On 27th September, 19 days after the discovery of Annie Chapman’s body in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street and three days before the murders of two more unfortunates – Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes – on 30th September, a letter was received by the Central News agency.
Central News was one of three main press agencies operating in London at the time.
They did not themselves publish newspapers but gathered news via their own reporters or freelancers like Francis and then sold the stories on to other newspapers throughout Britain and around the world.
The letter had been posted the same day and bore a London EC postmark, which meant that it could have been posted within a few hundred yards of the Central News offices in Ludgate Circus and certainly no more than half a mile distant.
The ‘Dear Boss Letter’ and its envelope, dated September 25, 1888 (Rex)
The envelope was addressed in red ink to “The Boss, Central News Office” and contained a letter that has since become the most notorious in the history of crime. In the same handwriting as the envelope it read:
Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Yours truly Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha
The text of the letter was published in The Daily News on 1st October.
On the morning of the same day a plain postcard written in the same hand was delivered to Central News.
It was postmarked 1st October and, like the letter, it too had been posted in London EC.
Now known as the ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard it read:
I was not kidding Dear Old Boss when I gave you the tip youll hear about saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. had not time to get ears for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again Jack the Ripper.
With its clear reference to the ‘double event’ that took place a day earlier, the writer was clearly seeking to establish that he was the author of both missives as well as the murderer of all four women.
There was a feature about the first ‘Dear Boss’ letter, the postcard and possibly two communications that followed it, one on 5th October and one eight years later, which may have been written by the same person, which was quickly noticed and commented upon.
They contained words and expressions that originated in America and were not in common usage in Britain at the time.
These included the words “boss”, “quit” and “fix me”, expressions that are much more familiar to today’s audience, used to films and television from across the Atlantic, than they were at the time.
Many people, including the police, concluded that the writer was either American or had spent enough time there to absorb the local journalese.
There is in fact a distinctly journalistic flavour to both messages.
The absence of sentence structure and apostrophes is typical of reporters at the time who tended to use this style when taking down speech verbatim in the interests of speed but would have restored the syntax when transcribing it later before submitting their copy to an editor.
Unlike most of the letters that followed, there are no spelling mistakes in them, suggesting that the writer was a reasonably educated man.
Very few of the general public even knew of the existence of press agencies at that time and a hoaxer who was not a professional pressman would almost certainly have chosen to send a letter to one of the national newspapers or to the police.
There are other features of the letters that are worth noticing and which might tend to connect them to a particular type of man.
There is a quirky, almost eccentric, humour to them, black though it is.
The writer uses the expression ‘ha ha’ repeatedly to indicate that he has made a joke, even underlining it for further emphasis.
It is typical of a person with a particular sort of personality disorder who finds it difficult to pick up visual cues and to read other people’s reactions in face-to-face conversation.
Police breaking open a door at Miller’s Court where Mary Jane Kelly’s body was found (Alamy)
If Francis Craig did write them, the question is why?
Most probably he wanted to clearly establish a link between the murders that would distract attention from his real objective, the killing of a particular victim.
They enabled him to put forward an alternative motive, his dislike of prostitutes. Finally, they also provided him with an opportunity to trumpet his own prowess.
For a man whose life might until then have been dogged by failure, they were a means of demonstrating to the world that he could single-handedly outwit the Metropolitan police and the powers that be.
Read further exclusive extracts from the book here:
The Real Mary Kelly: Jack the Ripper’s Fifth Victim and the Identity of the Man that Killed Her by Wynne Weston-Davies is published by Blink priced £16.99. To order your copy for £14 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk