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Unmasking Jack the Ripper
"Perhaps the best Jack the Ripper documentary produced in recent years." North American and European DVD formats both available.
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 A Ripperoo Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperoo, the flagship magazine of the Australian Cloak and Dagger Club. For more information, view our Ripperoo page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperoo for permission to reprint this article.
DID THE POLICE KNOW WHO ‘JACK’ WAS?
By Julian Rosenthal.

It’s unfortunate that several authors have claimed to establish the identity by pure conjecture and unsubstantiated ‘facts’. One such author is Stephen Knight, who in his book: ‘Jack the Ripper - The Final Solution’ claims that it is common knowledge that somewhere in Scotland Yard, secretly hidden away, is a file written by police officers in the know that names the perpetrator of the murders. Furthermore, he claims that he had an interview with a high ranking Scotland Yard official, (who cannot be named), who gave him hand written notes from another official, (who’s identity must also remain secret), although he fails to mention who this suspect was.

Other writers have also made similar claims, but have failed to provide the goods. In my opinion there only several documents written by police of the time, that can’t be taken with any seriousness. The most famous of these being ‘The Macnaghten Memoranda,’ in which Sir Melville Leslie Macnaghten (pictured above) cites Ostrog, Druitt and Kosminski as being the prime suspects: * Michael Ostrog has long been discredited with any participation in the Whitechapel murders, as he was probably in jail or an insane asylum at the time. * Macnaghten’s second suspect was Montague John Druitt, a solicitor and school teacher who was found drowned in the Thames River a month after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly at Millers Court. It was found that his body had been immersed for about a month. The story goes, that if he was the killer his brain gave way all together and he committed suicide. Macnaghten contends that he did this the day after Kelly’s murder, because he couldn’t cope with the deeds he’d committed. * Macnaghten’s third suspect was a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski. Kosminski was noted by Macnaghten as a man who had become insane due to his persistence in indulging in solitary vices, (namely masturbation). Macnaghten also ascribed Kosminski to being Jack the Ripper, because he claimed that Kosminski had a great hatred of women and was also possessed with strong homicidal tendencies. These personality traits were to lead Kosminski to be incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, around March 1889 and later supposedly being identified as Jack the Ripper by one of the witnesses to the crimes.

Another high ranking police officer of the time, was Dr. Robert Anderson (pictured above) Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1841 and as ‘Assistant Commissioner of the CID’, (between 6 October 1888 and 1892 when the Ripper file was officially closed), he formulated his own ideas as to who Jack was. Before the murder of ‘Polly’ Nichols, he took holidays and went to Switzerland on sick leave, not returning till after the occasion of the ‘double event’.

His memoirs were written in 1910 and were titled: ‘The Lighter Side of My Official Life’. They were published in serial form in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’. Anderson wrote: ‘One did not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to discover that the criminal was a sexual maniac of a virulent type; that he was living in the immediate vicinity of the scenes of the murders, and that if he was not living absolutely alone, his people knew of his guilt and refused to give him up to justice’. In conclusion to Anderson’s musings, he states: ‘….I will only add that when the individual whom we suspected was caged in an asylum, the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer at once identified him, but when he learned that the suspect was a fellow Jew, he declined to swear to him’. To all intents and purposes, Anderson was clearly alluding to Kosminski as the Whitechapel murderer and either Schwartz or Lawende as being his witness. (More of Anderson’s witness a bit later.)

Another prominent policeman at the time, was Chief Inspector John Littlechild (Pictured above), who joined the MET in 1867 and became head of the ‘Special Branch’, between 1883 and 1893. In 1913, Littlechild wrote the now famous: ‘Littlechild Letter’ to journalist George Sims. In this letter, Littlechild claims that a ‘Dr. T’ was responsible for the murders. In an apparent conversation, Littlechild overheard a “Dr. D” mentioned as a suspect. In his letter to Sims, he quotes: ‘I never heard of a Dr. in connection with the Whitechapel murders, but amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one, was a Dr. T. (which sounds much like D). He was an American quack named Tumblety and was at one time a frequent visitor to London and on these occasions constantly brought under the notice of police, there being a large dossier concerning him at Scotland Yard’.

