|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 41, June 2002. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article. Subscribe to Ripperologist.|
American Ripperologist John Malcolm takes a penetrating and fresh look at some old assumptions and raises some interesting and thought-provoking questions.
Mary Kelly is dead.
At least we can agree on something.
Or can we?
Many opinions are woven together with facts in order to rationalize the horrific crimes that occurred in London’s East End near the end of the nineteenth century; many scenarios have been proposed, some easily embraced, others easily dismissed. The parameters are set by popular consensus, which is, again, formed by the combination of facts and opinion, for the indeterminate facts leave gaping holes in this ugly and sad story.
As tedious as this may seem, a re-examination of the basics should be a perpetual element, hand-in-hand with speculation and the evaluation of new information. At times we move beyond the difficult questions and hope that leaping over these will land us the big prize. It’s frustrating and nerve-wracking for those who have had more than just a casual interest in these crimes and times, but we persist in increasing numbers and with increasing vigor.
Of course the multitude of problems that one must deal with in a case such as this must begin with the distance of over a hundred years that separates us from the world of 1888 exponentially.
Now, with the advent of many sophisticated detection techniques and the birth of forensic science, criminal profiling, etc., we feel much more prepared and confident when approaching an unsolved crime, and this confidence is basically justified. This is true when it comes to modern crimes, but the further we go back in history, the more vague the details become. And this is why we should approach a mystery such as the Whitechapel Murders with a certain degree of caution. It is much too easy to look back at the people involved and think them ignorant and uninformed in relation to our present day technology, but in turn we should be inclined to believe ourselves to be ignorant and at least under informed regarding the everyday ways of life and also the actual degrees of competence of the authorities in those times, relative to those times.
For instance, the criminal element has evolved parallel to those responsible for their detection; It is doubtful that the percentage of unsolved crimes is much different today than it was in 1888. Advances in the sciences of transportation, etc. and the cultivation of the criminal mind over time has made it more difficult in many instances, the problems and solutions of detection increasingly more complex. With that said, I would like to move on to examining several areas of debate, such as the relevance of the pre-canonical five victims, the focus on the ‘Polish Jew’ Sir Robert Anderson’s words, weapons and ‘anatomical knowledge’, in which we’ve tended to use a ‘this side or that side of the fence’ approach generally as a means to solutions that ultimately fit our opinions, possibly to the detriment to our ultimate pursuit, which is, of course, to put a name and/or a face to Jack the Ripper.
Before I begin, I am inclined to start out on the defensive. I do not subscribe to any particular theory, nor do I feel close to formulating one of my own. There are certain opinions that I carry that tend to hold sway on my observations, but I continue to try to overcome these, for speculation is too easily transformed into fantasy. I really do feel that I would sleep better at night if this mystery were to be solved, and it would be a tremendous boost to my ego if I was to be part of that, but… I have no such expectations.
That said, one of the many things that trouble me regarding contemporary research is how easily Martha Tabram and Emma Smith are excluded from consideration as far as being possible victims of ‘you know who.’
Although obvious discrepancies in M.O. make it easy to dismiss these two (especially Smith), there are many common denominators that should complicate matters. The Canonical Five were all killed within a small area of the East End, lodged in an even tighter area, were in their forties (with the exception of Mary Kelly), were attacked on weekends or bank holidays and were, at least suspected of being involved in prostitution.
Smith and Tabram lodged in George St. (nos. 18 & 19, respectively), which ran through Thrawl St. (Nichols, Kelly) into Flower and Dean St. (Nichols, Stride, Eddowes); Smith was approximately forty-five and Tabram thirty-nine, both assumed to be of the same ‘class’. Emma Smith was attacked at the corner of Osborn St. and Wentworth St., Martha Tabram in George Yard, both locations almost directly in the centre of the other murder sites and within yards of each other.
