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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 25, October 1999. 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.
FROM BUENOS AIRES TO BRICK LANE: Were Alois Szemeredy and Alonzo Maduro the same man?
by Adam Wood

A mong the many interesting comments in Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund's Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper are those made in the section devoted to Alois Szemeredy and Alonzo Maduro. They conclude that these two suspects were one and the same, mainly due to the similarity of their stories and names. The same conclusion was reached by Eduardo Zinna before the publication of the Mammoth Book, and he gives more detail on the closeness between the two names, which...

"Believe it or not, sound alike: A-LON-soh-mah-DOO-ro, A-LOI-seh-meh-REH-dee. The 'z' of Alonzo would actually be pronounced as an 's' in South American Spanish; the same applies to the Hungarian combination 'sz'. Moreover, Alois is a common Austrian/Hungarian name and Szemeredy a very common Hungarian surname. Alonzo is a surname in Spanish and not a first name; it is a given name in America, though. Maduro could be a surname. It means 'mature' or 'ripe'. An English person with little knowledge of either language who heard the name Alois Szemeredy, and knew the person came from South America, might well interpret the name as Spanish. Alonzo Maduro would then be a possibility."

The information on both men given in The Mammoth Book is the same as that in The Jack The Ripper A-Z, even repeating the misspelling of Szemeredy's forename as Alios. The basic facts are stated thus:

Alois Szemeredy

Alois Szemeredy described himself as an American surgeon, subsequently a sausage-maker. He was believed to have deserted the Austrian army and gone to Buenos Aires, where he was charged with murder. In 1885 he was committed to a lunatic asylum, next being heard of in Vienna in August 1889. Apparently spending some time in America, he was arrested in Vienna in 1892 on suspicion of murder and robbery, but committed suicide while being questioned. He was named as a Ripper suspect in 1892 in articles appearing in The Daily Graphic, the basis of these theories being developed by Carl Muusmann in Hvem Var Jack The Ripper?

Alonzo Maduro was a mysterious businessman from Buenos Aires who became known to Griffith S Salway of a City Brokerage firm during 1888. Salway encountered Maduro in Whitechapel on the night of Emma Smith's murder, later hearing him say that all prostitutes should be killed. Salway later found surgical knives in Maduro's possession, although he kept his knowledge of the Ripper's identity secret until telling all to his wife shortly before his death in 1952.

Salway must have not got on with his wife in his last few years, for True Detective's Editor, John Shuttleworth, interviewed him for the March 1949 issue, contrary to the A-Z claim that the story was first published in an article by Alan Hynd in True Magazine in 1956.

Griffith S Salway was born and educated in Plymouth, moving to London in 1888 at the age of 22. He was employed by a financial agent at Gresham House, Old Broad Street. Shortly afterward he was introduced to Alonzo Maduro, a South American who retained only a slight Spanish accent due to living in the United States for so long. Maduro came from Buenos Aires with a railway concession, which was accepted by Salway's employer, 'Mr. D.'

Salway describes Maduro's physical appearance thus: "He was perhaps a year or two under forty, of stocky build, with the dark eyes and swarthy skin of the Latin; and his bulk not withstanding, he was quick and agile in his movements, giving the impression of great physical strength. And while in those days most men wore beards or sideburns, he was clean-shaven."

After carrying out various errands for Maduro, Salway was eventually invited to dine at the South American's hotel. This turned out to be located just east of Finsbury Pavement, ten minutes from Whitechapel. At a later lunch date in the West End, Salway left Maduro alone with a girl named Stella. When he ran into the girl a few days later, the Englishman was surprised to find her in a near-hysterical state, claiming that Maduro was "..not human; he's a devil; he's a beast!"

One evening, Salway was strolling along Old Broad Street when he unexpectantly came across Maduro, dressed in an old hat and suit, slouching slowly along with bowed head and drooping shoulders. The two walked together through Spitalfields and Whitechapel, arriving back at Maduro's hotel at 10:30pm with Salway leaving soon after. The following morning's papers carried details of the Ripper's first murder; when Maduro, arriving at the office two hours later than usual, was shown a copy of the Star, he flew into a rage. Both the AZ and The Mammoth Book state that this happened on the night of Emma Smith's murder, but Salway says this was a Sunday, with the reports appearing in the Monday newspapers. Smith was killed on Bank Holiday Monday, 2 April. Salway makes it clear that he meant this murder to be of that of Martha Tabram, for although she too died on a Monday, he states that "toward the end of the same month of August, 1888, another murder was reported, and as in the first the victim was an outcast of the streets."

