A CAST OF THOUSANDS
BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
As I commented in the section about Edmund Buchan (q.v.), theories about why the murders stopped after the killing of Mary Kelly (if one discounts later potential victims such as McKenzie and Coles) include the possibilities that the killer committed suicide or was confined. It was purely on the basis of the timing of his death that Edmund Buchan has appeared in the field of Ripper studies. One could also say the same for one of the "big league" suspects, Montague John Druitt. The only demonstrable link between Druitt and the cessation of the murders is the period in which he died. We have no evidence that links him with the Whitechapel area, let alone any of the victims. Of course, there is the missing link of the "private info." mentioned by Melville McNaghten, on the basis of which, presumably, he included Druitt in his list of three possible candidates to be the murderer.
The same point could, in my opinion, legitimately be made in the case of suspects who were confined either to prison or an asylum in the period shortly after the last killing. The major personage included in this category would be Aaron Kosminki. Although he could obviously be linked to the Whitechapel area, there was no known link with any of the accepted victims of the Whitechapel murderer.
However, there is one man who fulfils the following criteria:
a) He was admitted to the Infirmary four and a half weeks after the Kelly murder
b) From the infirmary he was confined to the Banstead Asylum
c) He died in the asylum at the age of 33 in the latter part of 1889
d) Not only did he live in the Whitechapel area, but the admission record to the Infirmary gives his address as the same as one of the victims.
His name was John Francis Shackleton, born in Lancaster in the third quarter of 1856. His parents were Edmund Shackleton, a railway clerk, and his wife Margaret. The family moved from Lancashire to London at some time between 1861 and 1871. In chronological order, these are the glimpses that we have of John Shackleton:
91 Leonard Gate, Lancaster
Head: Edmund Shackleton aged 34 - railway accountant and cashier
Wife: Margaret Shackleton aged 40
James aged 9
Annie M aged 6
John F aged 4
Charles F aged 2
Alfred H aged 8 months
All the above born in Lancaster
Susannah Stephenson aged 16 born Morecambe - House servant
Visitor to servant:
Mary Stephenson aged 24 born Blackburn - Housemaid
4 Liverpool Street, Finsbury
Head: Edmund Shackleton aged 44 - Bookkeeper to Railway Company
Wife: Margaret Shackleton aged 50
James aged 19 - Warehouseman
Annie aged 16 - Gentleman's <illegible> maker
John F aged 14
All the above born in Lancaster
Maria Lee aged 30 born Clerkenwell - Needlewoman
John Shackleton married in the last quarter of 1876 to one Matilda Peacock. The marriage took place in Islington.
41 Charles Square, Shoreditch
Head: Edmond Shackleton aged 55 born Lancaster - Railway carrier's Clerk
Wife: Margaret Shackleton aged 60 born Lancaster
John F. aged 24 born Lancaster - Merchant's Clerk (out of employment)
It is not clear why John's wife is not included in the family listing for 1881.
Shackleton was admitted to the Whitechapel Union Infirmary on 12 December 1888, at which time his details were given as follows:
12 December 1888
John Shackleton aged 32
55 Flower and Dean Street
Collector of Old Iron
Injury to Head
Sent to Banstead Asylum 28 December 1888
This address, 55 Flower and Dean Street, was the same premises where Catherine Eddowes and John Kelly were living at the time of her death.
Shackleton died the following year on Banstead Asylum as follows:
Quarter 3 (July to September)
Shackleton, John Francis aged 33
Epsom Vol 2a Page 7
(Banstead Asylum came under Epsom district for registration purposes)
This is a man about whom I would dearly like to know more. The facts that he was admitted with a head injury (of unknown date) which sufficiently affected his reason to cause his admission to an asylum, where he died less than a year later, and that he lived in the same house as one of the victims, give pause for thought. I am not advocating this man as yet another full blown suspect. I am merely pointing out that his circumstances are, to my mind, even more persuasive than those of some of the major suspects who have been researched for years.