Today we have it relatively easy. After all, we only have to contend with a list of a few hundred Jack the Ripper suspects the cases against whom, no matter how bizarre they might seem to the sane and the rational amongst us, are, none-the-less, well-argued by the majority of their propagators.
Unfortunately for the Victorian Police, they were not only up against authors and journalists, who were eager to denigrate their endeavours to bring the Whitechapel murderer to justice, but they also had to contend with an almost perpetual stream of crackpots and lunatics, who were eager to take the credit for having carried out the actual crimes.
WILLIAM WALLACE BRODIE
In the wake of the murder of Alice McKenzie. which took place on the 17th July, 1889, several “wandering lunatics” came forward to claim responsibility for the atrocity, amongst them William Wallace Brodie, who appeared in court on Tuesday, 13th August, 1889.
The Aberdeen Evening Express, in its edition of Thursday, 15th of August, 1889, featured the following report on what, by all accounts, appears to have been a truly eventful court appearance:-
THE SELF-STYLED JACK THE RIPPER IN COURT AGAIN
“William Wallace Brodie, 32, fireman, was indicted at the London County Sessions on Tuesday for obtaining by false pretences from Mr Peter Rigle, a jeweller, a gold watch, value £9. 9s, with intent to defraud.
Early in the day, when the grand jury came into Court with a true bill of the indictment against the prisoner, he was asked by Mr Sage (the clerk) if he was guilty or not guilty.
The prisoner, in a loud voice, replied, “I ain’t charged with that; I am here for the murder of Alice Mackenzie.”
A plea of not guilty was then entered, and the prisoner was ordered to stand down.
BROUGHT UP IN THE AFTERNOON
In the afternoon he was again brought up, and given in charge of the jury.
Evidence was led, and the prosecutor was then called.
EXHIBITED IN A CAGE
As soon as he came into the body of the Court the prisoner, who had been clutching the dock rail, rushed towards him, and in a loud and savage voice cried out, “There he is; he is one of a syndicate who are going to carry me about in a cage and exhibit me as the man who committed all the East End murders.”
He then endeavoured to strike the prosecutor but was seized by the dock warder.
His conduct was so violent that several other warders were summoned from the cells.
HE WAS QUITE SANE
Chief Warder Cave was then examined as to the prisoner’s state of mind.
He said that he had been in custody for a fortnight, during which time he had had him under his observation.
He had been seen by the medical officers of the prison, and when be was brought up on remand a certificate was sent to the Magistrate to the effect that he was quite sane.
HELD DOWN IN THE DOCK
The prosecutor was then sworn, and as he got into the witness box to give his evidence the prisoner, grinding his teeth, again made a desperate effort to get at him, and it required the aid of a dock-full of warders to hold him down.
By order of the Judge, he was removed to the cells and the excitement which had prevailed during the scene soon subsided.
THE JURY DISCHARGED
The learned Chairman said that he thought, under the circumstances, the jury had better be discharged without giving a verdict, and the trial be postponed until next Sessions.
From what he had observed he thought the medical officers of the prison should see the prisoner again.
The trial was accordingly postponed.
HE SAID HE WAS THE RIPPER
The prisoner is the man who made a statement at Leman Street Station to Inspector Moore that he was “Jack the Ripper,” and that he was the murderer of Alice Mckenzie.
His story was investigated, and it was found that there was no truth in it, and he was then charged with being a wandering lunatic.
He made the statement to the Magistrate, who directed him to be charged on his own confession with the murder of Alice Mckenzie in Castle Alley.
He was acquitted and was then apprehended on the present charge.”