Charles Grant, also known as Charles Le Grand, is one of those people whose name crops up in relation to actually investigating the Jack the Ripper murders who, on closer inspection, turns out to have been a somewhat unsavoury character in his own right.
In 1888, Grant, going under the alias of Charles Le Grande, had set himself up as a private investigator, operating out of an office on Strand, and was one of two men employed by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee to organise and oversee their night patrol through the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.
In the wake of the murder of Elizabeth Stride, which took place on 30th September, 1888, Grand was one of the detectives who elicited an important fact from witness Mathew Packer.
Although Packer had told the police that he and his wife had seen nothing when they had initially been interviewed in the immediate aftermath of the murder he, apparently, had a change of heart under interrogation by Grand and his companion detective, Batchelor, and told them that he had, supposedly, sold grapes to Elizabeth Stride and a man shortly before she was murdered.
Grand and Batchelor had then headed over to the murder site in Dutfield’s Yard where, on searching the drain, they found, so they claimed, a grape stalk.
They, therefore, escorted Packer to Scotland Yard, where he was personally interviewed by the Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren about his newly remembered testimony.
NOT A PLEASANT PERSON
However, it would transpire that, in hiring Charles Le Grande, the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee had, most certainly, not performed due diligence in enquiring into his antecedents since, by that time, he was already a convicted criminal, and, over the next few years, he would become notorious as a blackmailer.
In June 1889, he was charged with and convicted of blackmailing Harley Street surgeon Malcolm Morriss, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Upon his release, in 1891, Charles Grant, to use the actual name under which he was prosecuted, was up to his old tricks again, and was prosecuted for a particularly nasty extortion racket, which was reported in
AN ATTEMPT TO EXTORT MONEY
At Westminster Police Court yesterday, Charles Grant alias Legrand, a tall, well-dressed man of military appearance, was charged on remand with attempting to extort £500 by menaces from Mrs Baldock, an invalid lady living at Grosvenor Place, London.
Violent letters, said have been written by the accused, were read, in which Mrs Baldock was threatened with death by dynamite, or by poisoning, unless she paid the money.
Detective-Inspector Moore described his search for the prisoner.
He found him detained at a police station and read over his warrant to him.
When he mentioned Mrs Baldock’s name the accused fainted.
Recovering, he asked to have the warrant read again, and said, “You are lucky to get me; I was just off America.”
Witness had seen letters to the Baroness Bolsover and other ladies demanding money in the same writing.
ARRESTED AT MALDEN STATION
Detective Sergeant James said he had known accused seven or eight years. He and Detective Holden arrested him at Malden Railway Station on September 26th. They took him to Malden Police Station.
On the way there the prisoner abused the witness, using very violent language, and said if he had seen him he would have blown his brains out; as soon as he was out of jail he would put six inches of steel in his back.
The Witness and his colleague afterwards went to the Oaklands, Acacia Grove, Malden, and there found gunpowder and an infernal machine.
TRIED TO PUSH HIM UNDER A TRAIN
Subsequently, they took the prisoner to London, and, on the way to the station, he renewed his threats.
While standing on the platform the prisoner, who was handcuffed, pressed with all his force against the witness, trying to push him under an approaching train.
The attempt was frustrated.
When they were in the train the prisoner renewed the abuse and said that he wished he had pushed the witness under the train.
The Magistrate remanded the accused, but peremptorily refused bail, permitting, however, a sum of money found on him to be returned.”
THE EXTRAORDINARY THREATENING LETTERS
MORE SINGULAR REVELATIONS
The Dover Express, on Friday 16th October, 1891:-
“The Dane who gave the name of Charles Grant, and who is known by the alias of Le Grand, was again placed in the dock at Westminster Police-court on Monday, charged with threatening to murder the Baroness Bolsover, residing at 13, Grosvenor-place, and Lady Jessel, the widow of the late Master of the Rolls.
