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An Alternate Kosminski Suspect and Police Witness: Some Perspectives and Points to Ponder
Scott Nelson


The London journalist George R. Sims, citing information he had received from Melville Macnaghten, wrote of a JtR suspect: He "was a Polish Jew of curious habits and strange disposition, who was the sole occupant of certain premises in Whitechapel after night-fall. This man was in the district during the whole period of the Whitechapel Murders, and soon after they ceased certain facts came to light which showed it was quite possible that he might have been the Ripper. He had at one time been employed in a hospital in Poland. He was known to be a lunatic at the time of the murders, and some-time afterwards he betrayed such undoubted signs of homicidal mania that he was sent to a lunatic asylum"1 (emphasis mine). Research during the past fifteen years has established that these statements refer to one "Kosminski", a Polish Jew, known to us from three principle sources: 1) the Assistant Head of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Robert Anderson's autobiography, The Lighter Side of My Official Life, where the suspect is described, but not named; 2) the Macnaghten Memorandum of February 23, 1894, Melville Macnaghten being the Chief Constable (1889) and later the head of the CID; and, from 3) marginal notes made sometime after 1910 by retired Detective Inspector Donald Swanson in Anderson's book. Kosminski is identified only by his surname in the last two sources.

Anderson's and Swanson's views will be addressed shortly. Macnaghten's Memorandum was intended as an internal police briefing on what was then considered to be the three principal suspects of the crimes in response to a newspaper's story in 1894 that Police Superintendent Charles Cutbush's nephew, Thomas, was JtR.2 This suggestion may have been inspired by MET Inspector William Race having given interviews about the previous Whitechapel murders directly to the press.3 The Memorandum was never intended for public release and its existence was generally unknown until discovered the 1970s. Indeed, it was the last known document added to the Scotland Yard Suspects File on the Whitechapel Murders. Many documents in these files, particularly those concerning the Suspects, are missing. Information on three principal suspects was passed on, however, to at least two people, Major Arthur Griffiths, who without naming the suspects, described them in his book, Mysteries of Police and Crime (1898), and to the journalist Sims, cited above. It is the second of these suspects, Kosminski, which interests me. Who was he? Under what circumstances did he come under police suspicion? Macnaghten never mentioned Kosminski's forename in his Memorandum (perhaps he didn't know it), and neither did Swanson in his marginal notes. Recent research has established that one Aaron Kosminski was sent to a lunatic asylum two years after the last canonical Whitechapel murder in 1888; to date, no other Kosminski(y) has been found in London asylum records.

The Initial Search for the Killer

Anderson declared of the October 1888 house-to-house search throughout Whitechapel "…And the conclusion we came to was that he and his people were low-class Jews… and the result proved that our diagnosis was right on every point".4 This indicates that early suspicions became confirmed at a later date. That is, in all likelihood the distribution of 80,000 hand bills at that time5 and later review of police notebooks eventually led to the capture of Kosminski. The significant point of Anderson's account was that his family sheltered him, which may account for the fact that the suspicion did not immediately fall on Kosminski. Also note the wording, first "conclusion" and then "result". Generally results lead to a conclusion. But, if we read "theory" for "conclusion" and "fact" for "result", Anderson's declaration becomes a very powerful statement. It tells us that Anderson was confidently recalling that an investigation based on circumstantial evidence had eventually led to an end result that confirmed this evidence, then no longer considered circumstantial. And he held to this view throughout his life. More on what this circumstantial evidence may have been and Anderson's "conclusion" and if he at any other time ever considered it to be "theory" a little later.

Author Phil Sugden contends that the results of the house-to-house search, completed on October 18, 1888 did not persuade the police that the murders were committed by a Jew.6 Evidence he cites in Anderson's CID minute to Warren on October 23, had acknowledged that, despite five successive murders, the CID were without "the slightest clue of any kind" (HO 144/221/A49301C/8C- reports of both Anderson and Warren). But look at the date of Anderson's rather "frank admission", as Sugden refers to it7, October 23, 1888 during which next to nothing was known about very many of the contemporary suspects, except that the killer may have been Jewish. The significant evidence of Kosminski's guilt had to wait for two or more years to surface. Here is where I think that something like the publication of Charles Booth's Map of London Poverty in 1889 (see below) would have aided the police in their house-to-house search the previous year. Lodging Houses and other buildings were delineated in black for high-crime/impoverished areas where their perceived suspect may have lived, and reddish brown for mixed crime/poverty areas. Did the police make use of it in 1889-91 to screen the addresses of those arrested or questioned in assault incidents involving knives?

Charles Booth: Map of London Poverty, 1889

Police Connection with Suspect

An author recently suggested that something so common-place as a knife threat in the East End when Aaron Kosminski was being watched and/or treated (1890-1) wouldn't have aroused much suspicion with police still investigating the Whitechapel Murders. The reason being that a knife threat was a frequent occurrence even in domestic disputes at that place and time. I think that the knife threat by Aaron towards his sister, as recalled by witness Jacob Cohen, would have been a significant pointer to investigating police because of Aaron's apparent insanity, poverty and his being Jewish. These were attributes that the police were looking for in individuals brought in for various assaults at the time, possibly even two years after the murders. These factors may have stood out as significant traits for police inquiry from among the many cases of domestic assault at the time. Male Jews involved in violent assaults were thus scrutinized more closely by police from among the numerous individuals brought in for such crimes. I think Aaron's knife threat to his sister probably happened between July 1890 and February 1891, probably closer to the latter date,8 and was not immediately investigated by police, but was followed up only when Aaron was certified at the asylum by Cohen (his relative?). If we recall Jacob Cohen's testimony and medical authority notes about Aaron on his admission to Colney Hatch Asylum, it is fairly clear that non-police authorities had no idea that Aaron was suspected of being JtR. It would have been highly unusual for the police not to warn authorities to keep Aaron restrained or confined. Aaron was described as eating bread out of gutters, refusing food, being dirty, idle and incoherent. But he was at no time physically restrained and would have been in regular contact with the other patients. The police certainly would have informed at least the head medical staff of their suspicions, so the potentially murderous Aaron could have been isolated from the other inmates, if necessary.

Could the killing of Frances Coles on 13 February 1891 indirectly have resulted in the arrest of the Kosminski suspect? Did his identification occur on or shortly before 27 February 1891, when the accused seaman Thomas Sadler was acquitted? Then who was the witness? Aaron Kosminski, a 25-year old Jewish imbecile had been brought to a Workhouse by his family, then committed to Colney Hatch Asylum one week previously. Was it he who was shortly used as a witness to an earlier sighting? When the Coles inquest ended with Sadler's release, did the police then attempt to identify "Kosminski" as Coles' killer? But we have Anderson's rather brief footnote in his autobiography that says Mary J. Kelly was the last victim and that McKenzie was not a Ripper victim: "The last and most horrible of that maniac's crimes was committed in a house in Miller's Court on the 9th of November." But Anderson never specifically said that Coles was or was not a Ripper victim,9 perhaps because of Dr. Bagster Phillips' opinion that this killing did not resemble the previous ones. But Dr. Phillips also discounted Eddowes as a Ripper victim.10 Dr. Phillips overall capacity for judgement on the killer's M.O. and skill and opinions about the killer's anatomical knowledge under which the mutilations were performed may be therefore questionable. His conclusions, however, shouldn't be discarded because he had the most knowledge of the in-situ positions and autopsy examinations of most of the Ripper murder victims. But there was something about the Coles Murder and the timing that may have triggered Anderson's suspicions and these were shared by a few other senior policemen still engaged in the hunt for JtR. Thus, even though he may have thought Coles was not killed by the Ripper, some connection brought out during the Coles investigation revealed evidence against another individual.

The Set-Up

The police were looking for JtR during the investigation of the Frances Coles murder (February 13, 1891), one week after Aaron was locked away for good at Colney Hatch. This indicates that Aaron wasn't the primary Polish Jew suspect and that he had never previously fallen under suspicion. It follows from these factors that the probable date of the Seaside Home identification of the actual Kosminski suspect took place after the Coles Murder. "And after this identification, which suspect knew, no other murder of this kind took place in London" (Swanson). Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, who investigated several of the Whitechapel Murders, regarded Coles as a Ripper victim11, in addition to Swanson.12 Of particular significance is the Lloyds Weekly News of February 15, 1891, in which Sir Edward Bradford, by this time, the MET Police Commissioner, felt convinced from evidence of previous murders in Whitechapel that the murdered woman (Coles) was a victim of the same killer who performed the Ripper killings two years previously.13 It is thus an almost certainty that the person who was subjected to the Seaside Home Identification was not Aaron Kosminski (although as I later suggest, he may have been used as a witness to the earlier killings).

The actual "Kosminski" police suspect, when he was caught, may have implicated Aaron, a relative already incarcerated as a lunatic, as an accomplice to the murders. And this would have been prior to or on 24 February, 1891, when the police first detained "Kosminski", as outlined below. He was possibly brought forth for identification before 27 February. It is significant that Chief Inspector Henry Moore, on March 2-3, 1891, was still attempting to ascertain Sadler's whereabouts during the MacKenzie Murder in 1889 and during the autumn of 1888, even though on the 25th of February the case against Sadler fell apart. In the days previous, evidence possibly obtained by police from a witness, or Aaron and the Kosminski family may have turned suspicions towards this other "Kosminski". The police wanted to ensure that they had the actual killer of Coles, and not to continue suspecting the drunken seaman, Sadler.

