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    Casebook: Jack the Ripper - Forums > Ripper Discussions > Suspects > Railway Policeman?

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    JMenges6th December 2006, 07:07 AM

    Many may already be aware of the following article by Bernard Brown, but in light of recent discussions I post it below in full.

    From the excellent British Transport Police ( n.htm) website
    If your interested in reading the old board discussion ( from 2003, it contains some useful information and opinions. This theory also appears in Morley's Suspect Guide (

    Was Jack the Ripper a Railway Policeman?

    By Bernard BROWN

    In spite of the multitude of suspects put up as the Ripper no one has ever put forward a suitable explanation as to just how the murderer managed to avoid not only the many police patrols but the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee with impunity, or, as The Times was later to comment: "free from any fear of interruption while on his dreadful work"
    The one common denominator associated with all the murder scenes, hitherto overlooked, is the fact that they all occurred in the vicinity of a railway line, in particular an underground station.

    The possibility that "Jack" may have been a policeman has already been suggested by others, but has generally been discounted. The main flaw is the fact that a Metropolitan policeman could not have entered the murder scene at Mitre Square, within the City of London police jurisdiction, without being identified as such due to his distinctive uniform. Despite these obstacles, I actually go along with the policeman Ripper theory - only I intend to prove that the suspect was not far from either force but was, I submit a member of the Railway Police. I hope to reveal how the Ripper could come and go at will, completely undetected.

    On Boxing Day 1887 the first of the Ripper's alleged victims was found off Commercial Road. Known only as "Fairy Kay", scant details exist. The murder scene however, lay a stone's throw from the District Railway Station at Aldgate East, which had only been opened in October 1884. The following year in August 1888, another murder occurred in the vicinity of Aldgate East Station when the body of Martha TABRAM - often referred to as the forgotten victim - was found in George Yard, now Gunthorpe Street, Spitalfields. Considered to be the first "official" Ripper victim, Polly NICHOLLS was found mutilated behind Whitechapel Underground Station in Bucks Row, (which has since been renamed Durward Street) on 31st August 1888.

    Detective Inspector John SPRATLEY and Detective Sergeant George GODLEY of "J" Division (Bethnal Green) reported that a search was made of the East London and District Railway station and embankments. However, this cannot have been accurate because the entire system lay in tunnels below the surface.

    "J" Division, normally associated with rural Essex, had only been formed two years earlier in July 1886, Bethnal Green having formally been part of "K" Division (Stepney). News of the murder was communicated to Scotland Yard by telegraph from "J" Division, having been so equipped since 1872 using the station code "BG", though it is now known as "JD" the divisional HQ.

    The first Whitechapel Railway Station was opened below ground in April 1876 by the East London Railway. The Metropolitan District Railway arrived in 1884, calling their station Whitechapel and Mile End. Both the Metropolitan, which was formed in 1868, and the District Railway, formed in 1868, had their own police constables who were almost indistinguishable from the Metropolitan Police apart from the railway company arms on their buttons and helmet plates. To add to the confusion the Great Eastern Railway (GER), South Eastern Railway (SER) and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) all ran through trains via Whitechapel, thereby necessitating yet more railway policeman in the vicinity. The GER Police also patrolled Whitechapel Goods Yard, renamed Spitalfields in 1881, which was just north of the underground.

    The Dock Companies also employed their own uniformed police, many of whom lived in the Whitechapel district, such as the Joint London Police and the St Katherine Docks Police, which were all amalgamated in 1864. All men from these forces could wander across Metropolitan and City Police borders without arousing any suspicion whatsoever.

    It must be remembered that underground railways were steam operated at that time, and although the locomotives were fitted with condensers, gratings and grilles - "blow-holes", beneath the roadway allowed not only the sulphurous fumes to escape, but also the Ripper access to the tunnels without actually going to a public railway station. He could therefore vanish in the swirling fog and steam, virtually invisible.

