A Press Detective

Joseph Hall Richardson (1857 – 1945) was a stockbroker turner journalist who in 1927 published his reminiscences in his book  From the City To Fleet Street.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal introduced its readers to the volume in its edition of Thursday, 10th November 1927:-



By J. H. Richardson. Stanley Paul: 15s.

For nearly half a century the author of this engrossing volume of reminiscences has been engaged on Press detective work, and there has been no crime of the first rank during that period which has not occupied him professionally.

The story of this work is not recorded here – this promising survey is reserved for a later volume – but we are given fascinating glimpses of certain criminal trials at the original Old Bailey, and incidental references to criminal matters which had special interest to the City.

These are often as illuminating as they are absorbing, and cannot fail to whet the appetite of many a reader for further recollections of the same kind.


Alluding to the “hanging” judge, Sir Henry Hawkins, who afterwards became Lord Brampton, Mr Richardson recalls that he (Sir Henry) himself declared that in all cases of magnitude involving penal servitude, he always put back the prisoner when he could overnight, so that thinking over the evidence he might search for any little thing which would justify mitigation of sentence.

This procedure appears to have been overlooked by a good many contemporaries when passing judgment on this famous luminary of the law courts.


To the present generation the case of Adelaide Bartlett is unknown, and most people of a maturer age have forgotten it.

It forms the theme of the latest addition to the “Notable British Trials” series, and Mr Richardson devotes several pages to it.

He tells us that when the prisoner left the dock acquitted, her counsel, Sir Edward Clarke, dropped his head on the desk and sobbed.

“It was some minutes before he regained his control.”


Who was responsible for the so-called Whitechapel murders perpetrated between April and November 1888?

They were ascribed to “Jack the Ripper,” whose identity has been the subject of various guesses.

In his book, “Things I Know,” the late Mr William Le Queux linked up the Whitechapel murderer with Rasputin, the Russian monk, who hypnotised the ill-fated Tsarina.

The theory was at once dismissed by the police.


Then, in 1924 Sir, Basil Thomson said that the Jack-the-Ripper outrages were now believed by the police to have been the work of an insane Russian medical student whose body was found floating in the Thames immediately after the last of the outrages.

Mr Richardson comments:-

“I venture to say that if any reliance is to be placed on this story it is because Sir Basil Thomson had access to the records of Scotland Yard. I do not think he would have obtained them first-hand from any officer who was engaged in the investigation of the Whitechapel murders, as no officer who had the personal experience remained in the force at the time that Sir Basil Thomson was occupying his special suite of rooms at Scotland House, a building which, by the way, did not form part of Scotland Yard.”

The author remains of the conviction that the police never knew and are never likely to know who actually was the Whitechapel murderer.


He also observes that “it would scarcely be believed that the Metropolitan Police held the clue to the identification of the murderer in their own hands and deliberately threw it away under the personal direction of the then Commissioner of Police, Sir Charles Warren, who acted in the belief that an anti-Semitic riot might take place if a certain damning piece of writing were permitted to remain on the walls.”