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The Trial of Jack the Ripper - The Case of William Bury 1859-1889

Author: Euan Macpherson

ISBN: 1845960114

Publishers: Mainstream Publishing

Price £9.99 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2005

Publisher’s Information.

A shocking and brutal murder had taken place in the city in February that year, and the words 'Jack Ripper is at the back of this door' were found written in chalk on a door at the scene of the crime. When he was arrested, the accused, William Bury, admitted that he was ‘afraid he would be arrested as Jack the Ripper’.

The police investigation uncovered some disturbing details. William Bury was a small dark-haired man who was known to have been violent towards women.  He had been born and brought up in the Midlands but had moved to the East End of London in the late autumn of 1887.  On 20 January 1889, he and his wife travelled by boat to Dundee. This meant that he had arrived in London before the start of the Jack the Ripper murders and had left around the same time that they ceased.  Could this be coincidence, people wondered. Could it also be a coincidence that the murder in Dundee carried all' the hallmarks of a ‘ripper’ murder?

In the month before the trial, the local newspapers in Dundee began to run sensational stories linking the accused with the notorious Whitechapel murders. When the trial opened to packed courtroom, many in the public gallery were wondering if the man standing in the dock was none other than Jack the Ripper himself.

In this sensational and ground-breaking book, Euan Macpherson presents the evidence that the long arm of the law really did catch up with Jack the Ripper ... in a dingy basement flat in Dundee in the cold winter months of early 1889.

FOREWORD by Richard Whittington-Egan

ALTHOUGH IT IS NOW 117 YEARS SINCE THE WHITECHAPEL KILLER ripped the life from his five pathetic victims, when I was born a mere 36 years had elapsed since the commission of the crimes.  And it is possible, probable even, that he, Jack the Ripper, was still alive. But then, after reading Euan Macpherson's conclusions, I thought maybe not!

Ever since I paid, at the age of 11, my first visit to Whitechapel - just in time to catch the fading shades of horror in the eyes of ageing East Enders who had actually witnessed the awful events of 1888 - I have watched for the past 70 years as the long procession of suspects has been - literally - booked.

Although there had been a 32-page, threepenny pamphlet, The Whitechapel Horrors, Being an Authentic Account of the Jack the Ripper Murders, published by the Daisy Bank Printing and Publishing Company of Manchester in the 1920s, its author, Tom Robinson, an old-style Fleet Street journalist, beyond reporting that a policeman who had been on the beat at the time always believed that the Ripper was a foreign sailor, hazards no guess as to the identity of the killer.

It all began in earnest - the guessing-game, that is - with Leonard Matters's book, The Mystery of jack the Ripper, which was published in 1929, and his accused was the surely fictitious Dr Stanley.

After that, there was a break until 1937, when a pre ­Paperback Revolution paperback, Jack the Ripper, or, When London Walked in Terror, issued from the none-too-impressive pen of Edwin T Woodhall, a retired London detective who, despite introducing George Chapman, aka Severin Klosowski, as one whom `many believe to have been none other than Jack the Ripper himself, supported Matters's now generally discredited Dr Stanley nomination.  A couple of years later, in 1939, William Stewart brought out jack the Ripper: A New Theory, which put Jill the Ripper, a sadistic midwife, in the dock.

A further 20 years were to elapse before Donald McCormick perpetrated a fantasy titled The Identity of Jack the Ripper, in which a totally bogus Russian dubbed Dr Alexander Pedachenko was paraded as the indisputable Ripper.

Considerably more plausible - although in my view not guilty - was the suspect brought forward in Tom Cullen's Autumn of Terror: Jack the Ripper, His Crimes and Times (1968): Montague John Druitt, barrister and schoolmaster.  The involvement of the Royal Family, in the dubious shape of the Duke of Clarence, aided and abetted by the royal physician, Sir William Gull, was heralded in 1976 by Stephen Knight's Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. This is an answer to the riddle which has been widely - though in my opinion wrongly - accepted.

