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Jack the Ripper ‘Autobiography’ Hits Shelves

Jack the Ripper ‘Autobiography’ Hits Shelves

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Typed on yellowed pages with a handmade cover, the manuscript that inspired the new book comes from an unlikely source: Sydney George Hulme Beaman, the British author and illustrator who created the “Toytown” radio series for children. Beaman wrote in a preface that a one-legged acquaintance named James Carnac, whom he describes as having a “streak of cynical and macabre humor,” bequeathed the document to him in the 1920s and asked that it be published after his death. Beaman also claimed to have omitted certain “particularly revolting” passages from the original text and expressed his personal opinion that Carnac was indeed Jack the Ripper.

Did Beaman himself pen the alleged autobiography, using a centuries-old literary convention in which a writer presents fictional memoirs as a found document? It’s hard to believe that the man who became famous for his Larry the Lamb character would reconstruct grisly crime scenes in his spare time. “Beaman’s output was solely for children, and this would have been a huge departure from what he is known for,” said Alan Hicken, owner of the Montacute TV Radio and Toy Museum in Somerset, England. In 2008 the museum acquired the Carnac manuscript along with a collection of artwork, photographs and books once owned by Beaman, who died in 1932. Ripper expert Paul Berg, who wrote an analysis of the manuscript that appears in the published version, also pointed out that the “autobiography” sharply contrasts with the rest of Beaman’s oeuvre. Archival research has failed to unearth evidence that a James Carnac who fit Beaman’s description ever existed, however, suggesting that the author chose a pseudonym to mask his or her true identity.

Berg said the supposed memoirs probably won’t bring us any closer to solving the infamous Jack the Ripper case, which went cold more than a century ago. And yet certain aspects of the book, including the author’s intimate familiarity with Whitechapel’s 1888 geography, suggest there might be more to the story, he said. “The manuscript is a fiction, but the question is whether or not there is a factual core—that is to say, a genuine confession at its heart,” Berg said. Hicken commented that “whoever wrote the manuscript had knowledge that does not appear to be derived from newspapers or other publications at the time it was written.”

Forensic psychologist Richard Walter dismissed any link between the Carnac text and the real Ripper, maintaining that serial killers wouldn’t document their crimes for posterity in a dramatic fashion. “One would not expect a sadist, which Jack the Ripper was, to be self-disclosing,” he said. “They are interested in creating a myth greater than what they are. They would not simply hand a book like that over to somebody who was probably going to exploit it.” Walter added that, although he has only seen fragments of the manuscript, it seems to lack the “cadence of violence” typical of serial killers. He also mentioned the long tradition of impersonating the notorious murderer, which began with the hundreds of letters—nearly all deemed hoaxes—sent to Scotland Yard and signed “Jack the Ripper” during and after his deadly rampage.

Even assuming that James Carnac, whoever he was, shouldn’t be added to the still-growing list of proposed suspects, his book has a special place in the history of Jack the Ripper fiction, sometimes known as Ripperature. Numerous novels and stories based on the Whitechapel murders appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when the psychology behind crimes like Jack the Ripper’s was poorly understood. Back then, writers tended to offer reasons for their violent protagonists’ psychotic behavior, something Carnac distinctly doesn’t do. “The manuscript is important as an early piece of Ripper fiction and crime fiction, insofar as it is a rare example of a story written from the point of view of the villain,” Berg explained. “As Ripper fiction it is unusual because it doesn’t attempt to provide any real mitigation or, significantly, a motive. In fact, it is very modern in its concept of a serial killer as someone who kills because he likes it, which could be taken as a pointer to there being a genuine factual core.”

Now available from Bantam Press, “The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper” is sure to draw attention from Ripperologists and crime fiction fans alike. Recalling his discovery of the manuscript, Hicken said, “I couldn’t put it down and read the entire document in one night. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and struck me as very macabre. I knew I had discovered something startling.” The original document will go on display later this year at the Montacute Museum, where it will be a chilling addition to a collection composed largely of toys, puppets, games and vintage televisions.

An Introduction to the Jack the Ripper Mystery

Someone in London murdered and mutilated a number of prostitutes during the autumn of 1888 the press went into a frenzy, politicians pointed the finger at each other, hoaxers polluted the investigation, and one of several nicknames stuck: Jack the Ripper. Over a century later, Jack's identity has never been wholly proven (there isn't even a leading suspect), most aspects of the case are still debated, and the Ripper is an infamous cultural bogeyman.

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper | Chapter 9 of 35

J ACK THE R IPPER ! Few names in history are as instantly recognizable. Fewer still evoke such vivid images: noisome courts and alleys, hansom cabs and gaslights, swirling fog, prostitutes decked out in the tawdriest of finery, the shrill cries of newsboys – ‘Whitechapel! Another ’orrible murder! Mutilation!’ – and silent, cruel death, personified in the cape-shrouded figure of a faceless prowler of the night, armed with a long knife and carrying a black Gladstone bag.

The Victorian murderer who slew a handful of women in London’s East End has become a worldwide symbol of terror, his fame celebrated in story and song, on the stage and on film, in art and in opera, his tale told in languages as diverse as English and Russian, Spanish and Swedish, German and Japanese. Robert Bloch, the American author of Psycho , has said that Jack the Ripper belongs to the world as surely as Shakespeare. It is not an undue exaggeration.

Why our perennial fascination with the Ripper case? After all, tragic and gruesome as his crimes undoubtedly were, they are by no means unique or even spectacular in the lengthening roll of serial murder. The victims were comparatively few. They were drawn from only one small class of the population. And they were slain within an area less than a single square mile in extent.

True, they have their niche in history. In 1888 they embarrassed Lord Salisbury’s second Conservative administration, contributed to the resignation of Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and, by spotlighting the living conditions of the poor, inaugurated a brief period of redevelopment in Spitalfields, at the heart of the murder district.

More important for our own day, perhaps, the Ripper heralded the rise of the modern sexual serial killer. He was not the earliest such offender. But he was the first of international repute and the one that first burned the problem of the random killer into police and popular consciousness.

The Ripper’s contemporaries were baffled by the lack of conventional motive, whether gain, jealousy or revenge, in his crimes. Casting about for an explanation, some turned to the far past. ‘It is so impossible to account . . . for these revolting acts of blood,’ commented one, ‘that the mind turns as it were instinctively to some theory of occult force, and the myths of the Dark Ages rise before the imagination. Ghouls, vampires, bloodsuckers, and all the ghastly array of fables which have been accumulated throughout the course of centuries take form, and seize hold of the excited fancy.’ Others, sensing that the Ripper’s origins lay in the social and economic upheavals of the new industrial age, glimpsed the future. ‘Suppose we catch the Whitechapel murderer,’ queried the Southern Guardian , ‘can we not, before handing him over to the executioner or the authorities at Broadmoor, make a really decent effort to discover his antecedents, and his parentage, to trace back every step of his career, every hereditary instinct, every acquired taste, every moral slip, every mental idiosyncrasy? Surely the time has come for such an effort as this. We are face to face with some mysterious and awful product of modern civilization.’ 1

Those who hunted the Ripper, too, believed they were confronting a new and frightening phenomenon. ‘I look upon this series of murders as unique in the history of our country,’ Warren told Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary, at the height of the scare. George Lusk, President of the Mile End Vigilance Committee, formed to assist the police, agreed. ‘The present series of murders,’ he assured the Home Office, ‘is absolutely unique in the annals of crime . . . and all ordinary means of detection have failed.’ 2

But none of this explains the Ripper’s continual hold on popular imagination, his most potent legacy to the world. Some would have it that those who read or write about the murders are misogynists. I am not a misogynist. Nor, for that matter, is any serious student of the case personally known to me. It should be obvious from the most cursory glance at the literature, moreover, that what really fascinates people about the story is the question of the killer’s identity. After a series of horrific murders Jack the Ripper disappeared, as if ‘through a trapdoor in the earth’ as a contemporary put it, and left behind a mystery as impenetrable as the fog that forms part of his legend. He left us, in short, with the classic ‘whodunnit.’

