City P.C. George H. Hutt, Police Poet, and the Issue of Horse Cruelty

Animal cruelty, Horses, Jack the Ripper, Jews, London, Poetry, Uncategorized, Victorian Period, Whitechapel Murders 7 Comments »

George H. Hutt, known as “The Police Poet” was the gaoler of Bishopsgate Police Station within the area patroled by the City of London Police. As such, in the early morning hours of 30 September 1888, he let the shortly to be fourth Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes out of gaol before she was murdered in Mitre Square, Aldgate.

Hutt is known to have written numerous letters to the press, including one condemning the anti-semitism that grew out of the Ripper crimes, the East End of London at the time having a large immigrant Jewish population, and rumors circulated that the Ripper could have been a Jew.  He appears to have been an unusually compassionate man with regard for the dignity of both human beings and animals.

Hutt wrote a poem called “Saved by a Dog” about a dog who saved a woman cook’s life in Leeds in 1893 and another poem about the marriage of Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck and George, Duke of York (the future George V) that same year, for which he received an acknowledgement from the Royal family.

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper
Sunday, May 28, 1893

In the pages of Ripperologist we have been running a series on City of London policemen of the Jack the Ripper period written by those excellent researchers Rob Clack and Neil Bell. George H. Hutt is one of the London coppers that they have covered. He joined the City Police in 1879. He left the City Police in 1889 and then served as a constable for Smithfield Meat Market.

I recently came across another poem by P.C. Hutt which further shows the humaneness of the man:

 A HORSE’S LETTER to Ex-Police Constable 365 John Pegg

Dear Mr. Pegg, you’ve proved our friend,
No one can deny,
By oft detecting cruelty
While others pass it by.

Your life has been devoted to
The ailments of my race,
And when the tongue was devoid of speech,
Yours kindly took its place.

Before we had your kindly aid
Our pleading proved in vain,
And often with a heavy load
We’ve struggled on in pain.

While drivers in their ignorance
Have vowed that we did shirk,
And though we have been weak and ill
Have urged on to work.

‘Tis you and only such as you
Who mark the mute appeal,
Of us poor helpless quadrupeds
When indisposed we feel.

I’ve had the horrid toothache, Pegg,
And fast I could not go,
But as a medicine received
A cruel, stinging blow.

Again I’ve stood hour after hour
Till corns have made me kick,
And blamed for vicious temper been
Belaboured with a stick.

Sometimes a drunkard held the reins,
And muddled, did not think
That I as well as he required
A cool refreshing drink.

He loitered, tippling on the way,
Till working hours were past,
Then homeward thrashed me, and all night
Left me, unclean, to fast.

But dear old Pegg, you found it out,
And when ’twas brought to light,
You had the rascal punished well,
While Sangster set me right.

Now nearly thirty years you’ve been
An agent of the law,
And through your tact oft saved us pain
By finding out the flaw.

Ans though we are but helpless brutes,
Without the power of speech,
Yet in our gratefulness, dear Pegg,
A moral we can teach.

So horses, mules, and asses, too,
Their wishes to you give
By neighing “Honhy, honhy, hon!”
Which means “Long may you live.”

May those who have the care of us
With your kind acts agree,
Then animals of every class
Will better treated be.

George H. Hutt

The poem references P.C. John Pegg, “Who, during his 29 years of service in the City of London Police Force obtained 1,300 Convictions for Cruelty to Horses, etc.”  The “Sangster” that is mentioned is the veterinarian Thomas Sangster, M.R.C.V.S., who died on November 28, 1893. Following is an excerpt from an article on horse cruelty cases in which both Pegg and Sangster involved, as reported in the Illustrated Police News of September 23, 1882.

 Illustrated Police News Sept 23 1882




Victorian Cab Stand 

It is conceivable that P.C. Hutt may have been partly inspired to write his “Horse’s Letter” by a similar literary effort by Reverend Dr. Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832–1902), the American Presbyterian preacher and social campaigner. For more on Rev. De Witt Talmage see
The book by Rev. De Witt Talmage, Around the Tea-Table (Philadelphia: Cowperthwait & Company, 1874) contains a chapter called “A Horse’s Letter” (pp 88-90) written by “Charley Bucephalus” from “Brooklyn Livery Stables, January 20, 1874.” The Brooklyn horse’s letter seems to have appeared in newspapers worldwide, e.g., see National Library of New Zealand site on Papers Past > Bruce Herald (New Zealand) > 25 Huitanguru 1876 > Page 3 > A Horse’s Letter at——-10–1—-2-all

Thus, it could be as with his poem about the hero dog in Leeds who saved the woman cook’s life, George Hutt was partly thinking of this earlier “Horse’s Letter” in composing his poem.  Talmage’s composition also touches on the topic of cruelty to horses.

A Horse’s Letter.
(From the Christian Age)

My dear gentlemen and ladies,— I am aware that this is the first time a horse has ever taken upon himself to address any member of the human family. True, a second cousin of our household once addressed Balaam, but his voice for public speaking was so poor that he got unmercifully whacked, and never tried it again. We have endured in silence all the outrages of many thousands of years, but feel it now time to make remonstrance.

