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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

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:

(click here for the latest Killer Questions)

New Book of the Month Added:
The London of Jack the Ripper: Then and Now

New Suspect Added to Suspect Comparison Page:
Aaron Kosminski

New Clip Added to  the JTR Theatre:
Night of the Double Murder by Richard Jones

New Killer Question Article Added:
Why Did the Ripper Stop?

Shop The Ripper Book of the Month:

The London of Jack the Ripper: Then and Now - by Robert Clack and Philip Hutchinson

This cracking book, as well as, of course, covering Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, would interest people with a more general interest in the old East End of London too. With many previously unpublished pictures and photographs, the authors take the reader on a tour of the crime scenes as well as other notable landmarks in the Ripper case such as the doss houses and pubs. But also covered in the book are the other changes in the area where the victims once walked. The book doesn’t just concentrate on the ‘canonical five’ either: the history of each of the eleven Whitechapel Murders is covered as well as their locations, and views are given as to whether any of the contemporary attacks and homicides could also be the work of the Ripper.  I very much enjoyed this book: it’s not there to name a sensational suspect or to put forward some radical theory, it just clearly and concisely documents Whitechapel from the Autumn of Terror onwards.

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.


"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.


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.


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...


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...


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...
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whitechapel post mortems suspects
autumn of terror map opinion

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Why Did the Ripper Stop?

Another intriguing aspect of the Jack the Ripper murders is why they stopped so suddenly. The fact that they did stop is, I feel, an undervalued, much ignored clue. What’s more, it is a concrete clue; it is one of the few ‘definites’ we have in the case. This remains true no matter which poor woman is considered to be the last JTR victim in Whitechapel. You can, of course, take your pick when it comes to that question! But the fact remains that the type of serial killer that Jack was doesn’t just stop on his own accord; there will be, if you like, a motive behind his cessation – a motive with its roots in the real world, far more corporeal than the motive for him killing in the first place!

And so what did stop that killer killing more in Whitechapel? There are several realistic possibilities:

He got caught! This, on the face of it, seems unlikely. We do have Anderson’s claim, however, that this was indeed the case – or, at least, that the killer (Kosminski) was identified and was subsequently kept in check because he could not be prosecuted for the crimes. This surveillance apparently prevented any further murders and only stopped when Kosminski was later safely caged in an asylum. Martin Fido’s well-researched ‘David Cohen’ theory runs parallel to this story and is certainly within the bounds of possibility.

But if the killer wasn’t caught or identified at the time, what is the next option? Well, let’s say the murderer came too close to getting caught for his own liking. This, although rare, can happen according to the FBI. The threat of capture alone will not only be enough to convince some serial killers to pause, but it will also be enough stop the occasional killer altogether. I think this, although possible, is unlikely with Jack the Ripper: I think his urges were way too strong! This does, though, bring us to another possibility for why the murders ceased and which also concerns the police getting close:

Jack the Ripper left Whitechapel! This is a very plausible notion. There have been many instances of serial killers relocating when they start to feel the heat. And there can be little doubt that Whitechapel, at least in the autumn of 1888, was becoming a far riskier place to commit savage street murders than it had been just a few months beforehand! If Mary Kelly was Jack’s final victim in Whitechapel, it’s interesting to note that her murder was committed indoors. Some commentators argue that she wasn’t a Ripper victim just because of that fact – it didn’t fit the killer’s M.O.! But a killer’s M.O. isn’t set in stone: a killer can adapt and his methods can evolve. Jack wanted to mutilate his victims – that was the source of his sick pleasure! I doubt if he cared much whether he achieved this either inside or out – until, maybe, outside carnage became even riskier than it had previously been – possibly even too foolhardy to attempt!

In any case, Jack hitting the road is a real possibility, and the conceivable continuation of the murders elsewhere in the world ripe for research. Howard Brown, of the JTR Forums, does a great job in posting newspaper clippings of subsequent Ripper-like killings from all over the globe. Who knows – maybe one or more such reports are not, in fact, Ripper-like, but just Ripper!

Death and disease are other real possibilities for Jack’s retirement. Victorian London wasn’t a safe place to live in general, but in Whitechapel conditions were about as low as they could get. Anyone of a number of diseases could have made Jack its victim! And, if Jack had a job, health and safety was a thing of the distant future in many, if not all, trades. On top of this, of course, there was high crime which the Ripper wouldn’t have been immune to despite his legendary status. He may have even been murdered himself! Poetic justice?

