|Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide|
|This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.|
Thomas James Sadler
At 2.15am on Friday 13 February 1891 Constable Ernest Thompson was on patrol duty between Chambers Street and Rosemary Lane, and was just about to enter Swallow Gardens, when he heard footsteps running away from him, heading in the direction of Rosemary Lane. When he turned into Swallow Gardens he saw the body of a woman lying on her back, her throat had been cut and blood was still flowing from the wound. Upon drawing closer, the constable noticed that one of her eyes flickered open and that she was still alive, her new black hat lay beside her. She died on the stretcher on the way to the hospital. The woman was identified as Frances Coles, a 25 year old prostitute. Dr Bagster Phillips examined the body and noted that the throat had been cut by a sawing motion, there were no mutilations or injuries to the body apart from the throat wound, and the victims clothing had not been disturbed. Dr Phillips detected no surgical skill and did not think the knife used had been very sharp. As far as he was concerned the perpetrator was not the same person who carried out the Whitechapel murders of 1888.
A witness called William Friday, who was known to his friends as Jumbo, came forward to say he had seen a man and a woman standing in a doorway about 1.45am on the night of the murder, only half an hour before the body was discovered. He identified the victims hat as the same one he had seen the woman in the doorway wearing. He went on to describe the man as stocky and looking like a ship's fireman. The police checked the docks and discovered that Coles had spent the last two days in the company of Thomas James Sadler, a 53 year old ship's fireman, on the Fez, which was moored at London Dock. The police quickly learnt that Sadler had a violent temper and had returned to his lodging house covered in blood. When they also discovered that he had sold his knife for a shilling and a piece of tobacco, they arrested him and charged him with murder.
The importance of Sadler as a Ripper suspect was confirmed when he was interviewed by Inspector Swanson. The police believed they had not only caught the killer of Frances Coles, but Jack the Ripper as well. Sadler was well represented by the Seamen's Union and the case against him fell apart, when a young couple, Thomas Fowles and Kate McCarthy, came forward to say they were the ones seen in the doorway by William Jumbo Friday that night. The knife Sadler had sold turned out to be an old blunt knife, which when examined showed it could not have been the one used on Frances Coles. Sadler was able to account for his movements on the night Frances Coles was murdered. When Sadler had left the Fez he had in his wallet money to the value of £200 in today's terms.
In the Princes Alice public house, Sadler spotted Frances Coles, who he had met some eighteen months earlier, and they had greeted each other like old friends. Coles, sensing Christmas had come early, set off with Sadler to sample the ale of every pub in the East End of London. As the drunken couple passed through Thrawl Street, Sadler was suddenly and violently hit about the head by a women in a red shawl. Upon falling to the ground, Sadler was kicked insensible by several men. When he regained consciences he discovered that he had been robbed of his watch and money. Sadler, sensing he had been set up, turned his anger on Coles, who had made no attempt to help him. Eventually he made his way to the London hospital, where his wounds were attended. The bloodstains the police found on him were from his troubles that night.
He was able to provide the police with an alibi for when the Ripper murders occurred, for he had been at sea, on board the Winestead, from 17 August to 1 October 1888. Despite being cleared of Coles murder, the police watched his movements for sometime afterwards, and believed Sadler murdered Frances Coles. The last we hear of Sadler is January 1893 when he told the police he was very wisely leaving the area.
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