It is surprising how many times the name of Jack the Ripper turns up in the court records throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Indeed, combing through the newspaper accounts of court appearances during this period, a large number of bad, mad and, in most cases, dangerous defendants turn up in court docks across the country, all of whom, in one way or another, had claimed to have been the notorious Whitechapel murderer.
Quite why they did so is open to debate, as it is now impossible to even guess at their motivation.
That they were, in most cases, mentally unstable is without question.
However, for the women who had suffered the misfortune of encountering them it must have been a terrible experience, and their ordeals cannot have been helped by the fact that magistrates and judges often took a lenient line when sentencing these awful people, as is exampled by the following harrowing story, which broke in The Manchester Evening News on Friday, 23rd October, 1914:-
A VICIOUS ATTACK ON A WOMAN
“An extraordinary story of a vicious attack upon a woman by a man who was said to have described himself as “Jack the Ripper” was told at Marylebone Police Court, London, today, when William Hayday (59), a labourer, was charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm upon Mrs. Ethel Weekley and with assaulting her.
The magistrate, after hearing her evidence, suggested that a further charge should be preferred against the prisoner under the Offences Against the Persons Act, which makes it an offence to suffocate or strangle a person with the intention of committing felony.
SHE MET HIM ON THURSDAY
Mrs. Weekley, whose face was terribly disfigured, said that she met the prisoner, a total stranger, on Thursday.
He asked her if she would like to earn a shilling by going home with him and cleaning his place. She agreed, and drove with him in a cab to a house. There he locked the door and threw her upon a bed.
“For God’s sake,” she cried, “let me off. I went to Benediction last night. I didn’t think this was going to happen.”
He then punched her about the face, and, when she attempted to scream, he forced pieces of wet rag up her nostrils and into her mouth. He also tied her feet together to stop her from struggling.
“You didn’t think when I brought you here that I was Jack the Ripper,” he remarked.
A SILVER HANDLED KNIFE
He had a silver handled knife in one hand, she said, and with the other hand he continued to punch her. Then he took her by the throat and declared that he would strangle her.
He took no notice of her entreaties, however, but thrust his fingers into her ears and kept wiping blood from her nose.
He was a carver, he said, and had cut women up and done “Ripper” murders, and he threatened to serve her the same.
Afterwards he promised to give her untold gold.
Eventually he left her. She screamed “Murder” and “Police.”
A policeman knocked at the door, and the prisoner immediately cut the string that bound her feet and opened the door.
LIKE A MADMAN
As the police entered, the prisoner suggested that she should take some money and remarked that he was Jack the Ripper.
In reply to the magistrate she said that she did not think he was drunk, but he seemed like a madman.
The magistrate remarked that the prisoner had to answer one of the gravest offences known to the law and remanded him that he might obtain legal aid.”
A LOT OF CHARGES
The Illustrated Police News – carried an update on the case in its edition of Thursday, 5th November 1914:-
William Hayday, an elderly man, living at Little Park Street, Marylebone, who is said to have been in an asylum three times, was before Mr. Canceller charged on remand with attempting to criminally assault Ethel Weekley, a young married woman, living at 53, Brunswick-street, Blackfriars; with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm upon her, and with attempting to suffocate or strangle her, with intent to commit a felony.
He was committed for trial to the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey), the magistrate certifying for legal aid.
It appeared that the prisoner met the woman in Drury Lane, lured her to his home under the pretence of giving her work, and there committed the alleged assault.
The prisoner alleged that she attacked him with hatpins.”
HIS OLD BAILEY APPEARANCE
On Friday, 9th November, 1914, Vote provided its readers with the outcome of the case, following William Hayday’s appearance and sentencing at the Old Bailey, at which proceeding, you can’t help feeling, he got off very lightly indeed.
It’s also worth noting that many of the newspapers, up to this point, had been getting his victim’s name wrong, as she was, in fact, Mrs Wheatley not Mrs Weekley:-
“William Hayday was charged with attempted rape and assault on Mrs. Wheatley.
Her story at the Police Court was that she was asked by the prisoner to clean up his room for his wife and that when she got inside he locked the door and attacked her furiously.
The prisoner said that the woman was a prostitute, and that they quarrelled about money.
She was very much upset when he said this; she looked very respectable and the detectives evidently believed her.
A PLEA TO COMMON ASSAULT
At the Old Bailey, the prosecuting counsel had the impertinence to accept the prisoner’s plea of guilty to common assault.
He said that the woman’s story was hard to believe, as “the circumstances under which the woman met with the man (in a public-house) would not make one inclined to credit her story of attempted rape.”
She was not allowed to give evidence, the man having pleaded guilty to one of the indictments, and counsel blackened the woman’s character in a totally unwarrantable manner.
A VERY LENIENT SENETENCE
The prisoner had been twice in an asylum and had been discharged from his employment for indecency towards a woman employee.
The judge said that he would examine the woman’s depositions made at the Police Court before passing sentence.
He then sentenced the prisoner to 12 months’ hard labour.”