|Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide|
|This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.|
Robert Donston Stephenson was born on 20 April 1841 at 35 Charles Street, Sculcoats, Hull, the son of a seed crusher Richard Stephenson. He was well travelled and educated and studied medicine in Paris and chemistry in Munich, under Dr James Allen. In 1859 while in Paris, he met Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton, and was initiated into the Hermetic Lodge of Alexandria. There is some evidence to show he served as a field surgeon from 1860 to 1863 in Garibaldi's army of Red Shirts, in their fight for Italian unification. And claimed to have performed appendectomies without anaesthetic.
Stephenson throughout his life was fascinated by the occult, and travelled to Africa to study black magic and witchcraft. One of many unsubstantiated tales told by Stephenson of his early life was that while in Africa he claimed to have murdered a female witch doctor, and killed the seducer of his favourite cousin, dipping the girl's handkerchief in the man's blood. Also, that he was party to the murder of a Chinaman during the Californian goldrush.
Stephenson travelled widely to India and America, acquiring further knowledge of black magic practices.
In 1863 family pressure would force him to take up a mundane position with the custom office in Hull, but was fired in 1868 for consorting with prostitutes. He also believed he was superior to the position. In 1869 he moved to London and worked as a freelance journalist for the Pall Mall Gazette. It is not clear from this period how he supported himself financially, as the freelance work was infrequent. There is a possibility he was receiving an allowance from his parents. On 14 February 1876 using the name Roslyn D'Onston Stephenson, he married Ann Deary, formally his mother's servant. In 1881 they are listed as living at 10 Hollingsworth North. What happened to Ann Deary after 1886 is unknown. There are no records of her death, yet from this period Stephenson referred to himself as unmarried.
On 11 May 1887 a woman's dismembered body was found floating in the Thames at Rainham, Essex. Some theorists have claimed this was the body of Ann Deary, and that this was Stephenson's first experiment in ritual murder. Until more evidence is known about Ann Deary this claim remains highly speculative.
On 26 July 1888 Stephenson checked himself into the London hospital complaining of tension and sleeplessness, and remained there for 134 days, until December 1888. Therefore was there during the duration of the Whitechapel murders. He was treated for neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, and was discharged on December 7. He was thus only a few brisk minutes walk from the site where Nicholl's Chapman, Stride and Eddowes met their deaths.
Some theorists have suggested Stephenson faked his illness, and that in fact he only required bed rest, so would not have been a security priority and could easily have sneaked out during the night to commit the murders, and return without arousing suspicion.
It was during his stay at the London hospital that Stephenson met Dr Morgan Davis, who was a surgeon there. Davis, while visiting one of his patients, Dr Evans, who shared a semi private ward with Stephenson, gave a graphic account of how the Ripper victims had been murdered and sodomized. Stephenson, upon hearing the news from W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, that Mary Kelly had been sodomized, became convinced that Davis was Jack the Ripper.
Upon leaving the London hospital, Stephenson confided his suspicions to George Marsh, an impressionable unemployed ironmongery assistant and amateur detective, of 24 Pratt street, Camden Town. They met two or three times a week over a drink at the Prince Albert public house to discuss the murders. They also drew up an agreement to share the reward money on the conviction of Davis as the Ripper. Stephenson signed the agreement under the name, Sudden Death. After a falling out between the two men, Marsh went to Scotland Yard on 24 December 1888 and made a statement in which he claimed that Stephenson was in fact Jack the Ripper. Two days later Stephenson went to Scotland Yard and explained his Dr Davis theory. He also wrote to the police and the newspapers with his theories about the murders.
After the double murder of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, he wrote to the police suggesting that the Goulston Street graffiti spelling of the word Juwes, was actually Juives, which was French for Jews, thus indicating that the killer was of French nationality.
Some authors have suggested Stephenson deliberately drew attention to himself so that he would be dismissed as a crank and nuisance, masking the fact that he actually was Jack the Ripper. Inspector Roots, who took Stephenson's statement and who had known him for twenty years, indicated no suspicion in his report, and did not believe Stephenson was the Ripper. He described him as, 'One who has led a bohemian life, drinks very heavily, perpetually fuddled and who always carries drugs to sober him and stave off delirium tremors'. While there is no evidence that Dr Davis was ever questioned or suspected by the police, Stephenson was questioned on at least two occasions, though his suspect file has since been lost.
