A definition of witness.


Arrested Wednesday, 26th September, 1888.

John Fitzgerald was just one of many people who felt compelled to confess to having committed one of the Whitechapel murders. In his case, he confessed to having been responsible for the killing of Annie Chapman.

The South Wales Echo broke the news of his confession in its edition of Thursday, 27th September 1888:-

The Central News understands that a man giving the name of John Fitzgerald gave himself up at Wandsworth police-station last night, and made a statement to the inspector on duty to the effect that he was the murderer of Annie Chapman in Hanbury Street, Whitechapel.

He was afterwards conveyed to Leman-street police-station, where he is now detained.

The same news agency, in a later despatch, says that the man in custody at Leman-street is a plasterer or a bricklayer's labourer. He says that he has been wandering from place to place, and he is believed to have been more or less under the influence of drink lately.

He has not yet been formally charged with the crime, but is merely detained pending further inquiries.

His description does not tally with that given at the inquest by the witnesses of a certain man seen on the morning of the murder.

It seems that Fitzgerald first communicated the intelligence to a private individual, who subsequently gave its purport to the police. A search was made, and the man was discovered in a common lodging- house at Wandsworth. He is known to have been living recently at Hammersmith.

His self-accusation is said to be not altogether clear, and it is even reported that he cannot give the date of the murder, so that the authorities are disinclined to place much reliance on his statements.

The police are nevertheless pursuing vigilant enquiries, and if the confession be found to contain any semblance of truth the prisoner will be formally charged before a magistrate at Worship-street.

Another telegram says;- The name of the man who made the confession is John Fitzgerald. A companion of his, named John Locus, has made a statement to the effect that Fitzgerald had entered a public-house in Wandsworth last evening, and commenced talking about the Whitechapel murder, and produced a knife, with which he illustrated a theory as to how the murder was committed. He then left, saying he had no home.

He will be charged at Thames police-court.

A telegram received just before going to press says that Fitzgerald, who confesses to being the Whitechapel murderer, is still in custody pending the result of police enquiries. He is not likely to be charged today, if at all."


As with so many of those who confessed to the crimes, the case against John Fitzgerald came to nothing, and, two days after his arrest, he was released by the police.

On Sunday, 30th September, 1888, Reynolds's Newspaper carried the update of his release:-

The officers engaged in the case have been tracing his movements about the time of the murder, but their inquiries had not been completed.

The police have succeeded in tracing the prisoner's antecedents, and they have ascertained definitely where he spent the night of the murder, as well as his movements on the following morning.

Their information shows conclusively that he could not have committed the crime, and on Friday he was released."