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Albert Bachert1
by David O'Flaherty

Albert Bachert's insinuation of himself into the investigation of the Whitechapel murders has raised the eyebrows of more than one researcher. Armed with an authority complex and a penchant for self-publicity through Ripper hysteria, he figured in at least thirteen newspaper articles spread between 1887 and 1893, with the majority appearing in 1888-9. While it is obvious that Bachert had an obsession with Jack the Ripper, it also seems apparent that his true role model was George Lusk-a figure of authority, yet not an authority figure, the object of a killer's (and thus the public's) attention.

Albert Bachert (variations of the name include Backert, Bechart, Baskert, possibly Baskett or Beckett) was born in London about 1860 (documents differ on his actual age). Albert, the son of a tailor from Mecklenburg, was the eldest of three children and the only known son born to John and Georgina Bachert, who both immigrated to England from Germany. Per the 1881 census, the family was ensconced at 13 Newnham Street and Albert had taken up a trade as an engraver:

13 Newnham Street, London
John Bachert aged 49 born in Germany
Georgina Bachert aged 48 born Germany
Albert Bachert aged 18 born London
Art engraver
Emily Bachert aged 16 born Tower Hamlets
Flora Bachert aged 11 born Tower Hamlets

(Source: Public Records Office Reference RG11/0447/108/16. Thanks to Chris Scott)

Researcher Chris Scott has also found another occurrence of the Bachert name in the form of one Augusta Bachert, a twenty-five year old domestic servant in the service of The Vicarage, Beverly St. Mary, York. Scott notes that that this is the only other occurrence of the Bachert name in the entire census, so there is a good possibility that she was also a relation of Albert Bachert.

John Bachert's tailor trade seems to have prospered to an extent, for we find the family still occupying the same space in Newnham Street in 1891. Albert's mother, Georgina, has become a naturalized British subject. Albert's sister, Emily, is no longer there-perhaps she married and moved away, or died. The Bacherts have taken on two boarders, which could indicate financial hardship, but since the boarders were both German, it's also possible that John Bachert was in a position to lend assistance to two fellow immigrants.

13 Newnham Street, Goodmans Fields, Whitechapel St Mary
John Backert aged 50 born Mecklenburg, Germany
Georgina aged 49 Naturalised British Subject
Albert aged 22 born Whitechapel
Copper plate engraver
Flora aged 19 born Whitechapel
Arthur Steff aged 36 born Stettin, Germany
Mercantile Clerk
Charles Wagner aged 36 born Stettin, Germany
Wine traveller

(Source: Public Records Office Reference RG12/282/124/03. Thanks to Chris Scott)

Click here to see the actual census record.

The inconsistencies in age might result from the census information coming not from the family themselves, but from a neighbor-or since the details of John Bachert's German roots are more precise, from one of the boarders, Steff or Wagner. No research has turned up a physical description of Albert, but the 1891 census listing him as 22 and an 1893 newspaper article putting his age as 25 when he was probably over thirty, indicates that he had a youthful appearance.

In August 1887, Albert Bachert made a strange appeal to Godfrey Lushington (then Permanent Under-Secretary of The Home Office), in which he cited a police conspiracy to bring false, or "trumpery," charges against him. Bachert stated that two weeks previously, he came to the aid of a female acquaintance whom two constables had evidently mistaken for a prostitute. After vouching for the woman, Bachert demanded the constables' identification numbers. In reply, according to Bachert, the police responded by striking him, throwing him to the ground, arresting him, and "dragging him along the road" before they released him. Prior to his appeal before Lushington, it seems Bachert made a complaint to an inspector, and that there was an effort made to identify the offending constables (or Bachert was told to keep an eye out for them), but he was unable to make an identification. He told Lushington that he feared the police would bring a future unfounded charge against him; Lushington assured him that he would remember Bachert's complaint if that were to happen (The Eastern Post and City Chronicle, 20 August 1887). It is unclear if embarrassment prevented Bachert's female friend from corroborating his story.

