Jack The Ripper - The Definitive History Part 13
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10. Register of Patients, Leavesden [loose papers], 1894.
11. In 198687 Martin Fido undertook an exhaustive but as yet unduplicated search of asylum records in search of Macnaghten's 'Kosminski' whom he had concluded was Anderson's suspect. But misled by Macnaghten's claim that committal occurred 'about March 1889' he did not extend his search far enough and therefore missed Aaron Kosminski's committal in 1891. Concluding that Anderson would not have lied about the Polish Jew suspect, he assumed that the suspect must be in the records under another name. The most likely candidate was a man named 'David Cohen' his real name turned out to be Aaron Davis Cohen a 23-year-old Jew arrested in December 1888, apparently in a police raid on a brothel, and who was found to be insane, being committed first to Whitechapel Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch, where he died in October 1889. This man, who was apparently violent, who was committed as a result of police action, and at a time that would explain the sudden cessation of the crimes, was an attractive candidate. Martin Fido then discovered Aaron Kosminski, but dismissed him as Anderson's suspect on the grounds of date, and because his medical records which describe him as non-violent and a danger to nobody made him sound a very unlikely Ripper. This assumed that Anderson's suspect was Jack the Ripper and that he would therefore betray Ripper-like characteristics in the asylum (whatever those might be), but was otherwise a reasonable conclusion. The subsequent discovery of the Swanson marginalia created an additional problem in that it named Anderson's suspect as 'Kosminski'. Martin nevertheless noted details that could relate to Cohen, namely identification whilst in the asylum, which would apply to Cohen, and the death of the suspect soon after admission. Martin has suggested that somehow the two men were confused, hence the accounts by Swanson and Anderson containing some details pertaining to Kosminski and some to Cohen. Although the reasoning behind all this isn't terribly complex, it has nevertheless caused some eyes to glaze over with confusion. Essentially, if one rejects Aaron Kosminski as Anderson's suspect and it has to be acknowledged that there is absolutely no reason from what is known about him to suspect that he was the Ripper but believes that there was a Polish Jew suspect committed to an asylum, Martin Fido's research pushes Aaron Davis Cohen to the fore and forces some sort of explanation about why he and Kosminski were confused. Unfortunately, we don't really know enough about Aaron Kosminski to say whether or not he would have made a likely Ripper in 1888. There is also a lot of evidence available to suggest that the police suspected that the post-Kelly murders could have been the work of the Ripper. (Anderson himself wrote in The Lighter Side of My Official Life, 'I am here assuming that the murder of Alice McKenzie on the 17th of July 1889, was by another hand'. He would not have assumed this if he had known the Ripper had been caged in an asylum seven months earlier.) These suspicions may not have lasted very long but the fact that they existed at all show that there was no belief that the Ripper was dead or locked away.
12. See Sugden, Philip (2002) The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. London: Robinson, pp. xiiixv. Sugden writes, 'In light of the evidence we have the witness can only have been Joseph Lawende . . .' then proceeds to explain 'why we have to discount Lawende. He saw the Ripper fleetingly in a dark street, and had no reason at the time to take particular note . . .' etc.
13. Sugden, Philip (2002) The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. London: Robinson, 1994. London: Robinson, 1995 paperback; with new introduction. London: Robinson, 2002, pp. 40910 for example.
14. Sugden, Philip, op. cit., p. xx.
15. This is probably a mistake. Although Major Griffiths was a friend of Anderson, the source of his information looks to be Macnaghten. He gives details about the three suspects named by Macnaghten, though he doesn't name them of course, and he repeats 'errors' that were Macnaghten's such as the fact that the only person to have glimpsed the murderer was a PC in Mitre Square. And, of course, whilst Anderson claimed that he knew the identity of the killer, Macnaghten did only ever claim that he thought he knew.
16. Adam, Hargrave Lee (1930) The Trial of George Chapman. London: Hodge.
17. Pall Mall Gazette, 24 March 1903.
18. Morning Advertiser, 24 March 1903.
Other Ripper Suspects.
As observed in the opening chapter, the subject of Jack the Ripper bloomed in the 1960s following Daniel Farson's 'discovery' of the Macnaghten memoranda and the consequent hopes that the mystery of the Ripper's identity might be solvable. Those hopes have never diminished, but over the years the Ripper has achieved an international notoriety because of several sensational stories, undoubtedly the best known of which being that Jack the Ripper was a member of the Royal family and a variation on the story now known as the Masonic Conspiracy inspiration for at least four movies!1 and the further variation or offshoot theory that Jack the Ripper was the famous artist Walter Sickert. Another tale that has attracted attention is that of the so-called Maybrick 'diary', a document in which the Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick claimed to have been driven to commit the Jack the Ripper murders by his wife's infidelity, and who in 1889 was a silent lead in cause celebre when his wife Florence was accused of his murder and convicted after a highly questionable trial presided over by a mentally unstable judge.
Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward was born prematurely on 8 January 1864 at Frogmore, Buckinghamshire, the eldest son of Albert Edward, the future Edward VII, grandson of Queen Victoria, and heir-presumptive to the throne. Privately educated until 1877, he served aboard the training ship Britannia at Dartmouth, accompanied his younger brother George on a world cruise to British colonies aboard HMS Bacchante, a voyage distinguished by a sighting of the legendary ghost ship called the 'Flying Dutchman'.2 Between 1882 and 1883 he received some tuition from James Kenneth Stephen (himself advanced as a Jack the Ripper suspect3) and entered Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1883, went to Aldershot in 1886, became a lieutenant in the 19th Hussars in 1886, visited Ireland in 1887, received an honorary LL.D. from Cambridge in 1888, went to India in 188990,4 was created Earl of Athlone and Duke of Clarence and Avondale in 1890 and died from pneumonia following influenza at Sandringham on 14 January 1892.
Prince Albert Victor Eddy as he was known was the typical upper-class twit of the type portrayed so skilfully by P.G. Wodehouse as a member of the Drones in the Bertie Wooster novels. Languid, interested in nothing, showing enthusiasm for little beyond 'every form of dissipation and amusement'.5 'Prince Eddy was certainly dear and good, kind and considerate. He was also backward and utterly listless. He was self-indulgent and not punctual. He had been given no proper education, and as a result he was interested in nothing. He was heedless and as aimless as a gleaming goldfish in a crystal-bowl.'6 He was, in short, lazy, dull, apathetic, irresponsible and backward to the point of idiocy. He was a problem for his family and as heir-presumptive he must have been a significant worry to those responsible for the stability of the Empire and consequently of the world as a whole. That he was also Jack the Ripper is an idea not traceable beyond a book by Philippe Jullian entitled Edward and the Edwardians: Before he died, poor Clarence was a great anxiety to his family. He was quite characterless and would soon have fallen a prey to some intriguer or group of roues, of which his regiment was full. They indulged in every form of debauchery, and on one occasion the police discovered the Duke in a maison de rencontre of a particularly equivocal nature during a raid. Fifty years before, the same thing had happened to Lord Castlereagh, and he had committed suicide.7 The young man's evil reputation soon spread. The rumour gained ground that he was Jack the Ripper . . .8 Jullian intriguingly gives the impression that the rumours circulated during the lifetime of the Duke of Clarence, which Jullian may have believed, but the maison de rencontre or 'house of meeting' is a reference to the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889 in which a number of prominent men were discovered to be clients of a homosexual brothel and Prince Albert Victor was rumoured to be among them.9 Jullian therefore seems to be saying that the Prince's 'evil reputation' spread after 1889. The question is, how long after?
What is interesting is that Jullian's book was published in French in 1962, an English translation appearing in 1967, but his remarks about Prince Albert Victor passed largely unnoticed. Then, in 1970, a distinguished doctor named Thomas Stowell published an article 'Jack the Ripper A Solution?' in a relatively obscure magazine called The Criminologist.10 Basically, Stowell claimed that Jack the Ripper was an individual he called 'S', but provided sufficient detail to establish beyond question that he was talking about Prince Albert Victor.11 According to Stowell, Caroline Acland, the daughter of the Royal physician Sir William Gull, had told him that Gull's diary contained an entry for November 1889: 'Informed Blank that his son was dying of syphilis of the brain.' We do not know, but the reasonable assumption is that the diary named the person and that 'blank' was Dr. Stowell's discretion. This, it seems, provided the basis for Dr. Stowell's theory. That the Prince suffered from syphilis is entirely possible. Prince Albert Victor regularly used a young doctor named Alfred Fripp who would later become a famous surgeon and a prescription found among his papers after his death by his biographer suggests that the Prince suffered from a gonorrhoeal infection.12 Even if the diary entry was genuine, it seems extraordinary to extrapolate without more substantive argument that the Prince was Jack the Ripper, and Dr. Stowell was an eminent man who was executor to Theodore Dyke Acland, Caroline Acland's husband, and as such may have had access to additional information that had formed his belief.
A speculation advanced by Colin Kendall in The Criminologist13 was that Dr. Stowell was 'playing a very artful game' and really pointing the finger of guilt at Sir William Gull while appearing to identify someone else. Stowell certainly introduced Sir William Gull in a rather awkward way; describing his suspect, then commenting that 'many false trails were laid', one of them being that the Ripper exhibited surgical skill. 'To support this fantasy,' wrote Stowell, 'it was not unnatural for the rumour mongers to pick on a most illustrious member of my profession of the time perhaps of all time Sir William Gull, Bt., M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S.'
