Between August the 31st and November 9th 1888, five brutal and shocking murders brought terror and panic to the East End of London.
The perpetrator of the heinous crimes was never brought to justice, and, to this day, his identity remains one of history’s most enduring mysteries.
At first the killer was referred to as the Whitechapel murderer or fiend, then as Leather Apron.
THE JACK THE RIPPER LETTER
But, in late September, a letter was sent to the Central News Agency, which was based in this building on New Bridge Street in the City of London.
Written in red ink, and couched in boastful and mocking terms, it began, “Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet.”
Having stated that, “I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled”, the author gloated that he loved his work and that he wanted to start again, warned that they would soon hear of him with his funny little games, and threatened that the next job he did he would, “clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers.”
Having urged them to, “keep this letter back till I do a bit more work,” the author signed his missive – Jack the Ripper, a name that chillingly encapsulated the horror and revulsion that the crimes were generating.
THE LETTER PASSED TO THE POLICE
Convinced that the letter was a prank, the Central News did nothing with it for two days.
But, on the 29th of September, an employee of the agency, Thomas Bulling, forwarded it to Chief Constable Adolphus Frederick Williamson, at Scotland Yard, with a covering note that read:-
“The editor presents his compliments to Mr. Williamson & begs to inform him the enclosed was sent the Central news two days ago, & was treated as a joke.”
THE DOUBLE MURDER OCCURS
In the early hours of Sunday the 30th of September, the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes occurred, leaving the police with little choice but to take a closer look at the outlandish claims and threats that had been made by “Jack the Ripper” in the Dear Boss letter.
THE SAUCY JACK POSTCARD
Then, on Monday the 1st of October, a postcard arrived at the Central News, which was smeared with what appeared to be blood, and which again purported to have come from the killer.
I wasn’t codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip. You’ll hear about saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off, had no time to get ears for police, thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper
THE POLICE MAKE THE LETTER PUBLIC
Desperate for a breakthrough, the Metropolitan Police took the decision to make the missive and the postcard public, and, within days, facsimiles of them were appearing in newspapers nationwide.
The resultant publicity encouraged hoaxers across the country to reach for their pens, and hundreds of similar prank letters flooded in, many of them bearing the name by which the unknown miscreant would be ever after known – Jack the Ripper.
NOT WRITTEN BY THE KILLER
It is highly unlikely that the writer of the Dear Boss letter and the unknown miscreant responsible for the Whitechapel murders were one and the same person.
The perpetrator of the crimes may have been any one of the many suspects whose names have been put forward over the years, but “Jack the Ripper” was the person that composed the ”Dear Boss” missive that bore that signature, although it has to be said the two have now become so intertwined that any distinction between them is blurred to the point of being indistinguishable.
But the two were almost certainly different people and in future articles I shall be looking at the possible identity of the author of the Dear Boss letter as opposed to the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders, and I will present you with the names of those who have, over the years, been put forward as the creator of criminal history’s most infamous nom de plume.