The following is a hypothetical summary of the scenario of suspicion that I believe fell on "Kosminski" in early 1891 following the Coles' murder (dates of the Coles inquest shown in bold).

Saturday, February 7, 1891 - Aaron Kosminski committed to Colney Hatch Asylum.

Friday, February 13 - Coles murdered.

Saturday, February 14 - "Kosminski" under suspicion by family. Sadler arrested around noon.

Sunday, February 15 - Coles' inquest begins. French and German Detectives arrive to consult with those engaged in the investigation.

Monday, February 16 - Inquest continues, Daily Telegraph (DT) reports on previous day's inquest proceedings.

Tuesday, February 17 - DT reports on police court proceedings against Sadler; probable date of Sadler's attempted identification by Mitre Square witness (Lawende).

Wednesday, February 18 - DT reports the failed identification of Sadler by the Mitre Square witness. The police at this point in time confer about what to do about the unsuccessful witness identification attempt. If the witness was Lawende to this point, he may have tipped police that Levy14, his companion at the Imperial Club over two years ago, knew the man that had been seen near Mitre Square.

Thursday, February 19 - DT interviews Sadler's wife; reports that Sadler at one time worked in Buck's Row. Police possibly review old notebooks and reports recorded in or near Buck's Row in late 1888.

Friday, February 20 - Inquest resumes after 4-day break; DT interviews Sadler's mother; police report (unreleased at time to press) verifies Sadler at sea during several of the Whitechapel murder dates.

Saturday, February 21 - Swanson interviews Sadler's wife.

Sunday, February 22 - Kosminski suspect possibly breaks due to possibility of another (Sadler) to be hung for his crimes. He is also probably very ill at this point. Police possibly again contact Levy.

Monday, February 23 - Inquest resumes after weekend break; Kosminski's family report suspicions to police. Inquest is again halted. Police check notebooks from October 1888 house-to-house search, finding earlier recorded suspicion of "Kosminski" in Goulston Street. He is traced through family members and/or witnesses and arrested the following day. MET Police Commissioner Sir Edward Bradford is probably briefed about the evidence against Kosminski, and authorizes the secret identification of the suspect.

Tuesday, February 24 - Police take Kosminski from brother's house to Seaside Home, arriving late in evening. Kosminski held overnight at Jewish Convalescent Hospital. Police with difficulty also transport a reluctant Levy to the home to compare the previous weeks' attempted identification of Sadler with a "new" suspect, which police hope he would remember after a brief glance over two years ago.

Wednesday, February 25 - DT reports on police court proceeding against Sadler. Police attempt secret identification of Kosminski by Levy without success. Anderson suspicious of Kosminski's guilt, but unsure if he killed Coles because of Dr. Phillips observations that Coles' wounds were different from preceding victims. Swanson however, adds Coles to the list of Ripper victims.

Thursday, February 26 - Kosminski suspect returned to brother's house; The City Police watch brother's house.

Friday, February 27 - Final day of Coles inquest after 3-day adjournment; Sadler acquitted; (missing police records- possibly refer to attempted identification of Kosminski by witnesses. A Scotland Yard file on the Frances Coles Murder by Inspector Henry Moore contains a description of the adjournment of the inquest and the following statement: "…since yesterday no new development has taken place in connection with this case." (MEPO 3/143 #80 (27 February 1891, ff 88-89).15

Monday, March 2 - Moore's report on Sadler's whereabouts over previous years reassures the police of his innocence; Kosminski's guilt probably solidifies into "moral certainty" by the upper echelons of Scotland Yard Police. Moore and Bradford, as well as Anderson and Swanson would have likely known this.

Tuesday, March 3 - Further police reports on Sadler's whereabouts 16-20 July 1889; Kosminski removed from his brother's house under restraint and taken to Stepney Union Workhouse Infirmary, and then (or within several days) to Colney Hatch Asylum to determine if Aaron could identify him. Suspect is then removed from Colney Hatch Asylum and re-confined to Bromley Sick Asylum; Other missing police files possibly pertain to detention and commitment of "Kosminski" to the asylum as a suspect of the Frances Coles murder, and by reason of circumstantial evidence (family testimony?), of the previous Whitechapel murders.

Wednesday, March 4 - DT reports police investigation of Sadler, his earlier acquittal, lack of police finding of convincing case against Sadler and that the Coles murder remains unsolved.

What is interesting is that after the 27th of February, the police inquiries were apparently not reported to journalists. The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers reported Sadler's acquittal the following day (28th) and nothing new until March 4th, when they were told that he was at sea during four of the previous murders. Were these four or five days of damage control or cover-up activities while they dealt with the Kosminski suspect?

The Witness

Researchers have mostly assumed that Anderson's witness was a person whose identity could be inferred from police reports or from vague police recollections as having come forward or who was found shortly after the Eddowes (or Stride) murder. What of the alleged use of Lawende as the witness in the identification of Sadler after the Coles murder? Anderson, Swanson and Macnaghten personally investigated this murder, which occurred one week after Aaron Kosminski's permanent confinement. Although Macnaghten later rejected Coles as a victim of JtR , Swanson did not, as mentioned previously. Let us quote the Daily Telegraph story (February 18, 1891), "Further it is certain that the police are not neglecting the facts which came to light in connection with the previous murders. Probably the only trustworthy description of the assassin was given by a gentleman who, on the night of the Mitre-Square murder, noticed in Duke Street, Aldgate, a couple standing under the lamp at the corner of the passage leading to Mitre-Square. The woman was identified as the victim of that night, Sept. 30, the other having been killed half an hour previously in Brener-Street. The man was described as 'aged from thirty to thirty-five, height 5ft 7in, with brown hair and big moustache; dressed respectively. Wore pea jacket, muffler, and a cloth cap with a peak of the same material. The witness has confronted Sadler but has failed to identify him".16 Where the witness described by Anderson and Swanson is envisaged as Lawende, we have the valid argument that this "witness" did not see the suspect killing the woman (Eddowes), merely to have been in the company of a woman believed to be the victim shortly before the discovery of the body. When we also consider that Lawende said he did not think he would recognize the man again, his "evidence" would be pretty useless anyway. So was he used in the subsequent identification of the Kosminski suspect? It is likely not. Joseph Hyam Levy may be another story.

Consider the possibility that a witness actually saw one of the victims with a man he recognized shortly before she was killed, but did not come forward to police until two or more years later. What circumstances would have led to the witness coming forward to the police or they in tracking him down in February 1891, long after the original sighting? Or was it a later sighting? If the witness was one of the Imperial Club trio who saw a man with Eddowes, their initial statements about being unable to recognize the man if they saw him again, suggest someone may have been lying if one of them later came forward to police. So who approached whom? Did the police seek out and find the witness after arresting the suspect, or did the witness voluntarily come forward to the police after they had the suspect in custody? Given that the witness refused to testify against the suspect, the former seems more likely than the latter scenario. It is also probable that one of the suspect's family or friends gave information to the police about the witness' acquaintance with him.

It is interesting to speculate on the merits of Levy as Anderson's witness, as originally suggested by Paul Begg. Levy said to his companions, Lawende and Harris, on seeing the couple at the covered passage to the Church Passage said, "I don't like going home by myself when I see these sorts of characters about - I'm off". Levy then accompanied the other two south on Duke Street to Aldgate-High Street. There, Lawende probably headed west towards Fenchurch Street, while Levy walked east with Harris on Aldgate-High Street towards Hutchinson and Castle Streets, their respective homes. But what did Levy mean by not wanting to go home alone? Could he have meant that he was planning to take a shorter route back to his house from the Imperial Club, a route he may have taken many times before? Indeed, there was a quicker route across ("Little") Duke Street to Houndsditch, then south to Gravel Lane, along to New Street and south to Hutchinson Street. His residence was located at #1, on the corner to Middlesex Street. This distance would have been shorter than walking south on Duke Street, then east on Aldgate-High Street, and north on Middlesex to Hutchinson Street, although probably not as safe and as well lit. Maybe Levy was afraid to go home alone by the shorter route for a specific reason.

A possible clue can be gleaned from his remark to Lawende and Harris that the court ought to be watched on seeing the man and the woman together at the covered Church passage to Mitre Square. But why should he care if he were leaving to go home? As the meeting at the Imperial Club was adjourning and people were departing downstairs, perhaps Levy saw a man he recognized in or just outside the Imperial club pick up a woman (Eddowes) or while they were waiting for the rain to let up17. The man leaves the club, or walks along the street with the woman, Levy doesn't see in which direction. While his companions are waiting for the rain to let up, he makes his way through the entrance of the club and walks quickly up to St James Place around the corner of the Synagogue into the Square (the Orange Market). There, he asks a night-watchman (James Blenkingsop), "Have you seen a man and a woman go through here?". The time is approximately 1:30 a.m. P.C. Watkins has just left Mitre Square on his beat back along Mitre Street. The man replies to Levy that he hadn't really noticed (a man with a woman), but some people had passed.18 Levy quickly returns to his two friends who are about to leave the club. Within minutes they depart and he sees the couple he was looking for minutes earlier and makes the remark about the court should be watched (testimony of Lawende at Eddowes inquest). Levy then makes sure he travels home in the safety of companionship, even though this route of necessity takes him slightly out of his way. It is possible that he knew the man he saw in the company of the woman in the Church passageway, and lived not far from him. He therefore did not want to encounter him (and the woman) if he took the shorter route back to his home through Gravel Lane. This theory also suggests that Levy may have known the character of the man he saw and had a premonition of what might happen to the woman.