So now we have three of the highest ranking police offering their beliefs as to who Jack the Ripper was. A fourth official to promote a suspect, was Inspector Frederick George Abberline (pictured next), who was the ‘Metropolitan Police Inspector’ in charge of detectives on the ground at the time of the murders. Abberline suggested that the killer was one Severin Klosowski, alias George Chapman, who had recently been convicted of murder. In a missive he wrote to Sir Melville Macnaghten, he stated: ‘I have been so struck with the remarkable coincidences in the two series of murders, that I have not been able to think of anything else for several days past.’ It must be noted that this suggestion was not written until some fifteen years after the Whitechapel murders, and that they were made in response to interviews which Abberline gave in 1903 and contradicted by Sims. However, the induction of Severin Klosowski as a Ripper candidate, holds some merit with Abberline and the followers of his belief that Klosowski: ‘...arrived in London shortly before the murders began, and then they stopped after he went to America. He had studied medicine and surgery in Russia, and the series of murders was the work of an expert surgeon’. In addition to Abberline’s assumptions that Klosowski was the Ripper, he adds fuel to the fire by stating Klosowski’s wife, Lucy Baderski, confessed to the fact that Severin had attacked her with a long knife, whilst they were in America.

Although not a policeman in the true sense, Major Arthur Griffiths was a close friend of Macnaghten, Anderson and Littlechild. He was also an inspector of prisons from 1878 to 1896. During this time, he communicated with these police officers and in his book titled ‘Mysteries of Police and Crime’, he wrote: ‘The general public may think that the identity of Jack the Ripper was never revealed. So far as actual knowledge goes, this is undoubtedly true. But the police, after the last murder, had brought their investigations to the point of strongly suspecting several persons, all of them known to be homicidal lunatics, and against three of these they held very plausible and reasonable grounds of suspicion’.

It is probable that Major Griffiths came to this conclusion, after discussing the case with Macnaghten and Anderson while paying them an impromptu visit at the Yard. Here they debated and theorized over the identity of the Whitechapel murders, left an indelible mark in the minds of all inspectors and constables, who were trying to establish the identity of the madman who roamed the streets in the early hours of the morning during ‘The Autumn of Terror’ 1888. As with many of today’s researchers who have developed their own ideas as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, so did many if not all of the police who were working on the case at the time of Jack the Ripper. During the time of Griffith’s tenure as ‘Inspector of Prisons’, he had absolutely nothing to do with the investigation, only a connection with officers involved in the case. His opinions must, therefore, be taken with caution, although it would appear he is only iterating Macnaghten’s thoughts on the matter.

He further states: ‘Concerning two of them the case was weak, although it was based on certain colourable facts. One was a Polish Jew, a known lunatic, who was at large in the district of Whitechapel at the time of the murders, and who, having afterwards developed homicidal tendencies, was confined to an asylum’. Here, Griffiths is once again confirming that Kosminski was a prime suspect in the Ripper murders. But the suspicions of these men, don’t stop here. Another high ranking officer at the time, ‘Chief Inspector CID, Scotland Yard, Donald Swanson’, stated that: “…..the suspect was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards. Kosminski was the suspect.” Swanson was a good friend of Anderson and also Macnaghten, who described him as “a very capable officer”.

So now we have three high ranking officials pointing their collective fingers at Kosminski and another suggesting that an American Doctor was responsible for the Whitechapel murders. In the case of Littlechild’s suspect, the police were so certain that he was the murderer, they sent Inspector Walter Andrews to the States to arrest him after Tumblety fled the U.K. in November 1888. Upon learning of his being a suspect, plus because of the subsequent surveillance, he was living with his sister in Rochester.

Although there are certain aspects about Tumblety that indicate he could have been the Ripper, (namely his hatred of women, particularly prostitutes and his morbid collection of female organs), it is unlikely he was the murderer as he stood clearly 5' 10" tall and made his presence known, wherever he went. As witnesses to the murders have stated, the last person seen talking to the victims, was between 5' 5" and 5' 7" tall. Through the study of other serial killers, we also know that they blend into their community often to the extent of being introverted, unlike Tumblety who liked and desired to be noticed.

