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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 75, January 2007. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
Cat's Cradle
By Rob Hills

No one knows for sure how the name ‘Cat’s Cradle’ originated; yet, the object of the children’s game of ‘Cat’s Cradle’ – of wrapping loops of string around one’s fingers or wrists to form a series of patterns – is probably one of humanity’s oldest games.

Versions of this game have been found in various cultures throughout the world. In some regions of the United States, the game is also known as ‘Jack-in-the-Pulpit’. Which conveniently brings me to the subject of this article: my research into the Whitechapel murders and the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant, Arisaema Triphyllum.

It has already been suggested that the Ripper’s murderous crimes highlighted the plight of London’s East End and the need for change more than any preacher or social reformer of the time managed to achieve. George Bernard Shaw’s famous letter to the Star newspaper of 24 September 1888 ‘Blood Money to Whitechapel’ is often quoted as an example of this concept.

The name ‘Jack-in-the-Pulpit’ additionally refers to a herbaceous plant that grows in southeastern United States, also known as Indian turnip or by its Latin name of Arisaema Triphyllum. Native Americans used the root of this plant as a vegetable when thoroughly dried out and cooked. The whole plant also has a poisonous element due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. One account maintains that the Meskwaki Indians would put finely chopped ‘Jack-in-the-Pulpit’ root into meat, which they would then leave for their enemies to find.

My own research has, at times, felt very much like the string game of Cat’s Cradle. The way it has unravelled from a starting point, taken twists and turns with patterns forming along the way. The end result could resemble a basic map of Victorian Whitechapel, with its network of streets and alleyways running from the main thoroughfares – the area that Jack the Ripper knew like the back of his hand.

Who Was Jack the Ripper – And Did He Have a Helper?

My serious research was sparked off by reading Donald Rumbelow’s Complete Jack the Ripper. It was within those pages that I first read about George James Morris, who was Kearley and Tonge’s night watchman and an ex-Metropolitan policeman.

My research has revealed some interesting information about George Morris and I still remain curious about his involvement in the Whitechapel murders. I have never been convinced in my own mind that George was the actual Whitechapel murderer, but I feel that he was involved in the murders in a way that I have yet to establish. Luckily, my research also led to the discovery of James Hardiman, a Whitechapel cat’s meat seller and eldest son of Harriet Hardiman, who ran the cat’s meat shop at 29 Hanbury Street.

From the information that I have discovered so far about James Hardiman, I am now convinced that he was the Whitechapel murderer that we know as Jack the Ripper. In my opinion, he matches all of the various profiles of this type of killer and meets the criteria. The timing and tragic nature of certain events that occurred in James Hardiman’s life also speak volumes for him being a very plausible suspect.

I also suggest that he may not have worked alone, which enables me to explore possible candidates for the rule of an accomplice or accessory. Clues are evident in nearly all of the Whitechapel murders that could indicate an accomplice’s involvement. It could be argued that Jack the Ripper needed to see a prostitute in the act of soliciting a client in order to generate the hatred and rage required for him to kill. Information provided by witness Elizabeth Darrell could be taken as possible evidence that this happened leading up to the murder of Annie Chapman.

Darrell, also referred to as Elizabeth Long, stated that she saw a man and a woman outside 29 Hanbury Street on the morning of Annie’s murder. The man had his back towards Elizabeth, while the woman, whom she later said she was sure was Annie Chapman, was facing her as she passed them. Elizabeth described the man as over 40 years of age, dark, wearing a brown deerstalker hat and with a shabby-genteel appearance. She overheard this man say, ‘Will you?’ To which the woman replied ‘Yes.’ Elizabeth gave the time of this witnessed encounter as 5.30am.

A possible scenario could be that this man was an accomplice of Jack the Ripper. Jack was either watching from a distance or was already hiding in wait in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street. It may have been the case that Jack had targeted Annie, whom he knew personally, but not in a way in which she would accompany him into the back yard. This would explain the accomplice’s job of propositioning Annie, hence the ‘Will you?’ and ‘Yes’ before leading her down the passage.

Taking into account slight discrepancies in the times given, another important witness here was Albert Cadoche, who lived next door at 27 Hanbury Street. Albert stated that he rose at 5.15am and went out to his own back yard, which was separated by a wooden fence from the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street. As he returned to his house, he heard a woman’s voice say the word ‘No.’ He came back out to his yard three or four minutes later, and this time he heard a sound as if something was falling against the fence from No. 29’s back yard. Albert did not investigate further and soon afterwards left to go to work. He stated that he passed the Spitalfields Church clock at about 5.32am.

A Possible Chain of Events

Following is my theory for the chain of events that may have occurred in the murder of Annie Chapman:

The accomplice manoeuvres Annie into a position near the passage steps, facing the fence. He glances over his shoulder where Jack has emerged from his hiding place, or has followed them down the passage. When the signal is given, the accomplice moves out of the way and Jack pounces. Annie lets out a shocked ‘No!’ – which is what Albert Cadoche hears on the other side of the fence. A struggle ensues as Jack attempts to strangle Annie. Then there is the sound of Annie crashing against the fence as she loses consciousness and, sadly, her fight for life. The accomplice then acts as a lookout while Jack performs his trademark mutilations.

Similar scenarios may have occurred at other murder sites, especially with fairly enclosed locations such as George Yard Buildings, Dutfield’s Yard, Mitre Square, and Miller’s Court. Reports of the victims who may have suffered violent attacks by the hand of somebody other than Jack before they were murdered are Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols and Elizabeth Stride. In these cases, did Jack change his MO in order to appear as a knight in shining armour, fooling his victims into a false sense of security? Did he appear to comfort Elizabeth Stride with the offer of the cachous before he pounced? Elizabeth was still clutching the cachous as her life cruelly slipped away.

