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Jack the Ripper police file made public after 136 years, heads to auction

The lot of Jack the Ripper items that will go to auction on March 22, 2024. Whitton & Laing / BNPS

The identity of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper remains an unsolved mystery, but now a police file on the infamous case has been made public after 136 years.

The killer, who became known as Jack the Ripper after writing a taunting letter to police using the moniker, savagely butchered five prostitutes in Whitechapel, east London, in 1888.

Insp. Joseph Henry Helson, who was serving in London’s Metropolitan Police at the time of the murders, maintained and kept the file.

Inspector Joseph Henry Helson. Whitton & Laing / BNPS

According to Sky News, the file was passed down through four generations of the Helson family. Now it will go to auction, and it contains a number of artifacts that will likely be seen as collectible to the right bidder.

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Included in the file are two photographs of Michael Ostrog, an early suspect in the case who was ruled out after his alibi showed he was in the mental asylum of a French prison when the murders happened. The photos have notes on the back listing Ostrog’s aliases, criminal record and physical appearance.

A photograph of Michael Ostrog. Whitton & Laing / BNPS

As well, the file contains the only known copy of the taunting “Saucy Jack” postcard that the killer allegedly sent to police.

Also included is a copy of the letter that was signed “Jack the Ripper” — a note sent to police bragging about his kills, which included a warning that his knife was “still nice and sharp” and promised to “clip the lady’s ears off”.

The postcard Jack the Ripper sent to police, taunting them. Whitton & Laing / BNPS

More grim is a photograph of the Ripper’s first victim, Mary Nichols, in the mortuary. Nichols was found dead on Aug. 31, 1888. The second victim, Annie Chapman, was discovered eight days later.

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The lot also contains some of Helson’s personal items from his time on the police force: a pair of handcuffs, photos of him and two of his colleagues, his retirement certificate, a walking stick and an 1895 newspaper clipping about his work.

Another view of the items up for auction in the Jack the Ripper file. Whitton & Laing / BNPS

Now, the archive has been handed off by a relative to Whitton & Laing Auctioneers and will be available to bid on starting March 22. According to the auction house, it’s estimated to be worth about CA$17,000.

“For nearly 140 years the Jack the Ripper murders have held an enduring fascination and items directly connected to the crimes very rarely come up for sale,” a spokesperson for the auction house told The Telegraph.

“People should not forget that the victims were real people with real stories and we wouldn’t want to think of this murderer as an anti-hero but for the monstrous villain that he was.”

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