In the strange case of Jack the Ripper there was no forensic evidence, signed confession or finger print analysis thus positive proof of the Ripper’s identity remains unknown.
Scotland Yard officers confronted over 2000 people and conducted investigations on more than 300 before finally detaining 80 suspects. All of these suspects were released without charge.
The passage of time (127 years to be exact), has allowed us to investigate all the known evidence and suspects in the hopes that one day we may put a face to history’s most elusive criminal .
Today we present the cases of 4 of the most popular top suspects in the Jack the Ripper mystery.
Sir William Gull and the Royal Conspiracy
The theory that a royal conspiracy was behind the murders is a very popular one. Not only is it the premise of the 2001 movie From Hell with Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, it has spawned made-for-TV movies, as well as documentaries and books.
This most appealing theory unfolds like this: Prince Albert Victor, known popularly as Eddy, was the grandson of Queen Victoria.
Eddy frequently enjoyed slumming in the Whitechapel area, visiting music halls, bars and late parties. It was during this time he met and had an affair with a shop girl named Annie Crook. Annie became pregnant with his child and, according to later rumours married Eddy secretly in a Roman Catholic wedding.
Marrying or impregnating a commoner and especially a Catholic girl of low social standing was a definite no-no for a future king, and wind of this scandal got back to The Queen, who insisted on a quick resolution to the problem. The prime minister delegated this task to Queen Victoria’s trusted and loyal physician, Sir William Gull.
Dr. Gull had Annie taken away to a hospital where he savaged her memory and intellect, leaving her institutionalized for the rest of her life. Mary Kelly was caring for Annie’s child and in doing so entrusted the knowledge of the secret love child to her friends, Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.
To silence the scandal and prevent a potential blackmail plot Sir William Gull was once again given the task to deal with. He sought out the women one by one and murdered them, disguising the work as that of a mad man and thus the myth of Jack the Ripper was born.
The story has been told in countless movies, documentaries and books over the years. Everybody loves a conspiracy theory and no doubt this one will endure for a long time to come.
In 1992, Ripperologists were provided a rare opportunity to sharpen their teeth. Michael Barrett, a scrap metal dealer from Liverpool, came forward with a diary reputedly written by a cotton broker named James Maybrick, who died in 1889. In this diary, James Maybrick confesses to being Jack the Ripper.
Barrett says that his friend Tony Devereux gave him the diary, but Devereux never explained how it had gotten into his hands. Devereux was dead and his family had no knowledge of the diary at all. Experts are divided over whether the diary is genuine or a clever hoax aimed at a gullible press.
For over 100 years, scholars wondered why the Ripper murders had begun suddenly in August of 1888 with the murder of Polly Nichols, and then stopped just as abruptly in November of that same year with the murder of Mary Kelly. The Maybrick diary, if it was authentic, provided the answer.
If James Maybrick were Jack the Ripper, his death in 1889 would explain why the murders ended when they did.
Kosminski for a long time was considered a probable suspect in the Whitechapel murders by Sir Melville Macnaghten, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan police. Kosminski was a Polish Jew, a misogynist, who was sent to an asylum because of his insanity.
According to police sources he had a deep hatred of women especially from the prostitute classes and there were many circumstances which made him a strong suspect. It is very likely that Kosminski was a paranoid schizophrenic and living in the heart of the murder area would have given officers grounds for suspicion.
Aaron Kosminski would remain in an asylum until his death 15 years later.
Montague John Druitt
Montague John Druitt, the son of a surgeon, was born in 1857 in Dorset. Druitt graduated with a degree in classics and went to teach at a boarding school in Blackheath. He was very oriented towards sports and played hockey and cricket. In his spare time he studied law and became a lawyer.
In 1885, his father died. A couple of years afterwards, his mother was institutionalized for depression and paranoid delusions. His family had a very pronounced history of depression and suicide.
On the 31st December 1888, just 6 weeks after the final Ripper murder, Druitt’s lifeless body was found floating in the Thames , apparently due to suicide. In his office a note was found spelling out his fears that he was going insane.
According to police reports he was sexually insane and there was very little doubt that members of his own family suspected him of being Jack the Ripper.
These are but 4 in long line of suspects in history’s most infamous murder mystery and only time and research will tell if that list will get shorter. For now one thing seems certain, whoever Jack the Ripper was, his identity remains hidden in shadows of the Victorian night.
Why not investigate your own preferred suspect on London’s number 1 Jack the Ripper tour? Join the experts every night at 7.30pm from the front doors of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.