Mr. Sims prosecuted for the Treasury, and Mr. Scarlett was counsel for the prisoner.
At the last hearing, it was stated that the prisoner, who in June last completed a sentence of two years’ hard labour for blackmailing a doctor, went to live in the Kennington-road, whence, it is alleged, sent out a number of letters to ladies demanding money with menaces of a horrible nature.
The daughter of his landlady has deposed to seeing the drafts of some of these communications in the room he occupied, and in a conversation which he had with a detective since he has been in custody, he referred to this evidence, and asked the officer what punishment he thought he ( the prisoner) was likely to get.
A case of threatening an invalid elderly lady named Baldock, who resides at 8, Grosvenor-place, was concluded last week, and the police then produced a quantity of gunpowder and an infernal machine, consisting of an arrangement of powerful springs in a cigar box, which was found at the prisoner’s last lodging at Malden.
LADY JESSEL’S EVIDENCE
Lady Jessel deposed that, on the afternoon of the 17th of July last, she received the following letter:-
To Lady Jessel. Madame, Take notice, if you do not pay me the sum of £600 within 10 days I will dash your brains out by a means that may prove highly fatal to those surrounding you.
Do not be misguided by your advisers, who may, perhaps, tell you to apply to the police for protection – there is no other protection for you than to pay the above sum.
Hell itself will not protect you from my hand, far less the English detectives, who could not even find the man who murdered seven or eight women in the open streets in Whitechapel.
If you look to protection from them, then you might well look for protection from your lap-dog.
You understand – I must have the sum, or I must perish in the attempt.
I have addressed a similar letter to this to 10 persons; if you do not pay up I shall dash you to atoms, and you will then serve the others as an example, and they will see that I mean what I say.
They will naturally then pay such a paltry sum, than expose themselves to certain destruction.
Do not believe, however, that I would kill you with a revolver. No, madam, that would be madman’s work. I shall use a thin cake of dynamite, or fulminate of silver, which could easily be placed under a doormat upon which you have to step, under the cushion of your seat in church, so that immediately the weight of your body comes on it, it would explode and dash you to atoms.
By removing a brick from the wall of your house and filling the hole with dynamite or nitro-glycerine, the greater part of your house, if not all, may be blown up.
My means of carrying out my plans are more numerous than you would believe, and you have a poor chance of escape, provided you do not pay what I have demanded.
If you comply with my demands then insert in The Daily Telegraph this advertisement (within three days) – “M. M. A. Will comply ” – then an address will be given to you where to send the money, or it may be fetched.
Be careful how you act, and mark well that you play with your own life.
Awaiting your reply.
M. M. A.
Your last day for payment is the.24th of July. No. 1. – Please insert this number in your advertisement.”
Replying to Mr. Sims, her ladyship said that she, on the advice of friends, sent the letter to Scotland-yard.
Harry William Pearce, butler to the Baroness Bolsover, of 13, Grosvenor-place, said that on the afternoon of the 17th of July last a letter in red ink (produced) arrived by post for her ladyship.
She opened it and handed it back, with instructions to send it to the police.
The letter to her ladyship was couched in terms similar to the communications to other ladies already in evidence.
She was directed to put “No. 4” her advertisement, and warned that if she did not send the money demanded there was dynamite “or a thousand other ways by which I may send you into unknown eternity.”
The concluding sentences to the letter were, “I hope you will consider my request. It may be that one day I may be able to pay it back to you, only I must have it now. If you knew who I am I feel sure you would pity me – see that I am come to act like this, which is highly criminal, and void of all human feeling. I knew you once. But enough.”
JAMES HALL’S TESTIMONY
James Hall, clerk employed at the Polytechnic, said, he knew the prisoner by the name of Grand, and from Oct., 1888, to June, 1889, he was in his service as a clerk.
The Prisoner was then living at 3, York-place, Baker-street, and had formerly lived in Charlotte-street, Portman-square.
