From October, 1888, when the name of “Jack the Ripper” entered the public consciousness, there were numerous reports, all over the country, of men (and, occasionally, women) who preyed on neighbours – and even friends and family – pretending to be the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders.
The effect this head on those who fell victim to these sick imitators could be catastrophic, and several of them were even driven mad by the experience.
As with Jack the Ripper himself, or at least the unknown miscreant who had been given that name – the large majority of these imitators were never brought to justice, and their victims were left to come to terms with the mental impact that the horror of their experiences would have inevitably had on them.
The Huddersfield Chronicle, on Wednesday, 16th January, 1889, published the story of a servant girl in Leeds who became a victim of one such imitator:-
A LEEDS JACK THE RIPPER CASE
A SERVANT GIRL’S NARROW ESCAPE
“The facts are just to light of a ease in Leeds in which a servant girl had a very narrow escape from death at the hands of an apparent madman.
It appears that a Sunday or two ago a young woman named Amy Dutton, 16 years of age, who is in service with Mr Brook, at Westfield Farm, Knostrop, had been in Hunslet visiting some friends.
She also called on her aunt, Mrs Wilkinson, confectioner, Hunslet Road.
It would be about 7.30 at night, and as the night was both dark and foggy Mrs Wilkinson was very anxious about the girl’s safety, and she told her to go home through the town.
HE APPEARED FROM THE HEDGE
The girl went into Duncan Street and rode in the York-road tram as far as Pontefract Lane, after which she crossed Paddy’s Park, until she came onto the footpath leading to Knostrop.
When she had nearly reached the footpath, a man suddenly jumped out from behind the hedge, put his hand on her month, and threw her down. He also showed her a large knife, and said that if she attempted to scream he would run “it into her.”
The girl was naturally very alarmed, but just at that moment she heard a voice from some distance saying, “Hallo there! what are you doing?”
SHE MADE HER ESCAPE
The man, startled, desisted from his purpose, and let loose his hold upon her. She jumped up immediately and ran away across Paddy’s Park and some fields, stumbling in the coarse of her run over a form.
She at once went to the house of her married sister in Ascot Avenue, but was in such a condition of mingled fright and exhaustion, consequent upon her fall, that she was not able to make any statement for about twenty minutes, when she told the story of how she bad been attacked in Paddy’s Park.
Her brother-in-law went to her employer’s house in order to explain her absence, and he also called at the York Road Police Station, where he reported the affair.
SHE HAD SUFFERRED INTERNAL INJURIES
The girl was removed to Knostrop on the following day, and was attended by Dr Holmes, who found that, although she had sustained no broken bones, the man had put his foot on her body causing some internal injuries.
She was confined to bed for several days, but has since recovered, and is now able to follow her usual employment.
IT WASN’T A ROBBERY
In reply to questions, which have been put to her by her relations and friends, the girl has since said that she is sure that she was not stopped for the sake of robbery, as she had her purse in her hand all the time.
She has also stated that she is positive that she would be able to identify her assailant, although her description of him does not go beyond the fact that he was a tall man.”