Jack the Ripper

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

36 BLOODHOUNDS

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This tale begins with a bark and ends with a bite. Bloodhounds have a sense of smell that enables them to follow trails up to two days old over difficult country. Their long noses are able to distinguish the scent of one individual from that of others.  The bark mentioned above appeared in the form of a letter to the Star newspaper.  The letter appeared on 8th September 1888, the day Ripper victim Annie Chapman was murdered.   The suggestion in the letter that bloodhounds could be used to help apprehend Jack the Ripper was not novel.  Bloodhounds have a sense of smell and so on.  In 1876 J H Ashforth of Nottingham had urged Lancashire Police to recruit bloodhounds. The dogs helped the police to convict murderer William Fish, so much for the rumour about cat food. The letter to the Star on 8th September alerted J H Ashforth. He raised his head, sniffed the air and wrote to the Commissioner Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren. The Commissioner replied to the letter but took no further action. The letter from Warren has been described as courteous. Warren had consulted the police doctor. The view of Dr Phillips was that the bloodhounds would trace the blood of the victim rather than the killer.

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The opinion of Dr Phillips did not settle the matter. The double slaying of Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes on 30th September 1888 prompted an editorial in The Times the next day.  Readers were reminded about the success of the Lancashire Police when they had used bloodhounds. This inspired Percy Lindley to write to the newspaper.   Lindley, who just happened to be a breeder of bloodhounds, suggested that a couple of trained dogs be kept at the Whitechapel Police Station.   Lindley was not a lone voice.   H M Mackusick boasted he had the largest kennel of bloodhounds in existence. Mackusick added empiricism to the argument. ‘Ten well-trained bloodhounds would be of more use than a hundred constables in ferreting out criminals who have left no trace beyond the fact of their presence beyond.’ Not everyone agreed with top of the world Mackusick. Up in Yorkshire there was a long-standing suspicion of fancy ideas that were peddled by city types down south. Edwin Brough was a bloodhound breeder from Wyndgate near Scarborough. He doubted that English dogs were sufficiently well trained to operate in the crowded streets of Whitechapel.

Without ever being enthusiastic, Sir Charles Warren asked the Home Secretary Henry Matthews to approve a £50 purchase of a bloodhound and an additional £100 maintenance allowance for subsequent years. This would allow puppies to be trained and mentored by the original £50 bloodhound. Matthews approved the £50 purchase but refused to authorise the £100 annual allowance. In the money of today £50 is equivalent to £20,000.  Henry Matthews is remembered for his timidity as Home Secretary and even today the Home Office is not regarded as an example of streamlined efficiency.

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Back in 1888 on 6th October no nonsense Yorkshire man Edwin Brough left the Yorkshire Moors and arrived in London.   Brough had two trusted companions. These were his bloodhounds Barnaby and Burgho.   Trials began in Regents Park two days later on 8th October.  Barnaby and Burgho were able to track for nearly a mile a man who had been given a fifteen minutes start.  In the evening there was a second trial at Hyde Park. The trials continued and were successful. There were six in total. The hounds were not quick, presumably because they were a bit sniffy, but Barnaby and Burgho were able to follow a scent and trace its owner.

But if there were a heaven, that place where good doggies go in the Elvis song Old Shep, someone would complain about the altitude. A less than principled journalist reported that the dogs had been lost on Tooting Common. This was not true. What happened was that on 18th October a sheep was killed on the Common and this incident inspired invention by journalists. The Press and its readers expected Barnaby and Burgho to be put to work.  Unfortunately, they were back up North with Edwin Brough and breathing fresh Yorkshire air.   Brough was not an enthusiast like top of the world Mackusick. His relationship with the Metropolitan Police soon became odorous. The Metropolitan Police were not quick in making payments to Brough for the use of his dogs, and Brough needed some brass to live on and perhaps buy more bloodhounds.  Burgho was versatile and had an alternative career.  He was put into a show in Brighton.

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In the spirit of compromise Barnaby had been lent to a friend of Brough that lived in London. When Barnaby was summoned to assist in catching a burglar, Brough was unimpressed. Policemen had walked all over the burgled premises and ruined the scent. The burglary had also been committed at five in the morning and some hours before Barnaby was recruited to help. Brough did not receive any payment from the police for the efforts of Barnaby. Nor was he given assurance about compensation if Barnaby were injured by a criminal.

Meanwhile Warren was making limited progress. Matthews somehow relented and gave approval for Warren to pay for Barnaby to be insured and to cover the cost of hiring a puppy that could be trained with the accomplished bloodhound from Yorkshire.  By then, though, Brough had said enough was enough. He was almost as sniffy as his bloodhounds. By the time the money was approved Barnaby and Brough were already home in Yorkshire, two disillusioned creatures bored with fighting crime and dealing with what they regarded as southern softies.

