One of the intriguing things about the investigation into the Whitechapel murders, that was taking place throughout September, 1888, is the number of suspects that the police had in custody who were suspected of being the perpetrator of the crimes which, within a month, would become known as the Jack the Ripper murders.
Suspect after suspect was being brought in and questioned, and, although none of them were found to be connected with the atrocities, a large percentage of them were certainly capable of having carried out the murders, and, it would, therefore, be interesting to know more about them and the reasons why they were connected to the crimes.
Sadly, since the police evidence in these individual cases no longer exists, in the majority of the cases, we have no idea of how or why they came to be arrested on suspicion, and, in many of the cases, we simply have tantalising newspaper references to them, which seem to promise much, but which, when these suspects were no longer persons of interest, the press lost interest in and they disapear from the historical record.
THE GERMAN SUSPECT
A report about one such case appeared in many newspapers on 20th September, 1888, and featured a suspect who was simply referred to in several of the press reports as “the prisoner Weitzel,” who had been arrested for “attempting to stab a youth in Whitechapel.”
The prisoner’s name was, in fact, Charles Ludwig, and he was arrested for trying to stab Alexander Fineberg, of 51, Leman Street, Whitechapel, in the early hours of Tuesday, 18th September, 1888.
The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser published the following report about him in its edition of Thursday, 20th September 1888:-
“The police have been investigating the antecedents of Weitzel.
On Sunday night, he lodged at a coffee-house in the Minories, but, owing to his dirty habits, the proprietor would not allow him to remain the next night.
He then went to a hotel in Finsbury, where he produced a number of razors, and his behaviour alarmed some of the inmates.
The landlady states that on the day after the murder [this is referring to the murder of Annie Chapman, which had taken place on the 8th of September, 1888] Weitzel called early in the morning and washed his hands, saying that he had been injured.
Another person has alleged that there was blood on his hands, but respecting this the landlady cannot speak.
Weitzel is about forty years of age, and walks lame, having a stiff leg.
The detectives found nothing at the house in the Minories where he lodged.
The police have not succeeded in finding the woman with whom the prisoner was seen, who told a policeman he had threatened to stab her.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH HIS LANDLORD
Two days later, on Saturday, 22nd September, 1888, The Somerset County Gazette was one of several newspapers that published a Press Association interview with the landlord of the hotel at which Weitzel was known to lodge regularly:-
“The landlord of the hotel in Finsbury, where the man Weitzel, now in custody charged with attempting to stab a youth in Whitechapel, stayed at various times, made the following statement to a representative of the Press on Wednesday morning:-
I must say I have been very suspicious of the man since the last murder at Whitechapel.
On the day after that event, that is Sunday, he called here about nine o’clock in a very dirty state and asked to be allowed to wash. He said he had been out all night, and he began to talk to me about the Spitalfields affair. He wore a felt hat, a dirty greyish suit, and yellow seaside slippers.
He brought with him a case of razors and a large pair of scissors, and after a time he wanted to shave me. I did not like the way went on, and refused.
Previously to this, I had not seen him for about eighteen months, and he made the most contradictory statements as to where he had been.
NO BLOOD ON HIS HANDS
I did not see whether he had any blood on his hands, as has been said, for I did not watch him very closely, I wanted to get him out of the place as soon as possible.
He is a most extraordinary man, is always in a bad temper, and he grinds his teeth in rage at any little thing which puts him out.
SOME KNOWLEDGE OF ANATOMY
I believe he has some knowledge of anatomy, as he was for some time an assistant to some doctors in the German army, and he helped to dissect bodies.
He always carries some razors and a pair of scissors with him, and when he came here again on Monday night he produced them.
He was annoyed because I would not let him sleep here, and he threw down the razors in passion, swearing at the same time. If there had been a policeman near I should have given him into custody.
A CHANGE IN HIS DRESS
I noticed, on this occasion, a great change to his dress.
Whereas on the former visit he looked very untidy, he was this time wearing a top hat and looked rather smart.
WELL KNOWN IN CHEAP LODGING HOUSES
He has told me that he has been living in the West-end, but I believe he is well known at the cheap lodging-houses in Whitechapel.
From what he has said to me, I knew he was in the habit of associating with low women.
On Monday last, he remained here till about one o’clock, and then I then turned him out, as he is a very disagreeable fellow, and is very dirty in his habits.
The police have not been to see me yet about him.”