Stowell doesn't say which rumour mongers he had in mind Stowell was the first person to name Gull in connection with the Ripper crimes, although the Chicago Sunday-Times Herald back in 1895 had published a possibly spoof and factually inaccurate article based on a story allegedly told by an unnamed Chicago gentleman who had in turn heard it from a 'Dr. Howard of London'. This story was that the medium Robert James Lees had followed a psychic trail to the home of an eminent physician. The doctor had been questioned by a policeman who had accompanied Lees to the house, admitted that he sometimes suffered losses of memory and had once come round to discover his shirt bloodstained. On his house being searched, proofs of his guilt were discovered and he was committed to an asylum in Islington under the name Thomas Mason. The public were told that he had died and been buried in Kensal Green cemetery. The physician was evidently intended to be Sir William Gull, though his name was never mentioned in connection with the Lees story until Stowell referred to a version of the tale told by Fred Archer in his book Ghost Detectives and commented that it was 'a variation of one told to me by Sir William Gull's daughter, Caroline'. Stowell said that Caroline Acland told him that during the Ripper scare, her mother Lady Gull, was greatly annoyed one night by an unappointed visit from a police officer, accompanied by a man who called himself a 'medium' and she was irritated by their impudence in asking her a number of questions which seemed to her impertinent, She answered their questions with non-committal replies such as 'I do not know,' 'I cannot tell you that,' 'I am afraid I cannot answer that question.'
Later Sir William himself came down and in answer to the questions said he occasionally suffered from 'lapses of memory since he had a slight stroke in 1887'; he said that he once had discovered blood on his shirt. This is not surprising, if he had medically examined the Ripper after one of his murders.
Either Caroline Acland did tell Dr. Stowell this story, in which case it in some way supports the generally discredited Chicago Sunday-Times Herald story and stories implicating Dr. Gull may have been circulating in the early 1890s, or Dr. Stowell wittingly or otherwise attributed the account to Caroline Acland.
According to Colin Wilson, Stowell had learned that Prince Albert Victor was Jack the Ripper 'when Caroline Acland, daughter of the royal physician, Sir William Gull, had asked him to examine her father's papers in the 1930s'. Stowell, says Wilson, had sat on the story 'for thirty years' (Wilson, Colin and Odell, Robin (1987): Jack the Ripper Summing Up and Verdict. London: Bantam Press. London: Corgi Books, 1988. p.200). Colin Kendall suggested that Dr. Stowell therefore developed his theory around 1930 and he observed that Gull's son-in-law Theodore Dyke Acland had died in 1931. But Caroline Acland had pre-deceased her husband, dying two years earlier, and therefore couldn't have asked Dr. Stowell to go through her father's papers in the 1930s. However, The Times on 4 November 1970 says that Stowell, who had appeared on BBC Television news programme 24 Hours two days earlier, 'says he has kept to himself for 50 years evidence about the identity of the killer'. Fifty years, not thirty years, would date the conception of Stowell's theory to 1920. So, did Caroline Acland seek Dr. Stowell's assistance in 1920 and did Dr. Stowell see something in Gull's papers that convinced him that Gull or Prince Albert Victor was Jack the Ripper? And if he did, what could he have seen?
Unfortunately, whatever the evidence on which Dr. Stowell's belief was based, Prince Albert Victor does not appear to have been in London at the time of any of the Jack the Ripper murders. He was in Yorkshire between 29 and 31 August staying with friends; between 7 and 9 September he was either at Danby Lodge in Yorkshire with Lord Downe or at the Cavalry Barracks in York where he was stationed with the 9th Lancers. He lunched with Queen Victoria at Balmoral on 10 September (as is recorded in Queen Victoria's journal), so could not have been very far from there on the evening of 9 September; on 29 September he was in Scotland and lunched with Queen Victoria on 30 September at Balmoral; and he was at Sandringham for the Prince of Wales's birthday celebrations on 910 November. Pending evidence that he was definitely not in these places, it must be concluded that Prince Albert Victor was not Jack the Ripper.
The big mystery and most intriguing question, however, is how Philippe Jullian, who died in Paris in 1979, knew about the rumours connecting Prince Albert Victor and Jack the Ripper. He wrote in 1962, eight years before Dr. Stowell published his theory in The Criminologist in 1970. We know that Dr. Stowell's theory was not new to him because in 1960 the author Colin Wilson had written a series of articles for the Evening Standard14 and Dr. Stowell, mistakenly thinking that he had also concluded the Prince was the Ripper, invited him to lunch at the Athenaeum, where he explained what subsequently appeared in his article. Had he therefore talked to other people? Was he ultimately Philippe Jullian's source? And if not, who was? Colin Wilson? We know he told the story to several people, among them German newspaper editor Frank Lynder, writers Daniel Farson and Donald McCormick, television journalist Kenneth Allsop and The Criminologist editor Nigel Morland.15 Philippe Jullian may therefore have been repeating gossip acquired via one of these sources and ultimately traceable back to Dr. Stowell. But if the source wasn't Dr. Stowell . . .?
Dr. Stowell's revelations caused newspaper headlines around the world and the idea that a member of the Royal family was the murderer certainly did a great deal to awaken public interest in Jack the Ripper. The next stage in the popularising of the story came in 1973 when the BBC made a television drama-documentary series which referred to a story the researchers had picked up that was being told by a man named Joseph Gorman, better known as Joseph Sickert, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of the artist Walter Sickert. The tale was subsequently investigated by a journalist named Stephen Knight, who wrote what is unquestionably the biggest and more sustained selling book on the subject, never out of print since it was published, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.