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In 1904 Edwin Brough became an author.   His book was titled The Bloodhound And It’s Use In Tracking Criminals. The pages are now dog-eared but this text remains valuable if controversial, something to chew on. ‘It is a very significant fact that at the time of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ outrages in the East End there were no murders committed during which Sir Charles Warren had arranged for a couple of Bloodhounds to be kept in London, but directly it was announced that the hounds had been sent back, another of this series of horrible murders was perpetrated.’

Aye, happen, as they say in Yorkshire. Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered on 30th  September, and Mary Jane Kelly was murdered on 8th November, forty days or not quite six weeks later.   Brough, though, did not arrive in London until 6th October.  Bloodhounds were not seen on the streets of Whitechapel.  Barnaby was used in one instance and his purpose was to detect crime. The dogs were not a deterrent. But dog lovers may take offence and believe that it was Barnaby that drove the Ripper indoors to kill Mary Jane Kelly. When the police arrived at the home of Kelly after her murder, they waited outside her home for two hours before breaking down the door. The reported reason is that the detectives were waiting for Barnaby to arrive and to somehow detect the scent amidst the heat and carnage that was inside the home of Mary Kelly. No one, it appears had told the detectives that Edwin, Burgho and Barnaby were already in Scarborough.

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The bite that ends the tale is this. The typical Ripper book is fattened with indexes that detail the various participants, victims and suspects. Reference is made to what happened to Brough, Barnaby and Burgho within the various accounts but their names are usually overlooked in an index. Brough was at least able to write a book and be remembered that way. Barnaby and Burgho were willing workers and compared to their colleagues in the Metropolitan Police the two bloodhounds had a special kind of integrity.   A mention in the index for Barnaby and Burgho is not too much to ask.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

 

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

35 LEATHER APRON

 

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It began with gossip and rumour about someone who may or may not have existed. At some point conviction was added to the story.  Some women in Whitechapel claimed that they were being pestered by a violent blackmailer. The general pest that annoyed the women always wore a leather apron. Some of these women talked about Leather Apron as if they had really seen him, others as if the male bullying they all suffered could be contained in a single identity.  In 1888 the Whitechapel murders happened and more than one person encouraged by newspaper reporters assumed that the brutish monster known as Leather Apron was also the Ripper. The women who added conviction to the rumours were lodging in a doss house at 18 Thrawl Street. Their accusations were reported in the Press.  Men were arrested by the Police and exhibited to witnesses as potential Leather Aprons.

On the wall of a slaughterhouse at nearby Barbers Yard someone had written ‘the murderers are here’.  Three men from the slaughterhouse had appeared as early witnesses at the scene of the murder of Polly Nichols. Slaughterhouse workers also wore leather aprons. Amongst the three witnesses to the Nichols murder the favourite option for Leather Apron was Henry Tomkins, a rough man who made no secret of his hatred of women.  William Henry Piggott was another loud misogynist. He left in a fish shop a parcel that contained a blood stained shirt, and the oversight transformed Piggott into a potential Ripper suspect. His explanation of why he had a blood stained shirt in a parcel deserves an award. Piggott told the police that he had seen a woman fall down in a fit and, when he bent down to help her, she bit his hand and he struck her. Tomkins and Piggott may have been popular choices as villains but the women at Thrawl Street did not recognise either as the man who had bullied and robbed them. Tomkins and Pigggot went back to their working lives.

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But before then and on September 5th the Star newspaper included an article on the Leather Apron. The newspaper quoted interviews with 50 ‘unfortunates’.   The man these women described was thickset and had ‘an unusually thick neck’.  John Pizer was Jewish, slight and not tall.   He had left-wing politics and frail health. He died in 1897 of gastro-enteritis when he was 47 years old.   On September 2nd the 38 years old John Pizer was walking through Church Street when two women told a nearby policeman that Pizer was the menace Leather Apron. They also said that they had seen Pizer walking with the murdered Polly Nichols on the morning she was murdered.  Rather than arrest Pizer the policeman reported the incident to his colleagues.  According to the Star newspaper, the search for Pizer began on September 5th. Pizer returned to his family home at 22 Mulberrry Street, Mile End on September 6th, which was the day that marked Rosh Hashannah the Jewish New Year.   Those who doubt Pizer believe that he went into hiding after being alerted that the police were looking for him. They regard as suspicious his periodic absences from the home of his family. The 1881 census lists the following people at 22 Mulberry Street – Augusta, a widow aged 61 and the stepmother of John, her three children, Gabriel, Jeanette and Barnett, and two additional lodgers. When John returned home, he was found a place on the kitchen floor to sleep.   The reason why he would sometimes interrupt living with his family with stopping at lodging houses appears to be obvious and innocent.

On September 6th John Pizer was informed by his brother that the police were looking for him.   September 8th was the day Annie Chapman was murdered.   The police arrived at 22 Mulberry Street, Mile End on September 10th. John Pizer opened the door to Sergeant William Thick. Like Pizer, the surname has appeared with alternative spellings.   The Sergeant, though, signed his name Thick and without the letter e.  Pizer said this about the visit from Sergeant Thick.   ‘I opened the door. He said I was wanted and I asked what for. He replied, ‘You know what for; you will have to come with me.’

