|A Ripper Notes Article|
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A Talk with Stewart Evans, Part I
by Chris George
CG: Stewart, I understand you first became interested in the Whitechapel murders when you were a boy. How did you become involved in the case at such an early age?
SPE: My interest in Jack the Ripper, in fact, predates my teens. I hasten to add that this means interest only, not research. About 1958, when I was nine years old, my parents took me to Madame Tussauds waxworks [in London], and I took a look at the famous Chamber of Horrors. Even at that age, I had an interest in mysteries, and the rather macabre classic murder cases and crime films. In the Chamber of Horrors, very different in those days from today, was a framed copy of an original Metropolitan Police poster depicting the Dear Boss letter and Saucy Jacky postcard. I read these and was impressed--as so many have been--by the name Jack the Ripper. I had a vague idea of the unknown Victorian London killer, and on seeing this it gelled into a definite interest. Over the years, this interest remained although I did not actively pursue it, other than reading the odd short piece here and there. It was in 1965 with the almost simultaneous publication of two books on Jack the Ripper by [Tom] Cullen and [Robin] Odell that the interest became truly academic and deeper. I bought both books, avidly read them, and was very impressed. That was the real start of my active interest in the Whitechapel murders.
CG: Would you mind telling me your rank in the Suffolk police? Were you were in the C.I.D. [Criminal Investigation Department]?
SPE: I was a police constable in the uniformed branch.
CG: Do you think that your background as a policeman has aided you in your study of the murders?
SPE: Yes. Remember, I had experience of reading about the subject for years before I joined the police in 1969. The interest continued, and nearly 28 years as a police officer made me fully au fait with all the laws and rules of evidence. Many of those regulations were the same back in 1888, albeit dictated under different legislation. I took thousands of witness statements, arrested hundreds of people, from the most serious of offences, down to shoplifting. I had to be proficient in a court of law, from the lowest magistrates court up to the Assizes, and later the Crown Courts. I met and got to know criminals of every type imaginable, including several murderers. I watched my first autopsy at age 20 and saw dozens more after that. That certainly gives you a better insight on the more gruesome aspects of the Ripper case, as I have seen several autopsies that were worse than what was done to Mary Jane Kelly. It is noticeable that many Ripperologists (a word I do not like, but I guess it is a term with which we are stuck!), are pretty good armchair detectives, or Agatha Christie types, whose reasoning bears little relation to hard facts and reality. I know how untrustworthy apparently good witnesses may be, how genuine mistakes are made and taken as fact, and all the subtle influences at work in any investigation. As a police officer, I discovered that you had to rapidly learn to be a psychologist in the hardest school of all--real life. Those who didnt soon made grave errors or ended up getting badly beaten by some violent criminal. I know all the tricks of the trade, many of which date back to Victorian times, and I know the traps that befall an investigator of crime. The hierarchy of the [British] police force is a very old and traditional structure, and I know its workings and way of thought intimately. The main difference between the British police of today and those of 1888 is the experience of the highest ranks. Today, every police officer, right up to the Chief Constable or Chief Commissioner, started at the bottom of the ladder as a bobby on the beat. In Victorian days, those ranks were all occupied by the likes of Warren (a soldier), Anderson (a barrister), Macnaghten (a tea plantation manager), Monro (a lawyer), Smith (a book-keeper, soldier, and gentleman), and so on. Dolly Williamson as Chief Constable was a unique exception. Other than Williamson, these men had no real police experience, no on-the-ground skills of investigating and arresting criminals. In a word, they did not dirty their hands with crime. They were administrators, the link between their political masters and the police. From Superintendent down, you found the career police officers. Being a police officer is such a unique experience that it cannot be understood by anyone who has not been one for several years. So, yes, a deep understanding of police meanings and procedures has caused me to have a much better understanding of all the surviving material on the Whitechapel murders, and a better insight into what actually went on. A minor example is the mistaken understanding of the role of Inspector Henry Moore in the case. In [Chief Inspector Walter] Dews book, he is called a Chief Inspector at the time of murders, when he was actually only a Detective Inspector and junior to Inspector [Frederick George] Abberline. However, Abberline was taken off the Whitechapel murders investigation around March 1889, and Moore took over his role, and kept it until the date of the last report on the files, 18 October 1896. Moore joined Abberline on the investigation in September 1888, so he probably knew more about the case than did Abberline, because he stayed in charge on the case for many years longer than Abberline. It was for this reason that many years later Dew remembered Moore as being in charge of the investigation, which he was from around March 1889 to at least October 1896. Moore was promoted to Chief Inspector in September 1895, and retired from the Metropolitan Police Force, in that rank, on 9 October 1899. As a result of my understanding of the ramifications of what had been written about Moore, I was able to identify his true role and correct errors, such as the entry on him in the [Jack the Ripper] A to Z.
