by Scott Hannaford
Of the suspects named in the Macnaughten Memoranda, Kosminski seems to be the most favoured. Not because of his personal history, which shows him to be a harmless imbecile, but because of Swanson's belief that Kosminski was Anderson's suspect.
In his memoirs "The Lighter Side of My Official Life", Anderson claimed that his supect was a Polish Jew, and that the only person to ever have a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified him but refused to swear aginst him. According to the Swanson Marginalia this took place at a Police Seaside Convalescent Home (probably Brighton, definitely after 1890).
It must be wondered why this identification exercise should take place so far from London. Anderson's witness was certainly either Schwartz or Lawende, both of whom still lived in London. All of the possible Polish Jew suspects were either in asylums in London, lived in London or had died before 1890(this date can be confirmed by the fact that the first PSCH was not constructed until 1890, Brighton being the first), so why bring both suspect and witness all this distance?
Of the two possible witnesses, Lawende did not think that he would be able to recognise the man again, let alone after a period of over at least 18months(probably more). Schwartz gave a valuable description of Stride's assailant, although as it now turns out that her killer probably was not Jack the Ripper, then if Schwartz is the Witness then the Suspect was not Jack the Ripper, and only responsible for one murder.
If we assume that one of them was at the Home for the identification, then why did he not swear to the suspect? Swanson claimed that it was because he was also a Jew and did not wish to have it left on his mind that he was responsible for the life of a fellow Jew. This refusal to name the killer would be contrary to Jewish law as laid down in the Torah. Judaism places human life above anything else, so it is unlikely that a Jewish witness would not have sworn if he had been sure.
It may be that after such a long period the witness had become unsure of the suspect, and either through misinterpretation or poor English on the witness's part his reaction may have been misuderstood. An attempt to admit that he was not certain of the suspect may well have been recieved by the police as an unwillingness to cooperate.
Swanson's note that Kosminski was the suspect is the main reason why Kosminski is considered more plausable than Druitt or Ostrog, but if we look at the details supplied by Swanson the inaccuracies must make us wonder if he was referring to Kosminski after all.
Swanson states that the suspect was afterwards sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch, whereas Kosminski spent three days in Mile End Infirmary and then went to Colney Hatch in 1891. Swanson also stated that the suspect died shortly afted being admitted to Colney Hatch (ie no later than 1892), whereas Kosminski lived until 1919, and assuming that Swanson wrote his notes in 1910(the year of publication of Anderson's memoirs), then Kosminski still had another nine years to live.
There are also contradictions between Swanson and Anderson. Swanson wrote that the suspect was identified and then incarcerated, whilst Anderson wrote that the suspect was incarcerated and then identified.
Aaron Kosminski's history in no way fits any psychological profile of the killer, and the details supplied by Swanson do not fit Kosminski. Martin Fido has suggested that Swanson may have actually been referring to an Aaron Cohen (born in 1865 like Kosminski) and that Cohen was caged under a "John Doe" of Nathan Kaminsky. The confused details known about Cohen/Kaminsky do possibly fit those of Swansons notes, and he may have been referring to Kaminsky and not Kosminski.
If Swanson's marginalia can be ignored as incorrect, then we must wonder as to who the Polish Jew really was. Furthermore was Anderson correct when he called his suspect a Polish Jew? Maybe he was just Polish, or maybe just a foreign Jew. If we consider this then we have a number of possible Anderson suspects!
Polish Jews- Kosminski; Kaminsky; Cohen; Isaacs; Wirtkofsky;
Foreign Jews- Leather Apron; Pizer(Hungary);Issenschmid(Swiss); Ludwig(German);Ostrog(Polish or Russian)
Other Poles- Klosowski
Of these only the first three (and possibly Leather Apron) can seriously be considered, but it is intersting to see how many possibilities there are.
Anderson wrote that he would have named his supect but for fear of libel action. Assuming Kosminski or Kaminsky/Cohen was the suspect, the latter was dead and could not sue (in English Defamation Law, it is not possible to slander or libel a dead person), and one must wonder if the certified and incarcerated Kosminski or his poor relatives would have the ability or knowledge to sue Anderson. (It is worth noting that Pizer had successfully sued a newspaper for calling him 'Leather Apron' and won damages of stlg10, but Pizer was somewhat better off than Kosminski).
Furthermore, as the publishers of Anderson's memoirs had categorically stated that they would be willing to pay for any costs, what reason could Anderson give for not naming such a violent monster? The excuse that no public benefit would occur and that his old department may suffer are somewhat pathetic.
Had it been anounced that the police had caught and caged the lunatic in an assylum, surely this would have been positive press for the police and gone some way to restoring public confidence rather than worsen it?
Swanson was in charge of the investigation from 1st September until 6th October 1888 from when he became desk officer under Anderson. For such an officer who had an important place within the investigation to make mistakes in the marginalia is perplexing.
Anderson's suspect may have been Kosmisnki or Cohen or Kaminsky, but the strength of the "Anderson Suspect" must surely be diminished by a number of problems:
(i) why is there conflict between Swanson and Anderson, two officers who worked closely and harmoniously?
(ii) why were both suspect and witness taken such a long distance for the identification?
(iii) assuming Schwartz to be the witness, did the suspect only kill Stride?(note the different MO)
(iv) Why did Anderson really never name his suspect?
(v) Was he referring to Kosminski or Kaminsky? Was Kaminsky still alive when Swanson claims the identification took place?
(vi) Did Swanson, a relatively lowly inspector, have the same knowledege as the other senior officers?
(vii) Would a Jew have not named the murderer if he was 100% sure?
(viii) Why did the police not ask the witness (whilst still in London) if he was willing to swear if he was going to be certain, rather than wait until they reached Brighton?
(ix) Why did Macnaughten dismiss Kosminski whereas Swanson singled him out?
Answering these questions may well establish the vaildity of the Anderson Suspect or remove him from research completely.
I would welcome any comments.
BA Undergraduate in History
Worcester College England