It was around this day in the autumn of 1888 that the Whitechapel Murderer was given a name.
The newspapers were buzzing with all sorts of rumours about the killer’s identity and motives. Predominant amongst the theories in September 1888 was the belief that the killer possessed medical knowledge and that he might well be committing the murders in order to obtain particular parts of his victims bodies, presumably for medical research purposes.
The name “Jack” had already entered the investigation on account of the belief amongst some police officers that their main suspect, a man who the prostitutes had nicknamed “Leather Apron“, was a man named John (or Jack) Pizer.
Pizer had, in fact, been traced and eliminated as a suspect by the police, but their suspicions had ensured that his name had been put before the public.
However, there had been no further murders since the murder of Annie Chapman on the 8th September 1888 and the panic and terror that had swept the district in the wake of that killing had begun to abate.
And then the head of the Central News Office on New Bridge Street in the City of London received a letter. It was written in red ink and was addressed to “The Boss.” Since the letter also began “Dear Boss” it has gone down in history as the Dear Boss Letter. The letter purported to come from the Whitechapel Murderer and boasted in mocking terms about the polices inability to catch him.
But it was the signature on the letter that would, a few days later, turn the Whitechapel Murders into an international phenomenon and ensure that the perpetrator of the crimes would be elevated to the realm of legend. For the letter bore the signature Jack the Ripper.
The head of the news agency, at first, thought the letter to be a joke and so paid it scant attention. But a few days later he thought it wise to pass it on to the police, and so it was sent to detectives at Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police headquarters.
Within 24 hours of the police receiving the letter, the killer struck again and murdered two women. Since the letter had predicted that the killer was about to strike again the police felt that they now had to take the Dear Boss letter seriously and, in an endeavour to trace the author, they made it public. The name Jack the Ripper entered the public consciousness, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Join our Jack the Ripper Walking tour to see and study the letter and decide for yourself whether or not it did come from the killer.