And in 1994 that doughty researcher and professional explorer of myths, the late Melvin Harris, finally declared his belief that Robert D'Onston Stephenson was the culprit.  The previous year had seen the absurd nomination of the Liverpool cotton broker James Maybrick as the East End slaughterman, in The Diary of Jack the Ripper narrative by Shirley Harrison.  I consider Maybrick to be as unlikely a suspect as that other Liverpudlian, the wife-killer James Kelly, who was James Tully's choice for the Ripper in The Secret Prisoner 1167.

Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey submitted their own candidate for the bloodstained laurels in The Lodger: The Arrest and Escape of Jack the Ripper (1995).  He was an American herbalist and medical mountebank, Dr Francis J. Tumblety.  So meticulously is their prosecution case fashioned that one hesitates before, eventually, declining to convict.  That same year Bruce Paley offered up Joseph Barnett, Mary Jane Kelly's lover, as the guilty party.

Then there is Walter Sickert, indicted first by Jean Overton Fuller in 1990, and again, with a fanfare of brass trumpets, in 2002 by Patricia Cornwell in her somewhat over-confidently titled Portrait of a Killer. Jack the Ripper - Case Closed, wherein,

icidentally, she contrives never to so much as mention the work of her predecessor in that particular field. Not that it really matters, for neither of them succeeds in making the libel stick.

The foregoing is just a selection of some of the more rationally, or at any rate less irrationally based suspects, out of upwards of a hundred widely and indeed wildly nominated candidates.

There is to my mind absolutely no doubt that Mr Macpherson's nominee is deserving of our fullest attention.  The 29-year-old Englishman whom he would bring to the bar of justice is a miscreant and murderer by the name of William Henry Bury.  This is not strictly Bury's first committal.  He was summoned with a case to answer by Mr Macpherson in his article `Jack the Ripper in Dundee' in the Scots Magazine back in January 1988; and thereafter by William Beadle, in his Jack the Ripper Anatomy of a Myth (1995); and by Stewart Evans in an article, `The Ripper's Nemesis', in the magazine Rippermania in January 1997.  And there can be no gainsaying that in a great many aspects his circumstances do fit in most satisfyingly with those which could well have applied to Jack the Ripper.

Admittedly, though, it does require a conscious effort of will for those of us who have grown long-toothed in the service of Ripperology, and accustomed to the picture of the dark, wraith-like slayer shadow flitting murderously through the East End night, to readjust to the novel visualisation of a solid, bearded figure set against an alien Caledonian background.  Even so ...

If Jack the Ripper had in fact exhibited surgical skill, this would, Mr Macpherson agrees, have put paid to Bury as a viable suspect, for there is no rhyme or reason, no evidence, to support the notion that he was so endowed.  But, equally, there is no secure evidence - merely conflicting opinion - that `Jack the Whitechapel knife' wielded it with a practised anatomist's or a surgeon's touch.

Even supposing that you are not prepared to accept - that you resist - the idea of William Henry Bury as the veritable Ripper, Mr Macpherson's book is still of prime value as the first complete account of the misdeeds, investigation, trial and ultimate fate of a man who shows himself a classic practitioner of homicide in the best Victorian tradition. 

Did Mr Hangman Berry, in dispatching his phonetic namesake in Dundee at 8 a.m. on that April morning in 1889, really, as legend has it, 'polish off Saucy Jack'? It is for each reader of Mr Macpherson's strongly argued prosecution case to reach his or her verdict. He has certainly given me reason, if not to quit, at least to shift uneasily in my seat on the bloodied fence.

Richard Whittington-Egan 2005

Review by PR

Is this the solution to the Whitechapel Murders as the title proclaims, or as the sub-title infers, merely the story of a contemporary murder case?

The simple facts behind William Bury’s involvement began with his visit to a Dundee police station in early 1889.  He said that a few days earlier, he had awoken from a drunken stupor to find his wife had been strangled.  On an inexplicable mad impulse he took a large knife and plunged it several times into her abdomen.  Later, he said that he thought he might be suspected of being ‘Jack the Ripper,’ so put the body into a large box.  For several days this had remained in their rented room.  The police were hot-foot to the premises and found Ellen Bury’s body had indeed been crammed into a box.  Among her many injuries were mutilations to the abdomen.  For good measure there were two references to ‘Jack the Ripper’ chalked on a door to the premises.