Recent attentions have made us aware of our worth. During the epizootic epidemic, we had at our stables innumerable calls from doctors, and judges, and clergymen. Everybody asked about our health. Groomsmen bathed our throats, and sat up with us nights, and furnished us with pocket-handkerchiefs. For the first time in years we had quiet Sundays. We overheard a conversation that made us think that the commerce and the fashion of the world waited the news from the stable. Telegraphs announced our condition across the land and under the sea, and we came to believe that this world was originally made for the horse, and man for his groom.

But things are going back again where they were. Yesterday I was driven fifteen miles, jerked in the mouth, struck on the back, watered when I was too warm, and instead of the six quarts of oats that my driver ordered for me, I got two. Last week I was driven to a wedding, and heard music, and quick feet, and laughter, that made the chandeliers rattle, while I stood unblanketed in the cold. Sometimes the doctor hires me, and I stand at twenty doors waiting for invalids to rehearse all their pains. Then the minister hires me, and I have to stay till Mrs Tittle-Tattle has time to tell the dominie all the disagreeable things of the parish.

The other night, after our owner had gone home, and the ostlers were asleep, we held an indignation meeting in our livery-stable. “Old Sorrel” presided, and there was a long line of vice-presidents and secretaries, mottled bays, and dappled grays, and chestnuts, and Shetland, and Arabian ponies. “Charlie,” one of the old inhabitants of the stable, began a speech, amid great stamping on the part of the audience. But he soon broke down for lack of wind. For five years he had been suffering with the “heaves.” Then “Pompey,” a venerable nag, took his place, and though he had nothing to say, he held out his spavined leg, which dramatic posture excited the utmost enthusiasm of the audience. “Fanny Shetland,” the property of a lady, tried to damage the meeting by saying that horses had no wrongs. She said: “Just look at my embroidered blanket. I never go out when the weather is bad. Everybody who comes near pats me on the shoulder. What can be more beautiful than going out in a sunshiny afternoon to make an excursion through the park, amid the clatter of the hoofs of the stallions? I walk, or pace, or canter, or gallop, as I choose. Think of the beautiful life we lead, with the prospect, after our easy work is done, of going up and joining Elijah’s horses of fire.”

Next I took the floor, and said that I was born in a warm, snug Pennsylvania barn; was on my father’s side, descended from Bucephalus; on my mother’s side, from a steed that Queen Elizabeth rode in a steeple-chase. My youth was passed in clover pastures, and under trusses of sweet-smelling hay. I flung my heels in glee at the farmer when he came to catch me. But on a dark day I was overdriven, and my joints stiffened, and my fortunes went down, and my whole family was sold. My brother, with head down and sprung in the knees, pulls the street-car. My sister makes her living on the towpath, hearing the canal boys swear. My aunt died of the epizootic. My uncle — blind, and afflicted, with the bots, the ring-bone, and the spring-halt — wanders about the common, trying to persuade someone to shoot him. And here I stand, old and sick, to cry out against the wrongs of horses — the saddles that gall, the spurs that prick, the snaffles that pinch, the loads that kill.

At this, a vicious-looking nag, with mane half pulled out, and a “watch-eye,” and feet “interfering,” and a tail from which had been subtracted enough hair to make six “waterfalls,” squealed out the suggestion that it was time for a rebellion, and she moved that we take the field, and that all those that could kick should kick, and that all those that could bite should bite, and that all those who could bolt should bolt, and all those who could run away should run away; and that thus we fill the land with broken waggons, and smashed heads, and teach our oppressors that the day of retribution has come, and that our down-trodden race will no more be trifled with.

When this resolution was put to the vote, not one said “Aye,” but all cried “Nay! nay!” and for the space of half an hour kept on neighing. Instead of this harsh measure, it was voted that, by the hand of Henry Bergh, President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I whould write this letter of remonstrance.

My dear gentlemen and ladies, remember that we, like yourselves, have moods, and cannot always be frisky and cheerful. You do not slap your grandmother in the face because, this morning, she does not feel so well as usual; why then do you slash us? Before you pound us, ask whether we have been up late the night before, or had our meals at irregular hours, or whether our spirits have been depressed by being kicked by a drunken ostler. We have only about ten or twelve years in which to enjoy ourselves, and then we go out to be shot into nothingness. Take care of us while you may. Job’s horse was “clothed with thunder,” but all we ask is a plain blanket. When we are sick, put us in a horsepital. Do not strike us when we stumble or scare. Suppose you were in the harness and I were in the waggon, I had the whip and you the traces, what an ardent advocate you would be for kindness to the irrational creation! Do not let the blacksmith, drive the nail into the quick when he shoes me, or burn my fetlocks with a hot file. Do not mistake the “dead-eye” that nature put on my foreleg for a wart to be exterminated. Do not cut off my tail short in fly-time. Keep the North wind out of our stables. Care for us at some other time than during the epizoptics, so that we may see your kindness is not selfish. My dear friends, our interests are mutual. I am a silent partner in your business. Under my sound hoof is the diamond of national prosperity. Beyond my nostril the world’s progress may not go. With thrift, and wealth, and comfort, I daily race neck and neck. Be kind to me, if you want me to be useful to you. And near be the day when the red horse of war shall be hocked and impotent, and the pale horse of death shall be hurled back on his haunches, but the white horse of peace, and joy, and triumph shall pass on, its rider with face like the sun, all nations following!