Bachert's first connection with the Whitechapel murders occurs the night of the Double Event, 30 September 1888, in the form of an encounter with a suspicious man. The Times {London} of 1 October relates his story:

I was in the Three Nuns Hotel, Aldgate, on Saturday night, when a man got into conversation with me. He asked me questions which now appear to me to have some bearing upon the recent murders. He wanted to know whether I knew what sort of loose women used the public bar at that house, when they usually left the street outside, and where they were in the habit of going. He asked further questions, and from his manner seemed to be up to no good purpose. He appeared to be a shabby genteel sort of man, and was dressed in black clothes. He wore a black felt hat and carried a black bag. We came out together at closing time (12 o'clock), and I left him outside Aldgate Railway Station.

In The Times of 2 October, Bachert expanded his story, adding a match-woman and more of his conversation with the mysterious man:

While in there an elderly woman, very shabbily dressed, came in and asked me to buy some matches. I refused and she went out. A man who had been standing by me remarked that those persons were a nuisance, to which I responded "Yes." He then asked me if I knew how old some of the women were who were in the habit of soliciting outside. I replied that I knew, or thought, that some of them who looked about 25 were over 35. He then asked me whether I thought a woman would go with him down Northumberland-alley - a dark and lonely court in Fenchurch-street. I said I did not know, but supposed she would. He then went outside and spoke to the woman who was selling matches and gave her something. He returned, and I bid him good-night at about ten minutes past 12. I believe the woman was waiting for him. I do not think I could identify the woman, as I did not take particular notice of her; but I should know the man again. He was a dark man, about 38 years of age, about 5ft. 6in. or 5ft. 7in. He wore a black felt hat, a dark morning coat, a black tie, and a carried a black shiny bag.
On 20 October, Bachert moved from the role of witness to that of participant, when he received an alleged Ripper postcard, which Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner extensively cover in Jack the Ripper Letters from Hell (pp. 99-100, 240). Addressed to "Mr. Toby Baskett of 13 Newman Street, Whitechapel" and posted from London's EC District (the authors qualify this by writing "if the folio reference is correct"), the postcard bears writing in red ink and dialect reminiscent of the infamous Lusk letter. Ink heavily smudges the postcard. It reads:

Dear Old Baskett
      Yer only tried ter get yer name
      in the papers when yer thought you
      had me in the Three Tuns Hotel
    I'd like to punch yer bleeding nose
                Jack the Riper

As Evans and Skinner note in their book, the postcard writer's mention of The Three Tuns is significant, since there has been considerable confusion over where Bachert's alleged 30 September encounter took place. On the Casebook website, A.M. Phyper references The Three Nuns at 13 Aldgate High Street and The Three Tuns in Jewry Street2. Evans and Skinner remark on yet a third site-The Three Tuns at 1 Whitechapel High Street (Letters From Hell, p. 99). Which spot was the actual location of Bachert's chance meeting is wide open for discussion.

The morning of Mary Jane Kelly's funeral, 19 November, Bachert claimed to be woken by an unnamed police constable who informed him that there was chalk graffiti written on the outside of 13 Newnham. As reported in The Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian of Saturday, 24 November, the writing on the Bachert home read: Dear Boss, - I am still about: Look out. - Yours, JACK THE RIPPER. Presumably while at the scene, Bachert declared that the writing resembled that of the Dear Boss letter, singling out the "B" in "Boss" and "R" in "Ripper." To discourage the crowd that had started to collect around the Bachert house, Albert's mother partially washed the graffiti away.

There was another incident the following summer. According to Evans and Skinner's Letters from Hell (p. 137), the Hemel Hempstead Gazette of 20 July 1889 reported that police had received a spate of Ripper letters, which threatened more murders. Albert Bachert's name is also mentioned as having been the target of a letter that June. Evans and Skinner report that police files preserve no such communication.

Some point in 1889, Bachert became chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. There is a question if Bachert was a member of the organization during the Ripper murders of 1888 or, as Ripperologist editor Christopher T. George currently believes, Bachert did not join the organization until 1889, when press reports first cite his involvement. A further possibility is that the original Vigilance Committee helmed by Lusk dissolved itself and that Bachert started his own organization, invoking the name of Lusk's group to gain credibility with the police, public, and press.

