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The Real

Jack the Ripper

Cutting Through the Fog of the  Ripper Myth

Richard JonesThe Real JTR is honoured to have Richard Jones, Best Selling author, broadcaster, historian and all round Ripper authority, writing an exclusive introduction to the Autumn of Terror for this site. As well as all the above, Richard is also the man behind the best Ripper walking tour out there! And so if you want to walk in the killer’s footsteps give Richard's site a visit at jack-the-ripper-tour.com



The Hunt for Jack the Ripper
by Richard Jones




The other night I watched an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which the team addressed a group of criminology students about a serial killer whom they had hunted for, I believe, a period of 20 years before eventually catching him.

Individual team members told the audience how their investigation had developed and how bits and pieces of evidence gradually came together to give them an idea of the type of suspect they were looking for – likely childhood traumas that had led that suspect to begin his crime spree and then on through his various murders to tracing him and bringing him to justice.

The wonders of a criminal investigation done for television: hunted, sorted and jailed in less than sixty minutes!

It set me wondering about what would happen if the detectives who handled the Jack the Ripper investigation - Abberline, Reid, Anderson, Swanson and, just because I hate leaving him out, Warren - were to be asked to undertake a similar lecture? What insights would they be able to give those students into the type of suspect they were looking for, and would the claim, that many officers who worked on the case made, that the killer’s identity was in fact known to them actually stand up to close scrutiny?

I honestly believe that it is safe to say that the hunt for Jack the Ripper is the longest running man hunt in criminal history. Indeed, it is safe to say that it is still going strong over 125 years after the crimes were committed!

Admittedly, the police themselves long ago gave up on the case and closed their investigation. But thousands of amateur sleuths have since been happy to pick up the gauntlet and run with it and, in so doing, have contributed an awful lot of useful information about the most famous murder spree in criminal history.

But what of the original investigation carried out by various members of the Metropolitan Police in 1888? How effective was it and, more importantly, is it possible that they missed vital clues and pieces of evidence that allowed Jack the Ripper to slip through the net and evade justice?

The first important point to make about the Victorian detectives is that they weren’t hunting Jack the Ripper, but were hunting the person responsible for a series of crimes that were officially known as the Whitechapel Murders.

As a result, the neat and tidy figure of the so-called “canonical” five victims was an unknown concept to the likes of Abberline and Reid. Nor did they have the luxury of the oft quoted time frame of August 31st 1888 to 9th November 1888. As far as they were concerned any murder, or even attack, that took place in the East End of London in the late 1880’s and the early 1890’s had the potential of being another atrocity by the Whitechapel Murderer.

So, as far as the police at the time were concerned, the first murder was that of Emma Smith, carried out in early April 1888. Now, Emma Smith almost certainly wasn’t a victim of the killer we now know as Jack the Ripper. Indeed, she survived the initial attack and was, therefore, able to reveal the fact that she had been attacked by a gang. However, her death, or, as it became, murder, is significant in several respects.

Firstly, she is the first name to appear on the generic Whitechapel Murders file that encompasses the canonical five (Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly) as well as several murders that may, or may not, have been the work of the ripper.

Secondly, the fact she claimed to have been attacked by a gang most certainly influenced the early stages of the police investigation into the Jack the Ripper crimes, as the police evidently believed that the murders were gang related.

However, in May, June and July, 1888, the police probably paid little heed to the death of Emma Smith and had, no doubt, come to see it as one of the many violent crimes for which the area was infamous at the time.

But then, in early August, 1888, Martha Tabram was murdered in George Yard, one street away from the corner where Emma Smith had been attacked. The attack on poor Martha was as frenzied as it was savage, and multiple stab wounds peppered her upper body.

Although Martha’s death most certainly caused consternation in the area, the police were still of the opinion that a gang was responsible.

This belief was still held a few weeks later when, on August 31st, 1888, Mary Nichols was murdered in Buck’s Row and the Jack the Ripper crimes, as we now know them, got underway.

