One of the best known officers who worked on the Jack the Ripper case – thanks largely to the fact that he was portrayed by Johnny Depp in the film From Hell, and by Michael Caine in the TV drama on the crimes – is Inspector Frederick George Abberline (1843 – 1929).
Abberline retired from the Metropolitan Police in 1892.
But he appears to have kept in touch with several of his old colleagues, and he was not above helping them out, should the need arise.
His willingness to assist his colleagues, plus his own personal bravery in the face of odds that many of us might find, to say the least, intimidating is demonstrated by the following article that appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette, on Monday 7th June 1897:-
THE SUNDERLAND BANK ROBBERY
AN IMPORTANT ARREST IN LONDON
“Many weeks have elapsed since the North-Eastern bank at Sunderland was broken into by burglars and the safe depleted of gold and notes amounting to several thousands of pounds.
Meanwhile, the police authorities have been actively engaged in the work of tracking the supposed criminal or criminals.
It is now believed that they have succeeded in arresting a man who was “wanted” in connection with the affair.
The fellow’s capture was attended by exciting incidents.
Chief Inspector Jarvis, of Scotland Yard, assisted by Inspector Turrell and Sergeant Williamson, have, for some time past, been in search of three men suspected of complicity in the Sunderland burglary.
THE CULPRITS TRACKED TO SOHO
On Saturday afternoon about five o’clock the inquiries of the detectives took them to Bateman-street, Soho.
There a gang of men, all said to be well known to the police as expert burglars, were seen in a public-house, and among them were the three men for whom the detectives were in search of.
Chief Inspector Jarvis and his colleagues at once rushed into the tavern, seized their men, and hurried them out of the place and into a four-wheeled cab before they had recovered from their surprise.
AT THE MERCY OF THE MOB
Before, however, the cab could drive off cries of “Chivey them” were raised, and in a moment a mob of men began to attack the cab.
So numerous were the assailants that, by force of weight, they nearly overturned the cab, smashing the doors and windows, and forcing the detectives and their prisoners out on the pavement.
RETIRED INSPECTOR ABBERLINE INTERVENES
At this moment, the struggle attracted the attention of Mr. Abberline, a Scotland Yard inspector, recently retired on a pension, and he promptly went to the assistance of the detectives, and rendered effective help, though he was badly knocked about in doing it.
By this time, the detectives were struggling with upwards of a hundred men.
The fight was an unequal one, as the detectives were not armed, and ultimately one of the prisoners was rescued.
THE DETECTIVES GET ONE MAN OUT
The second man was finally got out of the crowd and taken to the police-station.
A telegram to Sunderland brought Inspector Burdy from that town to London, and last evening he started north with the prisoner.
The man who escaped is an ex-convict of powerful physique, and the police hope to recapture him before long.
OFFICERS BADLY INJURED
Chief Inspector Jarvis and the other detectives engaged in the capture were all badly bruised and strained in the struggle.
Inspector Turrell also injured his shoulder, Sergeant Williamson was kicked in the body, and Mr. Abberline, who arrived so opportunely on the scene, was severely mauled.
All the railway stations were promptly put on the alert for the man who escaped, and about an hour later a further arrest was made, and it is believed that this man is the one who escaped in the scuffle.”
A LITTLE MORE INFORMATION
In its edition of Saturday 12th June, 1897, The Illustrated Police News gave a little more detail on the crime for which the men were wanted:-
“The robbery in ‘connection with which the arrest has been made was committed on the night of March 2 last.
On that occasion the Sunderland branch of the North-Eastern Bank was entered by means of duplicate keys, and upwards of £7,000 in gold and notes was stolen.”