|A Ripper Notes Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.|
"Capt. Ryan: Do you think that 'Jack the Ripper' is in England? He is not. I am right here and expect to kill somebody by Thursday next, so get ready for me with your pistols, but I have a knife that has done more than your pistols. The next thing you will hear of some woman dead. Jack the Ripper. "
- Letter received by Captain Ryan of New York's Twenty-first Precinct on 19 January, 1889
IN THE NEW YORK Affair, Part I we looked at the life of Carrie Brown as well as her actions and the actions of others on the day of her murder. Important new medical evidence was also presented and examined. In this, Part Two, we will continue to look at the events surrounding the murder by studying the history of the New York City Police Force and the methods of Chief Inspector Byrnes. We will also take a brief look at statements made by Byrnes and other New York police officials regarding the London police and the "Jack the Ripper" murders and what effect these statements had on the Carrie Brown murder investigation. This will be followed by a detailed look at the investigation itself.
ON MAY 23, 1845, the city council of New York passed an ordinance which duly adopted an earlier New York State law abolishing the old system of a part-time, paid citizens "night watch" and replacing it with a uniformed, full time, paid police force. The New York City Police Department came into reality ten days later.
In a very real sense the birth of the NYPD was a result of the formation of the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829. Certainly the success of the new London police force was used as an argument and model by those who wished to modernize New York's antiquated policing system. As early as 1830 Alexis de Tocqueville was calling for the creation of a police force that closely followed the London style; a suggestion that was officially made by Mayor Cornelius W. Lawrence in 1836. Thus even before it was born the New York Police Department suffered comparison with its London counterpart. The comparisons were, rarely favourable, a fact that rankled with the police of New York.
The Police Department of New York City, like all police departments, was set up along military lines with the men divided into units under a hierarchy of command, this being thought the best way of controlling and directing large groups of men.
The head of the city's force was the Superintendent of Police, a title later changed to Chief of Police, although he was supposedly under the supervision of the Commissioners of Police who were political appointees.
The city itself was divided into four sub commands known as Divisions with a Divisional Inspector at the head of each. Each Division was made up of eight sub divisions made from the city's municipal political areas known as Wards, In charge of each Ward was one Station House, later to be known as a Precinct House when the Ward system was abandoned, and in charge of each Station House was a Precinct Captain.
The Station Houses were home to roughly fifty uniformed beat cops plus the ward detectives in civilian clothes. The uniformed men were organized into two platoons each commanded by a sergeant, a lofty rank in 1891 since the rank of lieutenant had been abandoned in 1857 thus leaving the sergeant only one step below that of captain. The platoons were further divided into two Sections each overseen by a "roundsman," so called because they made the rounds checking the patrolmen on their beats. Under the two platoon system one platoon would be on active beat duty while the other was held in reserve at the Station House in case of an emergency such as a riot.
Historically jobs on the old night watch were obtained from the Ward Alderman who was expected to know the men of his ward and was thus in the best position to decide who was sufficiently honest and reliable to police the neighbourhood. The Aldermen retained this power after the passing of the new Police Act, ostensibly to. guarantee that the immigrant population of the city would not be shut out from the new police force, something the "Nativist," or "Know Nothing" Party had fought for.
Unfortunately this concern for the rights of the city's immigrants had more to do with politics and political control than it had to do with the spirit of inclusion. In New York City the hiring of the police might be in the control of the local Aldermen but the local Aldermen were controlled by the infamously corrupt Democratic Party Club, known as Tammany Hall. Thus only those who had the right political connections and who were willing to pay a bribe to the local Alderman could ever consider going into the job of policing. Surprisingly this system did not guarantee that the best men were chosen for the job.
By the early 1880's it had become embarrassingly evident that the old system of the Aldermen having the power to select police candidates was seriously flawed. This system was finally abandoned in 1884, with the enactment of the first civil service rules, and replaced with a board consisting of the Inspector of Detectives, the Chief of the Fire Department, and the Secretary of the Board of Police Commissioners who were to examine each candidate. If a candidate was successful he was then forced to pay the city a fee of $250, a quarter of a years' salary, for the privilege. This system, designed to control corruption and diminish the power of Tammany, was, in the end, an abject failure and by 1894 the President of the Board of Police Commissioners was forced to admit to a legislative committee that about 85% of all appointments were still made on Tammany's recommendation. (Not surprisingly as the Inspector of Detectives, the Chief of the Fire Department, and the Secretary of the Board of Police Commissioners all owed their position to Tammany in the first place).
Once the rigorous selection process was over and the new recruit was on the job he would find that advancement could come only to those who could pay for it. There was even a fee schedule laid down by Tammany: for promotion from beat cop to roundsman, $300; roundsman to sergeant, $1600; sergeant to captain, $12,000 to $15,0001. For those who could pay each rung up the ladder meant greater and greater rewards through bribes, graft and extortion. So much so that advancement to a precinct captaincy was described as a "bonanza" which, given the right precinct, could mean the equivalent of millions of dollars, in today's money. Luc Sante in his book Low Life described the New York police force in the late nineteenth century as "...an amalgam of fiefdoms, each precinct at the mercy of its captain, who, more often than not, ran it as an extortion ring for his personal benefit. Individual policemen were cut off from profits and ceased to care. " 2
Businesses within the precinct might have to pay protection money to the captain either for protection from criminals, the return of stolen goods, or merely to look the other way when city ordinances were flouted or necessary permits were not obtained from city hall. If the business was run by criminals protection from police interference was mandatory. Thus the captains demanded and received a cut from every saloon, gambling den, pool hall, whore house, policy shop, pimp, thief, pickpocket, grifter, con man and street walker in his ward.
Beyond this the captain also had godlike power over his men, police prisoners, and the general public. It was up to the captain, for example, to decide whether a prisoner was allowed to see a lawyer or not and there were no rules regarding the interrogation of suspects other than those laid down by the individual captain. The captain might also decide to arrest anyone, witnesses and suspects alike, and hold them without charge until the police had found enough evidence to make a case. This could result, as in the Carrie Brown case, in the incarceration of the innocent with the guilty for several weeks. The captains were, however, beholding to their Divisional Inspector, to whom they paid a hefty cut of their earnings, while the Divisional Inspectors in turn paid a cut to the Superintendent.
THIS WAS, THEREFORE, the policing environment in which we find ourselves on the early morning of April 24, 1891 when Carrie Brown was murdered in the East River Hotel. The murder, having taken place in the Fourth Ward, fell under the jurisdiction of the Oak Street Station House commanded by Captain Richard O'Connor. O'Connor's immediate superior was Alexander S. "Clubber" Williams, the Divisional Inspector. Williams, a tough Canadian, had left a life at sea as a ships' carpenter to join the New York police force. He rose through the ranks and was famous for the quick use of his fists and his club. It was Captain "Clubber" Williams who nick-named the New York district now known as the "Tenderloin" when he was transferred to the 29th Precinct after years of serving in less corrupt, and thus less lucrative, wards. He is said to have commented to a friend that "I've had nothing but chuck steak for a long time, and now I'm going to get a little of the tenderloin. "3
As Williams' immediate superior, Superintendent William Murray, was out of the city at the time of the Brown murder Chief Inspector Byrnes was temporarily promoted to Acting Superintendent while Captain McLaughlin of the Eleventh Precinct was promoted to the position of Acting Inspector of the Detective Bureau until Murray's return.
INSPECTOR THOMAS BYRNES & THE DETECTIVE BUREAU
AN ADDITION TO, but separate from, the chain of police command was the Detective Bureau which was stationed at Police Headquarters at 300 Mulberry Street. Originally thought of in no higher regard than beat patrolmen, and susceptible to override by the precinct captains, the Detective Bureau was forever changed by the force of will and strength of character of Inspector Thomas Byrnes.
Byrnes, an Irish immigrant who arrived in America with his parents at the age of six, joined the police force, after stints as a volunteer fireman and a Union soldier in the Civil War, in 1863. In 1868 he was made a roundsman and rose to sergeant by 1869 and then quickly to captain in 1870. By 1880 Byrnes was made Inspector of the Detective Bureau and then, after he had reorganized the Bureau in 1882, was made the first Chief of Detectives.
By 1888 Byrnes was made Chief Inspector of the Detective Bureau and thus, in theory, the second highest ranking policeman in the city of New York but the position carried no real power outside of the DB. By servicing and catering to the top echelon of New York society, however, Byrnes was able to gain wealthy and influential political support which allowed him to wield great power within the police force and to become autonomous from the control of both the Superintendent and the Commissioners.
Byrnes felt that intelligence gathering was a vital part in the Detective Bureau's work. He enforced the rule that ordered detectives to keep and submit detailed notes of all their activities. He initiated the practise of photographing criminals upon arrest and kept albums of photographs, along with criminal histories of each felon, copies of which were sent to each precinct. Up to date records were kept and information of all kinds was stored in the files at Mulberry Street. Byrnes also saw the usefulness of statistics which he used, not only to prove the efficiency of his Bureau, but to silence his critics as well.
He made sure that his detectives, nicknamed "the immortals " by one reporter, were made equivalent to sergeants in both rank and pay and his men loved him for it. Bymes himself was called the "personification of the police department, " while the journalist Jacob Riis said of him "...he made the detective service great. " James Lardner and Thomas Reppetto wrote that Byrnes "shaped not just New York's Detective Bureau but the template for detective work as it would come to be organized and practised in every modern American metropolis. "4
Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote books about Byrnes and his Bureau using stories dramatically taken `from the casebook of Inspector Byrnes." Hawthorne depicted Byrnes and his men as all knowing, all seeing public avengers who lurked behind every corner. Byrnes was depicted as a master psychologist who knew just the right approach with each criminal brought before him for interrogation. Backed by his uncanny policing abilities, his all encompassing files and his shadowy detective force Byrnes always got his man.
The truth fell far short of this fiction. That Byrnes modernized the detective bureau is beyond doubt but it is important to understand that the aura of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent detective service was a carefully crafted illusion.
George Walling, who, unlike Sir Henry Smith, actually did rise from Constable to Commissioner, knew Byrnes and his methods well and he had a distrust of both. Walling felt that Byrnes' real gift was his genius for self promotion and public relations rather than any aptitude for honest old fashioned police work which Walling felt revolved around crime prevention through the cop on the beat.
It appears that Walling was right about Byrnes' flair for self promotion and there were several tricks that Byrnes would employ in order to give his bureau the air of omnipotence that delighted gullible members of the press and public. One was the so called "throw-off" suspect. Byrnes and his men would arrest a suspect but keep the fact a secret
from the press. A confession would be extracted and Byrnes would then announce that he knew who the perpetrator of the particular crime was and that it was only a matter of time before his men would have him under lock and key. Hours later the suspect would be hauled up from the Mulberry Street cells and displayed to the press as proof that the Chief Inspector and his men could, and would, capture anyone they set their sights on. It is less taxing on the "long arm of the law", it seems, if the criminal is standing only a few feet away.