CG: Dave Yost made the statement that given when you first started researching the murders, you seem to have almost lived through what might be called the modern-age of Ripperology, like a favorite uncle who first witnessed the twin-prop plane, the breaking of the sound barrier and the Space Shuttle. Do you think this has made an impact on your views and how you view this case? And, do you think it has provided you with a certain amount of insight as compared to those who have only read about such things in modern works, such as A to Z and Philip Sugdens The Complete History of Jack the Ripper?
SPE: Am I that old? Hell, I must be, my grandson is four years old now! I can remember planes breaking the sound barrier in the early 1950s. Needless to say, having been born in 1949, I missed by a few years Lindbergh s flight across Atlantic in the Spirit of St Louis in 1927! However, I guess it was a bit like that, though I dont know that my long-time interest in the case necessarily gave me a better insight, other than the fact that I was able to get a good look at the East End before it radically changed in the early 1970s. I think with such comprehensive reference works as the A to Z and Sugden that the modern student, if he has read them, immediately gets started with more thorough and accurate knowledge than I ever had when I started. Throughout the 1970s, my deep interest in aviation history rather curtailed my Ripper interest, other than the fact that I kept buying the new books as they came out. I was especially impressed with Donald Rumbelows book [The Complete Jack the Ripper, 1975], as well as with some of the new information revealed by Stephen Knight [Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, 1976] from the official files. In 1987/88, I sold my Ripper book collection to Clifford Elmer Books (a stupid move), because I was a bit disheartened by the Centenary overkill. Any insight I may have into the case is rather more derived from my experience in the police force than the span of years my interest has covered. However, it has been most interesting watching the development of the Ripper industry--a phenomenon in which I never imagined that one day I would become so involved.
A Talk with Stewart Evans, Part II
by Chris George
In the second installment of this interview, former British policeman Stewart P. Evans describes how he came to purchase the "Littlechild Letter" written in 1913 by Chief Inspector John George Littlechild that names Irish-American Dr. Francis Tumblety as a "likely" suspect in the Whitechapel murders. In 1995, Stewart and fellow Suffolk policeman Paul Gainey published their book on Tumblety, published as The Lodger in the United Kingdom & renamed for its US publication Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer. Besides his research into the Whitechapel murders, Stewart is an expert on World War II aviation and also lists the Titanic among his other arcane interests. In his East Anglia home, he maintains a sizeable "Black Museum" containing crime-related artifacts, and he has an extensive crime library . As this writer and others who are interested in the Whitechapel murders can attest, Stewart is very "giving" with his time and resources.
CG: Stewart, have the passing years and the accumulation of your private criminology collection changed your aims, or is your devotion to the chase motivated by that original spark?
SPE: The passing of the years, the gaining of experience, a more cynical outlook, and the accumulation of my collection all influenced my thinking on the case in many ways. I really do miss the days of my youth when I believed in the strict fact of the canonical five victims, the simplicity of Druitt being the Ripper, the solidity of the stated facts in the books I read, the romance and irony of the super villain who single-handedly eluded the London police and wrote mocking letters. To sum up, I grew up. And weren't things more magical when you were young, the world a different place, and all things so much more simple?
CG: Could you explain for our readers how you came into possession of the Littlechild Letter, the steps you took to verify its authentication, and how you came to be involved in the investigation of Dr. Tumblety?