In the wake of the Mary Nichols Murder the belief that a gang was responsible began to waiver, not just amongst the police but amongst the local populace and the press at large also. This was the period when the police investigations amongst the local prostitutes yielded the likely sounding suspect “Leather Apron.”

Unfortunately, the Leather Apron scare backfired alarmingly in that press speculation that he was a member of the local immigrant community led to racial unrest in the area, and the police were forced to face the alarming prospect that there might well be anti-Jewish rioting in the vicinity.

As a consequence, they began substituting witness descriptions of suspects being “of Hebrew appearance” with the more generic “of foreign appearance.” This was the main reason why, all conspiracy theories aside, Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ordered the erasure of the Goulston Street graffito.

If there was a time when we can say that the actual investigation began in earnest, it would be in the wake of the murder of Annie Chapman on 8th September 1888.

This is the period when Inspector Frederick George Abberline was brought back to the area to head up the on the ground investigation and when Chief Inspector Swanson, at Scotland Yard, was put in overall charge of reading and assessing every bit of information that came in on the case. Thus, by mid-September 1888, the team was in place that would go to work on the mystery, and which would devote an enormous amount of time to trying to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Of course, at this time, one of the most important names in the entire murder spree was yet to make an appearance. In early October 1888, the police released a letter which had been sent to the head of a London News Agency in late September 1888. The letter, written in gloating terms, purported to come from the perpetrator of the recent East End murders and it taunted the police about their inability to catch him.

But, it also bore the chilling signature “Jack the Ripper”, a name that the press and public alike latched onto. As a result the Whitechapel Murders were turned into an international circus and the unknown miscreant responsible for them was suddenly elevated to the realm of legend.

Thus the hunt for “Jack the Ripper” effectively began in early October 1888 and it has, more or less, been going on ever since!
Based upon the FBI profile, take this site's Autumn of Terror tour (audio if desired). Let Jack tell you about himself, Whitechapel and, finally, his view on the canonical five murders!

The Reality of the Ripper

Jack the Ripper, the architect of the autumn of terror, 1888, in Whitechapel, East London; a faceless bogeyman that dozens of theorists have since tried to pin an identity to. Theories range from the futile to the fantastic, too few of them focussing on what we have learned from Jack’s modern-day counterparts.

This website’s aim is not to add yet another fanciful face to the ever-growing gallery of the 'not guilty', but it will hopefully sketch a helpful silhouette of the Whitechapel Murderer; a likely profile that Jack will fit in to. Modern experts know infinitely more now about the nature of such killers than the antiquated Victorian police ever could have – a knowledge that has stemmed, sadly, from the apparent abundance of serial killers we have nowadays.

With, admittedly, some very occasional discrepancies, these serial killers tend to fit a mould. You don’t have to be an expert to see this pattern evolve: just a little research into other notorious killers will reveal similar people from similar backgrounds committing similar crimes.

Jack the Ripper is not unique; he is not something special. He is just one of history's many maladjusted murderers. Unfortunately, however, he was one who was never caught. As  a consequence, until his real name and nature are known, his myth and legend will live on.

New Writing on the Wall:

New Book of the Month Added:
The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden


New Killer Question Article Added:
Catherine Eddowes' Apron

New Clip Added to the JTR Theatre:
Jack the Ripper Locations: Then and Now

New Killer Question Article Added:
What do we have so far?

New Clip Added to the JTR Theatre:
29 Hanbury Street's Back Yard

New Killer Question Article Added:
Kosminski?

Shop The Ripper Book of the Month:

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden.

Sugden, a true authority on the history of the Ripper crimes, takes a no-nonsense look at the Autumn of Terror: his book is a serious study into the Whitechapel Murders and is not written with sensational theory seekers in mind! It is a very informative work in which the author does his utmost to separate the fact from the fiction. He even examines the work of other ‘ripperologists’ and points out their shortcomings, and even where they, the other experts, have succumbed to various Jack the Ripper myths! This book is a must for the serious Ripper researchers out there! It is very reasonably priced and is available in both digital and paper formats.

the real jack the ripper

It Begins...

