1886: Robert Silas Fowler, lustful 1952: Lloyd Edison Sampsell, the Yacht Bandit

1889: William Henry Bury, Jack the Ripper suspect

April 24th, 2016 Headsman

The last execution in Dundee, Scotland occurred on this date in 1889 — and some folk suspect that the fellow that fell through the gallows-trap might have been the great bogeyman of a different place: Whitechapel.

Orphaned son to a fishmonger who was broken when he fell under the wheels of his own laden cart and a mother who expired in a lunatic asylum, William Henry Bury just so happened to be resident of Whitechapel’s adjacent East End neighborhood of Bow when the former experienced a notorious spate of murders in 1888. Bury marked his time as an unsuccessful sawdust merchant vending to Whitechapel taverns, and as a downright atrocious husband drinking and whoring away the modest inheritance of his wife Ellen, then returning home to thrash her for it.

Proximity and misogyny begin the case for William Bury as a possible Jack the Ripper candidate, but it was a host of more specific circumstances that really interested posterity and contemporaries alike.

The Ripper killings abated in the autumn of 1888; nobody really knows why, though in making the case for Bury as the murderer, William Beadle has suggested that heavy fog that season complicated Bury’s post-slaughter escape routes back to Bow. By January, Bury had moved away to Dundee dragging along his reluctant, and now penniless, wife. Other Whitechapel homicides extending up to 1891 might be copycat crimes or coincidences, but all of the so-called “canonical five” consensus victims of Jack the Ripper were in their graves by the time Bury left town. Ripper or no, Bury is known to have committed knife attacks on at least two women (and threatened his wife with same); he’s also a likely suspect for the December 1888 strangulation murder (sans mutilation) of Rose Mylett, one of the several possible Ripper crimes outside the canonical five.

Days after moving to Dundee, Bury strangled his wife with a rope … and gashed open her abdomen, eerily mirroring the Whitechapel killer’s horrific attacks. (Although Bury’s slashes of Ellen were not as deep or ferocious as those associated with the Whitechapel killer.)

Finding he could not get the body out of the apartment, and recollecting that people were bound to notice that his wife had vanished, Bury eventually went to police with a preposterous story that he had awoken to find his wife a suicide several days before and then — strange topic to bring up — hid the body for fear that this Whitechapel emigre would be taken for Jack. Someone clearly did so, for when police investigated they found strange chalk graffiti: “Jack Ripper is at the back of this door”, “Jack Ripper is in this seller”. The operative assumption is that Bury himself scratched them but these creepy notices at a crime scene have a whiff of street vigilantes tagging the murderer as in Fritz Lang’s M. Then again, the Burys were strangers who had just arrived from the epicenter of a notorious crime spree, and Dundee probably had prankster schoolboys in abundance.

London police and Scotland Yard sniffed around Bury and didn’t find enough whiff of the Ripper to charge him up as the Whitechapel murderer, but not all were persuaded. Executioner James Berry was reportedly convinced that in Bury he had noosed England’s legendary monster, and a Scotland Yard detective — despite failing to get anything but denials out of his interrogations — allegedly agreed, telling the hangman, “We are quite satisfied that you have hanged Jack the Ripper. There will be no more Whitechapel crimes.” We have suggestive — nothing is dispositive with Jack, much to the profit of amateur sleuths down the years — hints that Ellen too believed this, as she is said to have remarked to Dundee acquaintances who quizzed her about the killings in her former neighborhood things like “Jack the Ripper is taking a rest.” Meaningless conversational nicety, or clue from the bedmate of the monster?

There are of course dozens of Jack the Ripper suspects from then and now; Bury isn’t even the only one who ultimately got executed. And there are reasons to doubt Bury beginning most obviously with his clumsy performance for the Dundee police: seemingly very far from the cool and shrewd sociopath we commonly suppose for the Whitechapel Ripper.

