‘Saucy Jack’

Following the controversial and shocking events of 30th September 1888, the Central News received a follow-up to the notorious ‘Dear Boss’ letter. This time it was a postcard, postmarked 1st October and received that same day. It was smeared on both sides with what appeared to be blood and was written in red pencil. Its content indicated knowledge of its predecessor:

I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you'll hear about Saucy Jacky's work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off. had not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

Jack the Ripper

The handwriting appeared identical to the pencilled afterword on the ‘Dear Boss’ letter and the fact that the writer mentions things that were in the former communication (getting the ears for the police) before being made public pointed to the same author. A transcription of the postcard and parts of the ‘Dear Boss’ letter were printed in that evening’s newspapers and on 4th October, facsimiles were reproduced in the press, a day after official police posters bearing images of the two communications were released: ‘Any person recognising the handwriting is requested to communicate with the nearest police station.’

Some have suggested that because the postcard mentions the ‘double event’ as news yet to be published in the media, the author and the killer were one and the same, thus also confirming the ‘Dear Boss’ letter as genuine. However, this is not necessarily the case. Although the same author wrote both missives, knowledge of the 'double event' would have been widespread throughout the day of the murders, 30th September. Also, the UK postal service in the Victorian era was considerably more efficient and frequent than it is today, with many more collections (which also included Sundays). The postcard could easily have been written on the 30th September when everybody was heatedly discussing the previous day’s events, and posted on the 1st October in plenty of time to arrive at the Central News Agency the same day bearing the postmark of that date.

One interesting development surrounding this postcard was the fact that smeared blood or ink was present and a thumbprint could be seen, prompting one gentleman to write to The Times newspaper on 4th October about the possibility of using fingerprinting as a means to identify the killer:

The surface of a thumb so printed is as clearly indicated as are the printed letters from any kind of type. Thus there is a possibility of identifying the blood print on the letter with the thumb that made it because the surface markings on no two thumbs are alike, and this a low power used in a microscope could reveal.

An important proposition, but alas one that would not be followed up - fingerprinting for criminal identification had been offered to the Metropolitan Police by Dr Henry Faulds in 1886, but was turned down at the time. It was not until 1902 that the technique was used to convict a thief and three years later to gain a conviction for murder.

Nonetheless, the ‘Saucy Jacky Postcard’ as it has become known, is an important artefact in the Ripper case, bearing the second use of that famous name and effectively sealing it into the minds of the media and public at large. Sadly, the whereabouts of the original postcard are unknown and it is not clear how long it has been missing. There are a number of facsimiles in private collections and the original Metropolitan Police copy is held in the National Archives.

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The Jack the Ripper Casebook