According to Joseph Gorman's story, Walter Sickert and Prince Albert Victor were friends and the latter would visit Sickert's studio in Cleveland Street, opposite which, at 6 Cleveland Street, was a tobacco shop where a young woman name Annie Crook worked. Annie Crook and Prince Albert Victor met, fell in love and were married, the marriage being witnessed by Mary Kelly. When the establishment discovered that the Prince had married they were horrified, partly because Annie Crook was a commoner and partly because she was a Catholic. The authorities staged a raid on the shop in Cleveland Street in April 1888, Prince Albert Victor was whisked away and in due course sent to India and Annie Crook was committed to an asylum, but Mary Kelly escaped with the baby, which she later gave into the care of Walter Sickert while she fled into the East End from where she and a group of friends tried to blackmail the Government. This time Lord Salisbury turned to Freemason friends, who in their turn enlisted the assistance of Sir William Gull. Gull and a coachman named John Netley, together with Sir Robert Anderson who acted as lookout during the murders and helped to misdirect the investigation, commit the murders and Kelly and her friends are silenced.
Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution differed little from Joseph's original story, except that it argued that Walter Sickert, not Sir Robert Anderson, was the third man. A later variation on the theme would identify the third man as Lord Randolph Churchill. (Fairclough, Melvyn: The Ripper and the Royals. London: Duckworth, 1991. Second edition, London: Duckworth, 1992. London: Duckworth, 2002.) Knight confirmed much of Joseph's story: Annie Elizabeth Crook was the daughter of William Crook (d.1891) and Sarah Ann Crook (18391916) and on 18 April 1885 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter at St. Marylebone Workhouse and named her Alice Margaret. At that time Annie was living at 6 Cleveland Street and her occupation was given as 'confectionary assistant' (not a tobacconist, but confectioners often sold tobacco so it isn't a significant discrepancy). Knight was even able to show that John Netley existed. On the face of it the story looked good, very good in fact. The problem is that none of it fits what is known about the principal players. Walter Sickert isn't known to have had a studio in Cleveland Street. No.6 Cleveland Street was demolished in 1886 and Annie Elizabeth Crook wasn't living there when the supposed raid took place in April 1888 by coincidence an Elizabeth Cook moved into one of the flats built on the site and lived there between 1888 and 1893. For a while some researchers thought Annie Elizabeth Crook and Elizabeth Cook were the same person. They weren't. Annie enjoyed her liberty for many years after 1888, living at various known addresses and workhouses before being committed to the lunacy ward of Fulham Road Workhouse. She wasn't a Roman Catholic. The secret marriage would have been illegal under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 and the child just another Royal bastard, so no elaborate plot to rid the establishment of the blackmailing prostitutes would have been necessary. As for Mary Kelly, as we have seen, from 1886 she was living in the East End and from Easter 1887 had lived with Joseph Barnett, who said nothing about her working in a shop in Cleveland Street. Kelly wouldn't have been around to take care of Annie's child and wouldn't thereby have possessed information with which she could blackmail the Royal family.
If any part of the story is true, it happened in 1885, not 1888. In 1992 I met Ellen May Lackner, Joseph Sickert's cousin, and she confirmed that elements of Joseph's story circulated within the family during Joseph's infancy, so the story wasn't his invention, and she thought that Walter Sickert, not Prince Albert Victor, was the father of Alice Margaret, not Joseph. There was some connection with Royalty, she recalled, or at least with wealthy persons visiting the house, and there was some mysterious and frightening connection with Jack the Ripper, although my feeling was that this tale evolved as a way of frightening away too much inquisition.
As a footnote to the story one should mention Prince Jack, a book by the late Frank Spiering that has never been published in the United Kingdom and is basically a re-telling of Dr. Thomas Stowell's theory, with the added bonus of a claim to have found the material Dr. Stowell first saw. Attracted by Dr. Stowell's story, Frank Spiering had begun to research material for a proposed book of his own. According to Spiering, a friend who was a professor at Rutgers observed that Gull was a pioneer in internal medicine and recommended that Spiering visit the Academy of Medicine Library at 2 East 103rd Street in Manhattan, New York, because it has one of the most extensive collections of writings in the field and if anywhere outside the United Kingdom was bequeathed Gull's papers it would have been the Library.
In the card index Spiering found a single card This card was a reference to a published book, a collection of Sir William Gull's published writings arranged and edited by his son-in-law Theodore Dyke Acland and published in London by the New Sydenham Society in 1896. He ordered it and in due course it arrived from the basement, accompanied by a sheaf of 120 handwritten and unsigned pages in a brown stiff leather binding. Written in black ink in Sir William Gull's handwriting, they covered a variety of topics and about 30 pages in he read: On 3 October I informed the Prince of Wales that his son was dying of syphilis of the brain. Under suggestion using the Nancy method my patient admitted to me the details of the murders he had committed in Whitechapel.
Patient related that the knife he used was taken from a horse slaughterhouse in Buck's Row.
An overwhelming ecstasy from watching butchers in Aldgate High Street caused him to add a leather apron to his accoutrements.
