Jack the Ripper in Harpenden

Hertford Mercury Transcript 13/10/1888

Hertford Mercury and Reformer 13th of October 1888


The usually quiet town of Harpenden was the scene of some excitement Thursday, when it was stated that a man, who said that his name was Wills or Williams, had announced himself in the district as the person who had committed the Whitechapel murders. The man had been living in the town for a few days, and then disappeared in a very suspicious manner. On Monday afternoon he took apartments at the house of a railway signalman in Harpenden, stating that he was a government surveyor, and that he had been sent to Harpenden to do some surveying work in the neighbourhood, which would take himself and another surveyor four months to complete. He stated that his companion would arrive from London on Wednesday evening with the necessary instruments. He had no boxes or extra clothes, his only belongings being an old surveyors chain. On Wednesday afternoon he was out with a youth named Lock, when he pulled from his coat pocket a small case containing a number of Lancet’s, knives, scissors, and a few keys, all packed in wadding. He remarked to his companion that he would not need to buy any knives, as he had plenty. While conversing about the Whitechapel murders the man said he had seen every one of the bodies, and if anyone knew where to find the murderer it was himself. Shortly afterwards he said he had to go to Luton to draw £150 from the bank, and he went away ostensibly for that purpose. He did not return, nor did his expected assistant arrive from London. As the man left without paying for is board and apartments, information of what had taken place was given to the police, who have obtained a description Williams, and enquiries are being made as to his whereabouts and antecedents.

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