Maduro, meanwhile, had grown increasingly nervy, jumping and glaring with fear and hate, and reaching at his hip as if for a weapon, when surprised by Salway from behind. The latter decided that Madurd was a victim of his own hallucinations, and vowed to distance himself.

Despite this resolve, Salway seems to have had no such problems when it came to dinner invitations, for at another such evening he learned more of Maduro's past. He claimed he had been a vaquero on the Argentine pampas, as well as promoter of a Colorado gold mine.

Any cautious acceptance of Salway's reporting of the Whitechapel murders are blown away by his statement that three more murders followed in September, with the sixth and worst occurring in early October. The mutilations in this latest case included removal of the heart and decapitation.

Maduro later revealed some of the earliest details of his life; his Mother dying during his infancy, and his Father being too uncaring to ensure a proper upbringing. In his own words, "Buenos Aires, for a young man, unless he is severely disciplined at an early age, is the worst place on earth to raise a naturally passionate youth."

On the last occasion the pair met, the Argentinean became so convinced that he was being watched that he bade Salway fetch his things and meet him at the Commercial Room of Anderton's Hotel in Fleet Street. On reaching Maduro's room Salway found his box unlocked. Looking inside, he discovered a false bottom containing a blood-stained apron and several instruments, including a large knife. At that point he became convinced that Alonzo Maduro was Jack the Ripper. The Argentinean was never seen again.

Immediately resigning from his employment, Salway wrote down the details of his story, should they be worthy of release in the public arena at some later date. He told his story to John Shuttleworth sixty years later.

His next employment was with the journalist Viscount Mountmorres, which led to Salway working alongside Alfred and Harold Harmsworth. Following this he emigrated to New York, where he worked firstly for an important cotton oil corporation, and finally for a large firm of international accountants.

By the time Alonzo Maduro arrived in London in early 1888, Alois Szemeredy had not been heard of for two years.

He had first been accused of being Jack the Ripper in a Danish newspaper dated 4 October 1892 by Mayor Kattrup of Sorrel. Kattrup was subsequently interviewed at length by Carl Muusmann, who recorded the details of Szemeredy's life in Hvem Var Jack The Ripper? (1908).

Szemeredy claimed to have been born in Hungary, and had studied medicine in his youth. After this he worked as a military doctor, firstly in Europe and then in the Argentinean army. It later transpired, however, that he was unable to prove these claims and had in fact earned a living as a barber and wigmaker. In 1868 he had been jailed for six months for theft.

By 1876 Szemeredy had appeared in Buenos Aires, staying in the Hotel de Provence. On 22 July he moved to Hotel de Rome, claiming that valuables had been stolen from his room. On 25 July he was involved in an incident which led to his later being accused of being the Ripper.

At approximately 9pm Szemeredy was walking along Calle de Corrientes, reputed to be the worst street in Buenos Aires. At a window at No. 36 stood a young girl aged 20 named Karoline Metz, who had come to Buenos Aires from Strasbourg in 1874. Szemeredy stopped and started a conversation, in German, eventually going inside. Shortly after 10.00pm Karoline's boyfriend Baptiste Castagnet ran out into the street screaming murder. On searching the room the police found the bed a bloody mess, with a sheath knife on top. Lying nearby was a man's grey cloak and black felt hat. In the cloak was a gold watch. These were later used to identify the killer as Alois Szemeredy. Karoline Metz's body was lying in front of the bed, with the throat cut violently on the right side.

Szemeredy returned to his hotel at 10.30pm, with several items of clothing missing. Claiming he had been robbed, he insisted he was going straight to the nearest police station, but failed to arrive.

The gold watch was identified as that stolen from Mayor Jerez, who had been staying at the Hotel de Rome. Two letters of confession were found in Szemeredy's room, both in 'remarkably poor Spanish, with various grammatical errors". The handwriting proved to be his.

No word was heard of the Hungarian for two years, until it was discovered that he was living in Rio de Janeiro. He was arrested during a festival and returned to Buenos Aires on 8 August 1878, whereupon he was placed in jail for trial. The investigation into the case, however, was not concluded until 5 April 1879, and Szemeredy was charged with theft and murder, being found guilty and sentenced to death. An appeal meant a retrial in September 1881, with the result that he was acquitted of the murder charge, but convicted of the theft of Mayor Jerez's watch. The time already served while waiting for the case to be heard was taken into consideration, and Szemeredy was released.

