At the time and through the years there have been many people put forward as being Jack the Ripper. Some of these theories as completely unbelievable and others could quite possible be him. One thing for sure is that unfortunately we will probably never know the true identity. It may be someone – a nobody – who has not even come up in anyone’s studies. Most likely it was someone who the police spoke to at some point during their investigations, as usually most serial killers are.
Suspects range from the top to the bottom of the social scale, from Aaron Kominski – an insane polish Jew, John Druitt – a barrister who committed suicide, Dr Tumblety – an American quack doctor who collected uteruses, Walter Sickert – an artist, William Gull – the Queens Surgeon and even Prince Albert Edward. All of these suspects and more have had books focusing on their lives and putting forward their case as Jack the Ripper. Everyone it seems around Whitechapel at the time is or has been under suspicion. And along with each new suspect come new headlines back then, and today not so much as front page but still a mention in the papers.
Macnaghten Memoranda and a Jewish suspect:
There were three suspects mentioned by Melville Macnaghten in his memoranda which some people believe could be Jack the Ripper. In his memoranda published in 1894; it was written to a response to an article in the Sun which hinted that Jack the Ripper was a man named Cutbush (who is discussed later in this chapter). Macnaghten makes a statement that there were only five victims of Jack the Ripper – Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly – and that is why most people now state these as the five Canonical victims. But since and with further research this is probably not the case. It is also through his memorandum that a lot of research on Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders is based. Macnaghten goes on to say that the Killer stopped as a result of either committing suicide or that his brain gave way and the killer was therefore institutionalized. Also Macnaghten outlined three suspects who have since been named these are; Montague Druitt (a doctor who committed suicide and his body was found in the Thames on 31st December. It is said that we was sexually insane), Kominski (a polish Jew, who was insane, hated women and was eventually put into a mental asylum on ,arch 1889) and his last possible suspect was a man name Michael Ostrog (a Russian Doctor and convict who again was held in a lunatic asylum). Two of these suspects, after further investigation are plausible. As for Druitt I do not think he fits the profile at all the only link being that he died shortly after the murder of Mary Kelly.
Aaron Kominski was a polish Jew which already fits to the description of many of the witness statements of the men being seen with the victims before death was of foreign appearance, i.e. a Jew. It is supposed that Kominski was recognized and even identified by a witness, however as this witness was a Jew himself he did not want to testify and therefore be responsible for condemning a fellow Jew to death and so eventually Kominski, who had gone mad was confined to a mental asylum till he died. Kominski is said to have had homicidal tendencies and a huge hatred of women but in recent years it seems to have come to light that he was not really any real danger to anyone other than himself. He picked food from the gutter and refused a lot of help from others.
However what of this Jewish Suspect which keeps coming up, first in Leather Apron then in the Macnaghten memoranda. It seems that there is too much coincidence for the killer not to have been a homicidal man of Jewish religion. The name Kominski some believe has actually been misinterpreted and is meant to be a man called Kaminski or also known as David Cohen. He was first suggested by Ripperologist Martin Fido.
The name of David Cohen seems, apparently, to be like a John Doe or Joe Bloggs for East End Jews who are unidentifiable. It seems that a man was brought in to an infirmary after being incoherent and violet at Leman street police station. This was the name he was given. Eventually the patient was transferred to Coney Hatch after his violence got even worse. It seems he suffered what we would call today as Paranoid Schizophrenia. Fido identified and linked up Cohen with a Polish Jew Kaminski who lived in Black Lion Yard which was located in the middle of the murders in Whitechapel. He had been diagnosed with syphilis in 1888 and would have caught this from a prostitute at some point in his life. The records indicate that he was treated for this and eventually released and disappears from the records. Also the only lunatic in the records to be taken into Coney Hatch in the years 1888-90 was Cohen and therefore Macnaghten may have got the accusation right with who it was just the wrong spelling of the name. If Fido is right in his theory that Cohen and this Kaminski were one and the same then here is a suspect who fits the profile to a point, however due to so much evidence lacking about his life and even if they were the same this theory unfortunately will always be just that but nevertheless and intriguing one. The little evidence there is seems to point to Jack the Ripper being Jewish in some respects.
