J. Best (sometimes referred to as John Best in modern sources) and John Gardner, both laborers, together claimed to have seen Elizabeth Stride with a man outside the Bricklayer's Arms pub on the night of her death. J. Best was a resident of 82, Lower Chapman Street. John Gardner lived at 11 Chapman Street.
Best and Gardner were interviewed by the Evening News, which published their story on 1 October 1888. Both men noticed a woman they later identified as Elizabeth Stride with a man who was "hugging her and kissing her." Best noted that, "as he seemed a respectably dressed man, we were rather astonished at the way he was going on with the woman."
After a while the two workmen asked Stride's man to come inside for a drink. He refused, at which point they called to Stride, "That's Leather Apron getting round you". Then Stride and her companion "went off like a shot soon after eleven."
The man seen with Stride was described as "5ft 5ins. in height. He was well dressed in a black morning suit and coat. He sported a thick, black moustache, but was otherwise clean shaved. He also did not have any eyelashes. He wore a black billycock hat." (Begg, Uncensored Facts p.98)
John Gardner apparently corroborated Best's story in every respect, though Gardner did mention that he also noticed a flower pinned to the woman's dress. This was an essential detail, as Stride did in fact have a flower (some sources pinned to her outer garment. Witness descriptions of Stride from earlier in the evening do not mention this flower, so it may very well have been given to her by the man seen with her outside of the Bricklayer's Arms.
Neither J. Best nor John Gardner were called to testify at the Stride inquest. (Note that several modern books claim they were both inquest witnesses - this is a modern error that has been repeated many times.)
The relevant extract from the Evening News of 1 October 1888 reads as follows:
J. Best, 82, Lower Chapman-street, said: I was in the Bricklayers' Arms, Settles-street, about two hundred yards from the scene of the murder on Saturday night, shortly before eleven, and saw a man and a woman in the doorway. They had been served in the public house, and went out when me and my friends came in. It was raining very fast, and they did not appear willing to go out. He was hugging her and kissing her, and as he seemed a respectably dressed man, we were rather astonished at the way he was going on with the woman, who was poorly dressed. We "chipped" him, but he paid no attention. As he stood in the doorway he always threw sidelong glances into the bar, but would look nobody in the face. I said to him "Why don't you bring the woman in and treat her?" but he made no answer. If he had been a straight fellow he would have told us to mind our own business, or he would have gone away. I was so certain that there was something up that I would have charged him if I could have seen a policeman. When the man could not stand the chaffing any longer he and the woman went off like a shot soon after eleven.
I have been to the mortuary, and am almost certain the woman there is the one we saw at the Bricklayers' Arms. She is the same slight woman, and seems the same height. The face looks the same, but a little paler, and the bridge of the nose does not look so prominent.
The man was about 5ft. 5in. in height. He was well dressed in a black morning suit with a morning coat. He had rather weak eyes. I mean he had sore eyes without any eyelashes. I should know the man again amongst a hundred. He had a thick black moustache and no beard. He wore a black billycock hat, rather tall, and had on a collar. I don't know the colour of his tie. I said to the woman, "that's Leather Apron getting round you." The man was no foreigner; he was an Englishman right enough.
John Gardner, labour, 11 Chapman-street, corroborated all that Best said respecting the conduct of the man and the woman at the Bricklayers' Arms, adding "before I got into the mortuary to-day (Sunday), I told you the woman had a flower in her jacket, and that she had a short jacket. Well, I have been to the mortuary and there she was with the dahlias on her right side of her jacket.
I COULD SWEAR
She is the woman I saw at the Brickayers' Arms and she has the same smile on her face now that she had then.
The Evening News - 1 October 1888
Jack the Ripper: The Uncensored Facts (Begg)
Jack the Ripper A-Z (Begg, Fido and Skinner)