It is surprising how frequently the name of “Jack the Ripper” turned up in the court records once the “Dear Boss” letter had given him his name.
Indeed, it would appear that many criminals, who could not possibly have been the Whitechapel murderer, were only too happy to make use of the name, and, in so doing, afford themselves a sort of reflected immortality.
One such case occurred on Wednesday, 18th February, 1890, and was reported in The Chelmsford Chronicle, on Friday, 21st February 1890:-
THAXTED WOMAN STABBED BY HER GRANDSON
Yesterday (Thursday) a young man named Alfred Weiss, of London, a printer, was brought up in custody at the Dunmow Police-court, before Mr. W. B. Clapham, charged with attempting to do bodily harm to his grandmother, Margaret Unwin, at Thaxted, on the previous day.
Police Sergeant Burrell, stationed at Thaxted, said that from information he received on Wednesday he went in pursuit of the prisoner, whom he apprehended at Saffron Walden.
He charged him with attempting to do bodily harm to his grandmother by striking her on the head with a knife.
The prisoner in reply said, “No I didn’t. I only used the knife, I didn’t strike her. I should not have done that, only they did something to me.”
Mr. Clapham: “What did he mean by that?”
Witness said he did not think the grandmother or her children had done anything to the prisoner, who did not appear to know what he was saying.
The woman, who was about sixty years of age, had since been very ill from fright. She had a cut on the top of her head about an inch long, which bled very much.
Witness inquired of her what had become of the knife, and she said that the prisoner had thrown it down in the kitchen. Witness had not been able to find the knife.
SUFFERING FROM A WEAK MIND
The prisoner, who was about 20 years of age, was taken in by his grandmother about two months ago to try and make him a little better. He was evidently suffering from a weak mind. He had noticed that he had been very strange in his manner.
He had threatened to shoot somebody, and he had complained that some people were always squirting blood at him.
Mrs. Unwin was too unwell to attend that day.
The prisoner, whose appearance fully bore out the statement of the witness, said nothing, and regarded the proceedings in an absent-minded way.
Mr. Clapham ordered him to be remanded until Monday.”
HIS NEXT APPEARANCE
The Chelmsford Chronicle, on Friday, 28th February 1890, reported on the proceedings and the outcome of his next court appearance:-
“On Thursday in last week, a young man named Alfred Weiss was charged before W. B. Clapham, Esq., at Dunmow, with stabbing his grandmother, Margaret Unwin, at Thaxted, the previous day, when he was remanded.
On Monday, Weiss was again brought Dunmow before the Rev. E. F. Gepp, chairman, and W. B. Clapham, Esq., when the charge was amended to one of common assault, to which the man pleaded guilty.
The prisoner’s grandmother deposed that at about noon on Wednesday she went to the bakehouse, when she saw Mrs. Stone, who told her that a young girl had run into her shop very frightened, and said the prisoner was after her with a stick.
HE WAS IN A PASSION
The prisoner then came in and said that he was “Jack the Ripper,” and would cut some girls’ throats. She had never seen him in a passion before. He got calmer, and her granddaughter, Harriet, spoke to him, and she herself tried to quiet him. He seemed to think she wanted to hurt him. She said, “Alfred, we don’t want to hurt you; we would not hurt you it was ever so,” and he said, “All right, then.”
A little later, however, the prisoner met her in the doorway and struck her a violent blow on the head. She could not see what he had in his hand, it felt just like a little hammer. He then ran off down the Walden-road.
She had a wound on the right side of her head about an inch long, which bled a good deal.
THE PRISONER IN THE DOCK
The Chairman to the prisoner: “Have you any questions to ask her?”
Prisoner: “No. It is all clear out now after what she has said.”
Police-Sergt. Burrell repeated the evidence he gave on Thursday, and produced a table knife, which was found in the kitchen.
The prisoner: “It was a smaller one.”
In reply to the charge, the prisoner said, “She found fault with me and that is why I did it.”
A WORKHOUSE INMATE
Mr. Cock, clerk to the magistrates’ clerk, said the prisoner was an inmate of the Dunmow Union Workhouse in 1885, and underwent examination as to the state of his mind, when it was found that his condition did not justify him being sent to an asylum.
The Chairman, addressing the prisoner, said:- “From your own confession you seem to have got into a passion when you inflicted this harm on your grandmother. It may be that it was only a slight wound, but it might have been a grievous one, and we shall send you to prison for two months with hard labour.
The prison authorities will inquire into the state of your mind, and if they think you are not responsible for your actions they will know how to deal with you.
The prisoner, who had evinced very little concern in the case, was then removed.”