THE ONLY NAME SOUGHT
As the police began interviewing those who lived, or lodged, in the "evil quarter mile" the local prostitutes began telling them about a sinister character who they had nicknamed "Leather Apron."
Apparently this man was running an extortion racket amongst the prostitutes of the area by demanding money from them and beating up those who refused to give him what meagre cash they had.
As far as the prostitutes were concerned this was the person whom the police should be looking for.
Unfortunately they could tell the police very little about him, other than that he habitually wore a leather apron - hence their nickname for him - and that he sometimes wore a deerstalker hat.
He was, so the terrified prostitutes told the police, prone to hanging around the Princess Alice Pub at the Junction of Commercial Street and Wentworth Streets. This pub still survives and (following a period of about twenty years when its name was changed to the City Darts) it has now resorted to its old name and is one of a handful of pub's in the area that have survived from the days of Jack the Ripper.
Obviously this wasn't a great deal for the police to go on. But then one of their own, the wonderfully named Sergeant William Thick provided a promising lead.
According to Thick whenever the people of the area used the name “Leather Apron” they were referring to a man named John, or Jack, Pizer. Armed with this fresh information the police promptly set about trying to find this Jack Pizer hoping to either prove his guilt or else eliminate him as a suspect.
Unfortunately, within days of the police being alerted to this promising suspect, their investigation suffered an almighty set back when the newspapers found out about their main suspect.
On 5th September The Star newspaper ran the first of several articles that terrified the local residents and caused a huge amount of frustration to the police, who had hoped to keep their suspicions a closely guarded secret lest they alert the suspect to the fact that they were on to him.
"Leather Apron", the headline screamed, "The Only Name Linked With The Whitechapel Murders." It went on to tell of a "Strange Character Who Prowls About After Midnight," told of "Universal Fear Among Women;" spoke of him having "Slippered Feet" and carrying a "Sharp Leather Knife."
The Star’s campaign to alert the populace to the noiseless menace in their midst had two effects. Firstly, John Pizer learnt of the police’s suspicions through it, and the prospect of his falling victim to a baying mob, now that he was public enemy number one, so terrified him that he promptly went into hiding amongst his relatives.
The second effect was to have a far more sinister impact on the East End of London, and its repercussions would ultimately influence the way in which the police investigation was handled as the murders increased and local panic intensified.
The leather apron was synonymous with workers amongst the the Jewish immigrants that had been flooding in to the area throughout the 1880's fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe and Russia.
The Star’s articles also emphasised the suspect’s Hebrew appearance and this in turn fed a growing belief amongst the gentile population that no Englishman could be capable of such brutal and gruesome crimes. Thus anti-Semitism, which had been gaining momentum in the area for several years, showed a dramatic increase and the police became suddenly alarmed that the press speculation concerning the murderer’s ethnic origin might easily erupt into full scale anti-Jewish rioting.
Thus, by the 7th September 1888, the police were in the position of being desperate to find Jack Pizer, but also of playing down suggestions that they were looking for a member of the Jewish immigrant community lest their activities lead to a pogrom in the East End of London.
A day later their worst fears in this respect were almost realised when another woman was found brutally murdered and a freshly washed Leather Apron was discovered lying close to her body.
Move on to Hanbury Street and the Murder of Annie Chapman.