The following is a series of reports on the death of Carrie Brown, a prostitute murdered in New York, on the night of April 23-4, 1891. I have chosen to present the results of my investigation in sections, rather than in a complete single work for two reasons. Although I am a published writer, writing is not my full time occupation and I must still keep "the day job." I can't simply put my life on hold, take a sabbatical, and research this murder and write up my findings in a single detailed account. I plan to write a book about Carrie Brown's murder, and then I will present the results of my investigations in a comprehensive format.
The other reason is that I am fortunate enough to live in the age of the computer and the Internet. They say two heads are better than one. If this is so, then how about a hundred heads, or even a thousand? By presenting the results of my investigation one piece at a time, people all over the world will be aware of my work and may be kind enough to help. Sherlock Holmes had his "Baker Street Irregulars"; I am hoping that I may receive help from "the Whitechapel Book worms." Unlike so many good writers who have written books about Jack the Ripper, I may receive help and additional information before the book I plan to write is published rather than after. Interested people all over the world may find information I am completely unaware of. They will point out mistakes, I've no doubt, and ask questions. Questions are useful; those that I can answer help me affirm what I have learned and help me to stand back and look at what I've done more objectively. Those that I can't answer may open my mind to new possibilities and new directions to explore.
For a general overview of the murder the reader can find a report written by Stephen P. Ryder on the Victims page. I recommend reading Philip Sugden's The Complete History of Jack the Ripper for a more detailed account.Carrie Brown's Certificate of Death
An authenticated document is a primary source of information. Official records are such a resource, and are especially valuable since their purpose is to document information accurately. The starting point was to locate the case files of the New York Police department's investigation into the murder of Carrie Brown.
These files no longer exist. According to the New York Police Department, files are automatically destroyed when they are seventy-five years old. According to the NYPD archivist there are no records dating before 1921. There are no copies or duplicates of these records stored by another agency. Jack the Ripper may or may not have come to New York and killed Carrie Brown, but I found it interesting that I was being plagued with problems similar to those that researchers in Britain faced as they searched for police records pertinent to the Whitechapel murderer in London.
While I was out of luck in obtaining the police files, I found the second item on my list. In the Municipal Archives at the New York City Department of Records and Information Services, Carrie Brown's death certificate, number 15143, still exists.
Before going any further I would like to make clear the parameters of this report. This is a work in progress. I am focusing on what each information source reveals in and of its self. Only in the conclusion do I make some tentative remarks on the significance of what I've learned from this document and how it fits, or does not fit, with what other sources have revealed. For example I am certain that the signature of the Medical Attendant at Inquest is Jenkins; however, I know this from other sources, and not from reading this document. Here the signature is illegible. The significance of this is that what information I claim comes from the certificate, means just that. It can be verified by other researchers who read the certificate, and not have to consult other sources to confirm any of my statements or contentions.
As part of the vital statistics registration system, death certificates preserve the documentary evidence concerning death. They are used for both legal rights and for health and social services planning. Facts that they document include the names of the spouse and parents, information on cause and circumstance of death, age, sex, race, and place of interment.
Funeral directors are the primary party responsible for completing and filing Death certificates in the United States. They are obliged to meet certain statutory obligations, but the real quality of the certificate's value as an information source depends on the diligence of the Funeral Director. Currently the Funeral Director is responsible for completing the personal information about the deceased and his or her parents, obtaining the medical certification of the cause of death and other medical information from the responsible physician or medical examiner, and complete the burial information. Each state specifies the responsibilities of the Funeral Director; in North Carolina, as in most states, he or she must file the certificate within five days with the local registrar. There are now two types of Death certificates: the standard Certificate of Death, and the Medical Examiner's Certificate of Death.
Death certificates now in use consist of several sections. Personal and statistical information concerning the deceased; medical and cause of death information; burial or disposal information; and, registration information. Standards for filing certificates include the following: all entries should be printed, preferably typed, in black ink; all items must be completed, with notes attached that explain any omissions; make no alterations or erasures; all signatures must be written, no rubber stamps or facsimiles can be used; only the original documents can be filled, and not duplicates, carbon copies, or reproductions; all entries should be spelled out, and numbers not used for months; and, all names must be spelled correctly and verified. Supplemental reports can be amended at later dates by following correct procedures stipulated by each state.
Carrie Brown's Certificate
I have not seen the original document. I have drawn my information from a duplicate sent to me from the Municipal Archives. It bares the raised seal of the Department of Records and Information Services, and so it is an authenticated document. The copy sent to me has posed new problems that have limited the amount of useful information it normally should provide.
The duplication was poorly done and makes a hard to read document even harder to read. There are portions blurred, and blank areas which indicate that the ink has faded and was too light for the copier to reproduce. The handwriting indicates that poor penmanship was a requirement to practice medicine in the 19th as well as in the 20th century; indeed, some parts cannot be read because they are simply illegible.
I have made a transcript of the duplicated copy for easy reading for both reader and researcher alike. The copy sent to me indicates that the original document has been bound in a ledger or book. If so, then much of what is illegible on the copy I have had to use may in fact be quite legible on the original. I've no doubt that in the future a complete, or nearly complete transcript of this death certificate will appear here.
In comparison to modern death certificates, Brown's is not only a disgrace, it wouldn't be considered legal. Not only are there no explanations given for why some questions are left answered, there are no supplemental reports; the handwriting alone would have caused this document to be rejected. It has to be legible or it is not legal. The value of the document is also lessened by irregularities that make the answered questions suspect. For example, Carrie Brown's age is given but her birth date is stated as unknown; so how did they know for sure?
Who was Carrie Brown?
Death certificates should provide all of the most important personal information of the deceased, but such is not the case with Carrie Brown. Virtually none of the most pertinent information concerning her family and the facts of her life is revealed though the certificate was supposed to contain such information.
Brown was a white woman; a widow, and died on April 24, 1891. She had no occupation, and the names of her late husband and parents are unknown. The place of her birth is also listed as "unknown." Under "age," she is listed as 56 years old, but no date is provided and so this may not have been her real age. Her last place of residence was also unknown, which indicates that the Hotel where she was murdered was not her regular abode. She was buried on August 30, 1891. The place of burial is illegible, but may be somewhere in Massachusetts. There are several reasons for why she was not buried until four months after her death. The most likely one is that nobody claimed the body, but it is also possible that the body was held for evidence during the trial of the man charged with Brown's murder. Each state has different regulations for how long an unclaimed body is kept before it is buried.
