A Promising Suspect

CHARLES LUDWIG

Pizer was just one of several suspects that the police hauled in for questioning as their hunt for Jack the Ripper gathered momentum. Newspaper reports at the time spoke of seven men being held at various London police stations at noon on Monday 10th September, two days after the murder of Annie Chapman, the second victim. The police might not have been successful in catching the Whitechapel Murderer, but their trawl through the district in search of suspects certainly yielded a varied batch of lunatics and misfits who it was probably better were off the streets than on them.

In the early hours of September 18th PC John Johnson of the City Police was walking his beat along Minories, when he heard a loud cry of “’Murder!” It came from a walled in yard and notorious trouble spot by the name of Three Kings’ Court. Hurrying through the alleyway that led into it from Minories Johnson found a man and a woman standing together in the court. When Johnson asked the man what he was doing he received the brusque reply, ‘Nothing.’ The woman was evidently terrified and begged him ‘Oh policeman do take me out of this!” Johnson escorted the couple out of the court and told the man to be on his way. As he disappeared in the night, the woman turned to Johnson and exclaimed “Dear me. He frightened me very much when he pulled that big knife out.” Johnson’s jaw no doubt fell open. “Why didn’t you tell me that at the time?” he asked. “I was too much frightened.” Johnson conducted a quick search of the area but could find no trace of them man. It must have been a very nervous Johnson who informed his superiors that he might have had the killer and had let him go.

As it transpired, the man had headed over to Whitechapel High Street, where he got into a heated and drunken exchange with a coffee stall holder and a youth named Alexander Finlay. Having pulled out a long-bladed knife, the man chased Finlay around the coffee stall and attempted to stab him, whereupon a constable arrived and took the man into police custody.

The man was a German hairdresser named Charles Ludwig and the police evidently immediately thought him a good contender for being the murderer.

When he appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court, charged with being drunk and disorderly and with threatening to stab Finlay, the magistrate called him a dangerous character and remanded him in custody for a week. As Ludwig languished in prison the police conducted rigorous investigations into his background and character. When he next appeared in court, on 25th September, Abberline asked that he be remanded again and the magistrate complied.

The police obviously considered Ludwig an extremely likely suspect. But his innocence of the murders was proved conclusively when, in the early hours of the 30th September, with Ludwig safely in custody, the Whitechapel murderer struck gain and absolved him of any involvement.