It is this that lies at the root of our enduring fascination with the case. Good mysteries become obsessive. A century ago Percival Lowell spent a fortune in building the Lowell Observatory in Arizona specifically to find the canals of Mars. In the 1960s Tim Dinsdale, monster hunter extraordinaire, abandoned his career as an aeronautical engineer to search the waters of Loch Ness. And, driven by similar irresistible urges to know the truth, amateur sleuths in at least three continents still seek final proof of the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Since 1891, when the last victim widely attributed to the Ripper died, we have had an ever-growing mountain of books and a welter of theories. Looking at the size of that mountain and the dramatic finality of many of the titles that form it – The Final Solution , The Mystery Solved , etc. – the general reader might well ask: is there anything new to be said about Jack the Ripper? The answer, surprisingly, is an emphatic ‘Yes’! For the fact is that the conventional story of the murders, as passed down to us in these books, is shot through with errors and misconceptions and that, with very few exceptions, their authors have taken us, not towards, but away from the truth.

The whole subject is now a minefield to the unwary. Even true crime experts venture there at their peril. ‘No new books will tell us anything more than we already know’. This was the confident claim of Brian Marriner, reviewing the Ripper case in his valuable book, A Century of Sex Killers. Unfortunately, Marriner’s account of the murders, brief as it is, proceeds to repeat a number of old canards. 3 And where an author as knowledgeable as this stumbles, one is tempted to caution the general reader, approaching the groaning shelf of Ripper books for dependable information, with those famous words from Dante: ‘Abandon hope, ye who enter here!’

There are several reasons for the lamentable state of Ripper studies.

One has been the tendency of writers to draw the bulk of their primary source material from newspaper reports and later reminiscences of police officers and others. This practice should not have survived the 1970s, when police and Home Office records on the Ripper case were first opened to the public, but it continues because of the relative accessibility of newspapers and memoirs. Every sizeable library has its microfilm backfile of The Times , and published memoirs are readily available through interlibrary loan services. Unfortunately, as sources of factual information on the crimes and police investigations, they are simply not reliable.

At the time of Jack the Ripper it was not the policy of the CID to disclose to the press details about unsolved crimes or their inquiries respecting them. Reporters were not even permitted to enter premises in which such a crime had been committed. Naturally, they resented it. ‘The police authorities observe a reticence which has now apparently become systematic, and any information procured is obtained in spite of them,’ carped one. ‘However much or little they know, the police devote themselves energetically to the task of preventing other people from knowing anything,’ fumed another. 4

The purpose of the police precautions will be discussed later. Primarily it was to prevent villains being forewarned as to what the CID knew and might do. But at present the rationale behind the policy concerns us less than the effects of its application upon newsmen. It placed them in an impossible predicament. For they were confronted at the height of the Ripper scare by a massive public clamour for information and possessed few legitimate means of satisfying it.

Gathering news at that time was a particularly frustrating business. Sometimes, by following detectives or hanging about police stations, reporters were able to identify and interview important witnesses. We will have cause to thank them when we encounter Israel Schwartz and George Hutchinson. But more often press reports were cobbled together out of hearsay, rumour and gossip, picked up at street corners and in pubs or lodging houses.

There seems to have been no shortage of informants. A Star reporter, investigating the Miller’s Court murder in November 1888, found the locals basking in their new-found importance, anxious to please and ready to regale him with ‘a hundred highly circumstantial stories’, most of which, upon inquiry, proved ‘totally devoid of truth’. Even true anecdotes might be passed from mouth to mouth until they became unrecognizable. Sarah Lewis, who stayed in Miller’s Court on the fatal night, had heard a cry of ‘Murder!’ By the time the Star ’s man got to the scene of the crime her story had got round and ‘half a dozen women were retailing it as their own personal experience’, a circumstance which may explain why Sarah’s story is sometimes credited, in aberrant forms, to a Mrs Kennedy in the press. 5

Inevitably much of the press coverage was fiction. Inevitably, too, the press were happy to blame the police. ‘We were compelled in our later editions of yesterday,’ observed the Star after the Hanbury Street murder, ‘to contradict many of the reports which found admittance to our columns and to those of all our contemporaries earlier in the day. For this the senseless, the endless prevarications of the police were to blame.’ 6 But journalists themselves, determined to exploit the astonishing runs on the papers after each murder, were more than usually willing to invent copy of their own.

Perhaps the most important myth created by the press was Fairy Fay.

The first trace of her appeared in a verse broadsheet, Lines on the Terrible Tragedy in Whitechapel , printed at the beginning of September 1888. This referred vaguely to an early and unnamed victim of the murderer, killed ‘twelve months ago’, i.e. in 1887. However, it was the Daily Telegraph that really got the ball rolling. In its issues of 10 and 11 September 1888 it stated that the first victim of the Whitechapel murderer had been slain in the vicinity of Osborn and Wentworth Streets at Christmas 1887. A stick or iron instrument had been thrust into her body. She had never been identified. The story was repeated again and again – in newspapers and broadsheets, in a parliamentary question of November 1888, and in Dr L. Forbes Winslow’s widely read memoir, Recollections of Forty Years , published in 1910. Terence Robertson, writing for Reynold’s News in 1950, embroidered the tale still further. He gave the unknown woman a name – Fairy Fay – and said that she was killed on Boxing Night 1887, when she was taking a short cut home from a pub in Mitre Square.

No such event occurred. There is no reference to it in police records. No mention of it can be found in the local or national press for December 1887 or January 1888. And a search of registered deaths at St Catherine’s House reveals no woman named Fay or anything like that murdered in Whitechapel during the relevant period. There is no doubt that the Telegraph story was a confused memory of the known murder of Emma Smith in the spring of 1888. Emma was attacked in Osborn Street and a blunt instrument, perhaps a stick, was savagely thrust into her. She died the next day in the London Hospital. Obviously the Telegraph ’s writer recalled this incident very hazily. He remembered, for example, that it had occurred on a public holiday and opted for Christmas 1887. The correct date was the night of Easter Monday, 2–3 April 1888. 7

Today writers still regularly list both Fairy Fay and Emma Smith as possible victims of Jack the Ripper. But Fairy Fay is a phantom, born of sloppy journalism back in 1888.

The deficiencies of newspaper files cannot be redressed from reminiscent evidence, whether memoirs of retired policemen or interviews with aged East End residents. These sources, although often readily accessible, have special problems of their own.

Over time our memories deteriorate more profoundly than many people inexperienced in the use of historical evidence realize, and reminiscences recorded long after the event are characteristically confused on chronology and detail. There is a very human tendency, too, for us to ‘improve’ upon our memories, to make a better story, to explain away past mistakes, or simply to claim for ourselves a more impressive role in past dramas than we have acted in life.

In 1959 a ninety-year-old Mr Wright could still show broadcaster Dan Farson the spot in Buck’s Row where one of the murders took place. He had lived in Buck’s Row as a boy, he explained, and it was he who had washed the blood from the pavement. Contemporary records reveal that there was, in fact, very little blood and that what there was was washed down by a son of Emma Green, who lived adjacent to the murder site.

At the time of the murders a greengrocer called Matthew Packer told police that on the night Liz Stride was killed in Berner Street he had sold grapes to her killer. More than seventy years later an aged Annie Tapper remembered the story and retold it for Tom Cullen. She insisted, however, that as a girl of nine she had sold the grapes to Jack the Ripper and, of course, she remembered him perfectly. ‘I’ll tell you what he looked like as sure as this is Friday,’ she said. But her murderer was a fantasy, disguised in a black, pointed beard and togged out in a bobtail coat and striped trousers.

At a more exalted level Sir Robert Anderson, head of CID in 1888, made the preposterous suggestion in his memoirs that his policy of withdrawing police protection from prostitutes drove them from the streets and thereby put an end to street murders in the Ripper series. Not true. Contemporary evidence demonstrates that the policy was never implemented and could not have worked.

