American Ripperologist John Malcolm takes a penetrating and fresh look at some old assumptions and raises some interesting and thought-provoking questions.
Mary Kelly is dead.
At least we can agree on something.
Or can we?
Many opinions are woven together with facts in order to rationalize the horrific crimes that occurred in Londons East End near the end of the nineteenth century; many scenarios have been proposed, some easily embraced, others easily dismissed. The parameters are set by popular consensus, which is, again, formed by the combination of facts and opinion, for the indeterminate facts leave gaping holes in this ugly and sad story.
As tedious as this may seem, a re-examination of the basics should be a perpetual element, hand-in-hand with speculation and the evaluation of new information. At times we move beyond the difficult questions and hope that leaping over these will land us the big prize. Its frustrating and nerve-wracking for those who have had more than just a casual interest in these crimes and times, but we persist in increasing numbers and with increasing vigor.
Of course the multitude of problems that one must deal with in a case such as this must begin with the distance of over a hundred years that separates us from the world of 1888 exponentially.
Now, with the advent of many sophisticated detection techniques and the birth of forensic science, criminal profiling, etc., we feel much more prepared and confident when approaching an unsolved crime, and this confidence is basically justified. This is true when it comes to modern crimes, but the further we go back in history, the more vague the details become. And this is why we should approach a mystery such as the Whitechapel Murders with a certain degree of caution. It is much too easy to look back at the people involved and think them ignorant and uninformed in relation to our present day technology, but in turn we should be inclined to believe ourselves to be ignorant and at least under informed regarding the everyday ways of life and also the actual degrees of competence of the authorities in those times, relative to those times.
For instance, the criminal element has evolved parallel to those responsible for their detection; It is doubtful that the percentage of unsolved crimes is much different today than it was in 1888. Advances in the sciences of transportation, etc. and the cultivation of the criminal mind over time has made it more difficult in many instances, the problems and solutions of detection increasingly more complex. With that said, I would like to move on to examining several areas of debate, such as the relevance of the pre-canonical five victims, the focus on the Polish Jew Sir Robert Andersons words, weapons and anatomical knowledge, in which weve tended to use a this side or that side of the fence approach generally as a means to solutions that ultimately fit our opinions, possibly to the detriment to our ultimate pursuit, which is, of course, to put a name and/or a face to Jack the Ripper.
Before I begin, I am inclined to start out on the defensive. I do not subscribe to any particular theory, nor do I feel close to formulating one of my own. There are certain opinions that I carry that tend to hold sway on my observations, but I continue to try to overcome these, for speculation is too easily transformed into fantasy. I really do feel that I would sleep better at night if this mystery were to be solved, and it would be a tremendous boost to my ego if I was to be part of that, but I have no such expectations.
That said, one of the many things that trouble me regarding contemporary research is how easily Martha Tabram and Emma Smith are excluded from consideration as far as being possible victims of you know who.
Although obvious discrepancies in M.O. make it easy to dismiss these two (especially Smith), there are many common denominators that should complicate matters. The Canonical Five were all killed within a small area of the East End, lodged in an even tighter area, were in their forties (with the exception of Mary Kelly), were attacked on weekends or bank holidays and were, at least suspected of being involved in prostitution.
Smith and Tabram lodged in George St. (nos. 18 & 19, respectively), which ran through Thrawl St. (Nichols, Kelly) into Flower and Dean St. (Nichols, Stride, Eddowes); Smith was approximately forty-five and Tabram thirty-nine, both assumed to be of the same class. Emma Smith was attacked at the corner of Osborn St. and Wentworth St., Martha Tabram in George Yard, both locations almost directly in the centre of the other murder sites and within yards of each other.
Smith, by her account, was attacked by three men who had followed her from Whitechapel Church, presumably from her soliciting in and around Whitechapel High St. which becomes Whitechapel Road at Osbom St., which becomes Brick Lane at Wentworth St... Mary Ann Nichols was seen walking alone in the Whitechapel Road at 11:30pm on her last night and again leaving the Frying Pan (on the corner of Thrawl St. and Brick Lane) at 12:30am. Police and the press made the connections of these first three of the Whitechapel Murders and only the subsequent murders, which had more in common with the murder of Polly Nichols, put any distance between hers and the earlier murders.
In all probability, the Whitechapel Murderer did not begin his life of crime with the slaying of Polly Nichols. Without speculating on initial motives, the attack on Tabram may have been his first with a knife, which would explain the apparent sloppiness and subsequent refining of technique in the later killings. Now, as far as Emma Smith goes, even if she was assaulted by three men, whos to say that one of them couldnt have evolved into Jack the Ripper?
