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Quick Read: The Hunt for Jack the Ripper

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William D. Rubinstein follows the steps of the most famous Ripperologists, and analyzes the facts surrounding the shoking case of Jack the Ripper.

One of a series of images from the Illustrated London News for October 13, 1888 carrying the overall caption, "With the Vigilance Committee in the East End". This specific image is entitled "A Suspicious Character".

One of a series of images from the Illustrated London News from October 13, 1888 carrying the overall caption, “With the Vigilance Committee in the East End”. This specific image is entitled “A Suspicious Character”.

In Whitechapel district – East London, 5 murders took place starting on the 31st of August 1888. All of the victims were young prostitutes killed in the late hours of the evening. Then all of a sudden the killing spree stopped on the 9th of November.

The victims of Jack the Ripper

The victims are as follows: Mary Ann (Polly) (31.08.1888), Annie Chapman (08.09.1888), Elizabeth Stride and Catharine Eddowes (30.09.1888 found about a kilometer away from each other) and the most misfortuned of them all – Mary Jane Kelly (9.11.1988), gruesomely mutilated, with extracted organs and with a great chance of cannibalism acts. Mary Jane was viciously disfigured almost beyond recognition, leaving us with deeply disturbing photo evidence material of this inhuman act.

Maybe the illusion of a possible breakthrough in the Ripper’s case is the main reason why so many researchers get involved in investigating the Ripper’s diaries. The association of the Ripper with the London of Sherlock Holmes, with fogs, riverside opium dens, the haunts of prostitutes and criminals, virtually adjacent to great wealth and the aristocracy, is enticing to many. Added to this, many amateur Ripper historians are Londoners, often with ancestral roots in the East End. To those people Jack the Ripper is part of their folklore. On the other hand, the abundance of further deep and comprehensive research material ends up highly beneficial to social historians.  The victims have been investigated down to the last detail to determine if there is any connection to any of the suspects or between each one of them, which so far has shown no success. Therefor probably more is known about the lives of these five young women than of any other middle class women in Victorian England.

The theories about Jack the Ripper

Talking about hypothesis Montague John Druitt can be considered as a preferable suspect of many investigators. However since no clues could connect him directly to the murders, the excitement around the plausibility of  this scenario faded away in the past 20 years. In support to this statement one of the Ripper researchers stumbled upon a pamphlet  with the name “The East End Murderer- I Knew Him”, supposedly written by Druitt’s cousin and published in 1890. Now we know that those writings are nothing more than a misinterpretation of a couple of other works published around the same time, having no relation to our suspect. He was also wrongly described as a doctor and not a lawyer with a great inaccuracy about his age. It is unfortunate that commissioner MacNaghten ruined an evidence during the investigation of Druitt’s suicide, which could have helped to determine his innocence. Never the less his suicide, appears to be rather connected to his teaching career problems and a following depression (which could also have been inherited) then to anything else. It has also been determined that Druitt was playing sports with dozens of witnesses shortly after Polly’s murder.

Montagu was also a very known supporter of the Jewish community in East London. If the murder had been as assumed a “local Jewish lunatic”, it is quite unlikely that he wouldn’t be surrendered to the authorities to stop this manes. Not only but Montagu also offered a price for the head of the serial-killer, followed by a request for police protection a month later. Given the fatal investigation errors made Druitt will always be an intriguing but rather unlike executor of the Ripper crimes.

There is another not so amusing but meaningful sounding assumption that the Ripper was an average working man from East London. Somebody who maybe even grew up there, making him quite familiar with the district and allowing him to freely move around without attracting too much unwanted attention. Many people matching this profile were suggested as suspects, especially the ones that were undoubtedly and directly connected to Mary Kelly (victim number 5). The official investigators however were quite skeptical about this version, which was strongly justified by the lack of any evidence supporting the hypothesis. If the police had any sort of a real proof, it would have been rather easy to persecute a poor working class man from the East End, but so it never happened.

On of the most fictional and wild sounding theories however would be the Masonic Ripper theory. According to which royal affairs and illegal marriages, followed by a blackmailing harass led to the murder of Mary Kelly. There are no evidence of Clarence having affairs with any of the victims, not to mention that his location can quite precisely be traced back to Scotland and Yorkshire during the time of the murders. Sir William Gull on the other hand was over 70 at the time and in a very bad health condition. But even if he or his associates had any motive to commit any of the crimes, it is more likely that they would have used a more discreet approach, instead of landing on the front pages of every newspaper.

The Ripper Diary

Talking about Jack the Ripper it is impossible to talk about the Ripper Diary. It was first revealed to the public in 1992 causing a great sensation world wide. The provenance of the diary can quite accurately be traced. The writings were first seen in 1943 in Liverpool. Finally they ended up at Michael Barett, who eventually in 1993 claimed to have falsified them. This statement however is no longer considered to be truth even by the skeptics of the authenticity of the Ripper Diary.

One of the most puzzling facts surrounding the Ripper is why indeed did he stop killing? Explanation could be found in the Diary where we see how the terminal illness of Maybrick (the murder from the Ripper Diary) is suffering from leads to deep feelings of remorse when nearing death.

There are a few curious and little popular indirect evidence exposing Maybrick as the murder. For example it has never been mentioned in any Ripper investigation that all murders were committed between Friday and Sunday. This is quite intriguing as during the weekdays there are more witnesses and greater risk. Another explanation could be that workers usually get paid on Thursdays. The mismatch here would be that the murderer never payed to the prostitutes, exactly the opposite he is quite likely to have robbed them. This pattern seems more suitable with the profile of Maybrick who as a cotton entrepreneur spent his workdays in Liverpool but was free to travel on the weekends.

The times of the murders were also not random. Each of the victims was attacked very late at night. It would be impossible for a family man or a wealthy and surrounded by servants gentleman to commit such vicious crimes without raising any suspicion. However Maybrick moved to London and lived alone and undisturbed in the heart of Whitechapel, East London.

At the end of the speed trip through the Ripper’s investigation, it is worth to mention the words of William D. Rubinstein – Professor of Modern History at the University of Wales:
“I am personally more than 90 per cent convinced that James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper. Both evidence and inference appear overwhelmingly to point to him. However, if it can be proved that he was definitely not the Ripper – if, for instance, irrefutable proof were found that he was in Liverpool on the night a Ripper murder was committed – the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery; none of the other suspects is remotely convincing.”

Creepy mail

During the killing spree of Jack the Ripper, the Whitechapel police and a number of local news agencies have received hundreds of letters claiming to be written by the ruthless murderer. The majority of those were already identified as fake while some researches believe them all to be a hoax. There are how ever a couple of intriguing letters that have a very good chance to be actually written by the hand of the Ripper himself. Here they are.

‘Dear Boss’ letter

The letter was originally received on 27.09.1888 at a local news agency, believed at first to be the next hoax of a desperate journalist or a bored Londoner. Eventually 3 days later when the double murder was  committed, the authenticy of the letter was reconsidered. Especially after one of the victim’s ears was cut off like in the chilling promises from the letter. Even the police authorities took the writings serious enough to republish them in newspapers, hoping to the handwriting to be identified by some reader.   

No matter if its another fake or not, the “Dear Boss” letter was gave this serial murder his grim name.

the original jack the ripper letter

Page 1 of Jack the Ripper’s “Dear Boss” letter

Jack the ripper

Page 2 of Jack the Ripper’s “Dear Boss” letter


Jack the Ripper’s “Dear Boss” letter transcription.

“Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.

Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha”


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