15th October 1888

On Monday 15th October 1888, The Star, newspaper carried a report concerning a hearing at the Dalston Magistrates Court at which a man sought damages from a newspaper for mistakenly reporting that he had been found dead!


The man in question – whom the newspaper described as “a working man”  – was asked to read the offending paragraph out to the court.

Clearing his throat, he did as he was asked, and the court erupted in laughter as he spoke the words:-

“The body of George Cully, of 108, Duncombe-road, Upper Holloway, was found in the shrubs at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday afternoon. A bottle supposed to contain laudanum was found beside the body.”

Having reached the end of the short article, Mr. Cully pointed out that it was, in fact, he who had discovered the body of the dead, a Charles Beall and that the reporter had, evidently, got the facts wrong. Mr Cully, therefore, felt somewhat miffed at the mistake and  enquired of Mr. Smith, the presiding Magistrate, if, since they had, wrongly, published his name and his address, not to mention mistakenly reported his apparent suicide, shouldn’t he be entitled to some compensation from the newspaper?

The Magistrate, although sympathetic, observed that he thought it was probably “a silly joke” and, having suggested that Mr Cully ask the editor of the offending newspaper to publish a correction stating that he wasn’t, in fact, dead, he dismissed the case.


Meanwhile, The Star launched another blistering attack on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, whose report on Policing in the Capital had recently been published. Having begun with some sarcastic comments on the events of the infamous “Bloody Sunday” of the previous year the article went on to comment sarcastically that the unemployed “…are a class of people whose heads were made for the sole purpose of having them broken by the police…”


A Punch Cartoon showing Sir Charles Warren.
A Punch Cartoon Lampooning Warren

Moving on to attack the report’s figures, which, so the editorial argued, “are being freely used as missiles in Sir Charles Warren’s conflict with public opinion,” the article went on to give its own interpretation of Warren’s figures, which had compared the policing of 1887 with policing in 1849:-

“..The statement that in 1849 there was only one constable to 468 citizens, whereas now there is one to 439, becomes much more serious when we take into consideration the formidable net of telegraph and telephone wires through which the criminal has now to break, and the lightning messages he has to outstrip.

The eyes and ears of the police have been multiplied, and space and time annihilated for them out of all reckoning. Consequently it would seem that a smaller number of constables might easily do the work of the 1849 staff. But there is a grim set-off to this which Sir Charles might plead if the subject were not too ticklish a one for official insistence.

The Vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, in his collected essays just published, says – and he speaks with knowledge – “Poverty in London is increasing both relatively and actually.” One would have imagined that it had reached its worst long ago; but, no; it is “increasing, both relatively and actually.”

With it inevitably increases the ignorance, squalor, and callousness which accustom their victims to violence and crime.

That is what is beating the police even more than their commander’s deficiency in courage and good sense.

And if George Washington were raised from the dead and made Chief Commissioner, it would beat him, too, in the long run.

There is a writing on the wall that concerns society much more deeply than the scrawl which Sir Charles so easily got rid of. How much longer does society intend to go on disregarding it?”

In the eyes of The Star, Warren was useless as Commissioner and the sooner he were gone the better.


The Daily News, meanwhile, was reporting in its edition of the 15th October 1888 that Sir Charles Warren was anxious to set the record straight about the meaning of the graffito, which had been found scrawled in chalk on the wall in Goulston Street on the 30th September 1888, and to which the aforementioned article alluded.

Several newspapers had  asserted that the word “Jews” was spelt “Juwes” in the Yiddish jargon. Warren, so the newspaper stated had issued a statement pointing out that this was incorrect. “It is not known that there is any dialect or language” he emphatically stated, “in which the word “Jews” is spelt “Juwes.””


We also get a glimpse of the unrest that the murders were causing across London in general from a report concerning a gentleman who had been walking along Holborn on the previous Saturday when he had been grabbed by “a strange man of the labouring class.” who proceeded to shout excitedly, “This is Jack the Ripper.”

In the ensuing struggle both men fell heavily to the ground and a large crowd soon gathered to watch the spectacle. The mob was quick to take hold of the “accused” man and they dutifully marched him round to the nearest police station, where they told the desk sergeant that they had caught “Jack the Ripper.”

As it transpired the man was completely innocent of any involvement in the crimes, and The Daily News was at pains to point out to its readers that, “such incidents are clearly traceable to the effect of the threatening letters which have been circulated purporting to have been written by “Jack the Ripper.””