The Royalist Conspiracy Theory:
Another theory which is put forward, which is probably one of the most outrageous ones is that Jack the Ripper was actually Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson. The theory involves several different suspects all linked to one massive conspiracy theory, one portrayed in the Graphic Novel and also film of the same title, From Hell. The story goes that Eddy’s mother hired a Walter Sickert to how him the sunnier side of life. It resulted in Eddy marrying an Annie Crook who was a catholic and she bore him a son. This baby was sent to an orphanage and the women who knew of the marriage and baby were then murdered. In some versions such as the graphic novel it had William Gull the Queens surgeon murdering the prostitutes who knew about the marriage and child. Over versions have Eddy being the one committing the crimes on the prostitutes as he had contracted syphilis which had driven him insane and sent him on this killing spree. In some versions it also has the royal family knowing of what he was doing and after the supposed double event had Eddy locked up only for him to escape again and butcher Mary Kelly. Once recaptured he was locked away to die with the official report saying it was from the Flu. However William Gull had suffered a stroke before the murders started and so could not had gone about committing them and as for Eddy ‘the fact that on each and every occasion a Ripper murder rook place Eddy was not only out of London, but was attending functions in front of large numbers of people…’(Cook.2006.P.9)
Another person and suspect I wish to touch upon briefly is Walter Sickert. I d not believe that he is a credible suspect however he does come into the Jack the Ripper story as a suspect in a few different theories the main one being the Royalist theory which I briefly touched upon above. Walter Sickert’s role in the killings has varied from theory to theory and Patricia Cornwell has even put a case together for him to be the Ripper himself in her book Portrait of a Killer – Jack the Ripper case closed (2003). But what is his story and does he fit the profile of what we know to be Jack the Ripper and also does he fit into the little evidence we have on the killings. Firstly it is supposed that Walter was impotent due to childhood operations on his penis. This impotency was enough to give him a hatred of women and supposedly got so bad that it lead to him committing the murders. Not the strongest motive we have. However since this motive has been put forward some have argued that Sickert was not impotent at all but infect had many mistresses whom his wife divorced him for on the charge of adultery. As for Sickert being in the area at the times of the murders this again is not very forthcoming with proof of him committing the crimes as when some of the murders were committed there are letters placing Sickert in France. The rest of the supposed evidence for Sickert even is even less proof just ifs and supposed.
Sickert however does have another role in the killings, not committing them but in knowing who did. It was Stephen Knight in his book the Final Solution who first includes Sickert as not the killer but an accomplice. Sickert apparently was assisting and looking after Prince Eddy while he was slumming it in Whitechapel. It was here that as previously outlined Eddy married a Catholic girl and then it was quickly decided that the whole story needed to be hushed up. It is stated that Sickert knew all along what was going on but could not say anything and so painted supposed clues in his paintings. This theory is eventually known as the royalist theory which involves many people in the Jack the Ripper case as is outlined in Stephen Knights book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1976).
William Bury had murdered his wife after they had moved to Dundee in 1889. At first Bury stated that his wife had killed herself then when it was clear she had actually been strangled he admitted to killing her and was hung for his crime. What was interesting about Bury and what is one of the reasons why he is a Ripper suspect is that when the police went to his home in Dundee they found two writings on the walls there: ‘Jack the Ripper is at the back of this door’ and ‘Jack the Ripper is in this cellar. ‘Not only had Bury’s wife been strangled from behind but she also had numerous stab wounds to her abdomen, similar to those of the Jack the Ripper victims.
