The Jack the Ripper investigation is well known to many, and rightly so. The heinous crimes that have remained unsolved for over a century have turned up over a hundred suspects in that time. As avid Ripperologists, we share the best Jack the Ripper tour with like-minded folk on a daily basis, and it is with you that we share our take on one of the suspects that got away; William Bury.
William Henry Bury was born in 1859 and raised in the Midlands. However, he was orphaned at a very young age. He grafted for a time, but his life was tainted with financial difficulties and was sacked for thievery before setting off to make his life in London, in 1887.
He took work in October 1887, selling sawdust for a man named James Martin, who was reported to be running a brothel in Bow, close to Whitechapel. By April 1888, he was married to a suspected prostitute named Ellen Elliot, whom he had met through Martin.
Their relationship was full of violence and alcohol, and just days after they had wed, Bury was caught threatening to slash his wife’s throat by their landlord. Ellen came into some money and they spent the next few months drinking heavily before a series of lies on Bury’s part; about having obtained work, eventually led them to Dundee, Scotland, in January 1889.
Bury spent time observing court cases and criminal proceedings before killing his wife, a few weeks later. Bury handed himself into the local police station, eventually confessing to the murder of his wife. He had strangled her, repeatedly stabbed her dead body, and then mutilated it; to fit it inside a box in their home. He was sentenced to death by hanging and was executed on 24th April 1889.
There is a lot of speculation about the notion of Bury being Jack the Ripper. However, the media at the time reported Bury as a person of interest for the Ripper killings. The timeline fits Bury’s movements and actions in London; there is scope for motive in the Whitechapel killings and the death of his wife, as there are similarities across the board.
The Jack the Ripper killings were in the Whitechapel area, and Bury lived in nearby Bow. He had access to and will have known the area. The idea that his new bride was possibly a prostitute, along with their differences, could well have driven the violent drunk towards an aversion to ladies of the night.
After their move to Dundee, Ellen was reported to have told neighbours that “Jack the Ripper is quiet now” and “Jack the Ripper is taking a rest”, which suggests that she knew who the killer was. In addition to this, there was graffiti found on the door and stairwell of their Dundee home that said “Jack Ripper is at the back of this door” and “Jack Ripper is in the seller (sic)”. Ellen may have been killed to prevent her from talking any further on the matter.
When asked by a friend for an update on the Jack the Ripper killings, Bury is reported to have reacted with fright and immediate dismissal of the subject. When he handed himself in, Bury was quick to state that he was concerned he would be accused of the Jack the Ripper killings; an observation that the police might have otherwise not made.
Other similarities between the Ripper Killings and Ellen’s death are; stab wounds to the abdomen, the taking of her jewellery and the mutilation of the body. In the latter instance, this was the cutting of her body into pieces.
While there was a lot of circumstantial evidence stacking up against Bury, there were also some differences that may have stopped Police from pursuing him for the Ripper killings. Namely that the method of killing Ellen was different from the canonical five Whitechapel murders. One example being the strangulation and shallow stab wounds post mortem; as opposed to the slitting of the throat and multiple stabbing, being the cause of death.
While it may be a coincidence, Bury left the London area shortly after the last Jack the Ripper victim was killed, and there were no more suspected murders after he was hanged in Dundee. Will we ever know who the Ripper was? Who can say for sure!
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