Jack the Ripper

2:05 pm, APRIL 20, 2018


Author: Jonathan Riley, Grand Auctions
Published: 20/04/18

In just 43 chilling words, the spectre of one of Britain’s most infamous and grisly serial killers is raised when a postcard claiming to be written by Jack the Ripper goes under the hammer on April 30 at 13.00. at Grand Auctions in Folkestone.

The postcard was received at Ealing Police Station on 29 October 1888 from someone claiming to be the beast responsible for the brutal murder of at least five women in the slums of the East End. Victorian London was stunned and horrified by the gruesome deaths, involving women whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations and one victim, Mary Kelly, being especially badly mutilated. She was murdered on November 9th 1888, an interesting date for our card.

Our card was one of a number of notes sent to police claiming responsibility during the long-running manhunt, but the postcard has a very strong provenance due to the period it was sent and the fact it was contained in police files. It reads:

“Beware there is two women I want here they are bastards, and I mean to have them with my knife is still in good order it is a students knife and I hope you liked the half of kidney. I am Jack the Ripper.”

Jack the Ripper is far and away the most discussed serial killer in the world and is still big news. You can even go on Ripper walks in Whitechapel. We have a card allegedly written by Jack the Ripper, we are in the fortunate position of nobody being able to say the card was not written by Jack, but equally we cannot prove it was. Nobody has ever discovered the identity of the Ripper, though many cranks and venturers claim they have done so. Our card is the first time a Ripper letter/card has ever been offered on the market for auction with police provenance. Clearly many such epistles were written at the time, but none with police provenance have come up for sale, so it is unique in the auction world. The card has been checked by Stewart Evans, the recognised expert on the Ripper letters/cards and agrees that it is contemporary with the Ripper, or perhaps I should say her these days. No doubt a crank will come up with the politically correct theory that Jack was in fact Jacqueline. I shouldn’t joke, some thought Mary Pearcy could have been the killer. An American film company made a film about our card, which is being shown across America originally in April, but now I gather it will be June, so all in all it is an unusual item for an auction house of our size to handle.

I have always been rather fascinated by the Ripper story. I studied History at Cambridge, and part of our course was the socio economic effects of the industrial and agricultural revolutions that created a huge population rise, the most dramatic in Britain’s history. This of course led to many peoples from assorted countries wanting a piece of the pie or fleeing persecution, Britain being the wealthiest country in the world. As a consequence, sinks like Whitechapel grew up with massive issues of immigration, unrest, alcoholism, poverty and lawlessness both political with the Fenians, Anarchists etc. and criminal.

Stewart Evans, the acknowledged Ripper expert, states that there were surprisingly few murders in Whitechapel, but plenty of violent and other crimes. Why did Jack become so famous? Jack’s identity has never been discovered and is almost certain to remain unknown, which keeps the mystery alive. He committed some very nasty crimes of female mutilation that stand out for their savagery, but that alone would not have made him so famous. Two letters changed everything. The letters known as Dear Boss and Saucy Jacky were delivered to the police. It is almost certain the two were written by reporters from the Central News Agency to gain sensational publicity for the story and money for themselves. These two letters first suggested the murderer’s name was Jack the Ripper, he was known as the White Chapel Murderer or the Leather Apron murderer before the letters. The Central News Agency gave huge publicity to the two letters and Jack the Ripper was born to become the most famous serial killer in the world, he still is.


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