I find it fascinating that so many within the ‘Ripperology’ community treat the candidacy of James Maybrick as being ‘Jack the Ripper’ with such vitriol. To this end, I have decided to review some of the other candidates often cited as more likely than Maybrick. Naturally, I disagree that any of them are better suspects, but let’s examine them nonetheless.
The candidacy of Walter Sickert was heightened through the investigations undertaken by famous crime novelist Patricia Cornwell. An extremely successful writer, she was enamoured by the unsolved nature of these crimes, like so many of us.
She uncovered the’ truth’ with her money, TV crew, and rugged determination. Cornwell admits that from early on, she was drawn to Walter Sickert, a famous artist of the time, and never really looked beyond him.
– Sickert was known to have frequented the crime scenes long after the murders and held a very strong interest in the case
– Some of his paintings may have referenced the Ripper and his crimes. One painting in particular, ‘Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom’ caused quite a stir within Cornwell’s team
– Some Ripper letters bore the watermark of the Aberdeen paper manufacturer Alexander Pirie and Sons. Sickert was known to have had possession of at least one ream between 1885-1887
– Cornwell claimed Sickert was impotent and held hatred towards women
– Mitochondrial DNA on the Openshaw letter stamp could potentially match Sickert’s profile
– The main issue, and pretty much the most important fact, is that Sickert, according to family correspondence, was more than likely in France at the time of most of the murders
– Alexander Pirie and Sons’ paper was widely available at the time. It was not as rare as Cornwell would like people to believe
– There is no evidence of him ever being impotent. The divorce from his first wife cites adultery as the reason
– Mitochondrial DNA cannot identify a male individual outright. There is a chance the same DNA profile could match anywhere from 1% to 10% of the male population of that time. It’s not that unique to Sickert
MONTAGUE JOHN DRUITT
Montague John Druitt was named as a suspect by Melville Macnaghten, a former Assistant Chief Constable of the London Metropolitan Police, in an 1894 memorandum. It must be stressed that Macnaghten was not part of the original team investigating the Ripper crimes. In his memo, he believed there were, in effect, three main suspects for ‘Jack the Ripper’. Those being ‘Montague John Druitt’, ‘Kosminski’ and ‘Michael Ostrog’.
Montague John Druitt’s body was discovered in the River Thames in December 1888. It is believed he committed suicide after losing his job as a teacher in Blackheath in late November 1888. Macnaghten also indicated that he received some third-hand private information that his family believed he was the Whitechapel murderer.
– He was Macnaghten’s preferred suspect
– His father was a Doctor
– He committed suicide not long after the last murder of Mary Jane Kelly
– His family may have believed him to be the Whitechapel murderer
– He had no links at all to Whitechapel, and he lived and worked in Blackheath
– There is evidence to suggest he was playing cricket in Dorset on the morning before Polly Nichols’ murder and also on the morning just after Annie Chapman’s murder in Blackheath
– He committed suicide after losing his job towards the end of November, which would strongly suggest that was the catalyst for his suicide
– The private information Macnaghten received is simply hearsay as there is no evidence at all to suggest his family did believe he was Jack the Ripper
The name Kosminski came to light as a suspect due to Melville Macnaghten’s 1894 memorandum, which TV journalist Dan Farson discovered in 1959. It was further endorsed by the ‘Swanson Marginalia’ discovered in 1981.
Upon reviewing the personal possessions handed down to him, grandson James Swanson discovered information from these notes, which suggest, according to Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, who led the Ripper investigation on behalf of Scotland Yard, that he firmly believed that Kosminski was the killer. You can read more about the marginalia notes here. Kosminski’s first name, most likely being ‘Aaron’, was discovered by the late Martin Fido in 1987.
Another quirk that attempts to build a case against Aaron Kosminski was the ‘discovery’ of a ‘shawl’ by author Russell Edwards. Initially, he claimed it belonged to Catherine Eddowes and was taken from the crime scene of her murder by a police officer but has since suggested Kosminski owned it. Two major mitochondrial DNA studies were released against the ‘shawl’ in 2014 and 2019. You can read more about them here.
