William Bury - Jack The Ripper Suspect

Posted by Jenny Phillips, Jack the Ripper Tour Guide on Friday, August 13, 2021 Under: Jack the Ripper

William Bury - Jack The Ripper Suspect

One of the lesser-known suspects for the Ripper murders is William Bury and his is a strange tale indeed!


He was born in May 1859, orphaned at an early age and attended a charitable school in the Midlands. After he left school, he was in regular employment for a while and then got into financial difficulties and was dismissed for stealing. He became a street pedlar. In 1887 he moved to London and met and married Ellen Elliot, who was probably a prostitute. Their marriage was stormy, punctuated with violent rows as they apparently had no money, probably due to the fact that a pedlar’s earnings would have been small and irregular.


In January 1889 they boarded a steamer, the Cambria, and travelled from London to Dundee. It was noticed that William had a large heavy wooden crate with him which had just been whitewashed. He appeared very anxious about this and his other luggage. It was also noticed by the other passengers on board that the couple were very reticent to talk about themselves. They seemed to have plenty of money!


On their arrival in Dundee, they seemed to be at a loss, having no friends there and never having visited the city before. They eventually found a two-roomed accommodation in the basement of a tenement house at 11 Princes Street. Neighbours saw little of them and when they did it seemed that they were under the influence of drink.


About two weeks later Mrs Bury suddenly disappeared and William shut himself up in the basement where he could occasionally be heard walking about. At the end of that week, he went to the Central Police Office and spoke to Lieutenant Parr.


When asked what he wanted he replied, “I’m Jack the Ripper and I want to give myself up.” The policeman thought he was mad and got another policeman to stand with them and then asked William Bury “Why are you calling yourself Jack the Ripper?” “I’m him all right. If you go along to the basement of 11 Princes St, you will find the body of a woman cut up in a crate.” He was detained and the police hurried to the address and found the dismembered body of a woman in a large, whitewashed crate. Bury was arrested and also gave the police the address where he said they lived in Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper murders, strangely enough in Hanbury Street where Annie Chapman was killed.


When the landlady there was questioned, she said that lately Bury, who described himself as a sawdust merchant, had become strange and very cruel to his wife (who was the daughter of a London tradesman) and had been missing many times at night. He had then wanted to leave London and booked the passage to Dundee. He asked the landlord to make him the packing case, but would not say what it was for, which was a mystery, as they only had clothes to take with them.


Bury carried a large amount of jewellery with him and was not short of money but the landlord asked no questions and so could not give any information about this. Much of this was found to have been sold in Dundee.


His explanation of her death was that they had gone to bed happy but in the morning, he was horrified to find that she had been strangled with a cord! He had no recollection of this but realised he would be accused of murder, so he cut up the body intending to get rid of it. He then however got drunk to blot out the facts, and with his wife’s body beside him his mind eventually gave out and he had given himself up. He never gave any other information to the police. They however found out he was missing from the couple’s lodgings on the night Mary Kelly was killed and that he habitually carried a knife and the next day when he returned, he had the appearance of a madman!


When Scotland Yard travelled to see him, he would answer none of their questions either! He was not a sawdust merchant and maybe the large amount of jewellery was stolen, his wife had threatened to expose him, so he took her to Dundee and killed her to silence her. Bury was tried on 18 March 1889. He pleaded not guilty. Dr Lennox, appearing for the defence, claimed that Ellen strangled herself to escape his cruelty. After firstly entering a plea for clemency due to contradictory medical evidence, his defence took back the plea and he was sentenced to hang. He refused the ministration of a chaplain and was executed on 24 April 1889.

In : Jack the Ripper 


Tags: 1888  jack the ripper  victorian  whitechapel 
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