In December, 1888, the East End of London was still on high alert, and man of the people were ready to react quickly to any suggestion that a stranger in their midst might well be the Whitechapel murderer.
Any innocent pedestrian, who might seem a little odd or out of place, was liable to be pursue, or worse, by the mobs.
Many people were convinced that the killer carried a black bag, and, as many newspapers were commenting, any unfortunate man in possession of such and item of apparel really did go in danger of his life.
Meanwhile, others saw the opportunity afforded by the notoriety of the crimes to profit from them, and all manner of scams were being played out on the unwary in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.
On Wednesday, 5th December, 1888, Eddowes’s Journal, updated its readers on some of the scams that were being carried out by unscrupulous profiteers, as well as alerting them to some of the experiences endured by some those who found themselves suspected of being the perpetrator of the East End atrocities:-
THE EAST END HORRORS
It would have been strange if the latest scare had not been turned to account to furnish a silver lining to the pockets of the rascals who prowl about the London streets with nothing to exist upon save what small wits they might happen to possess.
The latest thing in roguery is, consequently, the personation of detective officers, and an arrest, which has to be squared before the police station comes within the range of sight.
Half a dozen cases of this nature have been reported to the police since Sunday last.
POSING AS POLICE OFFICERS
Naturally, a respectable individual is fixed upon for the victim. Two men walk up to him and tap him mysteriously upon the shoulder. They ask him his name, and intimate that they would like three minutes’ private conversation with him.
If the individual thus accosted at once acquiesces, the three adjourn to a quiet spot, and the men of mystery then unfold the startling information. They are connected with Scotland Yard, and have reason to believe that the person they are addressing is connected with the recent tragedies perpetrated in the East End.
The probability is that the inoffensive person so accused almost collapses with fright; or, at all events, expresses nervous anxiety to learn what reason there is for believing him associated with the murders.
HOW THE SCAM IS WORKED
Then the artful rogues play their part with much ingenuity.
There is, they are quite convinced, not the slightest justification for making so horrible an accusation; at the same time, they have their superior officers, who have given their orders, and though they are extremely sorry, and, in fact, seemed almost inclined not to proceed farther in the matter, to do so might be more than their place is worth.
The bait, so artistically dangled, is swallowed voraciously in nine cases out of ten.
Is there any way of getting out of so disagreeable and inconvenient affair without going to the police station, and appearing before the magistrates? Well, the artful ones reply that it might be done, though the game is such a risky one that it would have to be well paid for.
What follows is not difficult imagine.
The dupe hands over good round sum, and flatters himself that he is a lucky fellow to escape easily.
The persons accused have now seen through the ruesing, tackled the pseudo detectives with commendable vigour, and made an effort to give them in charge. In one case, a city clerk set about his tormentors with an umbrella, and belaboured them to such an extent that they were glad to beat a hurried retreat down a convenient alley.
MISTAKEN FOR THE MURDERER
The Special Commissioner is the latest victim of the “Jack the Ripper” craze, and the result of his entanglement has been as curious as it must have been inconvenient.
The Methodist Times sent its descriptive reporter to produce pen-and-ink sketches of life in the East End, and to give a report to the London Wesleyan Teachers’ Association meeting.
The report, however, did not make its appearance, and it now seems that the special reporter failed to put in an appearance at the gathering in consequence of his having being arrested on suspicion of being the Whitechapel murderer.
The state of feeling still prevailing in the East End is indicated by the fact that the inoffensive literary gentleman being asked what thought was “Jack the Ripper’s” object in cutting up his subjects, replied that he thought it was purely a thirst for blood.
The very mention of the word blood was sufficient to excite first the curiosity and then the suspicion of the crowd, and the unfortunate reporter was surrounded by a mob and handed over to the authorities to satisfactorily explain his movements.
The authorities declare that had “our special” had a black bag in his possession he would probably have been lynched.
A SCARE IN THE CITY
There was quite a scare in the city on Friday, occasioned by a false report of another Whitechapel horror.
These rogues apparently worked together with a view to “sell” the newspapers offices, and pitched a yarn of such wonderful ingenuity that reporters were bustled off in cabs to Whitechapel, and Scotland Yard, and printers and machine men were rushed after all over Fleet Street and the Strand.
The thing, however, was a huge hoax.”