|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 82, August 2007. 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.|
It is not very often these days that anyone turns up a truly relevant contemporary newspaper report that relates to the Whitechapel murders. With his discovery of an article in the New York World of Tuesday January 29, 1889 American researcher Roger J. Palmer has made a valuable find relating to one of the genuine contemporary police suspects. It is an interview with Dr. Francis Tumblety described in the piece as ‘the celebrated Whitechapel suspect’. Suspect he certainly was, as is confirmed, in the ‘Littlechild letter’, by ex-Detective Chief Inspector John George Littlechild of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch who unequivocally describes Tumblety as ‘amongst the suspects.’ Perhaps the oddest aspect of this ‘celebrated’ suspect is the fact that his name was not even mentioned in the British press with regard to the murders, albeit there were at least two references to him in which his name was not given.
This article is very important for more than one reason and it is a great pity that we were not aware of it twelve years ago when the initial research on Tumblety was conducted. In developing a viable case against a named suspect it is, of course, necessary to speculate and hypothesise to a degree. Thus much of a case built up in such a manner will consist of personal opinion and interpretation. It is for this very reason that authors’ arguments made for various suspects are easily attacked and often disparaged. In the case of Tumblety, I was put into the position of basing much of the case against him on such personal interpretation and opinion. It was therefore very nice to see that some of the ideas I had were bolstered by Tumblety’s own words in this article. In my opinion, no evidence will ever emerge that will conclusively lead to a positive identification of ‘Jack the Ripper’. It is very much a case of the interested reader assessing all the evidence that has been revealed over the years and deciding for himself which suspect he favours as the strongest. For me, the Tumblety interview in this article has greatly added to Tumblety’s status as a suspect. This essay is merely a personal retrospective on the case against him as regards points raised in the interview. First off, and probably most important of all, Tumblety confirmed that he was actually arrested as a Whitechapel suspect, rather than for the misdemeanours of gross indecency with which he was eventually charged. This is enlightening, for it would seem that the London police were sanguine of obtaining a confession from Tumblety, probably the only way in which they could prove his guilt (if indeed he was guilty) as there was no witness to any of the murders. And it does not matter if someone is suspected of murder, he still cannot be legally held unless there is hard evidence to justify that detention. According to Tumblety, the main reasons for his arrest were that he was an American and he wore a slouch hat. Thus his description fitted one of those the police had for the alleged murderer, although undoubtedly there were other reasons that Tumblety was either not aware of or did not want to mention.