Bury was a man with low self-esteem, a drunk and a thief. His mother was Mother sent to a lunatic asylum and his father was torn apart in front of Bury. These are traits of people who can sometime become serial killers. Bury did for a time hold a steady job however he soon fell into financial difficulties and was sacked. He arrived in London in 1887 and met Ellen Elliot who is was to eventually marry. She was working in the house where Bury was living at the time, she was a servant but also most likely a prostitute as well. Bury’s landlady caught Bury attempting to attack his wife five days after they married. He was threatening to cut her throat. At first Bury started to tell people they were moving to Brisbane in Australia only to end up moving to Dundee, which Ellen did not want to go. Bury lived and worked in the area of Whitechapel and up until a few weeks after the last murder he owned a horse and cart. This horse and cart is a good mode of transport especially for someone to get around white chapel quickly. ‘An ideal place to park a pony and cart in Whitechapel was George Yard, which in 1888 was a stable. George Yard was on the doorstep of Martha Tabram’s murder, and is central to those of Annie Chapman, Liz Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly. It is such an obvious location that only the lack of a viable suspect to place there has prevented it from being noticed before.’ (J and Braund. 1999. Page 124).
In their book, authors and Ripperologists’ Jakubowski and Braund give a good case towards Bury being Jack the Ripper through the way Bury lived and what we can tell of his personality.
. ‘…had given up a respectable trade to live among the most dubious kind of people. In his choice of work and accommodation – and in particular the women he had chosen – Bury was reflecting his own self-image and the limitations imposed by it….He hated women and was unable to socialize with them but in Ellen he met somebody whose self-esteem was as low as his and whom he could court successfully. The self-esteem manifested itself in his violent attitude towards sex and his drunken despair. This was Jack the Rippers self-image.’(Jakubowski and Braund.1999.P.120)
Bury would had been known in the area and therefore known to the prostitutes, they would not had been worried if and when he approached them. Bury also, it seems fits the general description of Jack the Ripper, especially by the descriptions given by PC Smith and William Marshall in Burner Street on the day Stride murdered. He was 29 at the time of the murders .By the time of his trial in Dundee, Bury had grown a beard and facial whiskers, was this due to him being seen by people on the night of the Stride Murder? Was it to try and disguise himself? As too was this the reason why he and his wife moved to Dundee, away from all they knew. Was Bury running away from what he had done, was this why the Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper stopped? After all, as stated in the previous chapter, a serial Killer only ‘stops’ for a limited amount of reasons, one being is he doesn’t, but moves to a different area, away from the killings.
Another factor which is not possible to prove in some of the Ripper Murders is the chance and some belief that the murdered may had robbed his victims. Not of anything of much value as if these women did have such things on them they would have sold them for money for drink and a place to sleep. But the killer it seems stole small trophies to remember his kills, which some serial killers have been known to do. An example of this is Annie Chapman had two small rings marks on her person when she was killed, of course these rings could have been taken by some of the staff in the morgue or by others post death but there is also the chance that they were taken by the killer as a memento. Occupants of where Annie was staying in Dorset street did confirm ‘that she has been wearing three brass rings when she left, and they agreed that in a poor light they might have been mistaken for gold. Their marks were still plainly visible on her hands. The police were very anxious to discover what had happened to them, for if Annie had not herself tried to sell them during the night, they had probably been stolen by her murderer and would provide damming evidence against him when he was found.’(Fido.1987.P.32) Bury had two rings in his belongings when they were searched which are similar to those supposedly owned by Chapman. Tabram also had a ring indentation on her finger when she was found, is this also another indication that the killer took trophies away, other than the organsb‘The ripper was a thief who ransacked his victim’s bodies. Bury was a thief and obsessed by money. Stealing and compulsive lying are hallmarks of the pathological killer. (Jakubowski and Braund.1999.P.130)
Abberline is believed to have said to the hangman on Bury death that he had just hung the Ripper. In 1889 The New York Times suggested he was the Ripper, due to similarities between the stab wounds he inflicted upon his late wife, Ellen, and those found on the body of Mary Ann Nichols. Bury was also in the habit of sleeping with a penknife under his pillow. He had transportation to get around Whitechapel.
