July 1889 was the month when people in the East End of London faced up to the alarming possibility that, after an absence of many months – and numerous false scares – Jack the Ripper had returned to the streets of the East End of London.
On the 17th July, 1889, the body of Alice McKenzie was found in Castle Court, off Whitechapel High Street, and the local residents once more faced up to another slaying in the vicinity of the Whitechapel murders of the previous year.
You can read the full story of the Alice McKenzie murder in this article.
MAD WITH DRINK
However, the reports on “Jack the Ripper” related incidents continued to surface all over the country; reports such as this one, which appeared in The Sheffield Independent on Monday, 1st July, 1889:-
“On Saturday, John Davis, 18 years of age, and lately from Wales, was charged at Alfreton before Mr. T. H. Oakes, with being drunk in the streets of Clay Cross.
He displayed a knife before several women, and said he was “Jack the Ripper.”
His behaviour was so violent that Inspector Swan wick found it necessary to apprehend him.
He was committed for 14 days.”
TERRIBLE TRAGEDIES IN LAMBETH
Meanwhile, in London, the month was heralded in by the news that a lady by the name of Margaret Webb, and her male companion, had been stabbed in Lambeth, with fatal consequences for the man.
The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette carried a report on the incident on Monday, 1st July, 1889:-
“Early Saturday morning, great excitement was created in the neighbourhood of St. Thomas’s Hospital by the discovery of two terrible outrages, which led to reports being circulated that “Jack the Ripper” had recommenced his horrible work in that neighbourhood.
It appears that, at about 3 o’clock, a policeman on his beat in the Lambeth Palace-road, saw something lying on the pavement, almost opposite the walls of the Palace, and proceeding to the spot he discovered it to be a man of about 25 years of age.
Noticing something strange about the appearance and position of the man, he at once examined him, and discovered that he was lying in a pool of blood.
The constable at once obtained the assistance of a cabman, and they conveyed the unfortunate man to St. Thomas’s Hospital.
On arrival, the house surgeon attended him, but the man expired in about 10 minutes after his admission.
He had received a terrible stab behind the ear, the jugular vein being also cut completely through.
The identity of the murdered man is at present unknown.
The second case, though not at present so terrible in its results, may, nevertheless, have fatal termination. The victim, a young woman, about 19, named Margaret Webb, living with her sister at Gabriel-street, Newington, S.E., is in very serious condition.
Soon after a quarter past 3, a passer-by saw a girl lying on a seat on the Embankment asleep, and his attention was called immediately afterwards to the same object by hearing screams.
On turning in the direction from whence the sounds proceeded, he caught sight of a man lifting his arm in a threatening manner over the girl’s head.
The would-be assassin brought down the weapon he was holding in his hand with great force, and made off quickly.
THE POLICE GIVE CHASE
The witness of the foul deed at once gave the alarm, and several policemen gave chase in the direction in which the man had bolted.
After an exciting chase through the narrow streets which abound the locality, in which a large number of people joined, they effected the capture of the fugitive, who was lodged in the cells at Kennington Police-station.
The girl was meanwhile taken to St. Thomas’s Hospital, where she was found to have been stabbed behind the ear, and after having her head dressed she was detained in the ward.
THE TWO VICTIMS WERE COMPANIONS
The Press Association says that, early on Saturday morning, a shocking crime, resulting in the death of a man unknown, and serious injury to a young woman named Margaret Webb, living with her sister, Flora, at 31, Gabriel-street, S.E., was committed outside St. Thomas’s Hospital.
It appears that the pair were walking together outside the mortuary when they were attacked by a man who first stabbed the woman’s companion behind the neck, and then stabbed the woman behind the right ear.
Both were found lying on the pavement in an insensible condition and taken into the hospital, but so serious were the man’s injuries that he succumbed shortly after admission.
The woman’s injuries were found not to be of such serious character, and, later in the morning, she was reported to be progressing favourably.
A MAN IN CUSTODY
Tha police have arrested a man on suspicion of having committed the crimes, and he is at present lodged in a cell at Kennington Police-station.
He gives his name as James Crickman.
It is said that a blood-stained knife was found on the man who was arrested.”
NOT JACK THE RIPPER
However, Crickman was quickly ruled out of any involvement in the Whitechapel atrocities of the previous year and, the next day, Tuesday 2nd July, 1889, The Yorkshire Evening Press published the following update on the case.
Interestingly, the report ended with the observation that the Metropolitan Police had, apparently, accepted defeat with regards to any hope of catching the perpetrator of the 1888 crimes:-
“The report that the alleged author of the murder in Lambeth Palace-road is identical with “Jack the Ripper”, could only have been put forward for the purpose of causing a sensation.
The prisoner, Crickman, does not bear the slightest resemblance to descriptions of the Whitechapel murderer which have been circulated from time to time.
The crime is different in character, and the methods are not the same.
We may add, as to “Jack the Ripper,” that the authorities at Scotland Yard have abandoned the faintest hope of discovering the perpetrator of the atrocities, unless he is tempted to re-appear in the locality, an event which they consider is highly improbable.”
A “JACK THE RIPPER” SCARE
Meanwhile, reports of unknown strangers being mistaken for the ripper continued to come in from all over the country, amongst them the following brief article, which appeared in The Portsmouth Evening News, on Tuesday, 9th July, 1889:-
“A remarkable scene was enacted at Buckland on Monday evening, when a young fellow, named Thompson, an ironworker, who came to Portsmouth from London a few days ago in search of employment, was hunted through the streets of that district for half-an-hour by a large crowd, chiefly composed of women and children.
The chase began at Stamshaw, shortly before eight o’clock, when Thompson, while standing outside a beerhouse, suddenly found himself surrounded by a gang of rude boys, who, attracted no doubt by his unkempt appearance, commenced to tease and annoy him.
With a view to frighten them away, the stranger took from his pocket a large clasp knife and opened it, but instead of scaring them his action had a contrary effect.
A cry of “Jack the Ripper” was raised, and the crowd swelled with amazing rapidity.
Thompson sought to rid himself of his tormentors by flight, but he was closely pursued as far as Duke-street, where he met Constable Coles, who took him to the Buckland Police-station, whither they were followed by hundreds of people.
Thompson remained at the station until the crowd dispersed, and then proceeded to the casual ward of the Workhouse, where he was sheltered for the night.”
THE MURDERERS RETURN
Then, on 17th July, 1889, the body of Alice McKenzie was found in the very area where the previous year’s ripper murders had occurred and, for a time at least, it seemed possible, some even claimed probable, that the murderer had returned to his old haunts.
For the rest of July, 1889, the people of Whitechapel would once more be confronted by yet another mysterious murder that had been perpetrated in their midst, and, yet again, the Metropolitan Police found themselves at a loss as to how to bring the man responsible to justice.