Your most obedient, servant, Charley Bucephalus.

Heartbreaking stuff!  We can readily see how caring people at the time such as the policemen George Hutt and John Pegg could become disturbed at such mistreatment of horses, who literally carried the burden of the economic and social life of people in the late Victorian period.It is emblematic of P.C. George Hutt that he seems to have cared equally for the poor of the East End, for the Jews who lived in the neighborhood, and for the working horses of the capital.For more on P.C. Hutt, read the excellent article by Neil Bell and Rob Clack that appeared in Ripperologist 110, January 2010.  You might consider taking out a subscription, too. George Hutt in Ripperologist 110 January 2010

Early American Commentators on the Ripper Case

Jack the Ripper, Uncategorized, Victorian Period, Whitechapel Murders 2 Comments »

Although the crimes of Jack the Ripper occurred in the East End of London, they caused such a sensation when they were reported in newspapers worldwide that there were a number of non-British-based commentators on the murders.  Some American medical men and police officials expressed their opinions on the case to U.S. newspapers.

Dr. Howard Atwood KellyDr. Howard Atwood Kelly 

Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly


Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly (1858–1943), pioneer obstetrician and gynecologist and one of the “Four Doctors” in a portrait by John Singer Sargent of the founding physicians of Johns Hopkins Hospital, wrote to the Medical News in a letter published in the issue of 13 October 1888. Kelly, at the time of the murders, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, put the murders down to sexual perversion.   Dr. Kelly wrote:

 “The great liability to error on the part of the officers of the law, in the investigation of such cases as the present, lies in the fact that they are misled in their effort to appreciate the motive, and invariably attribute it to an ordinary criminal instinct. Such, however, is not the case, and it is as impossible for a sound healthy man to conceive the nature of the impulse which impels the paederest, or other sexual pervert, as it would be to conceive a new color.”

After giving a list of examples of sexual perversities throughout history, Dr. Kelly wrote:

“A desire to murder without any apparent motive, a desire which practises its cruelties invariably upon women, and that of a certain class; added to this the mutilation of the genitals of the corpse, and, in at least on instance, the peculiar practice of slitting open the belly and drawing out the entrails.”

Dr. Kelly went on to give the following piece of advice to the investigators:

 “It would be of importance to search the corpses, when freshly found, for evidence of violation of this kind, although such is not necessary to establish the truth of the supposition. Sexual perverts of this character never begin by the commission of crimes of such frightful atrocity, but yielding to impulses to do slight injury to their victims, find, as time goes on, that it is necessary to practise greater and greater cruelties, to arouse their desires and gratify passion, until a stage like the present is reached. Such has with probability been the history of the present murderer.” 

Although a number of modern observers of the Ripper crimes, notably Colin Wilson, have also attributed a sexual motive to the murders, it is also true that the doctors who worked on the case found no evidence of “connection”—that is, of semen in or on the bodies of the Ripper victims.


Dr. William A. Hammond


Dr. William A. Hammond as U.S. Surgeon General.


Another American commentator on the crimes was the New York “alienist” Dr. William A. Hammond (1828–1900), a former Civil War U.S. Surgeon General. In an article that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution on 5 October 1888, datelined the day before from New York City, we are told that “Dr. William A. Hammond, the insanity expert of this city, says the Whitechapel murders are committed by a homicidal maniac who is like a tiger in his nature.”


Rather than go for the sexual motive that Dr. Kelly thought was behind the murders, Hammond thought that insanity was the reason for the murders. He believed that the London police were making a mistake in “looking for a repulsive, uncouth butcher, dripping with blood and hiding in the cellars about Whitechapel.”


Hammond’s ideas were also reported in the Bismarck Daily Tribune of North Dakota, of 11 October 1888, where we learn that Hammond believed that “the probabilities are many to one that the perpetrator is a decorous and soft spoken gentleman, living an apparently virtuous life, a man whose closest acquaintances do not suspect [him] of crime.”


In the same issue of the Bismarck newspaper, Chief Inspector Thomas A. Byrnes of the New York City detective force said he agreed with the opinions of Dr. Hammond.  He insisted that the New York police could have caught the man by using the women as decoys.


Chief Inspector Thomas F. Byrnes 


Chief Inspector Thomas A. Byrnes of the New York City Police.   


Byrnes went on to stay: “We have no such autocratic powers as the London police, but if a crime is so plainly localised in one particular district, as in the case of these London murders, we would most assuredly arrest the perpetrator in short order.”  Elsewhere Byrnes is said to have boasted that if someone committed such murders in New York, his men would have him “in the jug in 36 hours.”