The Shadowy George Morris

Throughout all of my continuous research, George Morris has drifted in and out at various stages like a ghost from the mists of time. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as a shadowy figure, emerging from the gas-lit streets he would have patrolled during his days walking the beat. Many nights later he would use his bulls-eye lantern to illuminate the grisly discovery of Catherine Eddowes’s mutilated corpse in Mitre Square.

Jack the Ripper is often associated with the creatures of the night. George Morris’s occupation of night watchman most definitely associated him with the twilight hours. He failed to observe the most notorious serial killer engaged in his murderous nocturnal activities – unless he was assisting him! My intuition always stops me from dismissing this notion.

Some of my reasons for being suspicious of George Morris are:

1. When I first read about his account of events that occurred in Mitre Square, I got the distinct impression that he was not telling the whole truth – although whether this was to cover up a discrepancy involving his or PC Watkins’ duties or something much more sinister it is hard to say. Since then, whenever I have read any information involving George, something in my subconscious keeps ringing alarm bells. I am more inclined to believe the report of a newspaper reader of the time who dreamt of seeing the night watchman peering through the warehouse door and laughing as the policeman turned the corner.

PC Watkins noticed that the door to the warehouse was ajar, which made him head in that direction for assistance. I believe that George (who knew the police beats around Mitre Square very well) had seen or heard PC Watkins approaching while standing close to Jack the Ripper in a lookout position. I am surmising that it was George who then alerted Jack that PC Watkins was heading in their direction. They both then ran through the warehouse door.

Jack took cover within Kearley and Tonge’s, leaving George to peer out into the square through the gap in the door. When he saw PC Watkins heading in his direction he quickly grabbed a brush and started sweeping the steps behind him. Later, when George took charge of his premises again, he told the Ripper to stay in hiding due to the increase in police activity outside and in the surrounding areas. They then realised that the buildings surrounding Mitre Square are being searched and that Jack still had Catherine Eddowes’s bloodied apron in his possession!

Fearing a search of Kearley and Tonge’s to be imminent, they made plans for the Ripper to escape and for him to dispose of the apron along the way. This would explain the lapse in time from when the murder was committed to the discovery of the piece of apron in the Goulston Street doorway. Taking into account that I believe James Hardiman to have been Jack the Ripper, Goulston Street would have been a likely route that he could have taken to get back to his home in Heneage Street, or perhaps somewhere even closer. Did George instruct him to leave a red herring on the way?

I have contemplated whether George would have used chalk in his night watchman duties, perhaps to mark off certain areas that he had cleaned or patrolled throughout the night. Chalk may also have been used to mark up the various stock in the warehouse. A cat’s meat man would probably use chalk to mark up the price of the goods he was selling for the benefit of the customers, especially if displayed in a cat’s meat shop. They would also work with offal and Jack may also have had in his possession the kidney part from Catherine Eddowes as he passed through Goulston Street. He would certainly know better than most how to locate and remove a kidney, as well as other internal organs. Would he have stopped to chalk the Goulston Street graffito in the doorway if he was carrying such incriminating items on him at the time? Was it just coincidence that as he flung the apron into the darkened doorway it ended up close to the previously scrawled graffiti? Was the graffito written by someone other than Jack either before or after the apron piece had been discarded? This is one of the mysteries of the Whitechapel murders that will probably never be explained.

2. During the inquest into the murder of Catherine Eddowes, George Morris responded to a question asked by Mr Crawford, a solicitor acting on behalf of the police: ‘I had not quitted the warehouse between eleven and one. I had not seen Watkins before that evening.’ He also stated that his warehouse door had not been ajar more than two minutes.

The time of ‘between eleven and one’ would refer to the murder of Elizabeth Stride. Annie Morris was also an alleged alias of Elizabeth Stride. During the Stride inquest, the coroner questioned Michael Kidney, paramour of Elizabeth Stride. The question was asked, ‘Had deceased ever had a child by you?’ to which Michael replied ‘No. She told me a policeman used to see her at Hyde Park before she was married to Stride [i.e., John Thomas Stride, whom she married on 7 March 1869]. I never heard her say she had a child by a policeman.’

Police Orders for 15 January 1882

In 1869, George Morris was a serving Metropolitan policeman with T Division - Hammersmith. A letter dated 19 October 1888 and signed ‘An Accessory’ states that ‘The crime committed in Mitre Square city and those in the district of Whitechapel were perpetrated by an ex police constable of the Metropolitan Police who was dismissed the force through certain connection with a prostitute.’

George Morris retired from the Met on 13 January 1882 age 47 due to ill health (stomach disease). He was born on 8 February 1834 in Teddington.

In the 1841 census, George is shown to have been residing with his family at an address in Teddington High Street. His parents are John and Elizabeth Morris. John’s occupation is recorded as a labourer. George is 8 years old at this time. He has an older brother William aged 17, Henry aged 11 and a sister Mary Ann aged 14. His younger brothers are Thomas aged 5 and Frederick aged 2.