In producing reminiscences there is also a tendency for our memories to become contaminated by later stories and influences. A case in point is Mary Cox. Mrs Cox lived in Miller’s Court in 1888. She knew Mary Jane Kelly, usually regarded as the Ripper’s last victim, and saw her with a man only hours before she was murdered. Many years later Dan Farson interviewed Mrs Cox’s niece at her home off the Hackney Road. According to the niece’s story, Mrs Cox remembered the man as a gentleman, a real toff: ‘He was a fine looking man, wore an overcoat with a cape, high hat . . . and Gladstone bag.’ Now this is very like the classic villain in Victorian melodrama. And by then that is precisely how East Enders had come to think of Jack the Ripper. But it is poles apart from the man Mrs Cox really saw, the one she described before detectives and at the inquest back in 1888. Then she spoke of a short, stout man, a man with a carroty moustache and blotchy face, a man who dressed shabbily and carried only a quart can of beer. 8

‘I can remember it now as though it were yesterday.’ Such protestations are common enough in reminiscent accounts. I urge my readers not to be fooled. Rather, take to heart the words of John Still: ‘The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from.’

Sadly, the misinformation propagated in books today is not simply a product of reliance upon untrustworthy sources. For, as far as most Ripperologists are concerned, the truth runs a very poor second to selling a pet theory on the identity of the killer. This means that evidence in conflict with the theory is liable to be suppressed or perverted, that fiction is frequently dressed up as fact, and that evidence in support of the theory is sometimes completely invented. There is a long history of dishonesty and fraud in Ripper research.

We have had some notable cock-and-bull stories in recent years.

Many readers will remember Stephen Knight’s bestseller, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution , published in 1976. In Knight’s complex tale, Mary Jane Kelly witnesses the secret marriage of Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson and Heir Presumptive to the throne, to a shop-assistant called Annie Elizabeth Crook, and then bands together with a group of fellow East End whores to blackmail the government. Salisbury, the Prime Minister, is alarmed. Annie Crook is a Catholic. And anti-Catholic sentiment is rife amongst the population at large. So if it comes out that the prince has taken a Catholic bride the very future of the monarchy itself might be endangered! Without further ado Salisbury hands the problem to Sir William Gull, Physician-in-Ordinary to the Queen, and Gull, assisted by Walter Sickert, the artist, and John Netley, a sinister coachman, promptly tracks down and slices up the blackmailers.

The falsehoods and absurdities in this yarn have been exposed in many books and there is no need to repeat them here. Even Joseph Sickert, who told Knight the story in the first place, denounced the Jack the Ripper part of it ‘a hoax . . . a whopping fib’ in 1978. What is disconcerting about the whole episode, however, is the attitude of Stephen Knight himself. His research is now known to have uncovered evidence which proved that the story was untrue. Yet he shamelessly chose to suppress it.

Later Joseph Sickert retracted his confession and supplied further material to Melvyn Fairclough, who used it in his book The Ripper and the Royals. It included three diaries supposedly written by Inspector Frederick George Abberline between 1892 and 1915 and given by him to Walter Sickert in 1928. Abberline is well known to students of the Ripper case. In 1888 he co-ordinated the hunt for the murderer in Whitechapel and he died in Bournemouth in 1929. I do not know whether the diaries have been subjected to competent forensic examination. I do know they are not true bill. The diaries, which incriminate a galaxy of public figures, including Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir William Gull and James K. Stephen, Prince Albert Victor’s tutor at Cambridge, conflict with Abberline’s known views on the identity of Jack the Ripper. On one page, reproduced by Fairclough, the detective’s name is incorrectly signed ‘G. F. Abberline.’ Still more telling, biographical notes on four of the murder victims, set down in the diaries, supposedly by Abberline, appear to have been cribbed, sometimes almost word for word, from a research article published in True Detective in 1989! 9

It is in this context that we must view the recent ‘discovery’ of the alleged Jack the Ripper diary.

This document is a black-and-gilt calf-bound volume containing sixty-three handwritten pages. It is signed ‘Jack the Ripper’.

The owner of the diary is Mike Barrett, a one-time scrap-metal dealer who lives in Liverpool. It was Barrett who brought the diary to the offices of Rupert Crew Ltd., a London literary agency, in April 1992. Its commercial potential was obvious. The publishing rights were snapped up by Smith Gryphon Ltd and on 7 October 1993 the diary hit the bookshelves amidst a blaze of hype. ‘7 October 1993,’ ran the pre-launch publicity, ‘the day the world’s greatest murder mystery will be solved.’

Unfortunately, it isn’t solved. And the diary is an impudent fake.

Forensic examination of the diary is as yet inconclusive. There seems no doubt that the volume itself is genuinely Victorian. This, of course, proves nothing. Family and business archives contain many used and partly used Victorian diaries, ledgers and notebooks. They frequently come on the market and can be bought at market stalls and from antiquarian book dealers. Significantly, the first forty-eight pages of the Ripper diary are missing, apparently cut out with a knife. Rectangular stains on the flysheet suggest that the volume was originally used for mounting photographs.

Tests on the ink have been made. It should be noted, however, that there is little difference between Victorian iron-gall blue-black ink and modern permanent blue-black ink and that comprehensive and diverse tests are necessary to distinguish the two. In any case it is not difficult to age ink artificially. Amalia and Rosa Panvini, the forgers of the Mussolini diaries in 1967, used modern ink. Nevertheless, they fooled the experts by baking the diaries at low heat in a kitchen oven for half an hour, a process which aged the ink so perfectly that no scientific test was able to fault it. The evaluation of the Ripper diary will doubtless continue. But at least two out of three experts who have already made tests on the ink have concluded that it is of later than Victorian age.

The diary has no pedigree before May 1991. Mike Barrett says that it was given to him at that time by a friend, a retired printer called Tony Devereux, and that Devereux refused to account for its history or explain how he came by it. Devereux died a few months later. His family insist that he never mentioned the diary to them.

All this raises a crucial question. If the diary is genuine where has it been for the last century? No one knows. It purports to be the diary of James Maybrick, a wealthy cotton merchant, and identifies Maybrick as the Ripper. Maybrick will already be familiar to devotees of true crime. He died at Battlecrease House in Aigburth, a suburb of Liverpool, in May 1889, and his wife Florence was accused of poisoning him with arsenic extracted from flypapers. Florence was convicted and sentenced to death but her sentence was commuted to one of penal servitude for life. She was released in 1904 and died in the United States in 1941. Battlecrease House still stands. It has been speculated that the diary may have been found under the floorboards during rewiring work in 1990 or 1991. But neither the present owner of the property nor the electricians involved have any knowledge of such a discovery.

The diary itself contains nothing to persuade me that it was written by the Whitechapel murderer. Like most charlatans, its author gives little substantive information to check. What there is is scarcely impressive.

The diarist repeats, for example, the myth that the murderer left two farthings with the body of Annie Chapman. He makes several errors in recounting the murder of Mary Kelly in her lodging at 13 Miller’s Court. We are told that the various parts of her body were strewn ‘all over the room’, that her severed breasts were placed on the bedside table and that the killer took the key of the room away with him. None of these statements are true. They are errors that were published in the Victorian press and have been repeated in books many times since. But the real murderer would have known better. The diarist’s claim to have penned the famous ‘Jack the Ripper’ letter and postcard sent to the Central News in 1888 does nothing for his credibility. As I will demonstrate in this book, there is no reason whatever to suppose that these communications were written by the murderer. Besides, the handwriting of the letter and postcard does not match that of the Maybrick diary.

Presumably the hoaxer pitched upon Maybrick because his death in 1889 would neatly explain the mysterious cessation of the Ripper crimes. In other ways, though, he is an unlikely choice. Contemporary evidence suggests that the Whitechapel murderer was a man in his twenties or thirties, a man who lived in the East End of London and possessed some degree of anatomical knowledge. None of this fits Maybrick. He was a fifty-year-old cotton merchant and lived at Battlecrease House at the period of the murders. Yes, he may have made regular visits to Whitechapel, but there is no evidence of it.

There is a further difficulty. If Maybrick wrote the diary, why does the handwriting in this volume not conform to that in known examples of his hand? Sue Iremonger, a forensic handwriting examiner, was unable to match the diary with the handwriting and signature in Maybrick’s will or with the signature on his marriage certificate. 10

By now it should be obvious that we are dealing with a transparent hoax. The unacceptable provenance of the diary, the missing front pages, the factual inaccuracies and the implausibility of Maybrick as a Ripper suspect – even without forensic tests we have learned enough to set a whole belfry of warning bells ringing. A reading of the diary still leaves me baffled as to how any intelligent and reasonably informed student of the Ripper case could possibly have taken it seriously. There were those well versed in the subject, men like Nick Warren, Tom Cullen and Melvin Harris, who saw through the hoax from the beginning. Yet it is astonishing how many experts were fooled and allowed their names to be used in the promotional literature. They remain there, preserved like flies in amber, warnings to the complacent and the credulous.

