From almost the beginning of the Whitechapel murders, the newspapers were full of accounts from people who claimed to have met Jack the Ripper.
Almost all of these accounts were disregarded by the police, amounting as they did to little more than the people making the claims seeking notoriety for themselves, hoping to enrich themselves by spinning a yarn to a journalist or being just plain mad.
However, for many years after the murders, people continued to claim that they had encountered Jack the Ripper and had lived to tell the tale.
MARY MAGUIRE’S ENCOUNTER
One woman, whose name made a fleeting newspaper appearance many years after the murders, was Mary Maguire.
She claimed to have been working in the district at the time of the atrocities, and also claimed that in the wake of one of the murders – from what she recounted it would appear to have been the murder of Annie Chapman – she had met a mysterious foreigner, who, so she stated, she was convinced was the murderer.
Now, it must be pointed out that much of what she said about the case does not stand up to close scrutiny and most certainly does not match the known facts of Annie Chapman’s murder – or of any of the Whitechapel murders, for that matter.
What is interesting though is that, in 1926, many, many years after the murders had taken place, a major Sunday newspaper was willing to devote a large chunk of newsprint to her claims.
The newspaper in question was The People, and the account of Mary Maguire’s encounter appeared in its edition of Sunday, 2nd May, 1926:-
WOMAN WHO MET JACK THE RIPPER
MANIAC’S CHAT AFTER MURDER
Mary Maguire, who at the age of seventy has just been admitted to an Irish Workhouse, is the only woman who is able to claim that she is the only woman who has met the terrible “Jack the Ripper”, talked with him, and lived to tell the tale.
It was forty years ago that the encounter took place, within a few minutes of the commission of one of the most atrocious of the long series of crimes associated with this most sinister of figures.
Maty Maguire, then employed in the household of a doctor, practising in the East End of London, happened to be in the neighbourhood of Hanbury Street awaiting the coming of a countrywoman who was employed as a nurse nearby.
A STIFLED SCREAM
Shortly afterwards, she heard something like a stifled scream come from the court, but, as nothing further was heard, she paid no attention to the sound.
A few minutes later, a man came out of the court and stopped dead in front of Miss Maguire.
“Where have I seen you before?”, he said, peering intently into the face of the waiting woman. “I know,” he went on, “you are one of the maids with Dr. Fitzgerald.”
As this was the case, Mary Maguire assumed that the man was attached to one of the hospitals in the district and had seen her at the house of the doctor.
He stood talking, and finally he walked to the end of the street with Mary, pressing her to have refreshment with him at a neighbouring hotel.
She declined, in spite of his insistence, but, with the idea of getting rid of him the more easily, she promised to meet him the following night at Liverpool Street Station.
When she returned to the spot where she had first seen him, she was joined by her friend, and she thought no more of the matter until the following morning, when her employer mentioned the details of the latest “Ripper” crime.
Recalling the facts of the night before, Mary Maguire was taken to the mortuary, and there she identified the victim as the woman she had seen in the company of the man who had spoken to her shortly after she had heard the scream.
HER DESCRIPTION OF THE MAN
Mary Maguire’s description of the man was as follows:- Medium height, dark skin, coal black hair, regular features, with a rather prominent nose and cheekbones, speech of an educated man, but with just the least touch of a foreign accent.
From remarks he made to her, she was certain that the man had travelled a good deal, and at one time had lived in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
He also mentioned visits to America, France and Spain, but he declined to say anything of his own nationality.
His dress was in keeping with his speech and manners, and certain other facts led the girl to think that the man was a doctor, or else a medical student attached to one of the hospitals in the district.
COOL AND SELF POSSESSED
At that time students and doctors were in the habit of calling at intervals on her employer, and the fact that he recognised her as having been met there strengthed this notion.
The strangest thing about the man was that, though he had obviously come from the commission of an atrocious crime, he was perfectly cool and self-possessed, and he did not appear at all anxious to get away from the scene of the murder.
NO REASON TO LIKE WOMEN
In the course of their conversation, he made a remark to Mary Maguire that may explain the motive of his many crimes.
“I have no particular reason to like women,” he said. “On the contrary, I ought to be a woman hater, for one of your sex did me an injury that has influenced my life since then – I like to think.”
As he said this, Mary Maguire observed the man’s eyes for the first time, and she could not help but be struck by the strange gleam in them – “the gleam of the madhouse”, she called it – and it was this circumstance that caused her to try to get rid of him, for the sinister reputation of the neighbourhood came into her mind and she was nervous about the persistence of the man.
“There hasn’t been one for some time, now,” he said to her, “but don’t be surprised if you hear of one, or perhaps more, at any time, because I am told Jack is about again.”
THE POLICE WON’T CATCH HIM
When Mary Maguire expressed the hope that the police would catch the monster, her companion laughed and added:- “I don’t think there is policeman born that can catch him, for not only is he clever, but he is so placed that suspicion cannot fall on him. The police are more likely to call him in to help them when the bodies are found.”
SHE KEPT THE APPOINTMENT
On the instructions of the police, the servant girl kept the appointment for the night after her meeting with the man, but her mysterious acquaintance was not there.
The line of inquiry her disclosures suggested to the police was followed up, and subsequent discoveries strengthened the view that the actual culprit was, as she had thought, employed at one of the hospitals in the district.
AN IDENTIFICATION LINE UP
The description she gave tallied with the details of two men, one of whom possessed a foreign degree, and was regularly allowed access to the operating theatres of two hospitals in the district.
This man was watched for a time, and, finally, it was arranged that Mary Maguire should have an opportunity of identifying him in the company of others.
This she failed to do, though she expressed the opinion that a man, whose position in the group she indicated, was very like the one the one who spoke to her on the night of the crime.
HE SAILED FOR AMERICA
he was kept under observation in the hope that he would give himself away, but expectations did not materialize, and he finally left the country for America.
It is a strange coincidence that, shortly after his departure, “Ripper” crimes were reported from New York, and from other places abroad to which he was thought to have gone, but from that day to this all trace of the man has been lost.”