Robert Anderson (Scotland Yard official)

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Sir Robert Anderson

Sir Robert Anderson, KCB (29 May 1841 – 15 November 1918), was the second Assistant Commissioner (Crime) of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1888 to 1901. He was also an intelligence officer, theologian and writer.

Early life and education

Anderson was born in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, Ireland. His father, Matthew Anderson, was Crown Solicitor, a distinguished elder in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, and of Ulster Scots descent. He described himself as "an anglicized Irishman of Scottish extraction".[1]

On leaving school, Anderson began a business apprenticeship in a large brewery, but after eighteen months he decided not to go into business and left. After studying in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Paris, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1862, and in 1863 was called to the Irish Bar. He received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Trinity College in 1875.

Legal and secret service career

Anderson began to practise as a barrister. However, in 1865 his father showed him papers relating to the trials of Fenians and he too became involved in the operations against them, becoming the foremost expert on them and operations against them. In 1868, he was called to London, following the murder of a policeman in Manchester during a Fenian jailbreak in September 1867 (see Manchester Martyrs) and the bombing of Clerkenwell Gaol in another rescue attempt three months later (see Clerkenwell Outrage). In April 1868 he was attached to the Home Office as adviser on political crime.

However, although Anderson remained in this post, Fenianism became more or less dormant, and to justify his salary he was appointed secretary to several government inquiries. In 1877 he was appointed secretary to the new Prison Commission. In the early 1880s, however, the Fenians began operations again and in 1883 they commenced a bombing campaign in England. Anderson was not particularly effective in combatting them, and in May 1884 he was forced to resign his Home Office post, to be replaced by Edward Jenkinson. In 1886 he was also removed from the Prison Commission.

Police career

However, in 1887 Jenkinson resigned, and Anderson was once again the only man available with experience in anti-Fenian activities. He was asked to assist James Monro, Assistant Commissioner (Crime) at Scotland Yard, in operations related to political crime. In 1888, Monro was promoted to Commissioner, and Anderson replaced him as Assistant Commissioner,[2] the post he was to hold for the rest of his career.

The Criminal Investigation Department was then just starting the investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders, which he thought were grossly oversensationalised. Almost immediately after being promoted, Anderson went on an extended holiday in France, leaving others in charge. He was called back after a month because of increased bad publicity over the Ripper murders.

Anderson retired in 1901 and was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the King's Birthday Honours List in November 1901,[3] having been appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1896.


Anderson was brought up in a devout Christian home, but in his late teens he had doubts about his faith. His sister was influenced by the Irish Evangelical Revival of 1859–1860 and persuaded him to attend one of the services held in Dublin by the Reverend Joseph Denham Smith, but he was not particularly impressed. The following Sunday evening, however, he attended a service in his own church and heard the Reverend John Hall (afterwards of New York), who "boldly proclaimed forgiveness of sins, and eternal life as God's gift in grace, unreserved and unconditional, to be received by us as we sat in the pews. His sermon thrilled me," Anderson wrote later when describing the event, "and yet I deemed his doctrine to be unscriptural. So I waylaid him as he left the vestry, and on our homeward walk I tackled him about his heresies...At last he let go my arm, and, facing me as we stood upon the pavement, he repeated with great solemnity his gospel message and appeal. 'I tell you,' he said, 'as a minister of Christ, and in His name, that there is life for you here and now if you will accept Him. Will you accept Christ, or will you reject Him?' After a pause – how prolonged I know not – I exclaimed, 'In God's name I will accept Christ.' Not another word passed between us; but after another pause he wrung my hand and left me. And I turned homewards with the peace of God filling my heart."[4]

He was especially close to some of the greatest biblical teachers of his day, including James Martin Gray, Cyrus Scofield, A. C. Dixon, Horatius Bonar and E. W. Bullinger. He also preached with John Nelson Darby in the West of Ireland. Anderson was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, first with Darby then with the Open Brethren party, before returning to his Presbyterian roots. He wrote numerous theological works: C. H. Spurgeon commented that Anderson's book Human Destiny was "the most valuable contribution on the subject" that he had seen.[5]

Personal life and death

In 1873, he married Lady Agnes Alexandrina Moore, sister of Ponsonby Moore, 9th Earl of Drogheda. They had five children.

Anderson died from the Spanish Influenza in 1918, aged 77.

W. H. Smith, on the floor of the House of Commons, stated that Anderson "had discharged his duties with great ability and perfect faithfulness to the public." Raymond Blathwayt, in Great Thoughts, wrote: "Sir Robert Anderson is one of the men to whom the country, without knowing it, owes a great debt."

Anderson and his wife are buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.


Anderson is featured as a character in the novel To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas.

He also plays a part in the graphic novel From Hell, by Alan Moore. Here he is portrayed as taking part in a cover-up after the Jack the Ripper-killings.

Published works

Political subjects

  • Criminals and Crime, 1907
  • The Lighter Side of My Official Life, 1910
  • Sidelights on the Home Rule Movement

Religious subjects

  • The Bible and Modern Criticism
  • The Bible or the Church
  • The Buddha of Christendom
  • The Coming Prince
  • Daniel in the Critics' Den
  • A Doubter's Doubts about Science and Religion (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-108-00014-7)
  • Entail of the Covenant
  • Forgotten Truths
  • The Gospel and Its Ministry
  • The Honour of His Name
  • Human Destiny
  • The Lord From Heaven
  • Misunderstood Texts of the New Testament
  • Pseudo-Criticism
  • Redemption Truths
  • The Silence of God
  • Types in Hebrews
  • Unfulfilled Prophecy
  • The Way
  • For Us Men (reissued as Redemption Truths by Morgan & Scott Ltd, 1910)
  • In Defence: A Plea For The Faith


  1. Anderson, R., Redemption Truths, Introduction by Wiersbe, W., Kregel 1980, ISB0-8254-2131-4, page vi
  2. The London Gazette: no. 25850. p. 4632. 27 August 1888. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 27376. p. 7291. 12 November 1901.
  4. Anderson, R., Redemption Truths, Introduction by Wiersbe, W., Kregel 1980, ISB0-8254-2131-4, pages vi–vii
  5. Anderson, R., Redemption Truths, Introduction by Wiersbe, W., Kregel 1980, ISB0-8254-2131-4, page viii


  • Biography, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, by Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner
  • Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson, by A. P. Moore-Anderson
  • "Representative Men at Home: Dr. Anderson at New Scotland Yard", from Cassell's Saturday Journal, 11 June 1892, as reprinted in Ripper Notes, July 2004

External links

Police appointments
Preceded by
James Monro
Assistant Commissioner (Crime), Metropolitan Police
Succeeded by
Edward Henry