Here's an interesting article from the Nelson Evening Mail (New Zealand), 4 January 1906, quoting a claim from the Sunday Chronicle (presumably from late in 1905) by a "well-known Scotland Yard detective" that the police had identified the killer as a respectable family man "engaged in a large way of business in the City of London" who had come close to being arrested but instead was confined to an asylum with the consent of his family and the knowledge of the police. It ends with the approved formula: "Since that man's removal there has not been another such crime in London ..."
Yes, I think it is. It's a pity the detective isn't named. (I assume the New Zealand paper would have kept the name if there was one in the original report.)
I should mention that when I did a Google search to check whether this had been seen before, it displayed a snippet of text, apparently from the same article, on this site: http://karenkpoulin1.spaces.live.com/blog/
But when I followed the link to the blog I was unable to find the article.
Here's the original report from the Sunday Chronicle of 15 October 1905 (page 5). It doesn't contain any more about the Ripper suspect, but the "well-known Scotland Yard detective" has quite a lot more to say about other matters, some of which may be pertinent.
BRAND OF CAIN.
Known Murderers Who Are Not Arrested.
WHY THE POLICE FAIL.
The extraordinary murder of Mary Money in a Surrey tunnel is by no means the only murder problem in comparatively recent years which has not been solved. At the present time there are many murderers at large.
To account for these failures on the part of the police may appear difficult. But there are certain considerations which do not occur to the general mind - considerations which at least explain if they do not altogether excuse.
"It is easy to suspect a man," said a well-known Scotland Yard detective to a representative of the "Sunday Chronicle." "Frequently it is not difficult to suspect the right man. But unless there is an unbroken chain of circumstances connecting the suspected person with the actual crime it is both useless and harmful to make an arrest.
"Again, there are often people who could, if they would, supply these missing links, but the ordinary man or woman hesitates very much before giving evidence which may cost [sic] a fellow-being - murderer though he may be - to lose his life.
"Often we cannot take credit for finding the man, because suspicion, however strong, without legal proof has to be kept quiet.
"We have thus frequently to submit to the public verdict that we have utterly failed in some important case when as a matter of fact we have morally suceeded.
"Perhaps the most terrible crime during the last decade which was not followed by a conviction was the killing and mutilating of a number of unfortunate women in Whitechapel. Day after day these murders occurred. Failure again? Yes. But listen to this.
"We found our man. He was engaged in a large way of business in the city of London, was married, had a family, and was generally respected. For some time he had been known as eccentric, and various escapades had caused his friends a good deal of anxiety.
"Frequently, as we learned later, he stayed out all night about the time when these outrages were committed. His description agreed with that of a man seen in Dorset-street, Whitechapel, on the night when Mary Jane Kelly was cut to pieces, and at that time he was very near to actual arrest by a policeman.
"His family knew of the circumstances, knew that he was not only a madman, but a man possessed of considerable surgical knowledge, and with their full consent and the knowledge of the police he was put away in an asylum.
LOST BY MOMENTS.
"Since that man's removal there has not been another such crime in London, though we had another undetected criminal in the same neighbourhood five years ago, Mrs. Austin being murdered and mutilated in Dorset-street. The crime was somewhat similar, but it is absurd to suggest, as it has been suggested, that it was the work of the madman of the "Ripper" crimes. Mrs. Austin's body was mutilated, but by no means in the same skilful way.
"The murder of Miss Camp on the London and South-Western Railway has been recalled by the most recent railway tragedy. In that case there was no conviction; not even an arrest.
"We went very near to an arrest there - how near the public will never know. Perhaps you have heard, however, that there is an official record that conviction, or even arrest, was impossible owing to a certain man who was seen drinking in a public-house near Vauxhall Station not being traced at once. The detectives engaged would have done better if they had been communicated with earlier. As it happened necessary evidence was lost through delay.
DRIVEN TO SUICIDE.
"Of course we watch these suspects carefully. But we cannot interfere with them. Unless they are known as habitual wrongdoers we lose sight of them in time. No good, so far as I can see, can come of 'shadowing' a man who perhaps has killed another in a fit of passion. That type of man is not in the least likely to commit murder again.
"In dealing with murder cases the police have to be very wary. A precipitate act, though it may not lead to a man leaving the country - for there is little benefit in that - may lead to the guilty person's suicide. There are on record several cases in which a police officer has 'shadowed' too thoroughly, and a despairing and terror-stricken suspect has taken refuge in self-destruction.
"When the police are being condemned," added the official, "for seeming inactivity it should be remembered that to charge a man or woman with murder necessitates publicity, and if the charge is found to be unproven not only do the police suffer in credit, but there is a great deal of personal trouble. Unless we have a strong case we do not arrest. We content ourselves with asking a suspected person to accompany us to the police station to answer a few questions. The person so invited pleases himself how he answers the questions.
"It is perhaps a cynical fact that murderers still at large have paid these visits, and, benefiting by the absence of evidence which would be admissable before a jury, have walked the world again as free men."
The story also has many of the same elements or expressions in Henry Cox's account in Thompson's Weekly News, December 1, 1906 -- roughly one year later. Cox, however, was not a Scotland Yard detective.
Great stuff, guys. It might be possible to identify the 'well-known detective' by the other cases he was working. As for the suspect, who do we know who was involved in business in London in a 'large way', who was 'generally respected', who was 'married with a family', and might have dressed like George Hutchinson's man? Whoever this person was, he apparently embarrassed his family with his 'escapades' prior to the murders. So, these escapades probably made the papers.
This ring any bells?
It appears that the Macnaghten memoranda really made the rounds back in the day. That was a more detailed synopsis than most we see from that period.