Thomas Bulling

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Thomas John Bulling.

Journalist employed by the Central News Agency, 5 New Bridge Street, London EC, at the time of the Whitechapel Murders.

Born 1846 in Chelsea, London. After the death of his father (in 1863), Bulling and the family moved to 12 Lichfield Road, Mile End, where Thomas was listed as 'Clerk Telegraph News agency'[1].

Bulling sent the 'Dear Boss Letter' to Scotland Yard on 29th September 1888, along with a covering letter in which he declared the letter as "a joke".[2]

Following the discovery of the 'Littlechild Letter' in 1993 by Stewart Evans, suspicions held by Inspector John Littlechild over the authorship of the 'Dear Boss Letter' were made public, suggesting that it was written by Bulling in tandem with his boss, Charles Moore. Suspicion that the letter was created by a journalist had previously been floated by Sir Robert Anderson and Melville Macnaghten amongst others, although another potential author was described merely as a journalist called 'Best'.

Littlechild's description of Bulling (calling him 'Bullen') was one of a hard-working but heavy drinking individual:

No journalist of my time got such privileges from Scotland Yard as Bullen. Mr James Munro (sic), when Assistant Commissioner, and afterwards Commissioner, relied on his integrity. Poor Bullen occasionally took too much to drink, and I fail to see how he could help it knocking about so many hours and seeking favours from so many people to procure copy. One night when Bullen had taken a 'few too many' he got early information of the death of Prince Bismarck and instead of going to the office to report it sent a laconic telegram 'Bloody Bismarck is dead'. On this I believe Mr Charles Moore fired him out.[3]

R. Thurston Hopkins wrote in 1935 of a possible author who may well have been Bulling:

It was perhaps a fortunate thing that the handwriting of this famous letter was perhaps not identified, for it would have led to the arrest of a harmless Fleet Street journalist.

This poor fellow had a breakdown and became a whimsical figure in Fleet Street, only befriended by the staff of newspapers and printing works. He would creep about the dark courts waving his hands furiously in the air, would utter stentorian 'Ha, ha, ha's,' and then, meeting some pal, would button-hole him and pour into his ear all the 'inner-story' of the East End murders. Many old Fleet Streeters had very shrewd suspicions that this irresponsible fellow wrote the famous Jack the Ripper letter, and even Sir Melville L. Macnaghten, Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, had his eye on him.[4]

Further suspicion directed at Bulling resulted from his transcription of the 'Moab & Midian Letter', sent to Scotland Yard on 5th October 1888[5]; the suggestion is that he invented this himself as no proof of the existence of the letter has ever been found. Bulling only sent the envelope with his transcription. It must be noted that despite the suspicions of Littlechild and others, the hadwriting on the 'Dear Boss Letter' and 'Saucy Jacky Postcard' does not resemble Bulling's.

By the 1890s, Bulling had moved to Hackney[6] and there married Leonora Mary Atter in 1895. She died in 1898. There appears to have been no children[7]. Bulling was later recorded as living in Belgrave[8], listed as a widower and a reporter; his occupation at this time suggests that even though he may have been fired by Charles Moore for composing the scurrilous telegram about the death of Bismark (in 1898), it did not signal the end of his journalistic career.


  1. Census report 1871
  2. MEPO 3/3153, ff.1 (National Archives)
  3. 'Littlechild Letter' - Stewart P Evans private collection.
  4. Life And Death at the Old Bailey; R. Thurston Hopkins (H. Jenkins 1935)
  5. MEPO 3/142, ff.491-2 (National Archives)
  6. Census report 1891
  7. Information posted on Casebook by Simon Wood and Chris Scott
  8. Census report 1901

See also Jack the Ripper: Letters From Hell; Stewart P Evans, Keith Skinner (Sutton 2001).