Once errors creep into the literature they are repeated in book after book. This is because Ripperologists have always drawn heavily, sometimes exclusively, upon the work of their predecessors. Assertions of fact, however erroneous, thus travel down the years virtually unchallenged. A single example will suffice.

It is more than fifty years since William Stewart’s Jack the Ripper: A New Theory was published. In this work we are told that Mary Kelly was three months pregnant at the time she was slain. 11 Now, there is no reason to believe any unsupported statement in Stewart. He was an uncaring fictioneer and his book is one of the worst ever written on the subject. Even inquest testimony is reported wrongly. Sometimes he invents testimony for real witnesses. Sometimes he invents witnesses as well as testimony! Especially is this assertion about Mary Kelly suspect. For it was Stewart’s contention that the crimes were the work of a midwife and a pregnancy among the victims would have bestowed credibility upon his theory.

In 1959 Stewart was followed by Donald McCormick. His Identity of Jack the Ripper sets out to be a factual study, but does McCormick query the fable of Mary Kelly’s pregnancy? Not a bit, he repeats it. Furthermore, he claims to quote the findings of Dr George Bagster Phillips, a Metropolitan Police surgeon, that Mary was ‘in the early stages of pregnancy and that she was healthy and suffering from no other disease except alcoholism.’ 12

Such confident assertions sound convincing. Not surprisingly, they have found their way into numerous books and are still trotted out today as hard fact. But they are entirely made out of wholecloth. In 1987 original post-mortem notes came to light which proved that Mary was not pregnant when she died. Years before this, however, obvious questions should have been asked. Where did these writers come by their information? And were there credible sources for it?

Faulty primary sources, dishonest research and the sheepish repetition of printed folklore have taken us very far from the truth about Jack the Ripper. I do not wish to imply that there have not been worthwhile books on the subject and happily acknowledge my debt to them. 13 But this whole field of research has degenerated into a mass of conflicting claims and is now held in widespread and well-earned disrepute.

In the early seventies the rash accusations of Ripperologists against all and sundry prompted a Bill Tidy cartoon. It shows Sherlock Holmes, backed by two stalwart constables and kneeling before a dismayed and distinctly unamused Queen Victoria. ‘I have reason to believe,’ he says, ‘that you are Jack the Ripper.’ The Truth sent up the industry again in 1988. Reviewing the credentials of suspects as diverse as Lord Tennyson and George Formby, its contributors eventually plumped for Sooty, an ‘evil little criminal mastermind’ who understood that being an eight-inch-high glove puppet of a bear he might pass through the cesspits, pubs and gutters of Whitechapel unnoticed. 14

It is time to attempt a rescue.

When I began this book I realized that a new study of the Whitechapel murders would have to do two things. First, it must have the courage to dispense with the books and research the subject from scratch. And second, it must proceed without any preconceived theory. In short, the conclusions must follow from the facts and not the other way around.

I have, of course, benefited from the work of other bona-fide students. But essentially my account rests upon a completely fresh overhaul of primary sources. A mass of documents in police, Home Office, inquest, court, hospital, prison, workhouse and genealogical records, some still closed to general public access, have been searched. And from them I have fashioned the most comprehensive and accurate reconstruction of the case ever placed before the public. Areas of research generally neglected in the literature have been explored. Victims, for example, are accorded as much priority as suspects in this book. I have also described and assessed the methods taken by the police to capture the criminal and explained their difficulties with both Home Office and press.

A century ago the identity of Jack the Ripper aroused as much passion and debate amongst senior detectives as it does today amongst the world’s amateur sleuths. Sir Melville Macnaghten accused a barrister who threw himself into the Thames in December 1888. Sir Robert Anderson remained steadfast to his belief that the Ripper was a Polish Jew committed to a lunatic asylum in 1891, while in the opinion of Inspector Abberline, Jack the Ripper died on the scaffold in Wandsworth Prison in 1903, convicted under another pseudonym of the murder of his wife.

On the strength of my findings the most important police suspects are identified and assessed. Some, like Montague John Druitt, are already well-known. Others, like Oswald Puckridge and Nikaner Benelius, have never been fully dealt with in any book before. In rejecting the names dangled before us by Macnaghten in 1894 I have challenged the whole drift of serious Ripper studies since 1959. This has not been prompted by any desire for sensation. I have simply followed where the evidence has led me.

If you are looking for another shoddily-researched ‘final solution’, with a cast list of disgraced royals, Czarist secret agents, black magicians and deranged midwives, you had best put this book down now.

If you prefer facts to journalism, if you want to know the truth about Jack the Ripper and are tired of being humbugged, read on!

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper | Chapter 14 of 35

D URING THE CENTURY that has elapsed since the Hanbury Street tragedy authors have told and retold the story with undiminished appetite. Unfortunately few of them bothered to adequately research the facts first. After studying the primary evidence and writing the previous chapter I read the accounts of the Chapman murder given in more than a score of supposedly factual Ripper books. Not one was free from error and most were literally riddled with them. The five pages of text that one centennial volume devoted to Annie contained at least twenty-eight errors. In the six-page account of another I counted no less than thirty-two! Some of these books were so grossly misleading as to merit dismissal to the fiction shelves.

The longevity of errors, once made, is quite remarkable. Back in 1928, for example, Leonard Matters wrote that John Davis, the market porter who discovered Annie’s body, ‘lived in the very room overlooking the backyard.’ It was an error that would have been nailed by the most casual reading of the contemporary printed inquest testimony, for Amelia Richardson’s deposition made it quite clear that Davis lived in the front attic, at the top of the house and overlooking Hanbury Street. But William Stewart, undeterred by anything as vulgar as fact, seized and elaborated upon Matters’s statement. Davis, said Stewart, lived in a room ‘just above the cellar and within a few feet of the spot where the body was discovered.’ In this form the blunder survived at least until 1966, nearly forty years after Matters, when Robin Odell incorporated it into the revised edition of his book Jack the Ripper in Fact and Fiction. Similarly, Donald McCormick’s gaffe that Annie’s killer extracted one of her kidneys, published back in 1959, is still alive and well, as a glance at Peter Underwood’s recent Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery will attest. 1

Some fictions are almost as old as the murder itself. Repeated in book after book, they have marched relatively unscathed by research into our own day and have achieved the status of minor myths. Indeed, one might be forgiven for believing in the existence of an unspoken understanding amongst Ripperologists that once assertions have been committed to print they take the form of Holy Writ, that the oftener they are published the more authoritative they become, an attitude somewhat evocative of Lewis Carroll’s lines in The Hunting of the Snark :

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

What I tell you three times is true.

For far too long these myths have clouded our understanding of the character and background of the victim, the details of the crime, even the appearance of the murderer, and it is high time that they were categorically refuted.

Until 1939 no one doubted that Dark Annie had been a prostitute. Then William Stewart dismissed the belief that all the Ripper’s victims were streetwalkers. Far from it, ‘there is abundant proof that Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly were “one-man” women and that the former was able to support herself by artificial flower making and crochet work.’ Inordinately proud of his discovery, Stewart adverted to it repeatedly. Thus, on a subsequent page, he tells us: ‘Several witnesses stoutly denied that Chapman was a regular streetwalker. According to them she was comparatively respectable, and as an artificial flower maker and crochet worker she was capable of earning sufficient money to keep her off the streets.’ 2

Now, exploring the evidence for these assertions, we find that Stewart’s ‘abundant proof’ and ‘several witnesses’ comes down to the inquest deposition of just one witness – Amelia Palmer. Amelia did, indeed, say that Annie was respectable. She never used bad language. Although often the worse for drink she was easily affected by liquor. And she was ‘a very industrious, clever little woman in crochet and things of that kind.’ But Amelia’s testimony is open to the objection that she was obviously trying to say the best of a friend of five years’ standing. Nor did she deny that Annie was a prostitute. In fact, under close interrogation she was obliged to concede that Annie had sometimes stayed out late and ‘was not particular how she earned her living.’ 3 Timothy Donovan, moreover, told the inquest that Annie often tried to bring men with her to the lodging house. Perhaps, however, we should not cavil too much at Stewart on this point. At least there was some basis for his contention which is more than can be said for many of his other statements.

