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Stephen P. Ryder
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Courtesy of Chris Scott

The Edwardsville Intelligencer (Illinois) 20 August 1965

Yank Exposes Jack the Ripper
by Tom. A. Cullen
European Staff Correspondent
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

London: I hate to disappoint all the Cockney old age pensioners who have plied me with cups of tea, but Jack the Ripper was not the wax-moustached villain they think he was.
I talked to these old dears when I was gathering material for my book on Jack the Ripper. (EDITOR'S NOTE: "When London Walked in Terror" to be published Sept. 9 by Houghton Miffin Co.) Nearly every one of them pictured the Ripper as something that had stepped out of Victorian melodrama.
I hate to explode this sacred British myth but the Ripper was not even a swarthy-looking foreigner. Neither was the killer who terrorized London in 1888 a seaman, a barber surgeon, a midwife, a Salvation Army zealot, or a member of the nobility. All these theories were widely held at one time or another.
The man who prowled London's East End by gaslight looking for prostitutes to murder and disembowel was, if Scotland Yard's theory was correct, a mild-mannered lawyer who also taught school.
His name was Montague John Druitt, and he was 31. Druitt didn't come from the lower depths of East London's slums. He came from a good family in Dorest, and he was a graduate of Oxford University. He had been admitted to the bar only three years before the Ripper murders began.
In disclosing the name of Scotland Yard's prime suspect for the first time in my book, I also advance the theory that he may have been a demented social reformer, who murdered in order to call attention to the appalling poverty and vice in the East End.
As many as 14 murders have been laid on Jack the Ripper's doorstep, but I hold that only five can definitely be traced to one man. The victims were, with one exception, middle-aged drabs far gone in alcoholism or disease.
Montage John Druitt committed suicide by throwing himself into the Thames shortly after the last of the Ripper murders, having carefully weighted his body down with stones. It is significant that the police investigation of these crimes ceased the moment Druitt's body was fished from the river, as I point out in my book.
But to return to the Cockneys who helped me in the writing of this book, I feel a little like a poacher in tackling this classic murder mystery.
After all, how would the people of Fall River, Mass., like it if some Englishman were to claim that he had solved the Lizzie Borden murder mystery?
The east Enders I talked to, however, were absolutely polite. In addition to brewing tea for me, the offered to take me to the sites of the Ripper murders, which have changed little in the 77 years that have elapsed since the crimes. Miraculously spared by the Blitz, many of the streets where the Ripper operated are still gaslit and contain dismal Victorian slums.
My theory is that the madman who called himself the Ripper murdered in order to point up conditions in this area, where poverty had reduced the inhabitants to thieving and prostitution.
One of the things I discovered is that Jack the Ripper has become something of a folklord figure of fun in Cockneyland. Mothers still frighten their children with: "The Ripper will get you if you don't watch out." And these same offspring skip rope chanting: "Jack the Ripper stole a kipper, hid it in his father's slipper."
Guessing the Ripper's identity has long been a popular British parolr game. The candidates brought forward to fill the Ripper's shoes have varied from a Portuguese seaman to King Leopold I of the Belgians (who died 22 yaesr before the crimes were committed).
I have even heard it suggested that the murders were the work of a gorilla that had escaped from a travelling circus.
I do not believe for a moment that my research will stop the speculation concerning the Ripper's identity. In fact, I hope that it continues. It would be a shame to deprive the Cockney old dears of their favorite guessing game.
A few years ago a man wrote to a London newspaper denouncing his own father as the Ripper (the father, it seems, had committed the murders as a lad of 15). More recently, two children calmly disclosed the Ripper's identity to a television interviewer. The Ripper was their grandmother.
Stephen P. Ryder, Editor
Casebook: Jack the Ripper

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