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.
As A Suspect
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.
The Lack of a Motive
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...
Crime Scene Evidence
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 Mystery Continues
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.