Again, let us recount Lawende's own words recorded at Eddowes' inquest: " On the night of the 29th I was at the Imperial Club. Mr. Joseph Levy and Mr. Harry Harris were with me. It was raining. We left to go out at half past one and we left the house five minutes later". And Levy: "We got up to go home at half past one. We came out about three or four minutes after the half hour…". From Lawende's and Levy's statements it is clear that they stood waiting a few minutes for the rain to let up before embarking to their homes. Note that Levy told the inquest that he was waiting with the other two before they left the club. It was only 50 to 60 feet from the point where they emerged from #16-17 to the pavement directly opposite Church Passage on the other side of the street (although Lawende said the distance was only 15 or 16 feet in his inquest statement). It was about 200 feet from the door of the Imperial Club up to the Duke Street entrance to St. James Place. Could Levy in this time have quickly dashed up to St. James Place, made a brief inquiry, then decided it would be best to return to his friends and leave with them? If it was Levy who approached Blenkingsop in St. James Place, but was told that no one had passed, he may have just continued home along (Little) Duke Street, across Houndsditch, and not have returned to Lawende and Harris.

Levy worked as a butcher. He could have received his supplies in Butchers Row, Aldgate, a five-minute walk from #1 Hutchinson Street. He is listed in the Kelly's Trade Directories at that address as far back as 1869. Then sometime in 1891 or 1892, Levy's butchery business suddenly disappeared. The 1893 Directory shows one Joseph Levy of "Lazarus and Levy", Loan Office at 51 Mansell Street, Aldgate. (Levy) Lazarus had previously run a small restaurant in nearby Great Alie Street and thus may have become acquainted with the butcher, Levy. It is also conceivable that Levy had conducted trading in Butcher's Row, where the City Police suspect also worked. We could ask why after spending so many years in Hutchinson Street, he suddenly in 1891-2, decides to change professions and locations. Did he fear staying in the Hutchinson/Middlesex area? Was it on police advice that he left this area? Did he recognize someone with Eddowes who also could have worked in Butchers Row? We could support this by police survelliance on this suspect (and witness) by adding to this City police Sergeant Robert Sager's and P.C. Harry Cox's separate accounts that a City Police suspect that they watched worked in Butchers Row, Aldgate, adjacent to and south of Mitre Square. After the suspect had been detained, it may have been deemed safer for Levy to leave Hutchinson Street, near the suspect's relatives and friends, and relocate in Butcher's Row, where the suspect had previously worked. "His people", wary of the previous police surveillance on the suspect, would dare not threaten Levy there.

The Imperial Club can be traced back to 1881 (census) where it was known as the Commercial Club at #17 Duke Street. Previous to this, we don't know if such a club existed at these premises. The point can be made however that Levy lived in and knew this area of Aldgate for many years. This accords well with Paul Begg's discovery of Levy's supporting Martin Kosminski's 1877 application for Naturalization, and of course, Martin Kosminski was married in the Great Synagogue in 187219 directly across the street from the location of the later Imperial Club. Thus, it is probable that the Levy and Kosminski families were tied to that general area for some years prior to the Whitechapel Murders.

Levy also lived barely within City of London Police jurisdiction, which ran through Middlesex Street. His residence/business was right on the corner, literally within a few feet of the boundary, if not on the actual boundary. Could this be part of the "difficulty" the MET had with the City Police when the suspect (and witness) was taken to the Seaside Home for the Identification?

The Identification

If the suspect was already a certified lunatic and if the witness refused to identify Kosminski, he would have simply been returned to the asylum, not hung (supporting Anderson's view that the suspect was brought from, or brought to, the asylum). So any fear on the witness' part of the suspect being hanged because of his testimony is not logical. But recall that Swanson said as much in his marginalia notes. Thus, it follows that there was indeed a legitimate fear on the witness' part that this would befall the suspect should he render a positive identification to the police. Aaron was a hallucinatory religious maniac, not fit to plead in court. And of course, a certified lunatic could not be hung. On the other hand, a sex maniac with a perverted desire to mutilate prostitutes wouldn't be prevented from thinking his actions were wrong, saying God ordered him to kill them20. Thus, he would be responsible for his actions, and if convicted by a court, could hang. So what are we to make of these confusing aspects of the Identification, assuming it was Aaron Kosminski? If the "Kosminski" suspect was not incarcerated prior to the identification, but came from the brother's house, Anderson's and Swanson's statements about the witness' fear of testifying make better sense. Recall Swanson also said that the suspect was returned to his brother's house following the identification at the Police Seaside Home, meaning the police took him (probably under arrest) from the brother's house and released him there. No Workhouse Infirmary was yet involved, except for possibly the Jewish Convalescent Home (described later), near the Seaside Home. Swanson also said, not once, but twice: "And after this identification which suspect knew, no other murder of this kind took place in London", and later "…and he knew he was identified". This clearly indicates that not only did the police realize the suspect's guilt, but that he knew it as well.

Anderson also possibly described two suspect/witness confrontations: 1) " …when the individual whom we suspected was caged in an asylum, the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer at once identified him, but when he learned that the suspect was a fellow-Jew, he declined to swear to him" and 2) "..the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him, but he refused to give evidence against him" (emphasis mine). These two statements are curious. It had been surmised that Anderson made certain changes to soften the tone of his accusations between his serialized Blackwood's Memoirs in 1910 and the book edition of the Memoirs in the same year, which contain these two statements, respectively. It would be wrong to attempt to analyze too closely these statements; they are after all only brief generalizations of the identification based on memory alone. But what if there was more than one witness present? Perhaps two? Maybe the first statement refers to a confrontation that took place when the suspect was placed in an asylum because that is where the witness was. Note the wording, the witness immediately knew the suspect by sight, but he didn't know (or couldn't remember) that the suspect was also a fellow Jew. And he was only pressed to swear that not only did he recognize, but also knew the man, but not to give evidence against him. Such is what the police may have expected from a mentally incapacitated witness, one who was possibly related to the suspect. In the second statement the witness again immediately recognized the suspect, and possibly knew he was also Jewish before being informed by the police, and he was expected to give evidence against the suspect and decided not to do so. This witness statement may refer to Levy and the Seaside Home. We should note, however, that Anderson explicitly wrote, "…the only person who ever had a good view…" in both of these statements.

The implications to the above premise are, nevertheless, fascinating. It would imply that two identifications occurred, one with the Mitre Square witness, who "had a good view" of the man with the (murdered) woman, and the other with the suspect's family relative. It also has implications to the meaning of Swanson's Marginalia "… he was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards". Recall Swanson also used the word "sent" in a prior note when he wrote that the suspect was "sent" to the Seaside Home for identification (interpreted as escorted by Workhouse staff instead of by police because the assumed suspect {Aaron} was not arrested). But sent in the context of Swanson's description of the identification could also imply a brief visit or appointment in order for certain police actions to transpire. Thus, it is possible that the suspect was briefly sent to Colney Hatch Asylum so an inmate could identify him, but the suspect was not incarcerated there for a considerable period of time. Anderson, describing the Identification, said the suspect was caged in an asylum (assumed to be Colney Hatch) in his book, Criminals and Crime (1907), "..or after he had been safely caged in an asylum.", and again in 1910, he said, "…and when the individual whom we suspected was caged in an asylum.." It would be interesting to know with certainty to which asylum Anderson was referring. Could it have been the Bromley Sick Asylum?

Major Henry Smith, in 1888 the Assistant City Police Commissioner, wrote in his book From Constable to Commissioner in 1910 that he had interviewed a "sort of hybrid German' who was one of the Mitre Square witnesses (pp. 158-9). Researchers have assumed this is Joseph Lawende, and with good reason. Lawende's description of the man seen with Eddowes was given to the police shortly after the murder and he is the witness whose evidence was most extensively cited at the Eddowes' inquest. But we don't know very much about Lawende at all. We do know that he was a Polish Jew, born in Warsaw. Levy was a Dutch Jew who had lived in Aldgate for many years. Could Levy be Smith's "hybrid German"? From Smith's short reminiscence of the City Police investigation of the murder(s) we gather that he questioned the witness very shortly after he was found by the house-to-house inquiries in October, 1888. But possibly not. Maybe it was Levy that Smith interviewed after he was returned from the Police Seaside Home in 1891, over two years after the Mitre Square Murder. Levy had just declined to give evidence against the suspect. He is then brought to the attention of Smith because his CID officers are engaged in surveillance of the suspect's brother's house for a short period of time; the MET then had to inform Smith that it had just taken a suspect and a City witness to the identification location and returned them. Smith would have sought the witness out immediately to learn first-hand what he had said. The witness (be he Levy) would have said, "I only had a brief look at him and doubt that I would remember again..". And this after Levy had turned in an unexpected negative identification to the MET police at the Seaside Home; so he had to keep his story consistent, when questioned, to Smith and the City Police. We should note however, that the description of the suspect given to Smith is almost identical to that given by Lawende to police, thus it is possible to have been Lawende that Smith questioned. Also, Lawende, Levy and Harris are all likely to have spoken German, so anyone of them could have been Smith's "hybrid German".

