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Melville MacNaghten

Son of the last Chairman of the British East India Company, Macnaghten moved to India in 1872 to run his father’s tea estates in Bengal. In 1881 he befriended James Monro, District Judge and Inspector-General in the Bengal Presidency. Upon Macnaghten’s return to Britain in 1888, Monro, now Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, appointed him Assistant Chief Constable in Anderson’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). As such, he was actively involved in the Whitechapel Murders until 1891. He would later identify the murderer, ‘Jack the Ripper’, as a man who had taken his own life at the end of 1888. (In 2007, Sophie Herfort accused Macnaghten to have committed the Ripper murders himself in her work Jack L’Éventreur démasqué). Macnaghten kept close relations with the Paris police during his career. He first came across Marie-François Goron when he asked for assistance in London in 1889, and met him repeatedly during private visits to Paris between 1890 and 1893. In his memoires, Macnaghten recalled how “our relations with the French police have been on the friendliest footing, and any request for inquiries made by them is attended to on this side with as much care and promptitude as if it emanated from any constabulary force in Great Britain.” In 1894, Macnaghten was appointed member of the Troup Committee to investigate the best existing methods of identification, consisting of Home Office employee Charles Troup, Prison Inspector Major Arthur Griffiths and MacNaghten, in relation with the CID. The Committee was trained and informed by Bertillon, who Macnaghten referred to as ‘an old friend’. Following their findings, an anthropometrical department was established within Scotland Yard in 1895, placed under direct command of Anderson. The new department applied a dual method, using finger prints for identification and Bertillon’s methods for classification. In 1900, Macnaghten served in the Belper Committee to inquire about the working of this department and its dual method. Now, it was suggested to drop the French methods in favour of finger prints – a method developed by Edward Henry, who was appointed Commissioner in 1903. In the same year, Macnaghten succeeded Anderson as Assistant Commissioner of the CID.

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