Many of the sections below employ John Douglas’ FBI profile of the Ripper as their foundation. Profiling is not an exact science and I’m sure that even Douglas would agree that it’s unlikely that he’s one hundred percent correct with his outline of the killer. Nevertheless, I feel that if we are to ever unmask the Whitechapel fiend, it is better to know what kind of man we are looking for first, and I think Douglas’ profile is strong enough to get us close.

A profile’s aim is not to identify a culprit directly; it is a tool which helps to narrow down the field: it looks to identify a personality type rather than a person. Profiling’s merits have been called into question a number of times since its advent, but even if we only allow it a fifty percent hit rate, that’s got to be better than the big, fat zero we’ve managed to achieve by picking random suspects out of the air for the last 125 years!

With this in mind, proceed through the sections opposite and below and ask yourself: realistically, who would have fitted the profile? Using this method you will see many of the usual suspects' candidacies for being the real Jack the Ripper evaporate. But you will also find a tiny minority that fit rather well.

questions

"Killer Questions" is a part of the site which deals with miscellaneous aspects of the Whitechapel Murders. Anybody is free to write a short article here on any facet of the case which they find interesting or intriguing. Click the button above to visit the archive or post a comment, or click here to see the latest Killer Questions.

theatre

The JTR Theatre has free documentaries, interviews and other films connected to the Ripper case. More will be added in due course. Click the button above to enter.

Jack

The three sections below focus on the man, his environment and, finally, the series of murders themselves – all surmised from the possible mind-set of the murderer and all worded in the first-person.  Of course, these autobiographical works are fictional. They are there simply to echo the opinions of various modern-day criminal profilers and ripperologists on what the Whitechapel Murderer would  have been like. 

Click the relevant button to proceed...

Victims

These sections relate more to the victims of the Whitechapel Murderer. They include a short biography of each of the 'canonical' five, their respective post-mortems, and a map showing the locations of the murder scenes. It should not be forgotten that these women had their lives taken by the fiend, and whether or not we question their lack of moral scruples, they certainly didn’t deserve such horrible demises.

Click the relevant button to proceed...

Suspects

The suspects: is Jack amongst them? In these three sections you’ll find Douglas' FBI profile of Jack the Ripper (PDF); the compatibility with the profile of the suspects; and, finally, my own opinion. I will be adding more suspects over time and so it's worth checking back now and again to see how the new faces measure up against the FBI test. I will only be adding suspects where there is enough historical data available for them.

Click the relevant button to proceed...
jack the ripper victims fbi
whitechapel post mortems suspects
autumn of terror map opinion

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The Latest 3 Killer Question Comments...

Catherine Eddowes’ Apron

I recently started a thread over at the good old JTR Forums (website on links page) that gave a multiple choice question on Catherine Eddowes’ apron. The responses were very interesting. Firstly, before I repeat the question here, for those not aware of the apron story, it is important to know as it involves the only definite clue that Jack the Ripper ever left…

After the murder and mutilation of Eddowes in Mite Square, as well as taking her uterus and one of her kidneys with him, Jack also cut a section from the poor victim’s apron and took that away too. There are several theories as to why he may have done this: to use it as a makeshift carrier for the body parts; to bandage a wound he’d accidently inflicted upon himself; or, quite simply, to clean his hands and/or knife after his messy deed. For the purposes of this article it doesn’t really matter which was true. The fact of the matter is that PC Alfred Long, later that morning, found the bloody article at the base of a stairwell, just inside the entrance to a building on Goulston Street (108 to 119 Wentworth Model Dwellings), several thoroughfares away from the crime scene . It was above this dirty rag that the famous anti-Semitic graffito was also discovered. But whereas the graffito is a very grey area as far as a genuine clue goes, there is no doubt that the apron portion was an authentic artefact left by the killer, indicating his direction of travel after the crime.

