Following the night of the double murder, the 30th of September, 1888, the people of the East End of London were gripped by a wave of panic at the outrages that were being perpetrated by Jack the Ripper.
All sorts of bizarre rumours and false alarms were circulating, as is evidenced from the following article that appeared in The Farringdon Advertiser on Saturday October 6th, 1888.
NIGHT SCENES IN WHITECHAPEL
EXCITING CHASE OF A “SUSPECT”
“The closing hours of Wednesday night and the early dawn of Thursday morning proved an exciting time for the East-end population.
Rumours of the most extraordinary character were freely circulated in all directions. The rumours, if sensational, were for the most part as ridiculous as they were untrue.
Thus late at night it was widely reported that the man had been captured in the Ratcliffe Highway, while attempting another outrage upon an unfortunate woman, and that in the scuffle a police officer had been stabbed.
A MAN TAKEN INTO CUSTODY
What actually occurred was this.
Sergeant Adams, of the H Division, while on duty on Wednesday night, between nine and ten, in the Ratcliffe Highway, heard the voice of a woman shouting for help in an adjacent court.
Proceeding in the direction whence the cries came, he met a man, evidently a foreigner, hurrying away from the court.
Examining the man with the aid of hie bull’seye, the sergeant concluded that he bore a somewhat near resemblance to the description already published by the police of the man who is supposed to have been seen in the company of the unfortunate woman Stride on Saturday evening last.
He was taken into custody, but no weapons of any kind were found upon him. He gave his name and address without hesitation, and this being found on inquiry to be correct, he was liberated.
THE TRAVELLING RUMOUR
By far the most sensational feature in a night of alarms was the elaborate and detailed rumour, which travelling westward reached Fleet-street about midnight.
It was alleged that, an hour before, a man, who was believed to be the author of the diabolical outrages of Sunday last, lured an unfortunate girl into one of the side alleys off Union-street, Whitechapel, and he made an attempt on her life.
The would-be victim, however, was said to have been sharp enough to detect in time the glitter of a steel blade, and shrieked for assistance.
This proved to be quite near at hand, and the clatter on the pavement of rapidly advancing feet warned the assailant that he would have to seek safety in flight.
Just as he started, a man and some two or three women arrived on the scene, and the former gave chase. The pursuer almost immediately came up with him, and succeeded in knocking a knife with which he was armed out of his hand.
The man, however, evaded his grasp, darted into the roadway, jumped into a passing cab to the amazement of ‘cabby,’ and shouted to him to drive him “as hard as he could to anywhere he liked.”
The cabman started off as desired; but his vehicle was speedily surrounded by police and a howling mob, and a constable jumped in and secured the occupant, who was conveyed at once to Leman-street [Police Station].
ONLY A LITTLE BIT TRUE
This was the story.
Although the details proved upon inquiry to be fictitious, there ran through the rumour a slight substratum of truth.
Between ten and eleven o’clock a well-dressed man rushed out of the Three Nuns public-house in Aldgate, followed by a woman who, in a loud voice, declared to the loungers and paasersby that he had molested and threatened her.
While he was being thus denounced to the crowd, the stranger hailed a cab, jumped in, and proceeded to drive off.
PURSUED BY A MOB
A hue-and-cry was at once raised, and the vehicle was followed by an excited mob, which rapidly grew in numbers.
It was the general belief that the murderer who has been terrorising the East-end was the occupant of the cab, and a hot pursuit was given.
In a moment or two the cab was stopped, and a police-constable got in, secured the man, and directed the cabman to drive to the Leman-street Police-station.
THE WOMAN WOULDN’T PRESS CHARGES
Here the prisoner was formally charged on suspicion.
The woman was asked if she desired to make any charge, but she declined to do so, and shortly after left the station.
NOT THE MAN WANTED
It was, however, deemed prudent by the officer in charge to detain the man pending inquiries.
It was not until half-past nine on Thursday morning that he was discharged, diligent enquiries by the police leading them to the conclusion that their prisoner was not the man wanted.
Matters stand now, so far as the murderer is concerned, just where they did on Sunday last, and it is safe to state that not the faintest evidence likely to lead to detection and arrest has yet been forthcoming.”