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Reader Reactions: Major Arthur Griffiths, Dr Robert Anderson, and Jack the Ripper


Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998 08:09:31 +0100
From: Paul Begg

Stewart Evans's excellently presented argument about Major Griffiths and Anderson was a pleasure to read and its lucidity and sourcing sets a standard we should all seek to emulate. Regretfully, though perhaps not unexpectedly, I don't share the certainty of his conclusions. In particular, I think Littlechild's comment about Anderson is open to very serious question.

The Littlechild Letter is a response by Littlechild to a letter he had received from the journalist George R. Sims in which it would appear that Sims had asked Littlechild if he knew anything about a 'Dr. D'. Littlechild replied that he did not, but did know about a 'Dr. T' and he proceeded to provide an account of Tumblety. Littlechild concluded the letter with the words: 'Now pardon me - It is finished. Except that I knew Major Griffiths for many years. He probably got his information from Anderson who only 'thought he knew'.'

This is the only reference to Major Griffiths in Littlechild's letter and if it had any relevance in the context of the letter then it must be to "Dr. D". In other words, in his letter to Littlechild Sims would appear to have attributed his information about 'Dr. D' to Major Griffiths and Littlechild suggested that Anderson was Griffiths' source.

But is Littlechild's supposition necessarily true? There are several very good reasons for thinking otherwise: (1) Griffiths' account very closely parallels Macnaghten and echoes Macnaghten's unique reference to a City police constable witness in the vicinity of Mitre Square. This leaves very little doubt that Macnaghten was the primary source of Griffith's information. (2) 'Dr. D' is almost certainly Montague John Druitt and Druitt was Macnaghten's suspect, not Anderson's. (3) There is no reason whatsoever for supposing that Anderson ever favoured Druitt or provided any information about him. And from at least 1908 Anderson was stating in print that he believed the identity of the Ripper to have been someone "caged in an asylum", not Druitt who had drowned. (4) Macnaghten acknowledged that his theory about Druitt was conjecture (he only 'thought he knew'), whereas Anderson was sure he knew.

Personally, I don't think there is any real ground for doubt that Littlechild meant Macnaghten not Anderson and I don't think Littlechild casts any doubt on the certainty of Anderson's beliefs.

Turning to The Windsor Magazine, I am very grateful to Stewart for having brought this to my attention. However, I think Stewart rather overstated the case when he wrote:

"So at this earlier date, 1894 or early 1895, Anderson's 'definitely ascertained fact' was only 'a perfectly plausible theory.' It had not yet gelled into fact."

Major Griffiths was the author of this article and that it was *his opinion*, not necessarily Anderson's, that Anderson's theory was 'perfectly plausible'. Anderson may himself have regarded his theory as the 'definitely ascertained fact' he later claimed it to be. And there is support for thinking that probably he did so. In the same year that The Windsor Magazine article was published, 1895, the Pall Mall Gazette (7th May) carried a story in which it was stated that Chief Inspector Swanson, who had overall responsibility for the Ripper investigation, 'believed the crimes to be the work of a man who is now dead.' It is likely that the dead man was the Polish Jew (even Philip Sugden allows that this is the case - The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, pg. 523, n.20 - despite the fact that it makes a nonsense of his contention that Swanson's tacit certainty about the Polish Jew being the Ripper was, like Anderson's stated certainty, a self-delusion in old age). If so, it means that Swanson believed the Polish Jew was the Ripper as early as 1895 and probably even earlier. If this was Swanson's belief in 1895, it is not unreasonable to suppose that it was Anderson's belief too.

It may be that unconnected pieces of information have been put together and a picture constructed that is plausible but erroneous. On the other hand, if they have been put together correctly, they show that Anderson and Swanson believed that the Polish Jew was the Ripper as early as 1895. Whether or not the Polish Jew's guilt was in reality 'a definitely ascertained fact', what we probably can conclude with some degree of safety is that Anderson and Swanson would have known the evidence against every serious police suspect - Druitt, Ostrog, Tumblety, Chapman, and so on - and of them all they seem to have thought that the evidence was strongest against the Polish Jew/Kosminski.


Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 07:25:57 +0100
From: Stewart P Evans

What a surprise, a response I had fully predicted from Paul. Thank you Paul for the kind comments, but, I knew that you would not, could not, agree with my conclusions.

Any apparent attack on Anderson or the Kosminski theory is sure to eleicit a full-blooded and exhaustive response from Paul. In 1988 Paul went into print basing his whole thinking on the Ripper murders on the bedrock of Anderson. He has never wavered, I admire his tenacity.

My essay in 'Ripperana' No. 19, 'The Curious Comments of Robert Anderson,' addressed this point, and brought almost universal agreement. Let me sum it up by saying that Littlechild, who knew all these people well, he worked for years with Anderson and Macnaghten, made the reasonable comment that Griffiths 'probably' got his information from Anderson. Littlechild does not state that Griffiths DID get his information from Anderson.

Griffiths, however, DID get information from BOTH Anderson and Macnaghten, and Anderson often quotes 'his friend' Major Arthur Griffiths. Now, as Griffiths quotes Anderson's 'caged in an asylum' theory in the 1895 piece, it is patently clear HE MUST HAVE GOT IT FROM ANDERSON, after all it was Anderson propounding it.

Later, in 1898, when Griffiths wrote his book he used, as a preferred theory, that of Macnaghten's 'drowned doctor in the Thames,' not the earlier 'caged in an asylum' theory of Anderson.

Littlechild makes a simple statement, in two parts, first that he knew Major Griffiths for many years and that Griffiths PROBABLY got his information from Anderson. Secondly he makes the simple statement, 'Anderson only thought he knew,' with emphasis. The first makes sense as Anderson was a friend of Griffiths, and the second also makes sense as IT WAS ONLY ANDERSON WHO EVER CLAIMED TO KNOW, not Macnaghten.

All of Paul's convoluted argument centres around the fact that the information presented by Griffiths in his book was the very information presented by Macnaghten in his memorandum. This is correct and I don't dispute that. BUT Littlechild would hardly be expected to know exactly where Griffiths got the information, from Anderson or Macnaghten, as Griffiths knew them both. Littlechild retired from New Scotland Yard in 1893, the year before the Macnaghten Memoranda so he would not know of that.

So Paul's argument is specious, the fact that Littlechild didn't know for sure that Griffiths got his information from Anderson, does not alter the fact that when he says 'Anderson only thought he knew' he MEANS ANDERSON AND NOT MACNAGHTEN.

We know that George R. Sims obtained his information on the three suspects from Macnaghten in 1901. The fact that the only reference to Griffiths in the Littlechild letter is in this footnote is not relevant to the argument. Sims would not have attributed the information in his letter to Griffiths as he got it from Macnaghten direct, unless he wished to disguise his source. If he did mention Griffiths in this context, and we do not know that he did, it still does not alter the fact of what Littlechild said about Anderson, as I have explained.

Put simply, THE FACT THAT LITTLECHILD WAS NOT CERTAIN AS TO WHERE GRIFFITHS GOT HIS INFORMATION, STILL BEARS NO RELEVANCE TO WHAT HE STATES, CLEARLY, ABOUT ANDERSON. When he says Anderson he means Anderson, it is an unqualified statement. And I have to repeat here, for Paul, Anderson is the only one ever to claim to know, and that was just three years before this correspondence!

Paul's comments on, and interpretation of the piece in the WINDSOR MAGAZINE, are HIS OPINION ONLY. They must not be read as fact. It is, again clearly, stated in the piece that Anderson had a 'perfectly plausible theory of his own' concerning a suspect 'caged in an asylum.' Now that is exactly what the piece said, and Griffiths must have got it from Anderson, otherwise how would he know? Paul tries to read all sorts of other meanings into simple statements when they say something he does not want to hear. We have seen this on other occasions.