The Jewish Convalescent Home (in 1891 directories onwards) in the West Brighton and Hove areas, was otherwise known as the Jewish Children's Convalescent Home, 35 Montgomery Street. Montgomery Street and Claredon Villas. It was less than 200 yards apart of where the Police Seaside Home stood.21 The Records of the Convalescent Home have not apparently survived, but it is possible that the suspect was taken here first, held overnight, and then taken across to the Police Seaside Home at Claredon Villas. If the workhouse authorities were the ones transporting Kosminski to the Seaside Home, would they then unquestionably hand him over to the police, as has been suggested?22 With this possibility, we have to ask if the Kosminski suspect was actually incarcerated at this point, because as Swanson maintained, the suspect was taken "with difficulty" to the identification site. I believe he was arrested, not committed, but this was not the source of the "difficulty" that Swanson referred to. It is more likely that the police took an ill suspect from his brother's house 60 miles or so to the Jewish Convalescent Home (one-day ride by cab from London). There, he would have been examined the following day by doctors, escorted to the adjacent Seaside Home and then subjected to the identification (likely a one-day event), and returned to London the following day, for a total of three days (February 24-26, 1891). As suggested above, this difficulty may have had something to do with the (separate) transport of the witness as well, especially a witness whom possibly lived on the border of two police jurisdictions in which the crimes occurred.

A significant statement recently made in the Kosminski case is that any identification of a suspect would not have been allowed after committal to an asylum and would serve no reason.23 For example, the police tried to interview Issenschmid, a Jew suspected of Annie Chapman's murder, after his committal to Grove Hall Asylum, Bow on 12 September 1888. Charles Warren's report to the Home Secretary on 19 September described "the lunatic Isensmith (sic) a Swiss arrested at Holloway who is now in an asylum at Bow and arrangements are being made to ascertain whether he is the man who was seen on the morning of the murder by Mrs. Fiddymont". But Dr. Mickle, who had charge of Isenschmid, was so concerned about his health that he declined to permit the witnesses (Fiddymont, Mary Chappell and Joseph Taylor) to identify him. There is also Abberline's report of 18 September to expedite arrangements for the identification of Isenschmid at Grove Hall by having a divisional police surgeon contact Dr. Mickle. "The doctor is of the opinion this cannot be done at present with safety to his patient"24 (my emphasis). Police intervention with a committed asylum lunatic would certainly have implications to Anderson's claim that the suspect was identified after he was committed to an asylum, or as I think, he was sent there so a witness could identify him.

It has been suggested that there was never any real evidence against Kosminski, merely suspicion. But we don't know this, police records having been lost. We do have Macnaghten's statement that there were "many circs (circumstances) connected with this man which made him a strong 'suspect'". Note that Macnaghten uses the word "suspect" in quotations, suggesting that not only was he passed on the fact that the police had suspicions of Kosminski, but that he didn't also know what those suspicions specifically were. It is acknowledged that as a committed lunatic, the police would generally not have been allowed to proceed against Kosminski, because there was no hard evidence. But again, we don't know if it would have prevented his interrogation, especially if they believed he could be Jack the Ripper. But, as I believe, "Kosminski" was never committed prior to his identification.

The scenario where the suspect is envisaged as Aaron being taken from the Mile End Workhouse in July 1890 to the identification site, then returned to his brother's house and "watched by the police (City CID) day and night" certainly explains some aspects of the identification, but not all. It would explain, for example, why the suspect could have been taken away by police or by Workhouse staff (he wasn't arrested at that point), although it doesn't address the "difficulty" part. It would account for Swanson's mention of the witness' fear that the suspect (be he Aaron) would hang if he gave his evidence, since he also wasn't committed at that point. What it also doesn't explain is why the City Police would watch over the brother's house for such a long period of time (6 to 7 months), day and night, before Aaron was committed to the asylum in February 1891. The incurred expenses would have been very high. Recall, Swanson said the house was watched was for "a very short time", presumably with the suspect voluntarily confined to the house while police gathered further evidence against him.

To summarize, I suggest the possibility after using Lawende in the attempt to identify Sadler, evidence came to light indicating that either Kosminski may have been involved in the Coles killing, or that (more likely) the police learned from Lawende that Levy knew the Kosminski family. In all likelihood, Lawende was probably very irate at the point of the Sadler identification because of the persistent build-up police pressure, so he finally broke and told them what he thought Levy knew. Levy is then tracked down and reluctantly taken to the Seaside Home to identify Kosminski. He fails to give evidence against Kosminski. He is warned by police and advised to leave the neighborhood of his residence/business in the Hutchinson/Middlesex area of Aldgate because of potential threats by Kosminski's acquaintances and relations against him giving evidence.

Anderson's View

Anderson held the view that the Whitechapel Murders were the work of a Jew. It could perhaps be objected that the case against Kosminski was circumstantial, although Anderson believed in his guilt. He never, as I am aware of, used the word "theory" in his affirmation that the killer was a Polish Jew, however, one could infer that he possibly meant "theory" in early statements concerning the investigation prior to 1891, as I've suggested. Let us look briefly at the Windsor Magazine article, volume 1 of January 1895 by Major Arthur Griffiths. Here we are told of Anderson's dealings with the backlash of criticism during the early part of the police investigation: "Much dissatisfaction was vented upon Mr. Anderson at the utterly abortive efforts to discover the perpetrator of the Whitechapel Murders. He has himself a perfectly plausible theory that Jack the Ripper was a homicidal maniac, temporarily at large, whose hideous career was cut short by committal to an asylum."25 It seems clear to me that Griffiths got this information from Anderson, but was it Anderson's theory or Griffiths' interpretation of Anderson's information as his theory? It has been assessed that at this date (1894-5), Anderson's "perfect plausible theory" had not yet turned into his "definitely ascertained fact" as he stated it to be fifteen years later. This observation has been explained by fading memory, a desire to put his failure to catch the murderer behind him by claiming he could not be brought to justice, or just plain wishful thinking. But I believe that his other statements show such definitiveness that we must accept the possibility of some unknown evidence that was convincing enough to led him to conclude Kosminski was the Ripper. And I suspect that Anderson shared this information very sparingly with Griffiths, as the ill-fated suspect identification was still brooding in his mind and due to the possibility that the "Kosminski" suspect may have just recently died in the asylum.

Anderson continued to hold to his stance of a Polish Jew Ripper after publication of his serialized memoirs in Blackwoods Magazine in 1910. Indeed, as has been recently discovered, he was immediately lambasted for his statements by a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle (JC) who claimed that Anderson was in a sense scapegoating the Jewish community by claiming that his people knew of his guilt, but probably shielded him from the police.26 The columnist intimates that according to Anderson, the police merely "formed a theory" on the case. Anderson responded in an interview to the Globe on March 7 (1910): "When I stated that the murderer was a Jew, I was stating a simple matter of fact. It is not a matter of theory." This exchange shows that Anderson was sticking to his guns, even though questioned in the public press shortly after his remarks were first published. He must have realized how strong the storm of controversy raised by such statements would carry over to the police from the Jewish community, but he would not alter his stance. The columnist for the JC took up his pen again (March 11th) to address Anderson's response: "Of course when Sir Robert says that the man he means was 'proved' to be the murderer, and upon that point he spoke facts, he also ignores the somewhat important matter that the man was never put on trial." Anderson could do no more than issue this final letter to the editor of the JC, who printed it along with the previous response, "If I were to describe the condition of the maniac who committed these murders, and the course of loathsome immorality which reduced him to that condition, it would be manifest that in his case every question of nationality and creed is lost in a ghastly study of human nature sunk to the lowest depth of degradation." In other words, Anderson is telling us that despite the suspect's ethnic or religious persuasion, he had factual evidence that "Kosminski" was the murderer, but he could not and would not elaborate further than to describe the man's physical and mental condition as being the cause (he thought) for the Ripper killings.