But there’s a lot that fits, too, and even though Bury always denied the charge, some part of him — be it a confessional mode, or a starfucking one — couldn’t resist hinting. When that hangman Berry implied in the last moments that Bury should unburden himself of the Whitechapel crimes, his mark repelled the attempt with tantalizing non-denials, e.g. “I suppose you think you are clever to hang me … but because you are going to hang me you are not going to get anything out of me.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Serial Killers

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4 thoughts on “1889: William Henry Bury, Jack the Ripper suspect”

  1. andy nicholas says:

    Hutchinson is one of the better suspects for sure. He isn’t one who has arisen from some half baked royalist/masonic theory involving stars and stagecoaches! For me something doesn’t quite fit with him though. He knew Mary Kelly and I would imagine that she may have found him a bit odd or creepy. He would have been on the radar after giving ‘evidence’ and I suspect he was monitored and ruled out.
    I know Bury was ruled out too (for whatever reason!!??) but he was totally under the radar while he was in London. There is much circumstantial evidence to point the finger at him (Bury) but sadly nothing concrete to convict him.
    It’s unlikely we’ll ever know for certain but my hunch still says Bury although there are others like Hutchinson, Figenbaum, Klosowski/Chapman, Cross/Letchmere, Craig, Kosminski, Kaminsky/Cohen and James Kelly who are all viable, sensible possibilities. It is possible that the canonical 5 were NOT all killed by the same hand or that JTR is still under the radar.

  2. joey says:

    I have done research on this case and only one man fits in every way and that man is George Hutchinson!first Jack NEVER had sex with his victims so unless he cut himself there will be no D.N.A.! i looked at what kind of killer jack was,looked at the area,the lighting,the weather and many other things,we know for sure that two of the victims had there face cut up,now the kind of killer who would do this is one who knew those two girls.George knew both girls,he lived right in the middle of the murders so he knew the area well,the girls would have seen him around and there for would not be afraid of him.he was seen on the night of Mary Kellys murder yet did not go to police until three days later after he read that he had been seen! in his statement to police he said he talked to Mary and she asked to barrow money he told her he had none,then said she went with a man who looks like the ripper we see in movies,he said he followed them back to Marys and waited 45 minutes in the rain at one in the morning and when nobody came out he left.now i say why did he do this?(he was stalking her and waiting for the right time to strike)and if he cared enough to do that why did he not tell police the next day?he did not tell the police until he read he was seen by another lady walking to her friends who lived close to Mary.so he had to come forward.the reason police believed his story is they were not looking for a normal looking man,back then they thought only a hulking mad man who was crazy would do this.also remember just because the police believed him dont mean he is not there guy,the Yorkshire Ripper was talked to NINE TIMES before he was caught and that was in the 70’s and early 80’s.Jack AKA George Hutchinson killed more girls than the five they say,the killings only stopped after he left London in late 1890 or early 1891 and if somebody can track where he went they will find more murders,now they may look unlike the ripper murders but the cutting and taking organs will be there.there are other things i found that point to him and if you do your research you should spot these things.this man is the only man who fits in every way he is Jack the ripper!

  3. andy nicholas says:

    This guy Bury is a real good shout for JTR on many levels. A lot of the so called experts won’t acknowledge him in their books because they can’t eliminate him and he always stacks up well against whoever their pet suspect may be. Also he isn’t ‘rock n roll’ enough in the suspect stakes. He was just a sad, pathetic wife abuser with little man syndrome. This is exactly the type of person that would be JTR or any other serial killer for that matter.
    It cannot be proved beyond all reasonable doubt that William Bury was Jack The Ripper but there is more evidence or known facts relating to him than any other suspect that suggest he was more likely than most.

  4. Meaghan says:

    Me, I think that when Judgement Day comes and all the dead arise and what was unknown becomes known, and the Ripperologists ask Jack to stand up and identity himself, and he does, they’re all going to look at each other and say, “Who’s that?”

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