Dr Tumblety Vindicated

In June, 1889, Dr Francis Tumblety, who the previous year had been arrested on suspicion of being Jack the Ripper, was arrested in New York, and charged with assaulting a man by the name of George Davis.

It soon became apparent that there was more to the case than at first met the eye, and for the next few months Tumblety underwent the ordeal of clearing his name of what, to all intents and purposes, was a gross miscarriage of justice.

A sketch showing suspect Dr FRancis Tumblety.
An Image of Dr Francis Tumblety


The New York World, on Saturday 10th August, 1889, provided its readers with a synopsis of the events of the case had they had been unfolding since the doctor’s arrest in June:-

He Appealed To “The World” To Establish His Innocence

A positive vindication was obtained yesterday in the Court of General Sessions for Dr. Francis Tumbelty, through the efforts of The World, after two months’ endeavour to obtain the facts.

Upon the night of June 4th, George Davis, of No. 168 Allen Street, alleged that he was assaulted by Tumbblety on Clinton Place, near Fifth Avenue.

Davis said that he was walking on Fifth Avenue when Dr. Tumblety accosted him. He called the Doctor a vile name, and Tumblety struck him on the face with his cane, breaking the cane in the process.


Davis followed the Doctor into Clinton Place, where the latter was arrested by Policeman John J. Mclaughlin, of the Mercer street station. Capt. Brogan, of the same precinct, then came up and took them all to the Police Station, where Davis made a complaint of assault against Dr. Tumblety.

The Doctor then said that a man had attempted to steal his watch, when he beat him away and the man had cut him on the right hand.

When he had finished his complaint Capt. Brogan ordered him to be locked up. Davis was also locked up.


Next morning, at the Jefferson Market Police Court, the Doctor was placed under $300 bail for trial.

Henry Clews, the banker, of No. 13 Broad Street, on hearing of the doctor’s difficulty, appeared personally in court and gave bonds for him.


As soon as Dr. Tumblety regained his freedom, he attempted to learn who the man Davis was and what character he had.

No such person as George Davis could be found. He did not live at the address that he had given. Detectives were, therefore, employed to hunt him up.

In his despair, Dr. Tumblety appealed to The World to give him that vindication that was his right. The World, he said, had protected the innocent so often he was sure he could get justice through it.


To a reporter, Dr. Tumblety told a different version of the assault, and insisted that it was a conspiracy to rob him and ruin his character.

“I was going home,” he said, “about. 10.30 at night and was not many doors from my own home when this man Davis came up to me and asked for money. I told him I did not have any, to which he replied, ‘You lie,’ and made a grab at my watch. I beat him off with my cane. when he knocked me down and cut my hand with a knife or something sharp. I called for the police, and Officer McLaughlin nearly fell over me while he ran to catch Davis.


Capt. Brogan caught Davis, who was running away, and he brought him back to where I was. Upon seeing me the Captain said: ‘It is you, you ——-; now I’ll railroad you.’

At the Police Station, I was insulted without cause.

It was I who made the complaint against Davis, but they locked me up, after which Davis must have made a complaint.”


Further efforts were made to find Davis, and the case was then laid before Acting District Attorney Goff, and Assistant District-Attorney Edward Grosse was instructed to investigate. Twice the subpoena server of the District Attorney’s office attempted to serve George Davis with notice of appearance.

There was no George Davis.

The papers were handed to Officer McLaughlin, but this man the officer produced was not George Davis but George Becker. No attempt was made by the officer nor Becker to explain the fraud.


The following report was made by Assistant District-Attorney Grosse:-

“A thorough examination of this case has satisfied me that the complainant cannot be believed under oath. My report shows that he has made false statements in the station-house, in the Police Court and before me. His own statement before me stamps him as a shiftless. wayward young man, and the circumstances under which he lived when the assault took place strongly support the positive and plausible statement of the defendant. He is the only witness for the prosecution as to the assault, I, therefore, recommend the dismissal of the indictment herein.

This was also endorsed by A. D. Parker and District-Attorney Fellows.

The case was then taken before Judge Gildersleeve, who dismissed it and discharged Dr, Tumblety.”