November 5th, 1996
Could you provide just a brief summary of your background, family, job, etc. and how you originally became involved in the Ripper case?
I am 47 years of age, a serving police officer with over 27 years service, divorced and have two adult children, Sharron and Paul. I reside in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, with my partner of seven years, Rosemarie Howell. I am currently working in the Force Operations Room at Suffolk Constabulary Force Headquarters, Martlesham Heath, near Ipswitch.
I first became interested in 'Jack the Ripper' as early as the late 1950s, when my parents took me to Madame Tussaud's waxworks, in London, where I saw, in the Chamber of Horrors, a framed original of the Metropolitan Police poster showing the 'Dear Boss' letter and the 'saucy Jacky' postcard, asking if anyone recognised the handwriting. It was not until 1965, however, that this interest took a serious turn when I bought the two books, AUTUMN OF TERROR by Tom Cullen and JACK THE RIPPER IN FACT AND FICTION by Robin Odell when they were almost simultaneously published. This resulted in me paying a visit to the murder sites in the East End in August 1967, when I took photographs of Berner Street, Mitre Square, George Yard Buildings, 29 Hanbury Street, and Buck's Row. From then on I bought every new book on the subject as it came out.
1. What types of research have you conducted in your own personal Ripper investigations before the discovery of the Littlechild Letter?
Before my discovery of the Littlechild letter I conducted research at the Ipswitch Record Office, obtaining photocopies of the local papers of 1888 containing extensive coverage of the murders, which included some fresh information which had not appeared in any of the books. I also obtained copies of all the existing Metropolitan Police and Home Office papers on the murders held in the Public Record Office at Kew.
2. How did the discovery of the Littlechild Letter actually occur? What were your first impressions?
I am a collector of antiquarian crime books and ephemera of all the classic murder cases, and it was through this extensive collecting that I was offered, by a retired antiquarian book dealer, Eric Barton of Richmond, the Littlechild letter. This letlter originated from the remainder of the criminological collection of the late author and criminologist George R. Sims, and was purchased by Eric in the early 1960s from Sotheby's Auction House of London. On receipt of the letter I immediately recognised the name J.G. Littlechlid as the ex-head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, 1883-1893, and was amazed to see that he named a police suspect I had never heard of and that he named the journalists who Scotland Yard senior officers believed were responsible for the original 'Jack the Ripper' correspondence. I also realised that it was significant that Littlechild had not heard of a 'Dr D' (undoubtedly Druitt) in connection with the Whitechapel murders and that he stated that "Anderson only 'thought he knew'" the identity of the Ripper.
3. What was the initial reaction of the Ripper world in general while you were conducting your primary research into the claims made by this letter? Was the letter's authenticity challenged in any way?
The few students of the case who were made aware of this 'new' (new only in the sense that he had not been found before) suspect were amazed. I am sure that they found it incredible that he had not been found, especially when it was realised that his arrest was reported in the American Press at the time. The majority of the 'Ripper world', of course, eagerly awaited the revelation of the contents of the letter and details of this suspect. The provenance of the Littlechild letter is excellent and its authenticity has never been challenged. It has now been examined by document and paper experts, for the television investigation, and its authenticity confirmed.
4. What kind of research did you conduct following the discovery of the letter? Which leads were most promising? Were there any specific difficulties which arose during your research?
Obviously the main research after the discovery of the letter was in the USA where we located many newspaper reports, and copies of Tumblety's books. The most promising leads were in the newspapers which gave much history on Tumblety, and the record of his probate of will held in St Louis. The main difficulty encountered in this research has been to locate a decent photograph of Tumblety, also, so far, we have not traced any living decendants. With such a large family there must be some descendants, somewhere.
5. What is your relationship with Paul Gainey? How was he chosen to be co-author of The Lodger?
Paul Gainey is a civilian press liason officer with the Suffolk Constabulary. He wrote some news items about me in the Force Newspaper concerning my 'discovery' of the Littlechild letter, and he also has friends in the USA researching the history of the Lincoln assasination, and knew of Tumblety. I had a tight deadline to write the book and knew I could not do it alone so I invited Paul to help me. The rest is history.
