Today in 1888 the police were desperately seeking a lead that might shed any light on the identity of the perpetrator of the recent series of murders that had taken place in the East End of London.
The previous day the Metropolis had woken to news that the killer, who many had believed had gone to the north of England, had not only killed again in the East End, but that, this time, he had murdered twice. Worse still, the murders had taken place within an hour of each other and so the second had, almost certainly, been carried out more or less right under the noses of police officers.
The fact that the second murder had taken place in the City of London meant that a second force, the City of London Police, were now officially involved in the hunt for the killer.
But the double murder had resulted in the public humiliation of the officers of both forces and the Metropolitan Police, desperate for a breakthrough, decided that it was now time to release a letter that had been passed to them just a few days previously by the Central News Office in the City of London.
The letter was written in red ink and began “Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me, but they won’t fix me just yet…” The letter had also contained the taunt “I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games.” The letter was signed “Jack the Ripper.”
The taunt about starting again, given that the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes had taken place within 24 hours of the Dear Boss letter been passed to the police, gave police officers cause to believe that the letter may have been sent by the killer. And so, with nothing else to go on, the letter was made public and, within days, copies of it were appearing in newspapers all over the world.
This had two consequences. Firstly, it gave the murderer the name by which he would come down to posterity. Secondly, it opened the floodgates to a whole wave of Jack the Ripper related correspondence as concerned citizens and practical jokers alike found themselves unable to resist penning their own ripper missives. Thus the police investigation became overwhelmed by a veritable tidal wave of of correspondence, all of which had to be read, assessed and, if possible, their authors traced.
Join our Walking Tour of Jack the Ripper’s London to hold and study a copy of the Dear Boss Letter.