The Motive

Picture if you will a poor Polish boot-maker who was formerly a Barber-Surgeon in a Polish Hospital, forced to immigrate to a foreign country. He takes his wife and young son into the very heart of the most squalid part of the East End.27 This man and his family had previously enjoyed a relatively comfortable life, he working as Junior or Assistant Surgeon, possibly as a "feldscher", a poor man's doctor in the Corridor Region between Poland and Russia. Then, driven, along with thousands of other Poles, Germans and Slavic Jewish families by the Cossack raids and Imperial Russian Pogroms, they are forced to flee or suffer the consequences. This would have been in the 1850's to 1870's, when steady streams of Jewish immigrants settled in the Aldgate/Spitalfields districts of East End London. The man and his family are squeezed into an already overcrowded section of slums with other poor Jewish families. He is forced to find work; a boot-maker is a common trade available to many male Jewish immigrants, but it will keep him and his family poor and tied to their surroundings for years to come. Shortly after they immigrate a daughter is born. What sort of impression would this new environment have made on the family? When the children were in their teens, would they be inured to the immorality that surrounded them? Did this family strive to remain segregated with other Jewish families from the crime and deprivation that surrounded them? Was the Kosminski suspect, if he were a father, sickened with the future awaiting a 14-year old daughter (surrounded by prostitution) and an 18-year old son (possibly succumbing to venereal disease) in such unscrupulous surroundings? It would have been almost impossible to completely isolate one's family in a religious community when mere survival meant having to work and trade with many peoples throughout the east end, including the iniquitous Gentile majority. A deeply religious man with misogynist impulses, mulling over his family's plight to its current existence may have been seething with rage.

Suspect's Death

The main point to ponder is Swanson's (and Anderson's) statement of the suspect's death. This is not mentioned once, but three times, once by Anderson and twice by Swanson. The most quoted instance is the Pall Mall Gazette description of 7 May 1895 by Swanson that he believed the crimes to be the work of a man who was by then dead. If all we had was this single report that one senior police official believed the Ripper was dead, it would be easy to dismiss it, especially since it was "belief", not recorded fact. But Swanson goes on to reiterate this "belief" years later in his marginal notes to Anderson's book where he states rather matter-of-factly "...he was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards." And finally, we have Anderson himself, who was reported by his son, Arthur Anderson, to have stated as a fact the man was an alien from Eastern Europe, and believed that he had died in an asylum.28 And Aaron Kosminski was still alive after Anderson's death in 1918. But did Anderson merely recall information passed on to him by his subordinate, Swanson? For the most part, probably yes. But I think that in the case of something as important as the death of the JtR suspect, he (Anderson) would have been personally involved in the assessment of the circumstances surrounding this event, assuming it actually happened in his lifetime, and not merely relying on hearsay. There is even the report that Detective Inspector Edmund Reid believed that the killer had died prior to 1896: "The mania was of a nature which must long ago have resulted in the death of the maniac - an opinion that is borne out by the best medical experts who have studied the case".29 Perhaps the final word concerning the suspect's death could be cited from James Monro, Assistant Commissioner of the CID during the Ripper Murders, "the Ripper was never caught, but he should have been".30 I believe this means that Monro believed the Ripper was dead or at least was out of the public spot-light and was never brought to justice. This fits what Anderson and Swanson both said about Kosminski. Having worked in the secret divisions of the CID and having been a liaison to the Home Office, Monro, even though he resigned as Commissioner in 1890, would have had much information about the investigation of which many MET policemen were never made aware.


Solitary Vices and Insanity

Colney Hatch doctors corrected Aaron's attack of insanity, supposedly the public display of masturbation, from six months to six years when he was admitted in February 1891. Presumably this was from further information provided by his family. Some researchers say that the six months probably refers back to a single episode of violent outburst, rather than continued masturbation, which Aaron may have indeed been practicing unhidden for six or more years. If his first attack of insanity occurred six months previous to his committal to Colney Hatch, it happened sometime in August 1890 and may have been a precursor to the knife threat on his sister. We may also note that asylum doctors amended the cause of Aaron's insanity from "unknown" to self-abuse much later after his committal. This is curious. If he was suspected by the police of being JtR, a sexual maniac with "utterly unmentionable vices", wouldn't the police have conveyed this information to the receiving doctors at the asylum immediately? Aaron had been a (possible) public spectacle since about 1885. This just does not fit the profile of a serial killer. During the build-up of their sexual mania, the masturbation is controlled, or secretive, as the killer undoubtedly was when he cunningly lured his victims to secluded areas. The fact that the suspect's masturbation was known to Anderson (and Macnaghten) might suggest a sudden complete mental and physical breakdown, although Macnaghten describes Kosminski as becoming insane "owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices". If this refers to Aaron, it was probably observed by family members for six years or more prior to his committal in the asylum, but this was not considered as a manifestation of homicidal mania by medical authorities as described by Macnaghten and Anderson. Review of asylum case notes and lengthy interviews with Aaron and his family should have convinced the police of that. Reading Macnaghten's notes, I interpret the "many years" part of the indulgence as pertaining to someone older, more established in their class stratum and respectable in appearance, who shouldn't have been observed doing what he was under ordinary circumstances. Perhaps Kosminski's family could no longer endure a latent sexual mania that may have peaked prior to his arrest.

Buck's Row

The Echo (20 September 1888) reported that detectives were investigating "a slight clue given to them by Pearly Poll..", aka Mary Ann Connolly, Martha Tabram's cohort when they picked up two soldiers on 7 August 1888, "..that was not thought much of at the time.." (ie., the week or so following Tabram's murder), but was by then (date of Echo report) supported by Elizabeth Allan and Eliza Cooper, (who fought with Annie Chapman sometime between August 28th and 30th, the week before her death on September 8th). This was due to pointed suspicion " a man actually living not far from Buck's Row".31 Both Cooper and Allan, along with Connelly, stayed at Crossingham's Lodging House, 35 Dorset Street, opposite Miller's Court. What hasn't really been discussed before, that I am aware of, is that if we look at these dates, here you have a potential witness (Connelly) giving some unspecified evidence to the police after a JtR-type killing (Tabram), but before Chapman, who she possible knew, was killed. One could argue that the date of the Echo report (Sept 20th) suggests that the clue was only supplied to the police by Connelly at this later time, but we also have the statement that the clue "was not thought much of at the time", suggesting that it was given before Chapman's death. This, to me, suggests a possible trail of JtR victim interrelationships and that the police probably thoroughly investigated these ties, but found no obvious links. There is also the previously mentioned report that Sadler at one time worked in Buck's Row. Did this indirectly focus police attention on Kosminski after Sadler was arrested?

On the night of the Nicols murder, Charles Cross was walking west on Bucks Row before encountering her body. He then saw Paul coming west in his direction; the killer could also have fled west, as neither Cross nor Paul encountered him and the body was still warm, further suggesting a route of escape towards the west, or possibly to the south. Number 30 Baker Street, Stepney was the residence of Wolf Kosminski, a master tailor, when he died at the age of 86 in 1930. Baker Street was between the old tramway line on the south and Clark Street on the north and one block west of Sidney Street (of later "Siege of Sidney Street" fame). It was approximately 1,800 feet south of Buck's Row, and just south of the Whitechapel Hospital. Andy Aliffe found a hairdresser named 'Kosminski' (from the trade directories) on Baker Street in 1890.32 There was also a Daniel Kosminsky, a hairdresser who moved from Stepney to Houndsditch just before the murders, disappeared from the directories immediately after the murders, and then resurfaced in Maryleborne a few years later (M. Fido-Casebook Info.). In any case the 1890 directory address establishes a possible alternate location for Kosminski's brother's house, close to the other well-known Sion Square address of Aaron's brother-in-law, Woolf Abrahams, and his sister, Betsy. The suspect's brother, if he were the tailor Wolf, or another Kosminski residing on Baker St. in 1888-91, suggests a relative living in a strategic location where the killer could escape from Buck's Row, Hanbury and Brener Streets to clean himself up. Note that in the case of the Eddowes Murder, the killer may not have fled to this house of his extended family, but rather to his own nearby residence shared with his immediate family, but before doing so had to clean himself with the portion of apron and discard it.

Mitre Square

The Ripper and Eddowes, after Lawende, Levy and Harris pass, quickly agreed to move to the dark southwest corner of the Square soon after descending the Church passage. He may have noticed two persons talking at the end of the St James passage to the Orange Market, but he is not sure they see him and his intended victim. It seems reasonable to assume the killer was close to finishing up with Eddowes, all the while keeping an anxious eye up the Church Passageway and an ear towards the Mitre Square carriage-way into Mitre Street. I don't think the Ripper would have hovered over Eddowes' body in the dark corner of Mitre Square when Police Constable (PC) Harvey walked down the Church Passage from Duke Street to the Square. The killer wouldn't have risked cowering next to a body while the PC, in full view, walks down the passage towards him. The Ripper may have retreated to the corner at Mr. Taylor's shop at the edge of the entrance to Mitre Square and watched Harvey until he walked back up Church Passage without entering the Square. He may have then ran back to the body and resumed his frenzy of gore, albeit it for only another minute or two at the most. Possibly alerted by PC Edward Watkin's footsteps approaching the entrance to the Square, he rushes in a diagonal beeline to the St. James Place passageway, ever mindful of the two people (firemen manning their hut?) he saw earlier when he reached the bottom of Church Passage with Eddowes. A quick look up the passage reveals that the two potential witnesses are no longer standing near the far passage entrance, so he bolts,

But maybe the persons on the Orange Market side did see him, but he could not see them. Recall, the St. James Place Passageway was a 55-ft long covered entry, with two posts at the Square end (it is not known if they were lighted). Thus it would have been difficult for somebody at the Mitre Square end to see anything on the opposite side (i.e., the Orange Market), while observers on the Market side looking down a dark tunnel lit on the far side could see into the Square. Had the killer seen persons observing him and the victim when they entered the Square, he would quite possibly have not risked killing Eddowes there.