Clearly there was something uncommon about this particular crime (as suggested by press links to the later murders). We continuously hear of how brutal this area was at the time, but so far I have yet to see any examples of crimes that can be compared with even this one. The debate over the credibility and effectiveness of the FBIs criminal profiling program will be saved for another day, but the results of an interesting survey can be found in a book by Eric W. Hickey titled Serial Murderers and their Victims:
Special agents from the FBI examined a sample of 36 sexual murderers, 29 of whom were convicted of killing several victims. Specifically they were interested in the general characteristics of sexual murders across the United States. They explored the dynamics of offenders sexual fantasies, sadistic behaviors, and rape and mutilation murders. These investigators noted several deviant sexual behaviors practiced before, during or after the victim has been killed. The act of rape, whether it be the actual physical act or a symbolic rape in which an object is inserted into the vagina, was found to be common among serial killers in this study. For some offenders, the act of rape served as only one form of sexual assault; they engaged in a variety of mutilations, sexual perversions, and desecrations of the victims corpse (Ressler et al., 1988 pp. 33-44)
As we know, Emma Smiths death was attributed to the effects of injuries caused by being raped with a blunt instrument. This murder would appear to incorporate quite a few elements in the different cases of the Whitechapel Murders, although again more points subject to debate.
As for the robbery motive in the Emma Smith case, it seems as though each subsequent victim may have been robbed, considering that none of the victims were found to have any money whatsoever on their person when they were discovered unless you are inclined to believe that, coincidentally, each victim was the first customer in each case.
As for the murder of Martha Tabram, we generally tend to implicate her soldier client, when connecting Dr. Killeens assessment of the wounds when referring to the single wound on the chest that could have been caused by a dagger or sword bayonet. We know that, with the exception of that particular wound on the sternum, the others could have been caused by an ordinary penknife I am presuming this wound must have been caused by a strong knife - one that could have withstood conflict with bone. What is unclear is whether or not the other wounds could have been caused by an instrument so described.
Another example of the use of statements from medical men to substantiate theories can be observed within the statements of Dr. Bagster Phillips when discussing the murder of Elizabeth Stride the knife was not sharp- pointed; but round and an inch across. There was nothing in the cut to show the incision of the point of any weapon. Now, from a knife being pulled across the throat, I dont quite understand how it could be ascertained that this was not necessarily sharp pointed, especially if there was nothing in the cut to show an incision of the point of any weapon.
Something that has not been discussed at length, or maybe not at all, could dispel a few particular doubts about whether different hands were responsible for the slayings of Mary Kelly and Catharine Eddowes (which has been recently suggested, albeit to help fit a particular current theory) and also shed a different light on the questions of anatomical knowledge and/or medical skill of the murderer.
Catharine Eddowes had her uterus and one kidney removed and taken away. According to Dr. Thomas Bond, in his report on Mary Kelly, the uterus and kidneys were found together with one breast under the head. This would suggest that the removal of the kidneys and uterus were potentially part of the same operation, hence the missing uterus and kidney of Eddowes. My opinion of this would lend a hand to the unskilled version of the killer, mainly because if there is a more bizarre, complex explanation, it would seem as though the organs in question were in close enough proximity to have been removed together in a similar way in each case, without any specific intention. That in regards to the fact that with Eddowes the organs were taken away, whereas with Kelly they were not. This would also draw the similarities between the two cases together enough to make it less likely that more than one person was involved directly with the murders.
When questioning whether or not the murderer was seeking certain organs, why was it not apparent in the case of Polly Nichols, widely and generally agreed to be the first in the series? With Mary Kelly the motive certainly wasnt seeking organs, if it was the uterus was the organ siught as with Annie Chapman and Catharine Eddowes.
The killer may not even have known exactly what he had in his pocket until after it became public knowledge of what was missing from Chapmans body. When he killed Eddowes, he may have been trying to copy himself...
It has become very difficult to resist the temptation to be influenced by the unequivocal affirmations made by Sir Robert Anderson, or at least hard to doubt his convictions regarding an obviously real suspect. We still cannot determine for certain the identity of this suspect and it is therefore pointless to argue guilt or innocence. We have narrowed our focus, as the police of 1888 did, and nothing has come to light to undermine these directions. Armchair profilers and Ripperologists alike will jump and scream otherwise. But honest debate is welcome; and honest conclusions will prevail.. .or maybe not. Anyway...
