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Barnett's interrogation

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  • Barnett's interrogation

    Re-reading "1888: London Murders in the Year of the Ripper" by Peter Stubley, I found this (page 121):

    In another case (Glennie) in late 1888, an MP raised in Parliament (12 November) why Glennie was repeatedly questioned by police, "despite the practice being condemned by the courts".

    Stubley says, that in 1888 there was no such thing as a recorded police interview and it was not until the 1950s that it became standard practice to interrogate a suspect. [My emphasis.]

    The Home Secretary, responding to the MP (the same Mr Matthews in place during the JtR murders note) assured the House that the questions were of the usual sort intended to allow a suspect to clear himself of involvement in a crime. [Again my emphasis.]

    So my questions are;

    a) what sort of interview/interrogation did barnett face?

    b) what police techniques were involved? How much experience did police officers have in this area if it was not standard practice - what notes etc would have been kept?

    c) was it just that Joe was allowed to give his alibi and that was it?

    d) Joe was not a suspect (in any formal sense) so maybe that final statement did not apply to him.

    It seems to me that either Joe was exposed to interrogation techniques that were effectively illegal, or simply asked to explain himself.

    Other than relying on Abberline's judgement of character - just how much reliance can we place on Joe's alibi and the assurances that he was utterly innocent (so often espoused by posters on Casebook).

    I would welcome views and comments, but in particular those knowledable in police procedures of the period.

    Thanks in anticipation,


  • #2

    Hello Phil. Good questions.

    According to most of the police reports, one was asked to explain himself, but often details of that explanation were checked.



    • #3

      In the Stride case Abberline says in a report dated 1st November 1888

      "I questioned Israel Schwartz very closely at the time he made the statement as to whom the man addressed when he called Lipski, but he was unable to say"
      Reference is also made elsewhere to "searching enquiries", though some of these may be quite literal.

      I suppose it's a case of distinguishing between close questioning and interrogation...a fine distinction if ever there was one!

      All the best



      • #4
        Seeing as how anything a witness/suspect says in response to interrogation could be used as evidence or to create another line of enquiry, it is only obvious the important details were written down - Scotland Yard didn't function on memory.

        We have plenty of written statements from witnesses taken down by police, and yet we are asked to believe that details were not written down in a more important interrogation?

        What Stubley may mean is a 'formal' recorded session which only developed later.
        Regards, Jon S.


        • #5
          Hi Lynn.
          Originally posted by lynn cates View Post
          Hello Phil. Good questions.

          According to most of the police reports, one was asked to explain himself, but often details of that explanation were checked.

          Exactly, and the police could only check them if they were first written down.
          Regards, Jon S.


          • #6
            Since contemporary information is most helpful, lets start with this:

            Scotland Yard, of necessity, depends very largely upon "statements" volunteered to it. These statements are generally offered, first of all, at the nearest police station, where they are committed to writing by the inspector in charge. Everyone knows there is an art in putting questions, and some knowledge of it is of necessity acquired by an inspector in the charge-room; but in cases of supreme importance a rough and ready interrogation is not sufficient.

            The statement is therefore handed to a detective, who is instructed to verify it, and send a report. In due course to the original, and the observations thereupon, are returned to the inspector in charge of the case, and he uses his discretion as to whether it should be filed for future use of referenced at headquarters. When there is no clue, every tangible piece of information is of course preserved, and during the Whitechapel tragedies extreme care was taken in sifting every tittle of rumour or fact to the police, however trivial.

            Excerpt from Police!
            Charles Tempest Clarkson (twenty five years policeman)
            J. Hall Richardson (journalist)
            London, 1889
            Best Wishes,

            When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888


            • #7
              That's a nice source Hunter!




              • #8
                Very clear and useful. Thanks very much. Phil


                • #9
                  For some reason, I kept envisioning the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch where they made the person sit in a comfy chair.


                  P.S. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


                  • #10
                    But as Stephen Fry pointed out on QI not long ago - actually people DID expect the Spanish Inquisition because the latter gave several weeks warning of its arrival!!!