SPE: I have been a collector of general crime ephemera and memorabilia for many years, and I have quite a "Black Museum" which includes three used execution ropes, a death-mask, weapons, murderers' letters, and so on. The collection also includes a large amount of antiquarian and used books on crime, dating back to the 1700's. (Other interests and collections include the Titanic, old movies, the Loch Ness monster, and many other eclectic subjects.) As a result, I am friendly with and know many dealers and antiquarians. They know of my interests, so much gravitates to me. It was as a result of this that Camille Wolff, the delightful doyen of true-crime book dealers, informed me of some items she had been offered. I have known Cam since the mid-80's, and I know that when she has something offered it is often well worth pursuing. She had been contacted by an old antiquarian book dealer friend, Eric Barton, of Richmond, Surrey. Eric had been dealing in crime books and ephemera for longer than many of us have been born, and in the "golden years" acquired many choice items, several of which went to Mme Tussaud's. He had sold Tussaud's several Ripper items in the early 1960's. These were mainly from the collection of author/ journalist George R. Sims who had his own "Crime Museum."
Eric, by then aged in his eighties, was reluctantly closing down his company, Baldur Books, and retiring. It was February 1993, and he contacted me, thanks to Cam, and asked if I would like to purchase some "Jack the Ripper letters." He explained that they were the remains of the collection of George R. Sims, which he had purchased from Sotheby's in the early 1960's, and that they were letters written to Sims about the Ripper. I, of course, said that I was very interested and the letters duly arrived by post about a week later. You may imagine how stunned I was on reading the Littlechild letter. I was well-aware of just who Chief Inspector Littlechild was, and already had a copy of his 1893 Reminiscences. The fact that he named a "new" suspect as a "very likely" Jack the Ripper and divulged the names of the men that Scotland Yard believed to have written the "Jack the Ripper" letters seemed incredible to me, and I knew that this was a milestone breakthrough. Even if Tumblety proved not to be the Ripper, he was a genuine contemporary suspect.
As Martin Fido said when he learned of the letter, the provenance was immaculate, and no one has ever questioned its authenticity. Indeed, it wasn't until the TV documentary was made in 1996 that the letter was subjected to forensic tests and proved to be genuine. Of course, the mere fact that research based on the letter led to the discovery of Tumblety was authentication in itself. Initially it was my old friend Keith Skinner to whom I entrusted the new information and it was Keith who discovered Tumblety in the New York Times and The New York Herald. The full story is told in our book.
An intriguing footnote to all this was that on meeting Eric Barton at his home I found it to be a veritable "Aladdin's Cave." In telling the story of his purchase, Eric revealed that also with Sims' letters was a full set of the crime scene photos of Miller's Court and Mary Jane Kelly! He had never sold them and they were still in his home somewhere. I kept in contact with Eric hoping that he would find these photos which he said I could have. Unfortunately Eric died before the photographs were located. (It will be remembered that Sims was a friend of Macnaghten and it is from him that Sims undoubtedly obtained the photos).
CG: Littlechild may have known Tumblety through his investigation of the doctor's Fenian or Irish nationalist activities. We know a file on Tumblety existed at Scotland Yard which has since disappeared. Isn't it possible the file mainly focused on Tumblety as a Fenian rather than as a suspect in the murders?
SPE: Yes, Chief Inspector Littlechild probably did know of Tumblety because of his Irish connections, after all this was Littlechild's special area of concern. But that still does not alter that fact that we know that Littlechild also considered him a "very likely" suspect for the Whitechapel murders. Don't forget Douglas Browne consulted the Yard files in the mid 1950's, when a lot was still there that is now missing, and said that Macnaghten actually identified the Ripper "with the leader of a plot to assassinate Mr Balfour at the Irish Office." We have no idea what he saw which made him say this.
The file, or dossier, probably did contain more on Tumblety as a Fenian rather than as a suspect in the Whitechapel murders, we have never suggested otherwise. But a mention from the official files of why he was suspected in regard to the murders would be very nice to find. It must be remembered that, whatever the police suspicions were against any suspect, they had no hard evidence of guilt.
