It is most interesting to study press reports on the Jack the Ripper murders, as it helps us to glean an impression of how the murders were perceived by the community at large, both at the time they were occurring and in the years that followed.
It becomes more than obvious that the newspapers were still happy to report on the Whitechapel murders long after it had become apparent that the actual crimes themselves – or at least the perpetrators reign of terror – had come to an end.
It is also interesting to find that hoaxers were still making mirth of the killings, certainly as late as 1890, as is demonstrated by the following article that appeared in The Gloucester Citizen on October 14th, 1890.
JACK THE RIPPER’S KNIFE
Evidently, they were somewhat dubious about just how genuine the news that Jack the Ripper’s knife had been found, but, by the same token, they still considered a story about the East End crimes to be worth running, even though two years had elapsed since their occurrence.
The story was headlined:-
“JACK THE RIPPER.”
And the subsequent article reported that:-
“A discovery has just: been made which, although in all probability a hoax, was yet considered by the police authorities of sufficient importance to be telegraphed to every station in the metropolitan district.
It appears that a Labourer found on a piece of waste land in Love-lane, Wandsworth, an old butcher’s knife upon which were stains of blood.
To the handle was attached a piece of paper bearing the words “I have finished with this old knife, but have got another, and mean to commence business directly.
Jack the Ripper.”
JACK THE RIPPER IN KILLARNEY
The same edition of the newspaper carried a further account of another hoaxer who was at work in Killarney in Ireland.
This article read:-
“On Monday morning the police found a notice posted up in the Catholic Church in Killarney, stating that Jack the Ripper ” had left Whitechapel for Killarney where he would remain until November 1st, and that during the month murders and suicides would be heard of, and that women of ill-fame might have their coffins made, &c.
The notice, which was in manuscript, caused quite a sensation in the neighbourhood.”
Evidently, both stories proved to be hoaxes as, as far as we know at least, know follow ups were done by either the police or the press.
HAD THE KILLINGS ENDED?
Of course, for us today, it is easy to look back and wonder what all the fuss was about, since we now know, or at least we think we know, that the Jack the Ripper crime spree had concluded by 1890.
However, it should be remembered that we are doing so with hindsight and that, as far as the Victorians were concerned, the murderer himself had simply been lying low for a few years and might, at any time, step back out onto the streets and resume his atrocities.
And, as is so evident from the various newspaper article, the police and the press were still pondering what had happened to the perpetrator of the crimes and were wondering if they had seen the last of him, or if he was waiting in the wings, eager to humiliate them still further.