Smith, by her account, was attacked by three men who had followed her from Whitechapel Church, presumably from her ‘soliciting in and around Whitechapel High St.’ which becomes Whitechapel Road at Osbom St., which becomes Brick Lane at Wentworth St... Mary Ann Nichols was seen walking alone in the Whitechapel Road at 11:30pm on her last night and again leaving the Frying Pan (on the corner of Thrawl St. and Brick Lane) at 12:30am. Police and the press made the connections of these first three of the Whitechapel Murders and only the subsequent murders, which had more in common with the murder of Polly Nichols, put any distance between hers and the earlier murders.
In all probability, the Whitechapel Murderer did not begin his life of crime with the slaying of Polly Nichols. Without speculating on initial motives, the attack on Tabram may have been his first with a knife, which would explain the apparent sloppiness and subsequent refining of technique in the later killings. Now, as far as Emma Smith goes, even if she was assaulted by three men, who’s to say that one of them couldn’t have evolved into Jack the Ripper?
Clearly there was something uncommon about this particular crime (as suggested by press links to the later murders). We continuously hear of how brutal this area was at the time, but so far I have yet to see any examples of crimes that can be compared with even this one. The debate over the credibility and effectiveness of the FBI’s criminal profiling program will be saved for another day, but the results of an interesting survey can be found in a book by Eric W. Hickey titled Serial Murderers and their Victims:
“Special agents from the FBI examined a sample of 36 sexual murderers, 29 of whom were convicted of killing several victims. Specifically they were interested in the general characteristics of sexual murders across the United States. They explored the dynamics of offenders’ sexual fantasies, sadistic behaviors, and rape and mutilation murders. These investigators noted several deviant sexual behaviors practiced before, during or after the victim has been killed. The act of rape, whether it be the actual physical act or a symbolic rape in which an object is inserted into the vagina, was found to be common among serial killers in this study. For some offenders, the act of rape served as only one form of sexual assault; they engaged in a variety of mutilations, sexual perversions, and desecrations of the victim’s corpse (Ressler et al., 1988 pp. 33-44)”
As we know, Emma Smith’s death was attributed to the effects of injuries caused by being raped with a “blunt instrument.” This murder would appear to incorporate quite a few elements in the different cases of the Whitechapel Murders, although again more points subject to debate.
As for the robbery motive in the Emma Smith case, it seems as though each subsequent victim may have been robbed, considering that none of the victims were found to have any money whatsoever on their person when they were discovered – unless you are inclined to believe that, coincidentally, each victim was the first customer in each case.
As for the murder of Martha Tabram, we generally tend to implicate her “soldier client”, when connecting Dr. Killeen’s assessment of the wounds when referring to the single wound on the chest that could have been caused by a ‘dagger or sword bayonet.’ We know that, with the exception of that particular wound on the sternum, the others could have been caused by an “ordinary penknife” I am presuming this wound must have been caused by a “strong” knife - one that could have withstood conflict with bone. What is unclear is whether or not the other wounds could have been caused by an instrument so described.
Another example of the use of statements from medical men to substantiate theories can be observed within the statements of Dr. Bagster Phillips when discussing the murder of Elizabeth Stride – ‘the knife was not sharp- pointed; but round and an inch across. There was nothing in the cut to show the incision of the point of any weapon.’ Now, from a knife being pulled across the throat, I don’t quite understand how it could be ascertained that this was not necessarily “sharp pointed,” especially if there was ‘nothing in the cut to show an incision of the point of any weapon.’
Something that has not been discussed at length, or maybe not at all, could dispel a few particular doubts about whether different hands were responsible for the slayings of Mary Kelly and Catharine Eddowes (which has been recently suggested, albeit to help fit a particular current theory) and also shed a different light on the questions of anatomical knowledge and/or medical skill of the murderer.