CG: On the Cloak and Dagger Club site, the following appears in regard to your June 1, 1996 appearance at the club: "The police did not want it escaping that they had let Jack the Ripper escape. Just think--Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan Police would be the laughing stock of the world were it known that they had the worst killer of all time (or at the time) in their grasp and they set him free. So they set about a cover-up. They destroyed all papers referring to Tumblety, including the dossier. Today nothing exists in the files at the Public Records Office in Kew that refer to Tumblety."
Frankly, this "cover-up" seems very convenient, and almost makes smacks of the type of cover-up proposed by proponents of the Royal conspiracy. Could such a cover-up be so, or is it that the file has gone missing for some other reason, much as so many files in the case are missing?
SPE: You know this sort of question worries me, for you are putting to me something that I never said, as a quote by me. And I have the whole of my Cloak and Dagger talk on videotape and can prove it! I will reiterate what I did, and do, say. I do not propose and never have proposed a "cover-up" of the sort you indicate. What I have said is that there was a "convenient" silence and lack of information given out by the police, a very common occurrence then and now I can assure you. In Tumblety, even if you do not accept him as the prime suspect, the police did have a suspect for the murders, without, as with all the others, any hard evidence, only strong suspicions. And suspicions are insufficient without hard evidence. What I did say is that when he escaped justice by jumping his bail and fled to America they had lost a Ripper suspect, and this was a fact that, had they admitted it, would have given an aggressive press much ammunition to use against them, and could have resulted in the resignation of some officers. So no, I didn't even suggest, nor have I ever suggested, that any files were destroyed, or that an elaborate "cover-up" was instigated. They merely kept quiet about it, which is evidenced by the lack of any mention of Tumblety's name in any British newspaper.
And this is a very strange omission when we look at the huge publicity he received in North America, both as a Whitechapel murders suspect, and as escaping British justice. Many totally unlikely and even non-starter suspects are mentioned in the British press of the time, as well as the more serious ones. But not a whisper about Tumblety. This is very odd. How did they hush it up? Yes the dossier is missing, but so are thousands of others. No Special Branch files have ever been released to the Public Record Office, so it may still repose somewhere in the records of the Special Branch at Scotland Yard. And these are highly confidential. Fenian sympathies run down in families from generation to generation and such files will probably never be made public.
CG: In the first publication of your book, Dr. Tumblety is accredited with killing Mary Jane Kelly. In the more recent version, this does not seem to be the case. Could you expound on this change of view in greater depth?
SPE: There is no short answer to this one so I shall expound on it. First let me say that the content of the first edition of our book in this regard, is still there in the second, but it has been added to in the addendum. And, if you re-read it you will see that we are not dismissing Kelly as a Ripper victim, merely adding another possibility that was very ably presented by Alex Chisholm in his "Revision of History" piece which he had sent to me prior to the publication of the second edition. In fact Alex's piece was so good that we included it verbatim in the second edition. This sort of flexibility, and allowance for other possibilities really is something that all "Ripper" authors should consider, for we often see how inflexible they are, some refusing to budge an inch on any previous theory they have adopted, even when proven wrong.
A problem for me, bearing in mind the length of time I have been researching this subject, is that having "discovered" and written about a suspect, Dr. Tumblety, I tend to be regarded, as Jon Smyth so amusingly puts it, as the "Tumblety man." Now, anyone who knows me well will tell you that my stand is totally objective, and all my writing on the subject is based on that foundation. Tumblety is an innovation for me in the subject, but I do understand his relevance and importance. Therefore to answer this question fully I will attempt to be fully objective, and I will be totally honest. I, as most, had for a long time accepted, without question, the "canonical five" victims. I also, in the early days, felt that M. J. Druitt was the killer. Over the years, naturally, this view modified with what I read, and I later thought that Kosminski was the best suspect. We are all influenced by what we read and it was not until I began to use primary sources alone that my ideas began to change and other possibilities were revealed to me.