Another suspect who is worth a note is a man named Thomas Cutbush. His father had died when he was quite young and was raised by his mother and aunt, in Kensington where he continued to live while the murders were happening. He was also the nephew of a senior police officer, who after hearing that in 1891 Cutbush had been arrested and was appearing in court for stabbing two women had shot himself. Could it be possible that there was more to it than that? Did his uncle know more about Cutbush than others?
As a Jack the Ripper suspect, Cutbush was first put forward in an article in the Sun in February 1894 and although hinted at they never actually named him.
Cutbush suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was a man who was obsessed with medical and religious books. He was working as a soon left his job and just wandered reading books by day and wandering the streets at night. He had also, when young attempted to murder his mother, aunt and a servant girl by trying to slit their throats.
When searching his rooms after the stabbing of the two women police found bloodstained garments and he was confined to a life in Broadmoor. This would usually happen if the convict was considered highly dangerous. Again did the police know more about Cutbush than they were letting on? Soon after the murder of a woman named Frances Cole, Bury had been investigated for the stabbing of the two women the Ripper files were shut down by Scotland Yard and the number of police in Whitechapel was reduced. Was this because they had finally caught their man?
Cutbush hated women, he was mentally insane and had at some point supposedly contracted syphilis (although no record was made of this in the documents held at the asylum), and he had a broken upbringing and a violent past towards women and was obsessed with medical books. He seems to fit into the suspect profile pretty well. And as a last point he ‘was the only suspect named at the actual time of the killings…’(Jakubowski and Braund.1999.P.413) Although Cutbush lived away from the area of Whitechapel it did not mean that he did not know it, Whitechapel as we have seen was full of alleys and passage ways for one to wander down. What if the Ripper did not know the area that greatly and that that was the reason why there were no killings in October, this was when a fog descended on London and it would have been difficult for one to navigate around. ‘Whitechapel became an eerie derelict, drifting thought mists of terror. Few ventured out after dark…’ (Beadle.1995.P.60)
However there is a case against Cutbush, which Macnaghten mentions, why would some kill women and then just stop for two years only to start again, and this time the attempted killings were different.
Joseph Barnett, Mary Kelly’s lover:
One suspicious man who was involved directly with one of the victims and therefore in the investigation was Joseph Barnett, the lover of Mary Kelly. I say suspicious as he is another who is considered by some to be a suspect in the murders and there is a reasonable case for him with motive.
Barnett was born and raised in Whitechapel, firstly by his parents then by his older siblings as when his father died, Barnett mother just disappeared. It is believed that Barnett suffered from a speech impediment and a psychological disorder known as echolalia. This disorder causes a person to repeat the last words spoken to them. He eventually got a job as a fish porter and made a steady living working at Billingsgate Market.
Barnett met and began living with Mary Kelly around 1887. It is believed that they originally met through his being her client and then got on well after that that they decided to live together. As Barnett was working he was able to support Mary and so therefore she was able to stop selling herself on the street. Barnett, however in July 1888 lost his license to work as a fish porter and so therefore was no longer able to support Mary as he wished. This in turn made her have to go back onto the streets to make money, and as that viscous cycle goes with the low women of Whitechapel she went back to drinking too. It is believed that it was a result of this turn of events that made Barnett and Mary begin to quarrel, which eventually led to Mary asking Barnett to move out of there lodgings at Millers Court. Part of the reason that they argued was Barnett disliking the fact that Mary had to sell herself on the street. However he still went to see her often and tried to support her in any way he could.
