A Black Bag In Whitehall

In the wake of the night of the double murder, the idea that the murderer – who, by this time was becoming universally referred to under the pseudonym of “Jack the Ripper” – carried a black bag had, thanks to various reports in the newspapers, become rooted in the public consciousness,

Indeed, it has to be said that any man who ventured out into the streets of the East End of London who was carrying such an article of apparel, ran the danger of being accosted, or even pursued by the mob, that had been whipped into a frenzy by lurid newspaper reportage on the case.

In fact, any man who went about London and other parts of the country carrying a black bag took his life in his own hands, such was the universal suspicion about such an item.

The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, on Thursday the 18th of October , 1888 published the following article about just such a man, and which also fed into a widely held perception of that the Whitechapel murderer might well be a doctor, or at least, somebody who had studied medicine –


“The Press Association says:- Much importance is attached by the police to an arrest made at King-street Police Station, Whitehall.

On Tuesday morning a man entered the station at about 9 o’clock, and complained of having lost a black bag.

While the officers were taking note of his case, he commenced talking about the Whitechapel murders, and offered to cut off the sergeant’s head, and other rambling nonsense.

A photograph of the exterior of King Street Police Station.
King Street Police Station.


It will remembered that several people have testified to seeing a man with a black bag in the region of the murders, and he has not since been traced.

This fact was at once remembered by the police, and the man was further questioned.


In answer to their inquiry as to his business he said that he had studied for some years for the medical profession, but he gave it up, for engineering, and that he had been stopping for some time in coffee houses.

His manner then became so strange that Dr. Thomas Bond, the divisional surgeon, was sent to examine the man. The doctor subsequently gave it as his opinion that the man was a very dangerous lunatic of a homicidal tendency.


As his appearance somewhat tallied with that published of the man who was seen with the murdered woman, he was removed to Bow-street police station, but before he was taken thither a photograph of his person was taken.

He was also asked to write his name, and it is stated that the writing is somewhat similar to that of the letters that have been received the police and others.

He gave his age as 67, but it is said that he looks fully twenty years younger.

The police are endeavouring to trace his antecedents and his movements over the course of the past few weeks.”