A collection of items related to Jack the Ripper is on offer at Whitton & Laing's auction on March 22 estimated in excess of £10,000.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

They all belonged to Inspector Joseph Henry Helson (1845-1920) and have been passed down through his family, and are currently in the possession of his great grandson.

Helson was a Devonshire man. After working for the South Devon railway as a porter and policeman, he joined the Metropolitan Police as a constable in 1869, retiring as an inspector in 1895.

At the time of the first Ripper murder, that of Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols on August 31, 1888, Helson was acting inspector in J Division and took charge of the investigation. He also assisted in the second murder and attended inquests of some of the other victims. On his retirement from the Met, he returned to Devon and again worked for the railway.

Inspector Helson

A collection of items related to Jack the Ripper is on offer at Whitton & Laing's auction on March 22 estimated in excess of £10,000.

Photo relics

Among the items to be sold are a mortuary photo of Nichols which, although faded, seems to differ from the known photo with the camera at a very slightly different angle.

There are also two photos of one of the main suspects, Michael Ostrog, with notes to the reverse listing three of his aliases, criminal record and physical appearance. Ostrog was a petty thief and con artist who spent long periods in prison and a mental asylum.

However, it seems he was actually held in the lunatic wing of a French prison during a crucial time when Ripper murders took place. He has been described as 'the last and least plausible of Sir Melville Macnaghten's three suspects'. (Macnaghten, Assistant Commissioner (Crime) of the Met 1903-13, wrote a major report in the 1890s on the case, naming three possible suspects.)

Dear Boss Letter

A collection of items related to Jack the Ripper is on offer at Whitton & Laing's auction on March 22 estimated in excess of £10,000.

Also on offer is a facsimile copy of both the infamous 'Dear Boss' letter and 'Saucy Jacky' postcard which appears to be cut from the broadside printed in 1888 and used by the police in the hope that someone would recognise the handwriting. The original letter and postcard both disappeared, the letter being returned in 1988 and is now in the National Archives at Kew, but the postcard has never been seen again.

The letter was written to the Central News agency in London on September 27, 1888, from someone claiming to be the killer - signed Jack the Ripper, introducing that name. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered three days later.

On October 3 a postcard with apparent bloodstains arrived, in similar handwriting and referencing the letter. Also sent from 'Jack the Ripper', it referred to 'Saucy Jacky's work' in the double 'event' (murders).

IMG 3018

Handcuffs from a collection of items related to Jack the Ripper is on offer at Whitton & Laing's auction on March 22 estimated in excess of £10,000.

Other items include Helson's handcuffs, photos of him and two other senior police officers, a handwritten reference letter from the station master at Torquay Station dated just before Helson joined the Met and his Metropolitan Police Retirement Certificate.

The collection is to be offered as one lot and is expected to sell for in excess of £10,000.

Another 'Jack'

Police publicity to trace the handwriting led unfortunately to a deluge of letters and cards purporting to be from the killer.

In 2018 a card signed ‘I am Jack the Ripper’ that had been in police files until the case eventually closed sold for a hammer price of £22,000 at Grand Auctions of Folkestone, Kent.

The card was posted to Ealing Police Station and received on October 29,1888. It states: “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 kidney. I am Jack the Ripper.”

The catalogue entry said: “It was given to the vendor's husband, a Police Constable and member of the Metropolitan Police Force, as a memento for his retirement from the force in 1966. Unwanted items were simply thrown away. One officer found and kept 300 such documents which he has now given to the National Records Office who deface them with a stamp. The PC kept the card in a drawer until his death, where it has remained with his widow.”

The date the card was received at Ealing Police Station was 11 days before the last of the Ripper’s victims, Mary Jane Kelly, was murdered. While other cards purporting to be from Jack the Ripper were sent to different police stations, it is believed this was the first time that such a card with police provenance has been offered at auction.

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 2017 an 1888 printed police notice warning residents of Whitechapel about the murders so far sold for $35,000 at Christie’s New York.