Contemporary reports conflict. In the 1889 Hemel Hempstead Gazette story previously mentioned, Evans and Skinner quote the paper that Albert Bachert "took a leading part in the Vigilance proceedings of last year" (Letters From Hell, pg. 137). However, since there is no known 1888 reference to Bachert as a member of Lusk's organization, he could hardly have played "a leading part" within it. Perhaps the Gazette's claim originated from Bachert himself as a bit of self-promotion, rather than as the perception of a reporter. Supporting the view that the 1888 and 1889 committees were two separate entities is Bachert's use of "last-formed" in relation to his group, from a letter to the East London Advertiser of 14 September 1889 (four days after the discovery of the Pinchin Street Torso). It indicates that the committee Bachert led was not the first to be called the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee.

Bachert's letter to the Advertiser:

As chairman of the last-formed Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, I have been questioned by a large number of people about this discovery (the Pinchin Street Torso). From the time our committee was formed, my colleagues and myself have done all in our power to discover the Whitechapel murderer. Night after night I have been out watching and making inquiries; but when the dock labourer's strike commenced the interest in the murders seemed to cool down, and thus several of my supporters relaxed the energy they had hitherto displayed… From inquiries, I am confident that the murderer is a Whitechapel person, or at any point he is well acquainted with the back streets. It is a curious fact that in all places where these murders have occurred the houses are such that any person can enter by pulling a string which lifts the latch. My opinion is that the murderer knows this, and that the moment he has committed a murder he enters one of these houses. I firmly believe that if the police had searched the houses in the vicinity the moment a murder was discovered, the murderer would have been captured (East London Advertiser, 14 September 1889).

It has been written that in March 1889, police told Bachert that the Ripper had drowned himself in the Thames at the end of 1888 (suggesting a pre-Melville Macnaghten reference to M.J. Druitt as a suspect). Many researchers and students of the Ripper investigation doubt such a conversation ever occurred, and Bachert's letter to the Advertiser illustrates his belief that the Ripper was still at large in September 1889.

A week after Bachert's letter appeared in the Advertiser, he tipped another paper, The Eastern Post and City Chronicle, that police were investigating a different type of suspect in the Whitechapel murders. The Chronicle's 21 September 1889 edition carried a story in which Bachert said that the authorities at Leman Street Police Station received a letter, which gave information that "a tall, strong woman has for some time been working at different slaughter-houses, attired as a man." Bachert also told the paper that police had made inquiries at slaughterhouses in Aldgate and Whitechapel the morning of 19 September, presumably in connection with the Ripper murders. The paper supplied no further details of the letter, or how Bachert knew about it. Incidentally, September 1889 saw the steepest rise in Ripper letters to the police since 1888. Letters from Hell references no letter like the one Bachert described, although there is a brief, unrelated 1 October communication to Leman Street (pp. 278-85).

The next month (near the anniversary of the "Toby Baskett" postcard), Bachert appeared in the press again as the object of attention of yet another Ripper letter:

Mr. Albert Backhert [Bachert], chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, has received the following letter: "Whitechapel, 9th October, 1889. Dear Boss, - I write you these few lines to let you know, as you are the Boss of the Vigilant Society, that the last job wasn't me. You might have known it wasn't me, for I shouldn't have made such a 'botch' of it. Never mind, young man. You can keep your lamps open for the 18th of October. I am on the job again. There's no blood knocking about or I let you see some. Never mind. Look out, old man. Your a brave sort. You thought you had me once. Don't forget the 18th. - Yours in haste, JACK THE R. - Albert Backhert." The envelope bears the East London postmark, and was posted on Saturday. The writing corresponds with that in the letters received by Mr. Backhert previously. The "B" and "R" are a facsimile of those in the two letters that were sent to Mr. Backhert before the Miller's-court and Castle-alley murders, and these two letters turned out to be true. In this instance, however, the letters "J. R." are on the envelope as well as on the address. (East London Advertiser, Saturday, 19 October, 1889).