Byrnes was decidedly more reticent to criticize his British counterparts in an interview published in the Boston Daily Globe on 13 November 1888:

 “In my position as inspector of police and in charge of the detective force of this city I would say that, if we ever had in New York the misfortune of meeting such outrages, or any similar to those which were perpetrated at Whitechapel, I would consider it an act of great imprudence for me to advertise what schemes I should resort to or what action I should undertake with the detective force of this city for the purpose of apprehending and prosecuting the person who committed the offences. Such a course would be precisely what the offender would want. It is not my province or wish to criticise the action, or lack of action, in others who have already a similar position elsewhere, always presuming that they do the very best they can under the circumstances. It is easier always to condemn others than it is to succeed in their special line of work, and appreciating the difficulties that surround the London police in this dilemma, I have no desire or intention of sitting in judgment upon them.”  

This seems to be rather a turnaround by the opinionated Irish-born New York detective. 


And perhaps he was right to be cautious to criticize for when he had his very own “Ripper” crime on the night of 23–24 April 1891 with the murder and mutilation of Carrie Brown aka “Old Shakespeare” in a hotel room in the seaport section of Brooklyn, the case proved to be not easy to solve.


Although a man named Ameer Bin Ali, a French-speaking Algerian known as “Frenchy”, ultimately was tried and convicted of the murder and mutilation of Carrie Brown, the trial was later shown to be a sham.  After Ameer Bin Ali was released in 1902 after eleven years in Sing Sing, crusading journalists including Jacob Riis and Charles Edward Russell convinced Governor Benjamin Odell that the blood evidence used in the suspect’s trial had been tampered with kamagra uk mastercard. The governor officially declared Ameer Ben Ali to be “innocent of the Carrie Brown murder.” The murder remains unsolved and various Ripper suspects, including George Chapman aka Severin Klosowski, who lived for a time in New Jersey, and Dr. Francis Tumblety, who ran his herb doctor business out of an office in Brooklyn, have been proposed as Brown’s killer.




“Carrie Brown: Jack the Ripper in America—Part 2” on Murder by Gaslight Blog


Christopher T. George, “A Man of Large Opinions: Dr William A. Hammond and Jack the Ripper,” Ripperologist No. 48, August 2003, pp 23–25.


William A. Hammond, “Madness and Murder,” North American Review, Vol 147, December 1888, pp 626–38. An extract from Dr. Hammond’s “Murder and Madness” is available at


“Philadelphia Gynecologist’s Oct. 13, 1888 Letter To Medical News” on Casebook: Jack the Ripper message boards at


“Howard A. Kelly, Assoc. Prof. Obst., Univ. of Penna., Correspondence. The Whitechapel Murders. The Medical News, October 13, 1888” in Casebook Press Reports section at

Short Course on the Whitechapel Murders, Baltimore, Oct-Nov 2011

Jack the Ripper, Jews, Joseph Barnett, London, Mary Jane Kelly, Uncategorized, Victorian Period, Whitechapel Murders No Comments »

I am teaching a short course on the case this Fall in the Kaleidoscope program at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore.


 The Whitechapel Murders that occurred in the Autumn of 1888 in the East End of London continue to fascinate new generations. Although the crimes constitute the classic “cold case,” it seems that annually new suspects and theories are proposed. Yet, no one has yet managed definitely to identify the anonymous murderer known as Jack the Ripper. 

On Evening One, I will evaluate the known facts of the murders. On Evening Two, I will examine the different theories and theorists. On Evening Three the class will discuss the enduring legacy of the Ripper murders and the portrayals of the crimes in novels, movies and stage plays, and try to come to some conclusions about what the murders were and were not. Who was Jack the Ripper? Warning: not for the squeamish. Powerpoint images will be projected that will show the murder scenes and the corpses of the women killed, and the mutilations caused by the killer will be discussed in detail.

Three Sessions $75
Thursday, October 20, 27, and Wednesday, November 2
7:00 – 9:00 pm

 Complete course catalog available at


Roland Park Country School
Office of External Programs
5204 Roland Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21210
Or call with credit card information, 410-323-5500 ext. 3091

A “New Face” for Mary Jane Kelly

Jack the Ripper, Joseph Barnett, Liverpool, London, Mary Jane Kelly, Victorian Period, Wales, Whitechapel Murders 13 Comments »

Researcher Chris Scott, a contributor Ripperologist magazine and author of Jack the Ripper: A Cast of Thousands (Apropos Books, August 2004) has long been delving into the mysterious background of fifth Canonical victim Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed and mutilated in 13 Miller’s Court, Spitalfields, on the morning of 9 November 1888. Chris has recently found what he describes as the “fullest account of the Kelly funeral that I have read.”  As students of the Ripper case will know, Kelly was the most grievously mutilated of all of the Whitechapel Murders victims. Her face was literally hacked away, which made identification of her difficult, to the point that some have doubted that the body in Miller’s Court was in fact the woman that locals and friends knew as Mary Jane Kelly. The famous crime scene photograph remains stomach churning for researchers such as myself who have seen it many times before.<br>At the inquest on Kelly, her long-time lover, Joseph Barnett, testified, “I have seen the body of the deceased, and I identify it by the hair and eyes. I am positive that the deceased was the woman with whom I lived, and that her name was Marie.” (Illustrated Police News, 17 November 1888).    The account found by Chris in the St. Peter Port Star, Guernsey, 22 November 1888, is therefore useful to quote in full because it does help to give some humanity to the person who was butchered in that low court in Spitalfields:


The remains of Mary Janet Kelly, who was murdered on the 9th of November in Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, Spitalfields, were carried on Monday morning from Shoreditch mortuary to the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Leytonstone, for interment, amidst a scene of turbulent excitement scarcely ever paralleled even in the annals of that densely populated district where she met her death. On the afternoon of the murder the body of the unfortunate woman was conveyed to the mortuary attached to St. Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, and there it remained until Monday. Since the inquest a great amount of sympathy for the fate of the deceased has been created, but it remained for Mr. H. Wilton, the sexton attached to Shoreditch Church, to put sympathy into a practical form, and as no relatives have appeared he incurred the total cost of the funeral himself. Mr. Wilton has been sexton for over fifty years, and he provided the funeral as a mark of sympathy with the poor people of the neighbourhood. The body was enclosed in a polished elm and oak coffin with metal mounts. On the coffin plate was engraved the words:- “Marie Jeannette Kelly, died 9th November,1888, aged 25 years.” Upon the coffin were two crowns of artificial flowers and a cross made up of heartsease. The coffin was carried in an open car drawn by two horses, and two coaches followed. An enormous crowd of people assembled at an early hour, completely blocking the thoroughfare, and a large number of police were engaged in keeping order. The bell of St. Leonard’s began tolling at noon, and the signal appeared to draw all the residents in the neighbourhood together. There was an enormous preponderance of women in the crowd, scarcely any had any covering to their heads, and their tattered dresses indicated too surely that they belonged to the very class to which the murdered women belonged. The wreaths upon the coffin bore cards inscribed with remembrances from friends using certain public houses in common with the Deceased. As the coffin appeared, borne on the shoulders of four men, at the principal gate of the church, the crowd appeared to be moved greatly. Round the open car in which it was to be placed men and women struggled desperately to touch the coffin. Women, with faces streaming with tears, cried out “God forgive her!” and every man’s head was bared in token of sympathy. the sight was quite remarkable, and the emotion natural and unconstrained. Two mourning coaches followed, one containing three and the other five persons. Joe Barnett was amongst them, with someone from M’Carthy, the landlord; and the others were women, who had given evidence at the inquest. After a tremendous struggle, the car, with the coffin fully exposed to view, set out at a very slow pace, all the crowd appearing to move off simultaneously in attendance. The traffic was blocked, of course, and the constables had great difficulty in obtaining free passage for the small procession through the mass of carts and vans and tramcars which blocked the road. the distance from Shoreditch Church to the Cemetery at Leytonstone by road is about six miles, and the route traversed was Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath, Whitechapel Road and the Stratford. In the Whitechapel Road the crowd on each side of the road were very great, and there was a considerable amount of emotion manifested. The appearance of the roadway throughout the whole journey was remarkable, owing to the hundreds of men and women who escorted the coffin on each side, and who had to keep up a sharp trot in many places. But the crowd rapidly thinned away when, getting into the suburbs, the car and coaches broke into a trot. Still the number of those who kept up was sufficient to spread the news in advance, and everywhere people stood in groups, or crowded windows to see the cortege pass. The cemetery was reached at two o’clock. The Rev. Father Columban, O.S.F., with two acolytes, and a cross bearer, met the body at the door of the little chapel of St Patrick, and the coffin was carried at once to a grave in the north eastern corner. Barnett and the poor women who had accompanied the funeral knelt on the cold clay by the side of the grave, while the service was read by Father Columban. The coffin was incensed, lowered, and then sprinkled with holy water, and the simple ceremony ended. The floral ornaments were afterwards raised to be placed upon the grave, and the filling up was completed in a few moments, and was watched by a small crowd of people. There was a very large concourse of people outside the gates, who were refused admission until after the funeral was over.

On another front in Mary Jane Kelly research, a Welsh researcher, Jon Horlor, has been delving into genealogical records in Cwmavon, Monmouthshire to try to find out if he can verify Mary Jane Kelly’s husband may have been killed in a mine explosion as the account by Barnett suggests. He has identified a man named James Davies, age 18 who died in explosion at Risca New Pit, Cwmavon, on 16 July 1880. Holor has established that Cwmavon had a number of Irish immigrant families at this period. Joe Barnett testified that he thought the husband was killed in Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire.

Both Mr. Holor and Welsh Ripperologist Gareth Williams think that Kelly may have said that “Cwmavon” might have been misheard by Barnett as “Carnarvon” or “Carmarthen.”   Here is what Joe Barnett said about what he knew of Kelly’s background, as recorded in the London Evening News of 12 November 1888:

She said she was born in Limerick [Ireland] but went to Wales when very young, and came to London about four years ago. Her father’s name, she told me, was John Kelly, a “gaffer” at an ironworks in Wales - Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire. She also said she had a sister, who was a respectable woman, and that she had seven brothers, six of them at home and one in the Army. I never saw any of these brothers to my knowledge. She said she was married when very young in Wales. . . . Her husband was a collier named David (sic) or Davies, and she lived with him until he was killed in an explosion. I cannot say how long the accident was after the marriage. She said she was about 16 when she married. After her husband’s death she went to Cardiff to meet a cousin, and stayed there a long time, being in the infirmary there for eight or nine months. She was living a bad life with her cousin, who was the cause of her downfall.