He tied a red bandanna around the second woman's throat which he used to half strangle her before he cut her throat back and forth until the blade touched bone. He said he felt extreme fear when he drove the knife into her chest but kept slashing until he had cut open her stomach.
Patient continued on as to how he later showed a kidney to James and James did not believe him. But James thought it would be funny to send it to the police.
Patient complained of headache over the forehead and vertex and intense pain down the back. His manner is quick and talkative with slight delirium . . .16 The notes abruptly ended, the next page being notes about another patient. Had the pages about Prince Albert Victor survived because they had become mixed up with papers relating to someone else? It's probably not worth asking that question. The notes sound too contrived to be true, particularly the reference to the leather apron, and Mr Spiering can be shown to elsewhere indulge in exaggeration. In 1994 the author Martin Fido visited the New York Academy of Medicine Library and checked the card index, finding it exactly as Frank Spiering had described, but there was no accompanying volume of handwritten notes and the library staff had no knowledge of any such volume.17 A more intriguing story along the same theme was told by writer Jean Overton Fuller in her book Sickert and the Ripper Crimes.18 Ms. Fuller relates a story told to her in 1948 by her mother, Violet Overton Fuller, and pieced together by her from various statements made by a friend, Florence Pash (18621951), an artist, friend and associate of Walter Sickert. Unfortunately, when writing her recollections of what she had been told, Jean Overton Fuller had already read Stephen Knight's book and there are reasons for thinking that her memory or interpretation of what she was told may have been contaminated by what she had read.
The way in which the story was received, information dribbled out over time by Florence Pash, related to Jean Overton Fuller at different times by her mother and constructed and re-constructed at various times over the years with all the risk of external influences, makes the tale a difficult one to properly analyse. The core, however, is that Florence Pash knew that Walter Sickert had had an illegitimate son named Joseph and knew his mother very well. Sickert, she said, had a studio in a street where a few doors away there was a male brothel. A shopgirl, Mary Kelly, whom Florence Pash came to know quite well, was employed by Sickert as a nanny, but she left his employment when her pay was irregular and dependent on Sickert selling a picture. She drifted into prostitution, found her way to the East End and was murdered. Walter Sickert continued to look after the child, who one day Florence Pash took out and who was hurt in an accident when a coach drove straight at them. Walter Sickert had said it was a murder attempt and Florence Pash lived in fear for a long time thereafter. Mary Kelly started blackmailing Walter Sickert, possibly threatening to reveal details of Sickert's affairs with other women to his wife, and Sickert murdered Kelly and her friends. The only evidence presented for this, however, is Florence Pash's belief that Sickert had seen all the bodies in situ, which he could only have done if he had been the murderer.
On the face of it Jean Overton Fuller's story seems desperately thin and it is extremely easy to dismiss it as a tale blown out of all proportion.
But if one accepts Ms. Fuller's claim that the basic details were known to her before she read Stephen Knight's Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, and there seems no reason to suppose that her claim is untrue, then Florence Pash did tell Violet Overton Fuller that Walter Sickert looked after a child, Florence Pash did know a woman she called Mary Kelly and whom she said became an East End prostitute, and Walter Sickert did seem to think that the child entrusted to his care could have been the subject of a murder attempt. And Florence Pash did know that Joseph Sickert was the illegitimate son of Walter Sickert, which if true opens up the Joseph Sickert derived Stephen Knight story and suggests that it might have a factual foundation somewhere. But looking at the bodies of Jack the Ripper's victims, particularly the terrible photograph of Mary Kelly, or reading the accounts of what the Ripper did to his victims, it is impossible to believe that these murders were committed with any motive beyond the desire to inflict the horrible mutilations. The Ripper was clearly driven by personal demons to mutilate and destroy, not by a motive such as revenge or to silence a blackmailer. It is this that makes such theories difficult to accept. But stories like these often contain a kernel of truth, a small factual core around which has grown an accretion of elaboration, exaggeration and misunderstanding. The factual core is generally the purpose of the story, the reason why the story is told. There is probably something in Walter Sickert's early years concerning a child and Joseph, but how the Ripper links in, if he links in at all, remains deeply uncertain. As of writing, the best-selling author Patricia Cornwell is about to publish the results of her investigations which point the finger of guilt at Walter Sickert and which may lead the saga off in a completely new and interesting direction.19 The story of the Maybrick diary is altogether different in that it depends on the authenticity of a document rather than stories based on old memories and rumours, and much of the interest in the story rests not in whether or not the document is genuine (because prima facie it is a forgery) but on the trials and tribulations involved in proving it a forgery.
