Alois Szemeredy claimed that he was a “military surgeon.”
In 1892, he was arrested in Vienna, on suspicion of murder and robbery, but he committed suicide whilst being held for questioning.
In late September, 1892, articles began appearing in newspapers all over England, claiming that he may also have been Jack the Ripper.
The London Evening Standard presented the case against him on Friday, 30th September, 1892:-
THE VIENNA MURDERS.
“With every precaution warranted by the circumstances, I take note of the fact that in police circles in Vienna and Pesth it is considered very probable that Alois Szemeredy, the Vienna murderer, who committed suicide two days ago in Pressburg, is likely to be regarded in England as likewise the perpetrator of all the “Whitechapel murders.”
To the story of his infamous life as already given in The Standard some further important items may be added today.
I have mentioned that in July, 1876, at a house of ill-fame at Buenos Ayres, Szemeredy murdered a girl named Carolina Metz by stabbing her.
HE PASSED AS A SURGEON
It is worth noting that even at that time he passed as a military surgeon.
Indeed, he was known at the house where he committed the murder and at the hotel where he lodged as “the Hungarian doctor,” although he was by profession only a barber and hairdresser.
But it may not “be superfluous to mention that at the time when Szemeredy learned his trade, some thirty years ago, barbers in Hungary were still in the habit of acting as dentists and extracting teeth, and performing the operations of bleeding patients and dressing wounds, so that by such practice they could not fail to acquire some knowledge of the human anatomy.
In country places, especially, they often acted as surgeons in the absence of properly qualified medical men.
Barber Szemeredy, moreover, had served as a soldier in Italy during the war with Sardinia in 1869, and there he was probably employed in the military hospital, and might thus have picked up some surgical skill.
At all events, he not only called himself “a military doctor” but he actually practised as such in Argentina for some years.
HIS PATH THROUGH SOUTHERN AMERICA
It is said by those who knew him at the time that he despatched many an uncle whose nephews were impatient to succeed to their heritage.
In one description of him, it is said that “a series of tombstones marked his path through Southern America.”
A SIGNIFICANT DETAIL
To return to the murder in Buenos Ayres, there is a significant detail about that case yet to be mentioned. Szemeredy left his overcoat, hat, and umbrella in the murdered girl’s room, so that suspicion was immediately fastened upon him.
He, nevertheless, remained quiet in his hotel, and managed to get away to Rio de Janeiro.
From the latter city he wrote anonymous letters to the authorities of Buenos Ayres which remind the reader of the alleged letters of the Whitechapel murderer to Scotland Yard.
AN INSANE MAN
Szemeredy, moreover, owned to having committed murders, but he called himself an insane man.
He used to threaten everyone with a duel who should dare to touch “the son of Arpad’s race.”
On being arrested for the Buenos Ayres crime, he continued to feign insanity, but the result of the trial was that he was sentenced to death.
He was, however, not executed.
Not only was the Austrian Legation moved to intervene on his behalf, but public opinion was excited, and denounced the execution of “an insane man.”
For five years the Argentine Courts were occupied with him, until at length, in 1881, he was finally acquitted of the charge of murder, but sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for theft previous to the murder.
RELEASED FROM AN ASYLUM
On his return to Hungary he was imprisoned as a deserter, and sent first to the Military Asylum, and finally to the State Asylum near Pesth.
He was released from the latter as cured in 1886.
Between this date and March, 1890, when he made the acquaintance of a widow who afterwards lived with him in Pesth, he is only known to have been away in North America.
Early in 1886, prior to leaving Hungary, he offered his memoirs to a Pesth newspaper.
A sub-editor of that journal who received him, describes him as “a tall, thin man, about forty-five, with bronzed complexion, brown smooth hair, bushy moustache of peculiar form, which covered his whole mouth, sensual unsteady small eyes, large muscular hands, and a habit of wearing his coat buttoned up to the chin in military fashion.”
IDENTIFIED BY HIS MOUSTACHE
The bushy moustache was the principal means of his identification yesterday by those whom he had robbed or attempted to murder, or who saw him enter and leave the shops where the murders were committed.
Only the colour of the hair and beard differed, but it was found that they had been dyed probably a different tint every time.
RESEMBLANCE TO JACK THE RIPPER
With regard to the points of resemblance to the Whitechapel murderer, it is pointed out, in the first place, that Szemeredy commenced his criminal career by stabbing an unfortunate.
He had some surgical knowledge and practice, knew English from having been in North America, was tall and thin, and was fond of writing letters to the authorities and to the newspapers.
It may here be remarked that about six months ago, that is during the first series of the Vienna murders and the second, the Pesth police and newspapers received letters signed “Jack the Ripper”, which at the time were considered a hoax.
Szemeredy, like the Whitechapel murderer, came to Vienna to commit a crime and suddenly disappeared, coming again when the interest in the former case had died out.
As his victims, he chose one class of persons in Vienna, small jewellers and watchmakers.
HIS BROTHER WAS A BURGLAR
As to his being also a burglar, it must be noted that a brother of his, who died three years ago, was one of the most dangerous burglars in Hungary, and he might have regarded his profession as a heritage.
Moreover, the late husband of the widow with whom he cohabited was a receiver of stolen goods.
HIS DISAPPEARANCE FITTED IN
I must leave it to others to say whether the suspicion entertained in Vienna and Pesth has any likelihood of foundation, but one thing I have still to mention.
The disappearance of Szemeredy between 1886 and 1890 covers the time of the Whitechapel murders.”
THE POLICE DID NOT BELIEVE IT
However, as the following article, which appeared in The York Herald, on Saturday, 8th October, 1892, the detectives of the Metropolitan Police, who had, after all, been responsible for investigating the 1888 crimes, didn’t share the consensus that the perpetrator had, in fact, committed suicide in Vienna:-
“At Scotland Yard no one seems to believe that Alois Szemeredy, whose arrest at Vienna has just been announced, is the Whitechapel murderer, and the portrait which has been published certainly does not in the least tally with the descriptions which have been given by those persons who profess to have obtained a glimpse of the man.
But the evidence offered against Szemeredy will be read with interest here, as it appears to be possible that he visited England for nefarious purposes.”