2 February 1979
New Evidence indicates that he was a Canadian.
Jack the Ripper, one of the world's most infamous murderers, might well have been a Canadian, according to new evidence recently uncovered.
Tony Barrett, a UBC classics professor, says he has discovered conclusive proof that Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, who practised as a physician in London, Ont., was the mass murderer who killed and mutilated prostitutes in London, England in the 1890s (sic).
"Jack the Ripper is not even my main hobby," says Barrett. "My interest in him began as reading material in trains, etc."
Nonetheless, he says his research has uncovered the evidence that might end the controversy over the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Even if Thomas Neill Cream was not the Ripper, his life history is interesting enough. Here is Barrett's story:
After Cream graduated from McGill medical school, he moved to London, Ont., to practise. It is suspected that his first victim was one of his patients. Cream was not charged for the crime but due to the case's controversy was forced to move to Chicago.
It was in Chicago that his career in crime began in earnest. The first trouble came when he was accused of murder in an abortion case. He was acquitted, and so continued on with his work.
Cream then began an affair with the wife of one of his patients, Daniel Stott. He added strychnine to Stott's prescription, killing him.
Cream's involvement with the death would never have been discovered if he had not sent a letter to the Chicago police accusing a pharmacist of poisoning Stott. The body was exhumed, and an autopsy showed that Stott had indeed been murdered.
But unfortunately for Cream, Stott's widow turned state's evidence and testified against him and the case was sealed.
Cream was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1881 and was not released until 1891.
After his release, the good doctor returned to England, where he had done postgraduate work, and while there is believed to have murdered two women. Both women were at first presumed dead of natural causes, but strychnine poisoning was eventually found to be the cause of death.
For a time, Cream returned to Canada and then it was back to England to kill a few more women. But the murders finally caught up with Cream, and he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.
He was executed on Nov. 15, 1892.
The infamous Jack the Ripper began his career of mutilation and murder on April 3, 1888. He committed a series of murders in which all of the victims were women, more specifically prostitutes.
He was responsible for five murders for certain, and possibly another four.
His true identity was never uncovered.
"A respectable looking gentleman, posing as a doctor, giving his name as Fred, gave them a white pill (strychnine) that he said would do wonders for them," says Barrett of Jack the Ripper's modus operandi.
"Witnesses at the time who thought they saw Jack the Ripper said he was a doctor, carrying a bag."
Barrett says the doctor disguise, if in fact it was a disguise, would have given the murderer a certain immunity in the poverty stricken areas where the crimes were committed.
"Students (of Oxford University) volunteered to dress up as woman to catch Jack, but Oxford authorities stopped it because the students started to enjoy it."
Several suspects were put forward as a possible Jack the Ripper.
A DR. Stanley was suspected because his son died of venereal disease after a liaison with a prostitute, and it was suggested that the doctor embarked on a campaign of revenge, killing prostitutes.
Another suspect was Dr. Pedachenko. He was suggested because some lost papers written by Rasputin mentioned Pedachenko as a Russian secret agent sent to England to discredit Scotland Yard.
Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria's physician, was added to the list because Prince Albert Victor, also a suspect, had married a commoner, a tobacconist's assistant. Gull felt this was an affront to the Royal family. (He was associated with the murder of Mary Kelly who had been a witness to the prince's marriage.)
Prince Albert Victor's name came forward after some papers of Dr. Gull's, also mysteriously lost, named his as the murderer.
There were other suspects and plenty of confessions.
During the time the murders were being committed, Scotland Yard received an average of 1,400 confessions per month. The last confession came in the early 1950s.
"Jack the Ripper got his name because he wrote a lot of letters to Scotland yard," says Barrett, and adds this is one reason why Cream was such a good suspect.
After the death of Matilda Clover, Cream wrote a letter to Scotland Yard accusing Lord Russell, Bertrand Russell's father, of the crime. Because of this letter, Clover's body was exhumed and strychnine poisoning uncovered.
Other factors that pointed Scotland Yard's accusing finger in Cream's direction were his complaints of being shadowed as a murder suspect. Shortly after he complained, Scotland Yard added his name to their list of suspects and began shadowing him.
Finally, at the moment of his death, Cream began a confession that ended at the end of the hangman's rope.
"I am Jack the ..." were his final words before his neck broke.
Barrett explains there have been several problems with identifying Cream as the Ripper. The main stumbling block has been that Cream was in prison in Chicago at the time Jack the Ripper committed his murders.
Donald Bell, a Canadian, published a paper in a 1974 criminology journal that described his research into the Illinois penal system in the 19th century.
Bell discovered the prison system was at that time open to corruption and that prisoners serving life sentences could bribe their way out.
Barrett says this information, added to the knowledge that Cream's father had died in 1887 leaving a large inheritance, makes it feasible that Cream could have bribed his way out of jail and committed the Ripper murders.
"Neill Cream is probably the strongest of the known suspects," says Barrett. "I now have evidence that he was in London at that time."
Barrett's new evidence is based upon the official biography of Marshall Hall. Hall was an English barrister, a member of the British parliament and an impeccable source with a prodigious memory.
Hall attended Cream's trial in 1892 which ended with the death sentence. He told his biographer that Cream had been a client of his in a bigamy case some years before, says Barrett.
Some years before would certainly mean before 1891, adds Barrett, and since Hall was not called to the bar until 1883, he must have defended Cream, between 1883 and 1890, precisely the period during which Cream was imprisoned in Chicago.
"This proves that Neill Cream was in London at the time that the Jack the Ripper murders were committed."
Barrett says that since the only main objection to Cream's claim to the Ripper title has been placing him in London at the proper time, his new discovery must finally establish Cream as the infamous murderer.
Newspapers, television and radio stations have been clamoring after Barrett to explain his theories about Jack the Ripper, he says.
Barrett adds that he is saddened by the fact that his years of research in his field of expertise, the classics, and his papers already published on astronomy have not led to the same recognition his fascinating research on Cream produced.