Five Books About – Very Unlikely – Ripper Suspects

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We don’t know who Jack the Ripper was and chances are rather slim that we ever will be certain about this. This does not stop people from coming up with new theories and write books about them.
Even the better ones can’t pin a over on hundred year old crime on one suspect and leave no doubts to his guilt. We are used to DNA-evidence and alibis but the former is obviously impossible (unless you’re Patricia Cornwell) and for the latter we often have to be content with statements like “He probably was in London at the time because he had no reason to be anywhere else.” For that reason theories mostly focus on the motive the killer might have had. On occasions these theories can be very…interesting.

Here is a collection of five particularly weird ones.

James Maybrick

James MaybrickImages from Wikipedia and Amazon.com
Suggested by Shirley Hanson in The Diary of Jack the Ripper
Who was he? A cotton merchant from Liverpool with an Arsenic addiction. When he died from Arsenic poisoning his brothers hid any evidence of the addiction and claimed his wife – Florence – had poisoned him. She was subsequently tried and sentenced to death. Later the sentence was reduced to life and then she was discharged after 15 years. As you see Florence’s story is the more interesting one here. (It actually inspired Dorothy Sayer’s Strong Poison but unlike Florence, Harriet Vane gets a happier ending)
Why did he do it? Because his addiction had driven him insane and he really hated his wife but decided to kill prostitutes instead.
The proof: He wrote a diary in which he confessed the killings (and some more before and afterwards in Manchester). There is also a pocket-watch where the initials of James Maybrick and the five canonical Ripper-victims are scratched on the back.
The trouble with the proof: When I say ‘he wrote a diary’ I actually mean that a diary, supposedly written by Jack the Ripper, exists. Maybrick is never mentioned by name but some verifiable facts about his life are true (the addiction, his job, the troubled relationship with his wife). There are also some verifiable facts about the Ripper-murders that are wrong (he writes he left Mary Kelly’s breast on the table while it was actually at her feet). Then there are facts that should by verifiable but the author simply never bothered to check. Hanson never even tried to find out if there were murders of prostitutes in Manchester on the days Maybrick/the diary claims.
Oh and the guy who first “found” the diary has since then sworn twice that he in fact forged it. (Hanson still claims the diary is genuine, he just lied about the forgery because of reasons).

James Kenneth Stephen

James Kenneth StephenImages from Wikipedia and GoodReads
Suggested by John Wilding in Jack the Ripper Revealed
Who was he? A poet and tutor to Albert Victor, Prince of Wales.
Why did he do it? Because he had a massive crush on Albert and wanted to keep all harm from him. When Stephen learned that Albert had impregnated Mary Kelly he feared that if people found out that a catholic prostitute expected a child from the heir to the throne this would cause a scandal which would bring down the whole monarchy. So Stephen decided that Kelly needed to die. The other victims were either people he mistook for Kelly or people he asked where he could find her and he killed them because he did not want them to give the police a description of him.
Also somewhere inbetween Queen Victoria got wind of all this and objected to somebody killing a pregnant woman. So Kelly was taken somewhere to have the baby (just like in From Hell, the body they found was actually her roommate) and killed afterwards. (Her body was cut up and disposed around London…there were really parts of several female bodies found that were never identified and the murderer never caught but the series actually started some time before the Ripper-murders).
Because murder is so stressful he had an accomplice: Montague James Druitt, who committed some of the murders and then was eventually murdered by Stephen who made it look like suicide.
The proof: Anagrams. No seriously. E.g. the graffiti that reads ‘The Jewes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’ is an anagram of ‘F. G. Abberline. Now hate M. J. Druitt. He sent the woman to hell.’
Some of the letters that Jack (supposedly) wrote to police and press also contain hidden (and grammatically incorrect) messages to Warren, the police-commisioner at the time of the murders in which Stephen brags about them. (Oh yeah Warren knew about the murders but couldn’t talk because royal conspiracy)

Also some of Stephen’s poetry is seriously misogynistic:

I did not want to see that girl again:
I did not like her: and I should not mind
If she were done away with, killed, or ploughed.
She did not seem to serve a useful end:
And certainly she was not beautiful.

(Men and Women)

He was also clearly very close to Albert (upon hearing that Albert had died he refused to eat and died not much later).

The trouble with the proof: While, as mentioned, his poetry clearly shows hatred for women there is no indication that he was ever violent. The autopsy should clearly that the Rippers last victim was not pregnant which should have surprised some of the people close to Kelly if she really had been.
There is also no indication that Kelly ever had any contact with the Prince of Wales or just had any upper-class customers.