Byrnes might also release an arrested felon rather than charge him but he would have his men keep an eye on the man. If the felon's associates turned out to interest Byrnes the man would be rearrested and told that he faced the original charge unless he informed on his friends. More often than not the man would decide to save his own skin and peach on his comrades and Byrnes would then explain to the press how his detectives had patiently and stealthily gathered information by shadowing and observing the now arrested suspects.
Of course detectives might, from time to time, shadow a suspect but it was easier to use informants, who could be bribed or strongarmed into offering information, or easier still to just beat information out of criminals. Jacob Riis wrote that "He would beat a thief into telling him what he wanted to know. Thieves have no rights a policeman thinks himself bound to respect. " 5 As the news paperman Lincoln Steffens has famously reported of Byrnes he was "a man who would buy you or beat you, as you might choose, but get you he would. "6 This was no exaggeration.
George B. McClellan, who would later become mayor of New York, reported that he personally had witnessed the "master psychologist" Byrnes as he questioned prisoners. A suspect would be brought into Byrnes' office, which was thickly carpeted to muffle the noise, and told to stand in front of the Inspector, a detective on either side of the manacled man. Byrnes would start asking questions and if the answers did not suit the burly Chief of Detectives his fist would shoot out to connect with the prisoner's face. The detectives would then haul the man to his feet so that another question could be asked and another punch thrown. Eventually information would be beaten out of the man or, if he was stubborn, other methods would have to be used, namely the form of interrogation called "the third degree."
Riis wrote that Byrnes' "...famous `third degree ' was chiefly what he no doubt considered a little wholesome "slugging, " 7 but it could be more than that. W. B. Lawson, in his work of fiction Jack the Ripper in New York, 8 which was published less than a month after the murder of Carrie Brown, describes Byrnes questioning Ameer Ben All and states "...the inspector drags him out by telling him that unless he answers questions plainly, he will have to put the thumbscrews on him, " adding "...I imagine [they are] only used to frighten obdurate witnesses. " In truth Byrnes and his men did indeed use `paraphernalia, " as one detective put it, when administering the third degree. Other means, such as the use of a "sweat box" or of totally isolating a prisoner for days in a darkened room, constitute a form of interrogation that we today would describe as torture.
These crude methods might force a suspect to confess or to inform on his friends but they had little value to a murder investigation such as, the Carrie Brown case. Thieves might brag about pulling a certain job or suddenly turn up flush with cash after a robbery. Gang members had to rely on the discretion of their mates or would have to deal with a fence in order to dispose of stolen goods. All this human interactivity could potentially lead to information being passed to Chief Inspector Byrnes but what to do when the crime is a sexually motivated mutilation murder and the murderer confides in, and is known by, no one? As has recently been written about Byrnes and his men "the Detective Bureau was less adept in complex murder investigations. "9
George Walling provides us with another telling insight into Inspector Byrnes and his methods: he and his men liked to work in secret without explaining what they were doing to the press or public. Thus if someone other than the Detective Bureau was responsible for the capture of a criminal or the breaking of a case Byrnes could take credit for it. If, however, a case stumped Byrnes and his men, or simply seemed too daunting to even attempt to investigate, then it could quickly and quietly be forgotten and their reputation would remain untarnished. The public, Walling explained, would remain "in blissful ignorance " of any of Byrnes' failures and Byrnes, a very ambitious man who had his eye on the Superintendent's job, could not stand failure. Unfortunately for Inspector Byrnes the murder of Carrie Brown was a neon elephant of a case, one that, with the city's press looking over his shoulder and the eyes of the world turned on him, would betray a more than sizable bulge under the carpet.
THE NEW YORK POLICE, JACK THE RIPPER & THE PRESS
IT IS PERHAPS important here to look at some of the background story regarding Chief Inspector Byrnes and statements he is supposed to have made to the press regarding Scotland Yard and the hunt for Jack the Ripper.
It has been written that Chief Inspector Byrnes had made statements of a disparaging nature to the press about Scotland Yard and its handling of the Whitechapel murder investigation. Byrnes was even supposed to have dared the killer to try his luck in New York and claimed that if he did he would be under lock and key in under two days. It has been supposed that these statements forced Byrnes to solve the murder of Carrie Brown, by hook or by crook, in order to save face and extract his size fifteen police boot from his mouth. Is this true? And if so, what effect did this have on the actual investigation into Brown's death and what part did it have to play in the arrest and conviction of an innocent man?
New York police opinions regarding the Whitechapel murder investigation perhaps first appeared in the press with Superintendent William Murray. Murray was interviewed at least twice on the subject, the first time in the New York Tribune. On October 2, 1888 he told the Tribune that "It is plain to me that the murderer is a crazy man, because no sane man would go about such bloody work. " The Tribune added that `Mr. Murray did not care to criticise the London police for their failure to capture the murderer. " A rather diplomatic attitude towards his London brethren. Two days later it was Inspector Byrnes' turn to be interviewed and he would famously offer his own opinions about the Whitechapel murder investigation to the London paper The Sun.
Under the headline: "An American Detective's Opinion," Byrnes was asked how he would handle the Whitechapel murders. He replied "I should have gone right to work in a commonsense way, and not believed in mere theories. With the great power of the London police I should have manufactured victims for the murderer. I would have taken 50 female habitues of Whitechapel and covered the ground with them. Even if one fell a victim, I should get the murderer. Men un-uniformed should be scattered over the district so nothing could escape them. The crimes are all of the same class, and I would have determined the class to which the murderer belonged. But - pshaw! What's the good of talking? The murderer would have been caught long ago. "10
This one simple paragraph seemed to take on a life of its own.
The first thing that is made clear is that the claims of later writers who stated that Chief Inspector Byrnes actually dared the Ripper to try his luck in America are not supported in this article. Neither is the claim made by Edwin M. Borchard that the NYPD had "boastfully let it be known that if the [Ripper] appeared in New York with his evil doings, he would be in the jug' within thirty-six hours. "11
It is also clear that, other than the last sentence, it is hard to see how this article might have caused so much supposed animus. Even a cursory reading of the paragraph shows that Byrnes is merely stating what he would do if he was in charge of the investigation and in no way "attacks" Scotland Yard other than to suggest that they perhaps relied too much on theories rather than actual on the ground police work. He even compliments the London police for their "great power. " It is Byrnes' ignorance on the steps already taken that might rankle and his slightly boastful attitude but surely Scotland Yard would simply dismiss the article, especially since Byrnes' claim that he would "cover the ground" with prostitutes was too astounding to be taken seriously.
If Scotland Yard was angered by this statement they must have been incredibly thin skinned and touchy or was something else going on here? What was the relationship between the two forces?
The day after the Mary Kelly murder the New York Sun asked Superintendent Murray for his opinion on the Ripper murders. As in the first interview with the Tribune Murray was rather gentle on the subject of the abilities of the London police but he none the less gloats over what he sees as the comparative triumph of New York City and its police system over the city of London and Scotland Yard stating `I presume that the London police are doing the very best they can and will ultimately unravel the mystery. It would not be fair to draw any comparison between our policemen and those of London in the case, because I have been informed that New York has no locality that corresponds in misery and crime with the Whitechapel district. I am confident, though, that no such crimes could continue under the system of the New York police. The entire force would if necessary, be sent out in citizen's dress to run down the assassin. "12
This would seem to be a potentially more offensive statement than that offered by Inspector Byrnes. Murrey claims that the police "system" of the NYPD would not allow the Ripper to continue implying the "system" employed by Scotland Yard was a failure. Heaven and earth would be moved in order to bring the killer to justice where, perhaps, London was not willing to do everything it took to stop the murders.
More astounding was Murrey's dig at the city of London itself and his claim that "New York has no locality that corresponds in misery and crime with the Whitechapel district. " It is impossible to accept that Murrey actually believed this. With vicious slum districts like the Five Points, the Fourth Ward, Hell's Kitchen and the Tenderloin, (formerly known as Satan's Circus), London had nothing that could compare in misery, disease, crime and vice. Murrey himself had been captain of the Oak Street Station House in the horrendous slum that was the Fourth Ward and at a time when it was known as the "Bloody Fourth." One study conducted by the New York Board of Health estimated that over a nine month period there were, on average, 4 deaths per house or tenement, a death rate of 84 in 1000, or almost ten per cent. The vast majority of these deaths were caused by either the effects of extreme poverty, crime or disease. The densely populated ward was a hothouse for typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera. It has been stated that tuberculosis alone had visited every home and tenement in the Fourth and the death rate was the highest in the city. Rats the size of small dogs lived off of the mounds of garbage and excrement that literally clogged some streets making passage impossible and when the insufficient sewer system backed up it sent a foul greenish brown river of human waste flooding into the streets and cellars of the area. If the Superintendent thought that the Fourth was a better place to live than Whitechapel then he must have thought that Whitechapel was hell on earth!
What Superintendent Murrey's statement does offer us is a little glimpse into the relationship between the New York and London police forces. The fact that Scotland Yard was widely seen as being the more professional and competent of the two angered the New Yorkers and so a competitive rivalry started to emerge between the two. It was New York versus London, the U.S. versus Great Britain, and, to some degree, Irish Americans versus the English. As well, any animus felt at Scotland Yard towards their American brothers was compounded by articles and statements that had come out of New York from the American press.
During the Ripper murders New York papers were quick to point out the perceived shortcomings of the London police as this quote from the New York Times shows: "The four murders have been committed within a gunshot of each other, but the detectives have no clue. The London police and detective force is possibly the stupidest in the world. "13
This opinion was parroted by other members of the New York press. The New York Tribune was even more cutting stating, with an enthusiastic gusto, "...another hacked and mangled body has to be added to the already considerable score which the as yet unknown epicure in laceration has contrived to pile up without fear of any interference on the part of the London police.. ..Eight days' breathing space, eight days of excitement and turbulent clamors from the public, eight days of blind stumbling, stupid blundering and impregnable apathy on the part of the police... " 14 (One wonders why the slightly overwrought epithet `the unknown epicure in laceration' did not catch on with the general public.)
