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  • Decoys

    One of the Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoons that I have stashed somewhere tells of a very old woman in the 1950's who, in her youth in 1888, had been employed by the police as a decoy in the East End as one of their plots to apprehend JTR.

    I have no doubt this is true, but I have seen very little by way of detail. Donald Rumbelow mentions something of the sort in passing, whereby (I think) he tells of real prostitutes being employed for the same purpose at a rate of 2 shillings a night. (All details here from memory, so don't quote me.)

    In both cases, of course, the idea was that the woman would be kept under close surveillance (yeah, right; try that in Mitre Square or Hanbury Street) and the police would spring forth at the crucial moment and nab Jack in the nick of time. Today's prostitution stings in Houston work pretty well the same way but I should imagine today's tools and technology allow this as opposed to what was available in 1888.

    Does anyone have more detail or know where same may be found? This is an intriguing aspect of the case that has been neglected if not overlooked outright.

  • #2
    [QUOTE=admin]One of the Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoons that I have stashed somewhere tells of a very old woman in the 1950's who, in her youth in 1888, had been employed by the police as a decoy in the East End as one of their plots to apprehend JTR.

    QUOTE]

    That's kind of interesting, since although I've heard that such a measure was suggested, I've never heard any first-hand accounts of female decoys actually being employed. You would think that there would be some record, either officially or in some officer's memoirs
    "The Men who were not the Man who was not Jack the Ripper!"

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    • #3
      Timmers:

      I've been thinking about this woman who was used as a decoy....

      1. I wonder what percentage of the total number of arrests ( or detainments as they should be called ) were due to phony prostitutes walking around soliciting or just waiting to be approached back then.

      2. I'd guess this practice began after todays anniversary event,the Chapman murder....

      3. I wonder what they did with a patsy client who may have had a knife on his person....

      4. I wonder where they conducted the interrogation after the pinch,if in fact there were any. Maybe they just took down their name ( if they were weapon free ) and let them go....

      5. I wonder how many women allowed themselves to be used as a decoy. This was a very dangerous situation for the decoy,since she might be facing a blade for her part in the set up. Modern "set ups" use policewomen,of course,who are more knowledgeable of what to do in a situation where the john snaps or gets violent. Unless these women were in pretty fair shape,they were accidents waiting to happen.

      6. I wonder if these "set ups" were conducted in short streets or thoroughfares with police at each end or even standing in disguise in doorways.

      7. I also think that it is representative of the times that the police used these frogs to fatten up a snake. Think about how callous this scenario is.

      Most of these women were frowned upon...perhaps rightly so in many circumstances.... but when they offer themselves up to be sacrifical lambs,they were "utile".

      8. Finally.....I wonder how many of the women actually volunteered for this sort of neighborhood watch?

      Good find Timmers....
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      • #4
        Originally posted by admin
        One of the Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoons that I have stashed somewhere tells of a very old woman in the 1950's who, in her youth in 1888, had been employed by the police as a decoy in the East End as one of their plots to apprehend JTR. I have no doubt this is true, but I have seen very little by way of detail.
        This article is reprinted in a Ripper book, illustration and all, but at the present I can't for the life of me remember which.
        Anyway, it seems the police didn't start using female decoys until 1890 in the Ripper investigation, although they did use them for less dangerous crimes (busting fake fortune tellers, for instance). Or at least I've seen no record of it before then. They did use male police decoys (the guys you see fully shaved in the photos, I imagine) before this for the Ripper.

        A press release relating to the police decision to use female decoys (almost certainly all active prostitutes) made the rounds in October of 1890. Here it is from the Brandon Mail, a Canadian newspaper: "Pursuit of Jack the Ripper is still continued by the London police, in spite of the fact that they have industriously given out that the latest letter from him was really a clever hoax, devised by newspapermen. The police are now employing women as decoys for the miscreant."

        Here's one with more detail from the Washington Post of Nov. 1st. RJ Palmer posted this sometime back to the Casebook:

        "A large number of these unfortunates have practically been engaged by the police to aid in hunting down the mysterious fiend. They have been ordered to parade the darkest and least frequented courts and alleys of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, with instructions not to repulse any man who solicits them. They are guaranteed that they will be followed, and that, in the event of any violence being attempted, they shall recieve immediate help. Provided that they can be kept sober, the police consider these women well qualified to act as decoys; but the “free solicitation” order has already roused the ire of the army of moralists who are ever eager and ready to embrace an opportunity of this nature and ventilate through the medium of the press their philanthropic, but, nevetheless, unhealthy views."

