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The Lunatic Fiend of London: Jack the Ripper--PART 4

Updated on August 15, 2013

(Continued from PART 3)


must have taken the Ripper between one and two hours to perform. His only light during this time came from a smoldering heap of rags and old clothes which he had burnt in the fireplace of the room. "I saw Marie Kelly with a man at the corner of Thrawl

Street at about 2 a.m..," said one witness at the inquest. "

He looked 34 or 35 years of age, and was dark, with a dark mustache turned up at the ends. He wore a long dark coat and spats over buttoned boots. He also had a massive gold watch chain with seal attached, and carried a parcel covered with American cloth."

Two girls informed the police that on the night of the murder they had been accosted in Spitafields by a man wearing a black coat and speckled trousers, and carrying a shiny black bag. They asked him what was inside the bag, and he replied, " Something the ladies don’t like."

During the frenzied days of search that followed the murder of Marie Kelly, the police entered every doss-house, dive and drinking-den in the East End. Three men, one carrying a black bag, another a sailor in Holborn Workhouse, were arrested and later released. A man shouted at the corner of Wentworth Street, " I am Jack the Ripper,” and narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by the crowd

The French police arrested in Tunis an Englishman named Alfred Gray, but released him when they decided he was not the Ripper. A woman was attacked in George Street, Spitafields, by a mysterious assailant, who escaped.

And then there were no more Ripper murders.

The hue and cry died down, and crime experts began to delve into a mystery that has fascinated-and baffle led—-them ever since.

Who was this unknown fiend who murdered and mutilated six women, and held all London in terror for more than three months ?

The most popular theory about the Ripper during the nineties, sponsored by famous criminologists like Sir Robert Anderson and Major Arthur Griffiths, was that he was a homicidal lunatic who was cunning enough to evade capture. . But great medical experts of the day strenuously opposed this view.

The Ripper’s victims were all selected from one class—drunken women of the gutters. The homicidal lunatic does not pick and choose in this way. He just runs amok, killing any one who hap pens to cross his path. Moreover, a lunatic of this type would be unable to plan a complicated murder like that of Stride, for instance, involving a scrupulous regard for a number of factors if the murderer hoped to escape. Perhaps the strongest of these medical criticisms was advanced in The Lasser, which stated that the homicidal  

lunatic has no knowledge of wrongdoing after he has killed, does not attempt to hide, and talks freely about his exploits.

After the double murder many letters published in The Times declared that the Ripper was a religious maniac who believed he had a mission to purify the East End. Archibald Forbes, the great war correspondent, replied to this theory with an analysis of the Ripper crimes so lucid and penetrating that it has evoked the a admiration of many modern crime experts.

Forbes first pointed out that the Ripper was not a monomaniac with a lust to spill blood, or the killings would have been indiscriminate. Then he asked those who believed the Ripper was a religious maniac, with a desire to purify society, two questions.

Firstly, what religious motive could possibly drive a man to mutilate bodies so horribly after death ?

Secondly, why had not the Ripper chosen at least one victim for sacrifice from women in the West End who sinned against society just as much as their poorer sisters?

Forbes’s own theory, which anticipates in many respects a brilliant modern explanation of the murders, described the Ripper as someone with medical training who was afflicted by ‘lunacy of revenge.” Possibly, he added, the Ripper had fallen victim to some disease which had destroyed his career.

Forbes suggested that inquiries should be made at the medical-schools to discover if any student there who proved unable to devote himself to his work had been over- heard muttering threats against women.

Perhaps the inhabitants of the East End read his letters in The Times, for during the next few weeks several visiting medical students were attacked in the streets by angry crowds. They had to go about in groups after the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee received by post-doubtless from some apprentice doctor—-a human kidney.

It was thought for a time that the Ripper might he a sailor, but no answer could be found to the question, “ Why did he not murder women in other ports besides London? "

When  his name had passed into legend and was mentioned only by mothers frightening naughty children into obedience, the belief began to spread among students of the mystery th at he was probably a doctor and a gentleman. The surgical skill of the Ripper had attracted the notice of more than one observer, and Mr. Wynne Baxter emphasized during the Annie Chapman inquest that the murderer was " no mere slaughterer of animals," pointing out that there were " no  

meaningless cuts or injuries to organs."

From the swiftness and sureness of the Ripper's methods of dissection, exercised always, save in the case of Marie Kelly, in the dark, it seems fairly certain that he must have had considerable experience in the post-mortem room of a medical school.

And the exhaustive inquiries made by the police convinced them at the time that the Ripper did not live in the East End, that he probably belonged to the upper classes, and that, like a doctor, he was someone who could leave home at any hour of the night without raising comment.

Some years ago, a Sunday newspaper published a  Jekyll and-Hyde theory of this kind which seems to lit the known facts more completely than any other explanation. It is based on a confession alleged to have been made by a dying medical man in Buenos Aires. He declared that he was formerly a brilliant surgeon in the West End of London. His wife died, and he became a recluse, centering all his hopes on his son, whose work as a medical student seemed to promise a far greater fame than his father had ever enjoyed.

The boy met Marie Kelly in a West End cabaret, before she sank into the abyss of the East End.

 Wrecked by 'disease', the lad died a few months later. The father swore vengeance.

The boy had revealed to him in his last illness the name of the woman who had ruined him. The surgeon resolved to find and kill her.

So, (he says) night after night he searched the West End, learning the ways of women of the streets, and also the tactics of policemen. He failed to find  her,discovered she had drifted to the East End, and began his hunt anew in the haunts of Wlhitechapel.

There he accosted one woman after another whom he had reason to believe knew where Marie lived. Whether he leamt much or little from the poor wretch he picked up, he killed her, realizing that Marie might easily escape if the woman gossiped about a stranger being on her trail whose every word betrayed how much he hated her—quite apart from the danger of arousing the curiosity of the police.

 He removed organs from their bodies in order to complete his collection of  specimens, one of the finest in the world.

Eventually he found Marie Kelly and gave his frenzied grief and loathing full rein. At last his vow was fulfilled.

The truth, or not?

A dying man's confession, or a masterful fantasy to endorse an otherwise failed life?


We shall never know. 

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