Police pension records showing George Morris

3. I have previously suspected that George’s younger brother, Thomas, may have gone on to marry Henry Tabram’s sister Ann who then became Martha Tabram’s sister-in-law. There was a history of ill feeling between Ann and Martha, which resulted in Martha being sentenced to seven days hard labour after being charged on a number of occasions with annoying Ann and with procuring money from her. At the inquest into Martha Tabram’s murder, Ann was described as a respectable looking widow, dressed entirely in black. Her late husband was reported to have been named Thomas. Information on Ann has proved to be elusive. Every effort that I have made to try to locate information on the correct Ann Morris in records that I have looked at so far has been unsuccessful.

In the 1881 census, there is a Thomas Morris age 43, born in Teddington, living at 89 Ifield Road, Kensington, London, with his wife Angelina Morris age 39, born in Woking, Surrey. Thomas’s occupation is recorded as a labourer. This could be the same Thomas Morris age 51 recorded in the 1891 census at 348 Dover Cottages, Battersea. He is simply recorded as a lodger and an unemployed labourer born in Teddington. There is also a Thomas Morris who died age 50 on 17 May 1888 in the registration district of St Saviour, Surrey. He died of a form of laryngitis at 24 Devonshire House, Bath Terrace, Newington. His occupation is described as a retired coffee house keeper and F Wright is the person recorded as being present at death, a resident of 19 Devonshire House, Bath Terrace.

I cannot prove or disprove that Ann Morris was related to George Morris but I still believe that Ann provides an avenue that may shed more light on the murder of Martha Tabram, which in turn could provide more answers to the mystery of the Whitechapel murders. We have mention of the surname Morris in relation to Martha’s murder and also a warehouse belonging to Kearley and Tonge’s in Buck’s Row near the murder site of the next victim, Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols. At the time of the Double Event, the surname Morris crops up again, and this time with the murder of Catherine Eddowes outside warehouses which once again happened to belong to Kearley and Tonge’s, only this time in Mitre Square!

Both Martha Tabram and Elizabeth Stride strike me as victims of someone with a violent and desperate disposition who had been pushed too far. Could they have been victims of the accessory rather than of Jack the Ripper? Was Jack manipulated by an older, well-educated father figure who knew how to taunt the police and satisfy his own twisted desire for revenge? Was this the part that George Morris played in the Whitechapel murders? Was it George who was ‘down on whores’ and who held a grudge against the ‘officials at Scotland Yard, one of whom is marked as a victim after which the crimes will cease’ as stated in a 19 October 1888 letter from someone who claimed to be an accessory to the murders? Did George believe that he was above and beyond the reach of the law?

One possibility is that George was one of the police pensioners hired to collect evidence and prosecute the owners of brothels in the Mile End district. This would have been between his retirement in 1882 and starting work as a night watchman for Kearley and Tonge’s. Did George become a figure that the prostitutes of the East End would come to hate because of his participation in this police operation? That is, the prostitutes might have held a grudge because they were forced to carry on their business on the harsh streets as the number of brothels decreased.

Did George become embroiled in the politics of Victorian morals, caught in the battle between the establishment and the forces for social and political change? Could he have developed a warped religious mania that made him think that a crusade to rid the streets of ‘whores’ was justified?

A possible insight into the character of George Morris is from a newspaper report in the Star of 12 September 1888. A shoemaker, Alexander Birke of Great Garden Chambers, Whitechapel, appeared before Alderman Sir Andrew Lusk at the Guildhall. He was charged with stealing an empty wooden champagne case from outside Kearley and Tonge’s at 4 Mitre Street. Sir Andrew Lusk pointed out to George Morris, who was the complainant, that there was no proof that Birke – who had no prior convictions – had taken the case, which was also worthless. On the last point, Morris exclaimed: ‘The value of the thing has nothing to do with it. I have known a person convicted for stealing a turnip.’ The Alderman replied: ‘Probably, but I never did convict for stealing a turnip and I never will.’ Birke was discharged, reportedly to applause. This must have left George Morris quietly seething.

Murder in Mitre Square

Sir Andrew Lusk must have found it odd that later that month a victim of Jack the Ripper would be discovered outside Kearley and Tonge’s premises in Mitre Square while George Morris was on watchman duty. If, as I assume, Morris had some involvement in the murder, it could have been that the disgruntled Morris wanted to make Alderman Lusk sit up and take notice. In fact, all of the Ripper murders were of a nature designed to cause the most sickening impact. The victims were left mutilated in degrading positions, awaiting discovery by someone going about their daily routines, or to be illuminated by the eerie glow of a policeman’s lamp.

George Lusk and the From Hell letter

Catherine Eddowes became the first Ripper victim to be murdered in the City of London. A kidney purporting to be from the Mitre Square victim was sent along with a taunting letter to George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. Although there appears to be no evidence that Sir Andrew Lusk was related to George Lusk, the coincidence of the surnames is intriguing. Mary Jane Kelly was found murdered on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, a key day for an alderman such as Andrew Lusk. It was then discovered that Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had resigned.

By looking at the various quotes from George, in my opinion he comes across as someone who had the confidence and perhaps arrogance to talk his way out of situations. I detect an underlying shrewdness that could be indicative of a manipulative personality.

In a statement to the press, George Morris is quoted as saying: ‘The strangest part of the whole thing is that I heard no sound. As a rule I can hear the footstep of the policeman as he passes by every quarter of an hour, so the woman could not have uttered any cry without my detecting it. It was only last night I made the remark to some policemen that I wished the butcher would come round Mitre Square and I would soon give him a doing, and here, to be sure, he has come, and I was perfectly ignorant of it.’

According to a statement he made to The Star, Morris had gone to the front door of the warehouse to look out into the square two minutes before PC Watkins called on him.