On 9 March 1992 a man calling himself Michael Williams contacted Doreen Montgomery of the respected literary agency Rupert Crew Ltd, and told her that he possessed what purported to be the diary of Jack the Ripper. As unbelievable as his claim was, something about what he said or the way he said it made Doreen Montgomery listen rather more seriously than the claim seemingly warranted, and, whilst she felt that the story was probably untrue, she knew that turning it down could be turning away the publishing coup of the decade. She then turned to two clients, Shirley Harrison and her research partner Sally Evemy, who together make The Word Team, who she thought might be interested in taking the matter further if it should prove more than the suspected obvious hoax. They expressed interest and agreed to meet Mike. On 10 March Doreen wrote to 'Mike Williams' and invited him to bring the diary to her office. On Monday 13 April Michael Williams who had in the meantime revealed that his real name was Mike Barrett (it has never been properly established why he called himself 'Williams') arrived at Doreen Montgomery's office and produced the 'diary'. It was a Victorian 'scrapbook', a special book for pasting in postcards, photographs, theatre tickets, autographs and assorted mementoes (the pages had a divider between them so that the book would close flat even when items like postcards had been pasted in). The first 64 pages had been removed. There were 63 pages of handwritten text beginning mid-sentence and concluding with the signature 'Jack the Ripper, and the last 17 pages were blank.
The history provenance of the document was appalling. Mike Barrett had been in the habit of stopping off at a pub called The Saddle for a couple of pints before he collected his daughter from school. He there met 67-year-old Tony Devereux and they became casual friends. In March 1991 Tony Deverux had gone into hospital for a hip replacement and afterwards Mike would visit him at home, occasionally running small errands. On one visit in May 1991 Tony Devereux had the diary wrapped in brown paper waiting for him. He gave it to Mike and told him to do something with it. Mike took it home, unwrapped it, read it and disbelievingly pestered Tony Devereux for additional information. He was given none, except an assurance that the diary was genuine and that nobody else living knew it existed. The document mentioned few names and the author or supposed author wasn't immediately identifiable, but Mike Barrett eventually connected a place called Battlecrease in the diary with Battlecrease House, the home of James and Florence Maybrick, who in 1889 were at the centre of a cause celebre when the latter was accused and convicted of poisoning the former. In August 1991 Tony Devereux died in Walton hospital, his death unanticipated, leaving Mike Barrett with a diary the origins of which were unknown and had died with Tony Devereux. Six months later, Mike Barrett contacted Doreen Montgomery.
With the identification of James Maybrick as the author of the diary the pieces of the story fell into place: James Maybrick, an ostensibly moneyed, upper middle class and middle-aged cotton broker had discovered that his young and beautiful wife Florence was having an affair and he saw her with her lover (who is not identified) in an area of Liverpool called Whitechapel. Tormented by a knowledge he could confide in no one, by an anger he could not release and by a strange excitement at the thought of his wife and her lover together, he vented his emotions on a prostitute in Manchester and having tasted blood settled on committing more murders, choosing Whitechapel, London. The diary continues with a rambling account of the murders, notably lacking any real detail, and concludes with a change of heart and a full confession to Florence. The diary ends: 'I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentle man born. Yours truly, Jack the Ripper. Dated this third day of May 1889.'
The whole story sounded and sounds wildly improbable. Would anyone really murder and mutilate as Jack the Ripper had murdered and mutilated Mary Kelly simply because their wife had taken a lover? It didn't seem likely, but likely or not, if the diary was genuine then that is what happened. And thus was laid the problem that investigators would face for the next ten years. One could analyse the content of the diary and be impressed by it and dismiss it an obvious and amateurish bit of horror fiction, but personal opinion, gut reaction and even educated conclusions didn't determine when the ink went on the paper. From that day onwards the questions concerned when the diary was written.
Shirley Harrison first took the diary to the British Museum, then to the respected antiquarian bookdealers Jarndyce. Both gave the diary a cursory examination and concluded that nothing jumped up and screamed forgery, but both strongly recommended proper scientific analysis.
Numerous and sometimes conflicting scientific tests were conducted, but the results have been inconclusive, although almost every handwriting expert to have examined the document has stated that the handwriting does not match that of either James Maybrick or the Dear Boss letter and Saucy Jacky postcard, the diarist having claimed to have penned both and this has alone been sufficient to persuade most people, the present author included, that the diary is definitely a forgery, but it has to be acknowledged that handwriting analysis may not be wholly reliable in this case. The problem is that an example of handwriting known to be by the person concerned, in this case James Maybrick, should be as similar as possible to the questioned writing that is to say, written under the same physical and emotional conditions and hopefully containing the same words and letter combinations. This is relatively easy when comparing signatures, as on a cheque, but becomes increasingly difficult with long documents, and comparison between a formal document such as a business letter or a will (as was for a long time the only known example of Maybrick's handwriting) and a document such as the diary, written in an extreme and extraordinary emotional state and perhaps influenced by drugs (Maybrick was an arsenic addict, although it is questionable whether arsenic would influence handwriting) is obviously open to considerable imprecision. Nevertheless, all the examiners, distinct from graphologists (who seek to judge personality from handwriting), are agreed that the handwriting is not that of James Maybrick and the prudent must therefore conclude that the diary is a forgery.
But is it a modern forgery or an old forgery? And what was its purpose?