In 1890 Stephenson was living in Southsea with his lover, the novelist Mabel Collins, and it was hear that he met Collins friend Baroness Vittoria Cremers. Stephenson and the Baroness went into business together and formed the Pompadour Cosmetic Company in Baker Street, on the site where Baker Street tube station now stands. The venture however did not last long, and the company folded in 1891. It is said that Cremers doesn't appear to have thought too highly of Stephenson, though presumably enough of him to go into business together. After first finding him inoffensive, she would later became uncomfortable in his company. On one occasion Cremers saw Stephenson drawing an upside down triangle on his door, he told her he had done so to keep out an evil presence. Initially Mabel Collins was happy to care for Stephenson, who was now clearly in financial dire straits, and provided him with money and a home. One day, Mabel went into the Baker Street office and told Vittoria that Stephenson had shown her something that convinced her he was Jack the Ripper. She refused to say why she had come to this conclusion, only that she wanted to be free of him.
In the late 1920s - 30's. Cremers told journalist Bernard O Donnell that she once went into Stephenson's room, without him ever knowing, to look for and steal some compromising letters that Collins had wrote to Stephenson. Under the bed she found in a tin case seven neck-ties that were stained with what appeared to be blood. Stephenson had once told Cremers he knew who the Ripper was and went on to tell his, Dr Davis story, complete with a description of how the killer hid the organs he removed from his victims behind his neck-ties. Cremers, upon having a conversation with Stephenson, when he stated there would be no more Ripper murders, and finding the bloodied neck-ties in Stephenson's room, became convinced, along with Mabel Collins, that he was Jack the Ripper. In the 1920's the ties were supposedly in Aleister Crowley's possession, Crowley boasting that they had belonged to the Ripper, who was a black magician and surgeon known to him. He went on to name the man as Stephenson, whom he believed had died in 1912.
Stephenson in later life appeared to lose interest in black magic and converted to Christianity. He wrote the book The Patristic Gospels, which was published in 1904.
There is no documented record of Stephenson's death, and no evidence to confirm Crowley's claim that he died in 1912. Researcher Chris Scott has recently discovered documentary evidence relating to the death of Dr Roslyn D'Onston on 9 October1916, his address was listed as 129 St John's Road, Islington. As Stephenson used the alias Roslyn D'Onston, when he married Ann Deary in 1876, it would appear Stephenson and Roslyn D'Onston are one and the same, and that this indeed is the correct suspect.
Cremers described Stephenson at the time of their first meeting as, 'Unassuming in appearance, a man one would not look at twice, tall, fair and moustachioed, his hair was thinning at the sides, his teeth were discoloured, his eyes were dead, his clothes were old and worn yet spotlessly clean, had a military bearing and was the most soundless man she had ever heard. One who could stand behind you without you ever have heard him approach'.
D' Onston wrote articles under the name, Tautriadelta. One such article he wrote for W.T. Stead's spiritualist magazine The Borderland, 1 December 1888 convinced Stead that the writer he had known for many years was Jack the Ripper. The article stated there were six murders, and not five, and the murder sites formed the pattern of a sacrilegious cross.
Was Robert Donston Stephenson - Jack the Ripper.
Stephenson, by booking himself into the London hospital, was in the location where and when the murders occurred. He had the medical knowledge and skill to commit the murders, and remove the body parts, and was suspected by at least four people, Marsh, Collins, Cremers and Stead. He was familiar with the area, and his inoffensive and cultured manner would have won the trust of his victims. He may also have contracted a venereal disease from a prostitute, and may have harboured a grudge against them.
Against him being the Ripper is his age, 47, and his height, 5ft 11"tall, with a lean build. His attempts to insert himself into the Ripper story as an authority on the subject may have been nothing more than an effort to gain more freelance work. Many of his stories about his life and exploits appear to be just that, stories.
Unfortunately, to view Stephenson as a serious and credible suspect we have to rely heavily on both the testimonies of Stephenson himself and Vittoria Cremers, who's links to Aleister Crowley leaves one sceptical of the validity of the claims.
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