    Annie CHAPMAN's body was found at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, on 8th September 1888. This, like the previous murders, was in "H" Division, or Whitechapel. Commercial Street Police Station had been opened in March 1876, replacing the station at Church Street, Shoreditch, and adopting the telegraphic code "CS" A communication was at once sent to Scotland Yard. A short distance along Brick Lane lay Shoreditch Underground Station where our Railway policeman could descend to the safety of the subterranean depths.

    It has been suggested that CHAPMAN had perhaps been killed for her organs. Unfortunately this theory was at least 70 years out of date as, after the Anatomy Act of 1832, police were no longer to be stationed at burial grounds armed with cutlasses against resurrectionists. (this duty was the origin of the term "Graveyard Shift")

    Later that month, on 27th September 1888, the infamous "Dear Boss" letter was received at the Central News Agency. It contained a vital clue as to the Ripper's identity. However, it was misinterpreted for over a century, and a valuable clue was lost forever. I quote the first four lines:

    Dear Boss
    I keep hearing the Police have caught me, but they won't fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track.

    The latter phase was a teasing reference to the railway.

    Yes, he was indeed on the right track - below ground!

    In September 1888 the Illustrated Police News unwittingly published a cartoon showing the Ripper descending the Tower Subway without realising its significance, This subway ran beneath the Thames from Tower Hill and is still in situ today. Strange as it may seem, it would have been possible for the Ripper to have taken this route. The southern exit of the subway came out above Pickle Herring Stairs, Bermondsey, which leads to the large railway terminus at London Bridge. Here Jack could blend in unnoticed amongst the SER and LB&SC Railway Police and from here he could return to Whitechapel via New Cross.

    Yet further clues were contained in another letter received by police bearing a Liverpool postmark dated 29th September 1888, but these were not identified as such. It read:
    Beware I shall be at work on the first and second in the Minories at 12 midnight and I give the authorities a good chance, but there is never a policeman near when I am at work.

    What the Ripper was referring to in his last remark was the fact that all the murders had been committed in the vicinity of a fixed point where a PC would normally be stationed up to 1 a.m. he was indirectly telling Commissioner WARREN that if only the points had been manned then he would have stood some chance of being caught.

    Charles Dickens's Encyclopędia of London for 1888/1889 lists all the fixed points in the East End. Martha TABRAM had been found only yards away from a fixed point at Commercial Street at the junction with Thrawl Street, while a fixed point existed outside Whitechapel Station just the other side of the railway line where Polly NICHOLLS was found. Annie CHAPMAN was found a few yards away from another fixed point in Hanbury Street, at the junction with Deal Street, Mile End New Town.

    The "double event" took place early on 30th September. At 1 a.m. Elizabeth STRIDE's body was found in Dutfield's Yard, Berner Street (now Henriques Street), once again just minutes away from a fixed point in Commercial Road, at the junction with Christian Street. Looking at the present day map, it would appear that the murder scene is some distance from the nearest underground station. However, there was at that time a Metropolitan District Railway Station situated on the south side of Whitechapel Road known as St. Mary's. It wasn't closed until 1938. By travelling north along the courts and alleys the Ripper could easily have made good his escape below ground. Less than one hour later Catherine EDDOWES body was found in Mitre Square. This was a change of pattern, as it lay within the City Police area. Just a few minutes away was Aldgate Station, which explains how Jack arrived undetected underground at Mitre Square from St. Mary's Station.

    At 2.55 a.m. PC Alfred LONG of "A" Division (Whitehall) found the much-publicised graffiti daubed on the wall at Wentworth Buildings in Goulston Street. Conveniently at the end of this thoroughfare lay the old Aldgate East Station - the perfect escape route. The present station at the corner of Commercial Street opened in 1838. The inscription read
    "The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing."

    No one can really agree as to the exact spelling of "Juwes" especially PC LONG, who was later dismissed for drunkenness, and was quite unreliable. It has been suggested that one reason Commissioner WARREN ordered the writing to be removed, despite protests from the City hierarchy, was that "Juwes" meant Jews, and that he had no wish for anti-Semitic feelings to be aroused. There were so many Jews in the district that the Underground Railway put up notices in Yiddish. It has even been put forward that it was not written by the Ripper at all but by a bored Policeman!

