Sir George Arthur Arrested

Throughout the autumn of 1888, many men decided to become amateur detectives and headed for the streets of the East End of London to join the hunt for Jack the Ripper.

The police had mixed feelings about these amateur detectives, but, on the whole, they left them alone so long as they didn’t make nuisances of themselves.

However, every so often, one of the amateur sleuths would attract the attention of an overzealous police officer, and, as Sir George Arthur discovered to his cost, the results could be, to say the least, embarrassing.

Interestingly, his predicament didn’t receive that much coverage in the English newspapers.


But, for the American press, an English aristocrat blundering into finding himself accused of being the Whitechapel murderer proved irresistible, and they were quick to capitalise on Sir George’s embarrassing night out on the streets of Whitechapel.

The Boston Weekly Globe, on November, 21st, 1888, was one of many newspapers that carried the story.

Interestingly, the article went on to mention other suspects who had also been arrested on suspicion of being the murderer, and, in so doing, made mention of Dr, Francis Tumblety, albeit they referred to him as “Dr. Kumblety:-


“Just think of it! One of the Prince of Wales’ own exclusives, a member of his household and cavalry and one of the best known of the many swells about town who glory in the glamor of the Guelphs, getting into custody on suspicion of being the Whitechapel murderer.

It is the talk of all clubdom tonight.


Just now, it is a fashionable fad to slum it in Whitechapel, and every night scores of young men who have never been in the East End before in their lives, prowl around the neighborhood of the murders, talking with frightened women.

So long as two men keep together and do not make nuisances of themselves, the police do not interfere with them.

But if a man goes alone and tries to lure a woman off the street into a secluded corner, he is pretty sure to get into trouble.

A group of three man watch a Jack the Ripper suspect.
A Suspect Is Watched. From The Illustrated London News, 13th October 1888.


That was the case of Sir George Arthur of Prince Wales’ set.

He put on an old shooting coat and slouch hat, and went to Whitechapel for a little fun.

He got it.


It occurred to two policemen that Sir George answered very much to the description of “Jack, the Ripper,” and they watched him, and when they saw him talking with a woman they collared him.

He protested and threatened them with the vengeance of the royal wrath, but in vain.

Finally, a chance was given him to send to a fashionable West End Club and prove his identity and he was released, with profuse apologies for the mistake.


The affair was kept out of the newspapers, but the jolly young baronets at the Brooks Club considered the joke too good to keep quiet.


Another arrest was a man who gave the name of Dr. Kumblety of New York. The police could not hold hint on suspicion of the Whitechapel crimes, but he has been committed for trial, under a special law passed soon after the modern Babylon exposures.

The police say this is the man’s right name, as proved by letters in his possession from New York, and that he has been in the habit of crossing the ocean twice a year for several years.

A score of men have been arrested by the police this week on suspicion, but the right man still roams at large, and everybody is momentarily expecting to hear of another victim.”


The Seven Oaks Chronicle, on Friday, 30th November, 1888, touched upon the fate of Sir George Arthur, before the writer went on to  mention the experience of a friend of his who had fallen foul of the East End mob for carrying a black bag:-

“It will probably never known to the public how many persons have been arrested as the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders.

Never a day passes without someone having to march to a police station to explain that is not, and never has been, “Jack the Ripper.”

The decision as to what shall be done with a person so apprehended rests with the inspector in charge at the station, and it is fortunate that the gentlemen filling that post in the principal East-end stations’ axe experienced and prudent.


One of the arrested since the outcry of last week was Sir George Arthur, Devonshire baronet, and I believe a lieutenant in the Life Guards.

He certainly does not look like a criminal, but the astrachan collars and cuffs of his fashionably cut overcoat were not satisfactory to the Whitechapel people, and the policeman on the beat, though the baronet protested, deemed the safest way out of the difficulty was to escort him to the station.

Various sketches of the crimes and the suspects.
A Round Up Of Suspects And Events. From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 24th November, 1888. Copyright, the British Library Board.


A friend of my own, an eminent chemical analyst, had to make some experiments in a Mile-end brewery, and to conduct these it was necessary to carry down a black bag of instruments.

As it is a fixed idea with many men and women that Jack the Ripper always carries a black bag, my friend was soon followed by a menacing crowd, and had in self-defence to demand the protection of a constable to the nearest cab-stand.

After witnessing the extraordinary panic in Whitechapel-road and Commercial-street last Monday, I am surprised that some innocent person has not been in one of the panics hanged to a lamp-post, or lynched in some fatal fashion.”


The Echo was another English newspaper that couldn’t resist poking fun at the unfortunate aristocrat in its edition of Saturday, 1st December, 1888:-

“Sir George Arthur will hesitate ere he reconnoitres in Whitechapel again.

An Astrachan overcoat would, he thought, be useful in protecting him from the cold.

It was but it incomprehensibly created suspicion.


Soon, this led to his arrest; and that to his conveyance to the nearest police station.

There, he had to give a faithful and particular account of his recent movements before he was released.

Aristocratic detectives had better label themselves if they wish to escape this inconvenience.

Sir George Arthur is a Lieutenant in the Herts Yeomanry Cavalry.”