Albert Bachert (whose name the press frequently spelt as Backert) succeeded George Lusk as head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, at some stage in 1889.
He seems to have enjoyed the publicity that his involvement with the hunt for Jack the Ripper inevitably gave him; and, when things got a little quiet on the newspaper front, he was prone to write to the newspapers to remind them that he was still around!
Indeed, before he assumed the reins of the presidentship, he had been singled out by one of the anonymous letter writers, who sent him a postcard that made specific mention of, and mocked, his self-promotion antics.
DEAR OLD BASKETT
The letter was received on the 20th October 1888 and was addressed to “Mr. Toby Baskett of 13 Newman Street, Whitechapel.”
The text of the card read:-
“Dear Old Baskett
Yer only tried ter get yer name
in the papers when yer thought you
had me in the Three Tuns Hotel
I’d like to punch yer bleeding nose
Jack the Ripper”
The writer was referring to the following article that had appeared in The Times on the 1st of October 1888, which reported an account given by Bachert concerning a suspicious character whom he had met on the 30th of September, the night that Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes had been murdered.
The article quoted Bachert as having stated:-
“I was in the Three Tuns Hotel, Aldgate, on Saturday night, when a man got into conversation with me. He asked me questions which now appear to me to have some bearing upon the recent murders. He wanted to know whether I knew what sort of loose women used the public bar at that house, when they usually left the street outside, and where they were in the habit of going. He asked further questions, and from his manner seemed to be up to no good purpose. He appeared to be a shabby genteel sort of man, and was dressed in black clothes. He wore a black felt hat and carried a black bag. We came out together at closing time (12 o’clock), and I left him outside Aldgate Railway Station.”
JACK THE RIPPER IN WHITECHAPEL
Just over two years later, Bachert, as President of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee wrote to The Daily Chronicle with details of a possible new suspect in the ripper saga.
His letter was republished by The Illustrated Police News on Saturday the 18th of October 1890:-
“Mr Albert Backert, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, has written the following letter from Newnham-street, Whitechapel, dated Friday, to the Daily Chronicle:-
“In connection with the late Whitechapel murders, the most remarkable and sensational statement was made to me this morning at my place.
At eleven o’clock a very respectable middle-aged woman called at my house, and wished to see me.
She was asked in, and then made the following statement to me, which she declared was all quite true.
About two years ago, she said, she was living in the model dwellings close by here, and had a bedroom to let, furnished.
A young man called and engaged the room.
After living for some time with her he stated that he had been to sea, and that at the present time he was receiving £1 a -week from his father, and was also receiving an allowance from his brother, who was a doctor, and that he did not work himself.
She also noticed that he had plenty of clothes, including hunting breeches, revolvers, guns, and many other articles, which an ordinary working man would not have.
He had the door key and could go out and in at all hours of the night, and used generally to get up at about five p.m., but she could not say what time he arrived home at night.
THE BLOODSTAINED TOWELS
On several occasions she noticed that his towels were very bloodstained, for which he accounted by saying that he was fond of painting, and had wiped his brush on them.
She also stated that she knew he had sent the liver, because one afternoon she happened to go to his room and saw him with several pieces of liver on a newspaper, which he stated he had got from a New Zealand boat, as he knew a friend who was on board a frozen mutton boat.
She saw him pack it in a box and address it to the chairman of the then Vigilance Committee.
He also put some pieces into different envelopes, which he intended sending to the Central News and the Press Association, and the police, but he forgot them, and she threw them into the dustbin.
She noticed also that he had several brass wedding-rings on the mantel-shelf, and, on one or two occasions, he brought home a white-apron bloodstained, and gave them to her, which she has at the present time.
He always seemed to have plenty of money, and on the morning of the last murder (the Castle alley) he left, and has never returned.
He left a pair of silent shoes, several bags, which she says are bloodstained, and a long overcoat, which is also bloodstained.
I asked her if she had been to the police, and she said she had not, as she was afraid of getting into trouble for not having given information before.
She said she could hold the secret no longer, and she feels convinced that the man she had lodging with her was the real “Jack the Ripper” and Whitechapel murderer.
I feel sure that she was in earnest about this statement, and she appeared very nervous, and did not wish her name to be published.
I have no doubt that the police will make inquiries into this statement at once, and I directed her to go to Leman-street [police station] and give all particulars.
I may add that there was another person present when this statement was made this morning.””
IT WAS A PIECE OF KIDNEY, NOT LIVER
Interestingly, Bachert doesn’t seem to have questioned the woman on one glaring error in her statement to him, that she knew that her lodger had “sent the liver.”
Evidently this is a reference to the notorious “From Hell” letter that had been sent to his predecessor Mr George Lusk. But, it was a piece of kidney, not liver, that had been sent with the letter.
THE WOMAN IS TRACED
That notwithstanding, the idea that a new witness had come forward to state that she had had Jack the Ripper as a lodger excited some press interest and a reporter from The Globe headed into Whitechapel to track down this mysterious woman.
