En Femme: A Copper’s Tail (Part Two)



The following are extracts from the soon-to-be-published memoirs of Donald Hicks a young detective with the Metropolitan police’s H Division who worked alongside others to investigate the Whitechapel murders of 1888; those carried out, it was believed, by the infamous Jack the Ripper.

16th November 1888. Whitechapel, London.

With four days having passed since our meeting with Inspector Abberline, the six of us was now separated from each other and duty-bound to be these next few weeks in full command of our disguises. Thus, while we walked the streets of Whitechapel ready to snare the frightful Ripper, any persons encountered would have held firm the impression only of an unfortunate ladybird ready and willing to commit herself to sexual depravity for tuppence a go. While acting the part of a woman of this or any other type was far from my nature it evidently came quite natural to others; I was later to discover Detective Stevens, for instance, was making steady income of three shillings a night.

Having remembered myself to the dainty steps of my ox blood ankle boots, I made my way along Vallance Road, then Buck’s Row and finally to the spot where young Mary Nichols had three months earlier been found befouled and in a dreadful state before meeting an unfortunate end at the hands of her murderer. As I was bringing to mind the details of the crime and considering whether the Ripper might wear a beagle puss around town, I heard a horse and carriage approach along the road behind where I was stood. As it came to halt next to me I turned around to find a handsome travelling chariot and young man of around my age leaning from its window.

The young man, who did bid me a good evening, was of fair demeanor and quite amply possessed of charm – attributes quite rare in the course of my usual working day. In being thus equipped, I was put somewhat upon a back foot for a moment or two and, forgetting myself, smiled coyly at the gentleman and returned his greeting with a now perfect falsetto. After some talk about the weather and of the merits of his chosen profession – that of a surgeon – it was apparent that we was quite at ease with each other; thus I considered in the spirit of keeping up the Inspector’s ruse to accept the gentleman’s kind offer of an evening at the Astoria on the High Street. While this might now be seen like a deviation from the task at hand it was, in my opinion, then worth exploring every avenue in our hunt for the dreaded East End murderer.


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