The mythical black bag

Whenever there’s an election I always think of Screaming Lord Sutch, the eccentric founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party whose policies included the abolition of income tax on the grounds that it was a temporary imposition during wartime. He was also a musician whose most famous song, Jack the Ripper, supported the widely held belief that Jack the Ripper carried a black bag.

This connection comes from a witness statement by Mrs Fanny Mortimer who saw a young man carrying a black bag walking very fast down Berner Street on the night of the murder, 30 September. Leon Goldstein voluntarily came forward to say that he was in Berner Street with a bag that was full of cigarette packets. There were several witnesses who saw men with the victims on the night of the crimes. Not one mentioned a black bag, yet the myth grew.

Thirteen of the 333 suspects identified in my book were linked to a black bag. Most were apocryphal tales involving celebrities. They include absurd allegations against politicians, Charles Parnell and William Gladstone. As chancellor Gladstone was responsible for extending income tax to cover the costs of the Crimean War. He also gave his name to a bag. The accusation against him came in 1970, seven years after Sutch sang about Jack the Ripper and his little black bag.

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