Mr. Holor has said that he believes that the man he has identified, James Davies, who died in the explosion at Risca New Pit, Cwmavon, in July 1880, was the “right name, right age, right area (for me!) and right time frame for MJK according to Barnett.” (See discussion threads at It will be interesting to see if this interesting lead on Mary Jane Kelly’s mysterious background might finally help us to know more about this Whitechapel murder victim’s elusive life history.

On the Yo Liverpool forum, some genealogically minded people have found a number of women named Mary Jane Kelly in Liverpool and have wondered if Kelly might have been from there.  Of course, Liverpool historically has had a large Irish population so the names “Kelly” and even “Mary Jane Kelly” are relatively common. Here is one of the candidates: 1871 English Census–8 Victoria St., Liverpool, near Stanley; John Kelly, 50, joiner; Mary Kelly, 50, Mary Jane Kelly, 18, General Servant; Margaret and Harriet Kaybeck, servants.   Responding to this information I wrote, “If this woman was aged 18 in 1871 that would have made her 35 in late 1888, probably too old to have been the Mary Jane Kelly who lived in Miller’s Court, Spitalfields, who by all accounts was in her mid-twenties at the time of her murder on November 9, 1888.” See the discussion at  Also see 

The Question of Jack the Ripper and the Jews

Jack the Ripper, Jews, London, Victorian Period, Whitechapel Murders 6 Comments »

In 1910, the poor Jews of London’s East End began to collect funds to erect the Edward VII Memorial Drinking Fountain in Whitechapel Road in honor of the reigning monarch, the son of Queen Victoria. At around the same time, Sir Robert Anderson, former head of Metropolitan Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at the time of the murders, claimed in his memoirs that it was a “definitely ascertained fact” that the Whitechapel Murderer was a poor Polish Jew, and he indicated that the suspect’s family had protected the man from “Gentile justice”. The man Anderson apparently meant, according to a marginal notation left by retired Detective Superintendent Donald S. Swanson was Aaron Kosminski, a deranged Polish-born Jewish barber. Other police officials maintained that “Jack the Ripper” was never positively identified, and Anderson’s claim remains controversial to this day. Some Ripperologists believe Anderson held the answer to the mystery that has persisted for the last 123 years. But, did he?


Edward VII Memorial Drinking Fountain, Whitechapel Road, funded by subscriptions raised by poor East End Jews. Photograph courtesy of John Bennett.

What are the true facts? Is it possible that a Jew could have been the killer? Could Jews really have protected the killer and refused to identify the man as the killer as Anderson claimed? A number of East End Jews were suspects who were taken in to be questioned but were later released. An early suspect in the murders was a man named “Leather Apron” who was allegedly terrorizing local prostitutes. In September 1888, a Jew named John Pizer was arrested on suspicion of being Leather Apron, but he had to be let go when it was proved that he had a solid alibi for the times of two of the murders.

Thousands of Jewish homes were visited during house-to-house enquiries in October 1888. A number of Jews were witnesses at the inquests into the murder victims, particularly in the cases of second canonical victim Annie Chapman, killed and disembowelled in the squalid back yard at 29 Hanbury Street on 8 September, and that of third canonical victim Elizabeth Stride, her throat in Dutfield’s Yard beside a mostly Jewish socialist club in Berner Street early on 30 September. Although Liz Stride had her throat cut from ear to ear in the same manner as the other canonical victims she was otherwise not mutilated, the traditional explanation being that the killer was disturbed by the arrival of a Jewish man who arrived with pony and cart.

Could the man who so cruelly despatched those women—the prostitutes or “unfortunates” of the East End, the man known by the infamous name of Jack the Ripper, have been a Jew? And even if the killer was not a Jew, what was the exact role of the Jews in the case?

In early medieval times, Jews lived in the area now known as London’s East End. The street called “Old Jewry” is a reminder of this presence of Jews in the vicinity until their expulsion from England in 1290 during the reign of Edward I. With the return of Jews to Britain in the seventeenth century, Dutch and German Ashkenazi Jews established synagogues outside the gates of the City of London. Sephardic Jews established the Bevis Mark Synagogue off Bury Street, and it remains to this day an architectural gem well worth a visit.

Bevis Marks Synagogue, Whitechapel

Bevis Marks Synagogue, Whitechapel. Photograph courtesy of John Bennett.

The Great Synagogue in Duke Street, Aldgate, was founded in 1690. Heavily damaged in 1940 by the German bombing during the Second World War, the building was subsequently demolished. The Great Synagogue plays a part in our story because fourth canonical victim Catherine Eddowes was murdered in the early morning hours of 30 September 1888 in Mitre Square behind this Jewish house of worship.