The murder of Alice McKenzie in July, 1889, allowed the New York press to resume its low opinion of Scotland Yard in print: "Many hundreds of extra police, seemingly more stolid, heavy-footed, and thick-witted than ever, pushed their pompous way through the throngs... " wrote the New York Times. Adding a shot at the British press it continued: "It takes an event like this to show the London press and London police at their very worst, and it would be hard to say in the present instance which is the least adorable. There seems to be no more prospect now than there was a year ago that the remarkable criminal who is committing these murders will be detected, unless it be by chance. "15
It was in this environment that Chief Inspector Byrnes was forced to conduct the investigation into the Carrie Brown murder. A growing rivalry, fuelled in part by statements made in New York about the Whitechapel murder investigation, between the United States and Great Britain. This rivalry caused a greater than normal scrutiny from London and, more importantly and closer to home, from the American press, some of whom were not overly enamoured of Inspector Byrnes and who seemed to delight in playing devil in the middle. It was the American papers, for instance, who gleefully told their readers how Scotland Yard was "exulting" over Byrnes' problems.
The American press also seem to have added to Chief Inspector Byrnes' problems by throwing down the gauntlet to him and asserting that he now had an opportunity to get his man as he had boasted. As one editorial stated: "...there has been a general expression of confidence in our superior detective skill, and this has led to the belief that the perpetrator of the London horrors could not escape detection on this side of the ocean. Here, then, is a superb opportunity for the vindication of that sentiment. Inspector Byrnes and his men cannot claim that the task which has fallen to their lot is any more difficult than that which puzzled the Scotland yard detectives, for, as a matter of fact, they have several things in their favor which the English policeman was denied. " 16
The inference was clear. It was time for Byrnes to put his money where his mouth was.
Friday 24 April, 1891
THE INVESTIGATION INTO the murder of Carrie Brown, already the forty-fifth person to die in New York by violence so far in the year 1891, began when James Jennings, the owner of the East River Hotel, rushed into the Fourth Precinct Station House on Oak Street to inform Captain Richard O'Connor of the crime.
It is not now clear who first uttered the name "Jack the Ripper" but it must have been fairly early on in the investigative process. Perhaps it was the young night door clerk, Eddie Fitzgerald, who had discovered the mutilated body of Came Brown or perhaps it was Jennings himself who uttered it to Captain O'Connor. Either way, when O'Connor informed both the Coroner's Office and the Detective Bureau at Headquarters of the murder the city's police reporters, who camped out at Mulberry Street, converged on the Fourth Ward like sharks to the scent of blood.
O'Connor, with detectives Doran and Griffin, hurried back to Water Street, which was only seven short blocks away, and made a closer examination of the room and its contents. They entered room No. 31 on the fifth floor of the hotel and found Carrie Brown's body lying on her right side with her right arm forced beneath her. Her left arm was lying across her breast and her legs were drawn up slightly in a fetal position. Her chemise was pulled up almost to her armpits leaving the lower half of her body naked. What appeared to be clothing was wrapped around her head and tightly knotted around her throat. The body showed several cuts to the lower torso and she had been disembowelled.
Along with her clothing, a "dark" coloured dress and a brown cape, and a tin can of beer, O'Connor and his men found Brown's meagre possessions still in the room. They consisted of two pairs of old eyeglasses, one of the pair in a case, and a small bag made of a bright and gaudy cotton cloth. They also found the blood covered murder weapon lying on the floor next to the bed, an ordinary wooden handled table knife. The handle was painted black and three notches had been cut horizontally on either side. The knife was dull and the end had been broken off leaving only a four inch long blade which was ground down to a point.
The police also found a cross or "X" scratched into the body of the murdered woman as well as a three inch high version on the wall next to the door. It was never explained what this might mean but reporters, with Jack the Ripper on their minds, would wonder if it was a boast to the world that this was the killer's tenth victim.
Soon to arrive on the murder scene were Coroner Schultze and the detectives from headquarters. As Superintendent Murrey was out of town Captain McLaughlin, Precinct Captain from the Eleventh Ward, was temporarily in charge of the Detective Bureau while Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes was Acting Superintendent. It was McLaughlin who arrived from headquarters with Detectives Crowley, Grady and McClusky in order to assist O'Connor and his men. Also to arrive and gain immediate access to the crime scene were the reporters.
With the newspapermen dogging their every move the police detectives combed the fifth floor looking for anything that might aid in the investigation. In room No. 32 a bowl of bloody water was discovered. This was never explained nor linked to the murder. It is hard to see how the killer could have washed his hands in room 32; there was no washbowl in the murder room, since blood was found on the small trap door, or scuttle, leading to the roof of the building. As no one had seen "C. Kniclo", the man who had rented the room with the victim, exit from the hotel it was supposed by the police that he had escaped to the roof and from there either climbed down or entered the adjoining building from which he exited. If he had washed his hands in room 32, though, how did he get blood on the scuttle?
While the detectives were combing the building the Coroner, observed by the reporters, made his preliminary examination of the body. It was his belief that she had been strangled first and then mutilated when dead. He also, apparently, believed that she had been murdered by London's Whitechapel murderer. When interviewed by a reporter the next day Schultze was asked the question that was on everyone's mind: whether Carrie Brown had been murdered by Jack the Ripper. Schultze answered by saying `I believe this case is the same as those of London " and went on by adding `I do not see any reason to suppose that the crime may not have been committed by the fiend of London. "17
The Coroner would have made his opinions known to Captain McLaughlin and Captain O'Connor and this is the likely reason why McLaughlin decided that every available man was needed from headquarters and why detectives flooded into the Fourth Ward. Although they denied any belief that Jack the Ripper had arrived in America, the actions of the police tell a different story. The amount of effort and man power alone that swirled about the investigation, called the greatest man hunt in the history of the city, proves the importance with which they viewed the case. Certainly the amount of detective energy expended wasn't because they thought it important to solve the murder of a sixty year old slum dwelling alcoholic prostitute!
Notice of the murder and a description of the murderer supplied by Mary Miniter, the Assistant Housekeeper of the East River Hotel, was sent to all precincts and neighbouring jurisdictions. About a dozen detectives from headquarters, all the Fourth Ward precinct detectives and a number of uniformed police ordered into civilian clothes began a dragnet. Some went out to canvass every lodging house in the ward looking for the man who matched Miniter's description of the killer. It was observed that they even entered places that hadn't seen a policeman's shadow in years. They were also instructed to arrest any "suspicious persons" they might find. Others went looking for anyone who knew the victim or knew of her movements on Thursday night while still others started in the East River Hotel itself looking for any witnesses to the night's events.
Mary Miniter and Mary Corcoran (or Cochrane), the hotel's housekeeper, were taken to the Oak Street Police Station to give the same statements that they had been giving to reporters all morning.
Miniter once more went over how she had given a room to the victim and a younger man whose name was entered in the registration book as "C. Kniclo." The two had rung the bell of the hotel door at close to l 1 o'clock on Thursday night. She described the man as being "about thirty-two to thirty-five years of age. He was about 5 feet 8 '/2 inches tall and slim in build. He had a long sharp nose and a heavy blond mustache. He wore a dark-brown cutaway coat, dark trousers and a battered derby hat.... " 18 She also thought that the man was German. After they had made their statements Miniter and Corcoran/Cochrane were rewarded by being committed to the House of Detention.
While searching the hotel the detectives came upon Mary Healey who had been seen drinking with Carrie Brown shortly before she was killed. Healey was found in room No. 12 and was so drunk that she wasn't able to dress herself let alone make any kind of a statement. The police bundled her into a sheet and took her to Oak Street so she could sleep it off.
Owner Jennings and door clerk Fitzgerald were also summoned to the Precinct House to make statements. Unlike the women, however, they were allowed to leave Oak Street and go about their business. It was soon made clear that Mary Miniter was the only person to have seen Carrie Brown, nicknamed "Shakespeare" by her friends, and "C. Kniclo" at the hotel. An important fact when analysing later events.
In the city of Brooklyn the police had received the notice of the murder that morning and Mounted Patrolman Frank of the 10th Precinct was the first officer from that force to make an arrest in connection with the case. In the afternoon Frank arrested two tramps for "lounging" but the real reason for the arrest was that one of the men, John Foley, bore a striking resemblance to the description put out by the New York police. Foley and his friend, Frank McGovern, were brought to the Sixth Avenue Station House and placed in a cell until someone from New York could come and take a look at them.
The canvassing of the Fourth Ward started to bear fruit. The police soon were able to partially corroborate the identity of the murdered woman as one Came Brown, the wife of a Salem sea captain, and to trace some of her movements. Detectives had learned that she lived most of the time at 49 Oliver Street, a basement lodging house operated by Mamie Harrington. When interviewed by police Harrington was able to offer some valuable information about Brown and to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the night before.
According to Harrington, Brown had been at her lodging house when, at about 7 o'clock, two men entered her premises. One was a man known as "Frenchy," the other was unknown to Harrington. They arrived looking for another occupant of the premises, one Mary Ann Lopez, a local prostitute. When told that Lopez was not there at the time the two decided to wait to see if she would return. While waiting "Frenchy" and his friend started up a conversation with Carrie Brown, whom "Frenchy" may, or may not, have known. Some witnesses would later claim that"Shakespeare" and "Frenchy" had spent the night together only the night before but "Frenchy" denied this, (later he supposedly admitted it, then later still denied it again). At some point the three left the lodging house and made their way to John Speekmann's saloon at the comer of Oliver and Oak Streets. It was later learned that the three eventually did meet up with Lopez as the four of them were seen drinking together at Speekmann's dive.
When asked about "Frenchy" Harrington knew very little but what she did have to say was of great interest to the police. What his real name was she didn't know but he was called "Frenchy" because he talked like a Frenchman, or, at least, with a foreign accent. Harrington later told reporters that although she had never seen him with a knife "everybody seemed to fear him and he was said to be a fellow who would use a knife. "19 It is likely that it was Harrington who first provided a description of this new suspect to the police. It also seems probable that this information was taken back to the East River Hotel and questions were asked there about "Frenchy." It was discovered that not only did the staff know of him but they were able to report that he had spent the night at the hotel. The police now had a known suspect who had been seen in the company of the murdered woman only hours before her death and who, amazingly, could be placed in the same building when the murder took place. This intriguing information explains the change in direction that the investigation took at this point.
Although police officials would not answer any questions put to them by the press and denied any knowledge of a new suspect, someone from the police department was hinting broadly that they knew who the killer was and that he was a tall, thin, olive skinned, dark haired, mate who spoke with an accent and was known in the Ward as "Frenchy". The detectives now narrowed their search to focus solely on this man.
At 6:00 pm the body of Came Brown was finally removed from the blood-soaked room at the East River Hotel and taken to the morgue to await autopsy the next day.
