Fined For Being Jack The Ripper

It was on Friday the 9th of November, 1888, that what is generally considered to have been the final murder carried out by Jack the Ripper – that of Mary Kelly – occurred.

However, since the body was not discovered till 10.45 in the morning, many of the morning editions of the daily newspapers had already gone to print, and so, consequently, their articles featured other aspects of the case, rather than the breaking news about the murder of Mary Kelly in Miller’s Court.

The photograph showing the windows of Mary Kelly's Room from the outside.
The Photograph of Mary Kelly’s Room at Miller’s Court.


The London Evening Standard, on Friday, 9th November 1888, carried the story of a court case concerning a drunken exchange in which the offender had claimed to be the murderer:-

“Peter Donald, a well-dressed, respectable-looking man, aged 35, an engineer on the steam ship Nepaul, lying in the Albert Docks, was charged with being drunk and disorderly and terrorising the public by terming himself “Jack the Ripper.”

At one o’clock that morning David Bostock, 298 H, was on duty in Commercial-road, Whitechapel, close to where some of the recent murders were committed, when a hansom cab drove up to him.

The Prisoner, who was seated inside, drunk, hailed him, and said, “I am Jack the Ripper,” the cabman immediately driving off.

After proceeding about 100 yards the driver drew up.

On the constable coining up the Prisoner again said, “Officer, I am Jack the Ripper.”


As he was drunk, and his conduct was likely to create alarm, and might lead to mischievous consequences at that time in the morning, Bostock took him into custody.

On the way to the station the Prisoner said, “What a fool I must have been to act like this.”


The Prisoner now expressed contrition for his conduct, urging, in extenuation, that he had met some friends and had had a drop too much to drink.

Mr. Lushington said that he should advise the Prisoner, at another time, not to be so foolish as to identify himself with” Jack the Ripper.” He fined him two shillings and sixpence.”


The Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire Advertiser, featured the story of another imitator:-

“Before Sheriff Robertson at Forfar on Friday, a young man named David Beattie, a millworker at Craigo, was charged with having, on 22d October, assaulted David Durward, jun., son of David Durward, asylum attendant, Rosemount Cottages, Montrose, by seizing hold of him and throwing him violently to the ground while on the public road near the Old Gate of Craigo.

He pleaded guilty, and explained that he had merely taken hold of the boy in a frolic.

Mr Freeman said that he could not accept that explanation. His information was that the assault had taken place between six and seven o’clock on the night in question, when darkness had set in.


The accused seemed to have taken it into his head to frighten a number of mill workers while they were returning home from their work.

He had jumped out of a secluded place at the roadside, with his jacket over his head, and flew at a number of girls, and hunted this boy down to the side of the road. He then knocked him into a ditch, afterwards producing a knife, and making a clinking noise.


The Sheriff:- (interrupting, and addressing the accused) – “If you deny this I will have all the witnesses in. I think you had better go into this case, Mr Freeman.”

Mr Freeman:- “The witnesses are not here today, so I will ask your Lordship for an adjournment. I am anxious that the witnesses should be here.”

Accused:- “Will you allow me to speak. That is a lie, my Lord.”

The Sheriff:- “No, I won’t allow you to speak, I am to try you.”

The case was then adjourned till Monday.


On Monday the case again came up, when the accused pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr Alexander Hay, solicitor, Forfar.

Durward deposed that at about six o’clock on the night stated he was proceeding home from his work at Craigo Mill along with another boy, named Gold, and two women, and, when near the old gates leading to Craigo House, a man jumped out from under a tree in the wood at the side of the road with his jacket over his head.

They all ran and the women went off screaming “Murder.”

The man chased the witness and knocked him down into the ditch at the side of the road, and afterwards commenced to make a clicking noise as if with a knife, although he never spoke.

The witness did not know the accused, as the night was dark, but he had previously been acquainted with him.

Beattie afterwards came and apologised for his conduct.


By Mr Hay – The accused did not look angry, nor did the witness think he was to do him much harm, although he was frightened at the time. He did not see the knife.

The boy Gold gave similar evidence.

Margaret Ross, millworker, who was returning home at the time, said that she was frightened at the moment, but now thought the thing was only a frolic on the part of accused.


Constable Fraser said that when charged with the offence Beattie admitted rapping on his hat and taking hold of Durward and throwing him down, but he denied using the knife.

At that time the witness found a knife in the accused’s possession.


Mr Hay, after reading a certificate from the manager and the overseer at Craigo Works testifying to the accused’s good behaviour, said that he was sure his Lordship must he satisfied that this was merely a frolic, and though it was certainly a foolish one the element of malice was entirely wanting.

On that account he asked for a lenient sentence.


The Sheriff said that he did not want to make too much of the case, because he did not think there was very much in it, for the reason that the use of the knife had not been proved. If that had been proved it would have been a very serious case indeed.

If he thought that the accused’s object was to appear as a desperate villain he would send him to prison. He was a foolish fellow, because he had laid himself open to severe punishment. It was likewise a cowardly and foolish thing to frighten the boys, and the next time he wanted to frighten people he should try big men and not boys smaller than himself.

Bat he should take advice, and not try to frighten anybody.

Sentence – ten shillings of a fine or imprisonment for seven days.”