By early October, 1888, the unknown miscreant who was carrying on a murderous reign of terror in the East End of London was being sought high and low, with little success.
All manner of people were coming forward with information, many of them claiming that they knew who the killer was.
In addition, thanks to the unknown writer of the Dear Boss letter, the miscreant had become universally known as “Jack the Ripper” and, as a result, the crimes themselves were fast assuming an almost pantomime-like air.
A DOCTOR’S CLUE. A MAD MEDICAL ASSISTANT
The Nottingham Evening Post, on Monday, 8th October, 1888, published the following article which, if true, was most certainly intriguing, albeit the police seem to have given this particular suspect short shrift:-
“A medical gentleman has called at a London newspaper office to give some information regarding a suspicion which he entertains to the murderer.
His first words were of protest against the manner he was received at Scotland-yard. He went there in company with another Medical gentleman, and announced that he had some important information to communicate.
THE MONOMANIAC THEORY
It has more than once been suggested that the murderer is a monomaniac with medical knowledge.
The doctor had an assistant who has gone mad recently and who is exactly the sort of man Mr Archibald Forbes had in his mind in his diagnosis of the murders.
The man whom the doctor suspects is a man of about 35.
HE HAD ANATOMICAL KNOWLEDGE
He was not a fully qualified surgeon, but had a certain amount of anatomical knowledge, and had assisted at operations, including ovariotomy.
He was the assistant to a doctor in Whitechapel, and he knows every alley and court in the neighbourhood of the places where the murders were committed.
A SPECIFIC CONTAGION
He has been the victim of “a specific contagion,” and since then has been animated by feelings of hate, not to say revenge, against the lower class of women who haunt the streets.
When seen about eight months ago he was mad.
“What man,” said the doctor, in concluding his story, “is more likely to have committed the crimes than this maniac? ”
JACK THE RIPPER IMITATORS
In the first week of October, 1888, the police had made public the infamous Dear Boss letter with its chillingly apt signature “Jack the Ripper.”
Almost immediately the name had caught the public imagination, with the result that police forces countrywide were soon receiving similarly signed missives, whilst quite a few people, the majority of them male and most of them drunk, were finding themselves unable to resists the temptation of claiming to be the notorious East End fiend.
A ROUND-UP OF OFFENDERS
The same issue of The Nottingham Evening Post that reported the medical gentleman suspicions also carried a round-up of some of the imitators that seem to have been at large in ever-increasing numbers throughout the first week of October, 1888:-
HE BRANDISHED A LONG KNIFE
“At Brierley Hill Police-court today Alfred Pearson, moulder, was charged with stopping Thomas Plant and his sweetheart in a dark lane, threatening them as “Jack the Ripper,” and with brandishing a long knife.
The lady was driven into hysterics.
Pearson was bound over to keep the peace.
JACK THE RIPPER THE SECOND
At Govan (Glasgow) today Michael Devine, who described himself as “Jack the Ripper the Second”, was fined three guineas for knocking a married woman down, and brandishing a knife over her.
THOMAS TAILOR SENT TO JAIL
Thomas Johnson, a travelling tailor, was sent to gaol at Croydon today for a month, in default of finding sureties, for violently threatening two married women in a public house there.
The affair caused much excitement following upon recent London outrages.”
A HUMBLE IMITATOR
As far as the Thomas Johnson case went, The Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter, published an opinion on his foolish behaviour and his deserved punishment on Saturday, 13th October, 1888:-
“It was quite a mistake to fancy, as many persons did last Monday, that “Jack the Ripper ” was in custody in Croydon.
The fact was that only a humble imitator of the esteemed “Jack” had got into the hands of the police.
This man, whose name is Johnson, had threatened to take the life of a woman he met in a public-house in Surrey-street, and had thus given rise to some suspicion.
OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE
In the ordinary way, the threats would have been of no great importance, especially since the man slunk off to bed soon afterwards, but with the disturbed state of the public mind the threats became magnified almost into acts, and Johnson was taken into custody.
He is now charged with the necessity of finding sureties to keep the peace, and may have to spend some time in prison in default.
THE STUPID MAN WAS DRUNK!
The probability is that the stupid man had drunk himself into a kind of half belief that he was a “Jack the Ripper” of a humble kind, and that he could terrify the woman without danger to himself.
He has been rudely undeceived, however, and serve him right too.”