Reading through the reams of newspaper reports that appeared in 1888, it is quite incredible how, from early October 1888 onwards, the name of Jack the Ripper had, well and truly, entered the national consciousness.
Indeed, the name was appearing all over the country, and in many different contexts.
CONFESSIONS AND PERPETRATORS
Compulsive confessors were everywhere, claiming that they were the ones who had carried out the Whitechapel murders; whilst letters that purported to have been written by the perpetrator of the atrocities were being sent in in droves.
In addition, numerous violent criminals were using the name as a means of threatening their victims, and many cases of domestic violence, as well as acts of violence against others, were being reported in newspapers in which the name of “Jack the Ripper had featured prominently.
Once such case was reported in The West Somerset Free Press on Saturday, 1st December, 1888:-
ASSAULT AT WRINGTON
John Lewis, 33, painter, was indicted for assaulting Francis Cook and William Bailey, they being constables and in the execution of their duty, at Wrington, on the 20th November.
When called upon to plead, the prisoner said, “I had a knife my hand, and they tried to take it away and struck me across the head.”
His Lordship: That is a plea of “Not guilty.”Tell all that story afterwards.
BEHAVED IN AN EXTRAORDINARY MANNER
Mr. Dougins Metcalfe prosecuted, and from his opening, it appeared that the prisoner was living at Wrington, and had been away from the village for a little time, but returned on the 19th of November, and he had behaved in rather an extraordinary manner.
He went about the streets announcing himself to be “Jack the Ripper,” and saying other curious things.
He was spoken to by Francis Cook, stationed at Wrington as acting-sergeant, and, eventually, the man went home.
HE THREATENED TO STAB HIS WIFE
He had a wife, but she did not stay there that night, and he seemed to have been quiet when he got home, but on the following day, the 20th, Cook was called into the house, and found the prisoner and his wife, and the latter said that her husband had been threatening to stab her.
HE TRIED TO STAB THE POLICEMAN
When the prisoner heard this he ran upstairs, and Cook followed him and was beginning to persuade him to be quiet when the prisoner suddenly made a rush at him with a table-knife.
Cook saw that he had a knife in his hand, and stepped back a few yards by a child’s crib; but the prisoner rushed at him, caught hold of him with one hand, and commenced slashing at him with the knife.
A STRUGGLE IN THE BEDROOM
He slashed at Cook’s throat, and Cook called out to two persons – Wiliam Bailey and Frank Brice – and they came to the bedroom and interfered.
The Prisoner cut Bailey on the thumb and between the thumb and the forefinger, and then the third man came to his assistance.
The three eventually overpowered him and laid him on the bedstead and took away the knife.
It was found that the prisoner had cut Cook about the throat in two or three places, though not seriously.
P.S. Cook corroborated the statement of the learned counsel.
In cross-examination by the prisoner, he said he did not strike the prisoner with his staff before the other attacked him with a knife.
HE WAS BLAMED FOR BEING JACK THE RIPPER
In his statement made before the magistrates, the prisoner said was blamed for being “Jack the Ripper,” and had no peace; he did not know anything about “Jack the Ripper.”
The jury found the prisoner guilty.
HIS PREVIOUS OFFENCES
His Lordship said he would like to hear something about the antecedents of the prisoner.
P.S. Cook said that the man had been convicted for drunkenness and refusing to quit a public-house.
He was also tried at the quarter session for attempting to commit suicide.
Mr. Metcalfe said the attempt at suicide was most determined; he cut his throat.
The chairman of the quarter session, Sir Richard Paget, sentenced him to six months hard labour, but said that if he conducted himself properly he would make a representation to the Home Secretary to reduce the term to three months, and that had been done.
TWELVE MONTHS HARD LABOUR
His Lordship remarked that the offence committed by the prisoner was of a serious character, and he would assuredly have been hanged if had killed the constable.
He was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.”