At 1am on 30th September 1888 Louis Deimshutz , who along with his wife, ran the International Polish and Jewish Working Men’s Socialist Club in Berner Street, came back from a day spent hawking cheap jewellery in South London.
As he turned his pony and cart into the yard of the club the pony suddenly shied and pulled to the left. Leaning forward Deimshutz was able to discern a dark shape on the ground in front of him, and so he leant over and tried to lift it wiht his whip. he couldn’t so he jumped down to investigate further and found that it was a woman lying on the ground.
For some reason he presumed that it was, in fact, his wife and that she was drunk. So he went into the club to check on his wife and found her in the kitchen. He therefore went to enlist the assistance of other club members telling them “there’s a woman on the ground outside and she’s either dead or she’s drunk, I’m not sure which.”
The other members followed Deimshutz into the yard bringing candles with them and were able to see what the steward hadn’t noticed in the darkness. The woman’s throat had been cut. They had discovered the body of Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper’s third victim.
The fact that the killer had only cut the victim’s throat this time led to the police to the conclusion that he had been interrupted by Deimshutz as he turned into the yard. Indeed, it might have been the killer stepping quickly from view that startled the pony as it came into the yard.
This suggests that, Deimshutz acted differently when he first found the woman lying on the ground, there is a good chance that the murderer would have been caught, because there is a good chance that, when Deimshutz was first inspecting the body, the killer was standing close by him in the darkness. Had he raised the alarm there and then people would have come running to the scene.
But Deimshutz’s actions in believing it was his drunken wife, and that he had then left the scene to go into the club, meant that the killer had vital minutes to make his escape from the yard before the club steward and its members returned to the scene to discover that the woman had, in fact, been murdered.
But there is a much more intriguing and, historically speaking, far-reaching consequence of Deimshutz’s actions. Had he not done what he did and left the scene. Had he stayed put and raised the alarm, the killer’s escape from the yard may well have been rendered impossible and the killer would have been caught there and then.
This means that he wouldn’t have been at liberty to murder Catherine Eddowes thirty minutes later.
But it also means that the police wouldn’t have deemed it necessary to release the, now famous, letter, which had been passed to them twenty four hours earlier by a London News agency and which had been signed Jack the Ripper.
Which, in turn, means that the name Jack the Ripper would never have entered the public consciousness and would have remained known to just a handful of senior police officers and journalists.
In other words nobody today would know the name Jack the Ripper.
Funny how the belief that a woman lying on the ground is your drunken wife can, literally, help create a legend!