After sundown Chief Inspector Byrnes, accompanied by one of his detectives (probably Detective Sergeant McManus), left his Mulberry Street office and proceeded to Water Street where he had a quick look around. While McManus continued on to the East River Hotel, Chief Inspector Byrnes went directly to the Oak Street Precinct House to be appraised of the current situation and to confer with the impressive police brain trust that now left the field and converged on Captain O'Connor's private office. Along with Byrnes and O'Connor there were present Inspector "Clubber Williams, the Divisional Inspector, Captain McLaughlin and Detective Sergeant Parazzo. This is another indication that the Brown murder was seen as much more than just the grisly homicide of an aged, down and out barfly. As the New York Times would point out "There has not been a case in years that has called forth so much detective talent. "20 It was also at this meeting that Chief Inspector Byrnes decided that he would personally take charge of the investigation.
After a meeting of some twenty minutes Detective Sergeant McManus arrived at Oak Street to report on his findings at the murder scene. He would then leave the precinct house and journey back to Water Street where he would manage the detectives on the ground from the bar of Mr. Jennings' hotel. As the evening wore on detectives arrested three more women, friends and acquaintances of the murdered woman, and brought them into the Fourth Ward Precinct House. Also arrested were three men described as being Italian. They were taken to Oak Street and interrogated by Byrnes and the other police officials. These men were subsequently released.
Sometime between 9 o'clock and 9:30 pm a man described by reporters as being either an Italian or a Greek was arrested only blocks away from the East River Hotel between James Slip and Roosevelt Street on Water Street. The "Greek" was taken first to the murder hotel where he was shown to Eddie Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, who was once more tending bar for night barman Sam Shine, identified him as "Frenchy," the man that they were looking for. The "Greek," however, denied this and said that he had not been anywhere near the East River Hotel on the previous night. The detectives conferred with Detective Sergeant McManus who decided to arrest the man anyway and he was taken to Oak Street.
According to The New York World this man "answers, fairly well the description of the man who went to the East River Hotel with the murdered woman. "21 This is patently untrue as the New York Times pointed out: "the man might pass for a Greek or an Italian. He is rather tall, thin, and dark. He does not tally very well in this later regard with the man described by Mary Miniter. 22
This is an excellent illustration of one of the problems in attempting to research the Brown murder. As the official police reports are now long gone we are left trying to interpret information provided solely from newspaper accounts. Anyone who has studied the Whitechapel Murders to any degree understands how frustrating this can be especially when faced with conflicting reports. Exacerbating the situation is the closed mouth nature of Byrnes's investigative techniques:
"Why don't you discharge Frenchy No 1, whom you are holding? "
"How do you know that I have not. "
"But have you? "
" I refuse to answer. "
"Well, what do you think of the murderer now? "
"I have no theory for publication. "
With this type of reticence the press was forced to attempt to interpret the meaning behind police actions aided by what information low level police informants would dare to divulge. It was like trying to report on the police investigation by peering at it through a frosted window. They could see vague shapes, and every once and a while someone would get close enough to the glass that they could recognise a face, but who they were and why they were there was ofttimes a mystery.
The likely answer to the conflicting opinions offered above is that the World was relying on a description of the olive skinned, dark haired "Frenchy" who they had heard the police were looking for; this explains why the three Italians were arrested, and who was being described by some unofficial source as the likely murderer. In the mind of the World reporter, therefore, this suspect must have been the man who entered the hotel with the victim at 11 o'clock the night before. The New York Times, however, was sticking with Mary Miniter's description of "C. Kniclo," the man who had actually entered the hotel with the murdered Carrie Brown. Either way, later reports that the murderer was described as having brown hair or being either "a Greek or Italian" seem to stem from this press confusion between the description of "Frenchy" and "C. Kniclo," not from any change in description made by Mary Miniter. Miniter had said that the man was blond and this fact was supported by the majority of the newspaper reports and statements by the police, including police bulletins which described the murderer, as well as the course that the investigation actually took.
The "Greek's" arrival at Oak Street created a flurry of activity and a parade of witnesses tramped in and out of Captain O'Connor's office. The prisoner was taken in for interrogation and it was quickly learned that he was indeed the man that they were looking for, Ameer Ben All, an Algerian immigrant, known in the Fourth Ward as "Frenchy." He denied that he had been anywhere near the East River Hotel the night before or that he knew anyone named either "Shakespeare" or Brown. He was taken to the cells while some of the women who had been detained as witnesses, including Mary Miniter, were brought in and questioned by Byrnes about the new prisoner. Whatever the answers to his questions were is unknown but it is apparent that when Ben All was brought back into the Captain's office to be confronted by Miniter she was able to state that he was not the man who had rented room number 31 on the night of the murder. It is also unknown what Inspector Byrnes' reaction was to this information but he was to mollify any disappointment he might have felt by detaining the Algerian as a material witness. Ben All would come in handy a little later on, the Chief Inspector would find.
At 11:30 pm an unnamed woman was arrested by detectives and brought to the Oak Street Station House. The police wouldn't comment on who she was.
At midnight the temporary detectives' headquarters was shut down for the night and Inspector Byrnes and his men were able to go home and catch whatever sleep they could before starting fresh in the morning. The investigation had so far led to the detention of Mary Miniter, Mary Healey, Lizzie Mestrom, Annie Lynch, Mary Ann Lopez, Alice Sullivan, Annie Corcoran (or Cochrane), and Ameer Ben Ali. Midnight was also time for the shift change at the precinct house. Patrolmen and detectives on night duty were given a briefing on the day's events and handed a description of the murderer. The "Frenchy" hunt now over, they had returned to Mary Miniter's earlier statement and were told to be on the lookout for: `a man about 5 feet 8 inches high, rather thin, with a light moustache, light hair, and hooked nose, and dressed in a dark cutaway coat and derby hat. "23
As the day came to a close two large detectives were stationed at the door of the East River Hotel to keep the sidewalks clear from the throngs of morbid sightseers. Crowds of people came to stand and gawk till well after midnight just to get a glimpse of the outside of the murder hotel. An atmosphere of horror spread through the district and women either stayed indoors, or those that had to leave the safety of their tenement hovels travelled in pairs or in small groups. Men gathered uneasily at street corners and discussed the murder while passing on the latest gossip or wild theory that were now quickly spreading throughout the ward. It was said that even the normally boisterous children who overran street and sidewalk were awed into silence. Sitting in doorways they talked in whispers about the murder.
The people of the Fourth Ward, a largely uneducated and illiterate Irish immigrant population, too busy attempting to survive in their slum world to care about crimes taking place an ocean away had still, amazingly, heard the name "Jack the Ripper." The fear that this name engendered to these poverty stricken New Yorkers was almost palpable. As the World reported "There were probably manypersons, young and old, in the Fourth Ward who last night suffered from nightmare and fantastic dreams about 'Jack the Ripper.' "24 It was almost as if the Mayor or the Superintendent of Police had officially announced that some demon had come to their city or that Satan himself now walked amongst them.
SATURDAY 25 APRIL, 1891
THE NIGHT SHIFT was busy. At 1:00 am police patrolling the Bowery arrested one Adolph Kallenberg, a German, who was found `hanging around. " He seemed to match the description of the murderer, so he was brought first to the Elizabeth Street Station House before being transferred later that same morning to Oak Street. When shown to Mary Miniter she was able to say that he was not the murderer and so he was discharged. Others weren't as lucky as Mr. Kallenberg.
Newspapers reported that at least a dozen prisoners were taken to Oak Street before daylight. Some were discharged but at least seven prisoners were held. Reports state that at least five women and two men were confined. Captain O'Connor stated that none of them were suspects in the murder but were being held as witnesses only. One of the men was a William Bekker, or Behken, who was described as an "important witness, " but "what he knows the police will not tell. "25 Why he was considered important was never revealed.
It is likely that at least one more "important witness" was interviewed before the night shift went off duty at 6:00 am. There is evidence that the police took a statement from a man named Kelly, the night clerk at the Glenmore Hotel (a cheap lodging house on Chatham Square) sometime in the small hours of the morning. Kelly was interviewed about a blood stained man who had entered his hotel shortly after the murder. Chatham Square lies just off Catherine Street only six blocks or so from the East River Hotel which itself was situated at the corner of Catherine Slip, which ran into Catherine Street, and Water Street. At sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 am Friday, the 24th of April, a man walked into the Glenmore Hotel and asked Kelly for a room. The night clerk noticed that the man's hands, face and clothing were smeared with blood. Kelly stated that the man was very nervous and agitated with "his hat pulled down over his eyes and he acted queer. He asked me in broken English ifI could give him a room for the night. At the time his right hand rested on my desk and I noticed that it was all bloody. I noticed it looked as though he had tried to wipe the blood of but it was smeared all over. There were also two blotches of blood on his right cheek, as though he had put the bloody hand to his face. There was also blood on his right coat sleeve and it was spattered on his collar. Altogether the fellow looked very bad. "26
Kelly asked the man what price room he wanted but the man answered that he wanted the night clerk to just give him a room for free because he didn't have any money. Unable to comply Kelly turned the man away. When the man attempted to enter the washroom in the lobby the clerk was forced to come out from the office and prevent the man from doing so. As he left Kelly turned to the night watchman, a man named Tiernan, and said "That man looks as though he had murdered somebody. "27
In and of itself the tale of the bloodstained man might be seen as merely an interesting anecdote with, perhaps, no real connection to the murder of Carrie Brown. What lifts it in importance and interest, however, is Kelly's description of the man. "The fellow spoke with a pronounced German accent ...about five feet nine inches in height, light complexion, long nose, and light mustache. He says that he wore a shabby cutaway coat and a shabby old derby hat. "28 This mirrors Mary Miniter's description of "C. Kniclo", the murderer, right down to the long nose and the German accent. Was this man "C. Kniclo"? It is impossible now to say but it is tempting to theorize that it was, based on the close similarities in description, the blood stains, and the proximity of the Glenmore to the East River Hotel. Added weight can be attached to Kelly's testimony if it can be shown that he had given his statement to the police before the papers, filled with Mary Miniter's description of the murderer and other details, came out on Saturday morning. There is some evidence that points to this being the case.
When the night shift went on duty they were supplied with a description of the wanted man. This description had been supplied by Mary Miniter and it represented the up to date findings of the investigation. When the night shift went off duty, rather than reiterate the earlier bulletin, they supplied a new description of the wanted man for the in coming morning shift. This then represented the up to date findings of the investigation at that time as uncovered by the midnight to 6:00 am shift. The morning shift was told: "General Alarm! -Arrest a man S feet 9 inches high, about thirty-one years old, light hair and mustache; speaks broken English. Wanted for murder. "29
It is unlikely that the description in this new bulletin came from Miniter; she was asleep in the House of Detention between midnight and 6:00 am, but it might have come from Kelly, the only other witness found who might have actually seen the murderer. Notice that it closely follows Kelly's description of the man who entered the Glenmore Hotel and even includes the information that the man spoke "broken English, " the exact phrase Kelly had used to describe the blood stained man to the newspapers. Miniter never commented on how the suspect spoke; only that, from what few words that he said to her, she believed that he was German. It should be understood that we know that the police set great store in Kelly's story and they thought he was an important witness. For our purposes night clerk Kelly's importance lies in the fact that he corroborates exactly Mary Miniter's description of "C. Kniclo," the murderer. This corroboration increases in importance later on in the investigation.
