Startling Statements

Following the murder of Mary Kelly – which took place in Dorset Street, Spitalfields, on the 9th of November, 1888 – there was plenty to occupy the numerous journalists who were grubbing around the area trying to find copy for their newspapers.

Stories of suspects being arrested and then released were myriad; mysterious characters with shiny black bags were popping up all over London; witnesses were being tracked down by reporters, and several of them, such as Matthew Packer, the grocer who had claimed that he had sold grapes to Elizabeth Stride and a man shortly before her murder, were only too happy to talk to the media, no doubt hoping for some form of remuneration for their information.


On Thursday, November 15th, 1888, The Gloucester Citizen published the following round-up of stories that were doing the rounds in the area in the aftermath of the Mary Kelly murder:-

The police were busily occupied yesterday in endeavouring to obtain a clue to the identification and movements 0f the man with whom the woman Kelly was last seen, and a detailed description of whom has been published.

Various statements have been volunteered to them on the subject, but up to last evening, their search had not resulted in any definite information.


An arrest was made in the Old Kent-road last evening, but the man whose movements had excited suspicion does not answer to the description of the person who is wanted.

Attention was drawn to him by his leaving a shiny black bag at the Thomas-a-Becket public-house.

The police were communicated with, and, on the bag being examined, it was found to contain a very sharp dagger, clasp knife, two pairs of very long and curious looking scissors, and two life-preservers.

Meanwhile, the man had gone to a pawnbroker’s, and on emerging from the shop he was taken into custody, in order that inquiries might be made.


A City policeman in plain clothes, while walking along Commercial-road on Wednesday, was accused of being Jack the Ripper, and was with difficulty rescued from a mob of several hundred persons.


Mr. Matthew Packer, the fruiterer who sold some grapes to a man in company with the murdered woman just before the Berner-street murder, has made an extraordinary statement in the course of which he declares that on Tuesday two men went to his house and bought 12s. worth of rabbits from him.

They asked me if I could give an exact description of the man to whom I sold the grapes, and who was supposed to have committed the Berner-street and Mitre-square murders, as they were convinced they knew him and where to find him.


In reply to some questions, one of the men then said:- “Well, I am sorry to say that I firmly believe it is my own cousin. He is an Englishman by birth, but some time ago he went to America, stayed there a few years, and then came back to London about seven or eight months ago.

On his return, he came to see me, and his first words were, “Well, Boss, how are you?” He asked me to have some walks with him, and I did round Commercial-street and Whitechapel.

I found that he was very much altered on his return, for he was a thorough harem scarem.


We met a lot of Whitechapel women, and when we passed them he used to say to me, “Do you see those. How do you think we used to serve them where I came from? Why, we used to cut their throats and rip them up. I could rip one up and get her inside out in no time.”

He said, “We Jack Rippers killed lots of women over there. You will hear of some it being done over here soon, for I am going to turn a London Jack Ripper.”

No particular notice was taken of the statement at the time, it being all put down to bluster, but when he heard of the first murder he became uneasy.

“My cousin,” he adds, “is a perfect monster towards women, especially when he has a drop of drink.

But in addition to what he said to me about these murders in America, and what was going to be done here, I feel certain it is him, because of the way in which these “Jack the Ripper” letters, which have appeared in the papers begin.

They all begin ‘Dear Boss,’ and that is just the way he begins his letters. He calls everybody ‘Boss’ when he speaks to them. I did not want to say anything about him if I could help it, so I wrote to him, but he did not answer my letter.

Since this last murder, I have felt that I could not remain silent any longer, for at least something ought to be done to put him under restraint.”

Packer states he feels sure the men are speaking the truth, as they seemed very much concerned, and hardly knew what to do in the matter. He knows where to find the men. One is employed at some ironworks and the other at the West India Docks, and the man they allude to lives somewhere in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel.

The police are inquiring.


Hutchinson, the man who gave such an extremely particular description of the supposed murderer, has accompanied detectives in their search for “the dark- complexioned, middle-aged, foreign-looking bushy-eyebrowed gentleman, with the dark moustache turned up at the ends,” who wore “the soft felt hat, the long dark coat, trimmed with astrachan, the black necktie, with horseshoe pin, and the button boots, and displayed a massive gold watch chain, with large seal and a red stone attached.”

The authorities anticipate that this full description having been given, the culprit will take pains to change his personal appearance, but it is to be remembered that the description itself is totally at variance with that of the stout, fair man, with blotchy face and carroty moustache, who, according to testimony taken upon oath, was seen to go with Kelly into her room on the morning of the murder.

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.


The statement that portions of the body were taken away by the murderer is incorrect.

At the post-mortem examination, every organ was fully accounted for and replaced, as far as possible, in its natural position.


The result of the publication of the description of Kelly’s assassin has been to increase the number of private and amateur detectives, who are on the lookout for the murderer.

The streets in the East End are now patrolled all night by members of Vigilance Committees and others, one result of their zeal being almost hourly reports to the police of suspicious movements by various individuals.

The police have ascertained that Murphy, who had been arrested and taken to the King’s Cross-road police-station, was in no way connected with the recent murder, and he has been released from custody.


The police at Leman-street police-station, Whitechapel, have received by post the following letter:-

“Dear Boss,

Just a line to let you know that I got over that job all right. I shall do another job about 200 or 300 yards from the same spot within three or four days.

Jack the Ripper.”

The police of the H. or Commercial-street division, have received by post a letter bearing Tuesday’s date, as follows:-

“Dear Boss,

You shall have a nice parcel when I do the next job in N.E. I have 13 booked for blood, and will give myself up.

Jack the Ripper.”


The relatives of the murdered woman, who were expected in London, did not arrive on Wednesday.

The funeral has again been postponed, and may not take place until Monday.

On Wednesday afternoon the remains were removed from the temporary coffin, in which they had been lying at the Shoreditch Mortuary, and placed in a coffin of French polished elm and oak, with brass handles, in which they will be interred.

Mr. M’Carthy, the landlord of the deceased, offered to defray part of the cost of the funeral but his offer was declined, sufficient funds having already been subscribed.”