More durable misconceptions, popularized by Donald McCormick, surround Annie’s origins. ‘Of all the Ripper’s victims,’ he wrote in 1959, ‘she was the only woman with a respectable middle-class background. The fact that she had “known better days” did not endear her to some of the other prostitutes and she seems to have made a few enemies among them because of this . . . She had formerly lived at Windsor, where she was married to an Army pensioner, Fred Chapman, who was also a veterinary surgeon.’ 4 Apart from Annie’s residence at Windsor there is little or no truth in any of these statements but they continue to be repeated today and figure in two of the centennial studies.

Amelia Palmer’s deposition, once again, is partly responsible for the misunderstandings. Amelia certainly did tell the inquest that Annie had been married to one Frederick Chapman, a Windsor veterinary surgeon, and this is possibly what Annie told her. But like many humble folk Annie seems to have been prone to romancing about her past as a means of enhancing her status in the eyes of present cronies. ‘The other women in the lodging house,’ noted the Star , ‘say that from what she had said at different times Dark Annie was well connected. She used to do crochet work, and, from her conversation it was evident she was a woman of some education.’ 5 Amelia’s error was corrected on the second day of the inquest, however, when Fountain Smith, Annie’s brother, explained that she had been married to a coachman named John Chapman. The notion that Chapman had been an army pensioner, also false, originally sprang from garbled news reports which confused him with Ted Stanley, the ‘pensioner’ who sometimes slept with Annie at 35 Dorset Street.

Research at St Catherine’s House does not suggest that Annie was of middle-class origin. Her parents were married in Paddington on 22 February 1842. They were George Smith of Harrow Road and Ruth Chapman of Market Street. Smith is described on the marriage certificate as a private in the second battalion of Lifeguards. His father, Thomas Smith, was a shoemaker, and Ruth’s father, William Chapman, belonged to the same trade. George never seems to have been promoted. On 25 February 1861, when his son Fountain Hamilton was born, he was still a private in the same regiment.

Before 1916 service in the army was always on a voluntary basis. In the mid-Victorian period the officer corps was dominated by a hierarchy of wealth, kinship and connection, but this was certainly not the case with the ‘other ranks’. Indeed, the long period of enlistment (nominally for life between 1829 and 1847), low pay and harsh discipline and conditions of army life for the rank and file meant that ‘going for a soldier’ tended to be seen as an act of desperation or last resort. There were a few gentleman rankers but recruitment was primarily from the unemployed and least skilled sections of the working-class. 6 Our evidence suggests overwhelmingly, then, that Annie’s father was of humble origin, a conclusion that is reinforced by the record of Annie’s own marriage in 1869. By then George Smith was dead but his former occupation is noted on the certificate as ‘servant’. Fountain Hamilton Smith, Annie’s brother, was a printer’s warehouseman in 1888.

The fact that Annie and her kin are recorded at respectable addresses is little indication of their social status since they were probably in service and living in the homes of their employers. In June 1873, for example, when Annie’s second daughter was born, the family were living at 17 South Bruton Mews, Berkeley Square, off New Bond Street, and their presence there is seemingly explained by a news report of 1888 7 which states that John Chapman had once been the valet of a nobleman who lived in Bond Street and had been forced to resign his position because of Annie’s dishonesty. We will encounter this situation again when we come to investigate the case of Elizabeth Stride, the next victim. Registered as a prostitute in her native Sweden, Elizabeth came to England in 1866 and found a place in the service of a gentleman living near Hyde Park. Three years later, when she married, her address was recorded as 67 Gower Street, probably the residence of her employer at the time.

Annie, then, did not spring from middle-class stock, although her experiences in service may well have enabled her to ape the attitudes and mannerisms of the well-to-do with some success amongst her lodging house friends. There is no evidence whatsoever that such affectations made her unpopular. The inquest depositions of Timothy Donovan and John Evans, indeed, state otherwise. ‘The deceased was always on very good terms with the other lodgers,’ said Donovan, ‘and the witness never had any trouble with her.’ 8 The row with Eliza Cooper was the only one that Donovan could remember Annie being involved in. The cause? A bar of soap!

The most persistent myths about the murder itself concern Annie’s neckerchief, her rings and the contents of her pocket. All originated in erroneous press reports.

On the day of the murder the Star told its readers that the killer had cut Annie’s throat so fearfully that, thinking he had severed the head, he tied a handkerchief around the neck to stop it rolling away. This tale found its way into The Times two days later, into Walter Dew’s reminiscences in 1938, into McCormick’s influential Identity of Jack the Ripper in 1959 and most subsequent books. It is encouraging to see a number of studies (most recently those by Donald Rumbelow, Wilson & Odell, and Begg, Fido & Skinner) specifically refute the tale but it survives in several of the centennial studies, one of which added a grisly touch of its own: ‘His [Dr Phillips’] nimble fingers untied the handkerchief around the neck, but he was unprepared for the result: as he fumbled with the knot the head rolled sideways, attached to the body by only a thin strip of skin.’ 9 Apparently this writer forgot, or never knew, that the killer had failed to sever the spinal column.

The truth was that the handkerchief belonged to Annie and was tied about her neck before the killer placed his knife to her throat. Timothy Donovan recalled for the inquest that Annie had been wearing a white cotton handkerchief with a broad red border about her neck when she left his lodging house that night. It was folded ‘three-corner ways’ and was tied in front of the neck with a single knot. 10

Reporters converged on 29 Hanbury Street like angry hornets on the morning of the murder. One of the earliest on the scene was Oswald Allen of the Fall Mall Gazette and his report, which appeared on the streets later in the day, carried the assertion that Annie’s rings had been wrenched from her finger and placed at her feet. On the following Monday the Daily Telegraph printed another fable: ‘There were also found two farthings polished brightly, and, according to some, these coins had been passed off as half-sovereigns upon the deceased by her murderer.’ The farthings quickly passed into legend. Even two policeman later gave them credence. In 1889 Inspector Reid told a different murder inquiry that two farthings had been found on or about the body of Annie Chapman and in 1910 Major Henry Smith alleged in his memoirs that two polished farthings had been discovered in her pocket. Neither man, however, had personally investigated the Hanbury Street case. Reid had been on leave at the time and Smith, as Chief Superintendent of the City of London force, had no responsibility for the policing of Spitalfields. 11

In succeeding years the rings and farthings became an obligatory part of the collection of items found at the feet of Annie’s corpse. In 1928 Leonard Matters started the ball rolling: ‘Another interesting fact in this case was that two brass rings which the woman wore were taken from her fingers, and the trumpery contents of her dress pocket – two or three coppers and odds and ends – were carefully laid out at her feet.’ It will be noted that Matters did not mention the farthings and did not state that the rings were found at Annie’s feet. But ten years later William Stewart went further. On one page he printed Allen’s report, on another he asserted that two farthings had been amongst the items arrayed at the feet of the corpse. In 1959 Donald McCormick put Matters and Stewart together: ‘Two brass rings, a few pennies and two farthings were neatly laid out in a row at the woman’s feet.’ 12 As set down by McCormick the story was reaffirmed in a whole bevy of major Ripper books: Cullen (1965), Odell (1966), Farson (1973), Rumbelow (1975 and revised edition 1987), Knight (1976) and Odell & Wilson (1987). Occasionally a renegade Ripperologist ventured a dissenting voice – Richard Whittington-Egan in 1975, Melvin Harris in 1987, Paul Begg in 1988 – but by this time the legend had almost assumed the status of an imperishable truth. In full or in part it appears in two of the most recent Ripper books: Paul Harrison, a serving police sergeant himself, has two brass rings and two new farthings at the feet of the corpse Messrs Begg, Fido & Skinner, in their Jack the Ripper A to Z, content themselves with two farthings ‘which may have been brightly polished.’ 13

In Stephen Knight’s overheated imagination the rings and farthings were additional proof of his theory of a Masonic Ripper. According to this writer the clues pointing to such a conclusion were abundant in the Chapman murder. Annie had been divested of all metals such as rings and coins. So is a Mason before he is initiated to any degree. And brass is the sacred metal of the Masons because the Grand Master Hiram Abiff of Masonic legend was a worker in brass. He it was who supervised the moulding of the two hollow brass pillars commanding the entrance to Solomon’s temple. When Annie’s killer placed her brass rings at her feet, contends Knight, he did so because, side by side, they simulated the appearance of the two hollow brass pillars in cross-section! Then there were the mutilations. In Masonic myth Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum, the three murderers of Hiram Abiff, were themselves killed ‘by the breast being torn open and the heart and vitals taken out and thrown over the left shoulder.’ This, said Knight, explained why Annie’s intestines had been placed on her shoulder. 14

The truth was very different. Neither rings nor farthings were found at Annie’s feet and hers was certainly not a ritualized Masonic killing.

