The Dundee Messenger

Was Jack The Ripper Hanged in Dundee?

Written by Scott Wilson
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Castle Street Castle Street By National Galleries of Scotland Commons from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (Castle Street, Dundee)

The last time a "Death by Hanging" sentence was carried out in Dundee was on April 24th., 1889.

The last time a "Death by Hanging" sentence was carried out in Dundee was on April 24th., 1889.

The murderer was William Henry Bury, a sawdust merchant from East London, who had arrived in the City on January, 21st., 1889 with his new wife Ellen.

They had travelled to Dundee on the London Packet Steamer "Cambria".

Neither had any connection with Dundee and speculation has since been made that the journey suggested some kind of flight on the part of William Bury.

The couple first found accommodation at 43 Union Street, Dundee and after a week moved to a 2 roomed house at 113 Princes Street, Dundee.

It was in this house a few days later that Ellen met her fate.

On Sunday, 10th February Bury walked into Police Headquarters in Bell Street, Dundee and spoke to Lieutenant James Parr.

He volunteered a story to the effect that he had awakened to find his wife dead on the floor with a rope round her neck. He went on to say he was frightened that he would be apprehended as the infamous "Jack the Ripper" and he then proceeded to pack her body in a box.

Police Officers rushed to the Princes Street house and found the strangled body of Ellen Bury in a square shaped box which measured approximately 3 feet long by 3 feet deep.

A frenzied attack had taken place upon her body with a knife which lay nearby. It still had some flesh and blood adhering to it.

It later transpired that Bury had lived with the box and its contents for several days after the murder and that he and other male friends had played cards upon it.

His conscience eventually got the better of him and that was when he reported the matter to police.

It later came out in evidence at his trial that prior to this confession he had gone for a walk with a male friend and drinking partner and "Jack the Ripper" had been mentioned on several occasions.

Before moving to Dundee Bury had lived close to the locations of the Ripper murders in Whitechapel.

His wife, Ellen, had been slashed with an open blade similar to that implement used by the Ripper.

In 1995, an author, William Beadle, announced that William Bury was the infamous "Jack the Ripper" in his book of that name.

Scotland Yard had been called in by Dundee Police to investigate William Bury's London connections.

One of the investigating English officers made a report that Bury had murdered Ellen in a drunken frenzy.

As a result of this report Scotland Yard never suspected Bury of the Ripper murders

They believed the Dundee murder was a one off killing. The theory being that Bury had only married his wife for her money.

The trial of William Henry Bury commenced on 28th., March, 1889 at the Spring Sitting of the Hig

Bury, who had pled not guilty, was found guilty after trial. The jury returned their guilty verdict with the words " We find the prisoner guilty, but strongly recommend him to mercy".

Lord Young seemed to be staggered by their recommendation

May I ask", he inquired. "On what grounds you recommend the prisoner to mercy".

It was explained to the Court that the jury viewed the medical evidence as conflicting.

Lord Young refused to accept such a verdict and instructed the jury to retire once more.

They very soon returned with a unanimous verdict of guilty, with no recommendation.

Lord Young then pronounced a sentence of death by hanging.

An Appeal was later dismissed and the scene was set for the execution.

The scaffold was made specially for Bury and was held beneath the Court Building for many years after. It is now in Dundee Museum.

On 24th., April 1889, the morning of the execution, Bury had a breakfast of bread and butter, poached eggs and tea.

The magistrates then entered his cell, identified the convict, who afterwards thanked all present for their kindness.

On his walk to the scaffold he is described as being " calm and collected ".

The scaffold had been set up as close as possible to the condemned cell. The walls and roof were of plain deal boards and the windows in the roof of the structure admitted what light there was in the chamber. The wooden rail round the pit was draped in black as was the overhead beam. This was to stop prying eyes from the upper windows of a Jute Mill opposite the prison yard.

When about 12 yards from the scaffold the white cap was pulled over Bury's face and he walked unfalteringly onto the platform.

Just as the death service was concluded by the Clergy the hangman, Berry, stepped aside and touched the lever. The drop fell and Bury quickly disappeared, death being instantaneous.

Weighing 9 stone 10 pounds and being 5 feet 3 inches in height, Bury got a drop of 6 1/2 feet.

He was buried within the Dundee Prison yard (now demolished) and his execution site was marked by a stone in the wall on which was inscribed WHB 1889.

That was the last time in Dundee that the black flag had been hoisted above the Court building to announce the carrying out of the death sentence.

In actual fact the pulley on the flag pole had been so little used that the flag hoisters had great difficulty in raising the flag. The pulley kept jamming.

There were no more Ripper murders after Bury was executed!

Republished with kind permission of retired policeman Scott Wilson. Visit his website at further articles and a great selection of photographs featuring Old Dundee.

Castle Street, Dundee

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