New York, USA
16 January 1927
By Leonard Matters
Revenge for Son's Death His Motive
Claims Doctor, Dying, Confessed to Series of Crimes
Killed Women Who Dragged Son Down to Death
(Exclusive Cable to The Herald)
By Leonard Matters
London, Jan. 15.
Of all the great unsolved murder mysteries of modern times the most puzzling is that associated with the sinister name of Jack the Ripper.
Who was Jack the Ripper?
Why were all of his victims women?
Why were they all women of a certain class?
Why did he kill them?
These, and a dozen other questions that have never been answered, indicate what a remarkable degree of mystery attaches to the story of the most extraordinary series of crimes that ever baffled Scotland Yard, the world's greatest detective organization.
The story I am going to tell about Jack the Ripper is the story of a confession made on his deathbed by a man who died of cancer in one of the largest hospitals in Buenos Aires, the capital of the Argentine Republic.
First let me say that whoever Jack the Ripper may have been, he was either a criminal lunatic who killed for the sheer lust of killing, or he was a man who had a definite object in view. He murdered women to be avenged upon a class or to kill until he had satisfied himself that one woman he sought was dead at his hands.
This mysterious man killed a number of women in the dark backstreets of London. That was more than 35 years ago. The murders extend over many weeks and all London and then the whole world was horrified.
Now let me give the confession story as told by the man whose words I am transcribing.
In the early 1880's I entered a hospital in London to complete my surgical studies. One of the house surgeons was Dr. Stanley, a brilliant clinician and a wonderful surgeon. Though he rarely exchanged a greeting with the students and was severe in his dealings with them, we all respected him for his great knowledge and skill. That I ever became on close terms of friendship with him was largely due to accident.
One very wet day I encountered Dr. Stanley at the entrance to the hospital just as we were both leaving for lunch. I was about to call a cab and asked Dr. Stanley if I could give him a lift to his home. He declined the offer and greatly to my surprise invited me to join him at lunch in a quiet little restaurant close at hand. The two hours we spent together were the most delightful I have ever enjoyed.
Dr. Stanley as I found him then was an entirely different man from what I had ever supposed him to be. He proved a charming companion and a brilliant conversationalist, whereas I and others had only known him as a morose and reserved man of science. He informed me that he was a widower and had a son of 21 who was just entering upon his medical career.
At that luncheon I saw Dr. Stanley in one phase only of his complex character. I was yet to discover what a strange and saturnine being he really was. We became quite warm friends and he seemed to take a special interest in my work in the hospital. One of my keenest desires was to see the great Lister perform an operation and when I mentioned this to Dr. Stanley, he nodded and replied "I know him well."
A week passed. One morning the doctor came up to me and said, "Sir Joseph is to operate at 8 tomorrow morning at a nursing home. I am giving the anaesthetic. Would you like to come?"
I gratefully accepted the invitation, and the next day, punctual to the minute, we both entered the sanatorium in Berkeley Street.
Thanks to Dr. Stanley my ambition was realized. I was in an operating theater with the famous man who subsequently became Lord Lister. The operation we attended was for the amputation of a lower eyelid, badly affected by an ulcer that threatened to destroy the eye. Stanley gave the anaesthetic to the patient and stood by while Lister operated.
No soon had we left the sanatorium than my friend burst out with "That man operated like a blunderer! His technique is out of date! Did you ever see such work? That incision down the cheek was quite unnecessary. The patient will be cured but he remains disfigured for life with such a gash."
"But surely, Doctor," I cried in astonishment, "you don't mean to suggest that Lister don't know how to operate?"
"I do," he snapped. "His work is good enough for those who don't know any better. That's why I would not let you see the other operation. I like you, my boy. You are interested in major surgery in the region of the stomach. We were going to see that but I felt so disgusted with Lister in the other case that I thought it better to bring you away. It would be wrong to let you see any bungling and still worse for you to acquire bad habits in operating in such ticklish jobs."
Perhaps it was out of his liking for me or to make up for my disappointment that Dr. Stanley invited me to lunch at his home. I had imagined that he must live in some unpretentious rooms but to my intense surprise he led me up to a mansion - one of a series of luxurious homes in the neighborhood of Portman Square. Everything about the place bespoke wealth and good taste.
When we got in Dr. Stanley introduced me to his son - a handsome youth, elegant and distinguished in appearance and manner. It was easy to see how devoted the father was to this boy. Dr. Stanley was transformed in the presence of his son from an austere and cynical being into a very human soul. It was clear to me that he had only one weakness - if such it could be called. The stern cold-blooded man of science was vanquished by the most common of human emotions - a parent's love for his child. I think that in this moment I realized for the first time what is meant by the call of the blood.