6. If Tumblety was indeed Scotland Yard's top suspect, why has his name remained a mystery to us for over 100 years?
Without any contemporary police documentation stating that Tumblety was the Yard's 'top suspect', this statement will always be challenged. However, his great importance as a suspect is proved by Littlechild's statement that he was 'a very likely suspect' and the fact that a Scotland Yard team, headed by Inspector Walter Andrews who was one of the original 'Ripper hunters' with Abberline, pursued him to New York. May I say here that Tumblety is not merely 'a theory' or an 'invented suspect.' He is a genuine, contemporary police suspect named by perhaps the most important of the five joint chiefs at Scotland Yard in 1888, Chief Inspector Littlechild. Littlechild was in this position from 1883 to 1893, at Scotland Yard. He was there throughout the period of the murders and would have known all that was going on. If he stated that Tumblety was a VERY LIKELY SUSPECT, that that is just what he was. How can any modern researcher or 'expert' claim to know more than Littlechild and challenge what he says? Littlechild knew more than we will ever know. The reasons that he has remained a mystery for over a hundred years are that the file on him has never been located and somehow his name was kept from the contemporary British press. When you see some of the ludicrous suspects named in the press at the time it is amazing that Tumblety wasn't named. The reason for this silence we can only guess at but it is likely that the police of the time, embarrassed by his 'escape', chose not to name him.
7. Opponents of the Tumblety theory often state the fact that he would have been fifty-five years of age at the time of the murders, whereas most witness testimony place him as being between the ages of 28 and 35. It is also argued that Tumblety was 5'10", while witness accounts place the Ripper at between 5'5" and 5'7" in height. How do you respond to these arguments?
Opponents of any 'theory' or suspect will always be vociferous, in the main because they have their own suspect or 'pet theory.' This argument can, of course, be levelled at me, although I try to remain objective and I certainly don't 'invent' facts. The witness argument is an old chestnut but is illogical. Police officers with whom I have discussed the subject, all agree that no suspect should be 'written off' by mere description. In the case of the 'Ripper' murders this is even more relevant, especially as we do not know for certain exactly which murders he committed and which witnesses actually saw him. In my opinion Stride was almost certainly not a Ripper victim, therefore descriptions with regard to this murder (they do not all tally anyway) may be totally irrelevant. It is certainly wrong to pool all the descriptions and come up with a 'composite' picture of the offender. Arguably the only witness who saw the killer with a victim was Mrs Long in Hanbury Street. The witness Lawende in Duke Street was stated by the police at the time as being of limited value as he said he would not recognise the man if he saw him again and identified Eddowes only by her clothing. Mrs Long's sighting, albeit she did not see his full face, was closer and in virtual daylight, and she stated the man was 'over forty.' I have taken literally hundreds of witness statements as a police officer and I know how wildly inaccurate witnesses can be, especially in regard to age and height. One person's idea of 'a little taller' may be a few inches whilst another's may be as much as six inches plus. If a person stoops they can easily reduce their apparent height, and the difference between 5'7" and 5'10" (Tumblety's height) is only three inches. In view of his activity in 'picking up' a victim the murderer would not be making himself prominent and standing erect for all to see. These witnesses are long dead and it is impossible to evaluate their testimony now. Without a good sight of a person's face it is almost impossible to assess age accurately, and many people in their 50s look much younger.
8. You have made some ground-shaking arguments in your book concerning the victim status of both Elizabeth Stride and, perhaps most shocking, Mary Kelly. What is your stance on both of these women having been murdered by Jack the Ripper, and why?
I would hardly call my arguments in disposing of Stride as a 'Ripper' suspect 'ground-shaking' and I am certainly not the first to think this. Indeed, there is contemporary evidence to suggest that the City Police did not think Stride was a 'Ripper' victim. With regard to Kelly, I merely state the possibility, also stated by others, including Simon Wood and Alex Chisholm, that she may not have been a 'Ripper' victim. This, of course, does not suit those who seek to raise both the status and tally of the 'Ripper.' But look carefully at the Kelly urder, there was much different about it. I accept the old argument that it was the first of the series committed indoors which may account for the differences and this is a valid argument. Equally Alex Chisholm makes a valid argument against her being a victim. The 'Ripper' may have murdered her, or he may not have, we simply do not know for sure, and nothing should be taken as fact unless proved so. Accepting 'established canons' as fact may be a great stumbling block in the search for the truth.
