Some people may be unaware that one of the world’s leading experts on profiling serial killers has, in fact, written a profile on ‘Jack the Ripper’. You can download the PDF here direct from the FBI archives. I would suggest it would be worthwhile in doing so and reading beforehand.
John E Douglas is the inspiration behind characters in hit TV shows such as Criminal Minds & Mindhunter. He was part of the pioneering team that brought the tool of criminal profiling to the forefront at the FBI. He has interviewed all of the worst serial killers known to man. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Ed Kemper, Son of Sam and many more. He is rightly so, regarded as one of the best criminal profilers there has been.
Douglas has on numerous occasions dismissed the possibility that James Maybrick could be a viable suspect for ‘Jack the Ripper’. He has shown a preference towards suspects like Aaron Kosminski as being more likely to fit his profile. I want to use this article to challenge him on both of those assumptions. He is far more qualified than I will ever be in this field, but I think it’s essential we continually challenge long-held perceptions—especially those from 1988.
VICTIMOLOGY (PAGE 2)
I would be inclined to believe with much he wrote on the victims that Jack targeted. No debates here.
MEDICAL EXAMINATION (PAGE 2)
I have no debates or further comments to add to points 1 – 11 in his report.
CRIME & CRIME SCENE ANALYSIS (PAGE 3)
A rare mistake in this section. He claims all victims suffered post-mortem mutilation. Any keen students of this case will tell you very quickly that Elizabeth Stride did not suffer any post-mortem mutilation. This very fact leads some to even discount her as a ‘Jack the Ripper’ victim. I do not.
The way her throat was cut with around a 2-inch incision across the left carotid artery to kill her was too similar to the other victims. Quite simply, that type of murder was rare enough in public on the street against any woman. That night it happened twice in the space of an hour. This leads me to believe he was interrupted on Stride and escaped. He went on to take that frustration out on his next victim Catherine Eddowes.
Douglas points out that the first murder is likely to be within the killer’s comfort zone, an area he is comfortable with. Polly Nichols was murdered on Bucks Row (now called Durward Street). The road runs behind Whitechapel station. The station itself would be regarded as a central focal point for the area, especially for visitors or workers coming into the locality. It wouldn’t take much to get familiar with the surrounding streets.
His description of Jack’s MO is spot on to me, and the fact he is far more interested in the ritual of post-mortem mutilation and that the murder itself was admin.
COMMUNIQUES (PAGE 4)
Interestingly it seems that Douglas knows that if he places weight on the fact that Jack may have written one or some of the letters, then he no longer fits in snugly with his view that he is a disorganised killer. It would make him the opposite. A disorganised killer has no interest in playing games or getting media attention. They would unlikely write any letters or leave graffiti clues. The challenge we have here is that there is a strong possibility the killer may have done both. My belief is Jack wrote the Goulston Street Graffito. I also believe at least two letters were written by his hand. This would firmly establish him as organised.
OFFENDER TRAITS (PAGE 4)
This section is where he gets a little assumptive, in my opinion. He accepts (and I agree) that a certain amount of psychopathy is required to communicate with these women and put them at ease. A psychotic killer having a manic episode of psychosis would not be so cunning. They would most likely show some obvious signs of danger to these women, who were pretty street smart. They believed the killer was safe.
Age is extremely difficult to get right in these cases, as he acknowledges. Canadian serial killer Thomas McArthur did not start committing murders until he was in his 50s. He had what many would regard as a ‘normal’ upbringing with no childhood sexual or psychological abuse. Late starters are rare, but they can happen.
I think James Maybrick’s upbringing was relatively normal. I do, however, believe over time, he acquired ‘imposter’ syndrome. He was named James after a dead brother who died not long before he was born. I would not rule out a possibly domineering mother either. She may have seen James as a disappointment compared to his over-achieving brother Michael.
Another assumption rears its head. Douglas suggests Jack may have had some basic anatomical knowledge by claiming he may have worked as a butcher, mortician’s assistant or hospital attendant. Who also got weekends off? I’m not sure how many of those vocations did. This belief he may have had some anatomical knowledge does have grains of truth. With the murder of Catherine Eddowes, he would not be able to extract a kidney in almost pure darkness without having some awareness of organ positioning.
However, in the context of the era and the fascination with death, other means of knowing human anatomy were possible. On Paradise Street in Liverpool, around the time of James’s childhood, was The Liverpool Museum of Anatomy. Their slogan was ‘Man Know Thyself’. There were many books and periodicals you could also access that would show the anatomy of the human body.
A disorganised killer is much more likely to act on impulse. The weekend patterns of the murders strongly indicate someone who had a job that would give them that freedom to pick and choose when they murdered. The murders suited their own free time, again a trait of someone with organised thinking.
Trapped in the belief that the killer is disorganised, Douglas rattles through more of the obvious signs of such. A loner with a physical deformity or impairment and unlikely to be married. If he was more of an organised killer, he could easily blend into ‘normal’ society like a John Wayne Gacy. His peers regarded him as a “pillar of the local community”. So much so, he even had his picture taken with First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
James held his own in certain social circles and aspired to go higher. Also, having a wife 22 years his junior played to all his narcissistic tendencies. The trigger for James, I believe, came during his third stage of neurosyphilis which he contracted from prostitutes in America. Unaware he was at the third stage, he assumed his young wife was cheating on him and gave it to him again. Such paranoia, combined with the excessive drug-taking, became the trigger point of when things started to unravel. The focus on the female sexual and reproductive organs post-mortem could signify him targeting the very essence of what being a woman was.
If Maybrick was our man, he would not have stayed in the area very long after the murders, and therefore would not have been interviewed. He would have left his private lodgings and headed back to Liverpool by train, leaving behind a trail of destruction and chaos. He gets to read all about it in the daily papers over the coming days and weeks.
PRE- AND POST-BEHAVIOUR (PAGE 6)
I believe Jack drunk in the local pubs and would have been a regular enough face for perhaps even one or two women to recognise vaguely. Adding to the extra feeling of comfort and safety. I believe everything in this entire section is highly accurate.
INVESTIGATIVE TECHNIQUES (PAGE 7)
I refrain from any comment here as I don’t see much value in this section. I don’t think him being caught and interviewed at this stage is likely 🙂
I am splitting hairs at some points in the report. On the whole, I believe it to be of the highest quality and accuracy. My main concern is that it was written like a disorganised killer profile was pre-ordained. The red flags which show that may not be the case were ignored or dismissed. I think we have to be open to understanding the nuances of what we are dealing with. I believe even Douglas’s report would make Maybrick more likely to be ‘Jack the Ripper’ than Aaron Kosminski.
But then again, I would say that…
JACK THE RIPPER: THREADS
Think you know Jack the Ripper? Think again.
What if ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a cotton merchant from Liverpool? What if the diary or watch, purported to be James Maybrick’s, is genuine? This gripping fictional tale is a circumstantial exploration of James Maybrick being ‘Jack’.
Using a mix of fact and fiction, actual events and characters are brought to life in this gripping story.
Did one of his family members murder him in 1889, ending the reign of terror in London’s Whitechapel?
“Jack the Ripper: Threads” is the debut novel of Jay Hartley.
A historical crime thriller that will challenge everything you thought you knew about history’s most famous unsolved serial murders.