Unfortunately, as regards Tumblety, as in so many cases, nothing has survived on him in the known official sources. Littlechild is by implication an official source and it is therefore exceedingly fortunate that his letter survived. He clearly states "but amongst the suspects..." was Tumblety which is an unequivocal statement of fact, not even his opinion, clearly meaning that Tumblety was a contemporary suspect. Indeed, this means that his candidacy can be placed nearer to the time of the crimes than Kosminski, Druitt, or Ostrog who were not named until 1894. In fact, Littlechild, one of the Departmental heads at Scotland Yard until 1893 when he retired, even indicated that he had "never heard of a Dr. D. in connection with the Whitechapel murders...," and this was undoubtedly Druitt. He then gives his opinion that Tumblety, as a suspect, was "a very likely one." Two observations should be made here. First Littlechild, a close colleague of Swanson, was there at the time and in possession of more facts than we will ever know, so he should be in a better position to know this. His statement is a sober modest one (he is not saying dogmatically that he knew who "Jack the Ripper" was, he is giving his informed opinion in a private letter, so he is not even bragging). Secondly the mere fact that Tumblety was pursued to New York in December 1888, and that all those years later Littlechild still thought him a "very likely" suspect indicates that he was never really cleared as a suspect. We have to take him seriously. Having always assumed Kelly to be the final victim, indeed she has been for many the raison d'etre for the whole mystery, I had never questioned her candidacy. When it was claimed that Tumblety may have been in custody at the time of her murder, that would leave only two possibilities. He was not the Whitechapel murderer, or Kelly was not a victim of the Whitechapel murderer. So we had to consider that possibility. The case for him not being the murderer I will look at next. As regards Kelly not being a victim of the Whitechapel murderer I can do no better than to recommend readers to Alex's excellent argument. And it should be noted that it is not Alex' final view that he totally rejects Kelly as a victim of the Whitechapel murderer, it is just a very viable option he offers that others have never considered.
Germane to this whole question on Tumblety is his arrest on 7 November 1888, two days before the Kelly murder. All who have read our book will know the options here, but it obviously needs saying again as so many do not understand police procedures and powers. There are no surviving police documents on the arrest of Tumblety. All we have is the Crown Court Case Calendar for the period, which is not a police document but a printed Court list for cases coming up for trial at the Old Bailey. It has basic columns listing basic facts about each of the defendants. One of the columns is headed "When received into Custody," which is merely the date of first arrest of the defendant. Now there is always a long time between this date (when the police first detain the offender) and his court appearance. It is only in the more serious of cases that an offender is actually locked up from when he is first "received into Custody" and when he finally makes his court appearance. In the majority of cases the prisoner is either bailed to a Magistrates' court for committal to the higher court, or he is given police bail for a week to re-appear at the police station for charging and bailing to the Court. These rules applied then, as they do now. The Court Case Calendar we have here does not list any interim police bails, nor arrests on answering such bail. All it records is the initial time of being taken into custody.
Tumblety's arrest was for a misdemeanor, not a serious one, and was, initially in all probability for only one offence of gross indecency. Police inquiries from one "victim" to the next undoubtedly led to the other three offences. So the options for the police on 7 November 1888, when Tumblety was initially arrested were to charge him and take him before a court to remand him in custody, or to grant him police bail for a week to return in seven days to be charged and taken before a court. If he had been charged, taken before a court, then held for a week it should have been shown on the record, but is not. As the offence they had arrested him for was relatively minor (it carried only 2 years' imprisonment as maximum penalty) the high probability is that he was granted police bail for a week to return to the police station for charging, thus giving the police time to gather their evidence for the four charges. Unfortunately all the police arrest, charge and bail books do not appear to have survived, so there is no police record known of Tumblety's arrest. The police had to charge him and take him before a court within 24 hours of his arrest, or release him on Police bail for 7 days. The fact that a warrant was issued against him on 14 November, two days before his actual appearance before the magistrate shows that this was almost certainly the case. He would have been released on police bail for a week within 24 hours of his arrest on 7 November. It was the law then, as it still is today.