Despite being offered a job as a Doctor's clerk, Szemeredy felt uncomfortable in Buenos Aires and returned to Budapest, only to be arrested for desertion on 30 March 1882. His answer was to claim insanity, which was confirmed by doctors; this meant a short stay at a local asylum before he was released into the care of his family.

In 1886 Dr Gotthelf-Meyer interviewed Szemeredy for a study on legal conditions in South America. His physical description is given thus: about 45 years old, tall and thin, with brown smooth hair and a thick and unusually "beautiful" moustache; small, piercing eyes; with large hands.

Nothing was then heard of until 1 October 1892, when Szemeredy was arrested on suspicion of committing a series of murders in Vienna which involved robberies from pawn-brokers. He gave a partial confession before committing suicide. He was identified as the murderer by several witnesses, all of whom commented on his memorable moustache.

So were Alonzo Maduro and Alois Szemeredy one and the same? There are no conflicting dates - despite a well-documented 16 years, nothing is known of the latter's whereabouts from 1886 to 1892, while Maduro simply appeared and disappeared during 1888.

Maduro appeared "...a year or two under forty", while Szemeredy was estimated to be about 47 in 1888. Maduro being of stocky build; Szemeredy tall and thin. While the former was reported to have "the dark eyes and swarthy skin of the Latin", the Hungarian was said to have small, piercing eyes. Perhaps most interestingly, Griffith Salway states "...while in those days most men wore beards or sideburns, he [Maduro] was clean-shaven." In both 1886 and 1892 Szemeredy was noted for his "thick and unusually 'beautiful' moustache".

Maduro is described as "a South American who retained only a slight Spanish accent due to living in the United States for so long", while' Szemeredy was recorded as having spoken German when in Buenos Aires, and had composed two letters of confession, both in "remarkably poor Spanish, with various grammatical errors."

Before turning up in London, Maduro seems to have spent his past in the Americas, claiming he had been a vaquero on the Argentine pampas, as well as promoter of a Colorado gold mine. Szemeredy's background, however, was spent in Europe; he himself claimed that had been born in Hungary, and had studied medicine in his youth, going on to work as a military doctor, firstly in Europe and then in the Argentinean army. This led to him turning up in Buenos Aires in 1876.

Taking the above into consideration, it would seem that there are too many discrepancies for the two to be the same man, despite Eduardo's comment of the two names sounding alike, and the Buenos Aires link. The only other fact in the theory's favour is the neat dovetailing of Maduro's appearance with Szemeredy's disappearance.

So were either of these suspects Jack the Ripper? Nothing is known of Alonzo Maduro before or after 1888; 'indeed, we only know of him through a magazine interview with an elderly man some 60 years after the crimes - one of a dozen similar "I Knew Jack the Ripper" stories. I am doubtful that Maduro even existed.

Alois Szemeredy, however, was a convicted murderer; the throat-cutting of Karoline Metz in her bedroom sounds all too familiar. Bearing in mind the years of trials and captivity he endured before his release 1881, is it stretching the imagination too far to consider the possibility that the next time the Hungarian was in a similar situation - with Mary Kelly - he exacted terrible revenge? Just a playful suggestion; unfortunately Szemeredy can't be placed in Whitechapet in 1888, in fact not even in London. We can't even be sure he was definitely in Europe.

Sources:

The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper - Jakubowski and Braund (1999)
Private correspondence to author; Eduardo Zinna (26 April 1999)
The Jack the Ripper A-Z - Begg, Fido and Skinner (1996)
Hvem Var Jack The Ripper? - Muusmann (1908 - reprint 1999)
I Knew Jack The Ripper Griffith S Salway - from True Detective (March 1949)


Related pages:
  Alois Szemeredy
       Dissertations: On the Trail of Jack the Ripper: Szemeredy in Argentina 
       Dissertations: The Search for Jack el Destripador 
       Message Boards: Alios Szemeredy 
       Press Reports: New Oxford Item - 7 October 1892 
       Press Reports: Olean Democrat - 27 September 1892 
       Press Reports: Port Philip Herald - 9 November 1892 
       Ripper Media: Hvem Var Jack the Ripper? 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - Alois Szemeredy 
  Alonzo Maduro
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - Alonzo Maduro