January 3, 1997
Could you provide a brief summary of your background, family, job, etc. and how you are seen by others interested in the Ripper case?
I am originally from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. I am 43yrs of age, single, and am a Senior Producer for BBC Radio Light Entertainment, specialising in Comedy, Entertainment, and Quiz Shows for Radio 2.
My main contribution to "Ripperology" is in the area of research.
1. How long have you been interested in the case of Jack the Ripper? What sparked your initial interest?
I have had a general interest in Jack the Ripper since my mid-teens; was an inspired viewer of the 1973 TV programme featuring the fictional detectives Watt and Barlow and their investigation into the murders; read with great interest and suspicion Stephen Knight's "Final Solution", and began my own research with the wealth of material and books that became available in the centenary year of 1988.
2. When did you begin doing actual research on the case?
I began serious research in 1988 after attending a lecture at my local library and reading Melvin Harris's "Bloody Truth ". The publishers of the book were running a competition to win a weekend in Paris, if you could discover the meaning of Robert D'Onston's curious pen-name "Tautriadelta" (which is the Pentalapha - the Triple Triangle of Pythagoros - a potent magical symbol) "Tautria delta " means Cross Three Triangles". I didn't enter the competition, but I did follow-up one or two avenues of research that I thought Melvin hadn't.
I came up with a couple of interesting results and contacted Melvin through his publishers; Melvin then contacted me and I have continued to work with him on various Ripper projects ever since.
3. Which methods/sources do you use when conducting researching?
I use all the regularly available research sources. The PRO at Chancery Lane and Kew. All the Record Offices, British Library and Bodliean Library Oxford. Collindale News Paper Library, plus Street Directories and Births Deaths and Marriages at St. Catherine's House.
I think you have to be very opened minded when undertaking any aspect of research. Check every insignificant clue, date, name and place. Try and read around the subject; the autobiographies, and books on the topography. See if any facts connect with those already known. Check the bibliographies of any newly read books for further suggested reading and for footnotes for source material locations.
To give an example of a research enquiry you might like to try for yourself:-
The list of contents found on the body of Catherine Eddowes includes a printed card bearing the name "Frank Carter, 305 Bethnal Green Road". What was his occupation ?.
When you have discovered this, ask yourself why would Eddowes have such a card ?
One last example of periphery research and an example of how things connect by coincidence, is that E.K.Larkins (the first Ripperologist) of whom Dr. Robert Anderson said (He is..) "A troublesome busy body", lived next door to one of the warehouses and yards owned by George Lusk, president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. (Thanks to Paul Begg for that one !)
4. What discoveries/findings of yours are you most proud of? Why?
I made three very important discoveries related to Robert D'Onston Stephenson, which were crucial to Melvin Harris's "The True Face of Jack the Ripper".
Much has been made over the years of a missing 365 page manuscript, written by Crime Journalist Bernard O'Donnell in the 1920's, about Stephenson, called "Black Magic and Jack the Ripper - Or was this man Jack the Ripper". Equal importance had been placed on Stephenson's claim to have been shot by a smuggler; to have fought as a British Volunteer with Garibaldi, and having been a patient at the London Hospital around the time of the murders. All these had been dismissed by authors and researchers, for more than 20yrs, as having never existed or were figments of Stephensons imagination.
NOT SO !!!
I established that Bernard O'Donnell had a son, Peter O'Donnell, (author of the Modesty Blaise novels) and a couple of phone enquires later I was talking to him ; yes he remembered his fathers manuscript, and thought it might be in the attic !!!. Low and behold a couple of days later it was on my desk, un-seen and un-read since the end of WW2. Not so hard to find really, it was there all the time but know one thought to check !. Lesson one - always double check.
Stephenson also claimed he had been shot in the thigh by a smuggler and that it was reported in all the local papers at the time. "No it wasn't" I was told and read. "Oh yes it was" I said after a day at Collindale Newspaper Library. I had checked the most insignificant place name in the material available; Bridlington Quay. A check on papers in Bridlington found two articles on the shooting incident, but previous researchers and authors had taken each others word that it didn't exist. Lesson Two - Don't take written or oral confirmation as fact, find out yourself.
The London Hospital was in easy reach of all the murder sites and Stephenson claimed to have been a patient there at the time of the murders. Surely this claim had been checked ? Once again NO ! An afternoon in the hospital archives produced two addresses unknown before, his age, profession and illness. Yet more avenues of research opened up. This was the greatest result so far.
Much had also been made of Stephenson's medical qualifications. He claimed he fought in the Italian Wars of Independence during the 1860's, working as a battle-field medic.Indeed the census of 1861 shows him as "Lieutenant - Southern Army of Italy - Retired, but how could this be confirmed ? Lesson three - Read around the subject.
I got several books from the library about Garabaldi and The Italian Wars, and found in the bibliography of one , a reference to another book about the British Volunteers who fought in the battles. This book duly ordered and read , produced a footnote which mentioned a man called Holyoake who helped organise and recruit these men and who had kept all the letters and muster rolls. Wow! what a find, but where were they now ?. A check at the National Register of Archives found an entry for Holyoake and item marked "Muster Rolls", kept at the Bishopgates Institute, by coincidence (yet again) a couple of street away from Mitre Square.