In The Star of 1 October 1888, Morris is quoted to have stated: ‘Every night in the week barring Saturday I stand at the door and smoke my pipe from one till two o clock in the morning. It is a habit with me and the police on the beat know it well. But on Saturday nights I have work to do inside that interferes with it.’

Very convenient! At the inquest, he told Mr Crawford, the City Police Solicitor, that he had not seen PC Watkins before that evening, which is odd considering the statement quoted above. Why would Mr Crawford also ask him if he had quitted the warehouse between eleven and one? Could George have been the mysterious pipe smoker in connection with the murder of Elizabeth Stride? Although Israel Schwartz describes a younger man, it is possible that he was mistaken in the poor light and if we take into account the fact that he wished to quickly get away from the man, he might not have got a good view of him.

If George was involved in Elizabeth Stride’s murder, that could explain why the next murder occurred in Mitre Square, and why Jack the Ripper was drawn to this location, which took him across the boundary of the City of London. I believe that the man seen by Joseph Lawende at the corner of Church Passage was Jack the Ripper, and in my opinion this man was James Hardiman. Lawende stated that the man was with a woman whom he later identified as Catherine Eddowes after being shown her clothing, which was similar to that worn by the woman he had seen – although she had her back to him at the time. The man was described as wearing a pepper-and-salt loose jacket, a grey cloth cap with a peak, and a reddish neckerchief tied in a knot.

The wearing of neckerchiefs was considered fashionable by cat’s meat men and the age of about 30 years matches the age James Hardiman would have been at this date. Joseph also described the man as about 5ft 7 or 8in tall and of medium build with a fair complexion and moustache. It was also noted that the woman rested one hand on the man’s chest while engaged in quiet conversation. I find this interesting because among other items found later in Mitre Square were a thimble and several buttons. They were discovered in the clotted blood after Catherine’s mutilated body was removed. Could Joseph Lawende have witnessed Catherine repairing the man’s clothing, which was ripped during the attack on Elizabeth Stride? As Lawende and his companions Levy and Harris left the scene, was this the moment that Jack seized the opportunity to strangle and mutilate Catherine Eddowes?

After the body was discovered in the corner of Mitre Square, it was later described as if it had been thrown there before the grisly mutilations were performed. Could the rage implied by these mutilations have been connected to James Hardiman’s experience of congenital syphilis with his wife Sarah and their daughter Harriet Maria? He may have believed prostitutes to be the spreaders of this terrible disease. I wonder if his mother, Harriet, had ever turned to prostitution? Various descriptions of Harriet describe her as a well-proportioned woman with a curiously round pale face and a prominent chin.

At Annie Chapman’s inquest, Harriet was described as ‘dressed in keeping with her position in life’. I do feel that James had some sort of problem with his parents, although there is no clear evidence to substantiate this. To put it in its rawest terms I believe he had a gripe with syphilis, prostitutes and mothers, based on his own life experiences.

Did Church Passage provide the nearest darkened alleyway to drag Catherine’s lifeless body? Jack still took a big risk in entering Mitre Square unless, as I have previously suggested, he had the advantage of an accomplice who knew Mitre Square and the police beats extremely well and who could provide a shelter in which to hide and clean up. I have always maintained that the key to solving the Whitechapel murders lies with Mitre Square and the night of the Double Event. Something acted like a beacon to draw Catherine Eddowes and Jack the Ripper to Mitre Square. My theory is that George Morris provides the answer, and that Morris and Hardiman were in collaboration.

Newspaper Sketches

If you take a close look at the Illustrated Police News of Saturday, 20 October 1888, you can see two sketches side by side of the supposed murderer; they are obviously two different men. The sketch on the left depicts the man who visited the house of George Lusk and the sketch on the right depicts the man seen with the last two victims.

If you look immediately below and towards the two sketches on the right there appear to be sketches of the same man, only the sketch on the left depicts PC Watkins calling upon George Morris for assistance and the sketch on the right depicts the man seen with Catherine Eddowes at the corner of Church Passage.

Admittedly newspaper sketches are not necessarily accurate portraits of the people involved, but the sketch of PC Watkins does resemble other contemporary sketches of him.

The depiction of George Morris shows a bearded man with a moustache that on closer inspection resembles the sketch of the man seen haunting George Lusk’s house.

Could we be looking at a depiction of George Morris and James Hardiman portrayed alongside each other or was James Hardiman a serial killer who operated alone in order to adopt the mantle of Jack the Ripper? It is at these points in my research where my theories become muddled, my cat’s cradle becomes tangled, but once more a new thread begins to unravel.

Tracing the Hardimans

James Hardiman’s younger brother William was sixteen years of age in 1888 and lived with his mother Harriet in the cat’s meat shop at the front of 29 Hanbury Street. It was William who had been sent by Harriet to investigate the commotion through the passage into the back yard on the morning of 8 September 1888. He returned to inform his mother that a woman’s body had been found in the yard. This is mentioned in mostly all accounts of the murder of Annie Chapman yet until now, very little has been known about William, who appeared to have moved in some very interesting circles.

The Guild of Handicraft, which opened its doors in Whitechapel in 1888, was the brainchild of a young architect named Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942). The Guild began at Toynbee Hall where Charles would organise evening classes where men and boys from the slums could study the writing of John Ruskin. The classes proved to be a success and as a result Ashbee began to teach drawing and decoration. During these classes, the students were encouraged to undertake practical work, which formed the foundation of the Guild and School of Handicraft.

