BYGONE- The Bowerchalke Detective Who Chased Jack The Ripper


Our photograph this week is of the H Division department of London’s Victorian Metropolitan Police. Of local interest, and sitting second left in the front row, is Detective Sergeant William Thick who was born and bred in Bowerchalke.

William, who came from a family of agricultural labourers in Bowerchalke eventually left the village to become one of the leading police officials investigating the crimes of Jack the Ripper. Indeed, my personal research into the life and times of William Thick has resulted in some fascinating discoveries – not just into the murders, but also into the social history of Bowerchalke.

His official role in the Jack the Ripper case had him taking mortuary descriptions, searching lodging houses and making door-to-door enquiries. He came to the notice of the national press as the man who arrested the main suspect at the time, John Pizer. The newspaper reports describe William as being nicknamed ‘Johnny Upright’ because of the fairness with which he treated prisoners. He must have cut quite a dash with his shock of blond hair, drooping moustache and loud-checked suits.

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But William never forgot his roots and he made regular trips back to his native Bowerchalke to help with fetes and special occasions like Christmas and Easter. Two of his brothers also gave up their labouring activities in the village to join William as part of the Metropolitan Police in London.

I gave a presentation on William last year in London’s East End and I am delighted to be presenting it again this August in Salisbury as part of the Salisbury History Festival.  The event will include three other presentations – William Storer and the Salisbury poisoning case of 1856, Mother and Murderer: The Sad True Tale of Rebecca Smith 1849 and Lord Lucan – The Enduring Mystery and the Salisbury Link.

Tickets are available from the Rocket Bookshop & History Bookshop, Salisbury.

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