And so on to the question:

Which of the following do you feel is correct?

a) The killer expected and wanted the apron to be found.

b) The killer did not expect the apron to be found.

c) The killer didn’t care less whether the apron was found or not.

d) None of the above.

People that subscribe to the view that the graffito was also Jack’s work tend to go for ‘a’, the apron acting as a kind of flag or pointer to the message above and validating it. Not many people go for ‘b’. This is because Jack would have been well aware of the ensuing, thorough search that would take place of any area after any murder of his (and he possibly committed two that morning). Option ‘c’ was the most popular answer given on the thread, and it’s my view too. Jack was probably a self-centred, egotistical creature whose arrogance had risen to new levels over the previous weeks – so what if I leave this apron behind – I’m invincible!

And so we’re left with ‘d’. There was one idea on the forum for this: the possibility that the Ripper may have dropped it accidentally. Although unlikely, if it were the case then all sorts of possibilities open up – did the Ripper live nearby? A nice list of all the occupants inside Wentworth Model Dwellings in 1888 would be handy and, for that matter, all the occupants in every property on Goulston Street! There was a big gap between the Eddowes murder and that of Mary Jane Kelly. Could it be that Jack the Ripper was lying low after inadvertently bringing the investigation way too close to his doorstep? Might he have felt that the police could be watching his neighbourhood very intently after finding the apron there? Probably not, but they are interesting points to ponder!

What do we have so far?

I thought that it was about time to examine what we can be fairly sure about in the Jack the Ripper hunt thus far– with some speculation thrown in, and as much nonsense as we can find thrown out!

First of all, Jack was a man and certainly not a woman: if you like the idea of a “Jill the Ripper” then you’ve come to the wrong place! If you want to pursue that particular theory, there are several authors out there who will happily sell you their books with a smile akin to a used car salesman’s!

Following on from the above, we can dismiss many other ridiculous theories out there by simply recognising that Jack had no grand motive for any of his murders. Whoever he was, he was a sick individual, and, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this website, his only motive to kill would have been an internal one – he was not carrying out some great government conspiracy, not researching cures into madness, and not acting on behalf of the freemasons! Sorry Hollywood! Why am I so sure? Take a look at the hundreds of other serial killers that have been successfully apprehended over time: how many of them were found to be committing murders for reasons external to their own skulls?

Moving on… Next, I think to an almost certain probability, we can say that Jack lived locally: at least within the Whitechapel area, and quite possibly within the rough circle defined by the canonical five crime scenes. Jack is almost certain to have been a pedestrian: Hansom cabs and coaches are a romantic notion that filmmakers like to employ in their fog-filled fantasies, but I doubt that Jack ever employed them in his! It would have been so much easier for him to lose himself in the warren of narrow alleys and passageways after a murder without a get-away cart! In either case, I think we can also safely say that Jack knew the area very well and wasn’t a newcomer.

Jack probably had some kind of employment that afforded him some private dwelling – or – lived at the expense of others (family maybe) and was granted some kind of private space at their home – or – had out-of-hours access to his workplace where privacy could be obtained. Some kind of privacy would be important to the killer: where to go with a couple of bloody, internal organs after a murder or two? I find it hard to believe that a common lodging house would be the murderer’s destination after considering the aforementioned question. And, besides, the early morning times that at least some of the crimes were committed seem to prevent a subsequent admittance to a doss house.

Jack would have appeared outwardly to be reasonably normal in his behaviour – if not completely normal. The idea of some barking mad, drooling monster should be dispelled: if you were a Whitechapel prostitute at the height of the scare, would you escort such a character, no matter how drunk and desperate you might be, to a secret spot for sex? The killer may well have had mental issues, but they obviously did not manifest themselves externally or obviously enough as to advertise a threat to the prostitutes.