    This is yet another theory I go along with, only I do not believe that the words read "Juwes" but "Jayes." This, I suggest, refers to the PCs from "J" Division who were also patrolling the Whitechapel Division. It also refers to the unsolved murder of Polly NICHOLLS at Whitechapel the previous month, for which the police had been ridiculed for not apprehending the perpetrator.

    After the "double event" Jack is believed to have lain low. However, on 3rd October the limbless and headless torso of a woman was found on the site of none other than the intended New Scotland Yard. What better way to snub the Commissioner of Police than to deposit a body at the very heart of the Metropolitan Police itself, a murder which, despite newspaper speculation was not attributed to the Ripper?

    The site would have been well protected by local "A" Division men from King Street Police Station, due to Fenian attacks such as that at Old Scotland Yard in 1884. In addition, there was a fixed point at Bridge Street, outside Westminster Underground Station with a clear view of the site, but no one observed anything untoward.

    So how did Jack execute a difficult climb complete with the body? The answer is that he didn't. It is too much of a coincidence that beneath New Scotland Yard ran the District railway which since 1884 had run direct to Whitechapel?

    On 9th November Mary Jane KELLY, the last "official" victim, was found mutilated beyond recognition at her lodgings in Millers Court, Dorset Street, Spitalfields. Once again this was just yards from a fixed point outside Spitalfields Church. This murder was the first to occur west of Commercial Street - Mitre Square excepted. The reason for this was that the North Metropolitan Tramway Company had been laying new tramlines along the whole of Commercial Street, night and day, so that horse-drawn traffic would be diverted down Wentworth, Thrawl, Flower and Dean, Fashion, Church and Hanbury Streets to Brick Lane, thereby avoiding the construction works and the Haymarket, which made the area far too busy and dangerous to try anything.

    Additionally the prostitutes from those streets were kept busy by the clientele from the many navvies employed upon the tramway.

    The works also posed a problem for the Ripper as to which escape route to use. His normal routes - north to Shoreditch Station or south to Aldgate East - were too risky. His only alternative was to travel west into the City Force area before the alarm was raised. Here he could escape below at Bishopsgate Metropolitan Underground Station, which lay beneath the new Liverpool Street terminus. All this activity probably accounted for the Ripper going as far afield as Berner Street and Mitre Square.

    KELLY's body was taken to the Shoreditch parish Mortuary. Much speculation has been made of this action, with suggestions of a cover up or conspiracy and described by one writer as an "unprecedented deviation!" it may have been irregular but it was certainly not unprecedented. In August 1830 PC John LONG of the Finsbury Division became the second Metropolitan policeman to be murdered on duty. The inquest was held in St. John's Parish, Clerkenwell, whereas the murder had taken place in St. Pancras. Uproar occurred then as at KELLY's inquest, and that was entirely over the unnecessary expense burdened on the parish when it was not within their jurisdiction. So it was money after all, and nothing more than that. No cover up, no conspiracy; yet another theory has been laid to rest.

    The Commercial Street tramway finally opened on 15th November 1888 with a service of chocolate liveried cars between Bloomsbury and Poplar. By a strange coincidence it was at Poplar High Street on 20th December 1888 that the body of Rose MYLETT was found in Clarke's Yard. This was indeed some distance from the Ripper's normal haunt, and yet again it was within sight of a "K" Division fixed point at the junction of East and West India Dock Roads. Was it a coincidence that the new Limehouse Police Station which was opened in April 1889 was under construction? Could it have been that the Ripper's intention was to dump MYLETT's body in the grounds as yet another defiant gesture, just as he had done at the New Scotland Yard site? Who can reason with the mind of a madman?

