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 Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide 
This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.

Walter Sickert

Walter Richard Sickert was born on 31 May 1860 in Munich, Germany, and was the eldest of six children. His father Oswald Adalbert Sickert, was Danish, and employed as an artist for a comic journal. His French educated mother Eleanor Louisa Moravia, was, due to money received from one of her relatives, the financial mainstay of the family.

They moved to England in 1868 and Walter attended University College School, Bayswater College School and Kings College School, where he graduated in 1877. His first love was the stage, and for a while he worked with Henry Irving's company at the Lyceum, where he was said to be proficient in the art of make-up. His period on the stage would be ultimately unsuccessful due to financial restraints. Having shown some early artistic talent he studied painting under Alphonse Legros at the Slade School London, and in 1879 met the American artist James McNeill Whistler, and for a while became his assistant. All Sickert's early work was signed, pupil of Whistler. In 1883 while in Paris, he met the artist Edgar Degas. It was the start of a friendship which lasted until Degas death in 1917.

In 1885 Sickert married Ellen Melicent Ashburner Cobden, twelve years his senior and the daughter of Liberal politician Richard Cobden. The marriage was childless, and said to be unhappy, due to, it is claimed, Sicker's infidelity. They moved into 54 Broadhurst Gardens, South Hampstead, where Sickert used the top floor as his studio. The couple divorced in 1899 and he moved to Dieppe, where he stayed for the next seven years.

Sickert moved back to London in 1905 and took studios at 8 Fitzroy Street, and 76 Charlotte Street, and rooms at 6 Mornington Crescent, Camden Town. His work from this period now consisted almost entirely of music hall scenes and the grim faded life of Camden Town. Camden he asserted, had been, 'So watered with his tears, that something important must sooner or later spring from its soil'.

It was in Camden in September 1907 that a part time prostitute named Emily Dimmock was found murdered in her bed, at 29 St Paul's Road. Her throat had been cut, but the body had not been mutilated. She had last been seen in the company of a man named Robert Wood, who was arrested and charged with her murder, but was later acquitted. The murder became known as The Camden Town Murder. Sickert would make reference to this murder, and the Whitechapel murders, in several of his drawings and paintings. One such paintings entitled, Jack The Ripper's bedroom, which he painted in 1908 was inspired after being told by his landlady at Mornington Crescent that the previous tenant, a young veterinary student, was Jack the Ripper.

A prolific and influential art critic, with a talent for stimulating heated debate, he criticized the technique of Whistler, his former teacher, though would not tolerate any criticism of Degas, whom he called, 'The lighthouse of his existence'. Between 1908 and 1910 he taught at Westminster institute, and later, at other schools.

In 1911 Sickert married Christine Angus, his student, eighteen years his junior. Her death in 1920 caused Sickert to suffer a nervous breakdown. His behaviour became erratic and he became more eccentric as time passed. The death of his mother in 1926 did little to lift his depression. He married his third wife, the painter Therese Lessore in June 1926, and they lived together in Islington. He took a studio at 10 Cecil Square, Margate, and also had a house in Margate. In his later years he began to paint entirely from photographs or Victorian magazine illustrations, and In 1938 moved to Bathampton, Bath. In 1941 Sickert was honoured with a one man exhibition at the National Gallery in London. He died on January 23 1942 in Bathampton.

At the time of the Ripper murders Sickert was 28 years old, just under 6ft tall, with light brown hair a fair moustache and a fair complexion.

Walter Sicket was suggested as Jack the Ripper, first by Jean Overton Fuller in her book Sickert And The Ripper Crimes, and more recently by best selling crime author Patricia Cornwell in her book Portrait Of A Killer. Fuller's hypothesis that Sickert was the Ripper, is based on the claims made by Floence Pash, a friend of Sickert's, who told Fuller's mother Violet Overton Fuller, who in turn told her daughter, that Sickert knew the identity of the murderer and painted clues into some of his pictures. Also that the murders were connected to an illegitimate child of an unnamed member of the royal family. Cornwell, in her book, makes the claim that Sickert became a serial killer after Whistler, whom he idolized, went on honeymoon with his new bride, and the thought of Whistler been in love and enjoying sexual relations with a woman, was the catalyst that finally sent him over the edge. Cornwell also believed he never stopped killing, and may have claimed as many as 40 victims. She also claims to have found mitochondria DNA evidence linking Sickert to at least one Ripper letter. If Sickert wrote any of the Ripper letters, it does not prove that he was the Ripper, for there is no evidence that any of the Jack the Ripper letters were actually sent by the murderer. Cornwell errors in assuming that an operation in Sickert's childhood left him with a malfunctioning penis. It was rectal, and not penile surgery that he underwent, and his sex life, by all accounts, remained unimpeded. Cornwell's book, though sensationalist and highly speculative, unfortunately suffers from the same oversights as Fuller's book, and employs selective facts and poor scholarship to support her case, and provides us with no real proof that Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

There is also some evidence that Sickert may not even have been in England at the time of the Whitechapel murders, as during the whole of September he may have been on holiday in France, as a letter written by Ellen, Sickert's wife, to her brother in-law dated 21 September, suggests that Walter had been in France for some weeks.







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