Back to Macnaghten’s, Anderson’s and Griffith’s suspect: Kosminski was born around 1865 and moved from Poland to England in 1882, as a hairdresser. In July 1890, he was admitted to ‘Mile End Old Town Workhouse Infirmary’, where he was treated for insanity. Only to be released three days later, into the care of his brother. On 4 February 1891, he was readmitted to the Infirmary and once again after three days confinement, he was transferred to ‘Colney Hatch Asylum’, where it was noted in the admission register that his condition had existed for the previous two years, during which time he refused to eat food unless it was from a gutter and drank water from taps in the street. Any food that was given to him by another person was rejected.

During his stay at ‘Colney Hatch’, Kosminski displayed what could only be described as paranoid schizophrenia. The doctors described his behavior as “delusional” and his communication as “reticent and morose”. Further observations over the next few years, described Kosminski as “unoccupied” and “incoherent”, although his habits were “clean” and his health “fair”. His behavior however, seems to have deteriorated and on one occasion, he attacked an attendant with a chair. In April 1894, he was defined as “demented and incoherent” by hospital staff and on 13 April 1894, he was transferred to ‘Leavesden Asylum’, for imbeciles, where he passed away in 1919 from gangrene of the left leg.

Apart from Kosminski being mentioned by Macnaghten and Co. as their prime suspect due to his unsociable attitudes, they also believed they had star witnesses in the case. These were Schwartz, (who was a witness to the Stride murder), and Lawende, (who was amoung the last to see Catharine Eddowes alive.)

Whoever it was, and as coincidence would have it, both Jewish, Anderson took his witness to identify the suspect in an asylum, several years after the murders had been committed. It is doubtful that Anderson’s witness was Joseph Lawende, who, with two other friends, saw Catharine Eddowes talking with a man minutes before she was murdered and who also stated that: “were I to see the man again, I do not think I would recognize him”. This leads me to believe that Anderson’s witness was not Israel Schwartz.

As a police witness, Schwartz would have to be described as unreliable at the best of times. However, this may be put down to the fact that he was a Hungarian Jew, who had little grasp of the English language. Some of his statements were made to police on 30 September, through an interpreter, who may have misunderstood or misinterpreted. It should be noted however, that Schwartz’s interpreter had only slightly more command of the English language than Schwartz, but it was Chief Inspector Swanson who recorded Schwartz’s statements and placed them on file.

Regardless of whether it was Schwartz or Lawende who was the witness, neither of them identified the suspect at the ‘Seaside Home’, as Anderson was to later claim on page 138 of his memoirs: ‘….the witness unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him, but he refused to give evidence against him’. Swanson was later to add, (after several years): ‘...because the suspect was also a Jew and his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged, which he didn’t want left on his mind…’

So there we have it! Three of England's most prominent investigators into the Ripper case, all agreeing that Kosminski was the probable killer, and even investigating that he had been identified by a fellow Jew.

It’s unfortunate that over the years, many of the official documents from the case have either been lost or deliberately destroyed, as in ‘Assistant Commissioner’ James Monro’s, (pictured above), case. After his retirement he told one grandson: “The Ripper was never caught. But he should have been.” He evidently gave his eldest son, Charles, some documents on the case who after reading them, divulged their content to younger brother, Douglas, who described the information as: “a very hot potato” and insisted the documents be burnt and to forget about what he’d read. Apparently this is what Charles did as no record of them has been found since.

And so it goes with the mystery of the Whitechapel murderer. We come so tantalizingly close to establishing his identity, then run into dead ends and unsolved enigmas. Who knows though, one day a journal or series of documents may appear, identifying Jack the Ripper by name and providing conclusive evidence as to his identity. Authentic evidence that satisfies everyone. Stranger things have been known to happen!


Related pages:
  Julian Rosenthal
       Dissertations: Did Jack the Ripper Leave Any Clues? 
       Dissertations: Double Trouble: Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes 
       Dissertations: Estimating Mary Kellys Time of Death 
       Dissertations: History of the Metropolitan Police Force 
       Dissertations: Why Did Jack Stop? Or Did He? 
  Police
       Dissertations: H-Division Personnel 
       Message Boards: Police Officials 
       Police Officials: Police Officials 
       Press Reports: Atchison Daily Globe - 16 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Police Gazette 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 21 September 1888