Described as a "Jewish tailor", Benjamin Amos Soloman is referenced in only a single source, Edwin Woodhall's 1937 book Jack the Ripper; Or, When London Walked in Terror. To date no mention of a Benjamin Amos Soloman has been discovered in any contemporary press reports, nor has it been unearthed in the extant police files. Woodhall himself offers no source for his information. As this book is riddled with numerous errors, some suspicion has been cast upon the statement (and even the existence) of this witness. However, as noted by Andy Aliffe, "[w]hen researching [his book] Woodhall spent many weeks in the East End questioning friends, neighbours and relatives of the Whitechapel victims and used the memories of many former policemen." It is possible that the Soloman story may have reached Woodhall via some such oral history.
The relevant passage can be found on pages 72-73 in Woodhall's book:
One witness, a Jewish tailor, about two or three days after the last crime, came forward with the account that he had seen a tall man in a grey suit and black trilby hat outside the Metropolitan Railway Station of Aldgate about half-past two in the morning of November 9th, talking to a woman. He knew the woman by sight and name as Marie. After a few moments both went away together in the direction of Leman Street. This man stuck to his version, and the police had no other alternative but to believe that what he said he saw was true. Therefore, if this was the case, this witness also saw the same man a month or so later, undoubtedly the "Ripper" with Marie Kelly on his way to carry out his last and most terrible crime in the lonely dark room of Miller's Court, Dorset Street. The account of this witness, Benjamin Amos Soloman, appears then to confirm the general view that it was the "Ripper" - for in all details as to general description, the man seen talking to Marie Kelly on the morning of her murder tallied exactly with that of a constable who spoke to him the night after the second crime in Bucks Row.
The writing style here is a bit disjointed, making it difficult to understand if Soloman claimed to have seen the Ripper once or twice. Unfortunately this just adds to the confusion.
If Woodhall's facts are true in relation to Soloman's sighting, it would appear that this witness came forward with his statement sometime around 11 or 12 November ("about two or three days after the last crime"). This may explain why he was not called to the inquest (held on 12 November). He is not mentioned in any of the contemporary press reports, so if Soloman was in fact in touch with the police it may be that they did not divulge his story to the press.
Another, perhaps more plausible, explanation might be that "Benjamin Amos Soloman" was in fact a reference to the witness George Hutchinson. As much of Woodhall's source material came from oral history acquired some fifty years after the fact, it is not unreasonable to assume that exact names, dates and places may have been forgotten or switched around over time. Still, there are numerous similarities to be found amongst the descriptions of Soloman and Hutchinson.
- Woodhall states that Soloman came forward with his testimony "about two or three days after the last crime", i.e. around 11-12 November. George Hutchinson first made his statement to the police at 6.00pm on 12 November.
- Soloman saw Mary Kelly with a man at around 2.30am on 9 November. Hutchinson claimed to have seen Mary Kelly with a suspicious-looking man at 2.00am on that same morning.
- Both Soloman and Hutchinson stated that they knew and recognized Mary Kelly by sight.
- Soloman described the suspicious-looking man as wearing a "black trilby hat". Hutchinson's man wore a "dark felt hat turned down in the middle". The authors of the A-Z note on p. 196 of their 3rd edition that the style of hat described by Hutchinson was "the shape which evolved variously into Homburgs, Stetsons, Panamas and Trilbies". (Emphasis added).
- Although it is difficult to discern precisely what Woodhall means to say in the above passage, he does seem to indicate that Soloman claimed to have seen the Ripper on two separate occasions. George Hutchinson similarly claimed to have subsequently seen the same man in Petticoat Lane on 11 November.
- Woodhall states that the police believed Soloman's story. Hutchinson's statement was apparently believed to be true by the Metropolitan Police - no less a person than Abberline himself wrote of him: "I am of [the] opinion that his statement is true." (MEPO 3/140, ff. 230-2)
In the end, Benjamin Amos Soloman remains a mystery. Until we can find a press clipping or police report which references him by name, it seems the most likely explanation is that Soloman was a non-entity based on vague remembrances of an actual witness, George Hutchinson.
MEPO 3/140, ff. 230-2
Woodhall, Edwin T. Jack the Ripper; Or, When London Walked in Terror. 1937. pp 72-3.
Aliffe, Andy. "Guarding of the Great: A Brief Biography of E. T. Woodhall". Ripperologist. No. 11, June 1997.