The certificate is a little more forthcoming about her death. The cause of death was strangulation by a portion of clothing tied around the throat and incisions to the lower abdomen, intestines, and vagina. There is more but it is illegible. No mention is made of cuts to the throat.
There is nothing revealed in Carrie Brown's certificate of Death that definitively disproves she was murdered by the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper; unfortunately, the obverse is equally true. There is nothing in this document that clearly establishes that she was a victim of the Whitechapel murderer. Supporters of each of these views can point to specific items that bolster their case.
Brown was almost certainly a prostitute, like all the victims of the Ripper in Whitechapel had been. On the certificate her occupation is listed as "none" rather than "unknown." How did she keep body and soul together, then? She was a widow, but probably received little or no pension from her late husband's employers. She had no known regular place of residence, and was killed in a seedy hotel in the early hours of the morning after checking in with a man at or around 11:00 P.M.. Though the certificate does not say she was a prostitute, it seems more than reasonable to assume that she was.
She was murdered in a slum area not unlike the East End of London; great hardship and poverty, crime and deprivation were rife. Like Mary Kelly, she was murdered indoors and in her bed. Of the known and accepted Ripper murders, Annie Chapman's case is very similar to Carrie Brown's. Dr. Philips at the Chapman inquests stated that the direct cause of death had been strangulation; this too, is the direct cause of death for Brown. Of the weapon used, Philips said that the knife used on Chapman may have been a filed down butchers' knife. The knife used on Brown has been described in Philip Sugden's book as possibly being a filed down cooking knife.
On the other hand there were two differences between this murder and the murders in Whitechapel. First, the knife used on Brown was left at the scene of the crime. This did not happen in the Jack the Ripper series of murders. The other difference is the method of strangulation. Jack the Ripper manually strangled his victims; that is, he used his bare hands. Carrie Brown's murderer used a portion of her clothing to strangle her. These differences are significant, but they do not exclude the possibility that the Ripper was responsible for Brown's death.
Did Jack the Ripper kill Carrie Brown? The Death certificate by its self does not reveal the truth conclusively, but it does indicate that she was more likely to have not been killed by the Whitechapel murderer than that she was.The Murder of Carrie Brown: Review of the Literature
Except for the newspaper accounts at the time, very little has been written about the murder of Carrie Brown. This is a review of the non-contemporary writings about her slaying. In determining whether or not Jack the Ripper murdered this prostitute on April 24, 1891, I decided first to examine the work carried out by earlier writers and researchers. Most of what I've found was inaccurate, and even the better articles might be based primarily on what the newspapers reported rather than from official documents or interviews with people connected to the case.
In 1928, Guy Logan in his book, Masters of Crime, may have been the first non- contemporary writer to suggest that the Ripper left London to carry on his murderous activities elsewhere. Presumably because he could no longer kill in the East End due to both public and police scrutiny. According to Logan, the Ripper first came to the United States and then moved onto Jamaica and Managua. He does not specify where he committed murders in America, nor is Carrie Brown mentioned. He does say that the police chief of Managua got in touch with officials of the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), and reported that Jack the Ripper was now in Central America. In their book, The Lodger, Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey believe that this may have been their Ripper suspect, Dr. Francis Tumblety.
Note: Logan is presented as probably the first non-contemporary writer to suggest that Brown was murdered by Jack the Ripper. In another report, dealing with contemporary literature, the reader will find out who was responsible for tying the Brown slaying with the Whitechapel murderer.
The earliest text that states that Jack the Ripper came to the United States and continued his murderous career with specific details is in The Trial of George Chapman by H. L. Adam. Published in 1930, this book is a study on multiple wife poisoner Severin Klosowski, also known as George Chapman. This Polish immigrant and later American Citizen was Frederick Abberline's top suspect as the man who murdered the prostitutes in the East End during the autumn of 1888.
Adam believed that Chapman (Klowsowski) was the murder because the Ripper murders began soon after his arrival in England and through out this time he worked as a Polish barber between 1888 to 1890 in the Whitechapel murders. He was also impressed by Severin Klowsowski as a suspect because he lived and worked in or throughout the murderer's "territory". He also believed that Klowsowski readily matched the description of the the man last known to be with her the night she died. Furthermore, Adam believes that Klosowski's use of American expressions and liked to pretend to be an American. Adams, by the way, believed that the Ripper (Klowsowski) was living in the East End and was responsible for Alice McKenzie's murder in July of 1889. Adam also claimed that Abberline was as impressed as himself with the skill the Ripper used his blade- which hurt Klowsowski's trial defense as he had been a trained as a sort of "battlefield" surgeon.
According to Adam, there were no Ripper or similar Ripper murders in England between 1891 and 1893, but that Ripper-like murders occurred in the Jersey City area after Klosowski and his wife moved there and began their barber shop. Jersey City is close to New York City and Klosowski may have been in the United States when Brown was murdered. Adam does not mention Carrie Brown, nor the fact that the murder took place in New York City. The purpose of studying Klowsowski as a suspect is beyond the scope of this article and will be addressed in a later one.
Careful research by many writers has established that no series of Ripper- like murders occurred in or around the New York City area when Klosowski was living there. If the Ripper murdered Carrie Brown, regardless of whether or not Klosowski was the Ripper, hers appears to have been a single death and not part of a series.
In 1932, writer Edwin M. Borchard rendered the first comprehensive review of the Brown murder in, "‘Frenchy' - Ameer Ben Ali," published in his book, Convicting the Innocent. Virtually every researcher of the Brown murder has read and used this article by Borchard since it was first published.
The main goal of this work was in looking at cases where innocent, or probably innocent men have been found guilty and punished for crimes they did not commit, and so the Ripper was not of primary concern to Borchard. His knowledge of the Ripper murders was not very good; for example he believed that the Ripper murdered nine women from December 1887 to January 1891. He also seems to believe that a cross was carved into each victim's corpse "the mark of the Ripper," as he called it. A different conception of this idea can be found in a contemporary fictional work about Brown's murder by W. B. Lawson titled Jack the Ripper in New York; or, Piping a Terrible Mystery. According to Lawson, the Ripper always scrawled a cross on a wall near the victim. Neither of these fanciful details is true.