It is not apparent why the Advertiser trumpeted Bachert's previous letters as "true" examples of the Ripper's handwriting. Beyond the comparison to the Baskett letter, which was sent before the Mary Kelly murder, the paper's mention of the 9 October letter's "B" and "R" brings to mind the graffiti incident at 13 Newnham the year before.

Next, Bachert received some attention that was decidedly un-Ripperish. The Times {London} reported on 5 December 1889 that Albert Bachert, Henry Norman, Albert Waple, and John Smith were indicted in the Southeastern Circuit for attempting to pass counterfeit florins at several public houses at Barking and Hornchurch. The jury acquitted Bachert and Norman, while convicting Waple and Smith.

After his acquittal, Bachert did not make any known appearances in the press for nearly a year. Then in the fall of 1890, he wrote a letter to the press, which an Australian paper, the Port Philip Herald, reproduced on 22 November 1890:

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.

Bachert's declaration at the end of his letter is interesting. Had someone questioned his reputation as a figure in the investigation? An enterprising reporter from the Herald succeeded in locating the woman and received further details of her story, which the paper relates in the same issue. Her story seems culled from various newspaper reports, and two details are striking in connection with Bachert: the boarder "was in the habit of spending his evenings at the Tuns. . . ." and that he frequently used the term "Boss." They recall the "Toby Baskett" letter of October 1888.

In February of 1891, excited talk concerning a possible return of Jack the Ripper resumed when Frances Coles was found murdered in Swallow Gardens and police arrested Thomas Sadler for her murder. Albert Bachert was present for at least part of the Coles inquest, and possibly was there to witness Joseph Lawende's attempted identification of Sadler as Catherine Eddowes' assailant (Lawende was unable to make the identification). On 16 February, when the inquest reconvened after an adjournment (also the same day the jury was to view the body of Frances Coles), Coroner Wynne Baxter found himself short of jurymen to hear the case. Bachert offered himself as a substitute but Baxter, seemingly all too familiar with Bachert's reputation, refused him. Bachert was furious and demanded an explanation:

Mr. Backert. - Why?
The CORONER. - Because I decline.
Mr. Backert. - You decline simply because I happen to be chairman of the Vigilance Committee, and you think I shall fully investigate this matter. I have a right to be on the jury.
The CORONER. - I have decided you are not to serve on this jury.
Mr. Backert. - Yes; because you know I shall inquire into the case.
The CORONER. - You have already been told I shall decline to accept you.
Mr. Backert (walking to the back of the court). - You will hear more of this.
The jury, having been sworn, proceeded to view the body. On their return Mr. Backert, addressing the Coroner, said:- "It was only after you heard who I was that you would not allow me to serve on the jury."
The CORONER. - If you do not keep quiet I will have you ejected from the room. (The Times {London}, 16 February 1891).

It's clear from the exchange that Wynne Baxter did not have a high regard for Albert Bachert. One wonders if other authorities felt the same. Indeed, by 1893, even the press would describe him as an "agitator" (The Times {London}, 8 March, 1893).

At some point prior to March 1893, Bachert took a salaried position (25s. a week) as secretary of the Unemployed and Investigation Relief Committee (or Tower Hamlets Unemployed Investigation and Relief Society). The organization, formed to distribute food and clothing to the poor of Whitechapel, was at the time temporarily headed by the Reverend Richard Wilson (acting for his brother Harry, who was ill that March). Rather than provide materials directly to applicants, the Relief Committee instead gave them written orders, which they could then redeem with participating tradesmen. On March 8, Albert Bachert was indicted for providing false orders to benefit a Mrs. Avenell, for six loaves of bread and six quarterns (quartern=quarter pound) of flour. Bachert had obtained the orders from Rev. Wilson with the understanding that Mrs. Avenell's case was "urgent and deserving" and that Bachert had done so with the approval of the committee. However, it transpired that Bachert had never approached the committee with Mrs. Avenell's case and they knew nothing of her, a situation that was quickly remedied. Mrs. Avenell was found to be not deserving of charity-she was a widow who kept a beer shop and whose actual name was, aptly, Beers (Avenell was the name of a former husband). Bachert's defense called two witnesses, but they were unable to contradict the prosecution's evidence. Albert Bachert was found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labor (The Times {London}, 8 March 1893 and East London Advertiser, 11 March 1893).

