19th November 1888

On Monday 19 November 1888 the newspapers were discussing the lack of progress in the hunt for Jack the Ripper.

However, several newspapers mentioned the fact that the police had received some promising information concerning the movements of the perpetrator of the crimes.

JACK THE RIPPER IN THE MIDLANDS

According to the London Evening Standard, word had reached the detectives working on the case that the Whitechapel murderer “is supposed to travel up from Manchester, Birmingham or some other town in the Midlands.”

Evidently the information received was of the non-specific variety since “some other town in the Midlands” was, to say the least, somewhat generic.

However, this meant that the detectives were able to focus their attention at particular London locations, since trains from the Midlands arrived at either Willesden Station or Euston Station.

DETECTIVES WATCHING THE TRAIN STATIONS

Thus the London Evening Standard was able to inform its readers that:-

“Detectives have, accordingly, been engaged at Willesden and Euston, watching the arrival of the trains from the north and looking for any suspicious passenger; but their efforts, up to the present, have not met with success.”

Reading between the lines it is evident that the detectives working on the Jack the Ripper case were doing little more in clutching at straws in the hope of gaining a breakthrough in their investigation.

MARY KELLY’S FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

A sketch of Mary Kelly's landlord John McCarthy,
John McCarthy

There had also, apparently, been problems with the funeral arrangements for Mary Kelly, since, as the Standard reported “the funeral of the woman Kelly has once more been postponed.”

The subsequent article went on to tell its readers that:-

“The deceased was a Roman Catholic, and Barnett, with whom she lived, and her landlord, Mr McCarthy, desired to see her remains interred with the ritual of her church. The funeral will, therefore, take place in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Leytonstone.

The hearse will leave the Shoreditch mortuary at half-past-twelve.”

Indeed Mary Kelly’s funeral cort├Ęge did set off from St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch on this very day.

Mary Kelly’s remains were subsequently interred at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone where a memorial stone now marks the approximate location of her burial spot and which people still visit to lay flowers in memory of the woman who many consider to have been the last victim of Jack the Ripper.

A photograph of the grave of Mary Kelly.
The Grave of Mary Kelly

A SUSPECT IN POLICE CUSTODY

There were also reports that a suspect had been taken into police custody in the East End of London just before midnight on the previous day.

Apparently an individual, who gave his name is Charles Akehurst, and his address as 27, Canterbury Road, Ball’s Pond Road, North, had entered a house of “doubtful repute” in Flower and Dean Street, Spitalfields with a woman, and, according to newspaper reports, “there made use of certain remarks, and acted in a manner which was considered sufficient to justify the woman in handing him to the police.”

He was, so the Standard informed its readers, duly taken to commercial Street Police Station, where he was questioned as to his recent movements to ascertain his veracity as a viable suspect in the recent Whitechapel murders.”

A view of the red brick exterior of Commercial Street Police Station.
The Former Commercial Street Police Station, 2015

A SWEDISH SUSPECT

Papers were also reporting an intriguing case that had been heard the previous day at Worship Street police Court.

Apparently, a Swedish gentlemen, by the name of Nikaner A. Benelius, aged 27, was described as a traveller, and who was living in great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, was charged with entering a dwelling-house in Buxton Street, Mile End, for an unlawful purpose. He was further charged with refusing to give any account of himself.

DETECTIVE SEGEANT DEW’S TESTIMONY

Testifying for the police, Detective Sgt Walter Dew, from Commercial Street station, said that the prisoner had been arrested that morning under circumstances which made it desirable to have the fullest enquiries made about him.

Prior to the murder of Mary Kelly, Dew continued, the prisoner had been arrested by the police and detained in connection with the Berner Street murder (that of Elizabeth Stride on 30th September 1888), but he had been released.

He had, however, remained about the neighbourhood, lodging in a German lodging house, but having no apparent means of subsistence. This mystery, however, was solved when the landlord of the property testified that the defendant did in fact owe him 25 shillings in rent arrears.

HARRIET ROWE’S TESTIMONY

Harriet Rowe, who was described in the press as a married woman living in Buxton Street, then testified that about 10:30 AM that morning she had left her street door open, and, while she was sitting in the parlour, Benelius had opened the door and walked in. Startled, she demanded to know what he wanted, to which his response was to grin, but say nothing. She was greatly alarmed and ran to the window to summon help, but the intruder quickly left.

SHE FOLLOWED HIM

The plucky Mrs Rowe followed him into the street and kept an eye on him until she saw a police officer. As she walked over to ask the constable’s assistance, she saw Benelius approach the constable himself and speak with him. She, therefore, ran over to the constable and told him what the stranger had done, whereupon the Swede was taken into police custody.

HE ONLY WANTED DIRECTIONS

The police officer in question testified that Benelius had simply asked him the way to Fenchurch Street and that, once Mrs Rowe, arrived he had asked the prisoner why it was that he wanted to go to Fenchurch Street. Benelius replied that he was expecting some letters at the post office.

In his defence, Benelius claimed that he had only entered the house to ask directions to Fenchurch Street and that he intended no ill towards Harriet Rowe.

Evidently the magistrate, Mr Bushby, was not convinced of his innocence and he, therefore, remanded him in custody whilst further enquiries abut him were made.

According to the papers, two men had come forward – one of whom was the prisoner’s landlord – to say that he had, of late, been acting very strangely and that they had seen him from time to time preaching around the streets of the East End.

THE POLICE LOOKING FOR ANY LEAD

What these cases reveal to us is just how little progress the investigation into the Jack the Ripper crimes was making in November 1888, since it is apparent that just about anybody who was accused of or who was seen to be acting peculiarly found themselves under suspicion of being the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders.