Following the murder of Alice McKenzie, which took place on the 17th of July, 1889, there was a sudden flurry of activity as the police, press and others began to wonder if this latest Whitechapel murder spelt the return of the dreaded “Jack the Ripper.”
Today, it should be said, Alice McKenzie is not regarded as one of the actual victims of Jack the Ripper; but at the time, speculation was rife that her murder was carried out by the same “monster” who had terrorised the streets of Spitalfields and Whitechapel throughout the autumn months of the previous year.
However, attacks on women continued to occur, and some of them were, to say the least, of a highly disturbing nature.
One such attack was reported in The Star (Guernsey) on Tuesday 23 July 1889:-
ATTACK ON SARAH MORTLEY
“A sensational story comes from Leystown, a sparsely populated parish at the extremity of the Isle of Sheppey.
A young woman, Sarah Mortley, the wife of a labourer, had been working on a farm, and fell asleep in a field after dinner.
She awoke with a sudden sensation of pain, and found a strange man dressed in black in the act of cutting her throat with a knife.
Seeing her wake, he hurriedly decamped.
GEORGE COOPER ARRESTED
The police have arrested at Sheerness a man named George Cooper, aged 31, on suspicion of being the criminal.
The Prisoner apparently belongs to a superior class of tramp, and was captured near King’s Ferry, which connects the Isle of Sheppey with the mainland of Kent.
When charged with the crime he replied, “All right.”
The Prisoner was formerly in the army.
The woman is in a serious condition.”
MORE LETTERS RECEIVED
Meanwhile, the murder of Alice McKenzie had led to a resurgence of letters, either purporting to have been written by the Whitechapel murderer, or else offering advice on who he might be, where he might live, and how the police might apprehend him.
The same newspaper that carried the report of the attack on Sarah Mortley, also carried a report on yet another letter that had been sent to Commercial Street Police Station by somebody, who, as you will see from the signature, was, perhaps, well placed to advise the police on how the capture of the unknown miscreant who was responsible for the crimes might best be apprehended:-
TO THE INSPECTOR IN CHARGE
“The following letter, directed to “The Inspector in Charge, Commercial-street Station,” was received by the early post on Friday morning:-
“Sir, – No doubt you have longed to fathom the best way to capture the villain who calls himself “Jack the Ripper.”
Nevertheless, we venture to offer you the following suggestions.
He himself is single, and has a room of his own within a square mile where the murders’ were committed.
He keeps a house and has never left the locality.
He Talks to the police, and they to him, because they are always looking out for some beggar who has lodged in the house instead of the keeper.
Whence he knows all their movements, and is well acquainted with the women he murders.
We do not like to advise you, but we think that before the next murder they ought to put a cordon of police around the locality, and to search every house and every shop, and then you won’t find him.
Don’t slight the intimation of – (three initial letters).
Jack the Ripper.
P.S. – As to the Inspector on duty, the writer would suggest that the slaughtermen working at night time in the immediate vicinity should be watched. Their business in many ways facilitates the atrocities we desire to put an end to.
In all places your strictest vigilance in this direction should be forthcoming. Englishman.”