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Death mask of Frederick Bailey Deeming
Frederick Bailey Deeming

Frederick Bailey (also written Bayley) Deeming, born in 1842, was said to have had an unnaturally strong relationship with his mother. Upon her death in 1873, Deeming became emotionally distrought, and remained in such a state for quite some time afterward.

A seafaring man, Deeming one day fell prey to a severe attack of "brain fever" while on a voyage, and many contend that he never quite recovered from the trauma. On several occasions he is noted to have committed acts of a ludicrous nature and afterward claiming that his mother had told him to do so from beyond the grave.

Despite his emotional instability, Deeming met a woman during one voyage, eventually marrying and having four children by her.

Deeming was also quite well known for his criminal activities, and in 1887, while stationed in Australia, he was jailed for fourteen days under a charge of bankruptcy. It seems Deeming's particular expertise lay in fraud, since Australian police were known to have confronted him several times on such pretenses.

In 1888, Deeming moved his family to Capetown, South Africa, quickly earning the reputation of a cheat. He moved again to Johannesburg, where his moral actions grew no better.

Deciding it best for his family to move to England, he sent them to live in Merseyside. Deeming himself soon followed. They lived what seemed to be a relatively normal existence until it soon became apparent to neighbors that his family had disappeared. Deeming contended that his wife and children had simply "gone away."

Returning to Australia, Deeming soon remarried and again, his wife mysteriously disappeared. Also again, Deeming asserted to suspicious neighbors that she had gone abroad for business reasons. In Christmas of 1891, Deeming left the house.

A few months later, the owner of the house had begun to show prospective renters the lodgings, and when they would ask what the repugnant odor was in the dining room, the owner could offer no explanation. Once the neighbors told her of the disappearance of Mrs. Deeming, she called in the police to life the floor boards. There she lay, Deeming's second wife, her throat cut and her body in advanced stages of decomposition.

The police in Liverpool were notified to keep watch for Deeming, and upon lifting the floorboards of his house they similarly discovered his first wife and four children -- all five throats had been slashed.

Deeming was caught and arrested in March of 1892 in Perth, Western Australia.

Newspapers began publishing stories commenting that Deeming had been sighted in Whitechapel in 1888, and that he was furthermore seen to have purchased knives in the area. While in prison, Deeming told his fellow inmates that he was indeed Jack the Ripper, but never confessed to authorities.

Deeming contended that a venereal disease he had contracted during his many voyages had caused him to have eptileptic seizures and brain disease which caused him to kill. In court, he angrily stated to the jury that the press had already unfairly sealed his fate. Later, he stated that those present in the courtroom were "the ugliest race of people I've ever seen."

The jury took little more than an hour to find him guilty, and Deeming was hanged on Monday May 23rd, 1892.

The only two links Deeming may have had with the Whitechapel murders were (1) his insanity and (2) his method of killing his family. However, the press, in search of a scapegoat for the murders, hastily threw suspicion on Deeming, neglecting the fact that he was in South Africa at the time of the murders.

Nevertheless, for many years the death mask of Deeming was shown to visitors of New Scotland Yard as that of Jack the Ripper. Today, it is held in the famous Black Museum. Although few still contend that Deeming was a possible suspect, his notoriety in the case will forever be held by the following verse:

On the twenty-first of May,
Frederick Deeming passed away;
On the scaffold he did say --
This is a happy day,
An East End holiday,
The Ripper's gone away.

Just one final note -- in a theory so unwound by the evidence of conflicting dates, it is perhaps a play by the author of the poem to have written that it was "On the twenty-first of May" that Deeming died, when it was widely known that he actually died on the twenty-third.


Contemporary drawing of Deeming's execution

Plaster casts of the head and hand of Deeming

Deeming's skull and death mask on display with those of other famous criminals.

Close-up of Deeming's skull.

Another close-up of the bottom of Deeming's skull.

Frederick Bailey Deeming
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