I do not say any of this out of disrepect to Paul, he is a good friend and a knowledgeable commentator on the case. However, in this area his objectivity does suffer somewhat. Indeed, if you follow his piece to the end, he finishes by virtually agreeing with what we are trying to say about Anderson when he says, "Whether or not the Polish Jew's guilt was IN REALITY 'a definitely ascertained fact'" etc. and this is what everyone tries to say, including Littlechild, Anderson DID NOT KNOW, no- one did. If it was a 'definitely ascertained fact' as to the identity of the killer, then his second-in-command, and successor, Macnaghten would have agreed with him, it would not be an unsolved case, all the police views would concur, and we would not all be interested in a mystery today! It is simply nonsense to suggest that the information would be privy to Swanson and Anderson alone.

Where I can agree with Paul is to the fact that ostensibly what has been written by Anderson indicates that he favoured 'the poor Polish Jew' as the killer. Swanson, on the other hand, is by no means so certain, but he does, though, apparently confirm Kosminski as the suspect (which is obviously correct). The piece quoted by Paul in the PALL MALL GAZETTE of May 5, 1895, regarding Swanson runs as follows - "Since the cessation of the Whitechapel murders there has been no lack of theories accounting for the disappearance of the author of those crimes, 'Jack the Ripper,' as he is called, in consequence of a series of letters so signed, purporting, rightly or wrongly, to come from the murderer. The *theory* [please note!] entitled to most respect, because it was presumably based on the best knowledge, was that of Chief Inspector Swanson, the officer who was associated with the investigation of all the murders, and Mr. Swanson *believed* [please not, it's not 'knew' or 'a definitely ascertained fact] the crimes to have been the work of a man who is now dead." Note he does not say 'caged in an asylum.'

Swanson's piece is far from a full endorsement of all that Anderson said. Anderson's *opinion* (however weighty that might be), is only opinion, he, nor anyone else KNEW the answer, and at the end of his piece Paul seems to concede this. The old chestnut of 'Anderson's witness' may also be raised. We know from the Police reports that there was no 'good witness' who could identify the killer. The only witnesses, and probably the best (fitting Anderson's description) was Israel Schwartz in relation to the Stride murder, did not get a really good view of their suspects, if indeed the person they saw was in fact the murderer. The fact that all this is so nebulous underlines the absurdity of Anderson's 'definitely ascertained fact.'

The identification of Anderson's 'poor Polish Jew' with the 'Polish Jew' mentioned in the Macnaghten memoranda, and, Kosminski is to be credited to Paul and Martin Fido, in their sterling research conducted in the 1980's. This piece is not an attack on Paul, merely a plea for objectivity when commenting on published material. Paul occupies an eminent place in the development of serious Ripper research, and we all look forward to him updating his classic book, 'Jack the Ripper, the Uncensored Facts,' surely a touchstone for many researchers.


Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 13:38:36 +0100
From: Paul Begg

The easiest and cheapest way to discredit someone's arguments is to cast doubt on their objectivity. Yes, I attach weight to Anderson. Yes, I think 'Kosminski' is the best suspect so far advanced. But does this mean that I cannot objectively assess evidence that doesn't support me? Of course it doesn't. One could as easily say that Stewart's advocacy of Tumblety calls the objectivity of his assessment of the Littlechild Letter into question: by maintaining that Anderson 'only thought he knew', Stewart removes the obstacle of Anderson actually knowing and leaves the way clear for his advocacy of Tumblety. Thus, arguably Stewart wants Anderson to only have 'thought he knew' as much as I supposedly want Anderson's beliefs to be 'a definitely ascertained fact' and doubt could be cast on the objectivity of both of us.

I, of course, don't think Stewart is lacking objectivity. I don't think I am lacking it either. We simply interpret the source material differently. Or, to be more precise, we view the source material differently. Stewart seems to be advocating that we treat the reference to Anderson in isolation and, of course, if we do this then we can only agree when Stewart writes: 'when he says Anderson he means Anderson, it is an unqualified statement'.

However, I don't agree that Anderson should be or, indeed, can be treated in isolation. Stewart writes:

    We know that George R. Sims obtained his information on the three suspects from Macnaghten in 1901. The fact that the only reference to Griffiths in the Littlechild letter is in this footnote is not relevant to the argument. Sims would not have attributed the information in his letter to Griffiths as he got it from Macnaghten direct, unless he wished to disguise his source. If he did mention Griffiths in this context, and we do not know that he did, it still does not alter the fact of what Littlechild said about Anderson, as I have explained.

