Dagonet On Jack The Ripper

On Friday, 13th November, 1891, Frances Coles was found murdered in Swallow Gardens, in the East End of London, by Police Constable Ernest Thompson.

This immediately led to speculation that, after an absence of several years, Jack the Ripper had returned.

It then transpired that she had spent a large portion of her final days drinking in various pubs around the neighbourhood in the company of a sailor by the name of James Thomas Sadler.

A few days later, the police arrested Sadler and charged him with the murder of Frances Coles.

The scene at he murder of Frances Coles.
The Frances Coles Murder Site, 1892. Copyright, The British Library Board.

WAS HE JACK THE RIPPER?

They also began to openly speculate that he may well have been responsible for the other Whitechapel murders, and, therefore, began to wonder if they had, at last, caught Jack the Ripper?

Sadler, would be cleared of the murder at his subsequent trial.

However, on Sunday, 22nd February, 1891, journalist George Sims, writing under the pseudonym of Dagonet in his weekly column in The Referee, poured scorn on the idea that Sadler could have been responsible for the murders of August to November, 1888, and hinted that he knew a lot more about the identity of the perpetrator of the crimes than he was able to make public.

MR MATTHEWS – HOME SECRETARY

The article read:-

Mr. Home Secretary Matthews, when questioned on the subject in the House, “hadn’t read the papers.” Of course not. Who expects a minister of the Crown to trouble himself as to what is going on in the world?

It is only fair to say that after the astounding admission that, though Home Secretary, he hadn’t taken the trouble to read the daily papers, he acquiesced readily in the contention that ex-parte statements not made on oath and prejudicial to a man about to be tried for his life were highly improper, and calculated to interfere with the due course of justice.

A portrait of Sir Henry Matthews.
Sir Henry Matthews. The Home Secretary.

PINNING THE BLAME

This attempt to skilfully fasten Jack the Ripper’s crimes upon the first man the police get into their clutches should put the public on their guard. It certainly justifies the suspicion that the old Scotland-yard game of “making the evidence fit “is still alive.

The police are accused of wanting to prove the man they have caught guilty, and narrowing every issue down to that.

The charge may be unfair; indeed, most of the intelligent officials I have spoken to scout the idea of this man being the real original Whitechapel fiend; but this trying to hang a man on evidence faked up for the newspaper market has a queer look about it.

CANNOT DISCUSS THE CASE

At the present stage of the proceedings, it would be highly improper to discuss the question of his guilt or innocence. That is a matter which is sub judice, and there it must be left.

But there can be no harm in quietly asking ourselves if the murder is one of the famous Ripper series or not.

NOT THE SLIGHTEST SUSPICION

I don’t think that many people who have given the subject any serious thought will hesitate long before they come to a decision, and that decision will be that nothing has at present transpired to cause the slightest suspicion that the police are on the track of the world famous Jack.

As Sadler, the man now in custody, is not charged by the police with being Jack, it is perfectly allowable for me to say why I think such an assumption on their part would be absurd.

Mr. Jack does his business in a workmanlike manner, and has up to the present never given a chance of detection away.

Can anyone who has studied the series of Whitechapel horrors, credited rightly or wrongly to the Ripper, believe for one moment that Jack would spend a night in a common lodging-house with an intended victim; that he would allow dozens of people to see him in her company; that he would, after the crime had been committed, return to the very lodging-house where he had stayed with her, and call attention to his wounds and scratches; that be would go to a hospital to get his wounds dressed, and then proceed to a public-house and get intoxicated?

No, no!

A GROSS LIBEL

To suppose such a thing is to libel Jack, and to libel the police.

Had he done his business in this way he would have been caught long ago.

I have read everything connected with Jack the Ripper and his awful deeds with the closest attention from the first, because (and I am not ashamed to confess it) he is to me a most interesting and fascinating subject.

GEORGE SIMS’S THEORY

I have my own theory about him; and I don’t put him on board a ship, and I scorn the idea that he is given to staying at common lodging-houses and getting drunk.

What my theory is I don’t care at present to say, but there is just one part of it to which I may as well allude.

It doesn’t concern the personality of the perpetrator, but the period covered by the crimes.

The generally accepted idea is that the Ripper commenced his operations in Whitechapel with the third Whitechapel murder of the series and the first mutilation – viz., that of Mary Ann Nichols, August 31, 1888.

I go further back, though, like many others, I do not include the first and second Whitechapel murders – those of Christmas week, 1887, and August 7, 1888.

A photograph of George Sims.
George Sims.

AN EARLIER MURDER

The first discovered murder which I put down to the “mutilator” occurred no one knows where, but a portion of the body was found in Bedford-square. [Sims is, in fact, referring here to a murder that took place in Euston Square in May, 1879.]

I have no doubt my friend Mr. Superintendent Thomson will remember the circumstances, for he had a hundred men scouring the neighbourhood to discover the missing portions, and every dustbin and refuse heap for miles around was eagerly searched.

There was one peculiar feature of the crime which then attracted little attention, because Jack the Ripper had not been heard of. That feature was that the mutilation now habitually practised by Jack had taken place, and certain portions of the body had been cut out.

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY

The Bedford-square mystery was never cleared up; but, looking back at the details now, it seems to me to suggest that it was the first discovered handiwork of the now famous Jack.

I am not able at the moment of writing to lay my hand on the published reports of the case, but, so far as I can remember, the body was found some time in ’82.

STILL NOT CAUGHT!

We haven’t got Jack the Ripper yet.

I don’t think we shall ever get Jack the Ripper. He will probably pass into the Ewigkeit unsuspected with his friend and fellow-murderers, “the man in the billycock hat,” and “the Burton. crescent lady-killer.””