A short taxi-ride to the Bishopsgate and with a beating heart I enquired about the material. A flick through the card index found a faded entry and shelf mark for the item. "Good heavens" said the librarian "this hasn't been looked at for over eighty years !". Duly retrieved from a dusty basement, I went straight to S in the alphabetical index, and sure enough Stephenson D'O Robert was entered. I found yet another new address, his height, his fitness and the fact that he lied about his age. More lines of enquiry to take and avenues to research,and so on and so on !!.
I'm not a full-time researcher, this was all done at weekends, lunch hours or a morning or afternoon off here and there.
5. Do you have any pet theories of your own as to the Ripper's identity?
I don't have any Pets, although I once had a cat, and I knew someone called FIDO (Martin of course !) Seriously though - It could be any of the top five to date, (In-depth research might reveal more) but I usually quote Don Rumbelow when asked this question. "On the day of Judgement when all things are known to all men, and we ask for Jack the Ripper to step-forth from the Pearly Gates, and he does, we will all say Who Are You ?".
It will be someone who isn't known already, a nobody or several nobodies.
6. In recent years, new suspects such as Tumblety, Maybrick, and even Lewis Carroll have been advanced. What are your thoughts on these newest theories?
Every new suspect brings new information into Ripper Lore. Paul Feldman and Keith Skinner's on going research into the Maybrick Saga has provided a wealth of new material, much of which will surprise most people when their book is published next year. They have proved that if you dig long enough and far enough, coincidences and connections can be made in strengthening the case for an individual suspect.
I'm still not convinced that Maybrick is the Ripper, but I have great admiration for their work so far, and what will be important for any researcher is the periphery subjects that can be followed up.
Tumbelty deserves much more attention, he is to my mind a much more likely suspect. There is a wealth of material still to be found in North America.
If anyone there is interested in being involved in any Tumbelty research would you please E Mail me at ANDY.ALIFFE@BBC.CO.UK and I will provide a chronological list of his travels through Canada and America.
The Lewis Carroll theory is the craziest I've heard so far. Or is it ??? The book provides all sorts of chances for further investigation. Read the book and choose your own direction. My own feeling is that the book falls into the realms of John Wilding's anagramatical "Jack the Ripper Revealed". If you like word games, an intellectual challenge and the seedier-side of Victorian Society, then "Light-hearted Friend" is worth a read, but then again you should get Peter J. Harpick to review the whole story !!.
7. Do you see the study of this case as drying out in terms of items still open for investigation, or do you feel there is still a great deal of information left to be discovered? If this is the case, how can the workload be best shared?
As I mentioned before, information is still out there to be found. I know for a fact that there are still hundreds of documents in the PRO Scotland Yard and Home Office files, un-catalogued , un-classifed, and un-filed. Much of the Special Branch material is still at New Scotland Yard, perhaps "the very thick file " held on Tumbelty, as mentioned in the Littlechild Letter.
Newspapers, Overseas , national, and local still contain material to be found on the murders,victims and people connected in some way to the case. A trip to your local library may produce some interesting results. Provincial news-reporters were often out weighed by the national press and sought their own witnesses for information.
I recently discovered in my own local paper that a vagrant was arrested on suspicion in Whitechapel, and claimed to have been in the Sussex Regiment, his proof? an envelope bearing the Sussex Regiment crest !.
A report in Jan 1997 "Ripperana" by Nick Connell from the "Pall Mall Gazette" 4th November 1889, states that Sir Robert Anderson says that Jack the Ripper had not been caught, which if true, very quickly puts pay to the David Cohen theory.
But please note the date.....1889......The papers should be read between the murder dates of 1888 and well into the early 1900's. Melvin Harris has discovered some interesting comments, theories and statements from various newspapers up until the beginning of this century, that are very relevant to the case.
A tantalising Tit-bit is that every new Metropolitan Police Commissioner is supposed to ask to see the "real Jack the Ripper file". So who was the next Commissioner after Monro and has anyone checked the Commissioner's records for that period ?? Don't forget that the new commissioner would have been in office in 1892 when the files were closed.....Food for Thought ...?
If we pool are resources, time and effort, we may know a bit more.
8. What lines of research would you advise anyone interested in the case to pursue?
Individuals should, as I have already suggested, start at a local level. Use the papers from the period available to you. Also read the now many books available on the subject, be opened minded, play arm-chair detective and see if you can think of any lines of enquiry that haven't been followed by that particular author.
9. What are your thoughts on the Ripper Diary, and how has it affected Ripperological studies these past few years?
The "Ripper Diary Project " has in recent years driven a wedge between serious researchers and authors, resulting in a childish stand-off between once convivial colleagues and created an air of aggressive disputatiousness both in print and speech.
Firstly can I point out that it was Shirley Harrison and the "Word Team" that brought about and authored the "Maybrick Diary", which revealed new and important Ripper related material, and brought James Maybrick to the fore-front as a Ripper suspect. The book itself makes fascinating reading.
