25 October 1888
Practical joking is the favourite amusement of persons of a certain type, whose notions of fun are not to be envied. As a general rule, the practical joker is an individual altogether beneath contempt, and only deserving of notice for the purpose of being punished. Nothing is too sacred for him to perpetrate his pleasantries upon, nor is any person safe from his senseless attacks. If he produces sufficient fright in his victims to do them some deadly injury in body or mind, he is only the more pleased with the crowning success of his strategy, unless he drops into the hands of the law. That alters the case.
An incident of this kind has just occurred at Kilkeel, county Down, where a young lady has died of fright brought on by some scoundrel flourishing a knife in her face when she was walking with some lady friends on an evening, and exclaiming "I am Jack the Ripper." That there should be any brute capable of such cowardly conduct to unprotected women is a reproach to humanity; but that he should be allowed to go unpunished would fill all right-minded people with indignation. It is to be hoped that the police have him in safe custody, and that the local magistrate will deal with him as he deserves.
THE RITTER TRIAL.
On October 16, we published a summary of two letters on the Ritter trial, one from Dr. Josef S. Bloch, member of the Austrian Parliament, and the other, also from Vienna, from a "Lawyer of Twenty Years' Standing." Dr. Bloch denied and the other correspondent affirmed the existence among the low-class Jews of Galicia of a superstition such as would account for the mutilations of the body of the woman for whose murder the Ritters were tried, and, it has been suggested, for the mutilations in the case of the Whitechapel murders. Dr. Adolf Stein, of Vienna, who acted as counsel for Ritter and his wife, now writes strongly corroborating Dr. Bloch's view of the case, and adding that, though the superstitions of thieves were mentioned at the trial, it was never asserted that the superstitution (sic) was Jewish. Dr. Gotthelf Carl Mayer also writes from Vienna to the same effect, and states that the superstition in question was never proved at the trial as existing among the low-class Jews of Galicia, and that the Ritters were finally acquitted by the Supreme Tribunal on the merits of the case, and not because the only witness against them had died in prison.
SUICIDE CAUSED BY DREAMS OF "JACK THE RIPPER."
During the three days of the week following the Sunday on which the two murders were committed the following petition to the Queen was freely circulated among the women of the labouring classes of East London through some of the religious agencies and educations centres:
"To our Most Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria.
"Madam-We, the women of East London, feel horror at the dreadful sings that have been lately committed in our midst and grief because of the shame that has fallen on our neighbourhood.
"By the facts which have come out in the inquests, we have learnt much of the lives of those of our sisters who have lost a firm hold on goodness and who are living sad and degraded lives.
"While each woman of us will do all she can to make men feel with horror the sins of impurity which cause such wicked lives to be led, we would also beg that your Majesty will call on your servants in authority and bid them put the law which already exists in motion to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done and men and women are ruined in body and soul.
"We are, Madam, your loyal and humble servants."
The petition, which received between 4,000 and 5,000 signatures, was presented in due form and the following reply has been received:
"Madam-I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that he has had the honour to lay before the Queen the petition of women inhabitants of Whitechapel praying that steps may be taken with a view to suppress the moral disorders in that neighbourhood, and that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive the same.
"I am to add that the Secretary of State looks with hope to the influence for good that the petitioners can exercise, each in her own neighbourhood, and he is in communication with the Commissioners of Police with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners and to mitigate the evils of which they complain.
"I am, Madam, your obedient servant,
"Mrs. Barnett, St. Jude's Vicarage, Commercial-street, E."