Some things to think about when it comes to the Polish Jew theories:
If we accept that Aaron was the Kosminski who was later suspected in the murders, it can be noted that his residence at the time he was put away, Sion Square, was in extremely close proximity to the residence of John Pizer in Mulberry Street. And this location is certainly in the very heart of the district where the murders were committed. This does not prove that these two men knew each other, but as Pizer had lived there for many years it seems like a possibility that they could have been acquainted. This seems also to reinforce the views that the police may have been focused on this particular area, and if Kosminski was in fact a murderer then the detection capabilities of the authorities, whether it be a form of early profiling (as an undefined practice) must be re-evaluated. The practical applications of the common sense-based profiling techniques would show that it may not be a modern invention. (Lets put up our dukes again) In trying not to speculate, all of these generally accepted facts would be very circumstantial evidence if a theory were to evolve from this.
Sir Robert Andersons strong and direct statements in his memoirs show, at very least, that the police were, in fact, concentrating on very specific areas and suspects. His belief in identity of the murderer can be debated, but as far as we know, nothing he has said has been contradicted by anyone involved in the investigation, Major Henry Smiths attacks on Anderson for his irresponsible anti-Semitism (The Jack the Ripper A-Z), for example, carry no more weight against Andersons claims than the Swanson Marginalia carry in their favour.
To open another can of worms, Martin Fidos suggestion that Nathan Kaminsky could have been a possible candidate for official suspicion (if he was David Cohen... or maybe even if he was not) is made that much more fascinating by the fact that his residence has been given as being in Black Lion Yard, which was just across the Whitechapel Road, approximately the same distance from Kosminski as Pizer and still closer to the sites where Smith and Tabram were killed.
What if one of these men had something to do with the Whitechapel Murders? What if none of these men had anything to do with the Whitechapel Murders? What if any of them were part of the three who attacked Emma Smith? What if these men were the three who killed her? If we cannot attach conclusions definitively, it seems as if it would be in our best interest to keep an open mind when thinking about possible solutions to these century old problems.
As unlikely as some of these scenarios may seem to be, are these suggestions any more ridiculous than some of the popular contemporary theories? Any more impossible?
There is still much to learn.
And then there are the cases of Francis Coles, Alice Mckenzie, et al...
And by the way, have you noticed that the tourists who flock to the Ripper tours are the same people who gathered and gawked at the murder scenes and the funerals in 1888? Fascinated, detached, absorbed and dumbfounded by these inhuman atrocities, the tragedy of it all has left a lasting impression...
Believers in Dr. Frederick Walker's theory claiming Joseph Barnett is Jack the Ripper better beware. Though Dr. Walker's article is well-written and intriguing, it omits vital information and ignores logical facts, resting on assumptions to support its case.
Joe Barnett has recently re-emerged as a major suspect in the most gruesome, unsolved mystery the world has ever known...the Whitecahpel Murders by Jack the Ripper. He was originally arrested at the time of Mary Kelly's butchering, but was released after four hours of interrogation by police, who cleared him of any wrong-doing. It is highly doubtful that a man who was extensively interrogated by experienced, knowledgeable police officials would have been released if there had been one solid bit of evidence linking Barnett to Kelly's killing or the other murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. The police department, specifically Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Charles Warren, was under intense scrutiny for the lack of an arrest or any solid leads in the Ripper case. If there was one shred of doubt as to Barnett's whereabouts and innocence on the nights in question, he would surely not have been cleared so easily.
Barnett's motive for the killings also has to come under closer examination. His reason for killing Mary Kelly is clearly a plausible one: a scorned lover, seeking revenge over their break-up, or quite possibly in response to Kelly's to resorting to prostitution as a means of securing a living after Barnett had lost his job. Either motive, jealousy or anger, seems reasonable. Catharine Eddowes, the Mitre Square victim, claimed to have known the name of the Ripper. If "Joe Barnett" was the name Eddowes knew to be the identity of Jack the Ripper, then the motive behind murdering her, like Kelly's murder, can seem plausible. However, two enigmatic and unanswered questions remain: If Barnett is the Ripper, why does he murder Nichols, Chapman, and Stride? and Why didn't Catharine Eddowes go to the police with her suspicions? It has been speculated by other researchers who view Barnett as the Ripper, that he killed to stop Mary Kelly from leading the sinful/ shameful life of a prostitute. If this indeed is true, why kill the first three women? Again, those researchers have claimed that they were killed by Barnett mistakenly, as he was searching out Kelly. Logistically, this poses a problem. If Barnett was looking for Kelly on those other autumn nights in Whitechapel, it is highly unlikely he would have mistaken Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, and Liz Stride for his one-time lover and roommate, Mary Jane Kelly. Dr. Walker conveniently side-steps this issue by claiming "it is virtually certain that they (the victims) knew each other and their killer." How can such an unsubstantiated claim be made? This comment in no way establishes a concrete motive for the first three murders and only loosely ascertains one for the last two. And, unfortunately, only Catharine Eddowes knows why she never went to the police with her suspicions...they were dead and buried along with her body 109 years ago...
