|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 42, August 2002. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
Mr. LeGrand found the grapes – or did he? This excellent article, first published in Ripperologist issue 18, uncovers new information about the detective hired by leading newspapers and the Vigilance Association.
‘GRAND, MR (OR LE GRAND) Private detective of 283 The Strand, employed with his colleague J H Batchelor by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and certain newspapers (including the Evening News) to make enquiries following the night of the double murder.”
Thus runs the slim biographical information available on Le Grand1 in the A-Z, which then accurately proceeds to recount his role, together with Batchelor, of recovering a grape-stalk in Dutfield’s Yard as well as interviewing Matthew Packer.
It has always been perceived that the police were less than impressed with the interference of the two private detectives into their investigations. They were even less amused when Le Grand and Batchelor whisked Packer off in a hansom for a personal interview with none other then Sir Charles Warren.
However, the police may also have had other reasons for doubting the integrity of Le Grand in his rote as private detective. For this was a man with a shady past and sinister future. In 1877 he had been convicted for a series of thefts and sentenced to eight years penal servitude.2 This earlier offence, as well as another conviction in 1889, was further added to in 1891 - three years after his work for the Vigilance Committee - following a remarkable affair which the Newmarket Journal called “The Extraordinary Threatening Letters”. Although he was now charged under the name of Charles Grant, it is clear that Grant and Le Grand were one and the same person. On 17 October, 1891 it reported that “James Hall, a clerk employed at the Polytechnic, said he knew the prisoner by the name of Grand, and from 1888 to 1889, was in his services as clerk. The prisoner was then living at 3 York-place, Baker Street, and had formerly lived in Charlotte-street, Portman-square. Prisoner carried on the business of private enquiry agent, and had an office in the Strand.
The charges against Le Grand in 1891 involved the sending of a series of letters demanding money under threat of death. All the recipients were ladies of some wealth. Three of his intended victims - Mrs Baldock, Baroness Bolsover and Lady Jessel - promptly took the letters to the police. Interestingly, all the letters were written in red ink. To Lady Jessel, Le Grand wrote: “Take notice, if you do not pay me the sum of £500 within ten days I will dash your brains out by a means that may prove fatal to those surrounding you.” He also threatened that “Hell itself will not protect you from my hand, far less the English detectives, who could not even find the man who murdered seven or eight women in the open streets of Whitechapel. If you look to protection from them, you might as well look to protection from your lap-dog.”
He wrote almost identical lines to Mrs Baldock, adding that: “Remember, Madam, that desperate men, or rather a man, brought to despair by the villainy of a woman, will do desperate things, and, indeed, a woman shall pay for it.”
The equally unfortunate Baroness Bolsover was threatened with dynamite “or a thousand other ways by which I may send you into an unknown eternity.” Disarmingly, this letter concluded: “I hope you will consider my request. It may be that one day I may be able to pay it back to you, only I must have it now. If you knew who I am I am sure you would pity me - to see I am come to act like this, which is highly criminal, and void of all human feeling. I knew you once. But enough.”
It confirmed that the prisoner in the dock at Westminster Police Court was a Dane “who gave the name of Charles Grant and who is known by the alias of Le Grand.” A week later it informed its readership that his real name was Christian Bnscony, alias Nelson, Le Grand, Grant, “French Colonel” and Captain Anderson, the last mentioned being the name most recently adopted...” It also announced that the prisoner “is stated to be well connected, his father having held a very respectable position in the Danish diplomatic service.”
The various Times accounts of his criminal career, whilst eventually identifying him as one and the same man, called him Christian Nelson in 1877. By 1889 he was “Charles Colnette Grandy or Grand”. In 1891 he was initially referred to as “Charles Grande alias Le Grand”.
Piecing together the court proceedings of the various reports, it seems that Le Grand served only seven of the prescribed eight years for the felony charge and was released in 1884. Under the terms of his sentence he was then supposed to report under police supervision for seven years. But Sergeant Bartells of Scotland Yard told the court in 1891 that on 6 May 1884 the prisoner had merely “reported himself on his liberation, and had never done so since.” His movements are then unknown until he re-invented himself as Private Detective Le Grand in 1888. In June 1889 he was convicted at the Central Criminal Court of sending letters to a doctor demanding money with threats, in company with a French woman named Amelia Porquoi alias Demay, who seems to have been livng with Le Grand as common-law wife.3 He was sentenced to two years hard labour. (Curiously, the Times originally reported that he was given five years.)
Le Grand was obviously at liberty for only a brief time before sending the threatening letters in 1891. One of the strange features of these letters is that they were signed A.M.M. These were the initials of A. Malcolm Morris, the Harley Street surgeon whom he had demanded money from two years earlier! lt was also made clear that Le Grand was never actually short of money when he sent the threatening letters. His landlady Nellie Fisher spoke of a three-day trip he made to Paris during this period. He was also in the habit of leaving large quantities of money (“£0 or £50”) on his table.
That Le Grand was suffering from some mental disorder seems beyond doubt. It was reported that in 1887 he had written to the Chief Commissioner of Police, complaining of the conduct of a constable and had threatened to burn down public buildings. This letter was also written “partly in violet and partly in red ink.”
It is surprising that this enigmatic figure has never before been suggested as a candidate for JTR. There have certainty been less likeIy suspects nominated. Le Grand appears to have spent much of his life in prison both befoi and after 1888. Yet during the latter part of that fateful yel he was able to wander the streets of Whitechapel as “detective” under the auspices of the Mile End Vigilance Committee. It would be interesting to know whether he approached them to offer his services.
It is also clear that he considered women were responsible for his problems and should “pay for it”. Set against this the fact that his known misdemeanours consisted of felor and of threats rather than actual violence. However, Le Grand was not averse to using force. When he was arrested in 1891 at Maldon in Surrey he had in his possession “an eight-chambered revolver and a life preserver” (A life preserver was a type of cosh). He also endeavoured to push one of the arresting officers “under a train as it entered the station”. Perhaps further research will throw more light on his criminal career.
The Times described Le Grand in 1891 as a “tall, well dressed man of military appearance”. His age in 1888, if was correctly given, would have been 35. The fact that he habitually wrote in red ink certainly conjures up images of 1888 and that other famous letter in red ink. That one concluded Don’t mind me giving the trade name. This has always been taken as a reference to the signature “Jack the Ripper”. Was this just a clever diversion? For there another well known line in that same letter which may of course be entirely coincidental:
Grand work the last job was.References
1. Although known as both Grand and Le Grand, I have referred to him throughout by the latter as the more likely man during his detective days. Sergeant Stephen White reported in 1888 that one of the “private detectives” carried a letter addressed to “Le Grand & Co., Strand”.
2. The thefts included purses, pocket books and knives(!) - all stolen from shops. Le Grand appears to have been inveterate shop-lifter and admitted two previous convictions.
3. It was a complicated case which involved a trumped-up claim by Porquoi for breath of promise against Dr Morris. Mo specialised in diseases of the skin. His involvement with Porquoi appears to have begun when he treated Le Grand 1889 for an unspecified ailment.
Newmarket Journal, 17 October 1891; 24 October 1891.
Begg, Fido, Skinner: The Jack the Ripper A-Z (1996)
The Times: 12 July 1877; 8 June 1889; 27 June 1889; 29 September 1891; 7 October 1891; 13 October 1891.