Throughout the last two months of 1888 and on into 1889 and beyond, there were numerous reports of men who appeared in court on charges of attacking women in the streets.
Many of these attacks were linked by the press, and often by the perpetrators themselves, to Jack the Ripper.
One such case was reported on by Reynolds’s Newspaper, on Sunday 3rd February, 1889:-
IMITATING “JACK THE RIPPER”
The other day, at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh the Lord Justice Clerk presiding, John Stevenson, nineteen years old, a coach trimmer, was charged with having, on January 2 or 3 last, in a close or court at 85, Queen-street, Glasgow, assaulted Catherine Mackenzie, at present a patient in the Royal infirmary, by stabbing her.
He pleaded “Guilty” at Glasgow and he was sent to the High Court for sentence.
Mr. Thomson, on behalf of the prisoner, stated that he had a hasty temper, and that his mother had been in an asylum and was still living in the country under restraint.
He read letters from several clergymen and the accused’s employers, giving him an excellent character.
A JACK THE RIPPER STYLE ATTACK
Mr. Robertson, advocate depute, said the woman stated that the prisoner followed her into a close and suddenly struck her with a knife. She saw the knife and then he struck her two or three times, and knocked her down. He then raised her clothes and cut her about the legs.
At that moment the police arrived, and the prisoner ran off, but he was caught immediately afterwards.
He was glad to corroborate what Mr. Thomson said as to the prisoner’s previous career. He had borne a good character in all respects.
AN IMPULSIVE DISPOSITION
He himself had information as to the impulsive disposition of the lad, but there was no evidence of weakness of mind or anything approaching to insanity.
It might well be that, reading the details of what happened at Whitechapel had acted to a certain degree on his mind, and had induced him to commit this crime.
But whether the desire to emulate the deeds of the Whitechapel murderer was to be urged as an extenuation was for his lordship to judge.
The woman’s injuries were very serious indeed, but she was now recovering, although it would be some time before she was out of the hospital.
A SERIOUS OFFENCE
After consultation with some of the other judges, the Lord Justice Clerk said that he should have been very glad if he had been enabled to limit the sentence to one of imprisonment, but he found it impossible to do so.
To pronounce any sentence of imprisonment, in a case where a man attacked a woman without any provocation whatever, and stabled her in various places in a most disgusting manner, would he the worst possible example of all.
He felt bound, in the exercise of his duty, to disregard all idea of the prisoner not being responsible for what he had done.
SEVEN YEARS PENAL SERVITUDE
There would be ample opportunity when he was in confinement for an investigation being made for the purpose of seeing whether that was the case or not.
He should not pronounce a shorter sentence than one of seven years’ penal servitude.
The prisoner was then removed.