New York, USA
25 April 1891
The police of the Second precinct in Brooklyn this morning arrested a man on suspicion of being the perpetrator of the horrible "Jack the Ripper" murder in New York, but investigation showed they were mistaken, and the prisoner was released. Whether the person responsible for this most fiendish atrocity is the one who, within the past few months, has spread terror throughout London, is yet to be demonstrated. but there is an apparent similarity of motive, and the attendant circumstances are so strikingly identical that those inclined to believe that "Jack the Ripper" is really here may very readily be pardoned. Certainly if the murderer is merely an imitator of the wretch who has shed so much blood in the Whitechapel districts of London, he has patterned his course so closely after that of his model that it is hard to detect any material difference. Beyond doubt, the atrocity is the most revolting that in recent years, at least, has been presented to the gaze of the people of New York and Brooklyn, accustomed as they are to deeds of violence and bloodshed.
The main question, of course, relates to the degree of energy and ability to be displayed by the police in capturing the assassin. Whether or not the New York police authorities have distinctly affirmed that the Whitechapel butcheries could not possibly have been committed in the American metropolis without the murderer being caught is now a disputed point; at all events, there has been a general expression of confidence in our superior detective skill, and this has led to the belief that the perpetrator of the London horrors could not escape detection on this side of the ocean. Here, then, is a superb opportunity for the vindication of that sentiment. Inspector Byrnes and his men cannot claim that the task which has fallen to their lot is any more difficult than that which puzzled the Scotland Yard detectives, for, as a matter of fact, they have several things in their favor which the English policemen were denied. No matter at what cost of money or energy, or how drastic the methods employed, the murderer, it is to be hoped, will be captured before he claims another victim.
But No Identification of "Jack the Ripper."
But No Identification of "Jack the Ripper."
That the man who butchered the wretched old creature known as Shakespeare in the East River hotel is "Jack the Ripper" of London Coroner Shultz, who has charge of the case, has but little doubt.
He believes the London fiend has visited New York and has begun a series of butcheries here such as those committed by him in London. Whether it is or is not "Jack the Ripper" the New York butcher seems thus far to have completely covered his tracks, and Inspector Byrnes may not be able to show the police of London how easily he could catch the man who gave them so much trouble over there.
The old woman, who was known only as Shakespeare among her cronies in the slums of Water street, was a woman far superior in many ways to those with whom she associated. She was nicknamed Shakespeare because of her knowledge of literature. It was stated in a New York morning paper that it had been ,earned that she was an old hanger on on the low resorts of the east side. Coroner Shultz says this is not so. He believes he knows who she is, but he will not tell her name at present. He said to a reporter of the EAGLE: "This woman has occupied a good position in life. She was a domestic recently but was brought down to that level because of her love for drink.
She was well connected and well educated. She was not the Mary Brown described in the morning paper. I do not wish to say who she was at present. It will come out later."
"Do you think she was killed by Jack the Ripper?" asked the reporter.
"I believe this case is the same as those of London. In this case the murderer first strangled his victim and then mutilated the body. There are plain marks of his thumb and fingers on her throat.
It would appear she was so drunk that she could offer but little resistance. he bought her some ale, which she probably drank and then fell off into a drunken stupor when he deliberately strangled her. He wound her clothing about her head, but whether this was done before or after he choked her I do not know. It may be that he did this first, believing that in her drunken sleep she would thus be strangled and that as she continued to breath he hastened her death by chocking her with a clutch of his fingers on her throat.
It is certain that she was dead before she was cut. The fellow hacked her body much as the bodies of the London victims of Jack the Ripper were hacked. The cut was from the base of the spine up across the abdomen to the breast bone. It was made with the knife found in the room. It was such a cut as must have been made slowly and deliberately. It would appear as though the murderer had pulled the intestines out and spread them on the bed. Then he turned the body over and with the point of his knife scratched a cross on the skin of the left thigh. I do not see any reason to suppose that the crime may not have been committed by the fiend of London."