Now, although it can be shown that Tumblety was probably free two days later, at the time of the Kelly murder, it did cause me to seriously consider the question of Kelly's candidacy as a Ripper victim. We have since all heard the arguments for and against her candidacy, the almost totally different modus operandi etc., but I had never questioned that she was a Ripper victim seriously before. I had thought it because of the stated differences, but, as with most others, I had unquestioningly always accepted her as the final victim, and "...the most notorious act of the Ripper, and therefore his defining moment..." as Alex Chisholm so appropriately describes it. I have to say that my knowledge of the facts is quite encyclopedic, as it is of all the circumstances surrounding Tumblety. And I know that it has not been proven that he was "Jack the Ripper," and also that no hard evidence was adduced against any suspect. But, and I would need to sit and talk at length to explain it, my opinion is that he is by far the best suspect we have. Littlechild also indicated this, and did it in a more modest way than any other police officer of the time who has suggested a viable suspect.
So in summation, I have not rejected Kelly as the final victim, nor do I now blindly accept her as the final victim. My view has changed, but it is now more open rather than unquestioningly accepting the received "wisdom" that she was definitely the last victim. That may be seen as "hedging my bets" in relation to Tumblety being the killer, but this is not the case. I remain open to all arguments, and all new information. Objectivity and flexibility remains the only way forward in this type of research.
CG: Would the police have taken a detailed description of Tumblety when he was arrested, and if so, has it been located? Can we determine if the good doctor's moustache really was as gigantic as contemporary illustrations make it appear?
SPE: In Victorian times, as now, it was standard British police procedure to fill out a "DF" or descriptive form for every prisoner charged with a crime. Again there are many factors to consider here, many of which are addressed in our book. First there are, at the moment, only the three illustrations of Tumblety known. There must be more, including a good photograph. But this aspect is important as so many dismiss Tumblety out of hand merely on the strength of his description. This is a dangerous and unscientific thing to do with any suspect. First, we would have to know exactly which witnesses actually saw the killer--it could have been one, two, or even three witnesses. Taking Mrs Long and Lawende as certainly the most likely to have seen the killer, and the best witnesses, then the descriptions would appear to be of two totally different men. Bear also in mind that the police at the time were not certain if they had a good description of the killer, and there were several genuine suspects who were a little older, such as Stephenson, Ostrog, and Tumblety, all much of an age. Significantly all had moustaches. A further problem is the fact that their statements have not survived. We do know that Mrs Long said that her suspect was apparently over 40 years of age.
The first illustration of Tumblety, from his 1866 book, shows him as a younger man with a large droopy moustache. The second illustration, from the New York World of 5 December 1888, shows him with a similar droopy moustache, and wearing a sober two piece suit, and peaked cap. The third illustration, from his 1891 book shows him wearing some sort of military uniform jacket with a large waxed moustache. The actual dates of these two illustrations are not known but I would think that the first was probably from the early 1880's, and the second possibly a little earlier when he was still affecting military connections. Tumblety was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and had an American accent. His style of dress and demeanor, by 1888, appeared to not be as flamboyant as in his younger years. In our book, we quote the description given of a suspicious man seen talking to prostitutes by the witness John Lardy in Whitechapel in mid-October 1888. Lardy's description is remarkably like Tumblety, and is as follows: "...At first he was wearing a sort of frock coat reaching his knees only, but when he came out of the house in King Street he had on a large overcoat which reached to within three inches of the ground. From what I could see he appeared to be between forty and forty-five years of age, and from 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet high...He wore a low hat with a square crown, but I cannot describe his trousers or boots. He had the appearance of an American. His cheek-bones were high and prominent, his face thin, cheeks sunken, and he had a moustache only, his cheeks and chin being clean-shaven. The moustache was, I believe, a false one, for it was all awry, one end pointing upward and the other towards the ground. His hair was dark, apparently black, and somewhat long." Now the suggestion that the man was wearing a false moustache is not too unlikely, for they were a popular accessory in 1888 and there are adverts in the contemporary papers for them with rows of different styles illustrated. Could the man have been wearing a larger moustache to conceal a smaller one, or lack of one, beneath?
