Whitechapel Vigilance Committee
The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee was set up by local businessmen who were concerned that the Whitechapel Murders were affecting trade in the area. It was formed at a meeting in 'The Crown' public house, 74 Mile End Road on 10th September 1888 and George Lusk was elected its first Chairman.
Other Committee members included Mr. Joseph Aarons, landlord of 'The Crown' (Treasurer), Mr. B. Harris (Secretary), and Messrs. Cohen, H. A. Harris, Laughton, Houghton, Lord, Isaacs, Rogers, Mitchell, Barnett, Hodgkins, Lindsay, Reeves, and Jacobs. Leading members of the Committee were described in the press as being "drawn principally from the trading class, and include a builder, a cigar-manufacturer, a tailor, a picture-frame maker, a licensed victualler, and 'an actor.'". The latter was probably entertainer Charles Reeves.
Lusk's name appeared frequently in the national newspapers and on posters in Whitechapel, appealing for information concerning the identity of the murderer and complaining about the lack of a reward for such information from the government. Because of this publicity, Lusk received threatening letters through the post, allegedly from the murderer. The most notable of these is the parcel received on October 16th 1888 containing a portion of kidney and a letter (see Lusk Kidney and Lusk Letter).
The Committee was committed to the concept of offering rewards for the capture of the murderer, however, frequent appeals and petitions went unheeded. When the Home Secretary Henry Matthews flatly refused such requests, the Committee offered its own reward. They also employed two private detectives, Mr. 'Grand' and Mr. J. H. Batchelor, to investigate the murders without the involvement of the local police. It was these two characters who interviewed Matthew Packer following the murder of Elizabeth Stride.
By 1890, the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee Chairman had become Albert Bachert who proved to be a noisy representative and was thus met with less approval from the authorities than his predecessor, George Lusk.
- Daily Telegraph, October 5th 1888
- The Jack the Ripper A-Z; Paul Begg, Martin Fido, Keith Skinner (Headline 1996)