Only four members of the Toynbee Hall classes formed the core of this Guild but as it progressed the Guild’s Chief Production and best-known crafts became metalwork, silverware, and furniture. William Hardiman was one of the original members of the Guild. Charles Ashbee defined William’s origins as deriving from his work ‘earning 15s a week by trundling cat’s meat barrow’. William would attend the School of Handicraft in the evenings. Charles Ashbee describes being struck with the ‘Extraordinary fidelity and feeling with which he made a copy of the St Cecilia of Donatello.’

It is not known how long William remained with the Guild. After Charles Ashbee had established the workshops of his Guild of Handicraft in 1888 he moved them further east from Whitechapel to Essex House in Mile End where they remained until 1902. As well as producing furniture and metalwork they now added silverwork, jewellery, enamelling, wrought iron work and printing to their skills.

In the 1891 census, William is recorded at 29 Hanbury Street, along with his older brother James and their mother Harriet. Another Hardiman brother, Edward, appears to have gone into the pub trade. He is recorded as a beer retailer in 1910 at 1 Arlington Street, Sadlers Wells, Clerkenwell, and landlord of the Agricultural Hotel, 13 Liverpool Road, Clerkenwell, in the Post Office Directory of 1934. It is Edward who was recorded on the death certificate of his mother Harriet as being in attendance on 3 June 1910 at Hackney Union Infirmary.

In the 1901 census, William is recorded as age 28, unmarried and lodging at 8 Morgan Street, Mile End Old Town. His occupation has changed from the 1891 listing of a moulder of clay to metalworking. William clearly had an artistic and productive streak yet it is unknown whether he moved with the Guild to Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds in 1902.

A Link Between William Morris and George Morris?

William Morris

An interesting picture is starting to develop. Charles Ashbee lived at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel while a trainee architect. He was influenced by the ideas of William Morris (1834–1896), the craftsman, designer, writer, typographer, and socialist. Charles Ashbee wanted to expand on these ideas by conceiving his own practical experiment in crafts modelled on English medieval guilds. This idea was to involve skilled craftsmen who would not only produce handcrafted goods but also run a school for young apprentices. This would work by the principles of William Morris and John Ruskin.

William Morris, who was becoming more involved in promoting revolutionary socialism, did not greet Charles Ashbee’s idea with the enthusiasm that Ashbee had hoped. In an attempt to win his support, Ashbee declared, ‘Look I am going to forge a weapon for you; and thus I too work for you in the overthrow of society’ – to which William Morris replied, ‘The weapon is too small to be of any value.’

In the complex and diverse world of Ripperology, this comment and its context could be viewed and discussed from many different viewpoints. Despite William Morris’ discouragement, Charles Ashbee continued with his ambitions, which led to the Guild and School of Handicraft opening in rooms at Toynbee Hall on 23 June 1888. James and Sarah Hardiman’s 12-month-old daughter Harriet Maria had died only five days earlier on 18 June. That very same day, Sarah was admitted to the London Hospital where she would remain until her death on 13 September. Both tragic losses were the result of syphilis in its varied devastating conditions.

In my opinion, it was the stress of congenital syphilis combined with their daughter’s death and his wife’s admission to hospital that pushed James over the edge. Freedom from accountability now combined with other factors escalated into the murderous rampage to begin or intensify, depending on who is regarded as the first victim of Jack the Ripper.

On 7 August 1888, Martha Tabram was murdered and her body was discovered on the first floor landing of George Yard Buildings located in the northeast corner of George Yard, backing on to Toynbee Hall. As Jack the Ripper began to spread terror throughout the district, William Hardiman was attending Charles Ashbee’s evening classes at Toynbee Hall.

Prison Registers

Stanley Dean Reid has put forward William as a Ripper suspect in his intriguing article in Ripperologist 62 called ‘Mister Ripper or Master Ripper.’ I stand by my theory that it was older brother James who, in my opinion, fits the criteria like a glove, although Mr Reid’s article is certainly thought provoking.

A Victorian prison cell. (Illustrated London News, 1843)

I mentioned in my last article, ‘Cousin Jack’ (Ripperologist 68), that I had visited the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) earlier this year to try to locate James Hardiman in the nominal prisons registers for Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Wandsworth. It would appear that James is recorded twice in the 1881 census, both as a resident of 29 Hanbury Street and as a prisoner at HMP Wandsworth.

I recently made another trip from my home in the northeast of England to the LMA and this time I found what I was looking for.

On my first trip, some of the registers were in the process of being transferred onto microfilm and this now made the searching easier as I did not have to go through the process of the reading room. After a few hours I was on the third reel and going through the names of prisoners, among which the name of one Robert Ripper springs to mind! Various offences, such as larceny, stealing, manslaughter, and even one of attempted bestiality, flashed before my eyes. Some names popped up a few times, probably repeat offenders, and drunk in a highway seemed to be an offence constantly recorded throughout the pages. The irony of the fact that I am a current serving prison officer was not lost on me and I thought of a colleague’s comments when he joked that sometimes we struggle to find a prisoner’s record in our own muniments room, let alone one from Victorian times.

I was determined to find what I was seeking before I had to catch my train back to the northeast and, when I eventually did find it, I almost skipped the page. This was due to a middle name that was recorded – James Alf Hardiman. It is at moments like this where you realise that doing the research yourself makes it all worthwhile. I felt like running around the room in celebration.