With respect to the press report that bloodied swipes were found upon the doorway and underneath the window ledge of #36 in Mitre Square33, I believe this would have been the empty house between #3, that of PC Pearce, and the smaller building of the Kearley and Tonge Warehouse on the south side of the St. James Passage. The only other recorded address in the Square was that of George Clapp, the caretaker of #5, premises which belonged to Heydemann & Company, on the opposite side of the Square. There were only a few doors and first floor windows that faced the Square. Thus, the possibility exists that this location was actually between #3 and #6, the old empty house next to PC Pearce's house (misinterpreted as "36" in the newspaper). The point A to point B sketch accompanying the Mitre Square plan was drawn at this point (proximity of the window ledge of #3 or # 6), looking back to the body and may have been drawn so as a possible re-constructive clue when interviewing Watkins and Morris. This spot was in line from Eddowes' body to St. James Place Passage. But the killer may have scaled the low railing shown on the plan map of "Mitre Square and Surroundings" made on October 4th34. Did he run out of time in wiping his hands and knife when P.C. Watkins came around the Mitre Street corner and into the Square? Maybe he lay still under the railing while Watkins ran up past him to the partially open door of the Kearley and Tonge Warehouse. Recent speculation has it that the piece of Eddowes apron the killer cut off was used to wrap the extracted and bloodied organs.35 Thus the killer would have needed another piece of cloth or an object (doorway or window ledge) to wipe his hands and/or knife.36

It is also unlikely that the killer ran back up the Church passage to Duke St., where minutes before, he had stood with the woman while the meeting at the Imperial Club was adjourning. The killer and his intended victim were passed by people leaving the Imperial Club meeting, and he wasn't anxious to run into more departing or loitering people when he re-emerged at the Duke St side of the passage with blood-stained hands and clothing, especially if he saw an acquaintance pass by before he entered the passage with his victim. The 1894 Whitechapel Ordinance map does, however, show a narrow passage running from the Great Synagogue to about the middle of Church Passage. It could even be conceivable that the Ripper made his escape through this passageway into the Great Synagogue.

I thought it was possible that (ex-PC) George Morris could be a candidate for Macnaghten's city PC who saw JtR in or near Mitre Square. This possibility could only be likely if Morris ran back up St. James Passage to summon assistance and glimpsed the killer on his flight. But Morris did not take this route, he left via the carriage-way to the Square from Mitre Street, the same way PC Watkins entered the Square moments before. Martin Fido provides a detailed map of the Mitre Square area and superimposes the beat routes of both PCs Watkins and Harvey.37 Knowing the approximate times that these policemen separately entered the Square, we can reasonably reconstruct where each one was in relation to the events leading up to and following the murder of Catherine Eddowes. What it indicates is a remarkable sequence of near misses, not knowing what's around the corner, luck on the killer's part and in all probability a certain degree of knowledge about the area and police patrol routes.

I took the scale provided on Fido's Mitre Square Area map and knowing the approximate times for the police patrol rounds of Watkins and Harvey, divided time and distance information into one minute increments showing where each patrolman was in relation to each other and to the killer and witness(es). Starting with Watkins discovery of the body (approximately 1:44:30 am) and Harvey's location when George Morris found him on Aldgate-High St (approximately 1:45:30 am), then working backwards in time, here is a projected break-down by minute or by minute and a half intervals (times assume the rate of movement on each beat was constant):

  • 1:28:30 Harvey checks Post Office clock between Duke St. and Houndsditch on Aldgate-High St., he then proceeds north on Houndsditch.
  • 1:30:00 Watkins in Mitre Square - all is quiet. Levy possibly enters St. James Place briefly.
  • 1:31:30 Watkins heading northwest on Mitre Street between carriage-way entrance and King Street; Harvey at Houndsditch and Gravel Lane.
  • 1:33:00 Watkins about to enter St. James Place; Harvey in Little Duke Street.*
  • 1:34:00 Watkins looking down the St. James Passage into Mitre Square as he makes the turn back north. Harvey back on Houndsditch, still proceeding north.
  • 1:34:30 Watkins leaves St. James Place via Creechurch Lane. Lawende, Levy and Harris pass man and woman at entrance to Church Passage on Duke Street. Harvey nearing junction to Goring Street.
  • 1:36:00 Watkins opposite Bevis Market Synagogue on Hennage Lane heading southwest; Harvey proceeding south on Bevis Marks after walking west on Goring Street.
  • 1:37:00 Harvey heading southeast on Bevis Marks at corner with Bury Street.
  • 1:37:30 Watkins on Hennage Lane just before the corner to Bury Street, moving southwest.
  • 1:38:00 Harvey moving southeast at corner of Bevis Marks and Hennage Lane (he misses Watkins by one and a half minutes).
  • 1:39:00 Watkins on Creechurch Lane at Leadenhall Street heading south. Harvey turns around on Little Duke Street after walking as far as Houndsditch and heads west on the opposite side of the street and comes to the corner with the main thoroughfare of Duke Street, facing St. James Place.**
  • 1:41:30 Watkins on Leadenhall St, heading east towards the junction with Aldgate-High St. Harvey at the bottom of Church Passage facing Mitre Square - sees and hears nothing.
  • 1:43:00 Watkins turns corner northwest onto Mitre Street.
  • 1:44:00 Watkins in front of Taylor's shop on Mitre Street (footsteps may be audible in Square at this point).
  • 1:44:30 Watkins finds body. Harvey has gone south on Duke Street after emerging from the Church Passage. He has turned west on Aldgate and gotten as far as Mitre Street and turns to go back.
  • 1:45:00 Watkins alerts Morris, they examine the body together, and Morris sent to fetch assistance.
  • 1:45:30 Morris finds Harvey on Aldgate-High Street between Jewry Street and the Minories.

    The only event of significant question may be when Harvey was at the bottom of Church Passage. He said he fixed the time by the Post Office clock in Aldgate, but this would have been about twelve minutes earlier (1:28 or 1:29) when he was patrolling east on Aldgate-High St. before turning north on Houndsditch. He would have passed this same clock again just about the time Morris finds him after the murder. He should have projected his estimate of the time back the five or six minutes previous when he stood at the bottom of the passage, if he was in front of the clock again at this point. Maybe he forgot to look at the clock in the excitement of Morris' summons.

    * Did Harvey see anyone approach St James Place or crossing Little Duke Street at this point (cf Macnaghten's City P.C. Witness)

    ** If the murder and mutilations had been completed a few minutes earlier than about 1:39 am, it is possible that Harvey may have briefly seen the killer emerge from St. James Place at this point (Harvey facing west to view the enterence to the Square).

    In either of these instances, one wonders if the "policeman…in Mitre Court" who only confirmed the Pole's height and build (see G.R. Sims article cited earlier) could have been PC Harvey or another policeman. This possibility is discussed in the following section.

    Macnaghten's P.C. Witness

    Regarding Macnaghten's City PC witness, it is currently popular to dismiss this as another one of Macnaghten's admittedly numerous errors. The currently accepted notion is that the City PC actually referred to a City Police Witness (i.e., Lawende), the only person named on records that could give a reasonable description of the man with Eddowes in the early hours of 30 September. Many authors, however, only quote from the second part of Macnaghten's Memorandum, the description of Kosminski as the "man in appearance (who) strongly resembled the individual seen by the City P.C. near Mitre Square." They do not pay much attention to the first part of the Memorandum that initially tells that "No one ever saw the Whitechapel murderer (unless possibly it was the City P.C. who was a beat (sic) near Mitre Square)". Clearly these two descriptions of the City PC refer to the same instance. The key wording to note in the first mention is "a beat", that is, the policeman was (on) a beat. Thus, Macnaghten is clear that it was his belief, or he was conveying information given to him, that a policeman on his beat had seen Kosminski near Mitre Square.

    Contrary to the possibility of the above PC sighting, we have Sugden's citation38 of City Police Inspector McWilliam's 27 October 1888 report, stating, "The police are at a great disadvantage in this case in consequence of the want of identity, no one having seen the deceased from the time she was discharged from Bishopgate Station until her body was found at 1:45 a.m., except three gentlemen who were leaving the Imperial Club in Duke Street at 1:35 a.m.….No other person can be found who saw either of them." So was Macnaghten mistaken? Why did he describe the City PC as on a beat near Mitre Square? Is it possible that an embarrassed PC did come forward weeks after the murder to state that he had seen a man with Eddowes? What about retired PC George Morris? Did he see someone bolt from the Square when he and Watkins were returning to the corner of the Square to examine Eddowes' body and then chose not to immediately report it? What about the time between leaving Watkins and the body to finding PC Harvey in Aldgate-High Street? Did he pass a man, but caught up in the excitement of trying to find another PC, ignore him? Then there is PC Harvey himself. He was dismissed from the City Force in 1889 for reasons unknown. He may have come forward some considerable time after 30 September 1888 to say he had seen a suspicious man near Mitre Square, but paid no further attention to him. The explanation acceptable to most people, however, is that Macnaghten was writing from faulty memory.