If I understand this argument correctly, Stewart is trying to suggest that the context of the reference to Major Griffiths is irrelevant to what Littlechild said about Anderson. But surely the contrary is true? If the reference to Major Griffiths does not relate to 'Dr. D' then we don't know what it does relate to. It could relate to some other case entirely. It may not have anything to do with Anderson's views about the Ripper at all.

On the other hand, if the reference to Major Griffiths does have a relevance within Littlechild's letter, it must relate to 'Dr. D' and, pending a better explanation, the most likely meaning is that Sims' attributed his information about 'Dr. D' to Griffiths and Littlechild, in turn, suggested that Griffiths got his information from Anderson. In other words, Littlechild suggested that Anderson provided Major Griffiths with information about 'Dr. D' (Montague John Druitt). This suggestion was wrong - Griffiths' source was evidently Macnaghten.

Now, Stewart presumably argues that we should not assume just because Littlechild wrongly identified Anderson as Griffiths' source, that Littlechild was wrong about Anderson only thinking he knew. I disagree. If Littlechild knew that Anderson 'only thought he knew' then presumably Littlechild would have known what it was that Anderson 'only thought he knew' about. If this was the case, would Littlechild have advocated Anderson as Griffiths source about 'Dr. D'?

In other words, if Littlechild believed that Anderson 'only thought he knew' about the Polish Jew then Littlechild would also have known that Anderson didn't advocate a 'Dr. D' and therefore wouldn't have been Major Griffiths' source - and that is why the reference to Anderson cannot be treated in isolation.

You can pay your money and take your choice. Treat the Anderson reference in isolation or view it in the overall context of the letter. Either is perfectly legitimate. Personally, I think the reference to Anderson has to be viewed in the context of the letter.

To comment briefly on the article in Windsor Magazine, I don't dispute that Griffiths must have got his information from Anderson and of course the interpretation of the Windsor Magazine article is my opinion, as Stewart's interpretation of the article is his opinion. As I said, though, Major Griffiths wrote the article and we may therefore assume with some safety that he regarded Anderson's theory as 'perfectly plausible'. However, we cannot assume with equal safety that Anderson shared that opinion. Thirteen years later he was saying that there was no doubt about the killer's identity. A lot can happen in thirteen years, but...

Actually, this highlights a problem at the very core of the Polish Jew theory, which is: how much did people know? Take Macnaghten, did he know about the positive eye-witness identification? Arguably he knew something, but seems to have thought the witness was a City PC. We don't know anything about a City PC witness of course, but even assuming that the PC was a Jew, can it seriously be imagined that in a case of this magnitude a policeman would have refused to testify?

So, did Macnaghten knew about the eye-witness testimony? Arguably he did not, yet that testimony seems to have been central to Anderson's belief that the Ripper's identity was 'a definitely ascertained fact'. So, if Macnaghten didn't know about the eye-witness identification, he probably wouldn't have known that Anderson regarded the Polish Jew's guilt as 'a definitely ascertained fact'. And if Macnaghten didn't know, would Griffiths have known? Would Sims? If they didn't then they would not have been in full possession of the facts and would have regarded Anderson's beliefs as no more than 'a perfectly plausible theory'. And would Littlechild have known?


Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 19:53:27 +0100
From: Stewart P. Evans

'May I first state that Paul and I have both discussed this debate on the telephone since he wrote the above response. Indeed there is much we agree on but in view of the above I just have to add the following.

First, I have to say that as regards our published works on the subject they are of a very different nature. Both of Paul's books, 'Jack the Ripper the Uncensored Facts,' and the 'JTR A-Z' are reference works. They should be totally objective. Mine, on the other hand, is a work that presents a new suspect and by its nature has to present information or interpretations that relate to that particular suspect. Having said that, I do stick firmly to the facts of the case and do not 'invent' anything false.

Since the above entries were written I have supplied Paul with a full copy of the lengthy article by Griffiths from the Windsor Magazine. In this article Griffiths also writes about Littlechild, and the information he quotes on the Ripper suspect is that of Anderson. Therefore we may safely assume that Littlechild had a copy of, or at least read, this article. This, then, would make the whole of Littlechild's statement and reasoning regarding his comment on Anderson correct. That is that Griffiths got his information from Anderson, and that Littlechild thought that Anderson only thought he knew. This accepted, we see that Paul's argument on this point is specious. Also it addresses (if you agree with Paul) his point about the comment being treated in isolation. However, as we do not know what Sims' letter did contain, we cannot give a definitive answer. This, also, would make the 'Dr D' reference irrelevant to the argument as Littlechild could just as easily have credited the information to Anderson. (Although Anderson advocated the Polish Jew, he still obviously knew about Druitt and Kosminski also). Perhaps Sims' source had not given him names, merely their intials, 'D', 'O', and 'K', and as Sims favoured Druitt he was trying to find out his actual name and thought Littlechild would know it. Sims' letter to Littlechild may have contained several references to suspects and writers, we simply do not know, therefore the context Paul states cannot be simply assumed.

I must repeat, for Paul's benefit, ANDERSON WAS THE ONLY PERSON TO EVER CLAIM TO KNOW the identity of the killer and this was in 1910, just 3 years before the Littlechild letter in 1913. Surely Littlechild, and just about every other retired Police officer, would have heard of this amazing claim by Anderson. Anderson's claim is all the more odd in light of the fact that there was NO DEFINITELY ASCERTAINED WITNESS SIGHTING OF ANY SUSPECT, they were all contentious sightings, prior to the event. No-one witnessed any of the murders. I do agree with Paul that the most likely candidate, on the facts we have, for 'Anderson's suspect' was Israel Schwartz. And if he WAS Anderson's witness, and IF the man he saw attack Stride was her killer, then that person would have to be THE 'Ripper', if Anderson's reasoning is followed. And there is by no means any consensus of opinion on Stride being a 'Ripper' victim. Quite a lot of 'ifs' for a 'definitely ascertained fact'! Lawende seems a lot less likely as 'Anderson's witness' as he was the witness in a City Police case, not a Met one, and was shown at the time to have limited value as a witness.

But, I have to add here that Paul has stated that Anderson's view probably was not a 'definitely ascertained fact.' This is a very fair and objective observation by Paul. But, quite rightly, he does attach importance to what Anderson thought or believed. This, of course, brings us back to Littlechild's comment that 'Anderson only thought he knew.' And lo, we agree with what Littlechild says. This is not meant to be derogatory to Anderson, and is a simple observation on Littlechild's part.

I have to agree with Paul that our biggest problem is a simple lack of facts, and the contradictory nature of the comments we have been left by those involved. These comments may only reflect personal opinion. As regards the 'City Pc' witness mentioned by Macnaghten, I think this has to be regarded as a mistake on his part and a confusion with Pc Smith, the Stride witness. The surviving City Police report, Met Police reports and Home Office annotations leave it patently clear that there was no 'City Pc' witness of a suspect on the night of the Eddowes' murder.

I thank Paul for stating that he doesn't think I lack objectivity, but I must address his suggestion that my advocacy of Tumblety as the 'Ripper' may call my objectivity into question on this point. I am stating what I think, and what many other writers and those knowledgable on the subject also think, whether or not they support the Tumblety case. I have moved onto to a strictly factual field of research, free from any 'suspect bias' and I make what I hope is common-sense interpretation of the facts. But, Paul is quite right, 'you pays your money and takes your choice.'

What is patently wrong is to assume that some major 'witness evidence' emerged post 1894 and that the only persons to know of it were Anderson and Swanson! Nothing else leaked out, no-one else knew anything, not even Macnaghten who was next in line to Anderson and assumed his post in 1901. Also the more time that passes after the event the less value there is to eyewitness evidence of identification. And the passage of YEARS would make it totally valueless. Anderson's comments are anomalous and difficult to understand.

This is bit of a circular argument, and I think Paul and I will have to agree to disagree. As has been stated so many times, it is the various and diverse arguments that can be raised on so many points on this case that gives it such great appeal. It IS a mystery, it WILL remain a mystery, as after 110 years not much is capable of proper corroboration, and the witnesses are no longer alive to question and assess.'

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