|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 72, October 2006. 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.|
When Robert Paul walked into Buck’s Row on the morning of 31 August, 1888, he may have disturbed Jack the Ripper and then spent the next thirty minutes walking with him through the streets of Whitechapel. His companion that morning, Charles Cross, is worth considering as a suspect for the Whitechapel murders. Cross may be the innocent man he appeared in 1888, but he may also have been Jack the Ripper. What follows is an examination of Cross as a suspect and conjecture about how he might have carried out the Whitechapel murders.
Little is known of Charles Cross apart from the fact that he was the man Robert Paul found by the body of Polly Nichols. The wounds inflicted on her were brutal and unusual. Later murders ascribed to the same killer would involve even greater mutilations. Had the killer of Polly Nichols completed his cutting or was he interrupted? If he was finished with her body and had discarded it on the pavement before walking away, no one ever reported seeing a man leaving the area. If he was not finished, he should have been disturbed by the arrival of Charles Cross in Buck’s Row. The person found close to the body was Charles Cross—and Robert Paul may have interrupted him.
If Cross was the killer, he had two choices when he heard and then saw Robert Paul coming into Buck’s Row. He could flee or wait for the man to approach. The newcomer could be attacked, if he had seen too much, or could be used to establish the illusion that Cross was just the discoverer of Nichols and not her killer. In the event, Paul had seen very little. In 1888, and after, Cross was accepted as an ordinary carman going to work who had the misfortune to discover a corpse in Buck’s Row.
Our knowledge of Cross is limited to the surviving police records, which are basic and uninformative, and the sometimes contradictory newspaper articles in which he is briefly mentioned. The official records for the Nichols Inquest have not been found. In reporting the inquest on 4 September, 1888, The Times gave Cross’s first name as George. Other newspapers suggested Charles A., Charles Andrew or Charles Allen.
Cross and Paul reported the finding of a body to PC Jonas Mizen (55H) and it was his evidence at the inquest that may have caused the newspapers’s confusion over Cross’s first name. The narrative given in the Morning Advertiser (4 September) explained what happened when Mizen referred to the carman who had spoken to him: ‘The man, whose name is George Cross, was brought in and witness identified him as the man who spoke to him on the morning in question.’
Possibly the wrong name was spoken by Mizen, or a court officer, and noted by journalists. As the Morning Advertiser account continued, it dealt with Cross’s own evidence but now referred to him as Charles Allen Cross. The middle names given by the newspapers, Allen and Andrew, may be a confusion with the pronunciation. Either no one noticed, or bothered to correct, the earlier sentence in which Cross had been called George. The Times reporter may have made a similar error; he caught the carman’s name the first time it was mentioned and did not note the corrected one when this rather unimportant figure came forward to give his evidence.
In considering Charles Cross as a suspect, the time he left his home in Doveton Street is crucial, but the information given by the newspapers was contradictory. The Star (3 September) wrote: ‘He [Cross] was employed by Pickfords. He left home on Friday at twenty minutes past three, and got to Pickfords’ yard at Broad-street at four o’clock.’ The Times agreed, reporting that Cross ‘stated that he left home on Friday morning at 20 minutes past three, and he arrived at his work, at Broad-street, at four o’clock.’ In 1888, Pickfords was a long-established British firm of carriers who are still in business today.
The statement in the Star and Times are incorrect. Cross was with Robert Paul in Buck’s Row at approximately 3.45 and with PC Mizen shortly after, so it would have been impossible for him to have reached Broad Street by 4am. Other newspapers—the Daily News (4 September) and Daily Telegraph (4 September)—said he left home about 3.30 and the Morning Advertiser (4 September) appeared to be offering Cross’s own words, which agreed with this later timing: ‘On Friday morning I left home at half past three.’ These discrepancies are explainable.
Walking time between Doveton Street, where Cross lived, and Broad Street, where he worked for Pickfords, is about 40 minutes. Cross may have told Coroner Wynne Baxter that he usually left home at 3.20 and arrived at Broad Street at four o’clock, but on Friday he was late and left home at 3.30. In the Daily News story, Cross claimed that he was ‘behind time’. If this is what happened, then the Star and The Times recorded his usual timetable, while the Daily News, Daily Telegraph and Morning Advertiser gave the time he claimed to have left home on the day of the murder. Cross may have been explaining why he was in Buck’s Row at a later time than usual.
Walking time between Doveton Street and the Buck’s Row murder site today is approximately six minutes—it would have been quicker in 1888. Even on the basis of this modern timing, if he left home on that morning about 3.30 then he would have been in Buck’s Row about 3.36.