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Port Philip Herald

22 November 1890


Mr Albert Backert, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, has written the following letter to the Chronicle:

"In connection with the late Whitechapel murders, the most remarkable and sensational statement was made to me this morning at my place. At eleven o'clock this morning a very respectable middle-aged woman called at my house, and wished to see me. She was asked in, and then made the following statement to me, which she declared was all quite true:

About two years ago, she said, she was living in the model dwellings close by here and had a bedroom to let, furnished. A young man called and engaged the room. After living some time with her he stated that he had been to sea, and that at the present time he was receiving 1 a week from his father, and was also receiving an allowance from his brother, who was a doctor, and that he did not work himself. She also noticed that he had plenty of clothes, including hunting breeches, revolvers, guns, and many other articles, which an ordinary working man would not have. He had the door key, and could go out and in at all hours of the night, and used generally to get up about 5 p.m., but she could not say what time he arrived home at night. On several occasions she noticed that his towels were very bloodstained, for which he accounted by saying that he was fond of painting, and had wiped his brush on them. She also stated that she knew he had sent the liver, because one afternoon she happened to go to his room, and saw him with several pieces of liver on a newspaper, which he stated he had got from a New Zealand boat, as he knew a friend who was on board a frozen mutton boat. She saw him pack it in the box and address it to the then Chairman of the Vigilance Committee. He also put some papers into different envelopes, which he intended sending to the Central News and the Press Association, and the police, but he forgot them, and she threw them into the dustbin. She noticed also that he had several brass wedding rings on the mantel shelf, and on one or two occasions he brought home a white apron blood stained, and gave them to her, which she has at the present time. He always seemed to have plenty of money, and on the morning of the last murder (the Castle Alley) he left and has never returned. He left a pair of silent shoes, several bags, which she says are blood stained, and a long overcoat, which is also blood stained. I asked her if she had been to the police, and she said she had not, as she was afraid of getting into trouble for not having given information before. She said she could hold the secret no longer, and also feels convinced that the man she had lodging with her was the real "Jack the Ripper" and Whitechapel murderer. I feel sure that she was in earnest about this statement and she appeared very nervous, and did not wish her name to be published. I have no doubt that the police will make inquiries into the statement at once, and I directed her to go to Leman street to give all particulars. I may add that there was another person present when this statement was made this morning."




"The People", a London Conservative paper, has the following remarkable statement regarding the supposed perpetration of the Whitechapel murders in the issue of 12th October last:-

"A number of curious and interesting details have transpired with regard to the story of a woman who, in an interview with Mr. Blackert (sic), chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, declared that she knew the man who committed the late mysterious murders. The letter sent by Mr. Blackert to the press for publication is quoted below, and the statement therein contained are of an extraordinary character. A reporter, in the course of inquiries yesterday, however, ascertained some important facts. The police have for the past fortnight been exceedingly vigilant, and owing to the recurrence of the threatening letters various extra precautions have been taken in order to detect the offender should another murder be attempted. Though the authorities have protested against attaching any importance to the strange communications, the latter have produced much sensation in the East-end, and are one of the causes which have led to the extraordinary statement of the woman. Her story, the chief fact of which she has endeavored to keep secret, is a very strange one. Much difficulty was experienced in obtaining it, the chief reason being that she is hiding her identity, as she does not wish to be mixed up in the affair, and declares that she is afraid the man she suspects will do her bodily injury. So careful has she been that the police had not up to yesterday afternoon, succeeded in finding her, or obtaining the following details of her statement. It appears that while living on the top floor of a block of model dwellings in the neighborhood of Aldgate, a man engaged on the floor below a bed-room, with lumber-room adjoining, and paid her to keep the former clean, her occupation being that of an office cleaner. The lumber-room, which maintained a sink, was always kept locked , and although she did a portion of his washing, it was evident he did much of it himself. She describes him as young, of middle height, well-built, with a small, fair moustache and light brown hair, although she had frequently remarked that he had means by which he made his moustache and eyebrows much darker on some occasions than others. His movements during the time the murders were occurring were very mysterious. He had not the appearance of a working man and admitted that his parents, although in a good position, would have nothing to do with him, as he had been a scapegrace. His brother, who she understood was a doctor, visited him on two occasions and appeared much older than he. She has no doubt the man she suspects is English, but he spoke with a nasal twang, evidently affected, and used the word "Boss" very frequently in conversation. He usually rose at two in the afternoon, and would go out about five o'clock, invariably wearing a tall hat and dressed very respectably, but as he had a large number of suits of clothes, he often dressed differently, or as she puts it: "He was a man who could so alter his appearance that if you met him in the street once you would not know him again." His clothes were mostly of the best quality, and included dress, shooting and morning suits. On one occasion he gave the woman a dark-coloured overcoat to sell, and she offered it to the wife of a working man. The latter, however, pointed out that it was so stained with blood that she would not let her husband wear it. The patches, which were of a dull brown, were thought by the woman to be paint, but when she returned it to the mysterious lodger with an intimation that she could not sell it because of the blood, he laughed lightly, saying the stains were nothing. Nevertheless he burnt the coat, for she subsequently discovered the remains, together with the horn buttons, in the grate. As the murders were committed, her suspicions were increased, but she did not communicate them to anyone until the day following the discovery of the body in Pinchin street. She went to clean the bedroom as usual, when she found upon the three mats footmarks of blood, and upon one a large clot of the same substance. She then spoke of her suspicions to an official connected with the model dwellings but he evidently believing that an arrest would bring the buildings into disrepute, advised her to say nothing of the matter. As time went on, and the murders continued, she saw in his room many articles which were blood stained, although he never would allow her to enter the room alone, but remained with her while she performed her work. The lumber-room she never entered, for he kept the key, and on occasion when she wished to enter it for various purposes he always told her to go upstairs to her own apartments. With regard to the "Jack the Ripper" post-cards, the man always wrote his letters in red ink, of which he had a large bottle on the mantel-shelf. Upon the same shelf, too, she first noticed one brass wedding ring, but the number was afterwards increased until there were five, and these he left when he suddenly disappeared. On one occasion she found a piece of dirty rag screwed up and concealed behind a chest of drawers. This she discovered to be a portion apparently from a woman's print apron, and on taking it upstairs she saw it was blood stained. She washed it, and has it still in her possession. The pattern of the apron may form an important clue. The most remarkable fact, however, is that on the night of each of the murders he was absent, returning at early morning. On the morning of the Castle Alley murder he disappeared, having previously sold the whole of his belongings.


