Inspector Abberline And The Men Dressed As Women

On 3 May 1879 the East London Observer treated its readers to the “Latest Intelligence” under the headline “An Extraordinary Ball -Men Dressed As Women.” It as an interesting article because it provides us with an insight into the types of case that the police officers of the East End were involved in investigating prior to the onset of the Whitechapel Murders.


The article is intriguing because it mentions a police officer who just nine years later become synonymous with the Jack the Ripper investigation. His name was Inspector Frederick George Abberline.

An image of Inspector Abberline
Inspector Abberline

The article concerned the case that had been heard the previous day at the Thames police court before Mr Lushington, the presiding Magistrate.

The case heard before him was against John Watkins of eight Duckett Terrace, Beaumont Square, and Frederick Moore, of the same address.


Both were summoned, so the article informed its readers “at the instance of Detective Inspector Abberline, of H division” and they were charged with selling spirits without being duly licensed to do so. Appearing alongside them was Adolph Voizanger, of the Zetland Hall, Mansell Street, Whitechapel, who was charged with being “privy to the sale.”

Moore and Watkins pleaded Guilty, Voizanger, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty.


The article read:-

“It appeared from the evidence that, in consequence of information which reached the police that a ball of a very extra ordinary, if not immoral, character was about to take place at a hall in Mansell Street, Whitechapel, Inspector Abberline gave instructions to Detective-sergeants Tew and shrives, of the N division, of the N division, to attend and see what was going on.


Accordingly on Friday night, the 25th of  April, the officers went to the Zetland Hall, Mansell Street, kept by the defendant Voizanger, and they were admitted to the building on the payment of half-a -crown each.

After leaving their overcoats and hats in a room downstairs, the detectives entered the “ballroom,” a large room, in which they found some 60 or 70 persons dancing.


It appeared to be a fancy ball, and a number of the dancers were magnificently attired, but although quite half of the dancers were in female attire, the officers soon discovered that there were not half a dozen women in the place, the supposed females being merely men dressed up in women’s clothes.

These, however, danced together, kissed each other, and behaved in anything but an orderly manner.


At one end of the room was stationed the band, the defendant Voizanger playing in it, and at the other was a refreshment bar, on which was placed champagne, sherry, port, brandy, bottled beer, cigars, &c.

The defendants Moore and Watkins were stationed at this bar, and served persons with refreshments, for which money was paid, the officers themselves being served with the rest of the company.

The defendant Voizanger came to the bar whilst the refreshments were being served, and seemed perfectly cognisant that what was going on.

The officers stayed at the hall from about 10 PM on the Friday night until fall the next morning.


In reply to the charge, Moore and Watkins said that when they took the hall for the purpose of having the ball-which was a public one-held there, the defendant Voizanger led them to believe that the place was properly licensed for the sale of refreshments, or they should not have taken it.

Voizanger denied that he was privy to the sale of wines and spirits. The hall was generally used from Jewish wedding parties and balls of a private kind, whether parties brought their own refreshments, and supply them gratuitously to their friends. He would not have let the hall if he had known it had been otherwise on the present occasion.”


Mr Lushington was buying none of this and he informed Voizanger that he believed he knew perfectly well what was going on.

He duly fined him £20 and costs, or in default two months hard labour. The other defendants were each fined £3 and costs or 14 days.