On Saturday morning Chief Inspector Byrnes travelled to the City of Brooklyn in order to confer with Superintendent Campbell and Commissioner Hayden, who offered the New York Police every assistance. Byrnes apparently thanked the two police officials but added that he thought that the murderer was not in their city. Why he thought this is unknown but it may have had something to do with Kelly's blood-stained and penniless man. The Brooklyn police sent a description to all station houses nonetheless and were on the lookout for the wanted man. As for John Foley, who had been arrested by Mounted Patrolman Frank the day before, Byrnes thought that the description of the man did not match that of the murderer. Exonerated of being Jack the Ripper, Foley and his friend McGovern, were sent to jail as vagrants.
It didn't take long before another man was arrested in Brooklyn for matching the description of the killer. At 7:00 am, Detective Sergeant Camey, on his way to breakfast, arrested a man who he found lounging at the comer of Fulton and Hicks Streets and took him to the 2nd Precinct House. There the man identified himself as Frederick Strube, a blond 26 year old butcher originally from Germany. Delighted in the interest shown him Strube was happily confident that he could prove that he wasn't anywhere near the East River Hotel the night before. New York was informed and Detective Sergeant McNaughton and Mary Miniter arrived at 9:00 am to take a look at the suspect. Miniter was positive that Strube was not "C. Kniclo" and he was released.
Miniter had already started her day by being brought back to Oak Street in order to once more have a look at Ameer Ben All. Why is not clear, but it may have been an attempt to make absolutely sure that "Frenchy", a most convenient suspect, was not the murderer.
At around 10:00 am Deputy Coroner Jenkins began the post mortem process. The body was first photographed (two pictures were taken, one front and one back) 30, and then with Colonel Vollum, the President of the United States Board of Army Medical Examiners observing, amongst others, the actual autopsy was performed 31. It was said to have taken four hours to complete and when it was over Jenkins was asked whether he thought that the mutilations had been carried out by a surgeon as Jack the Ripper was said to be. "If it was done by a surgeon he was a butcher. It was horrible hacking, " was his reply. "Would you suppose that this murder was committed by the London 'Jack the Ripper'?" he was next asked. "I am not advancing theories. I cannot say, " Jenkins noted.32
Steve Brody, the man who had created a media sensation in 1886 by claiming that he could jump off of the Brooklyn Bridge and survive - and then did just that - hitched his publicity wagon to the "Shakespeare" murder sensation star. Hungry for any kind of attention or exposure, Brody claimed that he knew the victim well and then proceeded to have a statement published which he maintained told the details of "Shakespeare's" life. The details were quickly proved to be false but Brody was undeterred. He next told reporters that his wife, had found pieces of the victim's intestines lying in the street near to the East River Hotel. These, he stated, had been sent to the Oak Street Precinct House, which denied that it had received any such evidence from Brody. Deputy Coroner Jenkins did admit, however, that the police had forwarded on to him a package that seemed to contain pieces of some sort of viscera. Upon examination Jenkins declared that they were parts of the organ of a cat.
At the East River Hotel some excitement was garnered that morning when a mysterious fire broke out. A kerosene lamp in housekeeper Mary Corcoran's room on the second floor, (she was still being held in the House of Detention), accidentally fell or was tipped over and set the carpet alight. It was suspected that someone had climbed on top of a shed alongside the building and had reached through the open window and knocked over the lamp with a cane or stick. The fire was quickly put out and only minimal damage was done.
As the day wore on the police on the ground, which included Chief Inspector Byrnes, were described as "working like beavers" as they attempted to solve the murder. Characteristically of Byrnes and his methods, he and his men refused to tell reporters what leads they were following or what conclusions they had so far reached. As an example, although reporters had witnessed a policeman arriving at the Oak Street Station with a pair of blood stained pants which the officer claimed had come from a Bowery lodging house, those in charge of the investigation refused any information as to where exactly they came from or who had owned them. Byrnes also refused to offer his opinion on whether Carrie Brown had been murdered by the Ripper or not but it was reported that the general opinion among the detectives was that this was not the work of London's Jack but rather that of some "weak-minded ruffian who has read of the deeds of the Whitechapel's terror and attempted to do as he did. "33
Police did acknowledge that they were looking for a man named Isaac Perringer who was described as being a sailor with a very bad character. Perringer had rented a room at a Ridge Street lodging house run by the Seventh Presbyterian Church at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of Thursday the 23rd. He had left the lodging house at 9:30 pm in order to meet a woman and it was claimed that he had been seen drinking with the murder victim sometime after that. From what we know of Carrie Brown's movements that night, however, it is unlikely that this was true.
At around 4:00 pm Captain Reilly and Detective Britt of the Nineteenth Precinct, accompanied by Detective Sergeant Hanley of the Detective Bureau, arrived at police headquarters on Mulberry Street. In their custody was a handcuffed man who fit the description of the murderer exactly with the exception of his trousers. The reporters remembered the blood stained pair of pants brought in earlier and wondered if there was any connection. This man, who was first hurried into Chief Inspector Byrnes' office, was later taken under close guard to Oak Street. Who he was or what connection he had with the murder was a mystery. Byrnes categorically denied that this man had anything to do with the East River Hotel murder. "0, he is a small thief we have wanted for a long time. I assure you he is a bum, "34 was his reply to reporters.
What this "bum's" name was or what he had been arrested for was not explained. Neither was the reason that he was taken from Headquarters to Oak Street, the centre of the Brown murder investigation. Nor could it be ascertained why a small time thief, his hands cuffed behind him, needed to be escorted by a police captain and two detectives. The arrest of this man seems to have triggered a series of events which would culminate in an announcement of the murderer's identity.
We know that the police had been able to track Carrie Brown's activities on the night of the murder. From Mamie Harrington, who was arrested and held in the House of Detention with the other witnesses, they had learned that Brown had been in the company of Ameer Ben All and another man. The detectives had been looking for this man as a "person of interest' or "one who could aid in their inquiries, "as police might say today, but the police were having trouble finding him as he seemed to have disappeared from his usual haunts. The name of this man, who witnesses said spoke French, English and an Arabic dialect, was unknown but because he spoke French he was also nicknamed "Frenchy."
In the early evening the witnesses, including Mary Miniter and Ameer Ben All, were brought to Oak Street where they were again interrogated by Byrnes and his men apparently in regards to Ben Ali's friend. The police reporters were told to stand by for an important statement which would be read after the police had re-interviewed Ben All. The Algerian was questioned for over half an hour but refused to offer any information about his associate or to divulge his whereabouts.
It was late in the evening when he was finally taken away and Chief inspector Byrnes, with great formality, ushered in over 30 waiting police reporters, in what we would now recognize as a press conference, in order to make the statement. Byrnes stood in the background while Acting Inspector McLaughlin read from a prepared typewritten document.
Part of the statement merely repeated facts about the case and the investigation that the assembled reporters already knew. Another part disclosed all the information that Detective Crowley had been able to uncover about the victim and her life from interviewing her friends in the Ward.
Her maiden name had been Caroline Montgomery and she had married a Captain James Brown of Salem Massachusetts. After his death Carrie Brown had moved to New York and supposedly drank away the fortune he had left her eventually ending up in the gutter that was the Fourth Ward. 35
Acting Inspector McLaughlin also stated that Mary Miniter had admitted under questioning that she had actually known Carrie Brown for a number of years and that she was known to her both as "Shakespeare" and as "Jeff Davis," the name of the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War. This is the only time that this nickname is mentioned; certainly none of Brown's close friends called her by it, and it is unknown why she was given it. One theory offered by the newspapers of the day is that Brown "argued for the lost cause " of southern states' rights, a strange point of view coming from the wife of a Union Navy Captain. It is interesting to note, however, that the picture of Carrie Brown discovered by Michael Conlon 36 shows a certain facial similarity between Brown and Davis so she might have been called "Jeff Davis" simply because she looked like him. The real reason will probably never be known.
McLaughlin also stated that Ben All had admitted that on the night previous to the murder he occupied a room with Brown in the East River Hotel and that he was in the hotel the night she was murdered but that he swore that he was not the murderer.
The assembled reporters listened listlessly but when the Acting Inspector finally got to the heart of the document they sat up and paid closer notice.
George Francis, (Ameer Ben All), known as "Frenchy," had a cousin, also known as "Frenchy." The two men were believed to be cousins "because several women held as witnesses say the two men spoke of each other as cousins. "37 Both men were thought to be Algerian and the two had a reputation as being "ruffians of the worst character" and were known to hang out with known prostitutes in the dives along Water Street. On the night of the murder the two men were seen drinking with Mary Ann Lopez and Carrie Brown with the cousin drinking with Brown. Now the cousin had disappeared and Ben All refused to say where he had gone but the Chief Inspector stated "that he will have no difficulty in tracing him and he believes that when he gets this man he will have the murderer. "38
With that the Acting Superintendent and the Acting Inspector ended the conference and told the reporters to leave the office. Unsatisfied by the complete lack of details about the supposed murderer the assembled reporters barraged the two police officials with questions, only to face a tightlipped refusal to say anything more about the case.
Shortly before midnight Captain O'Connor announced to the still assembled reporters that they might as well go home. He assured them that "no information will be given out before to-morrow afternoon. "39 How he knew that no breaking news on the case would occur before then was not explained, but he did cryptically add that "even if we got the man we are looking for there would be so many things to clear up that nothing could be given_ for publication before to-morrow afternoon. "40
Things seemed to be going very well for the New York police detectives and Chief Inspector Byrnes was described as being "more at ease " and that he had "returned to his normal condition of self confidence."
SUNDAY 26 APRIL, 1891
ONLY HOURS LATER the police were described as seeming to be "absolutely at sea. They will say nothing, perhaps because they have nothing to say. They display an irritability that is in itself strong evidence that they are completely baffled. "41
Rather than quickly and easily arresting the man now known as "Frenchy No. 2, " as Byrnes had boasted, the detectives were once more using the tactics of the drag-net. Byrnes, McLaughlin, O'Connor and a host of headquarters and ward detectives were back re-scouring the lodging houses, tenements and dives of the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Wards. Reporters were left to compare the desperation that they now witnessed with the confidence displayed by the police only hours earlier. "Byrnes as much as said that he would be able to put his hands on `Frenchy' as soon as he wanted him. He has not got him yet. If he believes 'Frenchy' to be the murderer, and he can find him, why has he not done so? "42
Something appears to have gone radically wrong for Chief Inspector Byrnes in the night, but what? The seasoned police reporters thought they knew at least part of the story.