The Illustrated Police News article continued:-
“Respecting this strange story the Globe have made inquiries in Whitechapel.
Our contemporary states that the woman is hiding, as she is afraid the man she suspects will do her bodily injury.
“So careful has she been that the police have not yet succeeded in finding her, or obtaining the following further details of her story.
It appears that while living at the top floor of a block of model dwellings in the neighbourhood of Aldgate the man engaged, on the floor below, a bedroom, with lumber-room adjoining, and paid her to keep the former clean, her occupation being that of an office-cleaner.
The lumber-room, which contained a sink, was always kept locked, and although she did a portion of his washing it was evident he did much of it himself.
She describes him as young, of middle height, well built, with a small fair moustache and light brown hair, although she had frequently remarked that he had means by which he made his moustache and eyebrows much darker on some occasions than others.
His movements during the times the murders were occurring were very mysterious.
He had not the appearance of a working-man, and admitted that his parents, although in a good position, would have nothing to do with him, as he had been a scapegrace.
His brother, who she understood was a doctor, visited him on two occasions, and appeared much older than he.
She has no doubt he is English, but he spoke with a nasal twang, which he evidently affected, and used the word ‘Boss’ very frequently in ordinary conversation.
HE WORE A TALL HAT
He usually rose at two in the afternoon, and would go out about five o’clock, invariably wearing a tall hat and dressed very respectably, but as he had a large number of suits of clothes he often dressed differently, or, as she puts it, ‘He was a man who could so alter his appearance that if you met him in the street once you would not know him again.’
His clothes were mostly of the best quality, and included dress, shooting, and morning suits.
THE BLOODSTAINED OVERCOAT
On one occasion he gave the woman a dark-coloured overcoat to sell, and she offered it to the wife of a working-man.
The latter, however, pointed out that it was so stained with blood that she would not let her husband wear it.
The patches, which were of a dull brown, were thought by the woman to be paint, but when she returned it to the mysterious lodger with an intimation that she could not sell it because of the blood, he laughed lightly, saying the stains were nothing.
Nevertheless, he burnt the coat, for she subsequently discovered the remains, together with the horn buttons, in the grate.
SHE BECAME SUSPICIOUS
As the murders were committed, her suspicions were increased, but she did not communicate them to anyone until the day following the discovery of the body in Pinchin-street.
She went to clean the bedroom as usual, when she found upon the three mats foot-marks of blood and, upon one, a large clot of the same substance.
She then spoke of her suspicions to a person, who advised her to say nothing of the matter.
As time went on, and the murders continued, she saw in his room many articles which were bloodstained, although he never would allow her to enter the room alone, but remained with her while she performed her work.
HE WROTE WITH RED INK
With regard to the ‘Jack the Ripper’ post-cards, the man always wrote his letters in red ink, of which he had a large bottle on the mantelshelf.
Upon the same shelf, too, she first noticed one brass wedding-ring, but the number was afterwards increased until there were five, and these he left when he suddenly disappeared.
On another occasion she found a piece of dirty rag screwed up and concealed behind a chest of drawers. This she discovered to be a portion apparently torn from a woman’s print apron, and on taking it upstairs she saw that it was blood-stained. She washed it, and has it still in her possession. The pattern of the apron may form an important clue.
The most remarkable fact, however, is that on the night of each of the murders he was absent, and returned at early morning.
On the morning of the Castle-alley murder he disappeared, having previously sold the whole of his belongings.
The woman afterwards removed, but a few days ago she again saw him again near Aldgate, and this fact, combined with the letters recently published in the press, led her to lay the facts before Mr. Backert.”
NO TRUTH IN THE REPORTS
It is stated that there is no truth in the sensational reports published about extra police measures in the East-end in connection with what is called the “Jack the Ripper” scare.
The police precautions have not been relaxed, and are still in force, and they are wholly independent of the letters lately received. In the opinion of the responsible authorities all these letters have been attempts to hoax the police and the public, and no importance is attached to them at Scotland-yard.”
AN INTERESTING STATEMENT
The woman’s statement – if she did actually exist and wasn’t invented by Albert Bachert and then developed further by the Globe journalist – is intriguing, to say the least.
But, on closer inspection, her story has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, as the account she gives – or that the journalist reported – could easily have been culled from the various press reports on the case that had appeared over the previous two years.
Indeed, her description of him was almost identical to those descriptions by witnesses who may have seen the face of Jack the Ripper.
Yet, if she was genuine, and not simply an attention seeker or an invention, her statement certainly is intriguing in that her description, and the fact that he had a brother who was a doctor, would fit at least one Jack the Ripper suspect, Montague John Druitt.
WE’LL NEVER KNOW
However, as with so many intriguing facts concerning the Jack the Ripper case, it is almost impossible to accept the newspaper article’s veracity with any degree of certainty.
And yet, you can’t help thinking that this mysterious lady’s account of her mysterious lodger adds yet another intriguing twist to a whodunit that is, quite literally, made up of a labyrinth of similar baffling and intriguing twists!