Now compare that with the description of Tumblety given in the New York papers on his arrival there on 3 December 1888: "He wore a long English cloth ulster, without a cape, a derby hat, and carried an umbrella and two canes tied together." (New York Daily Tribune). "...a big, fine-looking man...He had a heavy, fierce-looking mustache, waxed at the ends; his face was pale and he looked hurried and excited. He wore a dark blue ulster, with the belt buttoned. He carried under his arm two canes and an umbrella fastened together with a strap." (New York World). This clearly proves that in 1888 Tumblety was not the loud, flamboyant dresser he had been in his earlier years.
CG: Do you plan another update of your book on Tumblety?
SPE: Not at the moment. The position is that the rights for the book in the UK have reverted to us as authors, as Century/Random House are not republishing. That may sound odd as it was a "best-seller" selling 15,500 copies in hardback as The Lodger and 15,000 copies as an Arrow paperback, Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer, in the UK. It is still in print in the US as a paperback. However, Century/Random House is a large publisher dealing, in the main, with "blockbuster best-sellers." Our book pales into insignificance alongside a Gulf War SAS book, published at the same time as ours, which had, the last I heard, sold nearly 400,000 copies! It would, however, be nice to update our book and work the addenda information into the main text, take out some now superfluous material, and add some new material we have found. So the book is there, for update, should any publisher be interested.
CG: I understand you are working on a number of new projects. Could you tell us about them?
SPE: Yes I am. I am very busy at the moment. I have formed a sort of author/researcher/consultant partnership with Keith Skinner and we are working closely together. Keith is an excellent researcher. I have my 188,000 word factual manuscript on the case which I am also developing with Keith, and I am also producing a book with Nick Connell, The Man Who Hunted Jack the Ripper, which should be published next March by Rupert Books. Nick is at the cutting edge of research and the book will contain many new facts. In addition, Keith and I are working on another book project at the moment but it is still in the embryonic stage.
Another area I am always busy in is the collection of illustrative material on the case and the period, and Henninger TV Productions drew on this for their new Jack the Ripper documentary which the Discovery Channel should air early next year.
CG: You have expressed distrust of "profiling" advised by authorities such as the FBI's John Douglas. Does profiling have any place in the hunt for the Ripper?
SPE: Yes, I do distrust profiling, and I do not feel it has a place in the hunt for the Ripper. I shall go into these specifics here. John Douglas himself exhibited the main problem in the television production of 1988, "The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper," when he was part of a panel of "judges." They panel was "fed" the facts and information of the established canon of the time, often opinion and assumption being presented as facts, and reached the inevitable conclusion that Kosminski was most likely the "Ripper." What nonsense, it was not, and can never be, established which were definitely the victims of a common killer. I have previously shown examples the dangers of accepting certain things as "facts" when they are not such at all. To use it in this 111 year old case is more dangerous than forgetting such considerations, common sense and balance of probability are the best yardsticks to use.
It never ceases to amaze me how some of those into the profiling "fad" draw up their own profiles, or select from published ones, as to age, description, psychology, location of residence, etc., then dismiss out of hand any suspect who does not fit. What nonsense! It is akin to astrology. There is a little too much of it in our book for my liking, and it is something that I would revise should the book be rewritten.
Profiling should be used as an aid to detecting and identifying a modern killer in a current investigation. It has no place in solving or attempting to solve a 100-plus year-old unsolved murder case. It is next to useless in this context as it is all supposition, guesswork, and a balancing of odds. As a further comment on profiling, I find it amazing how it has turned into a money-making business all of its own with books, movies, and media appearances. No wonder so many earning cash and fame from it are pushing it so hard. The last I heard was that the FBI only ever claimed a highest accuracy rate of 75 per cent with profiling anyway. And most of those were obvious facts in the first place, such as "All the bodies were found within walking distance of a railroad station." Conclusion: "The murderer must have been aware of the train times and used the railroad." My, that's absolutely brilliant. I will now quote Detective Chief Inspector Gary Copson of the Metropolitan Police, "With some of the profiling, when you take out the obvious things that have been suggested such as the offender is male, is 18 to 30 and is anti-social, the ratio of correct predictions to incorrect ones is 1.45 to 1. That means you may as well toss a coin." Even though the psychologists were unable to come up with accurate profiles, 84 percent of detectives found their advice useful and 68.5 percent said they would use psychologists again. The main reason they found it useful was that it gave them new ideas or it confirmed ideas they already had. The profiler most often used by the police was found to be the least accurate and the police felt that it would be useful to know how they reached their conclusions and reveal the degree of guesswork involved. And that was for modern profiling on a current offender. It simply cannot be applied historically or retrospectively in the way that some "Ripperologists" apply it.