We have only four authentic eyewitness accounts of the appearance of the body in the backyard. The first, written on the same day, was contained in a confidential report of Inspector Chandler to his superiors. Then, four days later, James Kent, one of the men called in by John Davis, gave his highly coloured version to the coroner. Finally, Inspector Chandler and Dr Phillips both made depositions at the inquest on 13 September. Not one of these accounts mentions any rings or farthings placed by Annie’s feet. The inquest depositions of Chandler and Phillips are very detailed and would unquestionably have recorded the presence of these articles had they been there but both men speak only of a piece of coarse muslin, a small-tooth comb and a pocket comb in a paper case. In addition to this evidence we have Abberline’s report of 19 September in which he explicitly states that the rings had been missing when the body was found and that inquiries had been made at pawnbrokers and dealers throughout the district in the hope that the murderer had tried to pawn or sell them believing them to be gold. 15 The sum of the genuine evidence, then, is quite clear. The rings were not recovered and the only items discovered by the feet of the body were a muslin handkerchief and two combs.

Pressmen were not admitted to premises in which a murder had just been committed. And, except in the context of coroner’s inquiries, they were not made privy to the details of police investigations. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, therefore, that however valuable the newspapers might be as sources of contemporary comment and for information on the public aspects of the subject like inquest hearings or street scenes they are not credible sources for the details of the crimes themselves and should not be used as such.

Knight’s theory that several of the Ripper victims were mutilated in accordance with Masonic ritual received worldwide publicity. He – and those who have followed him – insist that the killer of Annie Chapman and Kate Eddowes, a later victim, consciously replicated the form of execution willed upon himself by Jubelo, in Masonic tradition one of the murderers of Hiram Abiff, the Masonic Grand Master and builder of Solomon’s temple: ‘O that my left breast had been torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence and thrown over my left shoulder.’ 16 This is not true. In the cases of both Chapman and Eddowes the intestines, not the heart and chest contents, were lifted out, and they were placed over the right, not the left, shoulder. One suspects that, in reality, this act had no especial significance. For if the killer was kneeling by the victim’s right side and holding the knife in his right hand he would have lifted her entrails out in his left, and her right shoulder, immediately before him, would have been as convenient a place as any to deposit them so that he might proceed with the other abdominal mutilations.

The Masonic theory fares no better when applied to Mary Kelly, generally regarded as the Ripper’s last and certainly his most extensively mutilated victim. Kelly’s heart was, indeed, cut out but it was either taken away or, since the murderer maintained a fierce fire, burned by him. The other viscera and detached flesh were left in various places – under her head, by her right foot, between her feet, by her right or left side, and heaped on a bedside table, in short almost everywhere except over her left shoulder. Only by a shameless selection of evidence can the Masonic theory be invested with apparent credibility. Thus, for example, Melvyn Fairclough, attempting to resuscitate Knight’s hypothesis as recently as 1991, points to the fact that Kelly’s right thigh was denuded of skin and flesh. This, he assures us, is a Masonic allegory, ‘a reminder of the initiation of a Master Mason when the candidate, in reference to his two previous initiations, says: “And my right leg bare”. As he utters these words he has to roll up his trouser leg. With Kelly they rolled away the flesh.’ Unfortunately, he neglects to explain, or even to mention, that Kelly’s left thigh too was stripped of skin, fascia and muscles as far as the knee.

Knight’s theory, in sum, was a colossus built on sand.

The speculations of Ripperologists have often taken us very far from the truth. Unfortunately, without ready access to the primary evidence it is very difficult for the reader with a genuine interest in the crimes to get back to the facts. The reported appearance of Annie’s killer is a case in point.

My readers will already know that the only person who caught a glimpse of the murderer was Mrs Long, the market woman who saw him talking to Annie outside No. 29 at 5.30. Yet previous writers have claimed not one, but three , sightings of the killer. They can be summarized as follows:

2.00 a.m.

A man seen entering the passage of No. 29.

5.00 a.m.

A man and a woman seen talking outside No. 29 by Mrs Darrell.

5.30 a.m.

A man and a woman seen talking outside No. 29 by Mrs Long.

The only genuine sighting in this list is the last. So whence the others?

The myth of Mrs Darrell was created by two factual errors. One was made by author Donald McCormick. 17 He discovered a reference to Mrs Darrell in the contemporary press, probably in the Times of 13 September 1888, but incorrectly copied the time of the sighting as 5.00 instead of 5.30. I have checked five news reports of Mrs Darrell’s sighting. 18 All of them give the time 5.30. Now this, of course, was the time of Mrs Long’s sighting and I am sure that with my discerning readers the penny will already have begun to drop. Mrs Darrell was Mrs Long.

The original source of the confusion must have been a mistake by one of the press agencies which botched the name of the witness but in every other respect reported her experience accurately. The details credited to Mrs Long in police records, and given by her to the coroner, are identical to those attributed in the press to Mrs Darrell. Even the words overheard by the witness – the man’s laconic ‘Will you?’ and the woman’s answer ‘Yes’ are the same in both. There is no doubt, then, that the many writers who have recorded Mrs Darrell’s sighting have duplicated that of Mrs Long, another cautionary tale in the use of newspaper evidence.

The man in the passage is an even more mysterious character than Mrs Darrell. He first made his appearance in print two days after the murder in the Daily Telegraph :

At eight o’clock last night the Scotland-yard authorities had come to a definite conclusion as to the description of the murderer of two, at least, of the hapless women found dead at the East-end, and the following is the official telegram despatched to every station throughout the metropolis and suburbs: ‘Commercial-street, 8.20 p.m. – Description of a man wanted, who entered a passage of the house at which the murder was committed with a prostitute, at two a.m. the 8th. Aged thirty-seven, height 5 ft. 7 in., rather dark, beard and moustache dress, short dark jacket, dark vest and trousers, black scarf and black felt hat spoke with a foreign accent.’

A day later The Times proffered a slightly different version:

The following official notice has been circulated throughout the metropolitan police district and all police-stations throughout the country: – ‘Description of a man who entered a passage of the house at which the murder was committed of a prostitute at 2 a.m. on the 8th. – Age 37 height, 5 ft. 7 in. rather dark beard and moustache. Dress – shirt, dark jacket, dark vest and trousers, black scarf, and black felt hat. Spoke with a foreign accent.’ 19

This description of a suspect seen entering the passage of No. 29 at 2.00 a.m. cannot be reconciled with the evidence of Mrs Long, which places the murderer and his victim outside the house at 5.30, and Leonard Matters, the first important author on the murders, was frankly baffled by it. His successors have fared no better. ‘I am inclined to believe that this description was entirely made up out of some policeman’s head,’ wrote a mystified Tom Cullen, ‘for there is no record of any man’s having been seen entering the passage of No. 29 Hanbury Street at 2.00 a.m. on the morning of the murder. Certainly no witness ever testified to this effect.’ 20 Most writers on the case have quoted the description without understanding to whom it referred. A few have opted to avoid any reference to it at all. No one has satisfactorily explained it.