Borchard does provide a basic account of the murder of Carrie Brown. Here we are given the basic, traditional about the case: A well-known former actress turned prostitute named Carrie Brown, also known as "Old Shakespeare" because of her fondness to quote the playwright when intoxicated, checked into the run down East River Hotel on the Manhattan waterfront, room 31, with a man described as blond, stocky, half her age, and having the look of a seafaring man. He was also carrying a pail of beer. The next morning the desk clerk found her strangled and mutilated remains. The key to the room was also missing. She had been murdered on the night of April 23-4, and an Algerian Frenchman named Ameer Ben Ali, was arrested for her murder. Known by the name "Frenchy," he too, was well known in the district. He often stayed at the Hotel and was in room 33 (which was across the hall) the night of the murder. He was, however, dark in coloring and not blond as was the man who had been with Brown when she checked in. The identity of this man has never been discovered, though the police believed that these were two different men. The police believed that after the unknown man left, Ali entered Brown's room from his own room across the hall, where he killed her then stole her money. He was first taken into custody, along with many others, for questioning. On the 26th some newspapers carried a statement that the police had announced that Ali was almost certainly a cousin of the killer. By the 29th, according to the papers, the investigation was still open and a detective in Jersey City informed the police in New York City that a rail road conductor was sure that the murderer had been aboard his train and gone to a town called Easton. Just what the reasons was for the conductor to make such a claim are not known. On April 30 Chief Police Inspector Thomas Byrnes (the city's highest ranking police officer) announced to some reporters that he was now satisfied that Ali had murdered Brown. Ali was tried, found guilty, and sentenced first to Sing Sing for life, but was later moved to the hospital for the criminally insane in Matteawan. In 1902 the Governor of the State of New York, Benjamin B. Odell, commuted Ali's sentence because of both new evidence and old evidence that had become discredited. His reason for commuting the sentence was based on information ferreted out by several journalists who had not been satisfied that the truth had come out at Ali's trial. They could show that much of the best evidence against him (blood stains found in the hall between Brown's room and Ali's, and in Ali's room) had actually been made by journalists and the coroner at the crime scene. They also believed that in light of Byrnes' statement made at the time of the Ripper murders in London that no such series of murders could happen in his city, the police felt pressured to solve the case within days as Byrnes had said that they would catch such murderers before a second murder could be carried out. There was also a report that a man who matched the description of Brown's companion, who had checked in with her at the East River Hotel, had disappeared from the farm he worked on the night of the murder. He left for good several days later and in his room was found a bloodstained shirt and a hotel key (which fitted the lock on Brown's room's door and matched the set of keys used by the hotel) with the label "31 on it," which was her room. The farm was in Cranford, New Jersey.
The sources for Borchard seem to have been the newspaper accounts only, which he said," Newspapers reported fully the testimony of each witness and the case was avidly followed by thousands." It is too bad that other sources were not used, or credited, if indeed, they were.
Did Ameer Ben Ali kill Carrie Brown? Possibly, as he was charged and later convicted of doing so; yet, the unfortunate Ali was found guilty based upon circumstantial evidence, contaminated and forged evidence, and that the jury delivered a verdict of second degree murder which surprised both Byrnes and the prosecution team. It is believed that it was a "compromise vote" between the jurors who believed him guilty and those who thought him innocent. Years later, primarily due to the work of some conscience journalists who uncovered new evidence and exposed that which was fraudulent, the Governor of the state pardoned the Algerian who then eventually returned to his home village in his native land. The identity of who killed Brown remains unknown, as does the killer of the women in the East End of London. If Ali wasn't the killer then could it have been Jack the Ripper? Let us now look at the particulars of Borchard's account to see if the question can be answered.
According to Borchard Carrie Brown was "a dissolute woman of sixty." She was a former actress who was nick named "Old Shakespeare" because she would quote the famous playwright when drunk. There was a connection between Brown and Ali before the murder. An acquaintance of Brown named Mary Ann Lopez stated that a man known as "Frenchy" was often seen in the area. Ali was known by that name (as many others were) and supposedly fit the description of the man who checked into the hotel with Brown on the night of her murder, Ali was rounded up for questioning. Brown and Ali knew each other, and some prostitutes said the two had actually shared the murder room a week earlier. Although noticeably older than the known Ripper victims, she was a prostitute and may have been intoxicated as had nearly all of the London East End victims had been. Also, Mary Kelly was noticeably younger than the average Whitechapel murder victim. Nothing of what Borchard has written about Brown can disprove she was a Ripper victim but he provides very little personal information about the woman and none of this proves that Jack the Ripper killed her either.
The murder site is of interest as it was both a hotel and a saloon. Located on the corner of Catherine Slip and Water streets, the East River Hotel was known as a "bawdy resort." Such a location offers both advantages and disadvantages for a would be murderer. The Hotel provided both easily available victims and a place for privacy; on the other hand, the murderer would be seen and possibly be identified by the hotel "regulars." In fact they along with the clerk could provide a good description of the man who checked in with Brown. The murderer faced another problem in that he would provide a sample of his handwriting by signing the register book. The man who checked in with Brown signed the register "C. Knick." This man may have murdered Brown, but if he did he took many risks; if C. Knick killed Carrie Brown, he was not Jack the Ripper. I do not know if the East End had similar facilities but if so it is irrelevant because the Ripper seems to have picked his victims from off the street. This is in keeping with the behavior of what we call today the organized sexual serial killer. He does not want attention drawn to himself. In London, the Ripper may have met some of his victims in public places, but if he did, he did not accost them until they had left the pubs probably at different times. When the clerk went to kick out Brown, most of the hotel was already vacant. Perhaps the killer knew when the clerk would come around in the morning and could have planned his crime accordingly.
The Brown case was similar to the Kelly one in several ways. The murder occurred indoors in a private room, the body was found by someone sent to collect the rent money (or kick out the one night renters). The murder weapon was found at the scene of the crime, and in both cases the door to the room was locked and the key missing. Recently in an issue of the quarterly publication, Ripperana, editor Nick Warren (who is also a practicing surgeon/doctor) wrote that after seeing the recently recovered second Kelly crime scene photograph, he could state professionally that a knife was not the weapon used on the right leg. Despite strength or sharpness, the bone could not have been so neatly split down by a knife. He believes that a hatchet was used and notes from a newspaper article written at the time that of the objects found in Kelly's room, one of them was a hatchet. Nick Warren believes that this was one if not the sole weapon used on Kelly. If the Ripper did in fact leave his murder weapon at the scene of Kelly's murder, then we can't rule out the killer of Carrie Brown as the Ripper because he left his knife at the scene.
