Tuesday 2 October 2012

My name is Jack the Ripper...

The identity of Jack the Ripper tested the detectives of the time and is still the epicentre of endless speculation and theories today, taking such unlikely people as Prince Albert Victor the Duke of Clarence and even Lewis Carroll.

But for Sir Melville Macnaghten of Scotland Yard there were only ever three main suspects, all of which he named in his report of 23 February 1894 in an attempt to throw cold water on the theories put forward by the Sun earlier the same month. The Sun had re-examined the case and named Thomas Cutbush as most likely to be the Ripper.

Macnaughten’s report formed the basis of most early Ripper research. In his opinion the three most likely men to be the Ripper were Montague John Druitt, Michael Ostrog and Aaron Kosminski.

Druitt was a barrister and part-time school teacher at a Blackheath boarding school. He committed suicide in December 1888 after being dismissed from the school for reasons that have never been given. Macnaghten said that Druitt was "a doctor of about 41 years of age and of fairly good family, who disappeared at the time of the Miller’s Court murder, and whose body was found floating in the Thames on 31st December: i.e. 7 weeks after the said murder. The body was said to have been in the water for a month, or more…From private information I have little doubt but that his own family suspected this man of being the Whitechapel murderer, it was alleged that he was sexually insane." Druitt’s body was pulled out of the water at Chiswick. Although there are many good reasons for Druitt being a main suspect, there is also a lot of contradictory evidence.

Ostrog became a likely suspect because the police had been searching asylum releases for a doctor or surgeon who was also a lunatic. That a psychopath with medical knowledge was the Ripper had become their main working theory, possibly one released when the murders started. Ostrog failed to report to the police when requested and Macnaghten said that Ostrog was "…a Russian doctor, and a convict who was subsequently detained in a lunatic asylum as a homicidal maniac. This man’s antecedents were of the worst possible type, and his whereabouts at the time of the murders could never be ascertained."

Aaron Kosminski was, according to Macnaghten “… a Polish Jew, & resident in Whitechapel. This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, especially of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies; he was removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889…”. Macnaghten wasn't the only one to have Kosminski in his sights, two other high ranking officers who were close to the investigation also considered him to be a likely suspect for the Ripper: head of the C.I.D. Dr. Robert Anderson and the officer in charge of the case, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson. Kosminski entered Colney Hatch Asylum in February 1891.

Out of the three, Druitt was Macnaghten’s favourite suspect, although Detective Chief lnspector John George Littlechild, the ex-head of the Special Branch at Scotland Yard in 1888, considered a fourth suspect to be the Ripper – Francis Tumblety, an Irish seller of patent medicines.

Our Show opens next week at the Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin and we hope you’ll join us in the search for the Ripper through the streets of Whitechapel. You can book your tickets on-line at the Queen Mother Theatre or by ringing their box office on 01462 455166.



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