Following the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes – both of which took place in the early hours of the morning of 30th September 1888 – there was a dramatic increase in people confessing to having carried out the Whitechapel murders.
The newspapers had, by this time, discovered that there was an insatiable appetite from the public at large for any details on the East End crimes, and, in consequence, they were quick to report on any “suspects” who had felt compelled – mostly when drunk – to having been responsible for the Jack the Ripper atrocities.
ANOTHER DRUNK CONFESSES
On 2nd October, 1888, John Kelly, the man with whom Catherine Eddowes had been living, went to Bishopsgate Police Station to make a statement about their last days together and about the last time he had seen her alive.
Whilst he was being questioned, another man arrived at the police station and confessed to having carried out the Whitechapel murders.
The St James’s Gazette carried the following brief article on the man in its edition of Wednesday, 3rd October, 1888:-
“While Kelly was making his statement, a man entered the station and made a confession that he was the murderer.
He strongly objected to being searched; but this was done with the aid of two or three constables.
Major Smith, who was present at the station, attaches no importance to the confession, the man having been drinking, and having nothing of an incriminating nature in his possession.
He was, however, detained.”
INVESTIGATION AT THE GUILDHALL
The Tyrone Consitution, on Friday, 5th October, 1888, published an account of an appearance at Guildhall by one William Bull, who claimed to be a medical student at the London Hospital:-
“This morning, William Bull, describing himself as a medical student at the London Hospital, and living at Standard Road, Dalston, was charged, on his own confession, with having committed the murder in Mitre Square.
Inspector Izzard said that at 10.40 last night the accused came to his room at Bishopsgate Street Station, and made the following statement:-
“My name is William Bull, and I live at Dalston. I am a medical student at the London Hospital.
I wish to give myself up for the murder in Aldgate, Saturday night or Sunday morning, about two o’clock.
I think I met the woman in Aldgate. I went with her into a narrow street, not far from the Main Road, for an immoral purpose. I promised to give her half-a-crown, which I did.
While walking along together there was a second man, who came up and took the half-crown from her.
I cannot endure this any longer. My poor head. (Here, he put his hand to his head and cried, or pretended to cry). I shall go mad. I have done it, and I must put up with it.”
The inspector asked what had become of the clothing he had on when the murder was committed. The Accused said, “If you wish to know, they are in the [River] Lea, and the knife I threw away.”
At this point, the prisoner declined to say any more. He was drunk. Part of the statement was made in the presence of Major Smith.
The prisoner gave his correct address, but is not known at the London Hospital.
His parents were respectable.
The inspector asked for a remand to make enquiries, and this was granted.
The prisoner said that he was drunk when he made the statement.
He was remanded.”
LOCK ME UP FOR THE MURDERS
The Belfast Weekly News, on Saturday, 6th October, 1888, carried the following report about a similar claimant in Birmingham:-
“On Saturday night, at about eleven o’clock, a tall man, of shabby-genteel appearance, presented himself at Moor Street Police Station, Birmingham, and asked to be locked up for the Whitechapel murders.
His appearance and demeanour, however, were such as to prevent any compliance with his request.
The constable on duty remarked, “You don’t look coward enough for a murderer,” to which the man replied, “Well, lock me up for the Handsworth shooting case.”
After some interrogating, the man was ordered out of the lock-up, and went away quite disconsolate.”
ANOTHER SPURIOUS CONFESSION
The Bradford Daily Telegraph, on Monday, 0n 8th October, 1888, carried the following report about another man, again in Birmingham, who had made a public confession in a local hostelry:-
“At the Birmingham Police Court today, a man giving the name Alfred Napier Blanchard, canvasser, from London, was charged on his own confession with the Whitechapel murders.
The Prisoner was arrested on the strength of a statement he had been making in a public-house, the statement containing a circumstantial account of his proceedings.
He now denies any connection with the murders, and explains his confession by pleading mental excitement, caused by reading about the affair.
He was remanded till Monday, but the police do not consider the arrest important.”
BULL’S DRUNKEN CONFESSION
The Cornish Telegraph, on Thursday, 11th October 1888, reported on another appearance at Guildhall by the “medical student” William Bull.
