Why the Police Were Unable To Catch Jack the Ripper

Credit: an untrained eye
Credit: an untrained eye

The police were unable to catch the Ripper for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest and most significant was the fact that the police at the time were not prepared to deal with such a murderer and lacked the methods and forensic science to catch him. The lack of leads, the built up area of the crime scene, hoax letters to the press and the fact that the murders appeared to be random and unpredictable all made the police task harder to the point only a mistake by the murderer would have lead to him being caught.

In 1888 the metropolitan police were not trained or prepared on how to handle a major murder case such as the Ripper murders. Forensic science at the time was very basic, footprints being the most advanced part of the police science.  There was a lack of detectives and the few detectives that there were did not have the methods to carry out an investigation on a large scale. Considering all of this the police did carry out a massive investigation, questioning thousands of people and arresting many suspects. In the end, however, this proved fruitless.

The Ripper was clearly a very cunning killer and made it very hard for the police to catch him. He left no evidence on the scenes of the murder giving the police nothing to trace back to him. There was also no obvious motive other than the targeting of prostitutes, which suggested the murderer was not gaining in any way from the murders. All the murders were committed on strangers, unlike the majority of murders, so there was no link between the murderer and his victims, making it harder to catch him. Also, the murders appeared to be unplanned and random, giving the police no clues as to when he would strike next.

The area where the murders were carried out, Whitechapel, did not help the police efforts. The many small alleyways made escape from a murder scene relatively easy. The murders were always carried out at night, making it harder still to even witness the murders, indeed one victim on being discovered was not even realised to be dead because of the dark. On top of this many people in Whitechapel did not have a permanent residence and came and left the area frequently, there were also many foreigners in the area all of which would have made police investigations harder.

The fact that the victims were all prostitutes made the police investigation harder still. Prostitutes would have seen many strangers often making them easier victims for the Ripper. Attitudes of many people at  the time meant that they believed that the victims deserved to be murdered, these people would have been unlikely to help the police with their investigations. Many witnesses who may have been with the prostitutes were also unlikely to come forward to help, even if they had useful evidence as it would have meant admitting they had been with the prostitute, something many would have not been prepared to do.

Another major hindrance to the police was the large numbers of hoax letters which were sent to the press claiming to be the murderer. The police had to sort though these to find any that may have been genuine and the following up of leads would have been a large waste of police time, which could have otherwise have been spent tracing the murderer.

More by this Author

Comments 38 comments

davidisaiah profile image

davidisaiah 6 years ago from Klamath Falls, Oregon

It also may have been that when what little evidence there was pointed to a member of the upper class that such evidence was suppressed to avoid risking angering those who plaid police salaries.

scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 6 years ago from South Wales

Good hub hello dave. It's always very satisfying when a mystery is solved. Sadly the mystery of the Ripper never was.

hello dave profile image

hello dave 6 years ago Author

Thanks for the comments, you both make good points

Tkumah profile image

Tkumah 6 years ago

A great hub and thoughts provoking. It seems that brilliant psychopaths can outsmart the system of their time.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Interesting Hub - the Ripper seesm to have a continuing fascination. When last in London I did a "Jack the Ripper Walk" with Donald Rumbelow who has written one of a definitive book about the Ripper. Saw many of the places made famous by the case, including the room where the last murder took place. Rather eerie!

Love and peace


profile image

adidaspat 6 years ago

There was also a lot of stereotyping at the time. Some people thought the ripper was Jewish and that people in the Jewish community were covering for him because they didn't want to turn him over to "gentile" justice. Hardly makes much sense really. Who would want someone like that loose around their wives and kids? He may have only gone after prostitutes but I sure wouldn't bet my family's safety on it. It's like saying "No, you can't euthanize my rabid dog because you're gentile so I'll just take him home to stay with me, the wife and kids". Christ, Al Capone wouldn't want that guy around.

profile image

adidaspat 6 years ago

I was wondering, do we really want to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper? There would be no more theorys, no more blogs, no more articles, no more books, no more movies. Nah, let's keep him around.

some guy  6 years ago

i am studying Jack the ripper in detail and one of the main suspects we are looking at is francis tumulty.

T.G. 5 years ago

Jack the Ripper could have been just about anyone. Although witnesses did describe him as foreign looking with a foreign accent. With one of the witnesses remembering a conversation between a man and one of the victims who asked, will you? To which she replied with something like yes, alright, come with me.

But, the thing that I wanted to mention is the language of the man, when he said, will you? Which, to me, comes off as a somewhat feminine in character. Which is not to imply he was a woman or that he was gay, but more about someone who appears to be one thing when he wants to be safe and unassuming to others. As well as to point out that Jack the Ripper was probably a very cunning killer. Always looking the part of an ordinary person. And the least likely to be suspected of anything.

Ethan Rowley 2 years ago

I am jack I love it up the rear

Jacob the Ripper 2 years ago

my real name people lie

Tobezzzz 2 years ago


its not ethan 2 years ago

its not ethan who wrote that

poo 2 years ago

jack don't let go

jake the ripper 2 years ago

Ethan :)

your mum 2 years ago

oi stop being rude k kl

jake the raper 2 years ago

helllloooo little boys;)

shaniqua 2 years ago


your daddy 2 years ago

this is racist fam

shaniqua 2 years ago

ermm that's my name

website owner 2 years ago

hello what are you people doing on here, this is meant to be a learning site.

EY EY EY 2 years ago


website owner 2 years ago

I have just traced your comments back to barnwell school and shall be calling up to complain.

website owner 2 years ago

this is inappropriate for this website it is intended for education

Poo Poo 2 years ago


Tobes 2 years ago

you wants schome

jack the raper 2 years ago

very educational, really helped me with my work , cheers dave

Website owner 2 years ago

education on point

Charley. 2 years ago

This really helped me with my work! Thanks! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

jordane 2 years ago

i like ansel elgort Julia u should know what I mean ;)

rew 2 years ago

hi i am rew

tobes 2 years ago


katniss 2 years ago

ill giv it 2 ya

Reviewer 2 years ago

Very Educational, thanks

Web Owner 2 years ago

Thank you for the educational comments. It will be useful for other viewers.

jammy 2 years ago

lewis is bae

Ethan 2 years ago

give me coke

vb 20 months ago


    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article