Please join us in welcoming guest blogger and Ripper expert Rob Carbone to the site. Rob will be walking the historical crime beat for True Stories of Law & Order. We’re delighted to have him on board.
By Rob Carbone
In the Hollywood world of crime scene investigators and cold case detectives, you can always count on a resolution to the crime and the bad guy getting his comeuppance. In the real world it takes longer than a single episode or an intriguing two-episode arch. Processing complex evidence might take a few weeks and tracking down clues on a case gone cold might take 10 years. But would you believe that there are a dogged few in this world who are still looking at evidence and tracking down clues on a case that went cold over 129 years ago?
From August 31, 1888 through November 8, 1888, London’s East End was gripped in fear and violence as five women, known to history as “The canonical victims,” entered into history as the victims of Jack the Ripper. Starting with Mary Ann Nichols, next Annie Chapman, and then the ladies of the “Night of the Double Event,” Cathy Eddowes and Liz Stride and finally with the brutal murder of Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper held England in a grip of fear and became a major news story in Europe and America. And then as quickly as he started he stopped, and while many have been accused of being ‘Saucy Jack’ none were arrested.
Since the end of 1888 the theories have multiplied, some plausible while others seemed too far fetched to believe. There was Prince Albert Victor, the nephew of the Queen and 3rd in line for the throne. Sir William Witty Gull, Queen Victoria’s private physician was accused and the Society of Freemasons along with him. There was the sad school teacher, Montague John Druitt, who drowned himself in the Thames after filling his pockets with stones. Walter Sickert, the famous painter was accused twice, once on his own and as part of the Royal Conspiracy that included Dr. Gull and a coachman named John Netley who it is claimed were working to cover up the fact that Albert Victor married a prostitute and together had a child. The far-fetched included a lunatic mid-wife called “Jill the Ripper” and Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame.
And the theories were not restricted to who the Ripper was but also who he killed and why he stopped (or did he?). The five victims listed earlier are considered the ones who are absolutely Ripper victims. But the Ripper is credited by some with up to 13 additional murders starting in 1887 and ending in 1889. Others believe that the Ripper didn’t die or end up in an insane asylum but that he took his show on the road to New York and South America. One theory that really stretches the boundaries of belief is that the Ripper eventually became a high ranking member of the Catholic clergy in San Francisco.
Many of the theories are easily disproved and as technology gets better new authors dredge up old theories and try to convince us that what has easily been disproved is really true. Take the case of Walter Sickert, the artist in the Royal Conspiracy. American detective novelist Patricia Cornwell recently wrote a book claiming that her investigation uncovered DNA evidence that identified Sickert as the Ripper. She also claimed that his paintings held clues. But as the nuclear DNA tests came back inconclusive and there are multiple, independent witnesses who place Sickert in France from August to November 1888, the chances of Sickert being Jack are between slim and none. But that didn’t stop Ms. Cornwell from giving interviews on TV proclaiming that she had cracked the case. If you listen you can hear Paul Begg and Martin Fido (two of the most renowned Ripperologists in the world) giggling over their gin and tonics in merry old England.
The theories are many as are the facts that seemingly prove and disprove simultaneously. But the simple truths of Jack the Ripper are this, he slaughtered five destitute prostitutes in the worst slum in London, he was never caught, and we will probably never know who he was. And the industry that has become known as Ripperology will grow and grow. I think it is fitting to end this with the text of one of the Ripper letters that is considered to be real in terms of being written by the man himself. So my readers, I leave you with what is called, the “From Hell” letter…
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
Rob Carbone, amateur historian, dedicated Ripperologist and when time allows, marketing professional, grew up on Long Island in a family surrounded by crime. His dad was a 33 year veteran first grade detective in the NYPD who would play his suspect interview tapes for Rob. Rob learned a healthy respect of guns and developed a healthy fascination with the historic criminal minds.Post Categories: Rob Carbone's Crime Beat
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