Another major focus of Dr. Walker's article centers on the torn piece of an envelope found near the body of Annie Chapman in Hanbury Street. The envelope, torn through the address, contained the capital letter M, the letters Sp, and the number 2 (Gainey and Evans). Walker claims that those clues writen on the envelope are actually the killer's address: Miller's Court Spitalfields 26 Dorset Street...the address of Joe Barnett. This is quite a "stab in the dark" for three individual letters and one number on a torn scrap of paper. Even if Joe Barnett is the Ripper, and the address on the envelope near Chapman's body is his, why does he only rip the paper instead of taking it completely?? If he (the Ripper) had enough time to brutally mutilate Chapman in the manner with which she was shredded, and arrange her belongings in such a methodical manner, he would certainly have had enough time to take the envelope instead of just tearing it. It is illogical to assume the killer left it on purpose, risking discovery and impending punishment. The only reasonable assumption as to why the envelope was torn instead of taken is that the killer was about to be discovered or seen. Presumably, the killer tried to take the envelope in haste, but couldn't manage a secure grip on it, tearing it in the process of a speedy escape. Again, this is all relative speculation on Walker's part, assuming that Barnett is the Ripper and the letters/ number on the envelope are his return address...as I stated earlier, this is quite a fabrication; one which hinges on suppositions and maybes.
Witnesses at the time of the murders gave police detectives descriptions of an individual or individuals they saw accompanying the victims before their gruesome demise or in the vicinity of the murder sights, lurking suspiciously. Most of these reports can be discounted on the basis that their facts have varied from the time of their telling and cast doubt upon their validity. According to Begg, Fido, and Skinner in Jack the Ripper A to Z, only three witnesses "are likely to be describing the murderer" (201). Mrs. Elizabeth Darrell, Israel Schwartz, and Joseph Lawende are those three people. Another witness, George Hutchinson, also provided police with a detailed description of a man whom Kelly picked up as a client around 2:00 am the morning of her murder. Hutchinson described a man mid-thirties in age and approximately 5ft. 6ins. in height. He was wearing a dark felt hat and had a pale complexion with dark hair, eye brows, and a slight moustache, which curled at both ends. On the surface, as Dr. Walker points out, Joe Barnett does resemble this description. However, there is something logistically wrong with this identification: George Hutchinson, who signed a statement for Inspector Abberline, claimed to have been face to face with Kelly's escort...and got a clear look at the man she was with...if Joe Barnett was involved with Mary Kelly for any length of time, Hutchinson would have known, seen, or been mildly aquainted with him through Kelly, whom he'd claimed to have known and lent money to over a 3 year period...Hutchinson would've recognized Barnett had he seen him with Kelly hours before her death and reported that to Abberline...BUT HE DIDN'T . It's quite odd that Dr. Walker fails to even mention George Hutchinson in his article.
The evidence which "points the finger" at Joe Barnett is circumstantial and coincidental at best. No real, concrete physical evidence can link Barnett to any of the murder sites or the slayings themselves, with the exception of his pipe being found in Mary Kelly's room when police investigators searched it after discovering her mutilated remains scattered about the room. This is easily explained: It was left there by Barnett after his quarrel with Kelly and his leaving the establishment at 13 Miller's Court. He simply never returned to get it.
Though Joseph Barnett appears to be a reasonable and convincing suspect on the surface, he must be discounted along with the vast array of others due to a lack of sufficient, concrete evidence and a loosely-based, illogical set of circumstantial coincidences. Many "ifs, and or buts" can make a solid case for Barnett and his followers, or any other suspect for that matter, but any serious attempts to name him as the Ripper must be cast to the way side for obvious reasons of logic.
Rebuttal to this article by Dr. Frederick Walker