Inquiries showed that Bury had a streak of violence in him having attacked his wife previously.  Importantly for any proposition that he really was the Whitechapel murderer, was the fact that he had lived briefly in London.  The murders had started shortly after he arrived, with Martha Tabram’s death and ended with Mary Kelly’s shortly before he left for Scotland.  Those are the main facts on which we are asked to add Bury’s name to the long list of Whitechapel suspects.

The facts presented have their sources mainly in records of Bury’s trial and excerpts from contemporary newspapers.  The latter range from the factual to the sensational, but serve to show that in 1889, there were reports of other similar, albeit multiple murders elsewhere in the world.  Presumably the facts in those cases would if examined, raise similar suspicions?

Justice was swift in those days.  A little over a month after his visit to the police, Bury was tried and convicted following a hearing lasting 13 hours.  This concluded in candlelight to avoid sitting a second day!  A month later, his appeal having been considered and dismissed, he was hanged.

So what to make of the book?  It is an excellent record of the life, times and trial  of William Bury, which is clear, concise and easy to read.  The author captures the squalor of the times, the efforts of the press to provide the public with a story and the similarities and differences between the Scottish and English legal systems.  In particular, he highlights the problems of communication in the 1880s, whether by rail or telephone.  A visit by Scotland Yard officers to make brief inquiries in  Dundee during 1889, had one been made, would have involved an absence of about a week.  The author also implies an apparent reluctance on the part of the Scots to use the forms of ‘instant’ communication available to them.  However, the fact that the Metropolitan Police knew of Bury’s case is clear and that they did not see him as a serious suspect.  Neither it seems, did the Dundee police follow up his initial comments about ‘Jack the Ripper’.  After all, he had not said he was the Whitechapel Murderer, merely that people might gain such an impression from his wife’s injuries.

The foreword to the book is by Richard Whittington-Egan.  He includes a brief resume of the Whitechapel murders (the author does so in more detail later in the book) and considers a selection of suspects put forward by various writers.  Mr Whittington-Egan ends by suggesting that it is for each reader to reach his or her own verdict.  His verdict was that the facts gave him reason, if not to quit his search for the Whitechapel murderer, then to shift uneasily on his seat on the bloodied fence.  This reviewer joins him on the same fence, sitting more firmly and inclined to continue the search elsewhere.


Both Sides Of The Fence-A Life Undercover

Author: David Corbett (a pseudonym)

ISBN:            1840187697

Publishers mainstream Publishing Company

Price:  £7.99

Publication Date: 2003

As one of a handful of UK police officers trained in SAS deep-cover surveillance, David Corbett infiltrated the toughest communities, living among junkies, prostitutes, murderers and firearm dealers, in order to gather evidence which would lead to dozens of convictions.

His rapport with hardened criminals was forged during his youth on the mean streets of Glasgow, where he ran with the gangs, joyriding and stealing. But when his friends began disappearing into borstals, Corbett decided it was time to take himself in hand and followed his father into the police force. His ability to mingle with gangsters was soon identified as an asset, and after serving time in the CID - where he was involved in investigating the murder of Arthur Thompson Junior, the son of Glasgow's Godfather - he became an undercover agent with the Scottish Crime Squad. He trained in urban and rural surveillance and invented a fictional past for himself.

Like Donnie Brasco, the legendary US cop who won the trust of the Mafia, Corbett risked his life every day: one false move and his cover would have been blown. The pinnacle of his career was an operation in the former pit town of Blyth, where there had been 15 drug-related deaths in 12 months. Leaving his wife and family he spent five months undercover, wired up, winning the confidence of the dealers, and had to cope with having his life endangered by a corrupt officer. Corbett's work led to 31 convictions and commendations from the Chief Constable and a Crown Court judge, but, without any form of counselling, the stress took its toll and he was forced into early retirement.