    The Stepney Workhouse Location

    Concerning Swanson's statement that after the identification, "the suspect with his hands tied behind his back he was sent to Stepney Workhouse…", which possible workhouse could he be referring to? Here is a list of possible workhouses, the year in parenthesis indicates the year of the original reference in the list of Victorian London Public Institutions:

    1. Workhouse, Wapping, Shadwell, STEPNEY (1861)
    2. Whitechapel Workhouse, South Grove (1888)
    3. Whitechapel Union Workhouse, Charles Street., Whitechapel (1871)
    4. The Union Workhouse, York Street. West, Radcliff, STEPNEY (1861)
    5. The Union Workhouse, Mile End New Town, Baker's Row, Whitechapel
    6. Mile End Old Town Infirmary Workhouse, Mile End (1861)
    7. St-George's-in-the-East Workhouse (1888)
    8. Poplar Workhouse, High Street (1888)
    9. Stepney Union Workhouse, St. Leonard's Street, Bromley/Sick Asylum (later known as the St. Andrew's Hospital) (1888)
    10. Bromley Workhouse, Love Lane, off St. Leonard's Street (1888)

    Remembering that Swanson said the suspect had to be taken to the Workhouse in Stepney with his hands tied behind his back, I think it's possible that the Workhouse (Infirmary?) mentioned by Swanson could have been either Stepney Union or Bromley on and off of St.Leonard's Street, respectively. When we look at the fact that the Stepney Union Workhouse actually had an adjoining Sick Asylum, it makes it a rather attractive candidate for Swanson's "Stepney" Workhouse. Either of these locations would have been close to Grove Hall Lunatic Asylum, where the violent suspect Isenschmid was committed early in the Ripper investigation. There, the Kosminski suspect could have been taken should he prove too difficult (and ultimately I believe, he was) to manage. The other Workhouse Infirmaries, such as Poplar, probably handled healthy paupers, not the sick or violent ones, and were too far away. The suspect, if he were sick and/or violent, may have been held very briefly at the adjoining Sick Asylum, after going to the Stepney or Bromley Workhouse, while quick arrangements were made to transfer him to Colney Hatch, where Aaron Kosminski could identify him. Recall Swanson said the suspect died soon after he was incarcerated, suggesting that he was probably in poor health when taken from his brother's house to the Workhouse. After he was returned from Colney Hatch Asylum to the Bromley Sick Asylum, he soon dies, as Swanson said. This explanation, of course, conveniently gets around the fact that to date, no Colney Hatch Asylum records have been discovered any Kosminski other than Aaron. But, as I have suggested, the Kosminski suspect may have only been taken there briefly for a quick identification procedure, then returned.

    The Only "Tangible" Clue

    We really don't know how the police would have assessed the clue left by the killer, the piece of Eddowes' apron dropped in the doorway of the Wentworth Model Dwellings. Various authors have stated that all it shows is the probable direction in which the killer fled from Mitre Square. The police undoubtedly shared this view, but I also think they would have seized upon the apron as a direct indication of the proximity to the killer's residence. Thus, I suspect the police pilfered through these dwellings and adjacent buildings, suspecting there is where the Ripper fled. The point is that the police probably combed every inch of Goulston Street and its buildings; they possibly believed that his mind was crazed enough not to think that he would be prompting a police inquiry to his very doorstep by discarding the piece of the apron close-by. And I believe this hunch may have paid off later.

    Here is where I think the name "Betsy" is a strong link to the case of Kosminski as a suspect. She was possibly at #76 Goulston Street when the police came knocking at the door during the house-to-house search in October 1888. And "Betsy" surfaced yet again two years later (different person, although the police didn't initially know this) as the person who was threatened with a knife by her brother Aaron. It is thus possible that the police made contact with "Kosminski" in 1888 and inadvertently through Aaron and Betsy, made contact with him again in 1891. They (the police) may have initially assumed that the young daughter, Betsy recorded in their 1888 notebooks at #76 Goulston Street, was the same "Betsy" (of #3 Sion Square), Aaron's sister, who was threatened with a knife by him over two years later. The only reason the police would have recorded certain family names in their notebooks was because they were searching residences and questioning inhabitants very close to the clue (piece of dropped apron). They believed the killer resided nearby, so they probably took down more detailed information on the families, such as the names of women and children (potential witnesses). Was young Betsy, one of these names? Did she, along with her mother and brother, share some dark secret about her father that was revealed two years later? By the time the police had traced her, after Aaron's knife threat towards his sister (the other Betsy), the younger Betsy had been fortuitously found quite by accident, and either she or her family had reluctantly given evidence to police about their family head. By the time the police, through Aaron, had fingered the head of the Kosminski household, they may have realized that their initial lead, however revelatory, was but a prelude to more significant evidence to come. Some of this evidence may also have been statements to police by their witness (Levy?). I believe these are the "certain facts that came to light" that suggested to police that "Kominski" could have been the murderer.


    Kosminski Name Confusion

    Concerning the name mix-up hypothesis, one prominent researcher told me, "Quite honestly, in a case of this importance there was no way that the police could have made such a basic error as getting a name totally wrong". I quite agree. In this case I think we were just never given the forename of Kosminski, which has led to endless modern-day confusion over the various asylum commitment/witness confrontation scenarios that have been proposed. I think it was simply the case of modern researchers getting the forename of the suspect wrong. The fact that the suspect's first name was never mentioned in records is the dilemma that will for a long time haunt research into "Kosminski" as a JtR suspect because people assume it is Aaron and no other Kosminski.40 We have instances where police and authorities did get names wrong, either by mis-transcribing them, or actually assuming different names of witnesses or places in the quest for the killer. Examples include: suspect Issenschmid/Issensmith; brother (in-law) Woolf Abrahams/Wolf Kosminski; MJK witness Mrs. Kennedy/Sarah Lewis; Annie Chapman witness Mrs. Darrell/Elizabeth Long and Abercorn/Aberdeen Place, home of early suspect John Sanders.

    We could, however, consider some sort of confusion concerning the characteristics of "Kosminski" and Aaron if both were entangled in the identification. If Aaron was possibly a witness, as well as the murderer's accomplice, Anderson, Swanson and later Macnaghten, may have incorporated certain details of Aaron and the Kosminski suspect's persona into collective descriptions. Some of these traits may have pertained to each individual because both were surnamed Kosminski and both may have been involved in the murders. Thus, I adopt the dangerous approach that there may have been two individuals involved and that some details of both were described as one person in police reports (and in latter police recollections). If one believes in ascribing the murders to one or the other person exclusively, each must be "shoehorned" as one author recently put it, to fit the seemingly contradictory descriptions and facts that we know. But I believe some of these statements about the suspect(s) could apply thusly: Worked in a Polish Hospital (Kosminski); engaged in solitary vices (Aaron); was the sole occupant of certain premises after nightfall (Kosminski); brought to the Seaside Home (Kosminski); returned to his brother's house* (Kosminski to Baker Street, brother-45-year old Wolf or another brother in residence); great hatred of women with strong homicidal tendencies (Kosminski); taken to [Mile End Old Town] Workhouse (Aaron); taken to the "Stepney" Union Workhouse under restraint (Kosminski); refused to identify the suspect when he learned/already knew he was a fellow Jew (Aaron/Levy?); sometime after the murders he betrayed such undoubted signs of homicidal mania that he was sent to a lunatic asylum (Kosminski) and died in an asylum prior to 1895 (Kosminski).

    * Aaron Kosminski, after his initial treatment at the Mile End Old Town Infirmary in July 1890, was returned to the care of his brother-in-law and sister, Betsy at #3 Sion Square. He was returned to the Workhouse Infirmary six months later on 4 February from #16 Greenfield Street, the address of his other sister, Matilda Lubnowski (ne'e Kosminski).

    Have All Possible Workhouse Records Been Searched?

    What surprises, if any, may be found in the Sick Asylum records of Bromley/St. Andrew's Hospital, assuming they still exist? I thought these records had been searched because JtR literature cites John Stride, the first husband of Elizabeth Stride, who died at this Asylum in 1884. Unfortunately, this was determined from the death certificate and from inquest testimony, not from a search of the Bromley Sick Asylum records39: Ergo: To my knowledge, the Bromley Sick Asylum or St. Andrew's Hospital records have NOT been searched for the relevant period to date. I have looked at the documented Workhouse Infirmary searches for the relevant period listed by different authors, most prominently Sugden and Fido. Martin Fido (quite by accident in 1987) found Aaron Kosminski in the Colney Hatch Admissions and Discharge Book (1887-1894). Subsequent discoveries of Aaron's 1890-91 visits to the Mile End Old Town Infirmary and further reviews of the Male Casebook notes for Colney Hatch Asylum from 1890-95 by Sugden have clearly documented Aaron Kosminski's plight from the Mile End Workhouse Infirmary to the Colney Hatch (and the Leavesden Asylum).