The Prisoner carried on the business of inquiry agent, and had an office in the Strand.
The Witness had frequently seen the prisoner write, and identified the threatening letters already in evidence.
Mr. Sims: “I believe, in June, 1889, the prisoner was in some trouble and in Holloway Gaol.”
Mr. Scarlett objected.
Mr. Sims: “You will see the necessity for the question.
(To the witness) You received some letters from him in Holloway?”
Witness: “Yes. They were put in for the purposes of comparison.”
The Witness further deposed that he had seen the prisoner send letters in printed characters, similar to the one already in evidence, of a menacing character.
Mr.Sims, with regard to one long letter put in for the purpose of comparison, said it was a communication from the prisoner to Dr. A. Malcolm Morris, who prosecuted him before.
The peculiarity of the last batch of letters was that the prisoner seemed to have adopted Dr. Morriss’s initials, “A. M. M.”
The Prisoner was again remanded.”
COMMITTED FOR TRIAL
Grant’s next court appearance was reported by The Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal on Friday, 23rd October, 1891:-
“At the Westminster Police Court, on Monday, Charles Grant, the Dane, who is known by the alias of “Le Grand” and as the “French Colonel,” was committed for trial on a charge of sending threatening letters to titled and other ladies with the view extort money.
Several previous convictions against the prisoner were proved”
A FEROCIOUS BLACK-MAILER
The Inverness Courier, on Tuesday, 24th November 1891, reported on the outcome of the case:-
“Christian Briscony, alias Charles Grand, alias Grant, alias the “French Colonel,” alias Captain Anderson, was on Friday convicted of sending letters to Mrs Baldock, demanding money, and threatening to murder her.
Sentence was postponed, for he is still to be tried on other charges.
He stands indicted for sending similar letters to the Baroness Bolsover and to Lady Jessel; for conspiring to defraud the London and Westminster Bank; and for forging cheques.
The evidence at the late trial was confined to the first charge, and that seems almost enough.
To take all the others might only be to suggest that the prisoner had well-nigh boxed the compass of crime.”
STAND AND DELIVER
He did not know Mrs Baldock, and it is not quite certain that he had ever seen her.
But be wanted £500, and he asked her to stand and deliver on penalty of a sudden, a violent, and a mysterious death.
His missive was in the nature of a bill drawn at seven days. If the poor old lady did not pay up within that time, he said, he would “dash her brains out by a dynamical explosion.”
In a more generous moment, he was free to admit that he had no grievance against her.
At the same time, he was able to assure her that he had been brought to despair by the villainy of a woman, and that, in one point of view, the money was a sort of fine levied on a faithless sex.
THE POLICE SET A TRAP
Mrs Baldock put the matter in the hands of the police, and they laid a trap to catch him which was not, however, immediately successful.
They advertised “will comply,” as suggested, but they made the preposterous request that he “should call at Mrs Baldock’s house.”
This made him very angry, and not unnaturally, for it showed bad faith.
“Treachery,” he said, with feeling, in a second letter to her, “is a base, vile, and utterly unfit quality for lady” – the distinction is interesting for its bearing on the question of sex in crime – “and must, in this instance, be punished with exemplary rigour.”
The exemplary rigour was to be dynamite under the door-mat, or perhaps arsenic or cyanide in the bread, and in the milk – in fact, a free breakfast table in corrosive poisons.
He might have spared himself the trouble of proving that it was wicked to employ the police against him, for he was prepared to show that it was useless, which was much more to the point.
THE POLICE TOOK OFFENCE
Their “want of foresight,” he said of the Force, in terms of perhaps excessive severity, “can only be equalled, if not surpassed, by their incapacity to perform police duty.”
This seems to have given just displeasure at Whitehall.
A policeman is but mortal; he may despise the chatter of irresponsible frivolity, but, when he is mocked for incapacity by an expert who has himself been in the private inquiry line, he cannot but feel a wound.