However it was Paul Feldman who was responsible for the video "The Diary of Jack the Ripper" and the continuing investigation into the Maybrick saga. Please don't confuse the two. Each author and product should be considered on their own merits.
My own feelings are that the Diary is not genuine, for several reasons:-
There is still reasonable doubt on the handwriting, the ink, and the paper. Each different test undertaken by the Pro/Anti Maybrick supporters disproves the previous test.
The entries seem to have been written at several continuous sittings; ie. not done on a day to day basis. Why did Mike Barrett confess to its forgery ? How is it that a line in the Diary, from a very obscure metaphysical poem from an even more obscure book, was found in Barrett's home ?. Why are there claims that the whole of the Diary text were found on Barrett's computer disc?
The latest claims are that Barrett's ex-wife is related to Florence Maybrick and that the Journal has been passed down through the family. Why would a wealthy cotton merchant such as James Maybrick resort to cutting the pages from a Victorian photographic album (possibly Edwardian) and use the blank pages for his day to day accounts of his arsenic muddled mind? And why, since it now seems that it has been established that Tom Bulling and Charles Moore of the Central News Agency invented the name Jack the Ripper, would James Maybrick believe himself to be the Whitechapel Murderer and sign himself with such a name ?
If it's a forgery, then it's a good one to have survived this long without anyone claiming responsibility.But what has it achieved ?.It has hurt more people , than profited them.
If it is a contemporary forgery, of the last century, then who could be so intimate with both the Ripper and Maybrick cases ?
Only one person - Dr. LS Forbes Winslow. Winslow connects both. He claimed at the time that he knew more of the murders than most. He also led a campaign to free Florence Maybrick..........just supposing he........?????.....well there's a chance for investigation and research if I ever saw one !!!!
If it's a modern forgery, then how did the Diarist have access to information that authors claim wasn't available before 1987/88?
But why 1987/88? Well at that time an anonymous package was sent back to Scotland Yard's Black Museum containing missing papers and letters directly relevant to the Ripper enquiry, including the Bond Report, containing the information that Mary Kelly's heart was "absent", which the Maybrick team claim only the writer of the diary or the murderer would have known, until the information was made available in the late 1980's. But wait a moment......the information was also available to who ever returned the package. So who had the material until it's return ?
Well back to stage one - the insignificant details. The package was post-marked Croydon. OK, who would want to take the material and who would have access to it in the first place ? Many retired officers often did lectures about their police exploits. What better than to have a Ripper lecture, especially if they were in some way connected to the case. Well it certainly wasn't Abberline, he makes no mention of his most celebrated case in his surviving cuttings book. It wasn't Benjamin Leeson in his book " Lost London". It certainly wasn't any of the senior officers. So that only leaves Walter Dew, he dedicates about a third of his book "I Caught Crippen" to Jack the Ripper".
So connect Walter Dew and Croydon and.......Bingo.......!!! and guess what ??? Dew came from Croydon and members of the family can still be found in the telephone directory.
So are they the conspirators behind the Diary ??.....Oh if only I had time....any takers ??
10. What works would you suggest to a novice just entering the Ripper field? Why?
Each book about each suspect contains its own relevant material which should be read for it's own merits.For the novice entering Ripper lore for the first time I would suggest the "Jack the Ripper A/Z, Don Rumbelows "The Complete Jack the Ripper" and Philip Sugden's "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper."All those mentioned titles will give a good over view of the whole mystery.
11. Have you uncovered any Ripper-related items that you have made available to others? How can these be obtained? Are there any items you are specifically seeking?
I have tracked down and made available as reproductions "The Whitechapel Murders - Or the Mysteries of the East End" - published by Purkis in 1888. This is the first account of the murders, written before Mary Kelly was killed. and contains several contemporary illustrations. The other booklet is "The Whitechapel Horrors - being an account of the Jack the Ripper Murders" circa 1920's. Written by Tom Robinson of Daisy Bank Publishing. Tom Robinson was a journalist working in the area at the time. This comes in an authentic coloured card illustrated cover, with a sepia picture of Tom Robinson on the inside.
These cost L10/$20 including package and posting and can be obtained from me. ANDY ALIFFE 10 MAYBROOK GARDENS, HIGH WYCOMBE , BUCKS HP13 6 PJ ENGLAND - Or E Mail me.
My own research work goes on. I'm trying to locate the Jill the Ripper/Olga Tchersoff material, mentioned by ET Woodhall. This is to be found in a "popular New York paper just before the outbreak of WW1" Also the source of Leonard Matters/Dr.Stanley theory, possibly to be found in "La Nacion" a Buenos Aires paper, probably from around the turn of the century.
A photograph of Abberline is still to be found. Also a picture of Tumbelty possibly in the NY Police Gazette circa 1870's. I would also like to collect any contemporary drawings and sketches of any of the suspects, victims, witness's, and murder sites from newspaper sources from around the world.
I collect any Jack the Ripper memorabilia. I am particularly interested in any Ripper related film items, posters etc, foreign and overseas books with different illustrated dust wrappers. All correspondence is most welcome.