At the time the News speculated that the prostitute referred to in the police telegram was not Annie Chapman but one Emily Walter or Walton: ‘That description applies, as well as can be gathered, to the man who gave the woman Emily Walton two brass medals, or bright farthings, as half-sovereigns when in a yard of one of the houses in Hanbury Street at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, and who then began to ill-use the woman. The police attach importance to finding the man . . .’ 21

Emily’s adventure is known to us only from newspaper reports. She told the police that early on the morning of the murder she had been accosted by a man in Spitalfields. Although he had presented her with two half-sovereigns, as she had supposed at the time, his manner had been violent and threatening. Eventually her screams had scared him off. Later Emily discovered that the ‘half-sovereigns’ were but brass medals. She evidently gave a description of the man to the police and conceivably this was the one circulated in the telegram. The earliest report of the Emily Walter affair, however, tends to cast doubt upon this explanation for it gives the time of her encounter as 2.30 not 2.00, and does not positively identify the house in which it allegedly took place as No. 29: ‘It is said that this woman [Walter] did accompany the man, who seemed as if he would kill her, to a house in Hanbury Street, possibly No. 29, at 2.30 a.m.’ 22 One also wonders whether the whole story of Emily Walter was a newspaper fiction. She was not called as a witness before the inquest and there is no official record of her in the police or Home Office files.

It will be noted that there are significant differences between the two published texts of the police telegram. The Times version suggests a much more likely solution to the mystery. It begins: ‘Description of a man who entered a passage of the house at which the murder was committed of a prostitute at 2 a.m. on the 8th.’

Now, since Annie was killed at about 5.30 most students of the case have taken the time of two o’clock to relate to the man’s entry into the passage. But two was an important time in the Chapman case. Abberline and Swanson both record it as the time at which Annie was turned out of the lodging house. Mrs Long did not volunteer her evidence until three days after the date of the telegram so when the police drafted it two o’clock was the last time at which Annie had been seen alive. It was for precisely this reason that detectives, visiting common lodging houses on the day of the murder, made inquiries about men who had entered after two. The first sentence of the telegram should therefore probably be amended thus: ‘Description of a man who entered a passage of the house at which the murder was committed of a prostitute after 2 a.m. on the 8th.’

The whole sense of the sentence is now altered. The time and date are correct for the murder itself and no time or date is specified for the man’s entry into the passage. The telegram simply records the description of a man seen (date and time not given) in the passage of the same house in which a prostitute was murdered after two on the morning of 8 September.

Having clarified the text of the telegram, we are in a position to solve the mystery. We know from police records that on the day of the murder they interviewed every occupant of No. 29. On that occasion Mrs Richardson surely told them about the trespasser Mr Thompson and herself had encountered on the premises about four weeks back. She referred to him again at the inquest:

CORONER: ‘Did you ever see anyone in the passage?’

MRS RICHARDSON: ‘Yes, about a month ago I heard a man on the stairs. I called Thompson, and the man said he was waiting for [the] market.’

CORONER: ‘At what time was this?’

MRS RICHARDSON: ‘Between half-past three and four o’clock.’ 23

The police would not have regarded this man as a serious suspect but they would have been anxious to trace him in order to eliminate him from their inquiries. And this was apparently the purpose of the telegram. The identification of the man in the passage with Mrs Richardson’s trespasser would seem to be clinched by a statement which she gave to the Daily Telegraph as early as 8 or 9 September:

‘The only possible clue that I can think of,’ she said, ‘is that Mr Thompson’s wife met a man about a month ago lying on the stairs, about four o’clock in the morning. He spoke with a foreign accent. When asked what he was doing there he replied he was waiting to do a “doss” before the market opened. He slept on the stairs that night, and I believe on other nights also.’ 24

The police telegram, then, did not describe a man seen with Annie Chapman but one found skulking about No. 29 a month before the murder. As such it cannot seriously be advanced as a clue to Annie’s killer. The detectives knew this perfectly well. Which is why Chief Inspector Swanson, reviewing the Chapman investigation on 19 October, recorded only one description of a suspect in connection with the murder – that of Mrs Long. 25

Our demolition of these time-honoured shibboleths must not delude us into thinking that we have seen the last of them. They will continue to be trotted out by the idle and incompetent and facts, in any case, have never stood in the way of a sensational theory. The arrangement of Annie’s pathetic belongings around the feet of her corpse struck William Stewart as a typically feminine gesture. And anxious to promote his own indictment of a demented midwife, he was not the man to question the truth of that neat array. Similarly, for Stephen Knight the rings and coins had to exist, if only to legitimize his fantasy of a Masonic murderer. ‘Human kind,’ sighed T. S. Eliot, ‘cannot bear very much reality.’ The century-old obsession with the Whitechapel murders might truly be cited as a vindication of his view. Jack the Ripper has been, and looks destined to remain, whatever writers, songsters and film-makers wish him to be.

None of which alters the fact that in the patient study and careful evaluation of our primary sources, the truth – or what survives of it – is there for those who seek it.

Top 5 Student-friendly Jack the Ripper Websites.

Wanted poster 1888.
If your students are anything like my high-schoolers they're probably overly interested in all things gory. So often mine become obsessed with conspiracy theories and in particular, the 'Jack the Ripper' murders in Whitechapel in 1888. These crimes were so horrific that they fascinated and scared the population at the time and even heralded the growth of the tabloid press as the public pushed for more information. The first serial killer he was not, but the first widely reported on serial killer - yes.

Is it therefore any wonder that our students want to find out more when the crimes have come such a large part of our cultural history?

There is a great deal about the murders on the world wide web, unfortunately much of it is apocryphal and even more is too gory for our kids impressionable minds. However as a history teacher I have had to teach what happened in Whitechapel in 1888 as a coursework unit to 14 year-olds and trying to keep off the gruesome details was hard. I did find a way though focusing on why people were interested in the crimes at the time, why the police were unable to catch the killer and the extensive press coverage was an interesting way into the story and also allowed links to present day.

But in the end you have to be able to explain what actually happened without freaking students out with the gore or worse still, desensitising them to the horror of what was done to the victims. If you're setting up a web quest the last thing you want children to do is stumble (usually very quickly!) upon an autopsy photograph of Long Lizzy or the scene of Mary Kelly's murder.

Therefore I've trawled the internet to find the most student friendly Jack the Ripper websites that are also factually accurate. This has been no mean feat so I wanted to share the results with you!

1. https://www.activehistory.co.uk/Miscellaneous/free_stuff/jack/LifeinWhitechapel.ppt

The wonderful Russel Tarr's activehistory.co.uk set up in 1998 has some wonderful resources on Jack the Ripper. A few of them require a log in or payment but many are free. Not least this PowerPoint presentation on Life in Whitechapel in 1888. Made by another teacher this uses resources from Tarr's site. It gives a nicely informative background to the conditions in the East End of London in the Victorian Era. And best of all its freely downloadable!

This BBC page gives a very brief, easy to read overview of some key aspects of the case, including the graffiti and possible suspects. The BBC history site is renowned for accuracy and generally avoids sensationalism.

3. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/education/jacktheripper.pdf

I absolutely love the National Archive in Kew. Many a happy hour did I spend there during my History degree rooting through the collections on 19th century London. Now you can do the same from wherever you are in the world. (The internet is amazing!)

Our students can now access the original Jack the Ripper materials online including the 'Dear Boss' Letter and the police responses. This link takes you to the resources used for a workshop they held on the police methods in the case. The materials and activities are included and can be used by your classes with very little prep. They can dissect the original evidence individually or in groups. A accurate and informative website.

This one is slightly more risky in terms of your students finding some of the more gruesome images. But I've included it as it has some very useful and reliable information. It may be best for you to use while planning your lessons for this reason. This particular page covers what the police focused on when looking for suspects. The page then goes on to list the main suspects with individual headings and pictures.

Jack The Ripper Case Study

Aaron Kosminski was Jewish, had spent time in a mental hospital, and was known for his loathing of women. Even though there are many suspects that people believe could be Jack the Ripper, it can be proven that Aaron Kosminski is the killer, Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper stole the lives of five women prostitutes, nonetheless there are rumors of five to six more. The identity of Jack the Ripper is unknown, but there have been over one hundred suspects throughout the years. His killing spree was in the late 1800s, beginning on August 31, 1888 with the death of Mary Anne Nichols.&hellip

No, We Still Cannot Confirm the Identity of Jack the Ripper

After 130 years, do we finally know the identity of Jack the Ripper? Unfortunately, no. After releasing test results of a controversial silk shawl stained with blood and, possibly, semen, supposedly found at the scene of one of the Ripper killings, forensic scientists are pointing the finger at Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish barber in London who was one of the first suspects identified by London police in the Ripper case. But like all elements in the Jack the Ripper saga, the evidence they’re offering is not able to close the book on the string of murders that terrorized the London streets of 1888.