A representative of the "People" who visited Whitechapel last night succeeded in obtaining some additional particulars which add considerably to the sensational character of the woman's story. She states that several times during the period the man lived in the model dwellings she informed her husband of her suspicions, but until the discovery of the blood upon the mats, he treated the matter indifferently. Afterwards, however, he urged her to make a statement to the police, but the reason she refused was owing to the representations made to her by the official connected with the buildings. The strange man she describes an accomplished linguist and able to speak French and German fluently as she frequently heard him in conversation with some foreigners who lived on the same floor. His general demeanor was sullen and uncommunicative, although at times he would speak freely of his relations, who, according to his account, were in good positions, one brother, the doctor who visited him, residing in the neighborhood of Oxford street. He also told her he had travelled for several years in the United States and Canada, and that the refusal of his relations to recognise him preyed upon his mind. One incident she relates is particularly gruesome. His favorite dish was sheep's liver, which he usually ate several times a week, and on entering his room on one occasion he had a quantity of it upon the table. He offered her some, which she accepted. She cooked it for dinner for herself and her husband, but after they had both eaten a small quantity the latter remarked upon its unusual color. They agreed that it tasted peculiar, and subsequently she threw it away. Later the same day she again went into the man's room, and it was then she observed him packing up a portion of the liver, and addressing it to the Chairman of the Vigilance Committee. Her horror when it was afterwards stated that the packet the committee received contained a portion of human viscera, may readily be imagined. Upon another occasion she found secreted in the room a colored linen shirt, the cuffs and sleeves of which were still wet with blood. She did not remove it, but on the next day, when entering the room, she observed that the shirt, which had been washed, was hanging upon a chair and drying before the fire. She also states that the man was in the habit if spending his evenings at the Tuns (?), at Aldgate, and was well known among the regular customers at that house. He usually sat in the private bar, and on many occasions she saw him carrying beer in cans up to his room. Another fact that increased her suspicions was that immediately after one of the murders he locked up his rooms and remained away for about two months, during which period no crimes of this particular character were reported in the vicinity. When he returned, he remarked that he had been living in the West End, but was glad to return to his old lodgings, as in the West people kept such a strict watch over a persons's movements, when in the East he was not subjected to that annoyance. Three nights afterwards another murder was perpetrated with the same daring, and enshrouded in the same mystery as its predecessors. So convinced was she that he was the Whitechapel murderer, and so frequently did she observe blood in his room that she gradually grew to regard him with awe, and this, in a great measure accounts for her previous silence. Throughout the whole period his conduct was so strange that it could scarcely fail to awaken suspicion, and this, together with the licked room, and the mysterious boxes which he admitted contained things he could not allow to be seen even if it cost him his life, were circumstances which caused both husband and wife much conjecture. There was little doubt, too, that he sent communications to the Press Association and Central News, for she declares that she once saw either envelopes or postcards addressed to them, although she believes that those she saw were subsequently destroyed. After he had disappeared so mysteriously prior to the Castle Alley murder, he sent her a letter which she received on the following day, stating that he had met with an accident, and that she need not expect him home. It was eventually discovered, however, that before his departure he had sold all his belongings - including many suits of clothes and several revolvers - to a ship's mate, who, a few days later, called and took them away. After the lapse of a few weeks, the woman and her husband removed from the model dwellings to the house in which they now reside, and as the sensation caused by the mysterious crimes died out of the public mind, so the suspicion seems to have died out of her's until three days ago. On Wednesday evening she was walking in Commercial road, when, to her astonishment, she recognised the man, standing on the kerb in conversation with a well known tradesman of the district, whose name she declines to divulge, but who, she has ascertained, is a friend of his. The fact of the recent "Jack the Ripper" letters, coupled with his sudden reappearance, again aroused her suspicions and she subsequently discovered his abode, also that during his absence from the East End he has married. She has seen his wife, and had entered into conversation with her. The latter she describes as a rather pretty young woman of about twenty five, but whose face wears a strange look. and by whose manner she same to the conclusion that it was slightly deranged. The woman has not the slightest doubt as to the sanity of the man. She firmly adheres to her statement, and, according to the person who was present when she told her story to Mr. Backert, she declares herself unable to keep the secret any longer. Although she is endeavoring to avoid being interrogated by the police, there is reason to believe that the latter are already making most diligent inquiries into the truth of the statement and endeavoring to discover the individual she refers to. It is known that he lives near Aldgate Station.

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