    It was also some distance from any Underground Railway. However, the scene was only a few yards from the elevated West India Dock station, now the Docklands Light Railway. Jack made good his escape unseen along the Blackwall Railway track above the arches until he reached Shadwell Station. Here he could descend to the subterranean depths of the East London Railway and back to Whitechapel.

    Between may and June 1889, well away from the Ripper district, what was believed to be the remains of prostitute Elizabeth JACKSON of Sloane Square were washed up in the Thames at Chelsea and Battersea Park. At first glance it would appear to be unconnected with the ripper except that Sloane Square has an Underground Station from which there conveniently ran the District Railway direct to Whitechapel!

    However Sloane Square Station is some distance from the river, so how did the remains get there?

    If you stand on the platform of Sloane Square and look upwards, a rounded culvert can be seen carrying the Ranelagh Sewer out into the Thames. Formally the River Westbourne, it discharges its contents exactly where the human remains were found!

    On 17th July 1889 the Ripper again returned to the Whitechapel area when Alice McKENZIE's body was found is Castle Ally (now Old Castle Street). The significance of this murder was that it was just one street away from Goulston street, scene of the graffiti nearly a year earlier, and, close to Aldgate East Station.

    Another torso was found on 10th September 1889 in Pinchin Street, beneath the Great Eastern Railway arches. This was not on the main line, but on a spur which led to the Commercial Road Goods Depot alongside Lambeth Street. This body, believed to be Lydia HART, had been killed elsewhere, and obviously transported by this means. To avoid the Police patrols the Ripper had only to walk along the elevated railway and alight at Cannon Street Road where, known only to him, there was a deserted railway station (1842-1848). Or, alternatively, continue as far as Shadwell, where he could once again descend to the underground railway back to Whitechapel.

    There appears to have been no attacks in 1890. This can be attributed to the construction that year of London's first electric tube, the City and South London Railway, between Stockwell and King William Street, where Jack may have taken up employment in the new constabulary. The line opened that December and would have given him access to the City. Because the new tube was in twin tunnels and electrified, the Ripper had no ventilation grilles to alight from, unlike the steam operated lines around Whitechapel where he could appear and disappear at will.

    Although there were several attacks on women in the Kennington area near the new tube, these were attributed to other suspects such as Colicott, Cutbush and Cream.

    The Ripper seems to have put in one final appearance, aptly on St Valentine's Eve 1891, when Frances COLES was found in Swallow Gardens, an alley running under the GER line from Chamber Street by PC 240 Ernest THOMPSON. He heard footsteps running off towards Rosemary Lane, which is now Royal Mint Street. The scene lay only a short distance from Pinchin Street where the torso was found the previous September. Although the Ripper ran off in the opposite direction to the nearest underground station when the alarm was given it was only a short distance to Leman Street Station. By once again walking above the now busy streets on the elevated railway, a spur would take him to the Haydon Square Goods Depot of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) where yet another railway police force was encountered. Once through the depot, exit could be made to the Aldgate Underground Station directly opposite, and to his subterranean lair. Is it another coincidence that the Leman Street Police Station Headquarters of the Whitechapel Division was just nearing completion on the site of the Garrick Theatre, just a few minutes away? Remembering his dastardly deed in depositing a torso right under the Commissioner's nose at Whitehall in October 1888, could the Ripper have been about to repeat the event and dispose of COLES's body at Leman Street Police Station as a final gesture? It was a task he undoubtedly would have carried out had he not been thwarted by PC THOMPSON. Leman Street Police Station opened in March 1891, just a month after COLES's murder.

    If the Ripper was a Policeman, as suggested, what better guise to adopt? Even a prostitute would feel at ease and protected in the company of a policeman, and would often walk part of the way with one to avoid an unwelcome customer.