Inspector Byrnes is doing detective in person, and he has every available man in the department on the case. As soon as he found that it was possible that "Jack the Ripper" was operating, he set to work with all the machinery at his command to run down the murderer. He put out his drag net in the Fourth ward and soon had a big catch at the Fourth precinct station house, on Oak street, where he had made his headquarters. Each prisoner brought in was closely questioned. Many of them were allowed to depart. It was thought that George Francois, who is known as "Frenchy" among the inmates of the low dives, might be the man. The fellow had no difficult in proving that he occupied another room in the same house on the night of the murder. He was held as a witness, as were William Bekker, Mary Healey, Lizzie Carter, Mary Lopez, Alice Sullivan and Mary Minite (sic).
Mary Healey was the chum of the dead woman. She was too drunk to tell what she knew when arrested. The police are too cautious to tell what she told when she sobered up. William Behken (sic) is considered to be an important witness. What he knows the police will not tell. Inspector Byrnes ran down New Chambers street and rushed into the Oak street police station at 11 o'clock this morning. He disappeared into Captain O'Connor's private office and soon reappeared, followed by a detective. The latter did not move as rapidly as the inspector seemed to think he should and the inspector lost his temper and scolded at the man for not hastening. The two rushed to the city hall station of the elevated railroad and went uptown.
Inspector Byrnes has not slept since he learned of the murder yesterday morning, and he has been rushing about just as he rushed in and out of the Oak street station house, ever since. Everything that looks like an important clew receives his personal attention. He is on trial before the world, and he seems to know it. The morning newspapers published dispatches telling of the joy in Scotland Yard because of his inability to catch this man after he had boasted that "Jack the Ripper" could not do in New York what he had done in London. The inspector has a large acquaintance with crooks and thieves.
It has been his policy to not prosecute a thief for a petty offense if he believed by not doing so he could use the petty thief in helping to convict one guilty of a more serious offense. He would take the petty thief into his office, draw a confession from him and then advise him to be honest in the future and let him go. A watch would be set on this man and the inspector would soon know who his companions were. If one of his companions was suspected of a crime the petty thief would be brought to the inspector and he would be given to understand that the only way he could escape imprisonment for his old offense would be by helping the police in the more important case. He would help the police. Nine out of ten on the block of Water street which terminates at the East river hotel have been guilty of some petty offenses that the inspector knows of. Each of these is an assistant of the police in this case, but none of them seems to be able to give any information that will lead to the discovery of the butcher. He seems to have come from no one knows where and to have slipped away without having formed any acquaintances among the people of the dives of Water or Cherry street. There is no other part of New York that resembles the Whitechapel district of London as Water street does. The hovels here are filthy, low places whose income is derived entirely from drunken sailors. The women who lure sailors into the dive are wretched creatures. The only men other than drunken sailors who go to these places are pert thieves who help the women rob sailors.
These are dens of vice that are not gilded. The houses of infamy are dirty, wretched places. It is just such a place as this that " Jack the Ripper" would select to operate in should he be in New York. The man who committed this deed evidently studied his ground well. The saloon under the East River hotel closes at 1 o'clock in the morning, although after that hour drinks are sold to those who occupy rooms. "Shakespeare" and her murderer entered this house before midnight. The murderer could not have gone out either through the hotel entrance or through the saloon without having asked someone to unlock a door. No one unlocked a door for him. He could and probably did leave the place through a window from which he could step to a low shed from which he could drop to the street.
The facts that he knew of this way of escape and that none of the people of the neighborhood knows who he was strengthens the belief that he is a man who secretly studied the ground for some time before attempting to commit the crime.
The low women of the neighborhood believe the "Ripper" is among them and they are terrorized.
Deputy Coroner Jenkins had the body of the murdered woman photographed this morning. He was to have made an autopsy when the photographer had completed his work.