When Byrnes announced - or had Captain McLaughlin announce for him - the fact that they were looking for Ameer Ben All's cousin and that they thought that he was the murderer, several of the reporters became suspicious. Why announce to the suspect that he was wanted by the police and thus give him a chance to disappear? Why name a man as the prime suspect and thus expose yourself to possible ridicule if you can't find him? The Chief Inspector never gave out information about his suspects unless he had some ulterior motive for doing so. As the police reporter for the Times wrote `He says that he has not arrested [Frenchy No.2] yet, but the fact that he has made public the facts here stated contradicts that, for Byrnes is not in the habit of talking about a man whom he desires to catch for committing a crime. "43
The police reporters were well versed in Chief Inspector Byrnes' methods and their opinions on the police and those methods must carry great weight. They came to the conclusion that the Chief Inspector had already arrested his suspect before the press conference, as the quote in the Times shows, and that "Frenchy No.2 " "is generally believed to have been what in police circles is called a 'throwoff ...Byrnes said, when he made the official statement, that he had not got `Frenchy, 'the suspect, in custody. Many were inclined to believe that he did. .. have the man, for in the arrest of the suspect was found Byrnes's only warrant for publishing him as a suspect. "44 Other reporters thought that they knew who the man was; the handcuffed "small time thief ' brought in by Captain Reilly and Detectives Britt and Hanley: "A mysterious prisoner was brought in to headquarters yesterday afternoon. There are reasons to suppose that this man is the one who killed the old woman. It was after this man was brought to police headquarters that Inspector Byrnes made the statement. ... Inspector Byrnes seemed more at ease after Captain Reilly's prisoner had been brought in... The general opinion of those about police headquarters were that he had his man, but wanted to fasten the crime upon him without a doubt before he would speak of his catch. ' 45
Even Captain O'Connor's assurance to the assembled reporters that nothing would happen before the next afternoon was seen to "strengthen the belief that the murderer, or at least the man suspected, had been arrested... "46
That something did go wrong with the investigation is apparent from the attitudes and actions of the police the day after the press conference, but what exactly it was is unknown at this date. If the reporters were correct in their assumptions, then someone whom the police considered a strong suspect was apparently arrested and brought in to Oak Street for questioning. Information garnered from this suspect, or some piece of evidence such as the pair of blood stained pants found in the Bowery lodging house then seems to have led to further interrogations of the detained witnesses. The information supplied to the police was of a character that led Byrnes and his men to believe that they had arrested Ameer Ben Ali's cousin, the `person of interest" and the man who had been drinking with Carrie Brown on the night of the murder.
After the press conference there must have been some problem with the evidence of the arrested suspect's guilt. The only possible clue that we are left with is a statement made by Byrnes the very next day after the press conference. This was, in fact, the only statement that Byrnes would agree to make. According to the Chief of Detectives "the descriptions of the murderer were conflicting, thus rendering identification extremely difficult, "47 and "The people dependent upon to give it were a drunken lot without enough intelligence to remember how the man looked. "48
We are left with the answer that there was something wrong with the description given of "Frenchy No.2 " by the witnesses and that the man arrested was not "Frenchy No.2. " Did this happen? We know that when he was arrested "Frenchy No.2 " turned out to be a slaughterman named Arbie La Bruckman who plied his trade on cattle boats and that he did not match the description given of "C. Kniclo," the murderer, by Mary Miniter. Is this where the conflict lies?
La Bruckman was described by a reporter from the World as having "black hair and a dark brown mustache "49 and those witnesses who knew him on sight would have told Byrnes and his men this. Mary Miniter, however, apparently stuck to her description of "C. Kniclo" and told Byrnes that the man she had seen had blond hair. In a later interview Byrnes stated "He, [C. Kniclo], was supposed to be Frenchy No.2, who was described by Mary Miniter as being blond. " 50 The actions of the police during this phase of the investigation supports this as well. As was later reported "he [Byrnes] did not withdraw his general alarm to the police of neighbouring cities to arrest Frenchy No.2 and there have been dozens of light complexioned men with long noses and blond moustaches placed under arrest in this and other cities. "51
There is also another possible answer to the police confusion. It is interesting to note that Mamie Harrington who knew "French; " and therefore supposedly "Frenchy No.2, " told the police that she didn't know the identity of the man who left her lodging house with Ameer Ben All and Brown on the night of the murder. If this man was another of Ben All's friends and not La Bruckman then there remains the possibility that the witnesses were offering confusing descriptions of three different men: "C. Kniclo," "Frenchy No.2" and the man who went out drinking with Brown and Ben Ali.
For whatever the reason it is apparent that Chief Inspector Byrnes had suffered a setback in his investigation caused by the announcement that "Frenchy No.2 " was the murderer. This was a mistake that Byrnes would quickly try to distance himself from.
As the police once more swarmed through the Fourth Ward interviewing and reinterviewing witnesses their actions only cemented the belief among police reporters that they were literally clueless.
"The manner in which the police are working is almost conclusive evidence that they are just where they started, so far as the actual capture of the murderer is concerned. They are simply pursuing a drag-net policy. "52
Some arrests were made but it was reported that most of them were released after interrogation with at least two exceptions.
The first was a man arrested by a City Hall Park policeman for merely resembling the description of the wanted man. This man was taken initially to Oak Street where he was questioned by Captain O'Connor but was later transferred to Police Headquarters on Mulberry Street. Typically, the police refused any comment on this man and denied that his arrest had anything to do with the East River Hotel murder.
The second man was more interesting. It was reported that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon Chief Inspector Byrnes himself boarded the Red D Line steamship Philadelphia as it lay at its pier in the East River and arrested the second engineer. This man was taken to headquarters along with another crewman who was taken as a material witness. It was learned that the Philadelphia had arrived in New York from Caracas, Venezuela, at 2 o'clock on Thursday the 23 April, the day of the murder and that the second engineer closely matched the description of the murderer.
When asked about this arrest the Chief of Detectives said that he didn't know anything about it and denied that any such arrest had been made. Reporters, however, were able to interview the pier watchmen, who corroborated the details, and Captain O'Connor who, embarrassingly, did so as well.
This man was questioned and eventually released later that same night but interest in him lies in the fact that he was described as a blond haired German. If the police were now actually looking for "Frenchy No.2, " described as a black haired Algerian, then what was Chief Inspector Byrnes doing personally arresting a blond haired German?
MONDAY 27 APRIL, 1891
THE NEWSPAPERS PROVIDED Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes with one more reason to hate Mondays if, over his morning latte and low fat muffin, he had bothered to read the editorial section of the Brooklyn Eagle:
"For a man who professes to have so much confidence in his own ability Inspector Byrnes betrays singular evidence of weakness. It is very certain that he talks too much. He has seen fit to name the perpetrator of the horrible murder in New York and has not been slow to ventilate his theories in the public prints, but it does not appear that he has done anything to warrant his estimate of his work. Less promise and more performance would be a good motto for the inspector to heed. "
This editorial opprobrium was followed up with the headline: "STILL WORKING IN THE DARK" which seems to have pretty much covered the state of the investigation at this point: "Jack the Ripper, " or whoever murdered Carrie Brown in the East River hotel, New York, last Thursday night is still at large and the New York police seem to be baffled in their efforts to run him down. All their old clews seem to be exhausted and they now appear to be busy looking for new ones. "53 or, as the Times put it, "The same tremendous air of mystery and the same depressing lack of information. "54
The detectives were still swarming through the district and arrests were still being made but to little avail. It was reported that the detectives were following some clue but what it was they refused to say. Several women and even some young boys were brought down to Oak Street but all were released after interrogation and the police admitted that nothing of value was discovered.
The police reporters, it seem, were becoming bored and listless with the lack of news. It was observed that they spent their time attempting to guess when the Street-Cleaning Department had actually appeared in the streets of the district last. This was a not so subtle jab at Captain O'Connor since the job of street cleaning fell under his jurisdiction. The reporters wondered sarcastically how the Captain could allow "such dives as the one that have been brought into notice by this case to exist in his immaculate precinct. "
Things were happening, of course, but just not the arrest of the murderer.
"Frenchy No.2's " sister was discovered living with her mother on Water Street. She was questioned and detectives were dispatched apparently to run down whatever lead that she might have provided. The fact that the police were still looking for "Frenchy No. 2 " proves that he was still of some interest to Byrnes.
Reporters attempting to gain more information about the "small time thief 'brought in by Captain Reilly and Detectives Britt and Hanley were perplexed to find that the man had mysteriously disappeared. The police denied all knowledge of the man or his whereabouts and the newspaper men knew that he had not been arraigned in any police court as yet. They suspected that he was still being held, most probably in the cells at Mulberry Street where no one could get at him.
The biggest news of the day was Chief Inspector Byrnes' clarification of the statements made at the press conference less than 48 hours earlier. The head of the Detective Bureau denied that he believed, or had evidence to prove, that "Frenchy No.2 " was the murderer of "Shakespeare." He not only denied this but he even went so far as to deny that he had authorized any such statement to be made.
`Inspector Byrnes denied to-day that he had said the man known as 'Frenchy' is the man who committed the deed. The type written statement which Acting Inspector McLaughlin read to a number of reporters Saturday night and which was prepared by Inspector Byrnes referred to 'Frenchy' several times as the suspected man. Inspector Byrnes said to-day that he did not want the impression to go abroad that he had positively stated that he knew who the murderer was. `I did not say I knew who the man was nor that Frenchy was the man,' said the inspector. `I said he was suspected of being the man. As soon as the newspapers get through discovering the murderer I can do better work on this case." 55
"Frenchy No 2" was a suspect, yes, but the Inspector was now claiming that he had no proof that he was the actual murderer and never said anything to suggest this. The assembled reporters had misquoted him, he said. It is clear, however, that Byrnes had indeed broadly hinted that "Frenchy No.2" was the murderer and that he believed this on Saturday evening but was now not as assured in this belief. The police reporters, and even some of Byrnes's own men, were left scratching their heads and comparing their notes to find out if they had somehow misheard or misunderstood the original statement, perhaps because of a sudden onset of brain fever or an inappropriately timed attack of some fugue state.
If Byrnes did not have any positive proof that "Frenchy No.2" was the murderer then what were his thoughts on the case at this point, he was asked. `I have no theory for publication, " he told reporters. `I don't know anything more about the murder than you do. ',56
To make matters worse, or at least embarrassing for the NYPD, was the almost maniacal thoroughness with which the Brooklyn Police were arresting suspects in that sister city of New York. "The Brooklyn police got very excited over the case ... and arrested every man who had ever been known as `Frenchy' or who might be known by that name, and several who never claimed it. "57
First a drunken man was arrested early in the morning on Meserole Street simply because he answered the description of the murderer. Later that same morning another man was arrested in a Furman Street boarding house because he too answered the description of the blond German. He turned out to be a Swede named Nils Hansen instead. Hansen and the drunken man were held until Detective McCauly and Mary Miniter arrived to take a look at them. Miniter was able to state that neither was the man wanted and they were both released.
