By March, 1889, the Jack the Ripper murders in the East End of London seemed to have ceased, and the tension that had been so apparent in the district throughout the previous autumn, and over the Christmas period of 1888, had begun to ease.
However, the Victorians didn’t have the certainty that we have today that the Whitechapel atrocities had, in fact, come to an end with the murder of Mary Kelly, on the 9th of November, 1888.
Indeed, people were wondering what had become of the murderer, and the possibility that he had moved to another location was being seriously considered throughout the first three months of 1889.
Consequently, newspapers were busily scouring the court records and the police reports the world over, looking for any crimes, be they murders or attacks, that bore the hallmarks of a Jack the Ripper crime.
And, as it transpires, their endeavours were not in vain, since compulsive confessors and deranged evil-doers were still cropping up across Britain and Ireland, claiming to be Jack the Ripper, throughout the month of March, 1889.
JACK THE RIPPER ON A GRIMSBY SMACK
One horrible story was published in The Sheffield Independent, on Friday, 15th March, 1889.
Just to explain some of the terms used in the article – a smack – the vessel mentioned in the following article – was a traditional small fishing boat that used a trawl net or dragnet to catch fish. The Spurn is a narrow sand tidal island located off the tip of the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England that reaches into the North Sea and forms the north bank of the mouth of the Humber estuary.
The article read:-
A SHOCKING TRAGEDY
“Another of those shocking tragedies which are now and again reported in connection with the fishing trade has occurred.
The trawl smack Doncaster, belonging to the Grimsby Ice Company, arrived at Grimsby yesterday morning, and the second hand, Arthur Turrell, reported having on board the dead body of the master, William Connelly, aged 40, residing at 116, Kent Street, who had been murdered when on the fishing grounds, 240 miles from Spurn.
STABBED BY THE COOK
It appears that about six on the evening of Monday, the 11th, the second hand was standing near the companion in conversation with the master, when the cook, Walter Tennant Gempton, who was walking about at the side of the vessel, suddenly rushed at the master with an open clasp knife, and stabbed him in the back of the neck.
The master fell on the deck, saying, “Oh, he has stabbed me.”
The cook said, “You crafty ——-, has that settled you? This is a bit of Jack the Ripper.”
The master was then taken into the cabin, where died in about ten minutes.
HANDED OVER TO THE POLICE
The murderer was then secured, and the vessel made port, arriving yesterday morning, when Gempton was handed over to the police.
The body of the murdered man was removed to the hospital mortuary to await an inquest.
Gempton is only 18 years of age, and it is thought that he cannot be sane, as there was no previous quarrel between him and the master.
Connellv leaves a wife and two children.
APPEARS BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES
The prisoner was brought before the borough magistrates yesterday charged with wilful murder on Monday, the 11th inst.
The murdered man was the prisoner’s uncle.
After being locked up, Gempton was seized with a fit but he subsequently recovered.
When he stabbed the master he cried:- “He wants to make away with the ship and all hands, he is Jack the Ripper;” afterwards making the other remark stated.
He was remanded till Monday.”
A SELF-ACCUSED JACK THE RIPPER
Meanwhile, as is evidenced by this next story, which appeared in the St James’s Gazette on Monday, 18th March, 1889, the compulsive confessors, who had been prevalent throughout the autumn months of 1888, were still keen to confess their “guilt” to anybody that would give them the time of day:-
“A man of respectable appearance was on Saturday lodged in Wicklow Gaol on remand under the following circumstances:-
The man went to the police barracks on Thursday night, and made an extraordinary statement to Sergeant O’Reilly and Constable Welly.
He gave his name as John Alexander Fitzmaurice, a native of Cardiff, and declared that he was the real “Jack the Ripper.”
He then deposed to murders which he stated he had committed in London and elsewhere.
The statements were taken down, and afterwards signed by the self-accused murderer.
On Friday morning he went back on the written statement, and would only admit that he was guilty of one murder, which took place in the year 1886, the victim being Mary Jane Wheeler.
The prisoner was subsequently brought before a magistrate, who, having heard the evidence of the police and also the statements of the accused, remanded him for further inquiries.
Fitzmaurice appears by his language to be a man of some education.”
JACK THE RIPPER AGAIN
One actual attack, that bore certain similarities to the Whitechapel murders, occurred in Portsmouth, and was reported in The Buchan Observer and East Aberdeenshire Advertiser, on Friday 22nd March 1889:-
“A painful sensation occasioned at Portsmouth on Tuesday when it became known that a murderous attack on a woman of doubtful character had been made on the previous night under circumstances recalling the recent terrible crimes in the East End of London.
The victim is a woman named Rawfon, who has been living for some time past with George Hobbs, a pensioner, in Little Charlotte Street.
ACCOSTED BY A SAILOR
It appears that at about ten o’clock on Monday night, the victim was standing outside a public-house near her home, when she was accosted by a sailor, who asked her to take him home.
She did so, and, on the arrival at the house, he gave her a shilling.
They had not been there many minutes before the man stabbed her with some sharp instrument which he had concealed in his hand.
She staggered a few yards into the street, followed by her cowardly assailant, who sneeringly asked, “Annie, will you come and have a glass of ale.”
She replied, “You beast;” and gasping, “I don’t know what the world’s coming to,” she fell to the ground senseless.
The man then made off, and shortly afterwards the outraged woman weltering in blood, staggered into an adjoining public-house, and said she had been stabbed.
An alarm was raised, and the police were soon on the spot.
MEDICAL AID IS SUMMONED
Dr Lysander Maybury, police surgeon, was summoned and he staunched the wound, from which blood was still flowing copiously when he arrived.
By direction of Dr Maybury, she was afterwards conveyed to the hospital, where she was received by Dr O’Connor, the house surgeon, who found that the unfortunate woman had sustained a wound below the abdomen two and a half inches in length, and from a quarter to half an inch deep, and which had been inflicted by a knife or other sharp instrument which had been used with great force.
There was also a severe bruise on the body, the result of a violent blow or kick.
The wound was sewn up by Dr O’Connor, and the haemorrhage was stopped.
In the opinion of the medical staff, no constitutional disturbance has occurred; but owing to the great loss of blood and shock to the system, the woman lies in a very critical condition.
A diligent search has been made for the weapon with which the foul crime was committed but so far without success.”