|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 46, MAy 2003. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
Journalist and Ripper Theorist
1937 - 6 March 2003
RIPPER SUSPECT NEILL CREAM LOST A CHAMPION when Canadian writer Donald Bell passed away from emphysema in Montreal on 6 March 2003 at the age of 67. He will probably be best remembered for his article 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution?', which was published in the Criminologist, Volume 9, No. 33, Summer 1974. Bell followed up his Criminologist piece with a lengthy article in the Toronto Star, 17 and 18 February, 1979 again advocating Dr. Thomas Neill Cream's candidacy as the Ripper. Besides being a journalist and prize-winning humorist, Mr. Bell was a well-known Montreal book collector and a columnist for Books in Canada. His book, Saturday Night at the Bagel Factory won the 1973 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.
Ripperologists might remember that Mr. Bell's theory about Cream had a touch of humour to it as well since the fact seems to have been that Dr. Cream was in prison in Joliet, Illinois, at the time of the Whitechapel murders. In fact, he was serving a life sentence for murder from November 1881 to July 1891 in the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet. To this charge, Bell had a ready answer: prisoners sometimes paid substitutes to serve in jail for them. He cited the prevalence of racketeering and corruption in Chicago of the 1880s as possibly facilitating Cream being able to bribe his way out of the prison.
In corroboration of Bell's theory, a handwriting expert, Derek Davis, stated that he found similarities between Cream's handwriting and two of the Jack the Ripper letters, the Lusk letter and 25 September Dear Boss communication, which Davis deemed to be by the same hand, heavily disguised. For his part, Bell cited Cream's penchant for writing letters to the authorities as evidence that he could have been Jack, although the known letters by Cream had to do with his own series of poisonings in London not the Ripper murders. Other points of similarity were that both chose prostitutes as victims; both were very cruel, merciless; and their victims, almost never cried out in fear.
Bell theorized that George Hutchinson's statement to Inspector Frederick George Abberline about the man accompanying Mary Jane Kelly on her last night could have been Dr. Cream. The description closely resembled Cream, Bell claimed, ie, a moustache turned up at the ends and dark complexion; 34- or 35-years-old; about 5ft 6in tall; a black tie with a horse-shoe tie pin - and Cream apparently wore such a horse-shoe tie pin. Then of course there's the perhaps apocryphal story that Cream on the gallows on 15 November 1892 managed to shout at the fatal moment before his body dropped and his neck snapped: 'I am Jack the...!!'
In Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook (1988), Donald Rumbelow seemed to effectively answer Bell's theory by citing documents that appear to show that Cream was definitely incarcerated during the critical period. Rumbelow wrote, "the evidence of the governor of Illinois, the prosecuting attorney, contemporary newspapers, Cream's relatives, and Cream himself proves that he was not released until 1891." Specifically, affidavits from Cream's uncle and sister-in-law, as well as a letter from Dr. Cream appear to bear out that the good doctor was where he was supposed to be, serving the sentence that the law decreed he should serve.
Rumbelow concluded, "Unless these facts are disproved - and Donald Bell does not disprove them - then suppositions about handwriting, similarity of appearance to Ripper suspects, and the multitude of other vague generalizations fall down and Cream is left a poisoner, which is what he was - and not Jack the Ripper." In his recent Jack the Ripper Encyclopedia (2001), John J. Eddleston also brushed aside Bell's theory (though without mentioning Don Bell by name). Eddleston stated, "The truth is that at the time of the Whitechapel atrocities [Cream] was safely under lock and key in Chicago." Eddleston further stated that, "Cream did not live in the immediate area of the murders, did not have any demonstrable knowledge of the Whitechapel area, and was 38 years old at the time, which is right at the edge of the likely range for our composite character." We thank Canadian researcher Wolf Vanderlinden for kindly alerting us to Mr. Bell's passing.