Review of the April 2023 Meeting of The Whitechapel Society
By Louise Grace
Rod Beattie presents: “Jack the Ripper: The Policeman”.
Tony Power welcomed Rod Beattie to the April meeting of the Whitechapel Society. Rod had travelled all the way from Birmingham, the plan for which was thrown into repeated jeopardy by a threatened rail strike, which in the end didn’t happen!
As Tony said in his introduction, it had been sometime since we had had a talk about Jack the Ripper and Tony raised the question – “How was it possible for this killer to disappear into thin air?”. Rod’s new book “Jack the Ripper: The Policeman. A New Suspect” presents the case for a metropolitan police officer being the Whitechapel Murderer and answered that very question. He was a man who had endured an abusive mother, who was served with bastardy orders twice and, who in his view, had had his career ruined by a lady-of-the-night. This man who was in the right place at the right time and he might have had the mindset to carry out revenge on those people he thought had ruined him – prostitutes.
Rod started his presentation with a short biography of his suspect – Bowden Endacott. He had been born in Devon in 1851 and was the last of seven children. His mother was 42 at the time of Endacott’s birth and she clearly resented him. He initially joined the Devon police force but was served a bastardy order by the woman in whose house he was then living, so made the decision to relocate to London and joined the Metropolitan’s ‘D’ Division. In London, he was given the special task of arresting prostitutes. On 28tJune 1887 he arrested a 24-year-old woman in Regent Street, Elizabeth Cass, on the charge of solicitation and prostitution. She protested her innocence vehemently both in Regent Street and later when taken to Tottenham Court Road Police Station. The next morning, she appeared before Magistrate Robert Miles Newton at Great Marlborough Street Police Court, and PC Endacott presented his evidence. He claimed that not only was she approaching men in Regent Street the previous night, but he had seen her doing exactly the same thing three times before. Madame Bowman, Elizabeth’s employer gave evidence in her defence which the magistrate brushed aside. It was clear that Magistrate Newton believed that Elizabeth had gone to Regents Street on the night of 28th June for immoral purposes, but decided to discharge her with a caution. And it was the caution which opened up a whole can of far-reaching worms. His actual words were:
“Just take my advice: if you are a respectable girl as you say you are, do not walk Regent Street and stop gentlemen at 10 O’clock at night. If you do you will either be fined or sent to prison after this caution I have given you”.
It was this comment that was to cause a barrage of press indignation, with The Pall Mall Gazette leading the way. This was rapidly followed by a letter from Mrs Bowman to Scotland Yard complaining about the treatment by the police of her employee, and by early July the matter was raised in the House of Commons after which followed a vote. As a result of this, the Home Secretary Henry Matthews ordered Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to carry out a full enquiry.
Bowden Endacott then stood trial in November 1887 at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Stephen on a charge of perjury, in that he had falsely sworn at the Police Court that he saw Miss Cass accost two gentlemen, and that she subsequently repeated the offence and that on that occasion one of the men complained to him. Elizabeth gave her evidence, (by now she had married on 17th Aug, so was Elizabeth Langley) going into great detail as to when she had arrived in London from her hometown of Stockton-on-Tees and where she had resided and with whom. Mrs Bowman also gave evidence as did a number of the Police officers from the Tottenham Court Road Police Station.
At the end of the trial Mr Justice Stephen waded through the hours of testimony and concluded that the only thing the jury had to decide was whether Endacott committed perjury in swearing that he had seen Miss Cass in Regents Street three times “within the last six weeks”. He was far from convinced that there had been “deliberate false swearing” on the part of the Police Constable and indeed point out a few “mistakes” made by Miss Cass herself, and said that in one instance she showed “great want of candour”. He added that he wished to say that the holding of an inquiry into the conduct of a man, afterwards to be accused of a crime, was to be avoided. Clearly uneasy, Justice Stephens directed the jury to find Endacott not guilty and he was then duly discharged.
And so ended this highly publicised affair and Elizabeth Cass (now Langley) disappeared into obscurity and Bowden Endacott had to continue with his life. Within a few weeks he was transferred to the staff of police which performed special service at The British Museum. He stayed in this position for the next 12 years when he retired from the Police force at the age of 49, having completed 25 years in 1900. By then, his wife Emily had died and he returned to his native county of Devon and became to licensee of the Golden Lion Inn in Coombe Road in Teignmouth assisted by son Bertie, and daughter Beatrice. Sadly, his retirement was relatively short lived as he died in October 1905.
So, could this man have been Jack the Ripper? A man who could well have been drafted into the area, a man who felt great wrongs had been done to him by women in general and prostitutes in particular.
A lively wide-ranging discussion followed, with many saying how much they had enjoyed the debate. Tony took a vote of those present, posing the question “is it feasible that the Ripper could have been a Police Officer?”. Over half those present answered in the affirmative and the point was raised that would that number have been lower if this survey had been done before the murder of Sarah Everard in 2021?
Though the evidence against Bowden Endacott was thin, as one eagle-eyed member pointed out while looking at Ancestry on their phone – in 1881 census, Bowden, his wife and young son were living at 21 Gower Street, London. Elizabeth Stride, at the time of her marriage to John Stride in 1869 gave her address as 67 Gower Street!
A lively evening enjoyed by all. Our thanks to Rod Beattie and to Tony and Steve for everything they do to make the meetings flow.