A Drunk Chairman

At some stage during 1889, Mr George Lusk stepped down as Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, and his place was taken by Albert Bachert  – whose name frequently appeared in the newspapers as Albert Backert.

He seems to have enjoyed the publicity that his association with the Whitechapel Murders brought him, and, as several newspaper articles that appeared towards the end of June, 1891 make clear, was not above partaking of the hospitality afforded by the hostelries of Whitechapel.

Indeed, his fondness for imbibing brought him, what must have been, decidedly unwanted publicity in the summer of 1891, when he found himself on the wrong side of the law.


The Globe was one of many newspapers that reported on his case in its edition of Tuesday, 30th June, 1891:-

At the Thames Police-court, Alfred Backert, the chairman the Whitechapel Murder Vigilance Committee, who described himself as an engraver and “reporter” of 13, Newnham Street Whitechapel, was charged with disorderly conduct in High Street, Whitechapel.

A view along Whitechapel High Street where our Jack the Ripper Tour starts.
Whitechapel High Street


Constable 325 H said that he saw the defendant fighting.

He had been ejected four times from a butcher’s shop, and as he refused to go away he was taken into custody.

The defendant said that he knew the law better than the witness did, and would stay there as long as he liked.


Thomas Oates, a butcher, said the defendant often came to his shop after he had been drinking. He would not go away, and he shoved the witness, who then struck him.

Mr Montagu Williams: “Does he often get drunk?”

Witness: “Very often. Mostly Mondays and Tuesdays as a rule.”

Mr. Montagu Williams fined the defendant five shillings, or in default, five days’ imprisonment.”


The Coventry Evening Telegraph took up the story on Wednesday, 1st July, 1891:-

“A little law, like a little learning, is sometimes a dangerous thing.

Alfred Backert, the chairman of the so-called Whitechapel Murder Vigilance Committee, who seems to make it a rule to imbibe freely on Mondays and Tuesdays, was “gloriously drunk” in High Street, Whitechapel, on Monday evening.

He was prepared to argue or to fight.


He had got the notion that he could stay in a butcher’s shop as long as he pleased, and after being “chucked out” four times, a policeman was sent for.

Backert wanted to expound the law to him, but police constables are very obtuse under such circumstances, and that is how Alfred Backert, compositor, reporter and chairman of the Whitechapel Murder Vigilance Committee, came to make the acquaintance of Mr. Montague Williams of the Thames Police Court.

If instead of “boozing” he had been studying the latest letter of “Jack the Ripper” probably this Whitechapel philanthropist would not have been fined five shillings.”

The assailant, holding the woman by the hair is disarmed.
Albert Bachert Disarms An Attacker. From The Illustrated Police news, Saturday, 27th July, 1889. Copyright, The British Library Board.


However, Mr Bachert was not one to take a fine lying down and, by August, 1891, he was desperately trying to seek redress against the constables who had brought him to court in the first place.

The Globe, on Wednesday, 26th August, 1891, published the following article, and, reading between the lines, you get the distinct impression that the magistrates were tiring of the antics of the Chairman!

The article read:-


“At the Thames Police-court yesterday, Albert Backert, the chairman of the so-called Whitechapel Murder Vigilance Committee, who a short time since was convicted at this court for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, applied to Mr. Dickinson for process against two constables for committing wilful and corrupt perjury, and also for conspiracy.

Since his case was heard at that court he had seen an “ex-Cabinet Minister,” but he had not the time to bring the matter before Parliament prior to the recess.

Mr. Dickinson said that, as the case was decided by Mr. Montagu Williams, so the applicant had better make his application to that gentleman, who would be sitting here on Thursday and Friday.

Backert said that he had been sent from court to court to find Mr. Williams, and he thought that the information which he had prepared would be sufficient.

Mr. Dickinson again repeated that he knew nothing about the matter, and the applicant would have to bring the case before Mr. Williams.”