Ask most people who the last victim of Jack the Ripper was, and the likely answer you would get would be that it was Mary Kelly – who murdered on the 9th of November, 1888, in Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, in Spitalfields, East London.
Of course, since we don’t actually know who Jack the Ripper was, we cannot in all honesty state with any degree of certainty that this was, in fact, the case.
Some of the later Whitechapel murders, for example, do have similarities to some of his acknowledged victims – at least they do with Elizabeth Stride, who was murdered on 30th September, 1888 – and so there is a possibility that several of the later atrocities – Alice Mckenzie and Frances Coles, for example – were carried out by the same perpetrator who was also responsible for the murders of the “canonical five” victims of Jack the Ripper.
IT’S ALL DONE WITH HINDSIGHT
But, we today have hindsight on our side, in that we are looking back on the crimes, not actually living through them.
At the time, the residents of the Victorian East End did not have the certainty that we have today, and it is safe to say that they were constantly on edge, ever vigilant for any crime, anywhere in the world, that might spell the ripper’s return.
NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 1888
Reading the newspapers from November and December, 1888, one is immediately struck by the fact that murders or attacks the globe over were, almost instantly, credited to the “Whitechapel fiend”, and members of the press were constantly on the lookout for any hint that the police had finally caught the murderer who had been eluding them over the last four months of 1888.
THE EAST-END MURDERS
Take, for example, the following story that appeared in The St James’s Gazette on Monday 19th November 1888:-
“On Saturday afternoon the Birmingham detectives informed the police at Scotland-yard that a man suspected of being concerned in the Whitechapel murders had left that town by train for London.
Detectives Leach and White, of the Criminal Investigation Department, proceeded to Willesden Junction and Euston respectively, and at the latter station Inspector White detained the person in question, and conveyed him to Scotland-yard.
It was stated that he had been staying at a common lodging-house in Birmingham since Monday last.
The suspected person was a medical man who was some years ago practising in London.
He was of gentlemanly appearance and manners, and somewhat resembled the description given by witnesses at the late inquest.
After being closely questioned as to his whereabouts at the time of the murders, and supplying a satisfactory account of himself, he was liberated.”
THE MURDER SCARE IN LONDON
On Tuesday the 4th of December, 1888, The Dundee Courier published the following article on an attack in the King’s Cross district of London:-
“Great excitement was caused early yesterday morning in the neighbourhood of King’s Cross, London, by an attempt to murder a prostitute in a street off Euston Road.
The victim of the outrage was Harriet North, aged 35, living at 13 Wood Street, Cromer Street, Gray’s Inn Road.
She was accosted about one o’clock in Euston Road, opposite the Midland Grand Hotel, by a man, apparently a foreigner, and she accompanied him into Belgrave Street, towards Argyll Square.
She states that they quarrelled, and, after some talk, she felt a blow from a sharp instrument in the lower part of the abdomen.
She called out – “Oh! my God; what have you done?” and her assailant, without saying anything more, ran away.
She was too exhausted to follow him, and a female friend, coming up later, alarmed the police, who took the injured woman to the Royal Free Hospital, Gray’s Inn Road, where she was at once admitted.
North’s friend, Sarah Ann Masters, informed the police that she had been previously accosted by the same man, but, not liking his appearance, she had refused to accompany him.
She described him as of about 26 years of age; height about 5 ft. 4 in.; sallow complexion, with a heavy dark moustache, wearing a dark pilot jacket, felt hat, white muffler.
The woman was examined by two doctors at the Hospital, and one of them afterwards stated to a reporter that he did not think the woman had been stabbed, and that, at any rate, her story was much exaggerated.
She admitted that she did not scream out.
The police do not put much faith in the woman’s story.”
A LETTER TO MR SAUNDERS
Meanwhile, the composers of letters, purporting to come from Jack the Ripper, were busy composing their prank missives, and epistles were still being sent to public figures in early December, 1888, as is evidenced by the following report, which appeared in The Huddersfield Chronicle, on Saturday 8th December 1888:-
“On Monday morning Mr Saunders, the presiding magistrate at the Thames Police Court, received a letter addressed to him, in which the writer said:-
“Dear Pal,— l am still at liberty.
The last job in Whitechapel was not bad; but I mean to surprise them on the next.
Shall joint it, Ha! Ha! Ha!
After that I shall try on the lazy louchers who live on unfortunates.
We have just enrolled several pals for the job.
I am in the country now for the benefit of my health.
Look out for news from Jack the Ripper.”
A MAN ARRESTED
The same article went on to report on what appeared to be another promising arrest by the London detectives who were hunting the perpetrator of the crimes:-
“The Press Association says the Metropolitan Police on Thursday made a singular arrest, which was reported to be in connection with the Whitechapel murders.
It appears that, during the afternoon, a man described as a Polish Jew was arrested near Drury-lane, but for what offence it was not quite clear.
This individual, who is of short stature, and wears a black moustache, was taken to Bow-street Station, where he was detained for a time.
A telegraphic communication was forwarded thence to Leman Street Police Station, the headquarters of the Whitechapelel division, requesting the attendance of the inspectors.
Detective-Inspector Abberline immediately proceeded to Bow-street, and subsequently brought away the prisoner in a cab, which was strongly escorted.
It was subsequently ascertained that the man was apprehended for stealing a watch, with which offence he has been charged.
The police, however, were led to believe that he was connected, not with the mutilations, but with a recent attempt to murder a woman in George Street, Spitalfields.
Exhaustive enquiries were made, but as far as can be ascertained the man could in no way be connected with that outrage.”
IMITATORS OF THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERERS
As for Jack the Ripper striking in other countries – well, he certainly had imitators the world over, such as the following two who were terrorising the residents of Boston, and who received the following brief mention in The Kirkintilloch Herald on Wednesday, 12th December, 1888:-
“A telegram from New York states that in Boston the Whitechapel fiend has been imitated by a man who hides in dark corners and darts out at women, brandishing a knife and muttering threats.
He is undoubtedly insane, and the police are arresting him numerously.
Another outcome of the Whitechapel horror is a Chinese ghost, with the face of a dragon, which appears in Pell-street, in the Chinese quarter, and frightens women.”
A GENUINE JACK THE RIPPER SUSPECT
The same article also touches upon a man who is high up on the list of potential suspects, albeit, it doesn’t actually give his name.
However, it is almost certain that the person being referred to in the article is Francis Tumblety:-
“It is reported by cable from Europe that a certain person, whose name is known, has sailed from Havre for New York, who is famous for his hatred of women, and who has repeatedly made threats against females of dissolute character.
Whether this will throw any light on the Whitechapel tragedies the London detectives must be left to decide.”