by Dr. Frederick Walker
Scott Morro recently posted an article called "Joe Barnett ... Jack the Ripper ... Not One in the Same" (sic.) In private correspondence, Mr. Morro has kindly invited me to respond to his criticism of my theory. I now do so. My main point would be that while Morro calls attention to various alleged omissions of fact in my theory, and calls those omissions odd, the reverse is true: all the "odd omissions" are on Morro's side of the debate.
Morro's 1st point is that Barnett must be innocent because he was released by the authorities at the time. This is naive. Guilty men walk free every day, and the innocent are wrongfully convicted, even with fingerprints and DNA to guide us. What matters is why Barnett was released. 3 reasons are given in my sources.
- No bloody clothing was found in his lodgings. But he had plenty of time to dispose of it.
- His pipe, found at the scene of the crime, was clumsily destroyed during collection, and so could not be shown to a jury. This hardly acquits Barnett in the courtroom of history.
- He had an alibi for the alleged time of the murder, 4:00am. But the whole point of my article is that police were wrong about the time of death, and there is persuasive evidence and testimony that Kelly was killed much later.
Yes, Barnett was questioned and released at the time. But he was released for what now appear to be flimsy and naive reasons.
Morro then immediately concedes that Barnett had plausible motives for at least 2 of the killings, those of Kelly and Eddowes. What Morro doesn't realize is that this is more than can be said of any other suspect. Even very famous suspects like Druitt and Kosminski had no reason to kill any of the women -- it is doubtful that they even knew them. Motive is a major strength of my theory. Barnett knew at least 3 of JTR's victims: he was Kelly's ex-lover, Eddowes' ex-neighbour and friend-of-a-friend to Chapman. Barnett is likely to have known the majority of Jack's ladies, and had reasons to kill two of them. Regarding his motive for the Eddowes murder (fear of exposure), Morro asks "Why didn't Catherine Eddowes go to the police with her suspicions?" Because Barnett killed her.
Morro rightly criticizes "those researchers" who claim the women were killed by mistake, as the killer searched for Kelly. But I am not one of "those researchers." In pointing out the many similarities among the victims, including the uncanny recurrence of the name "Mary Ann," I was arguing that the killer was disposing of women who reminded him of Kelly -- not that he didn't know what his own girlfriend looked like! This, by the way, is the same motive attributed to Maybrick, except that Florrie Maybrick did not resemble any of the victims, and Kelly did.
Morro notes my comment that the victims knew each other, and asks "How can such an unsubstantiated claim be made?" The reasons why I believe this to be true are listed clearly in my article.
Morro criticizes my emphasis on the Hanbury Street envelope, calling it "a stab in the dark." What I think is a stab in the dark is the belief that a torn envelope can be found beside the body of a murdered woman, the initials on that envelope are compatible with one and only one of the hundreds of suspects in the case -- and it's just an innocent coincidence. Morro comments that the killer would have gathered up all the pieces of an incriminating document, had he the time. At this point Morro repeats the old myth about all Chapman's belongings arranged in neat little piles at her feet. It is now known the killer did no such thing. Dawn was breaking, the neighbourhood was densely populated, and potential witnesses were already stirring. That he would retrieve any of the pieces of a worthless envelope indicates how important those initials are.
The most puzzling part of Morro's essay is his treatment of the eyewitness descriptions. First, he relies on the authority of Begg, Fido and Skinner to claim that only Darrell, Schwartz and Lawende saw the real killer. Since 2 of these 3 saw a man resembling Barnett, I'm not sure what the problem is. Morro then compliments me for pointing out that Hutchinson's Suspect also resembled Barnett. I did not mention Hutchinson's testimony even once in my article. In any event, Hutchinson claimed the Ripper was a wealthy Jew, a description that does not fit Barnett. I believe Hutchinson was a publicity seeker. The witnesses I accept are Lawende, Harris, Levy, Schwartz, Cadoche (earwitness) and Maxwell. If anyone can prove Stride was a Ripper victim, I would also include the numerous witnesses who saw her that evening with a man resembling Barnett. Morro is disturbed by the fact that Hutchinson would have known Barnett, and recognized him. Yes -- and perhaps covered for him, with a story about a wealthy Jew. But Kelly was killed hours later. Hutchinson's Suspect is irrelevant. That is precisely why I ignored him.
Morro concludes the case against Barnett is circumstantial. There is nothing wrong with circumstantial evidence -- it convicts the guilty every day. Morro then states that there is no physical proof against Barnett, with the "exception" of his pipe, which was found at the scene of the crime. Some exception! Morro believes Barnett left it behind when he moved out a week before. Smoking is an addiction. A smoker does not forget his pipe when he moves out any more than an alcoholic forgets the key to the liquor cabinet. And there is much more "physical evidence":
- The locked door of the murder room, for which only Barnett and one other man likely had keys -- the other man has an alibi.