Carrie Brown had been strangled, then savagely slashed with a filed-down cooking knife. Borchard reports that a cross had been cut into her thigh, which was what he believed had been done to all of the London Ripper murder victims, and the knife lay on the floor beside the bed.
Here is what happened according to Borchard.
Carrie Brown and a man who signed the register "C. Knick" checked into The East River Hotel at 11:00 P.M. on April 23, 1891 and given room 31. Brown may have requested that particular room as she had stayed in it a week earlier. Eddie Harrington, described as the night clerk and who was the one to discover Brown's remains the next morning, is not specifically named as the man who checked Brown and her companion in.See above for the description of "Knick."
Eddie Harrington went to room 31 to empty it out as it was his duty to do so. The hotel was all but vacant at 9:00 A.M. when he lightly tapped on the door. After repeated and louder knocks on the door, Harrington used his master key to unlock the door. Upon opening the door, he immediately saw the mutilated remains of Carrie Brown.
The night clerk rushed to call the police and spread word of what he had seen.
When the police came they were accompanied by members of the press and the coroner who immediately took charge of the body.
The next day, April 25, some New York newspapers printed headlines that read "Jack the Ripper" had arrived in this city to carry on his gruesome deeds.
Some papers carried stories that the Ripper had come as a direct challenge against from Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes who had said that a series of murders like those committed in Whitechapel could not happen in his City, and if such a murder occurred, the miscreant would be "in the jug" within 36 hours after murdering his victim.
Mr. "Knick," the blond seafaring man with the bucket of beer was never apprehended though the police searched for him all along the waterfront. He was never seen again.
Ali was rounded up for questioning along with others on or around the 24th. He was not blond but a brunette, but seemed to fit the description otherwise of the mysterious "C. Knick." He claimed that he could not speak English, and it took sometime before the police found an interpreter for his native tongue which was Algerian Arabic. It was through this translator that the police learned his name and nationality.
On April 25, one day after the murder, Ali was an official suspect.
The following day newspapers carried police statements stating that Ali was "probably implicated for being a cousin of the murderer."
On April 29, the newspapers were stating that the police still had no idea of whom the killer was. At or around this time, Detective Kilcauley from Jersey City contacted the New York City Police department that a train conductor was positive that the murderer had been on his train and had been taken to the town of Easton. No further information was provided. Why the conductor and later the detective suspected Brown's murderer of being on a train to Easton is not known. If so, could it have been "Frenchy," "C. Knick," or a totally different suspect?
Chief Inspector Byrnes told some reporters that he now believed Ali had murdered Brown and that he had a complete case against him. Ali (known as Frenchy No.1, to distinguish him from the other's using that nick name) was arraigned before Judge Martine and officially booked for murder. On the following day Ali was moved to the "Tombs." Because he could not afford one, Ali was given the Court appointed counsel of Levy, House and Friend.
The police decided that "Frenchy" was not "C. Knick," the man who had checked into the hotel with Carrie. They stated that he not only stayed at the same hotel that night. He was in room 33 directly across the hall from Brown's. Their scenario was that Ali entered Brown's room sometime after "C. Knick" had left. He then murdered, robbed and returned to his own room after killing and mutilating Brown's body.
According to Byrnes and the State prosecutors, his evidence rested on several things.
First there was a trail of blood droplets that led from Room 31 (Brown's) and Room 33 (Ali's), there was also blood on both sides of the door leading into Ali's room, a chair in that room and on the bed tick (there were no sheets on the bed), and on the blanket. Byrnes believed that the blood stains found on both sides of the door indicated that someone had pushed the door open with bloody fingers and then closed it from the other side. The Chief Inspector also said blood was found on Ali's socks and under his finger nail scrapings. A Doctor Formand was the prosecution's main expert on the evidence. He stated that all the blood samples that he had examined, all from the places listed above, contained food elements which indicated they all came from Carrie Brown's abdominal wounds. Two other doctors, Austin Flint and Cyrus Edson, corroborated Formand's testimony.
Ali had a criminal record. He had served time in the Queens County Jail during March and April of that year for vagrancy. David Galloway and Edward Smith were serving time in the Jail while Ali was there, testified that Frenchy had a knife like the one found at the Brown crime scene.
The Prosecution called various witnesses who painted Ali as having lead a sordid life, who often stayed at the East River Hotel, and was known to wander from room to room at night.
The rest of the evidence against Ali included that a tallow candle had been burned for more than an hour in Ali's room showing that he was waiting up for some reason, and that he had been seen "slinking" out of the hotel in a "guilty" manner at around five that morning.
Medical experts believed that the substances found in the blood samples did not mean that they all came from the intestinal wounds, but did agree that Formand was at the top of his class in his profession and that they had the highest regard for his work. The explanation of how blood came to be on Ali's socks and under his finger nails was proven to be false.
As for the knife, Constable James R. Hiland testified that Ali had no knife when he was arrested in Queen's County, thereby refuting Galloway's and Smith's testimony that Ali had such a knife in jail with him.
The defense team also did a good job of thoroughly attacking the credibility of the witnesses that had questioned Ali's character.
The trial was a short one. It had begun on June 24, 1891, with another Algerian-Frenchman from Ali's home village acting as interpreter before Recorder Smyth. Initially Assistant District Attorneys Wellman and Simms represented the State, and also Byrnes and four other police officers. On July 1, District Attorney Nicoll himself took charge of the case and it was he who brought in Dr. Formand as an expert for the defense. This is somewhat surprising since the Defense began its argument the following day, July 2. The defense team did a good job in that Ali was convicted of second degree murder, rather than murder in the first degree. The verdict was something of a surprise for the prosecution and police, when it was handed down on July 10 and sent Ali to Sing Sing prison for life. Actually, Ali may have been acquitted had he not taken the witness stand himself. He performed poorly; although a translator was called to help with the questioning, it appeared that he did understand English perfectly well sometimes, and was repeatedly tangled up on cross examination. When asked whether he murdered Carrie Brown, Ali jumped to his feet even before the translation was completed to him, and screamed: "I am innocent. I am innocent. Allah il Allah (God is God.) I am innocent. Allah Akbar (God is great.) I am innocent. O Allah, help me. Allah save me. I implore Allah to help me."