The other main option remaining for the Ripper stopping is incarceration of some kind: he may have been locked away for an unrelated crime; he may have even been executed for it – there are several theories that have this at their ending! Similarly, as alluded to earlier, there are several that place Jack the Ripper in an asylum after the end of his reign – some reasonable, some not quite so!

And so, in my opinion, the above are the more likely reasons for the JTR murders coming to an end. There are other, more remote, possibilities, of course, such as Jack committing suicide (sorry Druitt supporters) or, even more remote, that there was never a serial killer in 1888 Whitechapel to begin with! Any further out than that and we enter the realm of the wacky Ripper conspiracy theory where anything goes apart from fact and common sense!

The Ripper Monopoly Game

And so the real Jack the Ripper has been conclusively identified – yet again! He was caught on this occasion with the same ‘positive proof’ that nailed him before when he called himself Walter Sickert – oh yes, and before that when he called himself James Maybrick, and before that when…

Want a game of Ripper monopoly? Okay, here’s how it works: shake the dice to choose your suspect; match him (or her) to several cherry-picked facts and ignore all the rest; progress around the board with great leaps of imagination; write a book on your ‘proof positive’ theory; get it heavily publicized before its launch; pass go and collect royalties.

There are, unfortunately, plenty of dodgy authors who play this game for real – newspapers and publishers cheering them on from the side-lines. These author’s books are unlikely to ever win any prizes from the community chest, but at least there’s little chance of them going directly to jail! And so round and round the board they go with impunity and many customers following them. Some of these customers subscribe to the latest theory because they are new to the game: they haven’t yet realized that there are, and have been, many other players who have ‘solved’ the case before – just with different tokens! Other customers who are well aware of the other ‘solved’ theories, will still buy the latest because they are somehow compelled to feel that this time it might be the real deal: like regularly purchasing the same series of numbers on a lotto ticket for each and every draw, and then dreading the consequences if just once they don’t! Either way, Ripperology never wins the game.

To the victors go the spoils. Ripperology, the poor lumbering beast of burden that carries the weight of research and uncertainty, always plods home in second place after its bastard offspring. People don’t want ‘I don’t knows’ and ‘maybes’, they want ‘definites’. The dodgy authors, publishers and newspapers of this world know this very well in the Jack the Ripper case, and are very quick to satisfy that craving for certainty time and time again: buy Sickert Street; buy Maybrick Mews; buy Albert Avenue; and buy Cream Corner! Now you can build a hotel and call it: “They Did It!” Just make sure that it has got a lot of rooms for all the guests!

Kosminski and Eddowes: DNA Duet? UPDATE

Things are just beginning to settle down a little across Jack the Ripper websites and forums after a turbulent beginning to the week: as I’d thought might happen, a calm but critical look was not much in evidence early on! Even though the initial storm has subsided now, however, writers and theorists are busy digging their trenches for what looks to be a long and drawn out war of words.

The chances of the ‘pro-shawl’ army being victorious, I believe, hinges mainly on the DNA evidence being corroborated by peer-review. If it is agreed by experts that the tests performed were proper and not in any great way inconclusive, and also that the percentages thereof show little room for doubt, then the pro-shawl movement will have won a major battle – one that keeps the dream alive! Winning the war, though, maybe a different matter entirely!

There is basically a ceasefire in operation at the moment because very few Ripper researchers, on either side, know enough about DNA analysis to form a cogent argument either for or against: they have little ammunition and any peer review seems some time off. And so, at the moment, the traditional researchers do what they do best and look at the evidence they do understand – the provenance of the shawl itself.

The shawl, as mentioned in the previous post, is not new in itself. It has always been dismissed before, like now in many quarters, because of its very questionable provenance. Many anti-shawl loyalists argue that nothing else matters because the shawl was not recorded at the crime scene, and Simpson’s permitted removal of it doesn’t add up for numerous reasons. They also suggest that even if the DNA evidence is ever confirmed to beyond a reasonable doubt and both Eddowes and Kosminski did come into contact (or their bodily fluids did come into contact) with the shawl, it cannot be conclusively proven that they both did so at the murder scene in Mitre Square – but the latter smacks a little of desperation in my book! Even more desperate is: “Oh well, Kosminski just killed Eddowes and the real Jack the Ripper has still not been identified.”

