Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

31/10/2004

Jack the Ripper

This letter, the first claiming to have been written by ‘Jack the Ripper’, was sent to the Central News Agency on 25th September 1888. It was addressed ‘Dear Boss’ and was written in red ink. The letter was forwarded to Scotland Yard.

A few days later, a postcard arrived at the Central News Agency smeared with blood. It appeared to be in the same handwriting as the letter and referred to a double murder that had happened the night before. At the time, the police thought the two items might be genuine.

They published posters with copies of the letter at police stations. This was an attempt to raise public awareness about the danger posed by the serial killer. However, the result was a flood of letters from other writers, all claiming to be Jack the Ripper.

The third image here shows a postcard that was sent directly to Scotland Yard on 7th October. It contains drawings of items that could be used to commit murder, including a gun, a bottle of poison and a dagger. It is signed ‘Jack the Ripper’, but was clearly a hoax.

These hoax letters are now stored at the National Archives. Most are addressed from London, some are from other parts of Britain, and there are even letters from America and France.

One letter (not held in the archives) is thought to be genuine. It was sent on 16th October to George Lusk, who was head of the Mile End Vigilante Committee. It came with a piece of human kidney, which the author claimed had been taken from Kate Eddowes, one of the victims. He signed his letter ‘From Hell’.

The Jack the Ripper killings remain a great unsolved mystery. Little is known except that between the months of August and November 1888, six prostitutes were found horribly murdered within a one-mile square area of London’s East End. The frequency of the attacks caused terror in the district. It exposed the powerlessness of the police force. In the days before forensic science, there were few clues for the police to chase up. Several men were arrested, but all were released without charge. The killer was never caught.

source National Archives

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