The details for James Alf Hardiman are recorded as follows:

Found in X020/403 – ACC/3444/PR/01/009-010
Wandsworth Nominal Prison Registers
Page No 00231–00232

Register number – 4815
James Alf Hardiman
Summary – convictions – debtors – court martial & C

Date and Place of Committal
26 November 1880 – Southwark

Stealing the sum of 45 £
Embezzling the sum of 5 £

6 calendar months hard labour for each offence, i.e., 12 months.

Education and Religion
Nothing recorded. The prisoner at the top of the page has R&W (read and write) so perhaps ditto is used, meaning the same for those recorded below.

Age – 23
Height – 5ft. 4.
Complexion – Fair (other prisoners recorded as pale, etc.)
Colour of Hair – Light brown
Eyes – Blue
Occupation – Salesman
Birthplace – Bermondsey
Previous Convictions – None
Date of Discharge – 25 November 1881

I admit that this may turn out not to be the same James Hardiman of 29 Hanbury Street, but if it is him then we could be looking at an exciting discovery, notably the physical description. We could be looking at the first written details of the man that would go on to become Jack the Ripper! It certainly would not eliminate him as a suspect. The fact that he is in prison tallies with the various psychological profiles of Jack the Ripper, and although he has no previous convictions this could have been the first of many.

It would be interesting to discover if James had been imprisoned at any time after 1888 or incarcerated in any establishment before the 1891 census and his death in December of that year, where he is recorded on both occasions as residing at 29 Hanbury Street.

The 1881 census was taken on 3 April 1881. James Hardiman is recorded at 29 Hanbury Street but there is also a James Hardiman born about 1858 (some records state about 1860) in Bermondsey, Surrey, recorded as a prisoner at HMP Wandsworth Common. His occupation is recorded as a meat salesman. The James Hardiman of 29 Hanbury Street is recorded as a dealer in horse-flesh (knacker) and he is shown as born in Mile End. He was actually born on 12 October 1859 at 31 The High Street, Mile End New Town (roughly in the area now known as Greatorex Street). The big question here is whether these are two separate individuals or, due to a mistake in the census returns, the same man recorded at two different locations.

There is an Alfred James Hardiman, who could also be a candidate. He was born about 1858 in Surrey. He appears in the 1861 census. In the 1901 census, he is shown as living in Camberwell and the record states that he was born in Bermondsey. He is shown as age 43 and living with his daughter Mary M Hardiman born about 1880 in Bermondsey and his son Alfred born about 1882 also in Bermondsey. In the 1891 census, he is recorded as residing in the City of London with his spouse, Mary A Hardiman, born about 1858 also in the City. The 1871 census records an Alfred J Hardiman living in the City but gives a date of birth of 1866.

The 1881 census records the following details for Alfred J Hardiman:

Alfred J Hardiman, age 23, born Bermondsey. Occupation – Salesman – Green market (Grocer)
Wife – Mary A Hardiman born Bermondsey about 1860.
Daughter – Mary M Hardiman, born Bermondsey about 1880.

They are residing at 99 Hamilton Square St. Olave Southwark – Leather Market.

Alfred’s parents are recorded at 100 Hamilton Square:
Samuel Hardiman – born about 1820 – Taunton, Somerset.
Sarah Hardiman – born about 1833 – Clifton, Gloucestershire.
Samuel’s occupation is recorded as a Collector of Rents.

Now we are faced with another question. Why is Alfred recorded here in the 1881 census if he is the same James Hardiman recorded at HMP Wandsworth? The prisoner is simply recorded as James Hardiman with no middle name in the 1881 census. He is a meat salesman. James Hardiman of 29 Hanbury Street can be described as a meat salesman. As far as I know, he is not recorded with the middle name of Alf, or any middle name in any other record.

At present, I can find no other candidate who fits the details exactly of the prisoner at HMP Wandsworth. Is it my suspect, James Hardiman? Did Jack the Ripper spend most of 1881 doing hard labour behind bars at Wandsworth? Hard labour often included monotonous tasks such as oakum picking, working the tread wheel, turning the crank and shot drill.

It is intriguing to think that HMP Wandsworth may have held the most notorious serial killer in history. Although Jack the Ripper escaped the gallows, another well-documented suspect, George Chapman aka Severin Klosowski was hanged on 7 April 1903 at Wandsworth Prison. He was convicted of the murder of Maud Marsh on 20 March 1903 and it emerged that this was one of a series of murders where the post mortem revealed that poison had been used.

Another Ripper suspect, Michael Ostrog, was transferred from Wandsworth Prison to the Surrey Pauper Lunatic Asylum on 30 September 1887. Once his original sentence had been served he was released on 10 March 1888.

Life in Prison

Cold-Bath Fields Prison

Life in a Victorian prison was a harsh regime. The idea behind hard labour was to deter the prisoner from a further life of crime. Sir Andrew Lusk did not believe whole-heartedly with this concept:

News of the World – London, 17 October 1886

‘The Application of the Birch’
Charles Kilhan, 13, living in South Grove Buildings Bow, an errand boy in the service of Mr Myers Singer, a Manchester warehouseman of Houndsditch was charged with stealing five handkerchiefs worth 1s 6d.

Police Constable Burge 899 said that he saw the prisoner in High Street, Aldgate, about half-past 7 in the evening, with the five handkerchiefs in his possession and upon being questioned he at first said that he had bought them in Houndsditch, but he afterwards said that he had found them. Ultimately he admitted that he had stolen them from his employer’s shop. When searched, a number of new gloves were found in his pocket, which he also said had been stolen.