Now, betrayed by the force that sent him out on these dangerous missions, Corbett reveals the gripping story of life in the perilous world of an undercover cop.

The Old Bailey: Eight Centuries of Crime, Cruelty and Corruption


Edition: 2003 Revised and Updated

Author: Theresa Murhhy

ISBN: 184018762x

Publishers Mainstream Publishing Company

£7.99 paperback

Publication Date: 2003

This is the story of an arena of crime and degradation, of infamy and human suffering. It is the history of the Old Bailey, an institution as flawed as all man­made attempts at justice are doomed to be.

In the beginning there was barbarity and injustice. The court was packed with a restless, muttering mob, eager for the verdicts of `Guilty' so they could enjoy public executions, hurling abuse and missiles at those with the noose around their neck. Today we fool ourselves that we have evolved beyond barbarism, but are made uneasy by the continuing exposure of miscarriages of justice. If we use the Old Bailey as a yardstick, it ii possible to argue that mankind has not made much progress through the centuries.

In these pages we tour the courts of long ago~ meeting the Dracula-garbed court chaplains, drunken, brutal judges and cold-blooded hangmen. With wit and skill, Theresa Murphy brings to life a cast of hundreds, from the well ­known to the less infamous, who together make up the harrowing history of the Old Bailey.

The author of 30 books, Theresa Murphy has written on diverse subjects ranging from television comedy, through, nautical history, to worldwide travel.

If you consider reading this book then perhaps some history of the Old Bailey will whet you appetite.

The place where the Central Criminal Court now stands is the site of the principal west gate of the Roman City of London. Part of the adjoining Roman City wall can still be seen in the basement of the new east wing. Excavations in 1903 and 1907 uncovered signs that the gate was twice rebuilt by the Romans. At the time of the Norman Conquest it was known as Chamberlain's Gate and it is recorded in the Doomsday Book, page 309, as "kept by William the Chamberlain". At about that time the gate began to be used as a prison. It was renamed New Gate in the 12th Century, probably as the result of substantial rebuilding and by 1190 was again being used as a gaol.  It served as a gaol both for the County of Middlesex and for the City of London. The officers primarily responsible for the safe custody of the prisoners were the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, who, by Royal Charters of 1131 and 1199, were elected by the citizens of London.

In 1423 the old gate and gaol were demolished and rebuilt in accordance with the wishes of Richard Whittington by his executors. Whittington's Newgate continued to serve as a prison until 1767 when it was decided to erect a new gaol from designs by George Dance. A sessions house for the 3ustices, distinct from the prison, was first built in 1539 and rebuilt in about 1770. Newgate itself was demolished in 1777, but the new prison of George Dance retained the famous name.

Newgate Prison and the sessions house were demolished in 1902 to make way for the present (old) building designed by E.W. Mountford, which was opened by H.M. King Edward VII in 1907.

Newgate was for centuries a symbol of the harsh criminal law of the time. when a person was sent to Newgate he was sometimes said to have "gone west". Some think this was the origin of the phrase used today. Carts set out from there for Tyburn (the present site of Marble Arch) with condemned criminals who, if they were petty thieves or murders, were subjected to abuse and a pelting with garbage, but, if they were notorious highwaymen, were often given a resounding cheer.

From 1783 Tyburn ceased to be the place of execution, and thereafter the death penalty was carried out in public outside Newgate prison, providing a "Roman Holiday" for Londoners. The crowds were so great that on more than one occasion many people were crushed and even trampled to death.

The last public execution took place in 1868 when Michael Barrett, a member of an Irish political organization known as "Fenians", was executed for the murders which resulted when his group blasted the wall of the Clerkenwell House of Detention and released some of their friends who had been placed there for the murder of Lord Henry Cavendish, Chief Secretary of Ireland, at Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Apart from the executions, which were all too frequent and for a wide category of crimes, Newgate was the place from which thousands started the long journey which ended in the colonies. For over 200 years transportation for periods varying from 7 years to life was a much used (and abused) form of punishment. For example it is recorded that in 1835 a 10 year old child was transported for life for a petty larceny. Newgate was breached twice during its long history. In 1381 1Wat Tyler and his mob stormed Newgate and released the prisoners. At the time of the Gordon riots in the 18th century the building was gutted.

