Jack the Ripper Suspects

Many suspects have been proposed as the unidentified serial killer or killers given the alias Jack the Ripper, responsible for the murders that took place in London, England, during 1888 (and perhaps other years). Many theories have been advanced, but none have been found to be widely persuasive by experts, and some can hardly be taken seriously at all.
Contemporary police opinion
The following suspects were named by one or more police officials as possibly being Jack the Ripper:

Montague John Druitt

Montague John Druitt (August 15, 1857–December 1, 1888).
Druitt was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England, the son of a prominent local physician. Having received his B.A. from the University of Oxford in 1880, he was admitted to the bar in 1885. He practised as a barrister and a special pleader until his death. He was also employed as an assistant schoolmaster at George Valentine's boarding school, 9 Eliot Place, Blackheath from 1881 until he was dismissed shortly before his death in 1888.
His body was found floating in the River Thames at Chiswick on December 31, 1888. Medical examination suggested that his body was kept at the bottom of the river for several weeks by stones placed in his pockets. The coroner's jury concluded that he committed suicide by drowning "whilst of unsound mind." His mother had suffered from depression and died in an asylum in 1890.
His disappearance and death shortly after the fifth and last canonical murder (which took place on November 9, 1888) and alleged "private information" led some of the investigators of the time to suggest he was the Ripper, thus explaining the end to the series of murders. More recently some have expressed doubts if he committed suicide or was murdered. Recent research shows that between the Kelly murder and his death, he had been involved as legal representation in a court case. In Melville Macnaghten's famous memorandum, from which modern suspicion about Druitt originated, the barrister is incorrectly described as a doctor and his age is incorrectly given as 41 (he was 31 at the time of his death). Furthermore, Inspector Frederick Abberline dismissed Druitt as a serious suspect.

Severin Antonovich Klosowski

Severin Antonovich Kłosowski (alias George Chapman -- no relation to victim Annie Chapman). He was born Seweryn Kłosowski in Poland, but came to the United Kingdom in February 1887 and assumed the name of Chapman. He was undoubtedly guilty of poisoning three women, for which he was hanged in 1903. He lived in Whitechapel, London and worked as a barber from the time he arrived in England. He was at one time Abberline's favoured suspect, and is considered by a number of commentators to be a likely suspect. He is alleged to fit some descriptions of men seen walking with the victims, and to have had the medical skills needed to commit the mutilations; however, the main argument against him is the fact that he murdered his three wives with poison, and it is uncommon (though not unheard of) for a serial killer to make such a drastic change in modus operandi.

Aaron Kosminski (1865–1919). A member of London's Polish Jewish population, Aaron Kosminski was a hairdresser, born in Kłodawa. He was certified insane and admitted to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in February 1891. He was named as a suspect in Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten's memoranda, which stated that there were strong reasons for suspecting him, that he "had a great hatred of women, with strong homicidal tendencies", and that he strongly resembled "the man seen by a City PC" near Mitre Square. This is the only mention of any such sighting, and it has been suggested by some authors that Macnaghten really meant the City Police witness Joseph Lawende, though others suggest alternative explanations.
Written comments by the former Assistant Commissioner, Sir Robert Anderson and former Chief Inspector Donald Swanson claimed that the Ripper had been identified by the "only person who had a good view of the murderer", though some authors express skepticism that this identification ever happened, for a variety of reasons. Anderson and Swanson further stated that no prosecution was possible because the witness was not willing to offer testimony against a fellow Jew. In marginalia in his copy of Anderson's memoirs, Swanson said that this man was "Kosminski", adding that he had been watched at his brother's home in Whitechapel by the City police, that he was taken to the asylum with his hands tied behind his back, and that he died shortly after. This last detail is quite untrue of Aaron Kosminski, who lived until 1919. His insanity took the form of auditory hallucinations, a paranoid fear of being fed by other people, and a refusal to wash or bathe.
Aaron Kosminski meets some of the criteria in the general profile of serial killers as outlined by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal profiler John Douglas and Robert Ressler, including compulsive masturbation, unsteady employment, and absence of a biological father (his father died when Kosminski was eight years old). He also lived close to the sites of the murders. He was described as harmless in the asylum, although he had once brandished a chair at asylum attendants. He was previously reputed to have threatened his sister with a knife. These two incidents are the only known indications of violent behaviour. The copy of Anderson's The Lighter Side Of My Official Life containing the handwritten notes by Swanson was donated to Scotland Yard's Crime Museum in 2006.

Michael Ostrog

Michael Ostrog (1833– 1904?), Russian-born, professional con man. He used numerous aliases and disguises. He was mentioned as a suspect by Macnaghten, who joined the case in 1889, the year after the "canonical five" victims were killed. Researchers have failed to find evidence that he committed crimes any more serious than fraud and theft. Research by author Philip Sugden discovered prison records showing that Ostrog was jailed for petty offences in France during the Ripper murders. Ostrog is last mentioned alive in 1904, though his date of death is unknown.

John Pizer

John Pizer (1850-1897). Pizer was a Polish Jew who worked as a bootmaker in Whitechapel. After the first two Ripper murders, Police Sergeant William Thick brought Pizer in for questioning. Thick apparently believed that Pizer was a man known as "Leather Apron", a local man who was notorious for committing minor assaults on prostitutes. In the early days of the Whitechapel murders many locals suspected that "Leather Apron" was the killer. He was cleared of any suspicion when it turned out that at the time of one of the murders he had been talking with a police officer as they watched a spectacular fire on the London Docks. Pizer claimed that Thick had known him for years, and implied that his arrest was based on animosity and not evidence.

Dr Francis Tumblety

"Dr" Francis Tumblety (c. 1830/3–1903). Seemingly uneducated or self-educated Irish-American raised from an infant in Rochester N.Y., where he sold pornography to canal boats passing along the Erie Canal. He earned a small fortune posing as a quack doctor throughout the United States and Canada and occasionally travelling across Europe as well. He was commonly perceived as a misogynist and was connected to the deaths of some of his patients and charged by the authorities in Canada but skipped the country. It is uncertain if these deaths were deliberate or not. He was also charged with supplying herbs to procure an illegal abortion. He gained a reputation for his eccentric, ostentatious clothes frequently of a military nature. He was arrested and incarcerated in the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, for complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln but released upon the plea of mistaken identity.
Tumblety was in England in 1888 and had visited the country on other occasions; during one such earlier trip he became closely acquainted with a famous Victorian writer Thomas Henry Hall Caine, with whom it was suggested he had an affair and from whom he tried to borrow money as his finances had become precarious. He claimed to have treated many famous English patients, including Charles Dickens, for a variety of illnesses. He was arrested on November 7, 1888, on charges of "gross indecency", apparently for engaging in homosexuality.
Awaiting trial, he instead fled the country for France on November 24, 1888. It has been suggested that he was released on police bail before the final canonical murder of Mary Jane Kelly (on November 9). Notorious in the United States for his scams including selling forged Union military discharge papers during the American Civil War and impersonating an army officer, news of his arrest led some to suggest he was the Ripper.
Tumblety was mentioned as having been a Ripper suspect by former Detective Chief Inspector John George Littlechild of the Metropolitan Police in a letter to journalist and author, George R. Sims dated September 23, 1913. Claims that Scotland Yard sent an officer to the United States in 1888 to try to bring Tumblety back in connection with the crimes have been disputed by recent research, although there are anecdotal American newspaper reports to suggest that this was the case. One objection to Tumblety's viability as a suspect lies with his alleged homosexuality, since in general male homosexual serial killers kill other men and not women.
He died in a St Louis hospital in 1903, possibly of syphilis, and is buried in Rochester N.Y.

Other contemporary suspects
Various other people were named at the time as potentially being guilty of the Whitechapel murders by journalists and others. Some of the most notable are:

William Henry Bury

William Henry Bury (25 May 1859–24 April, 1889). Having recently relocated to Scotland from London, he strangled his wife Ellen Elliot, a former prostitute, on 5 February, 1889, inflicted deep wounds to her abdomen after she was dead and "packed" her into a wooden box, which he subsequently used as a table to play dominoes on. She remained in the box and Bury went about his normal life for almost a week before reporting the murder to the local police on 10 February. Some people believe the wounds were similar to ones inflicted upon Martha Tabram and Mary Ann Nichols. In fact Bury claimed the reason he inflicted these wounds and packed her in the wooden box was because he was frightened that people would think he was Jack the Ripper. Bury was hanged soon afterwards in Dundee, having by then made a full confession to his wife's murder. His was to be the last hanging in the city.

Dr Thomas Neill Cream

Dr Thomas Neill Cream  (May 1850–15 November 1892), doctor secretly specialising in abortions. Born in Scotland, educated in London, active in Canada and later in Chicago, Illinois, United States. In 1881 he was found to be responsible for fatally poisoning several of his patients of both sexes. Originally there was no suspicion of murder in these cases, but Cream himself demanded an examination of the bodies. This was apparently an attempt to draw attention to himself. Imprisoned in the Illinois State Penitentiary, in Joliet, Illinois, he was released on 31 July, 1891, on good behaviour. Moving to London, he resumed his murderous activities and was arrested. He was hanged on 15 November, 1892. According to some sources, his last words were reported as being "I am Jack...", interpreted to mean Jack the Ripper, but the words were muffled by a hood. Experts note that this whole incident may be nothing more than a story invented at a later date, as police officials who attended the execution made no mention of this alleged interrupted confession. He was still imprisoned at the time of the Ripper murders, but some authors have suggested that he could have bribed officials and left the prison before his official release or that he left a look-alike to serve the prison term in his place. Neither notion is seen as very likely by most authorities.

Frederick Bailey Deeming

Frederick Bailey Deeming (30 July 1842–23 May, 1892), sailor living at the time in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and four children. A British citizen, Deeming was brought to court in England on 15 December 1887, on charges of bankruptcy. Sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment, he was apparently released on 29 December, 1887, and promptly fled with his family to Cape Town, South Africa to escape debt collectors. Soon after arrival he was brought to the attention of the local police on charges of fraud. He sent his family to England and headed to recently founded Johannesburg, disappearing for a time from historical record. There is no reliable account of his activities or his whereabouts between March 1888 and October 1889 (covering the period of the murders). He resurfaced in Kingston upon Hull back in England, where he was known by the name of Harry Lawson, one of his many aliases. Well into a career as a professional con man, he apparently attempted to reconcile with his estranged wife. They moved together with their children to a rented house in Rainhill in July 1891. The reconciliation ended on 11 August, 1891, when he cut his wife and children's throats as they slept. Having introduced himself to the locals as a bachelor and his family as his visiting sister and nephews, it proved easy to explain their absence. He wooed Emily Mathers, his landlord's daughter, and they married on 22 September, 1891. The newlyweds left by ship from Southampton, on 2 November 1891, and arrived in Victoria (Australia) on 15 December, 1891. He murdered Emily on 24 December, 1891, buried her under their rented house, and left. Her body was soon found, resulting in a local investigation and the discovery of the other bodies in England. This led to his arrest on 11 March, 1892, and his trial and subsequent execution by hanging. The public of Australia was convinced he was the Ripper. He is said to have been an acquaintance of victim Catherine Eddowes and to have maintained correspondence with her, but this allegation remains unproven.

Carl Feigenbaum was arrested in 1894 in New York, United States, for cutting a woman's throat. After his execution his lawyer claimed that Feigenbaum had admitted to having a hatred of women and a desire to kill and mutilate them. The lawyer further stated that he believed Feigenbaum was Jack the Ripper. This theory gained some press coverage at the time but was disputed by the lawyer's partner, and the idea was not pursued for more than a century. Author Trevor Marriott, a former British police murder squad detective, argues in the second edition of his book, Jack The Ripper - The 21st Century Investigation, that Feigenbaum was in Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper murders and also that he was responsible for other murders in the United States and Germany between 1891 and 1894.

Robert Donston Stephenson (aka Roslyn D'Onston) (20 April 1841–9 October 1916). A journalist and writer known to be interested in the occult and black magic. He arrived as a patient at the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary shortly before the murders started, and left shortly after they ceased. He is the author of a newspaper article and letter to the police concerning the case. His strange manner and interest in the crimes resulted in an amateur detective reporting him to Scotland Yard. Two days later he visited them himself to report his own suspect, a Dr Morgan Davies. Subsequently he fell under the suspicion of newspaper editor William Thomas Stead, the writer Mabel Collins and her friend Baroness Vittoria Cremers. Author and historian Melvin Harris argued in his two most recent books that Donston was a leading suspect.

Suspects named by later authors
Several other names have been mentioned as possibly being the killer in the years after the murders. They include:

Joseph Barnett

Joseph Barnett (1858–1926), a one-time fish porter. He was victim Mary Jane Kelly's lover from 8 April, 1887, to 30 October, 1888, when they quarreled and separated. He visited her daily afterwards, reportedly trying to reconcile. There are suspicions that he was denied. He was proposed as a suspect for her murder as a scorned lover, although some people attribute the other murders to him as well. His accounts about what Kelly is said to have told him about her life constitute most of what is known of her. The validity of both her statements and his reports have been questioned.

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 27 January 1832–14 January 1898), author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass; named as a suspect based upon anagrams author Richard Wallace devised for his book Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend, which is not generally taken seriously by other scholars.

David Cohen (1865–1889). A Polish Jew whose incarceration at Colney Hatch asylum roughly coincided with the end of the murders. Described as violently antisocial, the poor East End local has been suggested as a suspect by author and Ripperologist Martin Fido in his book The Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper (1987). Fido claims that the name 'David Cohen' was used at the time to refer to immigrant Jews who either could not be positively identified or whose names were too difficult for police to spell, in the same fashion that 'John Doe' is used in the United States today. This has been disputed by other authors. Fido speculated that Cohen's true identity was Nathan Kaminsky, a bootmaker living in Whitechapel who had been treated at one time for syphilis and who allegedly vanished at the same time that Cohen was admitted. Fido and others believe that police officials confused the name Kaminsky with Kosminski, resulting in the wrong man coming under suspicion (see Aaron Kosminski above). While at the asylum, Cohen exhibited violent, destructive tendencies that would today likely be linked to schizophrenia, and had to be restrained. He died at the asylum in October 1889. In his book The Cases That Haunt Us, former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas, has asserted that behavioural clues gathered from the murders as well as linguistic hints from the "From Hell" letter (the only one he considers to be authentic) all point to Cohen, "or someone very much like him."

Sir William Withey Gull

Sir William Withey Gull (31 December, 1816-29 January 1890), physician-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. He was named as the Ripper as part of the evolution of the widely disputed Royal Conspiracy theory. Thanks to the popularity of this theory among fiction writers and for its dramatic nature, Gull shows up as the Ripper in a number of books and films (including a 1988 TV film Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and the graphic novel From Hell written by Alan Moore).

George Hutchinson, labourer. On 12 November, 1888, he went to the London police to make a statement claiming that he spent a long amount of time on 9 November, 1888, watching the room that Mary Jane Kelly lived in after he saw her with a man of conspicuous appearance. He gave a very detailed description of a suspect despite the darkness of that night. The accuracy of Hutchinson's statement was later disputed among the senior police of the time. Inspector Frederick Abberline, after interviewing Hutchinson, believed that Hutchinson's account was truthful. However, another police official later claimed that the only witness who got a good look at the killer was Jewish. Hutchinson was not a Jew, and thus not that witness. Some modern scholars have suggested that Hutchinson was the Ripper himself, trying to confuse the police with a false description.

James Kelly

James Kelly (20 April 1860–17 September 1929) (no known relation to the Ripper victim Mary Kelly). Having murdered his wife in 1883 by stabbing her in the neck, he was convicted of the crime. Considered insane, he was transferred to a mental asylum, from which he escaped in early 1888. The police searched for him unsuccessfully during the period of the murders, but he had apparently disappeared with no trace. He unexpectedly turned himself back in to officials in 1927, and died two years later, presumably of natural causes. His whereabouts and activities at the time of the murders remain unknown.

James Maybrick

James Maybrick, (24 October 1838–11 May, 1889) was a Liverpool cotton merchant. His wife Florence was an American of considerably younger years and related to a wealthy Alabama banking family. She was convicted of poisoning him with arsenic in a trial that was, in its time sensational, primarily because of the extreme bias of the Judge's summing up and the omission of important evidence. A diary purportedly by James Maybrick, published in the 1990s, contains a confession to the Ripper murders. The diary is widely considered a hoax.

Dr. Alexander Pedachenko, He was said to be a Russian doctor sent as an agent of the Secret Police of Imperial Russia, the Okhranka, to commit the murders in order to discredit the English authorities. Not only is there no confirmed evidence that Pedachenko committed the murders, there is not even any confirmed evidence that Pedachenko ever existed.

Walter Richard Sickert

Walter Richard Sickert (1860–1942). Sickert, a German-born artist of Dutch and Danish ancestry, was first mentioned as a possible Ripper suspect as part of one of the many Royal conspiracy theories and then named as the sole Ripper by author Jean Overton Fuller. The crime novelist Patricia Cornwell later also claimed in her book Portrait of a Killer that Sickert was the Ripper, based largely on what she sees as misogyny in his art and her belief that the taunting letters claiming to be from the killer were written by him. Sickert is not considered a serious suspect by most who study the case, and strong evidence shows he was in France at the time of most of the Ripper murders.

Joseph Silver, In 2007 South African historian Charles van Onselen claimed, in the book The Fox and The Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath, that Joseph Silver, a Polish Jew, was Jack the Ripper. Critics note, among other things, that van Onselen provides no evidence that Silver was ever in London during the time of the murders, and that the accusation is based entirely upon speculation. Van Onselen has responded by saying that the number of circumstances involved should make Silver a suspect.

James Kenneth Stephen

James Kenneth Stephen (25 February, 1859–3 February, 1892), poet and tutor to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale with whom it is suggested he had a close relationship and was devastated at his death. Perceived as a misogynist, he suffered from serious physical and mental problems after an accident during the winter of 1886-1887. His poems are seen as having a sense of morbidity in them. As an example: -
...I do not want to see that girl again:
I did not like her: and I should not mind
If she were done away with, killed, or ploughed.
She did not seem to serve a useful end:
And certainly she was not beautiful.
Stephen was brought forward as a suspect by Michael Harrison, mainly because of his connection to Prince Albert Victor, The Duke of Clarence and Avondale.

Francis Thompson (18 December, 1859–1907), poet. Perceived as devoted to Catholicism, he was a member of the Aesthetic movement. In 1889 he wrote the short story "Finis Coronat Opus" (Latin: "The End Crowns the Work"). It features a young poet sacrificing women to pagan gods, seeking hell's inspiration for his poetry in order to gain the fame he desires. He is alternatively seen as a religious fanatic or a madman committing the actions described in his story. In 1877 Thompson failed the priesthood and in the Autumn 1878 he entered his name on the Manchester Royal Infirmary register. The infirmary, in which he studied for the next six years as a surgeon, required that its students have a strong physique for the gruelling workload. The study of anatomy, with dissection classes, was a major part of study from the first term. Between 1885 and 1888 Thompson spent the majority of his time homeless, living in the Docks area south of Whitechapel. Thompson tried a number of occupations. As well as a surgeon and a priest, Thompson tried being a soldier, but was dismissed for failing in drill. He also worked in a medical factory. This may have been where, apart from his years as a surgeon, Thompson procured the dissecting scalpel which he claimed to have possessed when he wrote to the editor of the ‘Merry England’ in January 1889 of his need to swap to a razor for shaving.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence has been named in a number of books as either the killer, or the person whom others killed for, as part of a Royal cover up for his alleged misdeeds. These theories are discounted by many historians and by most Ripperologists.

Sir John Williams, 1st Baronet Williams, a friend of Queen Victoria and obstetrician to her daughter Princess Beatrice, was accused of the Ripper crimes in a 2005 book, Uncle Jack, written by one of the surgeon's descendants, Tony Williams, and co-authored by Humphrey Price. The author claims to have records showing that the victims all knew the doctor personally, and contends that they were killed and mutilated in an attempt to research the causes of infertility. The book also claims that a badly blunted surgical knife, which belonged to Sir John Williams, was the murder weapon. Jennifer Pegg demonstrated in 2 articles that the version of the notebook entry used in Uncle Jack to show that Sir John Williams had met Mary Anne Nichols had been deliberately altered for print, and did not match the original document. She further demonstrated that much of the other research in the book connecting Sir John Williams to the crimes was flawed.

Further theories about the Ripper
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Stewart advanced theories involving a female murderer dubbed "Jill the Ripper." Supporters of this theory believe that the murderer worked, or posed, as a midwife. She could be seen with bloody clothes without attracting unwanted attention and suspicion and would be more easily trusted by the victims than a man. A suspect suggested as fitting this profile is Mary Pearcey, who in October 1890, killed her lover's wife and child, though there is no indication she was ever a midwife. E. J. Wagner, in The Science of Sherlock Holmes, offers in passing another possible suspect, Constance Kent, who had served 20 years for the murder of her younger brother at the age of sixteen.
There are also several theories suggesting that "Jack the Ripper" was actually more than one killer. Some authors (for example Stephen Knight) argue that this is the explanation for why police could not pinpoint a single suspect and how the murders on 30 September could happen so closely timed together.

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