Charles Le Grand

Posted: December 7, 2009 in The Non-Rippers
Another man who has been inaccurately accused of being "Jack The Ripper" is Charles Le Grand, otherwise known as "Le Grand of the Strand." It has been reported that the criminal Charles Le Grand received a sentence of 20 years for fraud, blackmail and writing threatening letters to titled wealthy Ladies.
Christian Briscony, alias Charles Le Grand, alias Grant, alias "French Colonel," alias Captain Anderson, was on 20th November, convicted of sending letters to Mrs. Baldock, demanding money, and threatening to murder her. Sentence was postponed, for he is still to be tried on other charges. He stands indicted for sending similar letters to the Baroness Bolsover and to Lady Jessel: for conspiring to defraud the London and Westminster Bank; and for forging cheques. The evidence at the late trial was confined to the first charge, and that seems almost enough. To take all the others might only be to suggest that the prisoner had well-nigh boxed the compass of crime. His most appropriate alias was that of Le Grand, for as the "the Great," assuredly, he will go down to posterity, the very king of blackmailers. We shall never see such another in our time. There was a boldness in his method which bespeaks the intuitions of genius. He had no original, and he can have no successor. Beside him, the Turkish brigand who seizes the solitary traveller in the mountains, and asks for 10,000 piastres as a condition of sparing his nose and his cars, is but a man of one idea. Le Grand was a man of a hundred, and his hunting-ground was the heart of the most populous city upon earth. That city, however, cannot claim him as one of her sons. He is not a Londoner, nor even an Englishman. The rest is obscure, but, according to one report, Denmark is his place of origin. It should rather have been Norway; there is something of the Viking in his ferocity, the Viking, let us say, in the course of evolution into the area sneak. He is a Viking who can write, and there is perhaps a touch of Atavism in his preference for red ink. No ink could have been quite red enough for his letters to Mrs. Baldock. He did not know Mrs. Baldock, and it is not quite certain that he had ever seen her. But he wanted 500, and he asked her to stand and deliver on penalty of a sudden, a violent, and a mysterious death. His missive was in the nature of a bill drawn at seven days. If the poor old lady did not pay up within that time, he said, he would "dash her brains out by a dynamical explosion." In a more generous moment, he was free to admit that he had no grievance against her. At the same time, he was able to assure her that he had been brought to despair by the villainy of a woman, and that, in one point of view, the money was a sort of fine levied on a faithless sex.
Mrs. Baldock put the matter in the hands of the police, and they laid a trap to catch him, which was not, however, immediately successful. They advertised "will comply," as suggested, but they made the preposterous request that he should call at Mrs. Baldock’s house. This made him very angry, and not unnaturally, for it showed bad faith. "Treachery," he said, with feeling in a second letter to her "is a base, vile, and utterly unfit quality for a lady" – the distinction is interesting for its bearing on the question of sex in crime – "and must, in this instance, be punished with exemplary rigour." The exemplary rigour was to be dynamite under the door-mat, or perhaps arsenic or cyanids in the bread, and in the milk – in fact, a free breakfast table in corrosive poisons. He might have spared himself the trouble of proving that it was wicked to employ the police against him, for he was prepared to show that it was useless, which was much more to the point. Their "want of foresight," he said of the force, in terms of perhaps excessive severity, "can only be equalled, if not surpassed, by their incapacity to perform police duty." This seems to have given just displeasure at Whitehall. A policeman is but mortal; he may despise the chatter of irresponsible frivolity, but when he is mocked for incapacity by an expert who has himself been in the private inquiry line, he cannot but feel a wound. In a short time after he had written that second and fatal letter, Le Grand was in custody. Policemen have long memories, and one of them, in looking at the letters which had been sent to Mrs. Baldock, was struck by a certain resemblance in the handwriting to a letter written by Le Grand to the department, over four years ago, complaining of the conduct of a constable. In this letter the writer was but a citizen asserting his right to efficient public service; he therefore had no reason to conceal his name. The police now knew whom to look for, and, moreover, whom to send to look for him. They put the affair in the hands of a detective to whom Le Grand and all his little ways had been for years an open secret. Soon this officer was keeping a friendly watch on a messenger boy, who, he thought, might be fetching and carrying, in the way of business, for his old acquaintance. He missed the trail that time, for he did not know that, while he was following the messenger boy, Le Grand was following him. He became aware of it when he received a fierce epistle from this inveterate letter-writer taunting him with his want of skill. In due time, however, came the stroke of fate. On the 26th of September, the detective, from information received, was able to go to Malden Station, and at Malden he saw his man. "Grandy, consider yourself in custody," was all he said, but, as he said it, the officer who accompanied him seized the prisoner’s right hand. It was well he did so, for, otherwise, the hand might soon have found its way to revolver and a knuckle-duster which the traveller was carrying in a bag, as he afterwards stated, expressly for the benefit of the police.
They found quite a little arsenal at his lodgings – a quantity of gunpowder, and an ugly-looking contrivance of springs in a cigar-box, which was evidently intended as an infernal machine. They also found the rough draft of one of the threatening letters. A former clerk of the prisoner, who had served him when Le Grand was conducting a private enquiry agency, identified the handwriting of the threatening letters as that of his old employer. Finally, Mr. Nethercliff, the expert, who had been summoned in hot haste from Scotland, gave equally damaging evidence for the prosecution. The police produced a terrible record against the prisoner. They, at least, were satisfied that he was convicted of felony in 1877, and sentenced to penal servitude for eight years, and that, in 1889, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the very offence of sending threatening letters with which he was now charged. The jury, however, did not share their opinion as to his identity with the man convicted in the first case. So ends the trial at this stage. The prisoner is still to be tried on the charge of forgery on the London and Westminster Bank, but it is not likely that we shall hear anything more as to the other charges of sending threatening letters. The wretched man seems to be of a highly nervous and excitable temperament. He has freely fainted away all through the proceedings. He "went off" when the police were reading the charge to him after his arrest, and afterwards had a fit in the dock. This, with the extreme violence of his threats, not only to the helpless ladies, but to the officers who took him into custody, is rather a disquieting sign. All further opinion on the case, however, must be suspended, until his doom has been pronounced.
Source: Bush Advocate, Volume VII, Issue 606, 2 April 1892, Page 6
Note: Since Jack the Ripper’s murders were not motivated by theft, and he certainly did not "blow up" his victims, then, how, in any way, does this even describe Jack? Also, the papers at the time of Le Grand’s arrest had this to say about it:
*It is rumored* that the police attribute the "Ripper murders" to a convict now in Portland gaol. Since when is a "rumor" considered solid evidence to convict a man of murdering at least seven prostitutes?

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