However, the pro-shawls have very little in their favour unless several other expert opinions concur with Dr Jari Louhelainen’s findings. If they don’t, it would seem more likely that the whole thing’s a farce invented to sell lots of books – and we’ve been there before, many, many times! The best ammunition the pros have before any independent confirmation of the DNA results, is the suspect, Kosminski. He has been a favourite for many people for some time (presuming that this Kosminski is the same as the one the top cops of the time nodded towards later). In any event, at least he’s not as unbelievable as a Maybrick or a Sickert!

What happens next? We, unless you’re a DNA expert, just have to wait. Let’s just hope that nothing happens to that shawl in the meantime!

Kosminski and Eddowes: A DNA Duet?

If you haven’t yet heard of this new twist in the Jack the Ripper case, I’m sure that you soon will be hearing about it – a lot! Catherine Eddowes’ shawl has been rigorously and scientifically tested and has both DNA from her blood upon it along with DNA from Kosminki’s semen! Also, the possible presence of a kidney cell has been found! That’s the end of that then – it was Kosminski all along – case closed!

Well, well, well – what’s all this then? Or should I say: what shawl this then?

The shawl was purchased at some expense by businessman, Russell Edwards, at an auction in 2007. Having done so, he then apparently sought out the help of one Dr Jari Louhelainen, an expert in obtaining genetic evidence from old crime scenes. Using the very latest methods the good doctor was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the shawl and compare what he found with the DNA of descendants of both Eddowes and Kosminski. (Why he made a beeline for Kosminski is apparently because of what Alan McCormack, officer in charge of the Crime Museum, told him.) Anyway, both results returned with ‘perfect’ matches!

But the shawl was not listed in Eddowes’ possessions at the time of her murder. Where did it come from? Mr Edwards explains that its original owner (David Melville-Hayes) contacted him in a letter after the auction, and revealed that an ancestor of his had been a police officer present at Eddowes’ crime scene (Acting Sergent Amos Simpson) and he, apparently, asked if he could take it and give it to his wife – a lovely blood-soaked gift I’m sure you will agree! His superiors agreed, of course, that he could take it. That’s that cleared up then!

The ghastly item (remaining unwashed) was handed down through the family until Mr Melville-Hayes handed it over to Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum in 1991. Strangely, they never chose to display it because of it lack of provenance – Really? In 2001 Melville-Hayes took it back. In 2006 a test was carried out on it for a Channel 5 documentary which yielded inconclusive results. But in 2011, when the shawl was in Edwards’ possession, Dr Louhelainen began his more thorough tests and found these more interesting results.

Edwards speculates that the shawl did not belong to Eddowes, but to the killer. He also suggests that the pattern of Michaelmas daisies upon it may not be coincidental: the old dates for the feast of Michaelmas for the Western Christian Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are on September 29 and November 8 respectively (the nights before the mornings of the last 2/3 murders).

Well, what are we to make of all of this? This shawl story is not new as is pointed out above. The new, enhanced DNA evidence, however, is. I think we would all agree that we’d like second and third opinions on this before we even begin to get excited. And even if this evidence is corroborated, is it fairly conclusive? What are the chances? Does it wave a vague hand in the direction of Eddowes and/or Kosminski, or does it actually target them with anything like accuracy? DNA is not just DNA – there are different types offering differing degrees of certainty!

Debate is already raging on the forums. Most commentators appear very cynical at this time – and rightly so; they’ve been here many times before and to no avail! One should not automatically jump aboard with the naysayers, though. In many cases long-cherished theories are at stake and, more disturbingly, lots of money! If this new evidence was 100 percent conclusive and undeniable, there would still be those who would deny it! Of course, for those that prefer Kosminski as a candidate for perpetrating the Whitechapel Murders, there might be a tendency for bias the other way!

As for myself, even though I think Kosminski is a very viable suspect, I don’t believe that this new information is going to turn out to be the Holy Grail of Ripperology: the provenance of the shawl is very problematic; the DNA evidence, even if valid, may not prove much; and the very timing of the release of this story – within the period of the anniversaries of the murders leads one to be wary. (The book by Edwards, “Naming Jack The Ripper” is out on September 9 --- available on this site's store.) However, having said all of the above, I think that we should wait and see how it all progresses. Let's not jump to conclusions before the full story is out! Brace yourselves for a bumpy ride!

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