It is believed that this whole change in circumstance gave Barnett a huge dislike towards prostitutes and losing his job and therefore Mary could have been the change in circumstance. The stressful factor that caused him to lash out at prostitutes on the street. One theory is that driven by his love for Kelly he hoped to scare her off from soliciting herself by killing those prostitutes he came into contact with, and as he had worked, lived and grew up in Whitechapel and mainly around Dorset Street was seen to be a trusted face and known to many. Barnett worked in a profession where he was able to explain the blood on his clothes and gave him a basic knowledge of bodies even though on fish.
Barnett had hoped that a few murders of prostitutes would have stopped Mary from soliciting herself however it did not. This could have caused his anger to rise even more and lash out at the one which he loved the most, Mary. This could explain why hers was the most horrific of all mutilations. There is also the suggestion that Kelly’s heart was taken, this all indicates, along with the fact that she was beyond recognizable, that her killer knew Mary intimately.
Barnett murdered those women not because he had an uncontrollable urge to take someone’s life or because he took pleasure in causing other people pain. He had a specific reason for killing those women, which centered on his relationship with Mary Jane Kelly. The method of murder indicates that Jack the Ripper was not the typical serial killer. He had no compulsion to torture his victims and there was no evidence of rape. The fact that they were cut open and left in the middle of public places suggests that the killer was trying to send a message, not fulfil some deranged desire to kill. The methodical mutilation of the bodies and positioning of the corpses also seem to send a message. The removal of the uteri is analogous with Barnett’s ideas and behaviour. His hatred of prostitutes compelled him to take away the very thing that made them women. He wanted everyone, especially Mary Kelly, to realize that the unfortunates were just common whores, who were unfit for society. Barnett did not want to cause people pain; he only wanted to stop his true love from selling herself to other men. (Marcus, F. Online. 2009)
The last suspect I wish to highlight is a man named James Kelly. This man had had an unstable and strict religious upbringing. He had been raised by his grandmother, who James, until he was 14 thought that she was his mother. His mother had had him out of marriage and left him. This had a massive effect on James life and he never really settled and had a problem with his rage, where only the smallest of incidents sent him into one.
James lived and worked around Whitechapel as an upholster and knew the area very well. He however kept bad company, like many did. In March of 1882, James moved in and became a lodger in the house of his ‘girlfriend’ at the time Sarah Brider and her family. The two eventually married but it was not to be a happy ending. After numerous episodes of rage towards his wife, which were underserved James finally snapped and stabbed Sarah in the neck on the 21st June 1883. These wounds were very similar to those inflicted later on Martha Tabram. Both had stab wounds in the neck, apparently made by the pocket knife, or penknife. In Martha’s case, however, the killer had time to continue his frenzied attack.’ (Tully.1997.P.316) Sarah eventually died of the injuries inflicted upon her and James’ charge goes from attempted murder to murder. James original sentence was death however this was soon changed to imprisonment at Broadmoor, where in January 1888 he managed to escape and stayed at large for another 39 years.
So James fits the profile of having a very unstable upbringing. He seems to have hatred to towards the opposite sex and had issues with his tempter which resulted in violence. James also, supposedly, at some point had contacted Venereal Disease, possibly by sleeping with a prostitute in the area. He never sought treatment for it and actually tried his own remedies. However he does not fit the description of those we have believed to be Jack the Ripper nor is there any solid evidence of him being the area at the time of the murders. Also is he was at liberty until 1927 (after being caught twice and escaping) why was there no other murders similar to those they he was supposedly to have done?
There are many more suspects who could be Jack the Ripper which I will not go into detail about, but which there are many books and online articles on each of the other suspects. Some of these are people attempting to prove who Jack is; others are trying to prove who it is not. Along with Druitt and Prince Eddy, other suspects include Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria’s Surgeon, George Hutchinson, James Maybrick, a theory that it was a female – Jill the Ripper and many more. Some having circumstantial evidence towards them others just too farfetched. Of Course Jack the Ripper could be none of these and just an unknown face in Whitechapel who there are no real records for.