In June 1994 Mike Barrett confessed that he had written the diary to Liverpool journalist Harold Brough, who had been covering the story since it broke, but Brough was less than impressed by the confession, noting that Mike Barrett had been unable to answer simple questions such as where he'd bought the diary itself and the ink. Mr Barrett's marriage had broken up shortly before and it was believed that he blamed it on the diary and confessed in the hope that getting rid of it would encourage reconciliation. It didn't. The following month his estranged wife, Anne, told a story which led to a confession that her father had been bequeathed the diary among the possessions of his grandmother shortly before the outbreak of WWII, that he'd seen the diary when on leave in 1943 and had finally taken possession of it on 1950. Anne said Mike had been drinking consistently and too heavily, but knowing that he nurtured aspirations to be a writer she believed that the diary would prove inspirational. She had given the diary to Tony Devereux to give to Mike because she did not want Mike pestering her terminally ill father for more information.
Many people have doubted the story told by Anne Graham (she reverted to her maiden name after her divorce from Mike Barrett), but it was confirmed by her now deceased father and the tale hasn't advanced far since then, although a new dimension was given to the story in 1993 when Mr. Albert Johnson reported that he had found scratched on the inner case of a gold watch made in 1846 and which he had recently purchased, initials matching the five canonical victims, the signature 'J. Maybrick' and the words 'I am Jack'. Reportedly a ladies watch, which has caused some people to question why James Maybrick would have carried a ladies watch (apparently dismissing the possibility that the watch would have belonged to Florence), two reputable and respected examiners have concluded that the scratches are old, Dr. S. Turgoose, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology's Corrosions and Protection Centre, giving it as his opinion that the scratches are likely to be tens of years old, are compatible with a date of 1888/89 and are not likely to be recent. The results of the tests have been disputed, as indeed the results of practically all the tests have been, but currently not definitively.
And so the story of the Maybrick diary has remained to taunt the investigator. Is it a modern forgery, as most people seem to believe, or an old forgery pre-dating 1950? Or is there just a remote chance that it could defy all the odds and be genuine?
The Jack the Ripper mystery continues to tempt and ensnare, to offer twists and turns to the investigator and would-be investigator, provide lines of inquiry, small glimmers of hope that one day they may find the key that will illuminate the Great Victorian Mystery. And if hopes are raised and dashed, there is still fun in researching and debating and hoping . . .
1. Murder By Decree (1979) in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, played by Christopher Plummer and James Mason penetrate the establishment; Sir William Gull is called Dr. Thomas Spivey. Jack the Ripper (1988) in which Chief Inspector Abberline and Sergeant George Godley, played by Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, repeat the act. The Ripper (1998), a seriously underrated movie that has Patrick Bergin as a fictional Inspector Jim Hansen discovering that Prince Eddy (Samuel West) is the Ripper. And From Hell (2001), a disappointing fourth reworking of the theme starring Johnny Depp and Robbie Coltrane as Abberline and Godley, again revealing Gull as the Ripper.
2. As recorded in two stout volumes, Dalton, John N. (1886) The Cruise of Her Majesty's Ship "Bacchante" 18791882. Compiled from the Private Journals, Letters, and Note-Books of Prince Albert Victor and Prince George of Wales. London: Macmillan & Co. (2 vols).
3. Stephen was proposed as a suspect by Michael Harrison, who admitted in an interview in the Listener (17 August 1972) that he didn't agree with the theory that the Ripper was Prince Albert Victor, but felt compelled to suggest an alternative candidate and settled on Stephen, speculating that he and the Prince had become homosexual lovers and was driven to murder prostitutes according to Harrison evidence of sadistic tendencies being found in Stephen's poetry on dates having some sort of significance. Dr. David Abrahamson suggested that J.K. Stephen and Prince Albert Victor committed the murders together, whilst John Wilding has argued that J.K. Stephen committed the murders with Montague Druitt. The arguments lack evidential support. See Harrison, Michael (1972) Clarence: The Life of H.R.H. The Duke of Clarence and Avondale 18641892. London: W.H. Allen. Published as Clarence. Was He Jack the Ripper? New York: Drake, 1974. Abrahamson, Dr. David (1992) Murder & Madness. The Secret Life of Jack the Ripper. New York: Donald I. Fine with new appendices. London: Robson Books, 1992. New York: Avon Books, 1993. Wilding, John (1993) Jack the Ripper Revealed. London: Constable.
4. A contemporary account of which was published, see Rees, J. D. (1891) H.R.H. The Duke of Clarence & Avondale in Southern India, with a Narrative of Elephant Catching in Mysore by G. P. Sanderson. London, Kegan Paul.
5. Pope-Hennessy, James (1959) Queen Mary. London: George Allen and Unwin.
6. Pope-Hennessy, James (1950) Queen Mary. London: George Allen and Unwin, p.190.
7. Castlereagh cut his throat with a penknife in his dressing-room at North Cray Place in Kent and died almost immediately on 12 August 1822. He believed he was about to be exposed as a homosexual, but the true facts are obscure. The most likely truth is that Castlereagh did accompany prostitutes who accosted him on his walk home from Parliament and that on one occasion he was recognised by a group of roughs. A short time later he accompanied a young woman to her rooms and where to his horror he discovered 'she' was a young man. At that moment roughs burst into the room. Castlereagh handed over the money he had on him and paid up when he received a blackmail letter. Three years later, the receipt of a second blackmail letter at a time when he was under considerable strain, turned Castlereagh's mind and he killed himself. See Hyde, H. Montgomery (1959) The Strange Death of Lord Castlereagh. London: Heinemann.
