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Albert Bachert and the Eastern Hotel Suspect

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  • Albert Bachert and the Eastern Hotel Suspect

    This is long, but very worth the read. Lots of good information in it including bits about Bachert that are interesting. The end has a warning to us future Ripperologists and our theories on suspects. (not worded like that, but you'll see what I mean)

    The person of interest written about here, by the name of Cornwall, was a man suspected after a Ripper letter was sent to Albert Bachert claiming he would commence operations in July (1889). It came from the address, Eastern Hotel, Pop. Cornwall would have been available for every murder except the Kelly murder in which he was aboard the cattle ship "Ben Lomond" beginning on October 14th. The officers of another ship were interested in what the reporter had learned about him because he went missing on August 22nd. In this article they dismiss him due to the fact the reporter writing this believed in a single hand for all the murders.

    The Spectator
    July 27, 1889

    Not long before the committal of the last murder Mr. Albert Baeckert the president of one of the Vigilance Committees formed some little time ago in Whitechapel received a letter signed Jack the Ripper which stated that the murderer would begin work again in July. At the top of the letter had been written the words Eastern Hotel Pop but this address had been heavily scratched out. Taking this as his starting point, the reporter attempted to find the place mentioned and though he failed in Poplar he discovered an Eastern Hotel not far off in Limehouse; a respectable house frequented by well to do seafaring men. Finding that the servants could give no useful information he made some inquiries in the bar and there fell in with a person who hearing that the reporter was making inquiries connected with the letter mentioned that ever since he had read the descriptions of that document appearing in the newspapers he had connected it with a man he had once known who had lodged in his house and who had been in the habit of visiting the Eastern Hotel.

    This man by name Cornwall always made him feel uneasy declared the reporter's informant and when he went away every one in the house felt a sense of relief. Cornwall he stated was a seafaring man and also he mentioned likely to have a feeling of revenge towards the class of women singled out by the Whitechapel murderer. Cornwall could be very companionable if he chose could sing and was extremely well educated but seemed at the same time cruel. He only had two visitors, one a man whom he said was his uncle, the other a boy who had sailed a short voyage with him to a foreign port. He came said the reporter's informant after Cornwall had left us and he told my sister that a boy would be better off if he was a dog than sailing under Cornwall. When asked why he associated Cornwall with the murders he replied I perhaps do him a great injustice, but I still have this impression. There was something very uncanny about him. It was mysterious and indescribable. He had a peculiar habit of grinning. He had large prominent white teeth and he was always parting his lips over them. It was not a smile exactly but it was like a dog showing his teeth. To further emphasise the effect of the mystery produced by this man the reporter's informant went on to describe some of Cornwall's queer ways of moving about like a cat and of coming upon you unaware from behind.

    Finally he said he would never have thought of Cornwall in connection with the murders but for something that occurred last year about the time of the Whitechapel crimes. He was walking then in a road near his house when he passed a man turned round to look after him and then found the man had also stopped and turned. I went back and to my astonishment recognised Cornwall. When he stopped with me he had a moustache and full beard black and was always very neatly dressed. On this morning he was clean shaven except his moustache which was clipped. He had a light shabby suit of clothes on and a light shabby hat. I said, What on earth are you doing? He said I am going on the police. We had a little more conversation and I left him. This appearance in disguise as it seemed and the connection with the particular hotel were the reasons given by the reporter's informant for mentioning Cornwall. He ended by stating that when Cornwall had left his house he had gone on one of the steamers of the Exploration Company sailing from London Bridge. Of course there was nothing in all this to connect Cornwall in any sort of way with the crime but the reporter resolved to follow the matter up and to find out who this Cornwall really was.

    As a preliminary, however, he tried to obtain from Baeckert a specimen of the handwriting in which the letter signed Jack the Ripper was written. Though he failed in this owing to the letter having been destroyed, Baeckert who was an engraver by trade and so was accustomed to imitate what he had seen reproduced for what it might be worth a specimen of the writing as he remembered it. Possessed of this slight piece of information the reporter who tells us that Cornwall was the first human being he had ever heard of who in his opinion fitted the case being a seafaring man having a motive for killing fallen women and appearing at intervals in London attempted to get the help of the police in working up his clue. Here, however, he met with a refusal and thereupon resolved to pretend that he was a solicitor's clerk anxious to find out the whereabouts of Cornwall and to go minutely into the matter himself. After getting preliminary information from one of the Exploration Company's servants he found a captain under whom Cornwall had sailed. This gentleman who remembered Cornwall perfectly and rather liked him stated that after leaving him he had served on a vessel called the Solent. On board her plenty of news in regard to Cornwall was forthcoming. The officers of the ship had liked him and were specially interested about him for he had totally disappeared since the 22nd of last August.