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Sergeant Thick walked John Pizer to Leman Street Police Station where, like the other suspects, he was shown to the accusatory women from Thrawl Street. The Prince Albert pub was located on the corner of Brushfield Street and Steward Street. The landlord and his wife had the splendid surname of Fiddymont but rather than retire to the pages of a novel by Dickens the wife was at Leman Street Police Station. The morning that Polly Nichols was murdered Mrs Fiddymont and Mary Chappell had served a pint of ale to a mysterious man who had blood spots on his hand.   Chappell was also at Leman Street Police Station. All the women present were convinced that Pizer was not the man they thought of as Leather Apron. Chappell had doubts about Piggott but, like Mrs Fiddymont, reckoned that he was not the man who had blood on his hand. But just when you think there is consensus, there is always one.  Emmanuel Violenia identified Pizer as the man he had seen arguing with a woman on the morning Nichols was murdered. Violenia also claimed that he knew Pizer as Leather Apron but under interrogation it became clear that Violenia was an unreliable witness and inside the Police Station under false pretences. The behaviour of Violenia was condemned by the Press.

At this point everyone should have gone home to forget about John Pizer and William Piggott but Sergeant Thick decided to share his thoughts with the Press. Thick lived in an adjacent street to Pizer.  He said that he had known Pizer as Leather Apron for some time or ‘years’. The other residents around Mulberry Street, though, stated that Pizer had a decent character, was quiet and harmless. No one had ever heard of him being referred to as Leather Apron. The Star referred to the arrest of John Pizer as ‘a police blunder’.

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Pizer had been taken to Leman Street at 9 a.m. but he did not return home to Mulberry Street until after 8 p.m. The next day he was interviewed by a Press Association reporter. Pizer made clear that he had never worn a leather apron.  He also said that he had no idea why anyone would call him Leather Apron and added ‘none of my neighbours have ever called me by it.’  Although he subsequently sought and received compensation from the Press for slandering his name, the day after he was released from Leman Street he made no accusations against the Police.  The strange and fortuitous identification by Violenia and what Sergeant Thick had said about the neighbours of Pizer were ignored.

What followed at the inquest was also peculiar. Coroner Wynne Baxter asked Pizer if he was known by the nickname of Leather Apron. ‘Yes, sir,’ replied Pizer.  Baxter did not ask Pizer if he was Leather Apron.  Instead the Coroner announced that the movements of Pizer at the time of the murder had been corroborated and that Pizer was clear of all suspicion.  Pizer said more than thank you. These are his words. ‘Mr Thick, that has my case in hand, has known me for upwards of eighteen years.’ Before Pizer could continue he was interrupted by Baxter. ‘I don’t think you need to say more,’ said Baxter.

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Because some writers in the past have expressed confusion about these events, the obvious should be explained. Apart from his name, Sergeant Thick had a problem. He had recruited a witness that his colleagues realised was telling lies. Thick had also told untruths about John Pizer. Compromise and perhaps threats were needed. This was the deal, Pizer would agree that he was known as Leather Apron and Coroner Baxter would make clear that everyone realised that Pizer was not the man murdering women in Whitechapel. What was perhaps not agreed was that, after Pizer was dismissed from the witness stand, Thick would add to his testimony the blatant deceit that the neighbours of Pizer referred to him as Leather Apron. And if Thick had known Pizer as Leather Apron for ‘many years’ it is odd that he had to wait to be told who was Leather Apron by two women and a constable. The East London Advertiser reported that Pizer ‘looked somewhat pale and worried after giving his evidence’ whereas before ‘he was perfectly cool and collected’. Betrayal without warning has that effect on a man.

Sergeant Thick did not pick Pizer at random to frame as Leather Apron. He was inspired by the identification from the two women in the street. At Leman Street the identification proved to be worthless. This must have been disappointing for Thick. He constructed a false case against Pizer, made inflammatory and false statements to the Press and adopted a not quite sane meddler called Violenia as an alternative witness. Thick was a dodgy policeman. The loud check suits he wore and the ironical nickname Johnny Upright may be without consequence but in The Bank Holiday Murders the author Tom Westcott not only gives a clear account of what happened to Pizer but also reveals that Thick gave positive character references to a lodging house keeper that assaulted a fellow police officer. Thick helped to keep criminals out of jail, rich scoundrels that had policemen on the payroll .  Corruption happens in a police force. More disturbing and disappointing was the assistance Wynne Baxter provided to Thick at the inquest of Polly Nichols.   Not only did Baxter prevent Pizer adding more information to his testimony he made no comment as to why Thick ensured he was always seated next to Pizer throughout the inquest.  No wonder we have conspiracy theories.  Fortunately for Pizer the other policemen at Leman Street recognised in Violenia a witness that could not be trusted.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.