Sir Andrew Lusk said he did not like to send so young a lad to prison, and he thought it far better that he should be birched and allowed to go home with his parents than that he should be further contaminated by association with thieves in gaol. He therefore sentenced him to receive nine strokes of the birch rod, a punishment that was at once administered in the cells of the court in the presence of his father.

The writer and journalist Henry Mayhew allowed himself to be shut in one of the punishment cells at Pentonville for a few minutes to see what it was like:

The air seemed as impervious to vision as much black marble, and the body seemed to be positively encompassed with blackness, as if it were buried alive, deep down in the earth itself.’

As early as 1799, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge referenced Cold-Bath Fields Prison in his poem, ‘The Devil’s Thoughts’:

‘As he went through Cold-Bath Fields,
He saw, a solitary cell;
And the Devil was pleased, for it gave him a hint
For improving his prisons in Hell.

On Turnips and Jack o’ Lanterns

In regard to the turnip incident involving George Morris, there are recorded cases of people being sent to prison for stealing turnips:

In 1849, Hector Macneil, aged 13, served 30 days in Inverary Jail, Argyll, for stealing a turnip. He was admitted on 12 October and released on 12 November. The Victorian biologist and early social philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) also wrote about turnip stealing in an essay in which he commented: ‘Such terrible incongruity as the imprisonment of a hungry vagrant for stealing a turnip, while for the gigantic embezzlements of a railway director it inflicts no punishment.’

Turnips have also been symbolic throughout history. They were used to make jack o’ lanterns, which was a 17th century term for a night watchman, so called because he carried a lantern on his rounds.

People have been using jack o’ lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man named ‘Stingy Jack’ who was too mean to get into heaven and had played too many tricks on the Devil to go to Hell. When he died he had to walk the earth carrying a lantern made out of turnip with a burning coal inside it. This myth is as intriguing as the possible connection of Jack the Ripper with the mysterious ‘Spring-Heeled Jack’.

Other versions of the myth describe coal lit from the fires of hell itself, tossed to Stingy Jack by the devil. He was then forced to wander in darkness until the final judgement day. The jack o’ lantern became the symbol of a damned soul. People made their own versions of this lantern and carved scary faces into it. It was then placed near doors or in windows to scare away Stingy Jack and other evil wandering spirits.

It is interesting how certain snippets of information can be discovered during research, which can be relevant to the subject matter. James Hardiman’s occupation was described as a dealer in horse-flesh, a knacker and a cat’s meat man, which predominantly involved trading with horsemeat and offal.

As well as Cat’s Cradle, another children’s street game was called ‘Oi Jimmy Knacker’. My grandmother has a picture depicting this game, along with other Victorian street games. The pictures have always been displayed on the wall in her hallway since I was a boy. In the game of ‘Oi Jimmy Knacker’, one team would form a human horse while the other team would jump on their backs, trying not to let their feet touch the ground. They would often end up collapsing in a heap. ‘Oi Jimmy Knacker’ is also cockney rhyming slang for tobacco.

I have also discovered recently that there was an old music hall song entitled Sarah’s Gone and Left Me (The Cat’s Meat Man). The song was performed by music hall performer Joe Sanders, better known as George Leybourne (1842–1884). He was often nicknamed ‘Champagne Charlie’ and best remembered as the lyricist for The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.

Possible Connections

Returning to the main thread of this article, are there any connections that can be made? I believe that there are - although I can’t quite put my finger on them. Is my Cat’s Cradle developing into a clear neat pattern or a tangled knotted mess?

James Hardiman – William Hardiman – Charles Robert Ashbee – William Morris – George James Morris. All of them form links, which I will now try to explain:

1. I am convinced that James Hardiman was Jack the Ripper but he may have had an older accomplice.

2. James’ younger brother William was one of the original members of the Guild of Handicraft, which links him (and possibly James) to Charles Robert Ashbee. The evening classes began at Toynbee Hall on 23 June 1888. Martha Tabram was found murdered on 7 August 1888 in George Yard Buildings, located in the north-east corner of George Yard, backing onto Toynbee Hall. Martha’s sister-in-law was Ann Morris. The next victim, Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols was found murdered in Bucks Row on 31 August 1888 not far from a Kearley and Tonge’s warehouse and close to the vicinity of the London Hospital and Barbers Horse Slaughterers Yard.

3. Charles Robert Ashbee provides a link to William Morris (founder of the Social Democratic League). In July 1887, he was arrested after a demonstration in London. Four months later, he participated in what became known as Bloody Sunday, when three people were killed and 200 injured during a public meeting in Trafalgar Square. Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols was rumoured to have been one of the many homeless people to have slept out in Trafalgar Square, although there is no evidence that she was involved in any of the demonstrations that took place. William Morris can also be linked to 40 Berner Street, the home of the International Workingmen’s Club where he would read some of his many verses. Elizabeth Stride was found murdered in Dutfield’s Yard, which ran alongside these premises on 30 September 1888. This was the night of the Double Event. Catherine Eddowes was the same night later found murdered in Mitre Square, outside the premises of another Kearley and Tonge’s warehouse where the night watchman on duty was George James Morris. Is there a link between William and George Morris?

William Morris was born in Walthamstow, a quiet village east of London on 24 March 1834. William’s father successfully invested in a copper mine, and, in 1840, was able to purchase Woodford Hall, a large estate on the edge of Epping Forest.

During his eventful life, William lived at Red House with his wife Jane for a number of years in Bexleyheath, South London before Kelmscott House in Hammersmith became his home from 1878 until his death on 3 October 1896.

