where he came across the body of a woman at the bottom of the steps. Her head had been almost severed from her neck. Horrified by his discovery, Davis ran into the street shouting, ‘Murder! Murder!’     Inspector Joseph Chandler of H Division, Whitechapel was on duty nearby in Commercial Street. As soon as he heard the news, he rushed to the address and found the woman lying on her back, with her left arm resting on her left breast. Her legs were drawn up, and her small intestines and flaps of skin from her abdomen had been cut out and placed about her body. The police officer called immediately for a doctor. He also sent a message to Commercial Street police station for assistance. As his colleagues began to arrive at the scene, Inspector Chandler instructed those who had gathered not to touch the body, which he covered with a piece of sacking. Dr Phillips pronounced the woman dead and her body was removed to the Whitechapel workhouse mortuary.      Dr George...
Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #1

Investigating the Whitechapel Murders #1

This autumn marks 130 years since the infamous Whitechapel Murders in 1888. Over a century later, there is an enduring fascination with these brutal killings of vulnerable women on the streets of London’s East End. My interest lies in the policing at the time and, in a series of new blog posts, I’ll be exploring each of the ‘canonical five’ cases to find out how the Victorian detectives faced the challenge of tracking the killer known as ‘Jack the Ripper’. In the early hours of Friday 31 August 1888, at just before 3.45 a.m., two carmen came across ‘a huddled mass’ in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, over the road from Essex Wharf. In the darkness of poor street lighting and without a lamp, they discovered that it was a woman, who appeared to be dead. One of the men pulled down the skirts to cover her lower body, before alerting the police. The first officer on the scene was PC John Neil of J Division, Bethnal Green (she was found close to the boundary with H Division, Whitechapel). With the aid of his lantern, he could see that the woman’s throat had been slashed so violently that her head had almost been severed from her neck. Her eyes were wide open and her bonnet was lying by her right side. Although her upper arm was still warm, it was clear that she was dead. Constable Neil raised the alarm and was soon joined by more officers and a doctor, who gave instructions for her to be moved to the Whitechapel workhouse mortuary.      As was customary at the mortuary,...