Soon after being sent to Sing Sing, Ali was transferred to a hospital for the criminally insane at Matteawan. While he was going through all this, work was being done to get him free. Some journalists who had been assigned to follow the case from the beginning, such as Jacob A. Riis and Charles Edward Russell, began to investigate on their own as they were convinced that the truth had not been uncovered and would never be until the mysterious "C. Knick" was tracked down and interviewed. The police do not seem to have tried to find this important witness/suspect which seemed strange as no one had been charged for the murder of Brown for more than five days.
Borchard does not fully explain what these journalists actually uncovered but does write that Governor Benjamin Odell pardoned Ali after receiving "new evidence recently discovered." Borchard writes the following but is not clear about what his sources were. There were persistent rumors from seafaring men that the murderer had quietly gone to the sea. Such rumors were never proved. It was established that a man resembling "C.Knick" had been working on a farm in Cranford, New Jersey several weeks before the Brown murder. He was not in Cranford on the night of the murder and vanished entirely several days later. Found in this man's room after his departure was a blood stained shirt and a Brass key with "31" on it that matched the set of keys used at the East River Hotel. The key to Room 31 was missing, presumed to have been taken by her killer after leaving the body. Borchard writes that no evidence linked Ali with the missing key.
Odell received several affidavits from disinterested people, whom the Governor described as "persons of credit, some of whom had experience in the investigation of crime." These "creditable witnesses claimed to have been at the crime scene before the coroner had arrived and said there had been no blood in the hallway between rooms 31 and 33, nor on the outside doors of either room. These witnesses implied that the blood stains, which were found by the police the day after the murder, were probably the results of the removing of the body by the coroner and the journalists that were there when Brown's body was being examined and then moved. Police testimony records clearly state that there had been no blood on the door knob or lock of room 31. This was important because the police scenario was that the killer had used the key to unlock, open, and then relock the door after killing Carrie Brown.
With all of this new evidence, and other not explained by Borchard, Odell pardoned Ali and that the French government would provide transportation for him back to his native village in Algeria.
The case of Ali was clearly a weak one and that Odell had no choice but to commute the Algerian-Frenchman's sentence based upon all of the "new evidence," even if it is not all true. Ali may or may not have killed Brown, though I think he did not. Often it is the questions not looked at or the clues not followed up that make the case against Ali weak.
Borchard believes that the police did a rush job because Byrnes had publicly said that the Ripper could not get away with committing a series of murders in his city, New York. From what I've learned about Thomas Byrnes (who will be examined in a later article), this is a serious consideration. Also the police did not appear to have tried very hard to find C. Knick, the man who had checked into the hotel with Brown. The police never tried to account for the missing key to room 31. The blood stains in the hallway and on the doors were not there when Eddie Harrington found Brown's body, making him the first witness of the crime scene. How the blood stains became found later is not known, but it does appear to have been deliberate. The testimony of the blood found on Ali was very vague, and many reporters believed there was none on him, or if there was, it had nothing to do with case. The opinions made the experts often contradicted itself and seem (according to Borchard) to be untrustworthy. The jury convicted Ali of second degree murder rather than first degree which seems to have shocked both the Prosecution and the police. Ali's defensive lawyers lacked the funds and resources to track down C. Knick. Finally, evidence from credible and disinterested parties volunteered to provide information that seriously undermined the case against Ali.
In this, his book of memoirs, former Detective-sergeant Benjamin C. Leeson states that he thought that the Ripper was George Chapman. He vaguely remembered Chapman going to America where more Ripper-like murders occurred. The highly respected and authoritative author/researcher Donald Rumbelow has stated that he found Leeson's memoirs to be very inaccurate and virtually useless for a researcher. They published these memoirs in 1934.
Six years after The Trial of George Chapman was published Edmund Pearson would refute many of Adam's allegations in his book, More Studies in Murder. He found that a series of Ripper-like murders had not been committed in the Jersey area when Klosowski lived and worked there as a barber. He did discover that a murder in New York City, which was so similar to the Jack the Ripper murders, that some newspapers had published editions with headlines asking if the Ripper had come to America.
Although Pearson does not use the victim's name, opting instead to use her nickname, "Old Shakespeare," he is clearly referring to Carrie Brown. He describes her as a "wretched woman" who was murdered in a waterfront hotel by an Algerian known as "Frenchy," who was later found insane and allowed to return to Europe or Africa ten years later. New York City is close to Jersey city and Pearson does agree with Adam that Klosowski was living there at the time of Old Shakespeare's murder.
Like his predecessors, Pearson's knowledge about the London Ripper murders was not very good. According to him, those murders ended in London in 1891-2. Pearson used Adam's book and found additional information from other sources that he does not cite. He does not seem to have read Borchard's article, and he may have been the first researcher to investigate whether or not other Ripper-like murders took place in the New York-New Jersey area.
An anthology of Ripper fiction and nonfiction edited by Allan Barnard, this book reprints Borchard's and Pearson's writings about Jack the Ripper.
This book by Donald McCormick was first published in 1959 and then revised in 1970. Unfortunately McCormick has lost the research files he collected for writing this book, so the reader and researcher must be careful when using his material because McCormick cannot name all the sources he used. We do know that for his research into the Carrie Brown murder he used both Lost London by Benjamin Leeson and More Studies in Murder by Edmund Pearson.
Reports continued to arrive at Scotland Yard from around the world claiming that the Ripper was at work in their countries. Reports from Tunis, Paris, St. Petersburg and the United States sent in reports of similar murders that had occurred between the years 1886 and 1894. Some were without any foundation and others were carefully investigated but later rejected. On January 15, 1889, a newspaper report from Tunis claimed that the Ripper had been tracked down to that city. The French Police had rounded up a gang of bandits and assassins including an Englishman named Alfred Gray, who matched the description of Jack the Ripper established by the Metropolitan Police. Gray was later cleared of suspicion.
According to McCormick, it was beliefed by some authorities, after the Kelly murder, that the Ripper had been an American. The chief of the New York police department is alleged to have gone to Britain where he informed the Metropolitan Police that Ripper-like murders had taken place in the state of Texas and in Jersey City. Because of this visit, Abberline and his colleagues spent 1889 to 1892 seriously investigating Americans that had lived in Britain at the time of the London murders. This is interesting because it does seem to corroborate some of the information provided by earlier writers such as Logan and Adam. McCormick has stated that no further murders were committed in the United States by the beginning of 1892 after he returned to Britain in 1891.