        Yours truly,

        Tom Wescott

        P.S. In 1888 and 1889, private detectives were known to have employed women as decoys. Possibly Charles Le Grand.

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        • #5
          Dig how the press considered those who had half a brain and were concerned about the women's role in this heinous behavior on the part of the police....:

          "the police consider these women well qualified to act as decoys; but the “free solicitation” order has already roused the ire of the army of moralists who are ever eager and ready to embrace an opportunity of this nature and ventilate through the medium of the press their philanthropic, but, nevetheless, unhealthy views."

          Sure, the police considered them able bodied bait....but the press not only overlook this misuse,but use the mention of decoys being utilized to rant against the "do-gooders".
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          • #6
            Hmmmm - that may be right

            Thanks to Tom for his contribution here. If Tom is correct (and I have no doubt that he is) then that is why I have been unable to locate this image - it must be in one of my old issues of Ripper Notes or Ripperologist. If anyone can locate this image, please do so and post it in here.

            But still, it seems that there is a large field of inquiry here that has gone largely untapped (thanks also to RJ Palmer for his insight here) and bears further discussion. To wit:
            1. How many such decoys were ever employed?
            2. Where specifically were they so used?
            3. When did this program begin and when did it end?
            4. Were they all prostitutes? If not, who were these women and how were they recruited? The Ripley's cartoon certainly gave no impression that the woman in question had been a prostitute.
            5. Did these women know any of the victims?
            6. Were these women familiar with the routines used by the victims? Did they know where to solicit and how to act convincingly and so forth?
            7. Were these women armed in any way? Did they have whistles?
            8. Were there any policewomen on the force in 1888 (there are none visible in the H Division photo that Stewart Evans has recently posted on Casebook)? If so, were any thus employed as decoys? In Houston today, policewomen are always used in the numerous prostitution stings frequently conducted.
            9. Did any 'ordinary' women volunteer and if so, were they ever so used? I believe Rumbelow alludes to numerous women willing to thus martyr themselves in such a fashion.
            10. In the absence of any electronic gear, just HOW was this program supposed to work anyway? Did the police really believe that the Ripper wouldn't notice any 'tails'? Or that he wouldn't notice a 'plant'?

            Well, there may be other issues, but surely these 10 questions are the pick of the litter here. If anyone has any concrete information, or even any opinions, we would be quite curious to hear of it.

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            • #7
              Yes, thanks very much to Tom Wescott for placing that material here...I forgot to thank him in the previous post,being startled at the fact the police were able to use live bait...still shaking my head here.

              When you having nothing,you have nothing to lose....and its possible that some of the women who did volunteer did so out of pure altruism and not money. Don't forget that angle...
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              • #8
                Evening News Cartoon

                It was a cartoon in Peter Jackson's Evening News section.

                ard1.jpg

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                • #9
                  Thanks for that cartoon,GH.

                  There is a difference between what Tom mentioned ( he stated they initiated this project in 1890 ) and the caption which states in "The '80's".....unless this is an altogether different woman and different entrapment plan.

                  Thanks for sharing the caption. Much appreciated
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                  • #10
                    I said it 'seems' they didn't use female decoys until 1890, and I only say that because there's no record (to my knowledge) of it before that time. Having said that, there's not a big leap from 1880's to 1890, particularly in the mind of an 81 year old woman. Might also have been an assumption on the part of the writer. However, the London police had a knack for keeping things out of their own papers while the North American press went to town. Tumblety is a great example of that. These decoy articles, you'll note, appeared in Canada and America. Not sure they got around in the London papers, though.

                    Yours truly,

                    Tom Wescott

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by How Brown
                      unless this is an altogether different woman and different entrapment plan.
                      Or unless the woman or the cartoonist got the date wrong... or unless this Amelia Lewis just made up a story to tell the grandkids and it spiraled out of control... or....

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                      • #12
                        Dan:

                        Do you think this whole scenario is bogus? Maybe imagination run wild ?

                        Thanks.
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                        • #13
                          That is the one

                          Yes, that is the illustration that I have been looking for. Many thanks to Grey Hunter for pulling this particular rabbit out of his top hat.

                          But I would have sworn that it was a Ripley's Believe It ot Not cartoon, and it isn't. I got several other facts wrong (I told you it had been from memory) but at least the gist of it was correct.

                          NOW - several people have raised some interesting points. The cartoon says that the lady was a volunteer, and Rumbelow had mentioned volunteers of this sort. So, although it could be a genuine story, do we think that it is? How can this story be verified? Any ideas out there?

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