Among the constant worries that were being expressed about the amount of press coverage that was being generated by the Whitechapel murders, was the effect that the reporting of the gruesome details was having on young and impressionable minds.
The East Kent Gazette, on Saturday, 19th January, 1889, published the following story, which seemed to show that the East End atrocities of the autumn of terror had had a negative impact on at least one young boy:-
A JUVENILE ADVENTURE
HE ONLY WANTED TO BE A JACK THE RIPPER
“At the Chatham police court on Monday, before E. J. Athawes, Esq., stipendiary magistrate, two young urchins, named Henry Walker and James Hefferman aged respectively twelve years, and whose heads did not reach the top of the dock, were charged with stealing an overcoat and an ulster, the property of Walker’s father, on the 9th.
The circumstances connected with the robbery were somewhat peculiar as showing the thoughts youngsters are now getting into their heads from the atrocities which recently took place in the East End of London.
After Walker had stolen the articles from his father’s house, he pledged them at a pawnbroker’s on the Brook for 11/0.
HE PURCHASED A RAZOR
One of the first things he did when getting possession of the money was to purchase a razor, with which he afterwards said he intended to cut off the hands of anyone who attempted to arrest him, as he meant to go to London and be a “Jack the Ripper.”
THEY HEADED TO LONDON
He found a companion in the other prisoner, and together they proceeded to London, going by the South-Eastern Railway to London Bridge.
On their arrival there, they were noticed by one of the officials, who, not being able to get satisfactory answers from them, and finding by their tickets that they had come from Chatham, sent them back again in the charge of a porter.
A CONSTABLE SENT FOR
On their arrival at Chatham, the porter walked about with them for some time, but they refused to tell him where they lived, and he eventually sent for a constable and handed them over to him, and he was not very long before finding out who they were, but Walker made several attempts to get away from him.
When in the dock, the prisoners treated the matter very lightly and were smiling all the time.
THE FATHER’S TESTIMONY
William Walker, a storehouse labourer in the Dockyard, residing at Victoria-terrace, the Brook, said the prisoner Walker was his son and was twelve years of age.
The overcoat and the ulster produced were his property and were worth £2/10/0.
They were safe in the house when be left to go to work on Wednesday, and he did not miss them until the prisoners were brought to him the following day by pollee-constable Bradley.
THE PAWNBROKER’S EVIDENCE
Walter Parsons, pawnbroker, the Brook, said the prisoner Walker pledged the coat on Thursday for 6/6 and afterwards he brought the ulster and pledged it for 4/6.
He took the article. from the prisoner, as he had previously brought a pledge, when his father told him it was” all-right.”
The prisoner Hefferman was with Walker when he pledged the articles.
POLICE CONSTABLE BRADLEY’S TESTIMONY
Police-constable Bradley said that on Thursday evening he was sent for to the Little Crown, and found the prisoners in charge of a porter belonging to the South-Eastern Railway, who told him the prisoners had been found in London, and he had brought them back.
Walker then admitted that he had stolen an overcoat and ulster from his father and had pledged them.
On searching Walker, he found 5/0 and a razor in his pockets and Hefferman had 1/0.
He took them to the father of Walker, who gave them into custody.
WHY HE DID IT
In reply to the Magistrate as to why he committed the robbery, Walker stated, “because I wanted to go to London to start ‘ Jack the Ripper’ (laughter).”
The Magistrate said that, although Hefferman was with Walker when he pledged the articles, he did not think the evidence was sufficient to show that he knew they had been stolen, and ordered him to be discharged.
Hefferman then left the court with his father, a private in the Royal Marines.
A DIFFICULT CHILD
In reply to the magistrate, Walker’s father said that he had recently had a good deal of trouble with his boy. He had stolen things from him on a previous occasion, but he had forgiven him.
At one time he was a good boy to go to school, but now it was impossible to get him there, and witness had been fined three times for his non-attendance.
He was constantly running about the streets, and witness was frequently out until midnight in search of him.
A SEVERE CAUTION
The magistrate gave the boy a severe caution, and told him that, if he was not very careful, he would find himself either in an industrial school or a reformatory for five years.
It was shocking to see a boy so young with such ideas in his head.
On the present occasion, he would not send him to prison, but he ordered him to receive nine strokes with the birch rod.
LEFT THE DOCK LAUGHING
The prisoner was taken from the dock laughing, and when in the reception room said be would rather have had the five years in an industrial school than receive the nine strokes.
PUNISHMENT CARRIED OUT
He carried a very good front until he saw the birch, when his smiles turned into a cry, and from the manner in which he writhed whilst punishment was being inflicted there is no doubt that he will remember it for some time to come, and it is to be hoped that it will have a salutary effect.”