Was This An Early Jack The Ripper Attack?

In the early hours of March 28th 1888, Rose Bierman was in her first floor lodging in Maidman-street when she heard fearful screams coming from the rooms below hers.

Hurrying from her room she headed downstairs and, as she did so, she saw her downstairs neighbour, Ada Wilson, in the process of being attacked by a fair haired young man.

“Mrs Wilson,” she later recounted, “was partially dressed [and was] wringing her hands and crying, “Stop that man from cutting my throat. He has stabbed me.”


Noticing Rose Bierman’s approach, the man promptly ran to the front door and let himself out and escaped from the scene.

Ada Wilson’s screams had alerted several other neighbours, two of whom ran for the police, and soon two constables had arrived. A doctor was sent for and he treated her wounds before ordering that she be taken to the London Hospital.

Here, according to a contemporary newspaper report, “…it was ascertained that she was in a most dangerous condition.”


Despite initial reports that it was unlikely that she would survive, Ada Wilson went on to make a complete recovery and was able to provide the police with an account of what had happened.

A press image showing the attack on Ada Wilson.
The Illustrated Police News Report on the Ada Wilson Attack. Copyright, The British Library Board.


According to the East London Advertiser she had been preparing for bed when:-

“She heard a knock at the door, and upon going there found a total stranger waiting, who demanded money from her, adding that if she did not at once produce the cash she had but a few moments to live. She refused to give the money, and the man drew from his pocket a clasp knife, with which he stabbed her twice in the throat, and immediately made off.”

The man, she said, was aged about thirty, was 5 ft, 6 inches tall, he had a sunburnt complexion, a fair moustache, was dressed in a dark coat, and was wearing light trousers, and a wide-awake hat.

Despite press assurances that the police were making exhaustive endeavours to trace the attacker, nobody was brought to justice for the attack on Ada Wilson and she would, no doubt, have been long forgotten, had it not been for the Jack the Ripper murders occurring later on in 1888.


Some people now wonder if the attack on Ada Wilson may have been an early attack by the man who went on to carry out the Jack the Ripper crimes?

Although Ada Wilson maintained that she had simply opened her door to the man who attacked her, Rose Bierman’s press statements make it plain that she believed that Ada Wilson was working as a prostitute from her rooms in Maidman-street. Indeed, it is more than apparent that Rose strongly disapproved of her downstairs neighbours lifestyle.

“She has often visitors to see her,” Rose would later tell a reporter from The Illustrated Police News, “…but I have rarely seen them myself, as Mrs Wilson lives in the front rooms, her bedroom being just at the back, adjoining the parlour.”

Rose, further suggested that, far from being an attack by a random stranger who had simply knocked on the door, Ada Wilson had, in fact brought the man home earlier in the evening.

If Ada was working as a prostitute, then the man who attacked her may well have been a client. Since Jack the Ripper exclusively targeted prostitutes then she would certainly fit his victim type.

The fact that the man stabbed her in the throat – and given the fact that Jack the Ripper would target the throats of his victims – has also led to speculation that the attack on Ada Wilson may have been an early attack by Jack the Ripper, carried out before he had developed the confidence and evolved the MO that enabled him to prevent his victims from crying out and alerting those nearby to their plights.

It has also been claimed that the description given by both Ada Wilson and Rose Bierman was similar to some of the descriptions given by later witnesses who may have seen the ripper with his victims shortly before he murdered them.


Of course, today it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty whether or not the attack on Ada Wilson was an early attack by the murderer who went on to carry out one of the most infamous and audacious murder sprees in criminal history.

Since we only have the contemporary newspaper reports to go on, and Ada herself may have been economical with the truth of how she came to encounter the man who attacked her, the best we can do is speculate and draw the conclusion that she might have been an early victim of Jack the Ripper.

But, then again, she might not have been!