    It has been suggested that a policeman would not get involved with such low creatures, but I beg to differ, and offer proof from a Radical newspaper the London Policeman of August 1837. This gives comments on the morals of the local constabulary.
    In the Parish of Whitechapel alone, in addition to the expense of the rate for supporting the Police themselves, the parish rate has increased to keep the bastard children of those "Jacks" in Office!" (author's emphasis)

    Even though the magazine was anti-police, there was some substance to these assumptions, and they can be verified from the following dismissals in Police Orders:

    27th June 1831: PC William GROVE "V" Division.
    Being absent without leave at 2am, finally found drunk in the company of a prostitute
    29th November 1830: PC Edward EDWARDS "B" Division.
    Dismissed for having been seen coming out of Artillery Square with his trousers down and a woman following him.

    21st June 1830 1831: Sergeant Thomas ROGERS "L" Division
    Reduced in rank for being found drunk in an uninhabited house, lying on the floor with a woman at 1.45am.

    6th May 1831: PC James MOSS "S" Division
    Dismissed for being the proprietor of several houses of ill fame at Pentonville!
    There were so many PCs missing from their beats indulging in such delights of the flesh that George CRUICKSHANK called them the "invisible police", and it is from this period that the phrase "You can never find a policeman when you want one" comes. Fifty years later is it not inconceivable that their clandestine meetings still did not prevail? If our policeman Ripper was then in danger of being exposed by one or more of them, then what better motive than to dispose of the unfortunates? There were plenty of officers who despised prostitutes, such as Sergeant William NEW of the local "H" Division CID. He was reduced to constable on 1st October 1888 and transferred to Paddington Division as PC 3285"F" after "being complained of by a female for assaulting her and destroying articles of clothing". The offence would have taken place during September when the bodies of CHAPMAN, STRIDE and EDDOWES were found, but NEW is obviously not our Jack, as by 1st October he was pounding the beat in West London.

    This then is how I believe the murders were committed, and how the Ripper got away completely unobserved. I do not intend to suggest the identity of the Ripper, only his profession. However two senior investigating officers on the Ripper enquiry came from a railway background. Inspector Richard WEBB of "J" Division (Bethnal Green) had formerly been with the Great Western Railway (GWR) and Inspector henry MOORE of the CID at Scotland Yard, son of a Met officer, had been a clerk with the South Eastern Railway (SER) (whose trains ran through Whitechapel). They both retired in 1899, MOORE taking up a position of Superintendent of the Great Eastern Railway Company. It was beneath GER arches that COLES, the Rippers final victim had been found.

    Few people probably realise that all the murders that occurred prior to January 1889 did not happen in East London at all, but took place in the County of Middlesex. The county of London was not formed until then with the formation of the London County Council. The two Police divisions originally connected with the murders, Bethnal Green and Leman Street were amalgamated on 17th January 1894 to form the new Whitechapel Division, the original name for "H" Division when first formed back in February 1830. Commercial Street closed in March 1970 when the present Leman Street opened.

    This article is republished with the kind permission of the author Bernard BROWN. He is a retired Metropolitan Police Sergeant but prior to joining the Police he worked on the underground at Aldgate in the heart of "Ripperland" However as this was somewhat later than 1888 I think this exonerates him from suspicion!

    Kevin GORDON
    February 2003

    Further research by Bernard BROWN has provided an is an addendum to this article:
    In the early hours of Friday 7th January 1899 a woman of the "unfortunate classes" walked into Arbour Square Police Station (off Commercial Road) and demanded to see the officer in charge. The woman, well known to the local constabulary, as Emily WOOD, aged 40 years of 11, Hungerford Street, Commercial Road, east London appeared to be in a state of intoxication and was promptly arrested for drunkenness. However, on being searched by a female warder her clothing was found to be saturated with blood. The Divisional Surgeon was summonsed and on his arrival found that the injured woman had been stabbed in "a delicate part of the body" causing a two inch long wound from which she was bleeding profusely. He ordered her immediate removal to the London Hospital where she was treated and later removed to St George's Infirmary.

    Due to much loss of blood the victim remained in the infirmary in a very weak state but fortunately recovered sufficiently to tell the authorities a quite remarkable tale.