A mysterious fire occurred in the East River hotel this morning. The kerosene lamp in the housekeeper's room on the second floor fell over and set fire to the carpet. The flames were extinguished before any damage was done. It is not known how the lamp was overturned. It would be possible for someone to climb to the top of the sheds and reach the lamp with a walking cane.
Mounted Patrolman Frank of the Tenth precinct yesterday afternoon discovered two tramps, one of whom bore a striking resemblance to the man described as the New York "Jack the Ripper". The fellows were arrested for lounging and taken to the Sixth avenue station. There they were held until this morning when Justice Walsh sent them to jail as vagrants.
The prisoner, whose resemblance to the New York murderer was most striking, gave his name as John Foley and said he lived in Newark, N.J. His companion claimed to be Frank McGovern of the same place. A description of the man was sent to New York police headquarters and this morning Inspector Byrnes came to Brooklyn and paid his respects to Superintendent Campbell. From the description given the Inspector by the superintendent the former decided that Foley was not the man he wanted.
In his talk with the chief the New York official said that his great difficulty so far was found in the fact that all the people who could give him any information were so drunk as to be useless. When they become sober the inspector hopes to learn something of value in his hunt for the murderer. The inspector said further that he thought the man was not in Brooklyn. Nevertheless, a description has been sent to all the stations and the whole Brooklyn police department is on the lookout for the criminal.
A policeman brought a pair of trousers, on which there were blood spots, to the Fourth precinct station house this morning. They are believed to belong to George Francois. The police refuse to speak of this clue.
At 2 o'clock Deputy Coroner Jenkins had proceeded far enough with the autopsy to state that he believed the mutilation of the body had been begun before life was extinct. He found also that a part of the intestine had been carried away.
Brooklyn got whiff of the "Jack the Ripper" excitement this morning and a man was detained for two hours at the Second precinct station house on the suspicion that he might be the murderer of the Water street, New York woman.
The arrest was made by Detective Sergeant Carney of the Second precinct. He was starting for his breakfast about 7 o'clock when he saw, lounging on the corner of Fulton and Hicks streets, a man answering the general printed description of the New York murderer. He was about five feet eight inches high, about 30 years old, had the prominent light mustache which is the most certain feature of the murderer's description, he wore a similar shabby and battered derby hat and dark and soiled clothes, and, last of all circumstances, he was just beginning to recover from a drunk (sic).
As Sergeant Carney noted these confirmatory details his heart jumped at the chance that he had got the real "Jack the Ripper" and his hand was quickly on the lounger's collar. The prisoner didn't object. He seemed to be used to that sort of thing and he went across Fulton street to the station house readily enough. Sergeant McCarthy was at the desk and Sergeant Craney communicated his suspicions. Sergeant McCarthy put the prisoner through the usual catechism with some care. The man said that his name was Frederick Straube, age 26 years, nationality German and trade butcher. He said he was out of work and had been sleeping in the cheap lodging houses, for the last two nights in the People's hotel, at Fulton and Hicks streets. Sergeant McCarthy explained to the man why he had been brought in and the prisoner's face at once brightened. He said he hadn't been near Water street and he knew he should have no trouble in establishing his whereabouts. He made no objection to waiting until the New York police could be notified, and sat down and smoked a pipe in an inner room as though he found the atmosphere of a station house preferable to that of a saloon. The New York headquarters was notified, and at 9 o'clock Detective Sergeant McNaughton of Inspector Byrnes' staff reached the station house with Mary Billiter (sic). Mary Billiter opened the door of the East River hotel on Thursday night for the murdered woman, took the name of the man who was with her and saw the couple as they went upstairs. She is the only person who has seen the murderer and her identification may be very important. As soon as she saw Strube (sic) she said he was not so heavy as the murderer, and not quite so tall. She was positive that they had the wrong man and Strube was discharged. The register of the People's hotel shows that Strube slept there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Twice the name was written Strube and once Strauver by the book keeper, but every time he had room 15 and paid 25 cents for it. The book keeper's description of his lodger fits Strube perfectly, and there is no chance that the police have let the murderer slip through their fingers.