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Picture of Buck's Row Whitechapel in London's East End (now Durward St) - site of Jack the Ripper's first murder on 31 August 1888. Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols' body was discovered 3 metres back from the corner of the tall brick building.

Take a Ripper virtual tour from the first murder scene. Click on the map below to view all 5 murder scenes and other key locations in the hunt for the world's first recognised serial killer.

Buck's Row Whitechapel

Jack the Ripper's London 1888


View Jack the Ripper Walk, Whitechapel, Greater London UK in a larger map

This link will take you to the key points in London where Jack the Ripper carried out his 5 murders
over 71 days from 31 August 1888 to 9 November 1888. You can use this map to make your own Jack the
Ripper walk around London or to trace the movements of the Whitechapel killer whose identity has
never been established.

On the trail of Jack the Ripper, using strips of bicycle tyre nailed to the soles of his boots

Fred Wensley:
the greatest-ever detective?
‘Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes’ is the subject of the 11th book by Dick Kirby, the ex-Flying Squad officer who retired to peaceable west Suffolk. 

STEVEN RUSSELL finds out what it’s all about

A scene from the Siege of Sidney Street in January, 1911. Latvian burglars killed three policemen before barricading themselves in a flat. Fred Wensley went with several officers. They were greeted with a volley of shots

Question: So: do tell about Fred Wensley, the subject of your latest book.

Answer: Fred Wensley was quite simply a legend. From very humble beginnings, he rose to the top of his profession by sheer determination and ability. Remember, as Wensley battled the criminals of London’s East End, there were few (if any) scientific aids. Fingerprint evidence was not admitted as evidence until Wensley had 17 years’ service; pathologists examining bloodstains at the scene of a murder could only say they were possibly human or, at least, belonging to the family of great apes.

No; Wensley relied upon observations, surveillance, informants, interrogation and witness identification.

Whitechapel High Street
 in Victorian times.
Q: I hear he tried to catch Jack the Ripper by using some clever, if basic, tricks.

A: As a new Pc, he was drafted into Whitechapel to attempt to catch “Jack the Ripper” and, as an aid, nailed strips of bicycle tyres on the soles of his boots. It goes to show how inventive he was.

Later he would tail suspects using a borrowed wagon, in a variety of disguises, and he quite blithely disregarded instructions not to cross divisional boundaries without the local superintendent’s express permission. He just did it, and when he caught the villains in the act, the end justified the means.

Utilising these methods eventually led to the formation of the Flying Squad in 1919.

Dick Kirby's latest book.
Q: Didn’t he also arrest a double murderer, while off-duty, within months of joining the CID?

A: Wensley and a friend were off-duty when they were called to a double murder – William Seaman had killed an elderly man and his housekeeper and had got onto the roof of the house.

He was followed by the two officers and when it was clear that he was going to jump, Wensley rushed downstairs and as Seaman landed with a thump he was arrested by Wensley, who discovered that Seaman’s pockets were full of jewellery stolen from the victims.

Wensley was praised by the trial judge, and when Seaman was hanged it marked the last triple execution at Newgate prison.



Q: Was Fred really The Greatest Detective of All Time?

A: The short answer is yes, of course he was. Where he led, others – such as Fabian of the Yard – followed. He put the CID on a proper footing at New Scotland Yard, so that in the years to come it acted like a beacon for the finest crime-fighting force in the western world.

Q: But (and there’s always a “but”) wasn’t he a naughty boy at times?

A: Wensley was a controversial figure. He assisted in the investigation of a man found dead on Clapham Common in 1910 – he caught the murderer, Stinie Morrison, within days, who alleged Wensley had framed him. However, he was found guilty, although there is controversy to this day as to his guilt, as indeed there is about the guilt of Edith Thompson who, with her lover Freddie Bywaters, was hanged for the murder of Mrs Thompson’s husband.

Wensley smashed up the East End gangs from Eastern Europe: the Bessarabians and the Odessians and the more home-grown variety, the Vendettas. But with all hard-working detectives, there will always be allegations of impropriety made against them. I know!

Q: What drove detectives like Fred in those days, and do you think the same motivations are alive in officers today?

A: Wensley was motivated by the desire to do a tough job well. Had he been unable to do so, he would have been replaced – as simple as that. But it was far more than that; he possessed great pride in his work and it paid off. Do today’s officers have the same motivation? Perhaps, but a whole set of different rules apply today.

Q: Fred was a former Somerset gardener who rose to become Chief Constable of the CID. Could that happen today?

A: It would be impossible for someone of Wensley’s limited education to rise to the same dizzy heights that he did, nowadays or in the future. Wensley was a man of his time – that’s all there is to it.

Q: Do you have fears about the future of policing in England?

A: With swingeing Government cut-backs in every sector of the emergency services it is difficult to look with any kind of optimism regarding a safe and well-policed society.

Q: Finally... you once told us this book could be your last. Is it?

A: Ah-ha! No, it’s not! I’m working on the next one, which is entitled The Wrong Man – The Shooting of Steven Waldorf and The Hunt for David Martin.

You’ll recall police shooting up the yellow Mini in Earls Court in 1983. I was part of the subsequent manhunt for David Martin, who had escaped from custody, having shot a police officer. It’ll be published some time in 2016.

• Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: The Casebook of Fred Wensley OBE, KPM – Victorian Crime Buster is published by Pen & Sword Books (currently offered at £20)


Officer’s notebook: Dick Kirby

• Born 1943, in London’s East End

• Spent nine ‘miserable’ years in the printing industry

• In 1967, by now married to Ann and the father of two young children, answered an advert from the Metropolitan Police

• Became a member of the Criminal Investigation Department and then the Serious Crime Squad

• Spent five years catching international crooks

• ‘The Sweeney’ – Scotland Yard’s √©lite Flying Squad – was his home for eight years, where he dealt with the most formidable and violent armed robbers.

• He put success down to speed, experience and intuition

• Ill-health forced his retirement in 1993

• He and Ann moved to Suffolk from Upminster and he developed a writing career

• First book was 2001’s Rough Justice – Memoirs of a Flying Squad Detective

• Proceeds went to two police charities.