It is Adam, asserts McCormick, who specifically stated that Ripper-like murders occurred in the Jersey City area and not Leeson. He notes that Leeson believed that George Chapman (Sevren Klowsowski) was the Ripper for various reasons, including that there were a dozen or so Ripper murders that happened in London between 1888-1890, and that more took place in the United States while and where he lived there; however, McCormick notes that Leeson was offering an opinion based on vague memories from long ago and not that he knew that Chapman was the murderer as a fact. Indeed, Leeson himself admits that he had no actual data to support his opinion. He believed that Klosowski returned in 1891 the same year as Coles was murdered. Furthermore Leeson never said where the American Ripper crimes had taken place, nor who the victims were.
McCormick's most significant contribution to this case was his thorough search for other Ripper murders in the United States. He did so by going over police records and consulting with other criminal historians in the Country. McCormick found only one murder that was similar to the ones committed by Jack the Ripper. It had happened in Jersey City, and he found no others between 1890 and 1893.
His hard work presents new problems. First, he seems more keen on disproving that Klowsowski was the Ripper rather than being an impartial researcher. McCormick has stated that no further murders were committed in the United States by the beginning of 1892 after Klowowski had returned to Britain in 1891. Secondly, and more importantly, just who was this one and only possible Ripper victim that he had discovered? If this was a reference to Carrie Brown how did she end up being murdered in Jersey City rather than in New York on the Manhattan water front? This is a significant problem since he had examined the records of other law enforcement agencies and had interviewed other crime historians to primarily find out if additional similar crimes had taken place in or near Jersey City. McCormick has stated that no further murders similar to the Ripper's were committed in the United States by the beginning of 1892, after Klowsowski returned to Britain in 1892. Why did he come to believe that the murder took place in Jersey City rather than in New York's Manhattan? Leeson only said it was thought that the Ripper went to America and continued to kill prostitutes, but he never specified where. It was Adam who wrote with certainty that the murder took place in Jersey City.
McCormick read the Vanity Fair version (September 1933) of Pearson's Ripper work and used it to further refute the claim that Klowsowski was the Ripper. Pearson, too, carried out extensive research and was only able to find one murder similar to that of the Ripper's. He also joined in the chorus that the victim was murdered in Jersey City.
What is the source for all of this confusion? Carrie Brown was murdered in a nasty hotel room on the Manhattan waterfront. More complexing is that in many cases the details ascribed to the Jersey victim square with the Brown murder details, and plainly indicates that these were not two different victims but only one. So why does Jersey City float above the horizon?
If McCormick, other journalists and even high ranking police officers, (such as the Chief of the New York Police department who allegedly went to Scotland Yard and reported Ripper activities in the New World), believed that this single Ripper-like murder happened in a different town from where we know the murder actually did take place, why is the murder always and continually being associated with Jersey City? The obvious reason is that Jersey City is where a known Jack the Ripper suspect lived when the Brown murder took place, a murder that was like the kind the Ripper would commit.
So, if McCormick didn't think there were other Ripper-like murders in America outside the one in Jersey City, why does he note that the chief of the New York Police went to Great Britain to discuss Ripper murders that had happened in Texas and in New Jersey? McCormick believed that Pearson's article was the sole basis for the American Ripper connection. Because Pearson wrote that "Old Shakespeare" was presumably a prostitute (which McCormick believed Pearson got from newspaper clippings), and that the murder was so similar to those committed by the "real" Ripper, the American press coverage provided an "echo" that resounded back to England and provided a reason for why the British public believed in the rumor that the Ripper had left their country for the New World.
Both the New York Police Department and the Metropolitan Police have not answered my inquiries on whether the chief of the New York Police department ever visited Scotland Yard and made the statements and allegations recounted here.
This book by Robin Odell was first published in 1965 and pages 128-133 of that edition contains material about the Brown murder. His main source of information was Borchard's article.
He reports that American living in London were kept under surveillance from 1890 to 1892 because of Ripper-like murders committed from Texas to Jersey City.
Odell reports, like some of his predecessors, the story that Inspector Byrnes and his detectives were under a lot of pressure to solve the case because of Byrnes' remarks that no series of Ripper murders could ever happen in New York. The Inspector had stated that they would have caught such a person within hours - certainly before a second murder could happen. Also like his predecessors, he described Brown as a "drunken wretch" and was familiar with all the waterfront dives. Odell is the first non-contemporary writer to reveal the real name of "Old Shakespeare"- Carrie Brown.
As for the crime scene Odell wrote that Brown had been strangled and savagely slashed with a filed down cooking knife. The body was on the floor of Room 31, and some reports stated that a cross had been carved into her thigh. This, according to Odell, was significant because some believed this to be the mark of the Ripper. The knife was found under the bed.
Soon after they had discovered the murder, the Police arrested Ameer Ben Ali, an Algerian-Frenchman who, supposedly, could not speak English (which caused the Police some difficulty in learning his name), and was well-known in the area under the name "Frenchy." Odell repeats Borchard when he wrote that the police believed Ali was Brown's murderer by April 30, but does not include the beliefs of the police during the days between April 25 and the 30th.
Ali never confessed to being the murder; indeed, he protested his innocence throughout his trial later that summer. The jury found him guilty of second degree murder, and on July 10, 1891, they sentenced him to prison for life. Later, he was admitted to a hospital for the criminally insane. Later new evidence was uncovered and Ali was eventually allowed to return to Algeria.
The "new" evidence was the discovery that another man, who was known to be in Brown's company, was seen near the crime scene on the night of the murder. This man was never seen again, though the police later found a bloodstained shirt and a key that fit the lock of Room 31. Unlike Borchard, Odell does not link this "mystery man" with the one who checked into the hotel with Brown on the night of her murder. This is interesting since Borchard was a principal source of information he used when he wrote his book.
Odell wrote: "Clearly the police were satisfied that ‘Frenchy' was not Jack the Ripper, and the man involved by the new evidence was never traced." He does not write when the police decided that Ali was not the Ripper, before or after the new evidence came to light.
A book written by Fred Archer and published in 1970. The Warders of the infamous New York Jail, "The Tombs" believed that Ali was the Ripper and had murdered a waterfront prostitute. Archer does not make it clear whether this view was held by the Warders when Ali was in their custody, or if that view was held by the Warders when he wrote his book. Also, according to Archer, Ali was bearded.