Bachert's trial provides a possibly revealing insight into what the flavor of his Whitechapel Vigilance Committee might have tasted of. On a discussion in Casebook's archives3, the Viper references a seemingly unrelated Daily Telegraph story, which describes the arrest of one William Avenell in November of 1888 for an act of vigilantism in Berners Street (not Berner Street, the scene of the Stride murder; Viper places the location of the incident west of Whitechapel). Avenell and a fellow vigilante identified themselves as detectives (Avenell was in reality a chimney sweep), and assaulted a man they accused of being Jack the Ripper. When their victim, a diminutive man named Henry Edward Leeke, fled, they pursued him and dragged him through the street. Leeke once again escaped and was chased into a nearby house, where Avenell threw fourteen young women who were having their tea into hysterics by proclaiming that Jack the Ripper was in their house. The police were called and Leeke pressed charges against Avenell-as did the police, for impersonating a detective ("Marlborough Street. - Disgraceful Trick," The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, November 13, 1888, p.8).

Viper suggests a link between Bachert and Avenell via Mrs. Beers. The two men did share an interest in "policing" Whitechapel against the Ripper, so Avenell might have been a member of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, either in 1888 or 1889. However, Viper is also quick to mention that the Avenell incident in Berners Street took place in an area outside of Whitechapel-out of the Vigilance Committee's sphere of activity.

There are at least four William Avenells listed in the 1891 census. One, a young man aged twenty-five, resided at The Clarence at 34 Charing Cross Road (today there is a pub of that name at 53 Whitehall, a short distance away). His occupation is given as barman, which would make sense in connection to Mrs. Beers. Like the subject of the Telegraph article, this William Avenell is also located far west of Whitechapel-at least in 1891 (Thanks to Chris Scott for his assistance).

Was Avenell's style of inquiry Bachert's? Consider Wynne Baxter's previous dismissal of Bachert at the Coles trial and Bachert's assertion that Baxter was afraid he would "inquire" into the case. Given Bachert's involvement with supposed Ripper letters, coupled with possible Avenell-like activities and an earlier violent confrontation with police, were the authorities also wary of him?

It is difficult to imagine businessmen like George Lusk and Joseph Aarons, men whose vigilance activities were motivated by civic and financial concerns, consorting with the likes of Albert Bachert and possibly William Avenell, men who flirted with Whitechapel's slippery underbelly. On the other hand, John Bachert-who had an established business in the area-might have served as a bridge between men like Lusk and Albert Bachert. If Bachert was indeed a member of Lusk's Vigilance Committee, how does that reflect on George Lusk? Further research is in order.

After Albert Bachert's 1893 conviction, there are no known appearances of him in the press. The date of his death is currently unknown.

1. Many thanks to Alex Chisholm, Christopher T. George, and Chris Scott for their assistance in compiling this summary.

2. See A.M. Phypers' dissertation on public houses (Phypers, A.M., Ryder, Stephen P. (Ed.). "The House Where Jack Swilled? An Investigation of Pubs, Beer, & The Ripper." Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Accessed: 25 October, 2003. Also, see the Casebook archives for further discussion on the Three Nuns/Three Tuns (Ryder, Stephen P. (Ed.). "Casebook Message Boards: General Discussion: General Topics: Arthur Bachert?" Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Accessed: 25 October 2003.

3. Ryder, Stephen P. (Ed.). "Casebook Message Boards: General Discussion: Miscellaneous: The Vigilance Committee" Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Accessed: 25 October, 2003.

Related pages:
  Albert Bachert
       Press Reports: Daily News - 1 October 1888 
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       Press Reports: Eastern Post - 20 August 1887 
       Press Reports: Eastern Post - 21 September 1889 
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       Press Reports: North Eastern Daily Gazette - 1 October 1888 
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       Press Reports: Port Philip Herald - 22 November 1890 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 1 December 1887 
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       Press Reports: Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian - 24 November 1888 
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