With the seeming cessation of the Jack the Ripper murders, following the murder of Mary Kelly, on 9th November, 1888, the police and public alike sought to find the answer to the mystery of who the perpetrator of the crimes had been.
Over the years that followed, as it became apparent that the murders had ceased, people were on the lookout for any clues that might lead them to the identity of the Whitechapel murderer.
Suicides and unexplained deaths were considered particularly noteworthy, and, in consequence, numerous newspaper articles appeared over the next few years that announced the death of Jack the Ripper, many of them based on very scant actual evidence. Indeed, it would appear that the only criteria for a person to find themselves posthumously accused of having carried out history’s most infamous murder spree was for him (and, it has to be said, it nearly always was a him) to have been slightly eccentric and to have died!
DEATH OF “JACK THE RIPPER”
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph announced his demise on Thursday, 17th July, 1890:-
“For about two years past, there has been a man whose name has never been ascertained, but who has been termed “Jack the Ripper,” living in the neighbourhood of Upper Holloway.
He was a tall, very thin, and strange individual, and was in the habit of walking at a very fast pace, and in an eccentric way through Highgate and the northern suburbs.
SENT TO THE INFIRMARY
It appears that a short time ago he was sent to the Islington Infirmary as a wandering lunatic and he died two days after.
He was frequently asked why he walked at such a pace and in such manner, and he always replied that he did so for the benefit of his health and that the doctor had told him he must expand his lungs.”
SUPPOSED SUICIDE ON WIMBLEDON COMMON
On 6th April, 1891, the body of a man was found on Wimbledon Common and, at first, it just seemed to have been a case of suicide, as was reported by the St James’s Gazette on Tuesday, 7th April, 1891:-
“The dead body of a man, aged between thirty and forty years of age, was found yesterday on Wimbledon Common.
Blood was issuing from a wound on the body, and death had evidently resulted from a bullet wound to the left breast, which, it is believed, was self-inflicted, because, on the body being raised up, there was discovered on the ground a six-chambered revolver, one chamber of which had been recently discharged.
The body was removed to the Wimbledon mortuary to await a coroner’s inquest and identification.”
SUPPOSED SUICIDE OF A GENTLEMAN ON WIMBLEDON COMMON
That same day, The Globe published the following article which gave a description of the unknown man:-
“The police have forwarded information to the coroner that yesterday there was discovered on Wimbledon Common the body of a gentleman, aged about 40.
Blood was issuing from a bullet wound in the left breast, which, it is believed, was self-inflicted.
The deceased is described as aged 40 years, length 5 feet 9 1/2 inches, complexion fresh, hair dark brown, bald on top of head, fair moustache, scar on bridge of nose, dressed in a light brown dust coat, black diagonal coat and vest, dark striped cloth trousers, and black hard felt hat.”
SUPPOSED SUICIDE OF “JACK THE RIPPER” – A WIMBLEDON MYSTERY
But, by the end of the month, the mysterious death of the, still unidentified man, was being linked to the Whitechapel crimes of 1888, as is evidenced by the following article, which appeared in The Southern Echo, on Wednesday 29th April, 1891:-
“A singular rumour has been circulated in the neighbourhood of Wimbledon, to the effect that the East End murderer has committed suicide.
It appears that about three weeks ago a person of gentlemanly appearance committed suicide on Wimbledon Common by shooting himself with a revolver. The deceased was not identified at the inquest, which was held on the 9th inst., and his remains were subsequently buried at the expense of the parish.
Since his death, everything has been done by the police authorities to trace the identity of the deceased, but without success, and the affair has until lately remained a complete mystery.
HE MATCHED THE DESCRIPTIONS
There is now, however, a report that the deceased is no other than the notorious murderer.
It is declared that the appearance of the deceased corresponds strangely with the description given of the perpetrator of the Whitechapel crimes.
Several blank sheets of note-paper of a similar kind, it is said, to that used for the written warnings which were posted in various parts of London a short time previous to many of the Whitechapel murders, were found on the body.
The suicide appears to have been committed in a most determined manner, and everything that could have led to the man’s identification seems to have been intentionally destroyed.”
“JACK THE RIPPER.” ANOTHER EXTRAORDINARY STORY
On Tuesday, 22nd March, 1892, The Gloucester Citizen published the following article which put forward another contender for the mantle of the East End fiend:-
“Our London correspondent today gives an extraordinary account of the career and death of a man believed by the police to be ” Jack the Ripper.” He has good authority for his statements, which are of the most sensational character.
The correspondent says:-
Apropos of the recent rumour that the man Williams, charged with the Rainhill murders, was none other than “Jack the Ripper,” I have just heard from an official source a probable clue to the identity of the latter mysterious individual.
THE NORFOLK DOCTOR AND THE MYSTERIOUS LADY
Some years ago, there resided in a country village in Norfolkshire a medical man who was much respected and who enjoyed an extensive practice.
A woman of respectable appearance came to reside in the village, no one knew whence or for what purpose.
She became acquainted with the doctor and gained such an influence over him that he neglected his practice, and eventually became so heavily involved that he suddenly disappeared to avoid his creditors.
HE CAME TO LONDON
It was known that he came to London, that his evil companions had abandoned him, and that he was picking up a precarious existence by scavenging and other odd jobs in Whitechapel.
That he was in that district during the murders is certain, and that he was almost continually drunk is equally true.
THE DEATH OF THE DOCTOR
Late one winter’s night, after the latest murder ascribed to “Jack the Ripper” was committed, he was thrown out of a low public-house in the Eastend, and run over by a heavy goods van. He was taken to a hospital and died without regaining consciousness.
Since then there have been no murders, nor are any of that character which made Whitechapel notorious expected in the future.
ONE AND THE SAME
It was only after his death that the authorities had the ruined doctor’s history brought under their notice, and they think it very possible that he and the Whitechapel murderer were one and the same individual.
This clue is rendered more important by the fact that it explains the evidence of the surgical knowledge which the murderer undoubtedly possessed, and which to the present has not been satisfactorily accounted for.”