- The Hanbury envelope with Barnett's initials.
- The Lusk Letter (with kidney) written in Barnett's dialect.
- The bloody water in Barnett's sink, seen by a major police witness on the night of a different murder!
- The anti-semitic graffiti, by a gentile who fled north.
- Barnett's striking physical resemblance to police sketches and credible eyewitness descriptions.
- Barnett's address, central to the homes of all victims, canonical and non-canonical. This is only true of Barnett.
Individually, these things might have innocent explanations. Together, they constitute overwhelming proof of guilt. Most modern juries would convict based solely on 1 and 4.
Two important documents have recently resurfaced, and both support my theory.
1) Casebook: Jack the Ripper has reprinted an article from the London Weekly Herald, in which the contemporary journalist clears Hutchinson's Suspect, concludes that Kelly was killed mid-morning and casts suspicion on the man Maxwell saw with her outside the Britannia.
2) Feldman's new book includes a facsimile of a hitherto-ignored JTR letter of Sep. 17th, 10 days before Dear Boss. This letter, never released to the public, includes some turns of phrase from Dear Boss (which it predates), is in handwriting similar to the Lusk Letter, and is signed "Catch me if you can, Jack the Ripper." The clear implication is that both Dear Boss and the Lusk Letter are authentic, even though the handwriting is different -- and that means the killer had an accomplice. Furthermore, the author of the apparently-genuine Sept. 17th letter boasts that Lusk will never find him, as he has positioned himself "right under his nose." According to Paul Harrison, only Barnett joined the vigilantes.
Comments by Stewart P. Evans:
With regard to the latest addition to the Casebook, the dissertation "Odd Omissions: Scott Morro's (?) Plea for Barnett's Innocence" by Dr Frederick Walker, may I add the following riders -
i "The Hanbury Street Envelope" or more accurately portion of an envelope was not a clue at all, and as soon as the Police established provenance for it, i.e. it was found near the hearth in the kitchen of the common lodging house by Chapman [evidence of witness William Stevens] they discontinued enquiries regarding it. It should also be noted that all that was on this piece of envelope was 'M', '2' and 'Sp', part of an address and certainly not Barnett's, or anyone else's, initials.
ii It was established at Kelly's inquest that the key to her room was missing, and there is no evidence that the police considered this at all suspicious.
iii Barnett was with Kelly, in her room, on the evening of her murder and may well have left his pipe there then. I'm sure he had more than one clay pipe. Also the fact that the pipe belonged to him was known to the police, presumably, because Barnett himself told them it was his, how else would they have identified it?
iv Point 4 in Dr Walker's list of circumstantial evidence is totally invalid. The bloody water in Barnett's sink never did exist as a clue. Canards such as this have been disposed of years ago and really should not still be quoted. The story of the bloody water in A DORSET STREET SINK originated with Major Henry Smith in his fanciful and inaccurate account of his activities on the night of the Eddowes murder. It simply DID NOT HAPPEN and was NEVER A CLUE. This has been recognised by all serious students of the case for many years now.
v The "hitherto-ignored JTR letter of Sep. 17th" IS NOT GENUINE. Its earliest provenance is when it was found in the 1980's TUCKED INTO A HOME OFFICE FILE, HO 144/221/A49301C, on its own and totally unremarked upon in the file, which is not the letters file anyway. It borrows from both the 'Dear Boss' and 'Lusk' letters and has all the appearances of a modern hoax 'planted' by a prankster accessing the files in the 1980's. A reading of the police files leaves absolutely no doubt that the origin of the name 'Jack the Ripper' was in the 'Dear Boss' letter of 25 September 1888. Keith Skinner and I personally examined the crude letter with the date Sept. 17th 1888 on it, in what appears to be blue ballpoint ink, at the Public Record Office and there is nothing at all to suggest anything but a modern forgery. Unfortunately 'Ripper' research is beset with much myth and downright hoaxing and things such as this should really be recognised for what they are.
Comments by Mark Feldman:
Dr. Frederick Walker states:
"The witnesses I accept are Lawende, Harris, Levy, Schwartz, Cadoche (earwitness) and Maxwell. If anyone can prove Stride was a Ripper victim, I would also include the numerous witnesses who saw her that evening with a man resembling Barnett."
Even these statements contain at least one obvious error: Israel Schwartz was a STRIDE witness!
It appears to me that Dr. Walker has chosen to ignore Elizabeth Long's (Darrell? Durrell?) eyewitness description. Her description does not seem to fit Joe Barnett at all. To dismiss her testimony strikes me as highly questionable at best. Remember: the theory must fit the evidence; it is bad science to try to make the evidence fit the theory.