The paper also reported on the frustration expressed by the presiding magistrate that he could not mete out severe punishment on the time-waster:-
“At the Guildhall, London, on Friday, William Bull was charged on remand, on his own confession, with having committed the Aldgate murder.
Inspector Izzard informed Alderman Stone that inquiries had proved that the prisoner could have had nothing to do with the murder.
The Alderman, after expressing regret that he could not punish Bull, discharged him.”
GEARY AT LEMAN STREET
The Bradford Daily Telegraph, on Thursday, 11th October, 1888, reported, albeit briefly, on a man who had gone to the main East End Police Station to confess:-
“A man named Geary entered at Leman Street Police Station last night as the Whitechapel murderer. After inquiries, he was discharged.”
JACK THE RIPPER AT CHORLEY
On Tuesday, 16th October, 1888 The Bradford Daily Telegraph, carried another report on yet another self-styled “Jack the Ripper.”:-
“Yesterday morning at Chorley, a stranger, giving the name John Williams, was brought before the magistrates under singular circumstances.
On Saturday night, he went into a public-house, and drawing a long, sharp knife from a sheath, boasted that he was “Jack the Ripper,” and that he had polished four off and meant to do another.
A paper was found on him which showed that he had recently travelled in the neighbourhood of London.”
ANOTHER LONDON MYSTERY
CONFESSION OF MURDER
The York Herald, along with several other newspapers, on Tuesday, 16th October, 1888, published a repot of an Ameican sailor who had confessed to having carried out a murder that, as fas as could be ascertained, hadn’t actually taken place:-
“A man, giving the name of William Russell, and stating that he was discharged a week ago from an American ship, the National Eagle, at the Victoria Docks, Liverpool, has given himself up to the police at Maidenhead, accusing himself of having committed a murder in London on Tuesday night last.
He says that, on the night in question, he had been drinking with an unfortunate whom he calls “Annie.”
They subsequently quarrelled, and he threw the woman over the parapet of Westminster Bridge into the Thames.
He then ran away, and has since been hiding at Kew and Windsor.
Haunted, however, by the belief that he was being hunted down, he became so uneasy that he could get no rest, and consequently surrendered himself to the police.
He describes the woman as rather good-looking, of dark complexion, and rather stout, “the type,” he says, “of a London girl.”
Russell was detained by the police, and, late on Sunday night, the attention of Sergeant Meade was attracted by a strange gurgling sound as of someone suffocating.
The officer went to the room where the prisoner was and found him black in the face from an attempt to strangle himself.
He had tied a silk handkerchief tightly round his throat.
The sergeant arrived just in time to remove it and save the man’s life.
He was charged before the magistrates yesterday with attempting suicide and remanded for a week for inquiries to be made.”
ARREST AND CONFESSION
Finally, The Lancashire Evening Post, on Thursday, 18th October, 1888, reported on what appeared to be a promising lead with regards to a particular suspect who, if the article was to be believed, was being watched by the police:-
“There are, it is stated, indications in official circles that at no period during the search for the miscreant has there been so much chance of arrest as at the present moment.
From more than one source, the police authorities have received information tending to show that the criminal is a foreigner, who was known as having lived within a radius of a few hundred yards from the scene of the Berner-street tragedy.
The very place where he lodges is asserted to be within official cognisance.
If the man be the real culprit, he lived some time ago with a woman, by whom he has been accused.
Her statements are, it is stated, now being inquired into.
In the meantime, the suspected assassin is “shadowed.”
Incriminating evidence of certain character has already been obtained and, should implicit credence be placed in the woman already referred to, whose name will not transpire under any circumstances until after his guilt is prima facie established, a confession of the crimes may be looked for at any moment.
The accused himself is aware, it is believed, of the suspicions entertained against him.
The Central News says another man has just been arrested in Whitechapel by the police, on information received, on suspicion of being concerned in the East End murders.
He is about 35 years of age, and has recently been living in Whitechapel.
He is somewhat confused as to his whereabouts lately, and will be detained pending inquiries.”