CG: Prior to your discovery of the Littlechild Letter, which piece(s) of primary source material broadened your knowledge and/or understanding of the JtR case the most? Can you remember a moment in those years when you felt, "Ah ha! Now I'm getting somewhere?"
SPE: This has to be when I acquired the hard copies of all the Police and Home Office files from the Public Record Office (PRO). I suppose on seeing their content I realized how immensely useful they were going to be, but I don't think that there was any defining moment that it suddenly came to me. It was more of a gradual process of learning and assimilation of facts. My transcription of all the official records was a great assistance as I have a retentive memory for facts. I can usually look at a piece or essay on the case and immediately spot factual errors. This is one of the reasons that Richard Whittington-Egan asked me to proofread the manuscript of his new book, The Quest for Jack the Ripper.
CG: Which contemporary newspapers contain the most accurate coverage of the Whitechapel Murders? I have heard it said that the newspapers of the day should be used with caution. What would you advise would-be researchers on the use of contemporary newspaper accounts?
SPE: I suppose I have found that The Times and the Daily Telegraph give about the best coverage, although many others are very good. The Star, the East London Advertiser, and the East London Observer are also good. I do have a run of the original issues of The Times in three leather bound volumes from July 1888 to March 1889 and I have found these very useful for reference. When you see the Discovery channel documentary, two of these volumes will be seen next to me while I am being interviewed. Most of the newspaper reports that appeared immediately on the discovery of the crimes were a bit confused, often inaccurate, and contained much hearsay from locals just wanting to see their names in the papers.
As for using contemporary newspapers with caution, any researcher has to proceed with caution at all stages and with all sources. However, the official records should always be accepted as the best source in an area where they exist. Any relevant or important newspaper account being used, or developed in relation to a theory, should be checked out as thoroughly as possible against known facts, or factual sources, such as checking out the identity of people supplying stories against the census returns or directories. Where a story is shown to contain obvious factual errors, then other parts of the story which cannot be checked out should be avoided if possible.
If possible, it is always best to try to corroborate the stories in the newspapers. And you can't always do it by reference to another paper as the stories were often syndicated by the Central News Agency or the Associated Press. In the main, the newspapers are most accurate when reporting the inquest hearings. The reason for this is that the reporters sat in the court noting the evidence in shorthand, thus allowing for less error and hearsay.
|Authors: A Talk With Stewart Evans, Parts I & II|
|Authors: An Interview with Stewart Evans|
|Authors: An Interview with Stewart Evans|
|Authors: Melvin Harris (1930-2004)|
|Dissertations: A Reply to Kosminski and the Seaside Home|
|Dissertations: A Slouch Hatted Yank: A Few Thoughts on the Newly Found I...|
|Dissertations: Arthur Griffiths, Robert Anderson, & Jack the Ripper|
|Dissertations: Ex-Detective Inspector Edmund Reid And Jack the Ripper|
|Dissertations: Kosminski and the Seaside Home|
|Dissertations: On the Origins of the Royal Conspiracy Theory|
|Dissertations: Reader Reactions|
|Dissertations: Suspect and Witness - The Police Viewpoint|
|Dissertations: The Identification of Liz Stride|
|Dissertations: The Kelly Crime Scene Photographs|
|Dissertations: Walking the Beat|
|Official Documents: The Littlechild Letter|
|Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders|
|Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer|
|Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: Letters From Hell|
|Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates|
|Ripper Media: The Man Who Hunted Jack the Ripper|
|Ripper Media: The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook|
|Victorian London: A Visit to Whitechapel|