The Ripper Police Investigation

The police investigation of the Ripper murders was, as Paul Begg said, “professional and competent” for the resources that were available at the time; however, I believe that they could have done much more. I completely agree with Philip Sugden in The Complete History of Jack the Ripper when he states that they police were too retrospective. They insisted on using old methods such as bloodhounds, pardons, and rewards to find the killer rather than allowing themselves to have “innovative spirit” in utilizing new methods such as photography, fingerprinting, the press, and professional artists in order to create portrayals of the suspects. Had the police agreed to instate these new methods of investigation, I believe that they would have found a much higher level of success. In particular, fingerprinting would have been an extremely valuable addition to the investigation, especially considering the fingerprint that was present on the “From Hell” letter and the fingerprints that surely would have been discovered all over the victims’ bodies, unless the murderer had thought to wear gloves (which could be unlikely, considering fingerprints weren’t as big of a concern at the time due to the lack of fingerprinting within police forces). In addition to failing to utilize modern methods, the police failed to maintain crime scenes long enough to complete a full, detailed investigation. They were quick to clean the scene in order to hide specific evidence, they often failed to photograph the victim or the crime scene for documentation, and often times—even though they had insisted on using bloodhounds—they were too impatient to wait for the dogs to arrive. In addition, the bodies of the victims were on several occasions cleaned before they could be analyzed, photographed, or checked for evidence; as a result, countless pieces of incriminating evidence could have been lost over the course of the investigation. Similarly, by erasing the message written on the wall in chalk above the bloody apron, it is possible that the police had disposed of a valuable and telling piece of information that could have changed the direction of the investigation completely. In conclusion, although the police were without a doubt thorough and attentive to details, their failure to utilize any technology or methodology possible to further their investigation was an enormous oversight on their part, and may very well have cost them the identity of the murderer. 

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3 Responses to “The Ripper Police Investigation”

  1. In order to use fingerprinting there needs to be a record in a database to compare the two and find a match, and as fingerprinting wasn’t that common, the killer wouldn’t have had his fingerprints on any database, meaning that even if they were able to produce a fingerprint off one the bodies, it would be totally useless as there would be nothing to compare it to.

  2. And fingerprinting was first developed in 1901, 13 years after the Ripper murders in 1888.

  3. The Police knew that all fingerprints were different. The problem was one of identification of any prints. It wasn’t until 1901 when Henry published his ‘Classification and Uses of Fingerprints’ that a method of classifying different prints was devised.

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