By 1888, the East End was home to many immigrant groups including Irish, Germans, and Eastern European Jews. The largest influx of Jews would occur with a surge of immigration of Eastern European Jews in the late nineteenth century. While wealthier “Anglicised” Jews moved to the prosperous suburbs, Yiddish-speaking poor Jews, some 150,000 of them, flooded into the East End of London during 1881–1914 after many of them fled Eastern Europe following Tsarist progroms in Russia and Poland. While some of the newcomers only stayed a short time before moving on to other countries, particularly to the United States, thousands remained in the area. The Yiddish speakers crowded into local tenements and caused concerns to the authorities, both the British Government and local authorities as well as to the Jewish Board of Guardians because of the fear of rising disease and crime rates.

Indeed, the influx of poor new Jews panicked as well as helped mobilise the Anglo-Jewish establishment of the day, largely made up of the descendants of Jews who had settled in Britain since the seventeenth century. The Jewish establishment wanted to solve the problem. This was, it might be said, partly a self-protective gesture, since in the face of Gentile prejudice and Government pressure, the richer Jews did not want to be seen as part of the problem but wanted to be reactive to it. Lord Rothschild, one of richest British Jews of the day, wrote: “We have now a new Poland on our hands in East London. Our first business is to humanise our Jewish immigrants and then to Anglicise them. . . .” One part of the solution, facilitated by Lord Rothschild, was the founding of the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter at 84 Leman Street to help provide shelter, clothe, and educate the new immigrants, find them housing, and, in some instances, move them on to other countries.

It was in the immigrant working class streets of the largely Jewish East End in an area that constituted barely a square mile that at least five women, or—if you can believe the press of the day—some eleven women were slaughtered by the same hand—that of the mysterious murderer known as “Jack the Ripper”.

Particularly on the night of the so-called “Double Event”, 30 September 1888, with the murders of the third and fourth canonical victims, Stride and Eddowes, aspects of the case converged to create a series of Jewish links to the murders. Do these links indicate a real connection between the crimes and the Jews of the East End or are they only coincidental links that remain intriguing even if they tell us nothing about the reason for the murders? Jim Leen has written:

There is a truism that, delicately stated, birds do not soil their own nest. If we accept that lives would probably have been lost then we must consider why the killer selected this almost exclusively Jewish area in which to operate. Furthermore, the murder scenes [of the five canonical victims of autumn 1888] are, in themselves, provocative.

Buck’s Row [now Durward Street, murder of Mary Ann Nichols, around 3:00 AM on 31 August]—[south of] Brady Street Ashkenazi Cemetery.

Hanbury Street [murder of Annie Chapman about 5:00 AM on 8 September]—Glory of Israel and Sons of Klatsk Synagogue situated at no. 50a; Synagogues at 19 Princelet St. and 17 Wilkes St.

Berner Street [murder of Elizabeth Stride soon around 12:30 AM on 30 September] —St. George’s Settlement Synagogue [and beside the mainly Jewish International Working Man’s Educational Club].

Mitre Square [murder of Catherine Eddowes around 2:00 AM on 30 September]— [behind] the Great Synagogue [and near the Imperial Club at 16–17 Duke’s Place from which three Jewish witnesses emerged]. Miller’s Court [murder of Mary Jane Kelly circa 4:00 AM on 9 November—beside Spitalfields Great Synagogue, Church St. (now Fournier St.)

Consider the pattern of “silent” killings in almost open ground. How could the killer escape so easily? Why did he continue operating in an area where police activity and public vigilance was heightened? What if: he knew that he was guaranteed sanctuary in a place of worship? Notice the two Great Synagogues? It would seem that the killer was deliberately laying a trail towards Jewish culpability, possibly responsibility. (“Jacob the Ripper?” by Jim Leen available at

The third canonical victim, Stride, was murdered at around 12:55 AM on 30 September 1888 in Dutfield’s Yard, in Berner Street, at the side of a socialist club frequented by Jewish men. Was the killer making a statement of some kind by killing Ms. Stride at that location? Stride was a Gentile born in Sweden as Elizabeth Gustafsdotter who happened to speak Yiddish. Her ability to speak Yiddish might indicate that some of her clients were Jewish, and could also explain her presence close to the club.

A Hungarian Jew named Israel Schwartz said he saw a man to accost her (either Jack the Ripper or another man before the fatal murderous attack). A man shouted out to him, “Lipski!” and Schwartz fled the scene. It appears that the term “Lipski” was a common pejorative term used in the area for semitic looking people, the slur coming from the name of Israel Lipski, an umbrella maker who lived in nearby Batty Street in 1887 and who had poisoned his landlady Miriam Angel, a crime for which he was hanged after much controversy in the press and as well as mob scenes on the streets of the East End.

About an hour and a half after the Berner Street murder a second murder occurred, this time in Mitre Square, Aldgate. The victim was Catherine Eddowes, yet another prostitute or “unfortunate”. The murder occurred not far from a then notorious location—St. Botolphe’s Church, where prostitutes traditionally circled the church touting for business.

Eddowes was killed behind the Great Synagogue. She was last seen alive talking to a man in a passage leading to the square. This according to the testimony of three Jewish men who were leaving the Imperial Club, a Jewish men’s club, at 16–17 Duke’s Place at around 1:30 AM in the morning.