The case for the barber’s unmasking is tied to the shawl alleged to have been found next to Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper’s fourth victim. As David Adam at Science reports, the cloth was acquired by Ripper enthusiast Russell Edwards in 2007, who had it DNA tested. While Edwards published the results in his 2014 book, Naming Jack the Ripper, he kept the DNA results and methods under wraps, making it impossible to assess or verify the claims of Kosminski as Ripper. Now, the biochemists who ran those tests, Jari Louhelainen of John Moores University in Liverpool and David Miller of the University of Leeds, have published the data in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

There, the researchers explain they subjected the shawl to infrared imagery and spectrophotometry testing. They also inspected the stains using a microscope to determine what made them. Under ultraviolet light, they found that one stain was possibly produced by semen.

The researchers then vacuumed up what DNA fragments the could from the shawl, finding little modern contamination and many degraded short fragments, consistent with DNA of that age. They compared mitochondrial DNA in the sample, which is passed down from mother to child, to a descendent of Eddowes, finding that it was a match. The team also found a match to a descendant of Kosminski in other bits of mitochondrial DNA.

“All the data collected support the hypothesis that the shawl contains biological material from Catherine Eddowes and that the mtDNA sequences obtained from semen stains match the sequences of one of the main police suspects, Aaron Kosminski,” they write in the study.

But as Adam at Science reports, this more detailed data still doesn’t say enough. As Hansi Weissensteiner, a mitochondrial DNA expert, points out, mitochondrial DNA can’t be used to positively ID a suspect, it can only rule one out since thousands of other people could have had the same mitochondrial DNA. Additionally, experts have critiqued the way the results were published, as some of the data is shown as graphs instead of the actual results. Forensic scientist Walther Parson says the authors should publish the mitochondrial DNA sequences. “Otherwise the reader cannot judge the result,” Parson says.

Beyond the results, there’s an even bigger obstacle afoot—the provenance of the shawl. For The Conversation, Mick Reed explains the shawl’s origin story is full of problems. Was a shawl even picked up by Metropolitan Police officer Amos Simpson at the crime scene that night? Even if that were true, whether this scarf is the authentic one is up for debate the cloth was previously dated to the Edwardian period, from 1901 to 1910, as well as to the early 1800s, and could come from anywhere in Europe.

Historian Hallie Rubenhold, author of the new book The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, has been among the Ripper experts to criticize the conclusions. “[T]here is no historical evidence, no documentation that links this shawl at all to Kate Eddowes. This is history at its worst,” she wrote on Twitter in response to a headline that claimed the newly published research "proved" Jack the Ripper had been identified.

While it seems there's no way we'll ever know for certain who the murderer was, Rubenhold makes the case that it doesn't matter all that much. What she prioritizes are the identities of the women he murdered, whose names we have record of. As Meilan Solly recently reported for Smithsonian.com, Rubenhold’s research "dedicates little space to the man who killed her subjects and the gory manner in which he did so." Instead, it shifts the focus of the Jack the Ripper narrative to lives—not deaths—of his victims.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.


Phantom Blood

After killing his final victim as a human, Jack was approached by a then-incapacitated Dio Brando who saw the evil in the man's heart and decides to make him the first of his zombie minions. Refusing at first, Jack accepted after a failed attempt to kill Dio. (In the anime, Dio instead hypnotizes Jack to come forward so that the former could suck his blood to turn him into a loyal zombie servant.)

Later, he corners Jonathan Joestar, Robert E. O. Speedwagon and Will Anthonio Zeppeli in a tunnel on their way to Windknight's, decapitating their coachman along with the horses as he hid in one of them. Once revealing himself, Jack proceeded to throw the coach wagon into the mouth of the tunnel to prevent Jonathan and his companions from escaping. Zeppeli, fighting Jack to prove a point about Ripple energy and courage, manages to wound the zombie as he escapes into a labyrinth hidden in the tunnel, intending to attack from the darkness. Zeppeli gives Jonathan the task to finish off Jack as his final test, giving the youth a wine glass to pinpoint Jack's location on the other side of a wall, JoJo eliminates Jack with a well-aimed Sendo Hamon Overdrive, surging through the brick wall and melting Jack.

4 Joel The Ripper17 Victims

No tag on a truck. That is what stopped Joel Rifkin&rsquos four-year slaughter of New York City prostitutes. On June 28, 1993, a trooper noticed a Mazda truck without license plates. He tried to stop the vehicle, but it sped off, eventually crashing into a pole. The trooper had no idea that the rotting corpse of 22-year-old Tiffany Bresciani, the 17th and last victim of Joel the Ripper, was in the bed of the truck.

Rifkin confessed to 17 murders in detail. He would pick up prostitutes, pay them for sex, and strangle them. He dismembered his first victim with an X-Acto knife and disposed of her various body parts in different locations. Her head was hidden in a paint can that he put in the woods of a golf course.

After his confession, police obtained a warrant to search his house. Inside, they found jewelry, driver&rsquos licenses, undergarments, and other &ldquotrophies&rdquo belonging to his victims. They also discovered newspaper clippings about other serial killers. [7]

In the shed, they found a wheelbarrow with blood in it and a chainsaw with human flesh on it. Rifkin was convicted for murder and sentenced to 203 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 2197.

Even after he was arrested, Joel the Ripper caused the death of one more person. The woman found dead in the bed of his truck was the girlfriend of front man Dave &ldquoInsurgent&rdquo Rubenstein of the seminal hardcore punk band Reagan Youth. She had turned tricks to support their heroin addictions. Rubenstein last saw his girlfriend the night she got into Rifkin&rsquos car. Days after her body was discovered, Rubenstein committed suicide.

Jack the Ripper-1973 BBC docudrama

The first memory I have of knowing who or what Jack the Ripper was in history and why it was important was the 1973 BBC docudrama, Jack the Ripper. This was in terms of television in 1973 way ahead of it’s time as rather than having a straightforward documentary series, the BBC decided to have framed as a crime investigation using two popular fictional characters from Z-Cars, Softly, Softly and Barlow at Large. Barlow (Stratford Johns) and Watt (Frank Windsor) were the leads in this series where the pair discussed the Ripper case over six parts in extraordinary detail while theorising who may have been the killer and the various conspiracies surrounding the case.

At the time I was stupidly young, so I’m thinking I saw this on a repeat, not on its first broadcast in 1973 but it massively impacted upon me, a kid weaned on horror comics and films, as this real life crime which was more horrendous than anything I’d read in Creepy or Eerie. What I didn’t know at the time was it was based upon theories which saw the light of day for the first time here, which themselves led to the publication of Steven Knight’s Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, which itself helped influence Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. Even the BBC series Ripper Street doffs its deerstalker cap to it.In terms of influence the 1973 Jack the Ripper is huge for the Ripper genre (oh yes, it’s a definite genre now) but television in the UK.

The blurring of fact and fiction was not something the Reithian BBC would have normally done in 1973 but this clever series manages to make the subject accessible to a mainstream audience of the time. Today it looks clunky, feels slow and is often a tad dull, but this was groundbreaking stuff as it pushes the Fourth Wall in terms of what we the viewer see as real. For the series to work we have to accept Barlow and Watt as real people living in the same reality as Jack the Ripper. Pacing problems aside, the series is a fantastic primer if you do decide to dive into From Hell, the comic of course, not the dreadful film. In terms of pure research hitting the screen this series can’t be beaten, even if some of the conspiracy theories have been roundly trashed in the decades since. One of the things that is superb from an historical point of view is that much of the East End of London still looked similar to what it did in the Victorian Era in 1973, which gives the series an authentically grimy feel.

It isn’t available on DVD, it probably never will be released commercially. There’s simply not enough interest, but it does live (for the moment) on YouTube in what looks like copies from a master tape. I’ve no idea how long these might last there but if you’ve got six hours free and are a bit of a Ripper enthusiast give it a go.

Watch the video: Assassins Creed Jack The Ripper GMV-Get Out Alive (July 2022).


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