As the end of November, 1888, approached the consternation and panic in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields was reaching fever pitch, and numerous people were finding themselves in danger when they were mistaken for the perpetrator of the recent murders.
The Southend Standard and Essex Weekly Advertiser, on Thursday, 29th November, 1888, pondered the issue of the dangers of mob rule on the streets, and highlighted the cases of two men who had been mistaken for the East End murderer:-
THE PANIC IN LONDON
It will probably never be known to the public how many persons have been arrested as the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders. Never a day passes without someone having to march to a police station to explain that he is not, and never has been, “Jack the Ripper.”
The decision as to what shall be done with a person so apprehended rests with the inspector in charge at the station, and it is fortunate that the gentlemen filling that post in the principal East-end stations are experienced and prudent.
SIR GEORGE ARTHUR
One of the arrested, since the outcry of last week, was Sir George Arthur, a Devonshire baronet, and, I believe, a lieutenant in the Life Guards.
He certainly does not look like a criminal, but the astrachan collars and cuffs of his fashionably cut overcoat were not satisfactory to the Whitechapel people, and the policeman on the beat, though the baronet protested, deemed it the safest way out of a difficulty to escort him to the station.
THE EMINENT ANALYST
A friend of my own, an eminent chemical analyst, had to make some experiments in a Mile-end brewery, and, to conduct these, it was necessary to carry down a black bag of instruments.
As it is a fixed idea with many men and women that Jack the Ripper always carries a black bag, my friend was soon followed by a menacing crowd, and had in self defence to demand the protection of a constable to the nearest cab-stand.
After witnessing the extraordinary panic in Whitechapel-road and Commercial-street last Monday, I am surprised that some innocent person has not been in one of the panics hanged to a lamp-post, or lynched in some fatal fashion.”
THREATENING TO MURDER AN EDITOR
But, it wasn’t just in London that people were either being mistaken for, or were actually claiming to be the notorious killer, as is demonstrated by the following article, which appeared in The Dundee Courier, on Thursday 29th November, 1888:-
“At Coleshill Police Court, in Birmingham, yesterday, Thomas Turner, until recently a constable, but now a tramway inspector, was charged with threatening to murder William Stroud, editor of the Coleshill Chronicle.
A month ago, a licencing prosecution occurred in which the prisoner’s name figured freely. This, it appears, annoyed him a great deal, and he wrote Stroud a letter smeared with blood, in which he called the editor “Dear Boss”, and signed himself “Jack the Ripper”, threaten to do murder.
Lord Norton, who presided, made some strong remarks on the attempt to intimidate the press, and then fined the prisoner fifty shillings.”
SERVE HIM RIGHT
The same newspaper also featured the following brief article about another missive composer who got rather more than he bargained for when he decided to emulate the Whitechapel murderer:-
“At the Rhonda Valley yesterday, a collier, who had sent a “Jack the Ripper” threatening letter to a young woman who had summoned him for disobeying an affiliation order, was sent to prison for two months.”
A LOCAL “JACK THE RIPPER”
Meanwhile, as the following article, which appeared in The Burton Chronicle on Thursday on 29th November, 1888, illustrates, drunks across the country were still feeling the need to claim to be the perpetrator of the East End atrocities:-
“At the borough police court yesterday morning, before the Mayor (Chas. Harrison Esq), a farm servant named Thomas Wheat , hailing from Needwood, was charged with being drunk and disorderly.
From the evidence of Police Sergeant Austin, it appears that, on the previous night, the defendant was drunk and conducting himself in a strange manner in Station Street.
He went about declaring that he was “Jack the Ripper,” and was followed by a crowd of children, who all seemed highly amused at his antics.
The police came on the scene and the defendant was arrested on account of his disorderly conduct.
He was discharged on paying seven shillings and ten pence costs.”
ALSO IN DERBY
The same newspaper carried the following article which shows the effect the murders were having on the minds of those who were mentally unstable:-
At the borough police court on Friday, Elijah Barker, a grocer, of Carrington Street, was charged with being drunk in St. Peter’s Street on Thursday.
The prisoner was behaving very strangely, and in Court he stated that he had had twos pennyworth of whiskey before going to bed, and when he woke he saw “Jack the Ripper” in his room with a spear in his hand.
The man said, “We shall kill her,” but he (Barker) took hold of his wife and got her downstairs, and called to several neighbours.
They said that he had been dreaming, and he an away from them.
He was remanded that he might be medically examined.”
A SCARE AT SAUNDERSFOOT
But, with Mr Barker languishing in a Derbyshire lock-up, The Tenby Observer broke the news that the East End friend had, apparently, paid a visit to the village of Saundersfoot, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where, but for the prompt and brave action of the local police sergeant, he could have inflicted untold horrors on the villagers:-
CONJECTURE ON THE ALERT
This charming little village was thrown into a state of great consternation on Tuesday evening, by the appearance of a stout, athletic man carrying a black bag of a highly suspicious nature.
As may be supposed, conjecture was on the alert regarding him, especially as he seemed to court privacy, and, as descriptions of the so-called “Jack the Ripper” of notorious fame, have been so well posted up everywhere, people became in consequence very chary in going out.
THE LOCAL POLICEMAN TO THE RESCUE
Our stalwart and faithful guardian of the peace, on being apprised of the strange and dread-creating arrival, came on the scene and at once proceeded to secure the individual, whose presence among us caused such a universal panic.
He was secured after some trouble and duly consigned to one of the iron-barred cells of our “lock-up,” till correct information be obtained of his character and intents.
Saundersfoot is stirred to its depths, and speculation is rife as to the contents of the black bag, and the dire uses they might have been put to but for the brave conduct of our Sergeant.
We hesitate not to feel already proud of the prompt alacrity in the face of imminent danger, and perspicuous intelligence which succeeded in capturing a man who, mayhap, is he who has triumphantly defied the vigilance of the best men of the whole Metropolitan Police and detective force.
A REPLACEMENT FOR SIR CHARLES WARREN
If the office of Chief Constable of the largest and most populous city in the world be still unfilled, we know where the best successor to Sir Charles Warren can be found. Promotion to such an important office would be conferred in this case where merit claims a just reward over the appointment usually made by red tape or undue favouritism.”