Sergeant William Thicke, a police officer whose name appears time and again in the Jack the Ripper investigation, appeared at Thames Police Court this week to give evidence against a burglar named George Neighbour. Sergeant Thicke was the officer who, in the early days of the hunt for Jack the Ripper, when the police were looking for a suspect whom the local prostitutes had nicknamed Leather Apron, declared that John Pizer was Leather Apron.
Thicke's Testimony is interesting because it gives an insight into the dangers and struggles of policing the area where the Jack the Ripper murders occurred.
On Saturday 9th June 1888 the East London Observer headlined an article "A SEVERE STRUGGLE WITH A BURGLAR". The subsequent article reported how:-
George Neighbour, 23, was charged on Monday with breaking and entering 11 Hooper Street, Leman Street, Whitechapel, and stealing therefrom a large number of articles belonging to the tenants.
Four of the tenants identified the articles, which comprised jackets, shirts, quilts, a clock etc. and which were stolen from their rooms. Each of the doors had been burst open.
Detective - sergeant Thicke, H division, stated about seven o'clock on Saturday evening he was standing at the corner of Wentworth Street, Spitalfields. He saw the prisoner with another man, and the former was carrying a large bundle in a black bag.
Witness stopped him. He said, "It is all right governor; I am only carrying it for another man." Witness replied, "I don't believe it is all right." Neighbour then dropped the bag and butted witness with his head in the stomach. Witness caught hold of him by the necktie, and stood on the bundle.
The other man returned with others, and tried to rescue the prisoner and take away the property. Witness had to use his stick pretty freely on the mob in order to keep them at bay.
After a smart tussle witness managed to force the prisoner and the bundle into a hairdressers shop. On searching the bundle he found a bank book with the address 11, Hooper Street. Witness afterwards handed the accused over to a uniformed sergeant. On going to the house in Hooper Street he found that an entry had been effected by means of a false key.
Mr Hannay remanded the accused.
Mr Wynne Baxter, who would preside over the inquests into the deaths of several of Jack the Ripper's victims, had recently vacated the Coronership of the North-Eastern Division of Middlesex to become the Coroner of the South-Eastern Division of Middlesex. On Friday 8th June 1888, two candidates had announced their intention to stand for election to replace Baxter. The Eastern Post and City Chronicle reported that:-
There were but two candidates in the field - Dr. Roderick Macdonald M. P. and Dr. Yarrow of Old Streets St. Luke's.
Dr Macdonald, it will be recollected,, was a candidate on the occasion of the last election in 1886, when he came in a good second at the poll. Since that time he has been almost constantly before the freeholders of the division, who alone are entitled to vote.
His qualifications for the position are undoubtedly great, he having been engaged in the active practice of the medical profession for seventeen years, and the greater portion of that time having been spent in the division.
He holds the qualifications of M.D., F.R.C.S., L.E.C.P, and L.R.C.S.
By a course of study at the Middle Temple he has also qualified himself to become a Barrister at Law.
There was a very large attendance of freeholders yesterday at Hackney Town Hall, under the presidency of Sheriff Davis, while outside the scene was an exciting one, owing to the presence of a large number of sandwich men, bill distributors etc.
It was announced with a preliminary "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez," that the poll would take place on Monday at the same hall and that the result would be declared on Tuesday.
Hopefully it's not spoiling the surprise as to who won the contest by mentioning that later that year Dr Macdonald would be the Coroner at the inquest into the death of Mary Kelly, the fifth victim of Jack the Ripper.
At the House of Lords the Select Committee looking into the so-called Sweating system (East End factory sweat shops) had made a surprise discovery when Mr W. Price, a journeyman tailor, gave appeared before the committee. Price explained that he was engaged in the tailoring trade in the East End of London and that he had formerly been employed to take in and give out work at a tailoring establishment.
The East London Observer reported:-
That work was made by the Jews. Employers frequently gave out work intermittently to suit their own convenience. This caused the work people to labour at times for very long hours - The witness then declared that an East End firm had accepted a contract to supply the government with 400 coats to be made for discharged soldiers. A sample coat was given out to be made at 3s. 6d or 4s. 6d (he thought it was the latter sum). But when the contract was accepted the coats were put out to be made at 2s a coat.
Lord Tring asked if that were so - that a sample coat was made for 3s. 6d, and the remainder for 2s - did the witness mean to say that the Government was defrauded of 1s and 6d on each coat? Mr Price said that it was so.
Mr Frederic Solomon Miers, a boot manufacturer, thought the trade was getting worse through the sweating system.
He considered it would be un-English to restrict Foreign immigration. He was of the opinion that that all rooms where work was carried on should be registered. The Factory Act ought to be more enforced, in order to acquire better sanitation.
After some further evidence the committee again adjourned.
The dangers faced by the police in trying to enforce law and order in the area where the Jack the Ripper murders took place have already been illustrated by Detective Sergeant Thicke's experience. However, in the same week, a man who the East London Observer referred to in its headline as "A MALICIOUS MAN appeared in the same court."
Daniel Hickey, 40, was charged with being drunk and disorderly and with assaulting Constable 37 H, while in the execution of his duty.
On Saturday night the officer saw the prisoner behaving in a very disorderly manner in Great Alie Street, Whitechapel. He was drunk and used filthy language, and as he would not go away he was taken into custody.
Hickley then became very violent, and kicked the officer several times in a dangerous part, hurting him at the time, but the pain had now gone.
Prisoner said he recollected nothing of the occurrence, was sentenced to ten days hard labour.
So there you have a selection of the things that were happening in the East End of London in the week ending Saturday 9th June 1888. One of the points illustrated is the dangers that faced the officers of the Metropolitan Police who would later be called upon to hunt down the elusive killer who became known as jack the Ripper. You can't help but respect their bravery, especially the bravery of Detective Sergeant Thicke as he faced down the mob to bundle his prisoner into the hairdressers shop and then bring him to justice. It's these little insights into the area and events as a whole that our This Week in 1888 will concentrate on.
So be sure to return next week to discover what happened in the East End in the week ending June 16th 1888 when, among other things, we'll announce the results of the Coroner's election!