One unfortunate Brooklynite found that his illness brought him under suspicion and arrest. A Frenchman named Christian Rey, who operated a fruit stand at the corner of Atlantic and Alabama Avenues, had taken ill and was thus away from his usual comer for some days. Because some people called him "Frenchy" and because he had disappeared at around the time of the murder he was tracked down by the Brooklyn PD and arrested. He was held until Detective McCauley could interview him after which he was released.
A much more interesting suspect was a man known as John Williams, whose alias was "Frenchy," but whose real name was Eli Commanis. Williams was arrested at a lodging house at 125 Furman Street by Captain Eason and Detectives Conway and Noonan. He was a dock labourer of about forty-five years of age and was described as being short and with dark hair. He did not fit the description of the wanted man, reporters pointed out, but it was learned that he had lived in a lodging house next door to the East River Hotel and that he knew "Shakespeare" and he had moved to Furman Street in Brooklyn shortly after the murder. If this wasn't interesting enough, it was discovered that two years earlier Williams had lodged in a house at 114 Roosevelt Street, only blocks from the East River Hotel, when a woman had been murdered there. Detective McCauley looked him over and said he was not the man wanted and he was released.
City officials stated that unless Carrie Brown's relatives claimed her body from the morgue by the end of the day she would be buried in a paupers grave in Potter's Field.
When Inspector Byrnes closed up his Mulberry Street office, at the end of a disappointing day, he said that there was nothing new in the case.
TUESDAY 28 APRIL, 1891
AT MIDNIGHT THE detectives arrested Mary Cody and Kitty Lynch in a sailor's dive on Cherry Street. Taken back to Oak Street they were subjected to a long interview. After this interview the police seemed to have sprung into action. Detectives were called out of the ward and told to appear at Oak Street for further instructions. Whatever they had been searching for earlier was dropped and the detectives poured back into the Fourth with some purpose in mind.
In the early morning this purpose manifested itself in the arrest of a suspect. This man was brought back to Oak Street and locked in a cell while the police, as usual, denied any knowledge of him.
Acting Inspector McLaughlin arrived and immediately set to question the non existent prisoner.
At 10:00 am Captain O'Connor left the precinct house and walked to the East River Hotel where he had a long talk with the owner, James Jennings. When O'Connor returned to Oak Street he was accompanied by two headquarters detectives and a rough looking, and drunken, prisoner with a bloated face and blood under his fingernails. This man was also placed in a cell where he and the nonexistent prisoner were both interrogated by McLaughlin.
Whatever was going on was to happen in private and to accomplish this Captain O'Connor asked all the reporters to leave the station house. It is known, however, that Kitty Lynch and Mary Cody, along with James Jennings, were brought to the precinct house and interviewed by Acting Inspector McLaughlin and several detectives.
After this conference was held a message was sent to ex-superintendent of the barge office, Michael Whelan, who shortly arrived at Oak Street. Why the ex-superintendent of the barge office was called in is a mystery but it can be assumed that it was because of his expertise surrounding the East River in some way. After his arrival two headquarters Detective Sergeants, Mulholland and McClusky, left Oak Street separately, to throw reporters off the track, but soon met up and travelled together to the Battery and from there out on the bay to the Italian ship Assyria. Why was never explained.
Yet another search was carried out in the Fourth Ward and this produced the arrest, by Detective Griffin, of an old woman who was said to have been another friend of "Shakespeare's." Like many of the witnesses and suspects brought into the Station she was said to be drunk. In fact so drunk that she couldn't speak.
Even more Detectives were summoned into the Fourth Ward from Headquarters and each was given instruction by McLaughlin and sent to carry them out.
Chief Inspector Byrnes was not involved in any of this activity and it appears that he had decided to step back from the investigation. He had already got his fingers burned by the "Frenchy No.2" fiasco and he was still having to answer questions about it. Asked by a reporter Byrnes stated that "his statement of Saturday night had been so distorted that he would say nothing more for publication at pre sent. He had endeavoured to satisfy the public clamour for information relative to the murder of old "Shakespeare, " he said, but found that he was misrepresented in all the newspapers throughout the world, and therefore, he would say nothing more of what he was doing. " 58
One thing that Byrnes did do was to request to the Coroner, Schultze, that one Mary Briscoe, of 12 Roosevelt Street, arrested by Detective Sergeant McClusky, be detained in the House of Detention as an important material witness. This was done. It is possible that this was the "Dublin Mary," who was also taken to the House of Detention and, it was reported by newspapermen who knew little of what was actually going on, questioned about "Frenchy No.2." It was stated that "Dublin Mary" knew "Frenchy No.2 better than anyone else.
Something else that Byrnes did which is of great interest, especially in regards to later events, was the communication that he sent to Major Moore, the Superintendent of the Washington Police, asking that Washington keep on the lookout for the murderer. If, as they would soon claim, the New York police had found blood evidence on Friday which proved Ameer Ben Ali's guilt in the murder of Carrie Brown then why were they asking Washington to look for the murderer four days later on Tuesday? At the end of the day, regardless of all the police activity, there was really nothing to show for it. There was, as they admitted, "no news. "
WEDNESDAY 29 APRIL, 1891
THIS SITUATION CHANGED on Wednesday afternoon with a notable arrest. Reporters claimed that the activity of the last day had led police to the whereabouts of "Frenchy No.2," although this seems doubtful. The New York World claimed that the information had instead come from one of their New Jersey readers, which is a possibility. All that we really know for sure is that Chief Murphy of the New Jersey Police stated that the arrest had been made at the request of the New York police authorities whom the Chief stated had impressed upon him and his men that "it is the most important arrest that could be made in the Jack the Ripper butchery of Carrie Brown. "59 It would be surprising if this statement had recently been made to Chief Murphy, rather than when the New York police had first announced "Frenchy No.2" as a suspect, and even more surprising if it had come from Chief Inspector Byrnes himself. By Tuesday "Frenchy No 2" had become a dead issue with Bymes and he had turned the investigation in a new direction.
At noon New Jersey Police detective Close went to the Central Stock Yards in Jersey City and arrested a man named Arbie La Bruckman, alias John Francis, alias John Frenchy, alias `Frenchy' and, more famously, alias 'Frenchy No.2'.
La Bruckman was described as being a "villainous-looking man of about twenty-nine years and of remarkably strong physique. He is about 5 feet 7 inches in height and weighs about 180 pounds ... has black hair and a dark brown mustache. "60 He also said that he had been born in Morocco. He did not, however, answer the description of the killer offered by Mary Miniter or of the blood stained man offered by Kelly the night clerk at the Glenmore Hotel.
Taken into custody, La Bruckman was questioned by the New Jersey police while New York was informed of the arrest. La Bruckman stated that he had been employed for the last fourteen years on cattle boats which ran between New York and Liverpool and that he had returned to New York from his last crossing on 10 April. He said that he had then found lodgings at 81 James Street, only blocks from the East River Hotel. He freely admitted that he was "Frenchy No.2" or at least that he thought that "he must be the man that Inspector Byrnes has been looking for, " but he expressed surprise that he had achieved notoriety in the newspapers. He hadn't been in hiding, he said, didn't know that he was wanted by the police and even offered to go back to New York for questioning without the need of a requisition. He also stated that he had been arrested and held in London for being suspected of being Jack the Ripper. Hopefully the New Jersey detectives weren't drinking any liquids when this little tit-bit of information was casually offered!
Telling a tale that seemed to change almost hourly La Bruckman told the Jersey police that he had been arrested by Scotland Yard and charged with being Jack the Ripper after one of his trips across to London. He was closely questioned for two weeks, he claimed, but as sufficient evidence could not be found to hold him he was released.
Did the New York Police already know this information? If it was the New Jersey reader of the World who had informed the NYPD about La Bruckman, then this was indeed likely. The World reported "There is a man named `Frenchy' who answers the description of Frenchy No.2 and who was arrested in London about a year and a half ago in connection with the Whitechapel murders ... When he was arrested on suspicion that he was 'Jack the Ripper' he knocked down the officer who tackled him and made things very lively for half a dozen men before they got him under control. '61 This would explain the report that `In the new clew Inspector Byrnes has been working upon for the past two days many dispatches have crossed the Atlantic cables. "62
If this was true, whatever Byrnes might have learned from Scotland Yard was apparently insufficient to warrant further interest, especially when La Bruckman was able to add one more crucial bit of information to the police: he had an alibi for the night of the murder.
When asked, probably first by the New Jersey detectives, where he was on the late night, early morning of the 23/24 of April he replied that he was in his lodging house in New Jersey. People there could vouch for this, and in fact it seems that more than one person did. It is likely that this information was also passed to New York and this might explain why only one New York officer arrived later that afternoon in order to interview the suspect.
New York detectives were supposedly unable to travel to New Jersey earlier as they had taken Ameer Ben Ali to the Queens County jail that morning because, as one paper claimed, "Frenchy Not" had been a prisoner there recently. This makes little sense and in fact this information seems to have been given in a deliberate attempt to throw off the press. We know that Queens County Sheriff Goldner had contacted Inspector Byrnes and told him that he believed that Ameer Ben All had recently been imprisoned in the Queens County jail charged with vagrancy under the name George Frank. Frank had been released on the 11th of April.
On the surface it looks as if Ben All, supposedly only a material witness, was being taken to Queens County in order to see if he really was Frank. Why this might be important is unclear but we do know that two prisoners, David Galloway and Edward Smith, incarcerated in the Queens County jail soon stepped foreword to state that Ben All had with him in prison a knife like the one that was used to murder "Shakespeare." At this point in the investigation into the murder of Carrie Brown we know that police focus had turned to the framing of Ben All and so it is probable that this knife evidence was the real reason that he was taken out to Queens. This theory is strengthened by the fact that after the detectives had been to the Queens jail they travelled next to Newtown, Long Island where they had a long discussion with Justice Scheper. It had been in Newtown that Ben Ali/Frank had been arrested on the vagrancy charge.
It is interesting to note that in an interview with Chief Inspector Byrnes two days later that Byrnes claimed that his men had not been able, so far, to link Ben All with the knife. The knife was one of "two important links missing in the chain of evidence "63 The trip to Queens only makes sense of if it was in regards to the knife and Ben All's possible connection to it so Byrnes was apparently keeping the truth from the reporters while playing up the importance of the ownership of the knife. He would then be able to show how his diligent detectives had been able to run down this important missing link.64
It wasn't until 3:00 pm that Detective Sergeant George McClusky finally arrived in New Jersey to interview La Bruckman.
