Central News Agency (London)

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The Central News Agency was a news distribution service founded as Central Press in 1863 by William Saunders and his brother-in-law, Edward Spender. In 1870–71, it adopted the name Central News Agency.

By undercutting its competitors, the Press Association and Reuters, and by distributing sensational and imaginative stories, it developed a reputation amongst newsmen for "underhand practices and stories of dubious veracity".[1] In 1895, The Times directly accused the Central News Agency of embellishing its reports, and published a comparison between the original telegrams received by the agency and those that were distributed by it. A 200-word dispatch about a naval battle in the Far East had been expanded with details of the battle though hardly any information was given in the original.[2] The agency confirmed that words had been added, and The Times declared that: "More than two-thirds of the message was, therefore, admittedly manufactured in London."[2]

One of its sensational and probably invented stories involved the so-called "Dear Boss" letter, dated 25 September 1888, in which a figure calling himself "Jack the Ripper" claimed responsibility for the Whitechapel murders. Police officials later claimed to have identified a specific journalist as the author of both the "Dear Boss" letter and a later postcard called the "Saucy Jacky" postcard, also supposedly written by the killer.[3] The journalist was named as "Tom Bullen" in a letter from one of the investigating inspectors to another journalist.[4] "Tom Bullen" was almost certainly Thomas John Bulling, who worked for Central News and claimed to have received a third letter from the Ripper in a message to police in October 1888.[5] "Jack the Ripper" was adopted as a name to refer to the murderer, and the international media frenzy, partly fed by Central News, bestowed enduring notoriety on the killer.


  1. ^ Begg, p. 216
  2. ^ a b The Times, Saturday, 15 June 1895 (Issue 34604), p. 4, col. A
  3. ^ Evans and Skinner, pp. 45–48; Marriott, pp. 219–222; Rumbelow, pp. 121–122
  4. ^ Chief Inspector John George Littlechild to George R. Sims, 23 September 1913, quoted in Evans and Skinner, p. 49 and Marriott, p. 254
  5. ^ Begg, pp. 219–222


  • Begg, Paul (2003). Jack the Ripper: The Definite History. London: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-582-50631-X
  • Evans, Stewart P.; Skinner, Keith (2001). Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2549-3.
  • Marriott, Trevor (2005). Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation. London: John Blake. ISBN 1-84454-103-7.
  • Rumbelow, Donald (2004). The Complete Jack the Ripper. Fully Revised and Updated. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-017395-1

Further reading[edit]

  • Curtis Jr., Lewis Perry (2001). Jack The Ripper and the London Press. Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-300-08872-8.