A Detective Inspectors Curious Story

One of the intriguing things that comes across when reading the many, many newspaper accounts of the Jack the Ripper atrocities, is the lengths to which the police went in order to catch the perpetrator of the crimes.

In particular, it is intriguing to read accounts of the types of disguise that the plainclothes officers donned in order to venture out onto the streets in the hope of apprehending the murderer.

A cartoon showing a detective in disguise.
From Fun Magazine, March 4th 1885.


But, it was quite commonplace for police officers to adopt disguises in order to apprehend Victorian criminals, as is demonstrated by the following story, which appeared in The Newcastle Evening Chronicle on Tuesday, 7th January, 1890:-


At the Marylebone Police Court, London, yesterday, George William Parke, 35, a laundryman, was charged with assaulting Henry Marshall, a Scotland Yard detective-inspector, in the execution of his duty, and preventing the lawful apprehension of a man named A. H. Graham.

Inspector Marshall said that he went with Detective-Sergeant Wheatley, about eight o’clock on Saturday night, to the house of the prisoner, to arrest a man named Graham on a warrant for being concerned with some prisoners in custody for conspiracy.


It was only fair to the prisoner Parke that he (the witness should explain that he was dressed as a baker’s man, with a white cap, floury coat, and apron, and on his back he carried a baker’s basket with loaves of bread in it. (Laughter.)

On knocking at the door, he was admitted by a boy, and the witness pretended that he had some bread to deliver – (more laughter) – and some conversation ensued about the ordering of the bread.

Inspector Marshall is assaulted by men and dogs.
Inspector Marshall in disguise. From The Illustrated Police news, Saturday, 18th January, 1890.


While that was going on Graham came running down the stairs accompanied by a younger man, and as soon as Graham had come near enough to him the witness seized him and said, “I am Inspector Marshall, of Scotland Yard.”

Parke at once struck the witness on the arm with his fist, and then all three men set on him anti tried to make him loosen his hold on Graham.


Some of them then turned out all the lights, and they were in total darkness.

Somehow, the witness was literally carried along some distance by the man until he came to a door, where he got fixed.

All through the struggle he sustained his grip of Graham and pulled him along with him.


At last the man broke away from him, and somebody in the house then let loose two dogs, a large collie and a fox-terrier, and they came barking down the stairs in a great fury and flew at the witness.

But, singularly enough, while the dogs worried the witness only, one of them bit the prisoner Parke on the thigh and tore his trousers.

During the struggle, aided by the darkness, Graham got out of the way.

The witness went out and got the assistance of Sergeant Wheatley, and they got into the house again.


They groped about in the darkness, and presently they came upon someone they thought to be Graham, and seized him, but when they were about to get a light, they discovered that it was the prisoner Parke.

The witness shouted to Sergeant Wheatley to run upstairs and search the place, but the dogs were set on to him, and they were so furious and menacing that Wheatley was held at bay for a considerable time.

That delay enabled Graham and the other man to make good their escape.


Sergeant Wheatley arrested a woman, and the witness told the prisoner, Parke, that he would be arrested for assaulting him and for obstructing him in the apprehension of a man.

Inspector Marshall added that he told Parke that he knew him, and that, but for his having his foot in the doorway, his fingers would have been cut off.


Mr. De Rutzen asked the Inspector how he knew the prisoner?

Inspector Marshall replied that he had known Parke for about two months. He had had two men in custody at Bow Street and Parke and Graham had attended the court. One day he had arrested Graham, and Parke was with him.

Mr. De Rutzen remanded the prisoner.”