8. Jullian, Philippe (1962) Edouard VII. Paris: Librarie Hachette. Published as Edward and the Edwardians, translated by Peter Dawney, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1967.
9. For what is probably the best account see Hyde, H. Montgomery (1976) The Cleveland Street Scandal. London: W.H. Allen. ch.2. Mr. Hyde says that there is no evidence that Prince Albert Victor was homosexual, but is nevertheless persuaded that he visited the brothel, perhaps in the mistaken belief that it provided striptease or was innocently taken there.
10. Stowell, Thomas E.A. (1970) 'Jack the Ripper' A Solution?' The Criminologist, Vol.5, No. 18, pp.4051.
11. In November 1970 he would write to The Times saying, 'I have at no time associated His Royal Highness, the late Duke of Clarence, with the Whitechapel murders or suggested that the murderer was of Royal blood.' (Stowell, Thomas (1970) 'Letters to the Editor: Jack the Ripper'. London: The Times, November 9.) Technically true, because he hadn't actually named anyone or said that 'S' was a royal, there is no doubt that Prince Albert Victor was 'S' and Dr. Stowell had told Colin Wilson that Prince Albert Victor was his suspect.
12. Roberts, Cecil (1932) Alfred Fripp. London: Hutchinson.
13. Kendall, Colin (1990) 'The Intentions of Thomas Eldon Stowell'. The Criminologist, Vol.14, No.2, Summer, pp.11320.
14. Wilson, Colin (1960) 'My Search For Jack the Ripper'. London: Evening Standard, 812 August.
15. Wilson, Colin and Odell, Robin (1987) Jack the Ripper Summing Up and Verdict. London: Bantam Press. London: Corgi Books, 1988. p.200.
16. Taken from an unpublished article by Frank Spiering found among papers purchased by writer Paul Feldman in 1993.
17. Spiering, Frank (1975) Prince Jack: The True Story of Jack the Ripper. New York: Doubleday. New York: Jove Books, 1980. Also see Begg, Paul, Fido, Martin and Skinner, Keith (1991) The Jack the Ripper A to Z. London: Headline. Revised editions, London: Headline, 1992, 1994, 1996.
18. Fuller, Jean Overton (1990) Sickert & the Ripper Crimes. Oxford: Mandrake. Oxford: Mandrake, 2001.
19. In her book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed, Patricia Cornwell used modern forensic investigative techniques in an effort to show that the artist Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper; but book reviewers, Sickert experts and Ripperologists were justifiably scathing about the quality of her research and her reasoning, the general opinion being expressed succinctly by a Sickert authority named Richard Shone, who describes her book as 'a farrago of supposition and wishful thinking . . . She draws upon assumptions, plays fast and loose with facts, misinterprets language and makes fanciful readings of Sickert's paintings . . . She quotes evidence to support her view but ignores it when it doesn't suit her case'.
The core of Ms. Cornwell's case was that Walter Sickert used writing paper manufactured by the famous Aberdeen-based paper manufacturer Alexander Pirie and Sons and that the same paper was used for three letters in the public archives purporting to be from Jack the Ripper, one of them being a letter to Dr. Openshaw of the London Hospital. She also found that the stamp on the letter to Dr. Openshaw bears the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) as on a letter written by Sickert. Unfortunately, all Sickert's letters on Pirie watermarked paper date between 1885 and 1887, and it appears that after 1888 he switched to stationary manufactured by William Joynson and Sons at St. Mary Cray in Kent. Walter Sickert therefore doesn't appear to have been using Pirie paper in 1888, and mtDNA, which is inherited through the maternal line, can be shared by thousands of people. More compelling was the discovery by Peter Bower, a distinguished Forensic Paper Historian and Paper Analyst, that three letters written by Sickert on his mother's stationary came from the same batch of twenty-four sheets of stationary as two Ripper letters, from which he concluded that it was almost beyond doubt that Sickert wrote the three Ripper letters. A Sickert authority, Anna Gruetzner Robins, has also identified perhaps has many as 200 Ripper letters that she thinks Sickert penned, including 'Dear Boss' and the Lusk letter. Ms. Robins dismisses the idea that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, but believes he was a hoaxer.
Whether or not Walter Sickert wrote any letters to the press and police purporting to be from the murderer, Ms. Cornwell presented no evidence that he was Jack the Ripper, and it emerges that Sickert may not have even been in England when the murders were committed. Despite her efforts to make the best use of the material she possessed, Ms. Cornwell did not close the Ripper case or come anywhere near to doing so, but she may have shown that Sickert wrote mischievous and perhaps even misleading letters to the police and this might help to illuminate some dark corners of his character, and overall she undertook a brave and potentially worthwhile experiment to apply modern forensic investigative techniques to a historical problem.
Jack The Ripper - The Definitive History Part 13
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