In the early hours of 30th September 1888, Leon Goldstein, having enjoyed a coffee in a coffee shop in Spectacle Alley, headed home to 22 Christian Street.
He was carrying a black bag that was, so he later stated, half filled with empty cigarette boxes.
Hurrying along Berner Street, he passed a lady who was standing outside her house. He barely paid her any attention as he raced by, more intent on getting home than observing any of the early morning folk he encountered on his homeward dash.
SHE HAD NOTICED HIM
Unbeknownst to him, however, the lady, Mrs Fanny Mortimer, had, most certainly, noticed him.
A DASH INTO LEGEND
As a consequence, his desperate dash for home was about to implicate Goldstein as a potential suspect for the Whitechapel murders that, at the time, were instilling dread and terror into the hearts and minds of the people of the East End.
For, in a dark yard off Berner Street at 1am that morning, the body of Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper’s third victim, was discovered, and droves of police officers were soon converging on the street and interviewing the residents asking them if they had seen anything suspicious.
WHAT FANNY MORTIMER HAD SEEN
Mrs Fanny Mortimer, who lived at number 36 Berner Street, 4 doors up from the site of the murder had seen something that proved of interest to both the police and press alike.
She had, she said, stood outside her house at some stage between 12. 30am and 1am and had then gone in doors and was getting ready for bed when she heard a great commotion in the street outside.
She hurried outside and was told that their had been another dreadful murder.
When interviewed by the police, in the aftermath of the discovery of Elizabeth Stride’s body, she said that she had neither seen or been aware of anyone entering the gates of Dutfield’s Yard during her time outside.
The only man she had seen was a young man who was carrying a black shiny bag.
THE SHINEY BLACK BAG
According to the Daily News the man had “walked very fast down the street from the direction of Commercial Road…”
Reading the accounts of the suspicious young man, with the shiny black bag in the papers a few days later, Leon Goldstein must have felt the blood drain from his face when he learnt that the police were now looking for him as a potential suspect in the recent murders.
He promptly headed round to Leman Street Police Station and handed himself in.
RULED OUT BY THE POLICE
The police wasted no time in relaying the information that the mysterious stranger seen by Fanny Mortimer had been identified and had been ruled out of any involvement in the crimes.
NOT RULED OUT BY THE PRESS
But the press were less efficient at doing so and, consequently, Goldstein’s self-identification and subsequent exoneration received very little press coverage with the result that the idea of the killer possessing shiny black bag became fixed in the public imagination and has since become an established item of Jack the Ripper’s attire.