Long after the cessation of the Whitechapel murders in the East End of London, people all over the country were being terrified by receiving letters that purported to have been written by the perpetrator of the said crimes.
The whole thing was, of course, sparked off by the fact that the police took the decision to release the “Dear Boss” letter in early October 1888. However, the idea to write letters purporting to come from the East End murderer caught on and led to an onslaught of letters that just kept coming and coming.
A SPATE OF LETTERS
Indeed, well into the 20th century, letters continued to be sent by “Jack the Ripper“, and these letters would often threaten the recipient, or recipients, with all manner of unpleasant and frightening fates, as well as threatening to murder them.
In 1931, a spate of letters began to me sent to various villages and hamlets on the East coast of England.
The Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian reported on one such missive – which had been sent to a family that reside in the Hamlet of Gipsey Bridge, in the parish of Thornton Le Fen, Lincolnshire – in its edition of Saturday, 28th February 1931:-
MURDER THREAT AT GIPSEY BRIDGE
COTTAGERS SCARED – BUT ARMED
“Well I am writing to tell you that all in this cottage will be murdered in less than a fortnight and also in that cottage up farther.”
These were the dramatic lines which met the eyes of Mrs. R. Marriott, of Gipsey Bridge, near Boston, when she opened a letter delivered to her through the post in the usual way on Monday morning.
When a “Standard” representative called at Mrs. Marriott’s cottage he found the family at their evening meal.
The faces of Mr. and Mrs. Marriott’s two bonny children, eleven and nine respectively, were strangely sobered and it was evident at first glance that the receipt of the letter had had a considerable effect upon all four members of the family.
“The envelope bore the Boston postmark,” said Mrs. Marriott, “and was addressed in a hand-writing similar to that of the average farm-labourer.”
The letter, which was written in the same handwriting, is reproduced below with the original punctuation and spelling. One or two sentences, having reference to a woman, which are absolutely unfit for publication, have been deleted.
THE LETTER IN FULL
“Well, I am writing to tell you that all in this cottage will murdered in less than a fortnight and also in that cottage farther well I must tell you that this village will be wiped out in a month so you may all look out at night I shall be round I have been about here a fortnight now I have seen some of the people so now your life is short and a lot more this village wont be like this in a months time The people at the shop may up as I shall go in to buy something I can do them easy no matter if your doors are locked or your windows I can get in without a sound so if you want to see your friends before before then go see them I mean what I say I am the man that did the blackheath murder and also the blazing car man not rouse he did not do it I am the man I don’t mind telling people as I know they wont catch me nor my wife I have done a lot of murders and am doing a lot more down here in a month and then going to that other village not far away so bewhere and look at strange man but you wont see me I could not write to any of the others as I did not know their names I ask a little boy the people name in live in this house they told me marriott so look out I shall be there in less than a fortnight and the others up yonder close to the farm the man in the farm well I wish I knew their name in the other cottage I could write then but I shall get to know well I have told you all now you wont be alive next Sunday sign Jack the ripper the murderer.”
THE PEOPLE MENTIONED
“The cottage up farther” is taken to refer to that occupied Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, and “the people at the shop” are Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Whitelam.”
When Mrs. Marriott showed the letter to her next-door neighbour, Mrs. J. Semper, who has only recently recovered from a serious illness, she fainted!
CHILDREN REDUCED TO TEARS
Children attending the infants’ school at Gipsey Bridge were terrified when Frank and Jack Marriott told them of the letter which their mother had received.
Many of them were reduced to tears and it is an utter impossibility to persuade them to venture out after dusk.
A LOADED GUN
“The children and myself have been in the habit of going out ourselves, but we shan’t do that again until all this has been cleared up,” Mrs. Marriott said.
“It won’t pay people to come playing pranks here,” she continued, “for we’ve a loaded gun in that corner and my boy there (indicating her son Frank) can shoot as straight as any man.”
Mr. Marriott, too, agreed that any unwelcome visitors would find their house a “tough nut to crack.”
THE POLICE INFORMED
“Soon after I received the letter,” Mrs. Marriott went on, “I went Boston Police station, but learnt that they could do nothing as Gipsey Bridge was not in their area.
I then got into touch with Superintendent Porter, of Horncastle, who was over here on Tuesday and Wednesday. The police are making investigations and I think they hold the theory that the letter was written by one of the men on the farm on which Mr. Marriott is employed” (Castledyke Farm, owned by Messrs. W. Dennis and Sons, Ltd., of Kirton).
The nearest police-officer to Gipsey Bridge is stationed at New York, some five miles away, but the village will not be left unguarded until the present “Ripper” scare is over.
NOT GOING OUT
The impression received by our representative was that, in general, the villagers of this scattered hamlet are taking the matter seriously and do not intend to run any unnecessary risk.
Women and children dare not go out unaccompanied and strenuously uphold the maxim that “there is safety in numbers,” whilst the majority firmly hope that the player of this more than foolish prank, if prank it should be, will be severely dealt with by the authorities if he should be apprehended.”