    Fido searched a select number of Workhouses, which included Bethnal Green, Mile End, Poplar, "Stepney" and Whitechapel, as "variously available" from 1880-1900, and finding no one else surnamed "Kosminski". Sugden, assuming Aaron Kosminski was Anderson's suspect, only made reviews of the Mile End Old Town Workhouse records (1887-92), and the Whitechapel and Holborn Workhouse records from 1887-89 and during 1900, respectively. He also searched the Orders for Reception of Imbeciles into Asylums 1886-1903, also from the Mile End files. As far as I'm aware from published JtR data, that has been the extent of record searches for Stepney Board of Guardians (St.BG) Workhouses in the East End. I suspect the "variously available" reference made by Fido concerning the Workhouse records is an indication of at least two consolidations of the St.BG Boroughs, one around 1907 and the other in 1925. These acquisitions, involving administrative merging of parish groupings may have displaced many pauper records, as Workhouses from the Whitechapel, St. George's-in-the-East and the Poplar Boroughs were merged or transferred to other locations. This potential disorder I believe, made modern searches a rather cursory undertaking, with easiest successes (and "discoveries") relegated to what's most readily available and recognizable from police accounts, and these currently favor Aaron Kosminski as Anderson's Polish Jew suspect. To summarize, I have not found any clear-cut evidence of "Stepney" Workhouse records for the crucial period of this hypothesis, February-March 1891, having been reviewed. This has made it very convenient to peg Aaron Kosminski as Anderson's suspect.

    Missing Police Records

    All records pertaining to Kosminski may have been removed from the Scotland Yard and Home Office (HO) files, possibly by Anderson's and Bradford's urgings (to Ruggles-Brise?) due to a belief in "moral certainty" of the suspect's guilt, but not possessing "absolute proof" of his guilt. I do not think it at all far-fetched that they could have arranged for the destruction of or secret internment of these records. Remember Macnaghten destroyed his "evidence" of Druitt's guilt. And how else explain why Anderson, Swanson, Bradford and in all probability Moore and Monro, knew of Kosminski's guilt, but not Abberline, Dew, Reid, Arnold, Helson, Cautner and other detectives who worked on the case in 1888. These latter policemen would have been familiar with the Yard files, but not the secret Home Office Files. They would not have been liaisons between the Yard and the HO, only senior police officials would have functioned in such a capacity. Besides, most of these officers were gone or had moved on to other Divisions by the time the suspect and/or witness broke in February 1891 (Reid an exception). We also must not forget that there were missing admission files for asylums as well. For example, the Colney Hatch Male Visitors Book for the relevant period is untraced. Who among the numerous inmates could have been called on during that period and for what purpose, and by whom?

    It is popular practice in JtR literature to evoke "conspiracy" charges against authorities when assessing missing files, gaps in police records or perceived official silence on a particular matter. This essay isn't much different, except I suggest that rather than a conspiracy, it was "embarrassment" that resulted in official silence. And this silence possibly carried over to asylum records. Workhouse records hold the most promise, but many are in disarray and the relevant ones, post-1890, if they still exist, haven't been reviewed (I could be wrong). We should note that numerous files from the Metropolitan (Scotland Yard) files on the Ripper case are missing. In particular, the original so-called "Suspects File" (MEPO 3/141 ff 32-135) containing 100 or more papers on various suspects who came under suspicion during the murders has disappeared in recent years. What remains of the other MEPO files on the JtR Case is fragmentary, but is not an irrecoverable loss of recorded investigations into the case. Of course, we know that the City of London Police Files, significantly those pertaining to the JtR Case, were completely destroyed during the bombing of London during World War Two. Different from these two sources, however, are the Home Office (HO) Files. Review of these file lists on the Ripper investigation indicates they are more carefully preserved records. The HO Files on the Murders (HO/144/220/A49301.C), the most important of the HO files, are the most non-purloined files among all police records that we have on the investigation into the JtR Case. Scanning through them revealed very few missing records. In fact, there are only three files missing during the period throughout the murders and for several years afterwards. Two of these records are no. 30 (recorded between 12 March 1889 and 10 February 1892) and no. 35 (recorded between 6 February 1893 and 8 November 1894). Could these files refer, respectively, to the identification and death of the Kosminski suspect?


    1. Lloyd's Weekly News, 22 September 1907 (research credit Stewart Evans)
    2. The Sun, 13, 14 February, 1894
    3. Reynolds News, 18 February, 1894.
    4. The Lighter Side of My Official Life, by Robert Anderson, 1910.
    5. Swanson's report to the Home Office 19 October 1888, HO/144/221/A49301C 8a.
    6. Complete History of Jack the Ripper, by Phillip Sugden, 1995, p. 417.
    7. Ibid.
    8. This scenario puts the identification of Kosminski too close to March 1, 1891 for the 'two persons taken by special request' to the Seaside Home, mentioned in it's Annual Report (March 1, 1890- March 1, 1891) to be the suspect and witness.
    9. Anderson (1910), p. 137
    10. Dr. Phillips report 22 July 1889, MEPO 3/140, f. 270.
    11. Morning Advertiser, 30 March 1903
    12. Swanson's report of 10 November 1889 says that the Murders began in Buck's Row and ended in Miller's Court (MEPO 3/140 f. 140). After the Coles killing, he apparently added her to his list of Ripper victims. This paper is in the possession of his grandson.
    13. The Man Who Hunted Jack the Ripper, Edmund Reid and the Police Perspective, by Nicholas Connell & Stewart Evans, Rupert Books, 2000, p. 92
    14. Joseph Hyam Levy, a butcher, lived at 1 Hutchinson St., Aldgate, one block west of Goulston St. at the corner of Middlesex Street.
    15. Jack the Ripper, A-Z, by Paul Begg, Martin Fido & Keith Skinner, 1996, p. 399.
    16. Quote from the Daily Telegraph in Connell & Evans (2000), p. 95-96.
    17. This scenario presumes that Elizabeth Stride, killed about one half hour previously, was possibly not a victim of the same man who killed Eddowes.
    18. Star, October 1, 1888.
    19. Jack the Ripper: The Uncensored Facts by Paul Begg, 1988, Robson Books, p. 207
    20. Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper by Martin Fido, 1993 Barnes & Noble ed., p. 122
    21. Ripperana no.10, Oct. 1994, p. 12-16.
    22. Kosminski and the Seaside Home, An Answer by Stewart Evans, A Casebook Dissertation 1999.
    23. Ibid.
    24. MEPO 3/140/ff 24-25.
    25. Ripperana no. 25, July 1998: Major Arthur Griffiths, Dr, Robert Anderson and JTR by Stewart Evans, p. 2-8
    26. Cited in Connell & Evans (2000), p. 129-132.
    27. Ripperana no.15, January 1996, p. 20. Charles Booth's Map of London Poverty (1889) also shows this area to have been poor and semi-criminal.
    28. Ripperana no. 22, October 1997, p. 10-15.
    29. Weekly Dispatch, 3 August 1896, and reiterated in the East London Observer June 1, 1901, cited in Connell & Evans, 2000, p. 114, 118.
    30. JtR, A-Z, p. 300-301.
    31. Ibid., p. 87-88
    32. Ripperologist no. 30: A Cut Throat Business by Andy Aliffe, Dec. 1998
    33. The (Morning) Advertiser, 6 October 1888 reported a Sergeant Dudman finding bloodstains at '36 Mitre Square' on the day of the murder.
    34. A plan map of Mitre Square made after the Eddowes murder by City Surveyor F.W. Foster is reproduced in Paul Begg's JtR, Uncensored Facts, 1988.
    35. A Piece of Apron, Some Chalk Graffiti and a Lost Hour by Jon Smyth, A Casebook Dissertation, 2000
    36. Lawende's description of the man seen with Eddowes at about 1:35 am mentions 'a red handkerchief tied in a knot around his neck'. George Hutchinson's description of the man seen with Mary Kelly shortly before her death also mentions a red handkerchief. The handkerchief may have been used to help wrap the extracted organs and disguise their bloodied excretions. This suggests that these two murders may have been pre-meditated and not spur-of-the-moment killings, so to speak.
    37. Fido, Martin, Crimes, Detection and Death of JtR, 1993 Barnes & Noble ed., p. 44.
    38. Sugden, The Complete History of JtR, 1995, p. 522.
    39. Begg, JtR, Uncensored Facts, 1988, pp. 93, 228.
    40. This theory is a variant of Martin Fido's, who suggested that JtR was actually another Polish Jew, David Cohen (an alias), who came under suspicion shortly after the murders. He was arrested and died shortly after committal to Colney Hatch Asylum. Whereas Fido suggests there may have been a mix-up of suspects Aaron Kosminski, who was watched by City Police and of David Cohen, who was incarcerated by the MET Police, I would suggest the correct name of 'Kosminski' was recorded by the MET. We have just confused which Kosminski was the primary suspect because workhouse and asylum records were found for one (Aaron Kosminski), but not the other (Isaac Kosminski).

    Additional Sources:

    Kelly's Directories, various editions 1866-1899
    City of London Directories, various editions 1879-1894
    1881 London Census Return
    Charles Goad's Fire Plan Map, 1887
    Godfrey Edition Ordinance Survey Maps: Bow, Bromley & Ham, 1893; Aldgate, 1873-1894; Stepney & Limehouse, 1914; Bank & The City, 1873; Whitechapel, Spitalfields & The Bank, 1894


    Viper for London Trade Directories and census information

    Scott Nelson
    October, 2000

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