    Next the reporter learned that at the time when the April and the first of the August murders were committed the Solent was in the docks. Cornwall himself was described as determined and strong but mysterious so much so indeed that the impression prevailed that he was a detective or something of the kind. After this the officers of the Solent produced a specimen of Cornwall's handwriting which seemed to have a startling resemblance to that imitated by the engraver and gave the reporter the name and address of the captain who possessed a photograph of the man in question. Finally they mentioned the fact that after Cornwall left the ship he had written to ask the influence of the captain to help him to get on the police. Later an aunt had written for news saying that her nephew had not been heard of for six months. It was of course of paramount importance to find out if Cornwall had been in London during all the murders for it was held as a fundamental assumption by the reporter that they were the work of one hand.

    Accordingly to this investigation he next addressed himself searching various shipping registers though at first in vain. At one of these offices he was somewhat staggered by the question of the official in charge of the register. Do you think yon are the only party after Cornwall?"- an oracular remark which however he would not amplify when asked point blank if there had been in reality any other inquiries. Dismissing this portion of the case for a time the reporter returned to the Solent in order if possible to find out if Cornwall was left handed. For reasons which he says he cannot give the reporter takes it as absolutely certain that the Whitechapel murderer is left handed. The matter therefore was to him one of great importance. The question when once put was however soon answered the mate of the Solent declaring positively that Cornwall was left handed. Cornwall carved he said but always held the knife in his left hand. To the reporter full of his preconceived notions this of course seemed like nothing less than a strong confirmation of his theory.

    The next steps taken were to see the captain who had been friendly to Cornwall and possessed his photograph to get the address of the photographer to obtain copies of the picture and then to go to the lodging house which the captain had indicated as Cornwall's last known place of abode. Here the servants gave a description of Cornwall which appeared to tally in a most extraordinary way with the published police description of the Whitechapel murderer. These facts known, the reporter obtained an interview with one of the two people who are certainly known to have seen the Whitechapel murderer; the man who saw him leave the lodging house where an unsuccessful attack was made upon a woman last year and got from him a description which tallied exactly with that of Cornwall. From this man was also obtained the curious piece of information that the murderer wore on his face a contemptuous grin a fact which at once recalled the manner in which Cornwall's peculiar grin had been insisted on. This done the reporter made inquiries from the crew of another steamer, the Ben Lomond, in which Cornwall had sailed and got the address of a house which on inquiry it appeared he had only left on the preceding day.

    The inquiries thus far had shown that Cornwall had been in London on the days of all the murders except one. As to the murder of November 9th the matter was still uncertain and this essential point was now to be determined by reference to the Board of Trade Register Inquiry, however, showed that Cornwall last year was one of the crew of the Ben Lomond and that the vessel sailed for China with Cornwall on board on October 14th. This fact in a moment blew the reporter's case into atoms and the whole edifice of suspicion which seemed to be fitted together so firmly and to rest on such sure foundations went to the ground.

    The lesson of the case is an important one. If by a coincidence by no means more remarkable than many others discovered in the course of the reporter's investigations the Ben Lomond had not sailed till November 10th, a net of circumstantial evidence as we said before would have been woven round an innocent man from which he might have found the greatest possible difficulty in escaping. This fact the reporter recognises fully but he does not realise we think the true state of the case when he speaks as if the difficulties connected with circumstantial evidence were alone to bear the blame and that his failure only showed the immense care required for their handling. The danger of a hideous injustice being done arose not from relying upon circumstantial evidence if or after all evidence is circumstantial, but from the fact that the amateur detective started with a strong preconceived notion and with a preconceived notion which was consciously or unconsciously shared by many of his informants. The result was that he searched London all over with extraordinary cleverness and rapidity not so much for the instrument of a crime, but for a man who would coincide with a particular theory for some one who would fit an ideal conception. The mistake was perhaps natural enough, but it is one highly dangerous in a detective. The particular reporter after such an experience is probably likely to be careful enough in the future. It is to be hoped however that others engaged in the same work will take the matter to heart and that they will act on less simple and easy assumptions than that of hunting for a man who will fit their theories. Who knows, but that when the actual man is found he may prove to be the last person in the world that any sane human being would have suspected.

  • #2
    Sorry, Howard, I see you posted this here already. I should have waited for your reply. haha


    • #3
      Never a problem, JD.....thank you for cranking this thread up.


      • #4
        Very interesting, Jerry and How.

        I think the image below is of the Eastern Hotel in question. It was on the junction of the East and West India Dock Roads, not far from the Strangers' Home.

        Click image for larger version

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
          Very interesting, Jerry and How.

          I think the image below is of the Eastern Hotel in question. It was on the junction of the East and West India Dock Roads, not far from the Strangers' Home.

          Thanks for the picture, Gary. Pretty small Hotel.

          I found it interesting in the article that the letter was destroyed, but then Bachert reproduced a specimen of the writing.

          As a preliminary, however, he tried to obtain from Baeckert a specimen of the handwriting in which the letter signed Jack the Ripper was written. Though he failed in this owing to the letter having been destroyed, Baeckert who was an engraver by trade and so was accustomed to imitate what he had seen reproduced for what it might be worth a specimen of the writing as he remembered it.