McClusky, nicknamed by other officers "Chesty George" because they claimed that he was always puffing out his chest due to the inflated opinion he had of himself, was a Byrnes protege and a man who would go far in the New York police. When the Titanic survivors arrived in New York it was "Chesty George," now an Inspector, who was put in charge at the pier to handle the huge crush of spectators, mourners and well wishers.
McClusky had a short talk with the Jersey detectives then a short interview with the prisoner. Perhaps because of the fact that he had an alibi, which apparently had been checked and corroborated, or perhaps because he didn't match the description of the wanted man, or perhaps because McClusky told the Jersey police that Inspector Bymes was not interested in "Frenchy No.2" anymore, the New York Detective Sergeant told New Jersey PD to release La Bruckman, something that the stunned New Jersey cops at first refused to do. After further consultation with New York they finally did so. It is as surprising to researchers as it was to the New Jersey police that Arbie La Bruckman was simply turned loose without being brought back to New York for questioning. Many men had been dragged down to Oak Street with much more tenuous connections to the murder and La Bruckman had once been described as a prime suspect. At the very least, Mary Miniter should have been taken to Jersey to view him, but wasn't. The probable reason, which would become evident in less than twenty-four hours, seems to be that the New York police had already decided to frame Ameer Ben Ali and were actively working to do so.
It would seem that La Bruckman's place in the investigation was not as central as some believe. Chief Inspector Byrnes might, therefore, have been telling the truth when he told reporters that "Frenchy No.2" was only a suspect, (a person of interest), with no real evidence against him other than that he was a man of bad repute who had been seen drinking with "Shakespeare" earlier on the night that she was killed. Combined with his alibi, and the fact that he didn't match the description of the wanted man, this could explain why he was so quickly and easily cast aside as a suspect.
THURSDAY 30 APRIL, 1891
"HE HAS THE MAN" 65
THE BODY OF Carrie Brown left New York on the 9.00am train and was returned to Salem, Massachusetts for burial by her family.
Captain Richard O'Connor of the Oak Street Station told reporters that morning that the murderer was still at large but that he had been located and would very soon be in custody. It was soon learned that O'Connor was attempting to misdirect the press and that the man actually was in custody and had been so since the first day of the investigation.
"Circumstantial facts related. .. by Inspector Byrnes point very strongly to George Frank otherwise known as Francois or 'Frenchy No. 1, 'as the murderer of Carrie Brown... 66
The story had been "leaked," reportedly from the someone in the New York Health Department, but probably by Byrnes although he denied it, that a trail of blood was discovered on Friday the 24th, the first day of the investigation. This trail of blood led from the murder room, room No. 31, across the hall to room No. 33 where Ameer Ben All had supposedly spent the night.
This blood evidence was said to have been found on both sides of the door to room No.33, on a chair in the room, on the bed and the bedding and traces had been found, it was claimed, on Ben Ali's clothing as well as under his finger nails. Newspapers reported that Dr. Cyrus Edson of the Board of Health had done scientific analysis of the blood and said that it was human, although it was impossible in 1891 for any scientist to make this claim. It was also a bit of a shock to the many reporters who had trudged all over the East River Hotel and had seen no trail of blood and no blood in room No.33.
No matter, especially since Ben All's character also came into play as evidence against him. He was depicted as a dangerous and viscous molester of women who had constantly lied to the police as to his movements on the night of the murder and who had even been heard to threaten the murdered woman with death on at least one occasion. He was described by the police as a professional beggar who had evidently "learned his tricks" in both Liverpool and London. The implication of a London connection was clear.
Ben All, however, was not "C. Kniclo," the man who had entered the hotel with "Shakespeare," reporters were now told that this man had no connection with the murder and had indeed left the hotel "before or about midnight" and that Brown was killed after he had left. How they knew this was not specified, as he had never been found or interviewed and it had been established that no one other than Mary Miniter had ever seen the man and no one had seen him leave the hotel. It was also established that "C. Kniclo" was not "Frenchy No.2" as he had an alibi on the night of the murder.
A new scenario was offered to the police reporters - one in which a totally innocent "C. Kniclo" had taken "Shakespeare" up to the room but had left around midnight. Ameer Ben Ali, who had stayed in room No.33, then entered Brown's room and had murdered her, probably for whatever money she might have had.
This was the incredibly sparse circumstantial case offered in order to prove the guilt of Ameer Ben Ali.
It had been expected that Coroner Schultze would immediately that same afternoon convene the inquest into the death of Brown but at the request of Chief Inspector Byrnes, and on a motion of Deputy Assistant District Attorney Lindsay, the Coroner agreed to postpone the proceedings until the 11th of May. This would give the police time to firm up the case against the Algerian.
Ben All was taken to the Court of General Session late that afternoon in order to appear before Judge Martine. He was provided with pro bono counsel from the firm of Levy, Friend, and House who advised him to plead innocent of the charge against him. Judge Martine then committed him into the care of Inspector Byrnes and was taken back to Police Headquarters on Mulberry Street in the custody of Captain McLaughlin.
The investigation into the murder of Carrie Brown was over.
FRIDAY 1 MAY, 1891
"There are two facts equally well established. One is that Inspector Byrnes declared long ago that if any such offense as that of "Jack the Ripper" should be committed in New York he would capture the man in twenty-four hours and that, had he been in London, he would have got "Jack the Ripper" the first time. That is one fact. The other fact is that Inspector Byrnes now denies that he said these things which he did say. The facts do not agree with on another, which only shows that Inspector Byrnes occasionally disagrees with himself His apparent intention of placing the criminal at the corner of Broadway and Fourteenth street and of fanning him with a club all the way to the Battery has not been carried out. He has, however, arrested a man on suspicion and made out an argumentative case against him - in the newspapers. "
- The Brooklyn Eagle, 1 May, 1891. Not everyone - especially the press - was convinced that the case had been solved. Ameer Ben All had been transferred to the "Tombs," (the Hall of Justice jail and court complex which had been built to resemble an ancient Egyptian mausoleum), and placed into cell No.36. His counsel was confident that "there is no evidence upon which any twelve men who could be brought together would convict him. He is innocent of the charge and there will be no difficulty in proving him so. "67 Their confidence would be misplaced.
A man named Charles Holland, a piano tuner aged 40, was arrested in the village of Jamaica, Long Island, by Constable Ashmead because he resembled the description of the murderer of Carrie Brown. Holland was locked up in the town hall when it was found that he carried on his person two blood stained handkerchiefs. He freely admitted that he was in New York on the night of the murder but said that he had lodged in the Bowery. Inspector Byrnes was notified of the arrest but nothing came of it.
An 18 year old girl named Gertie Hopkins was arrested on Lee Avenue by Detectives Campbell and Corcoran and charged with grand larceny. She had stolen four dozen silk vests from her landlady, Mrs. Swartze of 363 Wythe Avenue. Hopkins expressed some outrage that the detectives had the effrontery to arrest her stating "I thought the detectives were all hunting after 'Jack the Ripper' and would not bother me. "
A masher accused of annoying and insulting women on the streets of Harlem, New York, was finally arrested. He had become known in the district as "Jack the Peeper."
Carrie Brown's body was buried in the family plot in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem. No ceremony was performed and few people were present.
1. In 1894, during the Lexow Committees look into police and city corruption, Captain Timothy Creedon was forced to admit that he had paid $15,000 for his captaincy.
2. Luc Sante, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York (Farrar, Straus, Giroux. 1991).
3. Clint Willis, editor, Crimes of New York (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003).
4. Lardner, James, and Reppetto, Thomas, NYPD A City and its Police (Henry Holt and Company, 2000).
5. Jacob Riis, The Making of an American (Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 1901).
6. Steffens, Lincoln. The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens (Harcourt Brace, 1931).
7. Riis, op. cit.
8. Lawson, W. B., Jack the Ripper in New York (Log Cabin Library for Street and Smith publishers. May 21,1891).
9. Lardner and Reppetto.
10. The London Sun, 4 October 1888.
11. Edward M. Borchard, Convicting the Innocent (Garden City Publishers, 1932).
12. The New York Sun, 10 November, 1888.
13. The New York Times, 9 September, 1888.
14. The New York Tribune, l l November, 1888.
15. The New York Times, July 21st, 1889.
16. The Brooklyn Eagle, 25 April, 1891,
18. The New York World, 25 April, 1891.
20. The New York Times, 24 April, 1891.
21. The New York World, op cit.
22. The New York Times, op cit.
23. The New York Times, 25 April, 1891,
24. The New York World, op cit.
25. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
26. The New York Times, 26 April, 1891.
30. See Conlon, Michael, "The Carrie Brown Murder Case: New Revelations" (Ripperologist No. 46, May 2003), for copies of these photographs.
31. See Vanderlinden, Wolf, "The New York Affair Part I," (Ripper Notes No. 16, April/July 2003), for an in depth summary of the autopsy results.
32. The Brooklyn Eagle. 26 April, 1891.
33. The New York Times, op cit.
34. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
35. Parts of this story, especially any mention of her being left a fortune, are contradicted by information offered by sources in Salem itself. It seems likely that Brown was left no money and that she was forced to become a domestic servant in order to make ends meet. Family members had sent her to New York in order for her to take "the cure" for alcoholism.
36. See Conlon, Ripperologist No. 46, May 2003.
37. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
38. The New York Times, op cit.
39. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
41. The New York Times, 27 April, 1891.
43. The New York Times, 26 April, 1891.
44. The New York Times, 27 April, 1891. This sentence actually states that `Many were inclined to believe that he did not have the man This is clearly an error as the rest of the sentence does not make sense if the word "not" is included. 45. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
47. The New York Times; op cit.
48. The New York Herald, 27 April, 1891.
49. The New York World, 30 April, 1891,
50. The Brooklyn Eagle 1 May, 1891.
51. The Brooklyn Eagle 30 April, 1891.
52. The New York Times, op cit.
53. The Brooklyn Eagle, 27 April, 1891,
54. The New York Times, 28 April, 1891,
55. The Brooklyn Eagle, op cit.
56. The New York Times, 29 April, 1891.
57. The New York Times, 28 April, 1891.
58. The Brooklyn Eagle, 28 April, 1891.
59. The New York World, op cit.
62. The Brooklyn Eagle, 29 April, 1891.
63. The Brooklyn Eagle, 1 May, 1891.
64. In the end it was proved at the trial that the two prisoners, Galloway and Smith, had lied about the knife and any connection it had to the Algerian.
65. Headline. The Brooklyn Eagle, 30 April, 1891.
66. The New York Times, 1 May, 1891.
67. The Brooklyn Eagle, 2 May, 1891.