Again, he does not state when Ali was bearded - before or after he arrived at the tombs. He did not have a beard when Brown was murdered.
Written by Donald Rumbelow, this excellent book mentions H.L. Adam's belief that a series of Ripper-like murders happened near Jersey City when George (Sevrin Klosowski) Chapman lived there. Like all those before them, Rumbelow dismisses this false claim. He wrote that only one such murder took place, and that was in New York City. Carrie Brown, a.k.a. "Old Shakespeare" was knifed and mutilated in April 1891.
A great reference book by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner. In the 1994 revised paperback addition, the authors write that George (Sevrin Klosowski) Chapman left England at Whitsun 1890, and returned there from New Jersey in late spring or early summer, 1891. The authors were, like their earlier colleagues, refuting the belief that a series of Ripper-like crimes took place near the New York/New Jersey area while Chapman lived there.
However, it is interesting that had Chapman been Brown's murderer, the timing for when he returned to England may explain why a series of murders did not occur.
Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey, authors of this work, present us with a recently discovered suspect that has ties with New York. Francis Tumblety, a quack physician and misanthrope, was arrested soon after the Kelly murder, but fled to the United States after posting bail. A group of officers from the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) pursued him to Canada and then on into New York. There is no doubt that he was a legitimate suspect at the time and that the Metropolitan Police believed that Tumblety may have been Jack the Ripper.
Francis Tumblety almost certainly was not Jack the Ripper and unfortunately for the Brown case, he left England in December 1888 and fled from New York City soon after arriving there. Had he arrived in 1891, then the case for him killing Brown would be strengthened. A look at Police activities following their pursuit of Tumblety to the new world shows that they no longer believed Tumblety was their man. This change of mind happened soon after they arrived in New York. John George Littlechild, who wrote in a letter to journalist G. R. Sims, was the only police officer to suggest Tumblety may have been the Whitechapel murderer. The case was not closed nor did the Police let up on their investigation after Tumblety was arrested and chased to North America. Following the murders of Alice McKenzie, July 1889, and Frances Coles, 1891, the Police questioned whether the Ripper was responsible for the murders. If they believed Tumblety was the Ripper then there would have been no reason to wonder if the Ripper had killed again.
Besides the newspapers of that era, Evans and Gainey used Guy Logan's book, Masters of Crime as a source for their research. They speculate that perhaps the Ripper was an early example of the international serial killer and that after possibly killing Brown in New York City, he went on to Jamaica and then Managua. According to Logan the police chief of Managua contacted the Metropolitan Police and reported that the Ripper was now in Central America.
None of Logan's assertions have been corroborated or proven with evidence. While Evans and Gainey speculate that Tumblety might have been the man Logan wrote about, there is no evidence that he was, or that such a man existed at all.
Was Tumblety the Ripper? No, or at least the Metropolitan Police were convinced he wasn't.
Did he murder Carrie Brown? I cannot give a definitive answer because no one knows where he was on the night of April 23. However, no series of Ripper-like murders occurred in places Tumblety is known to have lived. I can find no reason (much less evidence) that his arrival in New York in 1888 connects him to the Brown murder nearly two years later. Serial killers, though they may cease their crimes for a time, do not stop killing of their own volition. If Tumblety was a serial killer then there would be additional murders committed near wherever he was currently calling home. If he was not a serial killer, and Brown was the victim of a serial killer then he didn't kill her. If Brown was not a serial killer victim then there isn't any reason for believing that he even knew her much less killed her.
The Complete History of Jack the Ripper
This excellent book by Philip Sugden contains the best overview of the Brown murder by any author on the Ripper. The sources he used were contemporary newspapers, Borchard's article, and the papers of Gov. Benjamin B. Odell, Jr., who was the governor that released Ali and allowed him to return to Algeria.
Much of what he wrote has already been looked at. The reader is encouraged to read Sugden's book for a good study of the basic facts. Here we will look at those facts and points of interest not mentioned by earlier accounts.
Mary Miniter, the assistant housekeeper, was the only witness who saw the man that checked into the hotel with Carrie Brown. She also said that she did not get a good look at the man and that he seemed concerned about being seen. This seems to contradict Borchard who wrote in his account that several hotel "hang-abouts" gave the police a description of the man. This is significant because the descriptions do not match. Here is a comparison of the two.
Which of the two is the more accurate? Is either of them accurate? The question cannot be answered at this time. The Miniter account is much more detailed and a name is given to the witness, but by her own admission she did not get a good look at the man. How did she give such a detailed description then? It seems more likely that the "hang-abouts" did in fact give the police a more reliable description of the unknown man.
Odell reported that Brown's body was lying on the floor; Sugden, the bed. Harrington (according to Borchard) immediately saw the body when he opened the door with his pass key. Without a schematic of the room it is not possible to determine which is correct, but if Borchard is correct it would seem that she was on the floor.
Sugden reports that Brown was naked from the arm pits down. Not unlike Mary Kelly?
Sugden does provide the best coverage on Brown's wounds. He reports:
1) descriptions of the wounds were not relayed by the press in great detail;
2) there were cuts and stabs all over Brown's lower trunk;
3) an attempt had been made to entirely cut out the abdomen--according to Dr. Jenkins who did the autopsy;
4) Jenkins believed that the killer failed to remove the whole abdomen because of his rage and Brown's struggling; and,
5) Jenkins changed his opinion at the trial of Ali, deciding that Brown had been strangled first and then mutilated after death.
This is important. Just how good was this Dr. Jenkins, to have officially written (at the time of the autopsy) that Brown was alive and struggling while her assailant cut her open and attempted to remove the abdomen? Brown would have been screaming murder! If her throat had been cut, death would have been nearly instantaneous. Not only would she not be able to cry out, she could not have been struggling. Apparently, Jenkins failed to detect that she had been strangled first. Because her throat had been cut, marks of strangulation may have been hard to see. This was the case with known Ripper victim Kelly. The doctors who performed her autopsy gave testimony in court that they could not prove or disprove that Kelly had been strangled. They maintained their position consistently from the completion of the autopsy to when they gave their opinion (based solely on the evidence of they obtained from the post mortem) and did not alter their opinions later at the inquest. These doctors appear to have been professional enough to state what they learned from examining Kelly's remains, and did not consider any other evidence from other sources because it was outside their field of expertise. It is the job of the police and lawyers to do the piecing together of all the evidence from the various witnesses. The reason or reasons that caused Jenkins to change his opinion is not stated. Whatever his reason(s) Jenkins must not have had much confidence in the autopsy he performed.