Catharine Eddowes had her uterus and one kidney removed and taken away. According to Dr. Thomas Bond, in his report on Mary Kelly, the uterus and kidneys were found together with one breast under the head. This would suggest that the removal of the kidneys and uterus were potentially part of the same operation, hence the missing uterus and kidney of Eddowes. My opinion of this would lend a hand to the unskilled version of the killer, mainly because if there is a more bizarre, complex explanation, it would seem as though the organs in question were in close enough proximity to have been removed together in a similar way in each case, without any specific intention. That in regards to the fact that with Eddowes the organs were taken away, whereas with Kelly they were not. This would also draw the similarities between the two cases together enough to make it less likely that more than one person was involved directly with the murders.
When questioning whether or not the murderer was seeking certain organs, why was it not apparent in the case of Polly Nichols, widely and generally agreed to be the first in the series? With Mary Kelly the motive certainly wasn’t seeking organs, if it was the uterus was the organ siught as with Annie Chapman and Catharine Eddowes.
The killer may not even have known exactly what he had in his pocket until after it became public knowledge of what was missing from Chapman’s body. When he killed Eddowes, he may have been trying to copy himself...
It has become very difficult to resist the temptation to be influenced by the unequivocal affirmations made by Sir Robert Anderson, or at least hard to doubt his convictions regarding an obviously real suspect. We still cannot determine for certain the identity of this suspect and it is therefore pointless to argue guilt or innocence. We have narrowed our focus, as the police of 1888 did, and nothing has come to light to undermine these directions. Armchair profilers and Ripperologists alike will jump and scream otherwise. But honest debate is welcome; and honest conclusions will prevail.. .or maybe not. Anyway...
Some things to think about when it comes to the Polish Jew theories:
If we accept that Aaron was the Kosminski who was later suspected in the murders, it can be noted that his residence at the time he was put away, Sion Square, was in extremely close proximity to the residence of John Pizer in Mulberry Street. And this location is certainly “in the very heart of the district” where the murders were committed. This does not prove that these two men knew each other, but as Pizer had lived there for many years it seems like a possibility that they could have been acquainted. This seems also to reinforce the views that the police may have been focused on this particular area, and if Kosminski was in fact a murderer then the detection capabilities of the authorities, whether it be a form of early profiling (as an undefined practice) must be re-evaluated. The practical applications of the common sense-based profiling techniques would show that it may not be a modern invention. (Let’s put up our dukes again) In trying not to speculate, all of these generally accepted “facts” would be very circumstantial evidence if a theory were to evolve from this.
Sir Robert Anderson’s strong and direct statements in his memoirs show, at very least, that the police were, in fact, concentrating on very specific areas and suspects. His belief in identity of the murderer can be debated, but as far as we know, nothing he has said has been contradicted by anyone involved in the investigation, Major Henry Smith’s attacks on Anderson for his ‘irresponsible anti-Semitism’ (The Jack the Ripper A-Z), for example, carry no more weight against Anderson’s claims than the Swanson Marginalia carry in their favour.
To open another can of worms, Martin Fido’s suggestion that Nathan Kaminsky could have been a possible candidate for official suspicion (if he was David Cohen... or maybe even if he was not) is made that much more fascinating by the fact that his residence has been given as being in Black Lion Yard, which was just across the Whitechapel Road, approximately the same distance from Kosminski as Pizer and still closer to the sites where Smith and Tabram were killed.
What if one of these men had something to do with the Whitechapel Murders? What if none of these men had anything to do with the Whitechapel Murders? What if any of them were part of the three who attacked Emma Smith? What if these men were the three who killed her? If we cannot attach conclusions definitively, it seems as if it would be in our best interest to keep an open mind when thinking about possible solutions to these century old problems.
As unlikely as some of these scenarios may seem to be, are these suggestions any more ridiculous than some of the popular contemporary “theories”? Any more impossible?
There is still much to learn.
And then there are the cases of Francis Coles, Alice Mckenzie, et al...
And by the way, have you noticed that the tourists who flock to the Ripper tours are the same people who gathered and gawked at the murder scenes and the funerals in 1888? Fascinated, detached, absorbed and dumbfounded by these inhuman atrocities, the tragedy of it all has left a lasting impression...