9. There is some vagueness in your book concerning the possibility that Tumblety actually lodged at 22 Batty Street (parallel to Berner Street). IS this a definitely ascertained fact?
There must be some vagueness concerning the possibility that Tumblety actually lodged at 22 Batty Street. It is not a definitely ascertained fact as we have only the newspaper reports to go on, and these are always of varying quality. The point is argued in full in the updated edition of our book. In the first edition of our book we showed, we hope, that the fleeing lodger from 22 Batty Street was an AMERICAN and that this coincided with the start of the police search for a suspect FROM AMERICA who had landed in Liverpool. Since the first edition we located an article written by George R. Sims in 1911 an dprinted in full in our new edition, which stated that the lodger was an AMERICAN DOCTOR. Surely it is stretching coincidence too far, in the light of his undoubted status as a suspect in November 1888, to say that it was not Tumblety, who was an American Doctor. However, the reader is free to draw his own conclusions and may agree or disagree with us.
10. If you were to cite one piece of evidence your research has uncovered as being the most promising for the Tumblety theory, which would it be?
There are many pieces of circumstantial evidence which show promise for the argument that Dr Tumblety was indeed the killer. The main ones follow, surely just too many for mere coincidence:
- He was a 'surgeon' with some anatomical knowledge
- He had a virtiolic hatred of prostitutes
- He had a reputation as an abortionist in Canada
- He was arrested in Canada in 1857 for attempting to procure the abortion of a prostitute, Philomene Dumas, who, with the police, attempted to condemn him, the offence carried a life sentence.
- He had a collection of wombs from 'all classes of women' in glass jars
- The apparent target of the East End killer was the womb -- two were taken away by him.
- Prior to the murders a mysterious American had apparently been seeking wombs.
- He escaped prosecution for manslaughter in St John, another evasion of justice.
- He claimed that when young he married an older woman whom he loved dearly but who tragically let him down when he found she was a prostitute and from then on he turned his back on all womankind
- He used many aliases and stayed frequently in hotels and lodgings houses, constantly on the move, making him difficult to pin down.
- He arrived in London around June 1888, prior to the murders.
- He was in London at the time of the murders and sexually active committing offences of gross indecency.
- All these offences were committed on Fridays and a Sunday between July and November 1888, the same as the Ripper murders, one offence being committed on the day of the Nichols murder, Friday 27 July, Friday 31 August, Sunday 15 October, and Friday 2 November, 1888.
- He was amongst the police suspects, at the time, for the Whitechapel murders.
- Detective Chief Inspector Littlechild of the Special Branch thought him 'a very likely suspect.'
- The murders ceased after his arrest and flight from England.
- A lodger at 22 Batty Street, and American Doctor, returned there at 2.00 am after the Eddowes murder and was found to have bloodstained cuffs in his bag and immediately fled his lodgings.
- Enquiries were ten commenced by a CID officer from Scotland Yard who travelled to Liverpool to investigate the movements of a mysterious suspect who had landed from America.
- A watch was put on the railways and steamers leaving Liverpool for America.
- Scotland Yard contacted the San Francisco police and obtained samples of Tumbelty's handwriting.
- The only known material 'trophies' taken from a victim by the killer were the two imitation gold rings (brass) taken from Chapman. Amongst Tumblety's possessions at his death, with valuable gold and diamond rings, and a gold pocket watch, were two cheap imitation rings.
- His description, to a degree, fits those given by Mrs Long and Hutchinson
- Tumblety was pursued to New York by Scotland Yard detectives, hunting the Ripper, led by one of the original 'Riper hunters,' Inspector Andrews.
- The previous terror of London, 'The Monster,' Renwyck Williams, attacked females with a knife savagely inflicting wounds to their 'private areas,' and was a garishly dressed homosexual.
- The next series killer of prostitutes in London, in 1892, was a 'quack' North American Doctor, Dr Thomas Neill Cream, who bore some amazing parallels to Dr Tumblety, and was also very wealthy.