    It would appear that between the hours of 1am and 2am Emily WOOD, a widow, was walking along Commercial Road when she was accosted by a Police Officer in uniform. As they walked towards a street corner she alleges the policeman stabbed her. The victim stated that she had known the officer for some time and would easily recognise him again. She described him as being tall and dark with a black moustache. An unnamed "H" Division (Whitechapel) constable remembered speaking to WOOD by the corner of Stepney Causeway at about a quarter past one when he asked her why she was out at that hour, but she made no complaint. The officer was subsequently pointed out by WOOD as being the constable who spoke to her earlier, but was not her attacker, yet it was at the junction alluded to that police later found pools of blood.

    Doctor Thomas BARNARDO (himself once considered a Ripper suspect) established his boys' home in Stepney Causeway. This thoroughfare passed beneath the Great Eastern Railway arches that were prominent features of the Pinchin Street torso case, and the murder of Francis COLES, a decade earlier. The arches were, I maintain, one of the Ripper's escape routes above the streets to avoid detection.

    In view of the serious allegation made against a Metropolitan Police Officer no fewer than 206 patrolmen and pointsmen were paraded before Emily WOOD over several days but she was unable to identify her assailant.

    Needless to say the East End of London was thrown into a state of excitement compounded by the shouting of "STAR" newspaper boys in commercial Road with their placards bearing the legend "IS JACK-THE-RIPPER BACK?" evoking memories of the terror that once prevailed in the district only a decade earlier.

    The Metropolitan Police Commissioner's Annual report of 1899 makes no mention of this incident but a report in Lloyds Weekly News stated "another curious fact is that every Metropolitan constable on duty within a quarter of a mile on either side that morning was of fair complexion. Therefore the Police infer that, if her story be true, her assailant must have been a dock or railway police officer."

    This facinating account has been written by Police Historian and "Ripperologist" Bernard BROWN. Bernard is a retired Metropolitan Police officer but as he joined the force many years after the 1880s, I think we can safely cross him off our list of suspects. Bernard and I would be most interested to hear of any more evidence that links these dreadful crimes with the railways or its Police Force.



    ianincleveland10th December 2006, 05:34 PM
    Ty for posting that article jmenges.

    Ive thought for sometime the killer may well have been a policeman,and from that article a railway or dockside policeman seems more likely than a Met one.

    As anyone who looks at the murders must ask.

    What sort of person could walk the district without provoking either the suspicions of the locals or the police themselves???

    Also it seems that at one time police being found with prostitutes was not that unusual.Its not completely unheard of today either.

    would be good if someone could come up with a named suspect


    JMenges10th December 2006, 06:57 PM
    Although I have never believed JtR to be a policeman, I agree with you that if the killer were a police man of any kind, the most likely would be an off-duty railway policeman.

    Thanks for taking the time to read the piece, it's a long one, but meritorious enough to be posted in it's entirety IMO. Brown has a good theory.



    cappuccina15th February 2007, 07:55 PM
    ....the archaic meaning of the "Low German" Juwes is "Yours"....interesting if the graffito were directed at the police or towards the Ripper being some type of policeman, past or present...

    "Yours" (yours meaning police/policemen/policeman) are the men...who will...etc.


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  • #2
    Thanks Robert,

    Railway policemen seem to be convenient suspects when it comes to unsolved serial killings. Besides here, they've also been mentioned in connection with the Cincinnati Streetcar Murders, the Cleveland Torso Slayings and the Texarkana Phantom Killings. I guess it's the nighttime mobility and the cover of the badge.
    This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.

    Stan Reid


    • #3
      Hello all,

      I dont know if you are referring to trains used in the Underground, or freight trains at the rail yards, but I would think the call for the man to be an authority figure is uneeded speculation. He could have been a digger, expanding the Underground into the East End, which was occurring at that same time, or a simple yard man.

      I guess I dont see why a Policeman need be linked with a possibility that the Ripper used access and departure avenues afforded him via his job working for the Rail Service.

      My best regards all.