Walter Sickert

Walter SickertImages from Wikipedia and Wikipedia
Suggested by Patricia Cornwell in Portrait of a Killer (and Stephen Knight in the unfortunately titled The Final Solution but I haven’t read that one, yet)
Who was he? A German-English painter who lived in London, hated women and was obsessed with the Ripper-murders.
Why did he do it? Because it was part of a royal free-masonic conspiracy (Knight) or because he hated women, had a deformed penis and could not have sex (Cornwell). Cornwell is also convinced that Sickert didn’t murder only the Canonical Five but just about every female that died violently in London during his lifetime.
The proof: Like Stephen, Sickert was a massive misogynist. Cornwell also claims that according to a DNA-analsysis some of the letters that were signed with Jack the Ripper and send to newspapers and the police were written by Sickert.
Sickert was also rather obsessed with the Ripper and even painted a picture titled Jack the Ripper’s bedroom and nobody else during this time was ever obsessed with the Ripper murders.
The trouble with the proof: Papers and police received hundreds of letters signed Jack the Ripper and it is possible that Sickert wrote some of them just to fool around. Most experts assume that only a few (or none) are genuine, only Cornwell is convinced that the true Ripper wrote them all because apparently painting by day and murdering by night is not time-consuming enough. (There is also not even definite proof that Sickert was in London at the time of most of the murders – neither those that are associated with the Ripper nor any of the other victims that Cornwell thinks were also his). Even if you would accept that each of the over 600 Ripper-letters have been written by the same person who was Jack himself Cornwell’s claims about the matching DNA are somewhat questionable. The DNA Cornwell managed to extract from the letters is just mitochondrial DNA which just means that the writer of the letter and Sickert are from the same group of people (depending on the source that group consists of between 0.1 and 10% of the UK population). The Casebook of Jack the Ripper-website has debunked that much better than I ever could:
Oh there’s also no proof for the ‘Sickert could not have sex’-theory, in fact his affairs were a frequent topic of gossip and at least one guy claims to be his illegitimate son.

Lizzie Williams

Lizzie WilliamsImages from DailyTelegraph.com.au and Amazon.com
Suggested by John Morris in The Hand of a Woman
Who was she? The wife of a surgeon who worked in London’s East End.
Why did she do it? She had no children with her husband and because that’s all women ever care about she was devastated. When he got Mary Kelly pregnant she got jealous and decided to kill her because she worried that he might leave her (like all her friends who presumably also were left by their husbands for East End prostitutes).
Then, like Kenneth Stephens, she either mistook the others for Kelly or wanted to avoid leaving witnesses who could identify her.
Oh and Lizzie learned the surgical skills that were necessary to commit the mutilations by watching her husband perform surgeries. In a similar way that I, after watching all seasons of Emergency Room, feel now comfortable performing an appendix-operation myself.
The proof: The belongings of Annie Chapmann were laid out at her feet in an a nice and orderly fashion. As we know only a woman would bother to do something like this because women care about order and neatness even if they just stabbed and mutilated somebody. Besides none of the victims was sexually assaulted so it can’t have been a man.
The trouble with the proof: Let me repeat that Kelly wasn’t pregnant and there is no proof that William’s husband had an affair with her. Concerning the fact that none of the victims was raped: it is not uncommon that killers use “secondary mechanisms” to achieve sexual gratification like – you know – stabbing or any sort of overkill (which happened with all but one Ripper victim). In general the book is rife with inconsistencies and the author falls over himself trying to persuade the reader that Lizzy was a murderer despite being – gosh – middle class. Cause usually only the filthy poor commit such heinous acts.

Montague James Druitt

Montague James DruittImages from Wikipedia and GoodReads
Suggested by (among others) Terry Lynch in The Whitechapel Murderer
Who was he? A barrister and teacher who committed suicide shortly after Mary Kelly’s murder. He left a note that said “Since Friday I felt that I was going to be like mother, and the best thing for me was to die.” His mother had been institutionalized in the same year and there was a history of mental illness and suicide in his family.
Why did he do it? Because if you voice worries that you might end up institutionalized like your mother that clearly actually means ‘I am Jack the Ripper’
The proof: Druitt was named 1894 in the so-called Macnaghten Memorandum as the most likely of three Ripper-suspects. Macnaghten was Assistant Chief Constable at that time but not during the Ripper-murders. His reasons for suspecting Druitt are just circumstantial: he committed suicide shortly after the murders and he claims a ‘source close to the family knows that his family believed him to be the Ripper’. The memorandum also gets facts about Druitt wrong: it claims he was a doctor when he was in fact a barrister and the exact date of his suicide.
QED: Macnaghten must have had real information that Druitt was the Ripper but he could not talk about that because of reasons. He still wanted to talk about the fact that he knew who the Ripper was because of reasons. So he deliberately got facts wrong to arouse suspicions because….oh fuck I have no clue either.
Also: Druitt and the Ripper were both left-handed.
The problem with the proof: ARE YOU SERIOUSLY ASKING THAT? Ehm…yeah it is not that hard to see some minor flaws in that logic. Lynch assumes that Macnaghten knew something because of his rank but couldn’t tell (why would he not be able to tell if he knew that a mediocre barrister was the killer?). That already makes no sense because he did not go public with the memorandum, he just kept private notes that only became known to the public in 1959.
Lynch also ignores that Macnaghten wasn’t involved in the Ripper-investigation himself and so his information should be taken with a grain of salt.

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