'Jack the Ripper' in Bodmin Jail?

London 1888. A series of gruesome murders terrifies not only the citizens of the capital, but the whole country, his name being whispered all the way down to the county of Cornwall. Could it be true, was Jack the Ripper coming all the way down to scare St. Austell ladies, terrorise Truro women and petrify Penzance girls?

Published on 04 May 2024

The paranoia and fear this name created caused accusations and suspicions across the country as a whole, Cornwall not being left out. The County saw a few men arrested and put in jail over 1888 & 1889 as any gent looking shifty or strange would be accused and marched to the local police station. Although some were even so bold as to claim they were the monster themselves! The reason for making the claim ranged from intimidation, fearsome reputation but also mental instability and genuine belief.

“Not many months ago one could not pass through the streets without hearing some little urchin proclaim himself proudly to be “Jack the Ripper” – The Cornish Telegraph on 17th of October 1889.



Here at Bodmin Jail, we had several men spend time behind bars for “Ripper” related activities:

  • Hobbs – November 1888

From Camborne, Hobbs was a vagrant and known drunk. One evening PC Warren arrested Hobbs who had been drinking. He became riotous in the streets, shouting to passers by that he himself was “Jack the Ripper”. He was brought to Bodmin Jail and spent 14 days assigned to hard labour.

  • Crow – December 1888

 Truro, a sailor by the name Thomas Crow had stepped off an American ship to begin unloading cargo. Soon after, he made his way to Richmond Street were rumours of him for behaving “indecently” were brought to the attention of PC Grigg. It seemed the sailor had been frightening women by crawling along on his hands and knees, creeping up on ladies whilst wearing “a pair of Indian rubber boots and behaving indecently”. After his arrest he also spent 14 days in jail.

  • Buarnitt – June 1889

Another beggar and vagrant, John Buarnitt, was arrested by PC Meagor in Redruth. His crime was begging and threatening scared women, using a sharp implement, whilst shouting that he was the Ripper. He spent 7 days at Bodmin Jail for his crime.

  • Bennetts – July 1889

John Bennett’s served 2 months of hard labour. He had threatened to kill his own father whilst claiming to be the Ripper whilst living in Penzance.

  • McClintock – September 1890

On the 1st of September, Amelia Lewis, a lady of the night, met a Mr Charles McClintock outside the “Three Tuns Inn” in Falmouth and invited him up to her room. After spending some time together, Charles accused Amelia of stealing from him, which she denied. Instead of rechecking his pockets, Charles began to beat Amelia and pulled out a pocketknife. He advanced on Amelia whilst shouting “I will murder you, do you know that you are talking to Jack the Ripper?” then proceeded to stab her twice in the face. Amelia screamed “Murder!” To which he repeated his statement. Neighbours hearing the ordeal promptly notified the police and Charles was arrested. At court, Charles claimed he only struck Amelia with his fists, but he was ignored, especially once Amelia testified in court where everyone could see clearly the injuries he had caused. Once convicted of grievous bodily harm, he spent a total of 3 months in jail with hard labour



What this seems to show, is the power of a name. Those three words created a monster that still carries weight today. Part of it is used again many years later with the Yorkshire Ripper. Who knows wether Bodmin Jail could have, at some point, housed Jack the Ripper himself. But a final note from me, as we step into an era of remembering victims of horrendous crimes, I urge you to take a look into the lives of the 5 women who lost their lives to Jack the Ripper. The book “The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold is an incredible read and one of the reasons I wanted to dig into the Rippers of Cornwall and the links to Bodmin Jail. Also, a thanks to the blogger The Cornish Bird & Kresen Kernow for their inspiration and help.


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