In the old days there was only one Session every 12 months, sitting by authority of Royal Commissions of Oyer (to hear), Terminer (to determine), and Gaol delivery (to deliver the Gaol of its prisoners). In other words the Gaol was to hand over the prisoners to be tried and to determine whether they were guilty or not guilty.

The Court consisted of 8 or 9 Judges who were Barons of the Common Pleas, the Recorder, the Common Serjeant and Aldermen of the City. Crowds of prisoners were brought up to plead together, which is why the Docks are so large.

Prisoners were crowded into Newgate for so many months that they became infected with diseases of all kinds. In 1750 "Gaol fever" carried oft the Mayor, I Alderman, 2 Judges. I Under Sheriff and 50 others. The Courts were disinfected with sweet herbs and flowers, and this is still done on the first 2 days of each Session. The floors of the benches are strewn with sweet herbs, and flowers are carried by all in Court, i.e. The Lord Mayor, Judges, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Under-Sheriffs, etc.

In the old building on the first floor is a marble statue to the memory of Elizabeth Fry, who was born 1780, and died in 1845. It is said that she was very rich, but spent her money and time in assisting in the remodelling of the prisons, whereby the men and women were separated and the prisoners were cared for.

The Central Criminal Court was established by the Central Criminal Court Act 1834. That Act gave the Court jurisdiction "to inquire of, hear and determine all treasons, murders, felonies and misdemeanours" committed within the City of London and the County of Middlesex and in those adjoining parts of the Counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey within the parishes listed in the Act and "to deliver Newgate Gaol" of the prisoners therein.

On I January 1972 the Courts Act 1971 came into effect. This Act established a single Crown Court to take the place of the old system of Assizes and Quarter Sessions, and having the same jurisdiction. The Crown Court sits at various centres throughout England and Wales. The Central Criminal Court is the name of the Crown Court Centre in the City of London, the name being specifically preserved by Section 4 (7) of the Act.

The court building now comprises the original wing, which contains 7 courts and was opened in 1907 on the site of Newgate Prison, and the new south wing which contains 12 Courts and was opened in 1972.

In March 1973 the building was damaged by an IRA terrorist bomb which exploded in a car parked by the pavement in Old Bailey. Many windows were broken and some structural damage was caused both to the Court and to neighbouring buildings, including the Old George Public house opposite the Court. Nobody was killed, although many suffered shock and injuries from flying glass. A piece of glass can still be seen embedded in an inside wall on the ground floor.

About 1500 cases (1973) are now committed to the Central Criminal Court for trial each year and 1200 members of the public are called upon each month to serve as jurors.



966 First reference to Court of Hustings. Genesis of London's legal Rights and customs.

1086 Reference to Newgate as a "Heynhouse" or hateful jail.

1132 Charter granted by Henry I to citizens of London confirming their ancient rights and granting new ones. The right to appoint their own "Justicier" was granted. "And none other shall be Justicier over these same men of London".

Pipe Roll of this date shows site value as £3.6.8d.

1241 Certain Jews imprisoned in Newgate until their kinsmen in Norwich paid a fine. Crime was the common one then brought against Jews, usually ill-founded, of circumcising a Christian child.

1235 Sheriff imprisoned for allowing a prisoner to escape. Prisoner supposed to have murdered a cousin of the Queen.

Wat Tyler broke open Newgate and freed the prisoners.

1414 Fever broke out. Keeper and 64 others died of it.

1423 There is a reference to "Whit's Palace". Money left by Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor, for charitable purposes was used for renovating Newgate.

1518 "Evil May Day". May put to death at Newgate for May Day rioting. King Henry VIII judged the prisoners in person. Many reprieved at foot of scaffold on the intervention of the King's wife and sister.

