The 3rd of February, 1889 was a Sunday, so only a handful of newspapers hit the stands that day.
The Jack the Ripper scare was still strong in London, albeit the terror and panic that had been present throughout the autumn of 1888 had, to a large extent, diminished in its intensity.
However, the name “Jack the Ripper” was still turning up in court cases across the country, and two stories in the newspapers of Sunday 3rd February, 1889, demonstrate how the Whitechapel murders were, so it seemed, influencing the actions of violent men and domestic abusers across the country.
Interestingly, the stories demonstrate how different judges were viewing the activities of men who saw fit to imitate the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities.
The first story appeared in The People, on Sunday 3rd February, 1889:-
A LIVERPOOL ”JACK THE RIPPER”
“At the Liverpool Police Court, a tall, strong-looking labourer was brought up on warrant charged with wounding his wife, Rebecca, on the 30th ult.
The prosecutrix stated that she was married to the prisoner about three months ago, and both of them went to live with his mother in Cabbage Hall.
Five weeks ago, they took a little house of their own in Knowsley Street.
HE CAME HOME DRUNK
At 11 p.m. on Sunday, the 20th ult., the prisoner came home in drink and entered the bedroom with a knife in his hand.
Going up to the witness he exclaimed, “I’ll show you how they do the Londoners. I’ll rip you from the bottom of the stomach to the top, right through the ribs.”
Then, taking off his drawers, he tied them round her neck and said, “I am going to finish you and be hung for it,” immediately afterwards making a plunge at her neck with the open knife.
Witness put up her hands to save her neck and received three severe cuts on her right wrist, each about an inch long.
She broke away from him and rushed into the street with only her chemise and shawl on, and had to remain all night at a neighbour’s.
HE HAD SOLD THE FURNITURE
The following day, the witness obtained a summons against him, and, on returning home, she found that the prisoner had sold all the furniture and locked up the house.
Meeting her the same night in Hygeir Street, he swore at her and said, “I’ll do the same to you as “Jack the Ripper.” If I can’t do that I’ll do the same as Corrigan did to his mother, sponge the blood and give it to you to drink. If I get clear I’ll be a pal of Jack the Ripper.”
While he said this, he held an open knife in his hand, and was not intoxicated.
The witness ran scared into a shop, afraid of the threatened violence.
A RECORD OF VIOLENCE
During their three months of married life, the prisoner had several times assaulted and stabbed her, and she was in fear of losing her life.
The bench decided to bind the prisoner over in his own recognisances of £20 for six months.”
IMITATING JACK THE RIPPER
The second story that day came from Edinburgh and was reported in Reynolds’s Newspaper:-
“The other day, at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, The Lord Justice Clark presiding, John Stevenson, nineteen years old, a coach trimmer, was charged with having, on January 2nd or 3rd last, in a close or court at 85, Queen-street, Glasgow, assaulted Catherine Mackenzie, at present a patient in the Royal Infirmary, by stabbing her.
He peeled “Guilty” at Glasgow, and was sent to the High Court for sentence.
Mr. Thomson, on behalf of the prisoner, stated that he had a hasty temper, and that his mother had been in an asylum and was still living in the country under restraint.
He read letters from several clergymen and the accused’s employers, giving him an excellent character.
HE STRUCK HER WITH A KNIFE
Mr. Robertson, advocate depute, said that the woman stated that the prisoner followed her into the close and suddenly struck her with a knife. She saw the knife and then he struck her two or three times, and knocked her down. He then raised her clothes and cut her about the legs.
At that moment the police arrived, and the prisoner ran off, but was caught immediately afterwards.
A GOOD CHARACTER?
He was glad to corroborate what Mr. Thomson said as to the prisoner’s previous career.
He had borne a good character in all respects.
He himself had information as to the impulsive disposition of the lad, but there was no evidence of weakness of mind or anything approaching to insanity.
INFLUENCED BY THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
It might well be that, reading the details of what happened at Whitechapel had acted to a certain degree on his mind, and had induced him to commit the crime.
But whether the desire to emulate the deeds of the Whitechapel murderer was to be urged as an extenuation was for his Lordship to judge.
The woman’s injuries were very serious indeed, but she was now recovering, although it would be some time before she was out of the hospital.
After consultation with some of the other judges, the Lord Justice Clerk said he should have been very glad if he had been enabled to limit the sentence to one of imprisonment, but he found it impossible to do so.
To pronounce any sentence of imprisonment, in a case where a man attacked a woman without any provocation whatever, and stabbed her in various places in a most disgusting manner, would be the worst possible example of all.
He felt bound, in the exercise of his duty, to disregard all idea of the prisoner not being responsible for what he had done.
There would be ample opportunity when he was in confinement for an investigation to be made with the purpose of seeing whether that was the case or not.
He could not pronounce a shorter sentence than one of seven years’ penal servitude.
The prisoner was then removed.”