In a short time after he had written that second and fatal letter, Le Grand was in custody.
HIS HANDWRITING RECOGNISED
Policemen have long memories, and one of them, in looking at the letters which had been sent to Mrs Baldock, was struck by a certain resemblance in the handwriting to a letter written by Le Grand to the Department, over four years ago, complaining of the conduct of a constable.
In this letter the writer was but a citizen asserting his right to efficient public service; he, therefore, had no reason to conceal his name.
A DETECTIVE PURSUES HIM
The police now knew whom to look for, and, moreover, whom to send to look for him.
They put the affair in the hands of a detective whom Le Grand and all his little ways had been for years an open secret.
Soon this officer was keeping a friendly watch on a messenger boy, who, he thought, might be fetching and carrying, in the way of business, for his old acquaintance.
He missed the trail that time, for he did not know that, while he was following the messenger boy, Le Grand was following him.
He became aware of it when he received a fierce epistle from this inveterate letter writer taunting him with his want of skill.
THE STROKE OF FATE
In due time, however, came the stroke of fate.
On the 26th September, the detective, from information received, was able to go to Malden Station, and at Malden he saw his man.
“Grandy, consider yourself custody,” was all he said, but, as he said it, the officer who accompanied him seized the prisoner’s right hand. It was well he did so, for, otherwise, that hand might soon have found its way to a revolver and a knuckle-duster which the traveller was carrying in a bag, as he afterwards stated, expressly for the benefit of the police.
They found quite a little arsenal at his lodgings – a quantity of gunpowder, and an ugly-looking contrivance of springs in a cigar box, which was evidently intended as an infernal machine.
They also found the rough draft of one of the threatening letters.
THE EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM
A former clerk of the prisoner, who had served him when Le Grand was conducting a private inquiry agency, identified the handwriting of the threatening letters as that of his old employer.
Finally, Mr Netherclift, the expert, who had been summoned in hot haste from Scotland, gave equally damaging evidence for the prosecution.
The police produced a terrible record against the prisoner.
They, at least, were satisfied that he was convicted of a felony in 1877, and sentenced to penal servitude for eight years, and that, in 1889, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the very offence of sending threatening letters with which he was now charged.
The jury, however, did not share their opinion as to his identity with the man convicted in the first case.
Evidently, however, he is an old hand at crime, and it would be well to restrain his efforts for the rest of his natural life.”
TWENTY YEARS PENAL SERVITUDE
Charles Grant was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, 25th November, 1891, and The Western Times, on Thursday, 26th November, 1891, reported on his final court appearance, together with the judge’s opinion of this particularly vile criminal:-
“At the Old Bailey yesterday the prisoner, Charles Le Grand, convicted of sending letters threatening ladies and also with being in possession of a forged bill of exchange was brought up for sentence.
The prisoner made a long statement in denial of his guilt.
Mr. Justice Hawkins said that the evidence against the accused was about as clear it could be.
In addition to that, the prisoner had already undergone sentence for about as infamous a crime as could be imagined, viz, conspiring to extort money from a medical man by a false charge.
The prisoner had endeavoured to lay the blame upon the man Smith, who had absconded, and had said that a parcel containing the apparatus to forge bank-notes belonged Smith.
This only aggravated the offence and showed that he (the prisoner) was in company with and associating with a man who had been convicted and who was as dishonest a person as well could be imagined.
Again he (tbe prisoner) had been convicted of cruel intimidation, and he could not conceive anyone deserving of less sympathy than the prisoner.
That he was a dishonest and dangerous person no one would doubt after the evidence; and seeing that the prisoner, when arrested, was in possession of a revolver and knuckle-dusters he (the judge) doubted not that he would, if need be to save himself, commit any act of violence.
He sentenced him to twenty years’ penal servitude.
The prisoner, on hearing the sentence, fell back in the arms of the four or five warders who stood around him, and was speedily removed from the dock.”