We had lunch together. At the close of the meal Dr. Stanley led the way into his library and museum at the back of which the boy bade his father an affectionate farewell and gave me a cordial handshake.
I was dumbfounded before the treasures contained in the wonderful room. Dr. Stanley possessed a complete museum of surgical specimens. Among his other tasks he was engaged in compiling the anatomical history of cancer and had everything to demonstrate at a glance the course of the disease. As the basis of a scientific investigation not even Fournier, than at the height of his fame, had the shadow of anything like what I saw to help him, in his work for suffering humanity.
"From its incipiency and throughout its deadly course - even to its hereditary consequences - you will find everything here," Dr. Stanley said, calling my attention to a large, glass fronted cupboard. "Here is the patient work of a lifetime. All I regret is that a man's own life is so short. I can never live long enough to complete what I set out to do but my boy will do it. My son will be famous. He will be hailed as a saviour of humanity."
Many times I watched Dr. Stanley operating with a mastery that none could equal. Then at last my course of study was complete and with the warmest congratulations of the man who had become my friend I received my diploma. I had previously determined that I should go abroad to practice as a surgeon and two days before I embarked for South America I dined with Dr. Stanley at his home.
When the moment came for us to part, he took me by the hand and gave me this strange advice:
"Go abroad, my boy, but don't practice. In reality we know nothing. We are fighting in our profession blindfold against that of which we are ignorant."
For some time after I reached Buenos Aires Dr. Stanley and I corresponded regularly. Then, as is generally the case, the letters ceased altogether.
Many years passed. One afternoon I was seated in the patio of my home when a postman called. Among the letters I found one written hastily on the prescription form in use at one of the largest hospitals. This is what I read:
"Dear Sir - At the request of a patient who says you will remember him as Dr. Stanley. I write to inform you that he is lying in this hospital in a dangerous condition. He is suffering from cancer and though an operation has been successfully performed complications have arisen which make the end inevitable. Dr. Stanley would like to see you. Instructions have been given to the reception room to waive all regulations in your case and admit you at once to ward 5 where the patient is lying in bed No 28.
Jose Richel, Senior House Surgeon."
You can imagine my surprise after so many years to hear from my old master, and to find him in Buenos Aires. How strange that he should be dying of the disease he had striven so hard to conquer. How come he to know my address and, knowing it, why had he never called me?
I went as quickly as I could to the hospital. In vain I tried to recognize in the patient of bed 28 my old friend and master. It was another man I saw - another face that looked so tragically into mine. But when the dying man spoke I was sure of his identity.
I bent over the bed to embrace my old friend. He pushed my arms away.
"No, no," he cried, "no decent man should come near me. Yes, I know myself and now before I leave this world I must clear my conscience. Forgive me that I have chosen you to hear the confession of my crimes. I don't think I have more than an hour to live - two at most. I thank you for coming. How many times have I passed you in the streets and resisted the longing to speak to you?"
"For that I should not forgive you," I replied.
"Bah! You don't know what you are saying," he answered. "Wait till you hear my story. Sit here on the bed. Raise me. That's right. Now put the pillow behind me so that I can sit up. Nobody must you must hear what I say."
"Have you ever heard of Jack the Ripper? he whispered.
"Well - I am he."
"You?" I exclaimed in horror.
"Yes - I." And he gazed at me.
"Come, don't be shocked," he said with a sneer. "Denounce me, if you like. The law can't hurt me now. All I want to do is to explain the mystery of my life and make my confession so that no innocent person shall be charged with my crimes. I don't regret them. If I had to live again I would do what I have done. Please don't interrupt. I must hasten. I feel a general paralysis creeping over me and soon i shall be done. Do you remember Bertie?"
"My son! He died - a wreck. A victim of the night life of the gay West End. Science could do nothing for him. He died an idiot, and all my hopes died with him. Yes, perhaps I went mad. I swore to avenge him. I murdered all these women."
"Despite their cleverness the English police were never able to discover me. He who breathes such vengeance as mine develops insuperable cunning. The smartest detectives in London never succeeded in getting anything more than a glimpse of my shadow as I dashed down Mitre Street at the moment when they were stumbling over the palpitating body of my latest victim."
"My murders were committed during my quest for somebody. At last I found her. My task was finished. My crimes were ended. Then I left London and went to Buenos Aires, and here I have lived for the last 10 years."
He paused for a moment.
I saw him buried - there in the Western Cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Under which grim stone lies the remains of Jack the Ripper, I alone know.