The killer may well have had some basic anatomical knowledge. Although this is not a definite, I think, however, that on balance he is more likely to have had some experience than had none whatsoever. If he did have some anatomical knowledge, I feel he would have obtained it working as a slaughter man, a butcher, or even as a hunter, but probably not as a surgeon – I don’t think he needed to have any surgical expertise to do what he did. I must say, however, that the whole surgical knowledge thing is a cloudy issue at best. If you haven’t already, I suggest you watch the “Jack the Ripper Contradictions” video on this site’s JTR Theatre page to see what I mean.

In conclusion: Jack the Ripper would have appeared to have been an outwardly normal-looking man who lived locally and knew the area well; he would have had access to some kind of private dwelling within the area also; he travelled on foot on his murderous nights and made his getaways in the same fashion; his motives for killing were internal; he may well have had anatomical knowledge; and he was able-bodied. That’s not much to go on, is it? If we were to include the FBI profile we could add further details about his probable character and behaviour, but even then our search wouldn’t be anywhere near close to a conclusion. But this is what we have so far!

Kosminski?

Some of you who are more familiar with the Ripper case than others may have noticed the absence of a certain “Kosminski” (or however you want to spell it) upon these pages. This is not due to any indifference on my part or any pre-conceived fruitlessness for him being a suspect – far from it! I think he’s a very interesting character but, as with so many of the half-way realistic JTR suspects, there is so much contradiction and so few known facts. This lack of historical data on Kosminski is the only reason that I have not yet added him to the FBI profile/suspect comparison page – there’s simply not enough to go on. Anyway, I thought it was about time that I at least included him in an article – after all, the head of the C.I.D. of the London metropolitan Police in 1888, Sir Robert Anderson, later revealed (in an indirect way, via Melville Macnaghten – his former second in command, and from D. S. Swanson’s famous marginalia) that a Kosminski had been identified as Jack the Ripper at the time of the murders!

So, was Jack really Kosminski? And had he been identified at the time of the murders as the killer and prevented from claiming more victims? If so, then why wasn’t news of the culprit’s capture splashed all over the newspapers in a prelude to his hanging? The police were under great pressure at the time and surely they would have publicised that they’d finally got their man and bathed in the subsequent glory! Once again, in the Jack the Ripper case, things don’t seem to be allowed to be that simple!

Kosminski was a Jew and so was the star witness who had supposedly pointed him out to the police (we know not who for sure, but possibly Lawende, Schwartz or Joseph Hyam Levy). In any case, according to Anderson, he “…unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him…” But… then refused to testify against him as he apparently didn’t want to be responsible for a fellow Jew’s hanging. If true, unable to prosecute, the police then had no option but to release the man they believed to be the murderer. A period of close observation of Kosminski then understandably ensued, followed by his admittances (beginning in July, 1890) to the Mile End Old Town Workhouse Infirmary, Colney Hatch Asylum and then, eventually, to Leavesden Asylum for Imbeciles where he died in 1919.

Argument rages today between those that feel Kosminski was the Ripper, and those that feel that Anderson and company just had fertile imaginations or were simply mistaken. There are so many aspects to this theory, both pro and con, that I could not possibly squeeze them into a small article here. I, however, would definitely suggest further reading on this one! After all, Anderson, top cop at the time of the murders, would later recall that the identity of Jack the Ripper was: “… a definitely ascertained fact…”!

If Anderson was somehow shown to be correct and Kominski was indeed the Ripper, I don’t think I could hold back my mirth. People have now been looking for the killer’s identity for over a century and a quarter; examining every tiny nook and cranny of the case under the powerful magnifying glasses of historical research, criminal profiling and logic. Could it be that, after all of this time, the best that anyone could do is rediscover what was already known for sure back in 1888? Can you almost hear Anderson saying from beyond the grave: “Well, I told you so!” as we realise that in the biggest mystery in criminal history there was, in fact, no mystery at all? Maybe… Maybe not.


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