George James Morris was born on 8 February 1834 in Teddington. In the 1841 census he appears as follows:

High Street, Teddington
John Morris (Head) age 35 occupation Labourer
Elizabeth Morris (wife) age 35
William Morris age 17
Mary Ann Morris age 14
Henry Morris age 11
George Morris age 8
Thomas Morris age 5
Frederick Morris age 2

It is unclear where everyone was born but we know from later records that George was born in Teddington. In the 1861 census, he is recorded as follows:

4 Tamworth Lane – Mitcham – Surrey
George Morris age 27 – Police Constable born Teddington
Jane Morris age 25 – Dressmaker – born Lambeth
Elizabeth age 2 – daughter – born Mitcham
Julia Morris age ? months – born Mitcham

In the 1871 census, George is recorded as follows:

37 Great Church Lane, Hammersmith, Chelsea
George Morris – age 37 – Police Constable
Jane Morris (wife) age 35 – born Lambeth abt 1836
Elizabeth Morris age 12 – (daught) born Mitcham abt 1859
Julia Morris age 10 – (daught) born Mitcham abt 1861
George Morris age 8 – (son) born Mitcham abt 1863
June Morris – age 6 – (daught) born Brixton abt 1865
Edward Morris – age 5 (son) born Brixton abt 1866
Albert Morris – age 3 (son) born Brixton abt 1868
Mary Ann Morris – age ? months born Hammersmith abt 1870

Living near to George in the same census is:

Anne Drewett – born 1833 – Salford – Oxfordshire, wife of Henry C Drewett born 1843 – London.

Could there be a connection to Montague John Druitt here? Why was the second half of a return ticket from Hammersmith to Charing Cross found in Druitt’s pockets when his body was searched after being dragged from the Thames? There has also been speculation that he may have entered the water at Teddington.

In the 1881 census, George Morris is recorded as follows:

48 Pantile Close, Hampton
George Morris – age 47 – Police Constable, born Teddington
Jane Morris – age 45 – wife – born Lambeth
George Morris age 18 – son – postman – born Mitcham
Jane Morris age 16 – daught – scholar – born Mitcham
Edward Morris age 16 – son – grocers errand boy – born Brixton
Albert Morris age 13 – son – scholar born Brixton
Mary Ann Morris – age 11 – daught – scholar – born Hammersmith
John Morris – age 8 – son – scholar – born Hampton
Thomas Morris – age 5 – son – born Hampton

Pantile Close was on the northern outskirts of the grounds surrounding Hampton Court Palace. The Metropolitan Police Service book of remembrance records the tragic death in 1893 of Inspector George Henry Dixon, who was found drowned after going missing on duty in suspicious circumstances at Hampton Court. I should point out that I have only included this here because I discovered the information during the course of my research, not because I think that Inspector Dixon’s death is connected to the Ripper crimes.

William Morris also used to travel along the Thames in order to go and view the tapestries at Hampton Court Palace.

The year after George Morris was listed in the 1881 census – 1882 – was when he retired from the Metropolitan Police due to ill health caused by ‘stomach disease’.

In the 1891 census, George is recorded as follows:

12 Addison Road – Bromley – Kent
George Morris age 57 – Night Watchman, born Teddington
Jane Morris age 55 – wife – born Lambeth.

I do not know exactly where George was residing during the period of the Whitechapel murders. Would he have travelled home to Bromley after his night shift in Mitre Square or would he have stayed in one of the many lodging houses in the area? Perhaps he lodged at the Victoria Working Men’s Home in Commercial Street.

In the 1901 census, George is recorded as follows:

10 West Grove Cottages – Woodford – Essex.
George Jas Morris age 67 – retired policeman born Teddington
Jane Morris age 65 – wife – born Lambeth.

Again, was George related to William Morris? They were born in the same year and appeared to have moved around in the same areas. If they are not related through family connections is there another factor that links them together?

Could it be that a lot of the theories about the Whitechapel murders each contains an element of truth that over the years have become jumbled together?

Does Hampton Court provide the royal connection? Were major leading figures of the time involved? Was there a cover up or conspiracy? Am I looking into my theories too deeply? Was James Hardiman Jack the Ripper – end of story?

Like the famous garden maze at Hampton Court, the case of the Whitechapel murders is designed to confuse in a search for a solution. It is a mystery, a puzzle like Cat’s Cradle. Will the case ever be solved? How long is a piece of string?


The author thanks Steve Earl of the Metropolitan Police Historical Museum for information about George Morris’s Metropolitan Police career and retirement; Christine Turfitt and Jane Baxter of Richmond Library Reference and Information Services for information regarding George Morris in various census returns; Jonathan Evans - Trust Archivist, the Royal London Hospital Museum for help with Sarah Hardiman’s admission records; Dr Mohammed Hakim for his help in defining medical terms; staff at the London Metropolitan Archives for their help and assistance in locating James Hardiman’s entry in HMP Wandsworth’s prison registers. Lastly, I thank the Editorial Team at Ripperologist for their help and support with fine tuning this article and my previous articles.

Sources Consulted

C R Ashbee’s Contribution to Social, Industrial and Aesthetic Reform - Meghan Edwards ‘06, English/History of Art151, Pre-Raphaelites, Aesthetes, and Decadents, Brown University, 2004; London Metropolitan Archives - Wandsworth Nominal Prison Registers register number-4815 page no 00231-00232 found in x020/403-ACC/3444/PR/01/009-010;;;’s_cradle_(string game);;;;

Related pages:
  James Hardiman
       Dissertations: Cousin Jack 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - James Hardiman