The Rate Collector Returns

In a previous article we looked at the mysterious disappearance of local rate collector Mt Jas. Hood and ended by pondering what had happened to him.

Well, on 31st August 1888, the same day that it reported the death of yet another victim of the Whitechapel Murderer – this was the murder of Mary Nichols – the East London Observer informed its readers of the fate of Mr Hood and opened with the headline:-

The Mysterious Disappearance in St George’s East. The Return of Mr Hood

The article went on to report that:-

“After an absence of three weeks, Mr Jas. Hood, the rate collector of St George’s East, whose mysterious disappearance had created some amount of sensation in the above parish, returned to his home in Commercial-road last Friday.

INTERVIEWED BY A REPORTER

A reporter from the East London Observer waited upon him at the house during the week, and found him lying upon a couch in the front parlour facing the street. He appeared to be undergoing considerable mental suffering, and his face, although slightly tanned by Atlantic suns, was thinner and more drawn than formerly.

Naturally, the conversation at once turned upon his mysterious absence for the last three weeks.

THE LAST SIGHTING

On the Friday, it will be recollected that Mr Hood had gone to Southend for the purpose of seeing one of his children – a boy, who was staying with Mr Wilkins, a shrimp merchant at Leigh.

He took tea with him, leaving the house about 7 0’clock to take the train to return to London.

A few minutes later he was seen at the Leigh Post Office, and it was there that he posted to his wife the keys of his safe in a registered letter.

WHERE MR HOOD WENT NEXT

He returned to London and proceeded to Euston Station, from whence he took the train to Liverpool, and arranged a passage on the Arizona for New York.

WHY DID HE DO IT?

“But what Mr Hood”, asked our representative, “induced you to do such a thing – leaving your wife and family at home in ignorance of your whereabouts.”

“That,” was the reply, given with evident emotion, “is more than I can tell you. A combination of circumstances – a great deal of sorrow and trouble and anxiety – seemed to form a hidden force impelling me to do this. I seemed to act unthinkingly – forced on to it by some power greater than mine. But we had not left Liverpool a day before the horror of my situation came vividly before my mind. I thought then of the anxiety of my dear wife and children, and my friends, and was utterly prostrated with grief. Of the incidence of passage I know but little; my only thought was of my home and of my family, and of the rash step I had taken.

AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK

We arrived in New York on the following Monday week – on the 13th – and I can assure you that I never spent two more miserable – two more wretched – nights in my life than those Monday and Tuesday nights in New York.

My one great anxiety was to get back as quick as possible to my family; my brain was well nigh bursting with the thought of the anxiety and the anguish that I was causing them.

SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Indeed, I humbly thank God now that He in His mercy prevented me from taking my own life. I had secured a passage on the first homeward bound vessel, the Germanic and we left the New York docks on Wednesday the 15th arriving at Liverpool on Friday morning last.

I caught the train at once to London and reached home here in the afternoon.”

“But,” persisted the reporter, “were the circumstances of which you speak so serious as to necessitate such a proceeding.”

HIS TROUBLED STATE OF MIND

“I will be frank with you,” returned Mr Hood, wearily, “and tell you of the troubles which were weighing so heavily upon me at the time that I left London. An error had occurred in my parochial accounts which necessitated their return to me. It was merely a clerical error such as will and does occur in the accounts of all who have to do with large sums of money, and could be rectified by the finding out of the compensating error elsewhere.

But that involved a great deal of work – of sleepless nights and of great mental trouble, and it wa then that my head probably became affected. As a matter of fact, the accounts have since been corrected and accepted by my auditor.

And then the painful details of the suicide of a very dear and intimate friend of mine greatly affected me. Into the details of that I will not go now; but it brought vividly to my mind the sad suicide of my brother juts about twelve months ago, and altogether I was reduced to such a condition that I was not responsible for my actions.

SYPATHY FROM HIS COLLEAGUES

I have seen several members of my Vestry, who have called upon me and expressed the kindest sympathy, and were it not that my doctor strictly forbids any such proceeding, I should go down to the Committee this week and make a full explanation of my conduct.”

SUSPENDED BY THE TRUSTEES

At a meeting of the Trustees of St George’s on Wednesday night, it was resolved to suspend Mr Hood and to arrange for an examination of his books and accounts by a professional accountant.