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Why the Police Were Unable To Catch Jack the Ripper
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.