The three men, Joseph Lawende, Joseph Hyam Levy, and Harry Harris, saw the couple at the entrance to covered Church Passage that ran down the east side of the synagogue and led to the secluded square. Questions linger as to whether the men told the police all they knew about the man they saw and whether any one of the three recognized him. Lawende is thought to have been asked by the police later to identify a suspect at the Seaside Home in the scenario described by Sir Robert Anderson and may have refused to do so, if we believe the story told by Anderson.

Soon after the Eddowes murder, at around 2:55 A.M., a chalk inscription was found in a doorway in Goulston Street by Metropolitan Police Constable Alfred Long 254A. The inscription was on the painted brickwork inside a doorway leading to Wentworth Model Dwellings, a tenement known to be home to immigrant Jews.

Although we cannot be certain that the so-called Goulston Street Graffito was written by the murderer, a bloodied piece of white apron that had belonged to Eddowes was found below the writing, which has strongly suggested to many students of the case that the inscription was also left by the killer. Nonetheless, the graffito remains one of the most controversial and exasperating parts of the puzzle known as the Whitechapel Murders.

First and foremost, the wording, written in one-inch high lettering in five lines with odd and unconventional capitalisation, was ambiguously worded:

The Juwes are
The men That
Will not
be Blamed
for nothing

The writing presents us with a conundrum. Was the writer somehow blaming the Jews for the murders? Or was he saying that the Jews should not be blamed? It’s the double negative that is to be blamed, my friends. And a double negative, we might note, is typical of Cockney speech. Such a phrase or grammatical tick, if you will, would not be a typical speech pattern, one should think, for a recent Polish or other Eastern European Jewish immigrant whose English language skills and knowledge of Cockney dialect might be limited.

Famously, exponents of the Royal or Masonic conspiracy theory such as Stephen Knight in his Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1976) have argued by contrast that the reference was not to the Jews at all but to the “Juwes” (builders of Solomon’s Temple, supposedly something that in 1888 was a part of masonic tradition known to practising English freemasons. According to the Royal Conspiracy advocates, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, being, as some writers claim, a high and active freemason immediately recognized the masonic reference to “Juwes” and ordered the graffito removed for that reason This theory seems a bit too convenient for the theorists, and may be less persuasive than that the writing, written in a Jewish neighborhood, really did refer to the Jews.

Let’s put our cards on the table here, friends. The idea that the Ripper was a madman—whether a Jewish lunatic or not—is rather an old-fashioned notion, even if it was one favored by the police who were doing their best to apprehend the killer. We now know that serial killers are cold and calculating and usually don’t outwardly appear mad. American serial killers Ted Bundy, Dennis L. Rader (the BTK Killer), and Gary L. Ridgway (the Green River Killer), were respectively, a suave and handsome much-travelled lover (killing as he went), an efficient if coldly officious community enforcer who enjoyed mentally torturing the good citizens around Wichita, Kansas, and a seemingly innocuous working class house painter in the rainy Pacific northwest. All three men, seemingly respectable by day, led secret lives as vicious sexual serial killers but no one knew it except the men themselves and, ultimately, their victims. They each operated for years, slaughtering women seemingly at will. None of the three could remotely be viewed as a foaming-at-the-mouth killer, and yet the latter, from the writings left by the police of 1888, appears to be what the police of the day were seeking otc viagra.

I’m not a butcher, I’m not a Yid,
Nor yet a foreign Skipper,
But I’m your own light-hearted friend,
Yours truly, Jack the Ripper.

This rhyme, with its anti-Semitic reference at the end of the opening line, was evidently written in a now-lost “Jack the Ripper” letter. It is cited by former Scotland Yard Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten in his autobiography The Days of My Years (1914). In this memoir, Macnaghten told his readers that information came into his hands years after the Autumn of Terror to showing that the killer was an unbalanced “doctor”. He was referring to Montague John Druitt. The man was a barrister and part-time schoolteacher at a boys’ school in Blackheath. He was the son of a Dorset surgeon but not himself a trained doctor. Druitt committed suicide by drowning himself in the Thames. Although Macnaghten is correct that Druitt died after the murder and mutilation of Mary Jane Kelly on 9 November 1888, the suicide was not until the end of November, three weeks after the Kelly murder.

What is the real answer to the identity of Jack the Ripper? Was Sir Robert Anderson correct that the Ripper was a Jew or did Sir Melville Macnaghten have the answer that the killer was a Gentile and the son of a doctor? While a local Jew would have the knowledge of back streets to enable him to escape the police dragnet, there is no compelling evidence that we know about today that the killer was in fact a Jew.

It has been suggested by some that the murderer could have been either a shochet, i,e., a Jewish ritual slaughterman, or a Jewish butcher. It amuses me that people in such professions—whether Jews or not—are put forward as candidates for Jack the Ripper. Where’s the thrill to murder and mutilate if your day job is to cut up corpses? The same thing might be said of doctors. The saving grace though for the Jews of 1888 is that there were not many Jewish doctors in Victorian England. No, a better candidate might be, say, a Jewish shoemaker or leather worker, who while he cuts up leather, might be hankering all day to cut into real live warm flesh.

The puzzle of whether the Whitechapel Murderer was a Jew yields no ready answer.

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