1539;First Court erected. Up to this time Courts held in the open (as Hustings) or on private premises.

1657 Press Yard in use in Newgate. For those who refused to plead, weights were placed on top of body and added to until dead. Those convicted of Felony forfeited their goods so this end was opted for by prisoners to avoid forfeiture. Mayor Strangeways died in this way.

Jury fined for not convicting defendants. imprisoned in Newgate until fines paid. Some sent message to Lord Chief Justice who reviewed their case and confirmed the important right of juries to bring in their own verdict without interference by the Judge. See plaque on ground floor of old building.

1689 Lord Chief Justice Wright imprisoned in Newgate.

1690 Record of man imprisoned for 47 years; married and had several children in Newgate. Held on a Fiat of the Attorney-General and never brought to trial.

1696 Keeper paid £3,500 for his post. Could charge "fees". Kept a sort of Wet Canteen where prisoners and warders regaled themselves with liquor. Prisoners usually paid.

1718 Hangman hanged for murder of a woman in Moorfields. Drunk from time of entering prison to time of execution.

1724 Jack Sheppard made his series of sensational escapes. Hanged at Tyburn when "All London turned out to see him".

1750 Outbreak of Jail fever (probably typhoid) in Newgate. Many died, including the Lord mayor and two judges. Bunches of flowers began to be carried and sweet smelling herbs spread about in an attempt to ward off illness. Still done today at opening of summer Sessions.

1772 Edward Dennis, public hangman, imprisoned in Newgate for pickpocketing.

1777 Gate removed. See plaque.

Mary Jones, aged 19, mother of 2 children, convicted at the Old Bailey of shoplifting in Ludgate Hill and hanged. Had baby at the breast while being taken from Newgate to Tyburn. Case used in Parliament in an attempt by Sir William Meredith to reduce the number of of fences carrying the death penalty, which totalled about 190.

1780 June. "No popery" riots by supporters of Lord George Gordon (1751-93). Excuse by underprivileged person for destruction and looting. Newgate broken into and rioters already imprisoned there released. Some due for execution next day.

Edward Dennis, public hangman, again imprisoned in Newgate and tried and sentenced to death for taking part in the riots in Holborn. Later reprieved so that he could hang his fellow rioters. In office 1771-1786. Had a right to the clothes and personal property of his victims.

1781 Lord Gordon acquitted of High Treason charge arising out of 1780 riots.

1783 November. Last execution at Tyburn. A place of execution for 600 years. 50,000 executions. Executions then carried out in front of Newgate Prison, opposite present old building, up to 1868.

1785 John Howard, prison reformer, introduced solitary confinement in Newgate.

1787 Lord Gordon imprisoned in Newgate with Jewish servant, being unable to find sureties after his conviction for publishing pamphlets libelling the Queen of France and the English Judges and Law.

1793 Death of Lord Gordon in Newgate.

1800 The Editor of the Times imprisoned in Newgate for libelling the Duke of York. Received state pension while in prison.

1813 Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer, began work in Newgate.

1830 Last use of the pillory which had existed since time immemorial outside Newgate.

1835 Three boys under 14 hanged for burglary.

1868 Last public execution; Michael Barrett. Executions then within the walls.

1881 Newgate ceased as a prison.

1902 Last execution.

First hand appeared through the wall from the inside. It was that of a workman engaged in demolishing Newgate to make way for the new Court building. This fulfilled an old prophecy that "an innocent man will one day break through the walls of Newgate".

1907 New Court opened by King Edward VII.

1941 North West corner hit by bomb. 2 officials killed. Court 2 destroyed.

1950 Rebuilding commenced.

1952 New Court 2 opened.

1956 North murals painted by Professor Moira to replace those destroyed.

1972 New South block opened, containing 12 modern courtrooms.

1973 West front damaged by IRA car bomb. No one killed but many injured by flying glass.

The Books of Dora Tack "My Brixton Childhood - The Memories of a City of London Policeman's Daughter 1921-1940