It is somewhat surprising, as you plough through the newspapers of the 1880’s and the 1890’s, to find just how often Jack the Ripper was linked to crimes – many of which bore none of his hallmarks.
Indeed, as you read the court cases from this particular period, you begin to get an idea of just how deeply the name of Jack the Ripper had permeated the public consciousness following its first appearance in the notorious “Dear Boss” missive, in September 1888, and the letter’s being made public by the Victorian authorities in early October, 1888.
PROSTITUTES USING THE FEAR
There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that some of the London prostitutes were only too willing to use the name in order to aid them in robbing their clients, since, if any of their clients happened to notice that they had stolen from them – picked their pockets or stolen their watches – is all that the lady had to do, when confronted by the angry client demanding the return of his property, was shout out that she was being attacked by the dreaded ripper, and, within moments, an agitated mob would be on the scene to “apprehend” the miscreant, whilst also providing the perfect distraction for the woman to make good her escape.
THE NEWSPAPERS USING THE NAME ALSO
What is also noticeable is that, even in cases where the attack was obviously nothing to do with Jack The Ripper, the newspapers were still happy to use the name, probably because they had learned that in doing so they could generate renewed interest in the Whitechapel murders and, in consequence, sell more papers!
AN ATTACK ON OXFORD STREET
Reading between the lines, there appears to have been an element of the aforementioned ruse in the following story, which appeared in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Monday, 28th October 1889.
There is also an element of newspaper sensationalism, since, nowhere in the story is the name of the ripper actually mentioned, but the headline that accompanied the article was evidently intended to entice the reader with another possible crime by the Whitechapel murderer.
At first, you really do feel for the poor woman and the ordeal she faced.
However, it quickly becomes apparent, that there is more to this story than immediately meets the eye, and the woman in question was, to say the least, an unreliable witness.
The article read;-
WAS THE LADY ATTACKED BY “JACK THE RIPPER?”
“At Bow Street Police Station, London, on Saturday, a well-clad woman entered the witness-box, and, addressing Mr. Bridge, the magistrate, she made the following extraordinary statement:-
“I beg your pardon, sir.
Last night, as far as I can remember, about half-past eleven, or very early this morning, I was walking along Oxford Street when a man stopped me and took me down a side street.
HE PULLED OUT A KNIFE
I could not tell you the name, but when he got me down there he commenced to knock me about; then he pulled out a knife.
Well, after that saw I another man who was watching all the time.
After I had been knocked about, I saw the blade of the knife which was shining in his hand, and the blade hanging down.
He said, “If you say another word you see I will give you what I have given a good many more.”
TWO MEN CAME TO THE RESCUE
Two witnesses then came up to my assistance and stopped him.
When he heard their footsteps, he ran away.
They captured him near Russell street or Russell square, I cannot tell you which way that was. He escaped and flew into a doorway. They knocked on the door and could not get an answer.
TOOK HIM TO BE A MURDERER
The two men took him to be what he was. Well, they took him to be a murderer or something of that sort.
He was very nicely dressed.”
Replying to the magistrate, the applicant said that two policemen saw the man go in, and that she afterwards made a statement at Tottenham Court Road Police Station.
THE WORSE FOR LIQUOR
The magistrate ordered the police superintendent to be fetched.
Inspector Mutford attended and stated that the woman went to the police station the worse for liquor and made an incoherent statement.
Witness sent a constable to the house, and a man was found who admitted to having been with the woman.
The magistrate granted a summons against this man, whose name is Thomas Jones.”
THOMAS JONES APPEARS IN COURT
The fact that the police evidently did not believe a word of the woman’s statement – and that the inspector had stated that she was drunk to the point of incoherence when she came to the police station – hadn’t stopped the magistrate from issuing a summons against the man whom the lady had accused of attacking her, and so the police had little choice but to arrest him.
As a result, Thomas Jones found himself appearing at Bow Street Police Court to answer the charges against him.
The Dover Express carried a brief report on his court appearance in its edition of Friday, 8th November 1889:-
UTTERLY UNFOUNDED CHARGE
Thomas Jones, of Bloomsbury, a clerk, has appeared at Bow-street Police Court to answer a summons for an alleged assault on a woman named Ellis who, a week ago, told a sensational story of having been threatened by a man with a knife early in the morning in the neighbourhood of Oxford Street.
The complainant did not now appear, the magistrate, in dismissing the summons pressed the opinion that the charge was entirely unfounded.”