The card, which was sent to Ealing Police Station in 1888, reads “my knife is still in good order” and concludes “I am Jack the Ripper”. It is one of many such notes sent to the police during the long-running investigation over the Whitechapel murderer’s identity. This one, however, has the distinction of having been sent in October shortly before the murder of Mary Kelly, one of the “canonical five” killings in the case, took place.
It reads: Beware there is two women I want here they are bastards, and I mean to have them my knife is still in good order it is a students knife and I hope you liked the half of kidney. I am Jack the Ripper.
More than a century later after the series of Whitechapel murders the Jack the Ripper killing of the 1880s and ‘90s have never been conclusively solved, but the true identity of the Ripper has sparked endless conjecture. Among those who have been accused are Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the American serial killer HH Holmes, the Liverpool Cotton merchant James Maybrick and the Camden Town Group artist Walter Sickert.
The card, which will be offered at Grand Auction’s sale in Folkestone on October 9, has been judged to be at least a contemporary document. The vendor is the widow of a member of the Metropolitan Police who came by the card in the file when the case was closed and who brought it home on his retirement in 1966.
Today, little forensic evidence surrounding the Ripper cases remains, making the possibility of a certain identification unlikely. But the topic continues to fascinate, fuelled by the steady release of books (including Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer which accuses Sickerts), films (From Hell and The Lodger) and TV programmes (BBC’s Ripper Street and Whitechapel and History Channel’s ongoing American Ripper which explores the story of HH Holmes).
An estimate has yet to be set for the postcard.
“No such police related Ripper communication, and with such good provenance, has been offered for auction in living memory,” Grand Auctions said in a statement. “We are dealing with a very rare artefact indeed connected to a person who has never gone out of the news.”
Previous auctions of Ripper-related paraphernalia include JP Humbert Auctioneers 2014 sale of items once belonging to PC Edward Watkins, a policeman on the case in 1888, the peak year of the murders. The five-item lot, including handcuffs and truncheon, took £17,700. In June this year, an 1888 printed police notice warning residents of Whitechapel about the murders so far took $35,000 at Christie’s New York.