Sugden provides the best description yet of the murder weapon. The knife, found on the floor of room 31, was a black-handled table-knife, the blade ground or broken to a sharp point, and had blood on it.
The police are not known to have believed the Ripper was the person responsible for the murder. It was the press that speculated the Whitechapel Murderer had come to the United States and had killed Carrie Brown. Inspector Byrnes, head of the detectives, had received a letter 18 months earlier, dated "hell," and signed "Jack the Ripper."
The man who was with Brown when she checked in was never traced. Ali occupied the room across from Brown's the night she was murdered. Ali defended himself by pointing out that his moustaches were pathetic and the ones on the man who checked in with Brown were "Luxurious." He was convicted of killing her in July 1891. The police believed that the first man left Brown, and that Ali went to her room afterwards. He then robbed and murdered Carrie before returning to his room.
The police thought this was an accurate account of what happened based on blood stain evidence. These stains were found in both rooms, the hallway between them, and on both sides of the door to Ali's room.
Ali was released from prison eleven years later by Governor Benjamin Odell and allowed to return to Algeria after the Governor received information that the blood stains found outside room 31 had been found after the police, coroner, and press had gone over the crime scene.
No one was ever tried for the murder after Ali, but a new suspect for the murder emerged in 1901. His name has never been stated. He was a Danish farmhand, missing on the night of the murder from his home in Cranford, New Jersey. This unnamed man returned the following day, but quit his job several days later without giving notice. His boss stated that after the mystery man left, he found a blood stained shirt and a key like those used at the East River Hotel in the man's room. This employer is the only source for this information. He told this story to reporters ten years after he claimed to have found the shirt and key.
Whether George (Sevren Klosowski) Chapman could have been Brown's killer, Sugden has narrowed the dates for when he was in New York and in Whitechapel at the time. According to the English census, Chapman was still living in Whitechapel (in the Tewkesbury Buildings) on April 5, 1891. Sugden postulates that news of his son's illness and eventual death in March may have been the reason for why Chapman returned to New York. He may have traveled to New York by the 23/4 of April, but it would have been a close thing. One would assume that Chapman would have taken the time to know his killing ground first before he began to take lives--especially if he made the squalid waterfront of New York City his killing ground. He resided in New Jersey so he would have had to commute to kill Brown. It seems unlikely that Chapman would have had enough time to know lower Manhattan well enough to begin killing there if he was, in fact, the Ripper. Sugden also reports that the press began speculating that the Ripper came to New York at the same time Chapman arrived.
Sugden, noting that Chapman became Abberline's top suspect, adds that it is not known if the Brown murder and Chapman's possible presence in New York at the same time had anything to do with him becoming an important suspect.
After reviewing all of the post contemporary literature about the murder of Carrie Brown, few points stick out.
First, little to no research has been done outside the contemporary newspaper accounts. Many writers have not even done that, but have used Borchard's article instead. Philip Sugden is one exception to this rule. He used Governor O'Dell's papers when he wrote about the Brown murder.
The second noticeable thing is that no series of murders took place in New York; the tale of a series of Ripper-like crimes in the Jersey City area is a myth. Somehow, this myth got tangled up with the Brown murder, but these alleged crimes never took place. The connection seems suspect George (Sevren Klosowski) Chapman, who lived briefly in Jersey City around the time of Brown's murder. Although the exact dates for when he left England and arrived in the United States is not known, we do know that it was sometime after early April as Evans and Gainey discovered from the census reports in England. Whether he arrived in the New World before the Brown murder is virtually academic; more important is that, whatever the date, Chapman would not have had the time to acclimate himself in lower Manhattan. While there is some debate on whether the Ripper knew the East End of London intimately or not, no one argues that he was a total stranger to the area. If Chapman was the Ripper and the murderer of Carrie Brown, and if he operated like serial killers do in our own time, then Chapman should have become well acquainted with the area he chose to continue with the work he began in Whitechapel. This, of course, is not proof, but it makes his case for being Brown's murderer even weaker.
So, did Jack the Ripper, after stopping his killing in The East End for a number of years, come to America and commit a single murder here - the murder of Carrie Brown to be exact? I don't know. Ali was clearly not her murderer, and there is no proof that the man she was with when she checked into the hotel was her killer either. Chapman seems more and more unlikely, but the unnamed farm hand from Cranford, while a good candidate for Brown's assailant, does not resemble descriptions of the Ripper.
Does the crime scene offer more information than these suspects? Yes, perhaps so, but most of the information comes from newspaper articles and not "official" documents. In part one of this report is a review of Borchard's article. The reader is encouraged to read it since it covers the basic crime scene information, and to write up additional information gathered from the other articles would almost be repetitive. I have never liked reinventing the wheel.
I find nothing in any of the accounts of Brown's murder and mutilations that would rule out the possibility that Jack the Ripper may have killed her. The various "crosses" described as being carved into the corpse were not there. It seems a distinctly American point-of-view that the Ripper was some sort of "morals" champion out to destroy "fallen" women, and left his "mark" so all would know who killed these women and why. Though in a hotel rather than in an apartment, Brown's crime scene seems perfectly suitable for a Ripper murder. As for the knife, again I have no objection that the Ripper could have used one similar to the one used on Brown. The Ripper did use different instruments and if he had been in jail or an asylum for the years between Kelly's murder and Brown's, it seems unlikely he would still have the instruments he used in Whitechapel. The blade, filed down and sharpened, is similar in shape and dimensions to ones the Ripper used in the East End.
On the other hand there are some real problems in accepting that the Ripper was responsible for killing Carrie Brown. Evans and Gainey have speculated that the Ripper may have been the most dangerous type of serial killer - the ones that travel. According to some experts on Jack the Ripper and criminal profiling, the Whitechapel Murderer was a local man who killed his victims close to his home. No one has confirmed any of the rumors of additional series' of Ripper killings elsewhere after or before the East End murders. And, if Jack the Ripper killed Brown, why were there no other murders?
A review of the literature does not get us far. None of the questions have been answered and so we must move on to find the answers elsewhere.