- There were a series of prostitute murders, undetected, in Kingston Jamaica in late December 1888 and in Managua, Nicaragua, in early 1889. These murders were so similar, involving both facial and bodily mutilation, to the London killings that the contemporary newspapers gave details of them speculating that the London Ripper was responsibe. This appeared in American newspapers and in the London TIMES, and it was alleged that Scotland Yard contacted the Nicaraguan police for details, feeling that their quarry was ten in that country. Dr Tumblety, as stated in his books, visited both the Caribbean and Central America, and he was on the run at the same time of these other murders.
- With regard to Sir Melville Macnaghten and his last comments on the case, it must not be forgotten that Douglas Browne, when writing his history THE RISE OF SCOTLAND YARD in the early 1950s apparently saw records, which have since disappeared, indicating that Macnaghten actually identified the Ripper 'with the leader of a plot to assassinate Mr Balfour at the Irish Office,' and, as we know, Tumblety was a sympathiser to the Irish cause and probably a Fenian.
11. How confident are you that Francis Tumblety and Jack the Ripper were indeed one and the same man?
In view of the forgoing, I have to say that I am very confident that Dr Tumblety and 'Jack the Ripper' were one and the same, however I do know that it is unlikely that I will ever be able to prove it conclusively. The mystery will live on. But I do say, just how many coincidences do you need before you realise that this man has a lot to answer to?
12. In your book you mentioned a possible connection between Ripper-style murders in Managua, in 1889, and Tumblety. How do these murders compare with the Whitechapel Horrors of 1888 and how likely is the connection between them?
For comment on the Jamaican/Nicaraguan murders see 10 above, however I do admit that there is no solid evidence to connect Tumblety with these murders.
13. Are there any other facets of the Tumblety theory which you would like to research in greater depth? If so, why?
All aspects of the case against Tumblety require further research, and there is still much to be found, I am sure, including a photograph of him. Certainly the Jamaican and Nicaraguan murders would be worthy of further research.
14. Are there any other Ripper suspects which you have addressed other than Tumblety?
I have read all the other theories on Ripper suspects and must admit that they do not offer much in the way of proof. In the past I have favoured both Druitt and Kosminski (both non-contemporary suspects, Kosminski apparently not known of possibly until 1891, but certainly not mentioned until 1894, as was Druitt). But I dismissed them on learning more or the subject. As for Chapman, he was never a contemporary suspect and his name was not mentioned in relation to the murders until 1903. The reasons given by Abberline for rating him as a suspect on what he read in the papers in 1903, were all based on erroneous reports in the newspapers, which apear to have misled Abberline.
15. The latest edition of The Jack the Ripper A-Z cites you as being a controlling force behind the UK National Convention (p.129) which met in Ipswitch in 1996. What exactly was this convention, what did it entail, and will others like it be occuring in the future? Are they open to the public in general or only to those invited?
Rosemarie and I organised the 1996 conference on the East End murders of Jack the Ripper in 1888, and it was advertised in RIPPERANA and open to anyone who wished to attend. Depending on interest, and there seems to be a lot, there will probably by another conference in 1998.
16. Your findings were published in the midst of the Ripper Diary craze; what are your thoughts on the diary, and how has it affected Ripperological studies these past few years?
My feelings on the 'Ripper Diary' are well known and I do not wish to comment further.
17. What works would you suggest to a novice just entering the Ripper field? Why?
For the novice entering the field I would recommend the two best reference works on the subject, THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JACK THE RIPPER by Phil Sugden, and THE JACK THE RIPPER A TO Z by Begg, Fido and Skinner. To complement these I would suggest buying the updated versions of Whittington-Egan's A CASEBOOK ON JACK THE RIPPER, Rumbelow's COMPLETE JACK THE RIPPER, and Begg's JACK THE RIPPER -- THE UNCENSORED FACTS when they come out. Melvin Harris's trilogy on the case, giving excellent examples of contemporary press coverage, should not be missed. With these books the subject is at your fingertips. You can only go one better by obtaining all the original source material from the record offices.
18. Where do you see the future of Ripper studies in two, five, or ten years? In your opinion, is the field rapidly drying out or is there still a world of promise awaiting us somewhere out there?
How can I say what the state of Ripper research will be in X years time? My crystal ball has broken. However, I do think that there is still a lot to be found, as I have proved. Researchers both over here and in the USA are still finding new material in the contemporary press, and I strongly recommend that all enthusiasts research their local 1888 press for reports, even in the USA. And there are still those missing files to be found!