– Named by Chief Inspector Donald Swanson as the main suspect and endorsed by Melville Macnaghten as one of three suspects. It is most likely he was also the suspect Robert Anderson alluded to in his memoirs
– He was known to have suffered mental health issues which ultimately led him to be committed to Colney Hatch asylum
– He had experience with sharp implements, having been both a hospital porter and a barber
– The mitochondrial DNA of the bloodstains on the ‘Shawl’ is highly possible it could be from Catherine Eddowes’s maternal line
– The murder of Catherine Eddowes was committed in the City of London jurisdiction. The scene was preserved immediately, so the suggestion that Sargeant Amos Simpson, usually based in Islington, somehow had unfettered access to the body is most unlikely. The timeline from the body being discovered to being assessed by Dr Gordon Brown is well documented. No mention of Sargeant Simpson being present or a ‘Shawl’ in the list of possessions
– It is not a ‘Shawl’ at all, but most likely a table runner. Russell Edwards has subsequently claimed that it was not owned by Eddowes, but in fact, Kosminski brought it to the crime scene with him
– There is no conclusive fact that the blood sample and the so-called semen sample were deposited at the same time on the fabric
– Mitochondrial DNA cannot ID specific individuals but can rule them out
– Kosminski was most likely a Schizophrenic, which means he would have been prone to bouts of mania. Despite the victims most likely being drunk when they were murdered, they were still street-smart, and someone presenting as rather strange would instantly be regarded as a danger
In recent years the candidacy of Charles Lechmere has strangely grown in popularity for many within ‘Ripperology’. Charles Lechmere was the first to have discovered Polly Nichols’ body. The theory is that he was disturbed by another witness, Robert Paul, and pretended to have just arrived at the scene.
The two men looked over the woman and soon went on their way, alerting PC Mizen of their discovery whilst en route to their respective jobs. Seemingly, he also occasionally used the name ‘Charles Cross’, lived and worked locally, and was involved in an accident where a child died many years before, somehow endorsing his candidacy.
– The first person to discover the body of Polly Nichols
– He sometimes used the alias Charles Cross
– The murder sites were in and around where he lived and worked
– Testimony inconsistencies at the inquest
– The route he took to work was consistent with walking down Bucks Row. Nothing strange in being the first to discover the body of Polly Nichols. There is no reason at all why he would have been in Berner Street for the murder of Elizabeth Stride
– Many people used alias names in that period, most for innocuous reasons. Charles Cross was a valid name for him to use, as it was the name he was born with
– Neither PC Mizen nor Robert Paul mentioned seeing any blood stains on the clothing of Charles Lechmere, having both spent time directly in his presence
– There is no hard evidence that his testimony was in any way wrong or misleading. PC Mizen and Robert Paul could have been just as wrong on specific details
Francis Tumblety was an Irish-born American quack doctor who spent most of his adult life peddling potions and lotions to the unsuspecting masses. Flamboyant, eccentric and a self-promoter, Tumblety was not one for shying away from the limelight. Having been arrested in London in November 1888 for ‘gross indecency’, it is believed he held a disgust for all women and prostitutes.
Tumblety came on the radar of Ripperologists when a letter was uncovered by researchers Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey. It was a reply from Detective Chief Inspector John Littlechild, formerly of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, in a letter dated 23rd September 1913 to journalist George Sims. Littlechild was not directly involved with the Whitechapel murders, but he offered the name of Tumblety as being a likely suspect.
– He can be placed as residing in London at the time of the Whitechapel murders
– He had a very well-known disdain towards prostitutes
– Detective Chief Inspector Littlechild named him as a potential suspect in a letter to journalist George Sims
– His relatively tall height for the time of at least 5ft 10ins would make him stand out to potential witnesses. Not to mention his flamboyant dress sense and potentially large moustache
– There is no evidence of him ever being violent
– The Metropolitan Police themselves did not consider him a viable suspect, or else they could have had him extradited from America, which he fled after skipping bail for the gross indecency charge
There are, of course, other suspects mentioned throughout the years, but the names above tend to be the most commonly referenced. Are they better candidates than James Maybrick? Why not buy a copy of my book ‘Jack the Ripper: Threads’ and make your judgment?
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.