A curious article appeared in The North-Eastern Daily Gazette on Wednesday September the 18th 1889.
The article had been inspired by the resurgence of unease with regards the Whitechapel murders which had been rekindled by the discovery of the Pinchin Street torso on the 10th of September 1889.
A WELL KNOWN DETECTIVE
The article is of interest because it purported to feature off the record comments that had been made to a reporter by a “well-known detective” who was investigating the murders, and who informed the reporter of a particular suspect whom the police had under surveillance, but who they couldn’t arrest because they had insufficient evidence against him.
Sadly, the article does not name either the detective, or the suspect, so it is impossible to check the veracity of the report.
Interestingly, the detective refers to their suspect as being a shopkeeper who “created some stir during the last murders,” and, if I were to be asked to take a guess at his identity, I would be tempted to suggest that the man being referred to was Mathew Packer, whose name was, once again, being mentioned in the newspapers in the wake of the find in Pinchin Street.
But, guessing aside, the article is of interest in that, if the detective was genuine, and not simply a figment of a journalist’s imagination, it provides us with an insight into the police views on the perpetrator of the crimes less than a year after the Jack the Ripper murders had held the East End in a grip of terror.
THE WHITECHAPEL MYSTERY – A DETECTIVE’S VIEWS
“A reporter has had an interview with a well-known detective who is engaged in unravelling what are known as the Whitechapel murders.
In answer to enquiries he said that, unlike some of his professional brethren, he believed that the last murder was committed by the same hand that had done the other deeds.
WAS MORE THAN ONE PERSON RESPONSIBLE?
He was asked if he believed that more than one person knew of these crimes.
“In this last case, yes,” he answered, “but, in the others, no. I incline to the belief that there is something to the newspaper story about a man calling at the office and informing the editor 36 hours before the body was discovered that it was lying in Backchurch-lane.
That man should have been kept at that office on any pretext, but the fellow’s throat may be cut by this time if there is any truth in the tale, and I myself should think there is.”
ANY CLUES OR SUSPICIONS?
“Have you any clues or suspicions?”, he was asked, and he answered, “That is where we are handicapped.
We have plenty of suspicion, but no positive clue. We have – to tell the plain honest truth – not anything in the nature of a reasonable clue to work on. We are watching now three men, besides the usual night-birds of Whitechapel.
A CURIOUS SORT OF FELLOW
One man created some stir during the last murders under circumstances which I need not say anything about.
He is a curious sort of fellow; in business, but not doing much to keep it going.
His wife and daughter see to it, and he is out at all hours of the night.
He says he is a member of the Vigilance Committee, but I can’t answer as to that.
No; I won’t tell you his name, even if you do want to find out if he is a member or not.
OUT AT ALL HOURS
This man is out at all hours of the night, and he lets himself in so quietly that his wife does not know at what time he really arrives home.
She generally finds him in the shop when she comes down in the morning.
He is being watched, but we can’t arrest him only on the suspicions we have. We must wait farther developments.”
EVERYTHING IS BEING DONE
In conclusion, the officer assured the reporter that everything possible is being done to arrest the murderer, whoever he is.
The women are warned not to stand about, but to keep moving, and to be as near a policeman as possible, “but,” said the detective, “they can’t go on like that for ever. They must get their living, and soon there will be another crime.””
SCARES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The newspaper then went on to inform its readers about one of the many scares that the murders had been causing across the country as people were ready to believe that anyone who was out of the ordinary – be they eccentric or stranger – was liable to be suspected of being the murderer.
In this case, the scare had occurred at Seaham Harbour, a small town in County Durham, situated six miles south of Sunderland and thirteen miles east of Durham.
A “JACK THE RIPPER” SCARE AT SEAHAM HARBOUR
The “Jack the Ripper” scare has extended to Seaham Harbour, where at a late hour last evening great excitement prevailed amongst the denizens of Adelaide-street by the report that a man of murderous visage had been attempting to get into several of the tenements comprising the same.
The street was alarmed, and the police were sent for.
Strangely imaginative and agitated women kept running in and out of passages declaring that “he” had been in their houses, and had escaped through the back-yard.
ARRESTED BY POLICE SERGEANT SMITH
On a rush being made for the rear premises, other affrighted females would declare that “he” had just gone out of the front part, and so the fears of the crowd were worked upon until the real “he” who was being searched for did actually run unsuspectingly into the clutches of Police-Sergeant Smith.
The man was without boots.
He was also in such a dazed and drunken condition as to be entirely oblivious of where he was or what he was doing.
The police officer locked him up.
A SPIRITED OLD LADY
It appears that “Jack the Ripper” did get into the bedroom of one old lady, who, on being awoke, courageously got out of bed and lighted a candle to have a look at the intruder.”