With the summer months underway in the East End of London in 1888 the people of Spitalfields and Whitechapel were going about their everyday business unaware of the horror that lay ahead.
It was a hundred years ago today that we get a brief glimpse of Sergeant William Thicke – a police officer whose name will feature quite prominently in the police investigation into the Jack the Ripper crimes – enforcing the law in the East End of London.
On the previous Saturday Thicke had been standing at the junction of Wentworth Street and Commercial Street when he noticed 23 year old George Neighbour carrying a large black bag.
Neighbour was in the company of another man and something about the pair aroused Thicke’s suspicions.
He duly stopped them and questioned them about the contents of the bag whereupon George Neigbour headbuted him, at which point the second man ran off.
Thicke promptly grabbed Neighbour by the necktie whilst, at the same time, managing to stand on the bag.
At this point the other man returned with several others and attempted to pull the man from Thicke’s grip whilst, at the same time, trying to retrieve the bag from under the police officers foot.
The plucky Thicke drew his truncheon and struck out at his attackers, managing to hold them off long enough to be able to manoeuver his prisoner, together, with the bag, into a nearby hairdressers shop where he barred the door and awaited the arrival of reinforcements.
In the meantime he searched the bag and found several stolen items. These included ia bank book that bore the address 11 Hooper Street.
When police reinforcements arrived Thicke handed Neighbour over to a uniformed officer and headed to 11 Hooper Street to make further enquiries.
He found that the houses had indeed been burgled and that the thieves had gained entry by use of a fake key.
On Monday 4th June 1888 George Nieghbour appeared in court charged with stealing a large number of items from the residents of 11 Hopper Street and was duly remanded in custody.
The case provides us with an insight into the bravery and determination of just one of the police officers who would, later that year, have the task of hunting down history’s most notorious serial killers in one of Victorian London’s most crime-ridden quarters.
Sergeant Thicke and his fellow officers attempts to hunt down the Whitechapel Murder are an intricate feature of our nightly Jack the Ripper Tour that sets of at 7pm from Exit Four of Aldgate East Underground Station.