Research - From Jack the Ripper to Family Ties

I spend many hours every week hunched over my desk, digging into history & have discovered some incredible documents, photos & genealogical facts. 

Most of the research that I do is for my books but, I also write for 'The Dagger' magazine (a quarterly publication) and undertake family mysteries for various people, whether it be to solve a riddle or to find facts about a crime that took place many years ago involving a member of a particular household. 

 I have held a lifelong fascination in finding out the identity of 'Jack the Ripper' and will also share some recently discovered facts that may, or may not, have new bearing on the case. 

Hanged December 16th, 1950

Scandal in Glasgow

Just after midnight on July 28th, 1950, police were called to the scene of what they thought to be a road traffic accident. A taxi driver travelling along Prospecthill Road in the Toryglen area of Glasgow raised the alarm when he found the body of a woman lying in the street. However, examiner's became suspicious when the injuries proved to be consistent with the body having been driven over by a vehicle. The victim, Catharine McCluskey, was the unmarried mother of two children & it didn't take long to establish a connection between the victim and local beat officer PC James Robertson. Despite the policeman being a family man, the pair had been having an intimate relationship, with Robertson fathering McCluskey's second child. 

With the PC's associaton with the woman established, his car was impounded and discovered to have been stolen and fitted with false number plates. On closer inspection, traces of the woman's hair was found on the underside of the vehicle & Robertson was arrested. The trial lasted seven days, where it emerged that the policeman had  stolen the car months before. On the night of Catharine's murder she had apparently asked for a lift, but instead of complying Robertson hit his lover over the head with his truncheon and then drove over her, reversing once more to ensure that she was dead. As sentence of guilt and his subsequent hanging were passed Robertson showed little emotion. 

Louise Masset - First 20th Century Hanging

On 9th January 1900, Louise Masset became the first woman to be executed in the 20th century. The thirty-six-year old piano teacher's crime was completely selfish & heartless, the murder of her own son in order to pursue a relationship with a man seventeen years younger. Poor Manfred Masset, aged four, was born out of wedlock and Louise placed him in care at Tottenham soon afterwards, where he continued to reside. However, when Eudore Lucas, 19, moved in next-door to Miss Masset's home in Stoke Newington, she decided that the child would hamper her affair with the young man, whom had entered into a relationship with her almost straight away. 

On 27th October, 1889, after a weekend in Brighton with her lover, Masset collected Manfred from his minders & took him home, where she later stripped the poor child & battered him with a rock. The mother then took the lifeless body to Dalston Junction Station where she dumped it in the ladies lavatory. After the child was discovered, Louise Masset told police that she had handed Manfred over to baby-farmers in West London with £12 for his care, but shortly before her execution, the woman confessed, admitting that she had murdered Manfred as she was afraid he would be an obstacle in captivating her lover. 


Mysterious Mary

On 9th November 1888, the Whitechapel fiend dubbed 'Jack the Ripper' claimed his fifth and possibly final victim. The body was unrecognisable, so dreadful were the wounds and removal of organs, but what do we really know about the young woman who called herself Marie Jeanette Kelly? For decades, researchers have tried to discover the true identity of the pretty streetwalker, but to no avail. I have uncovered a couple of possible birth records that might fit the limited profile that we have. Here is one.

Marie Kelly was born on 31st December 1864 in a small village lying between Limerick & Tipperary. Her father was John Kelly, a man in his twenties serving in the Irish Constabulary. Marie's mother is named on the records as Mary. Following, the father's career, I've been able to ascertain that they moved around quite frequently and spent some time in South Wales, which would fit with the version of events that was told to the woman's sweetheart. Whether Mary, Marie, or just a perfect stranger, the search continues to trace her footsteps. 

Public Enemy Number One

In 1921, Gerald Chapman robbed a mail truck in New York City by leaping from a moving car on to the truck's running board. He then held a gun to the driver's head and netted $1,424,129 (the largest haul on record). His daredevil escapades won him admiration with the public and it wasn't long before Chapman was living in an up-market apartment & calling himself 'the Count of Gramercy Park.' 

When the robber was betrayed by a police informer, he shocked interrogators by jumping out of a 75ft high window. After arrest, Chapman escaped from Atlanta penitentiary by faking illness after drinking disinfectant. He was rearrested and shot in the process, but managed to escape again six days later. It was then that Chicago adopted the term 'Public Enemy Number One' for  'Persons who are constantly in conflict with the law.' 

However, on 12th October 1924, Gerald Chapman participated in a robbery where a policeman was shot and he was eventually captured. He was charged with murder & executed in 1926. In his cell, the notorious criminal doodled & composed little ditties, on such was the saying 'Death itself isn't dreadful but hanging seems an awkward way of entering the adventure.' 

Gerald Chapman in 1925

Research continues...

One Step Closer

Almost every week, I sit at my desk flicking through files, reading books and searching for clues. You see, I have my 'Jack the Ripper' suspect but joining the dots is a difficult task that takes hours of dedicated work that I hope will eventually reap rewards.

My latest finds into a man that I can only refer to as 'R' includes the discovery of his will and the value of his estate. There were no surviving family members and the man was never married, yet despite earning a working-class wage for his entire life, 'R' died with a net worth of over £1 million in today's money. I suspect blackmail of the highest degree, but the money alone is quite a noteable discovery.

My second piece of news is just as surprising, for I have now discovered that in 1888, the year of the dreadful murders, 'R' was living right in the middle of Whitechapel, every day walking the same routes as the victims and sleeping within a short walk of their doss houses. As work continues, I will keep you updated. 

The Murder of 'Elizabeth Winterflood'

Some time between 1804 & 1806, a young country girl named Ann Webb went to London in search of employment. Sadly, instead of finding a reputable place of work, she was enticed into prostitution by carpenter Thomas Greenaway, known as 'Weeping Billy.' Changing her name to Elizabeth Winterflood, Miss. Webb plied her trade on the streets of Southwark under his watchful eye. 

However, her so-called protector and pimp was a vile man, treating the women in his charge with brutality and even causing one unfortunate young girl to commit suicide. For this reason, Elizabeth made up her mind to dispense with 'Weeping Billy's' services and go it alone.

Sadly for her, no sooner had Miss. Winterflood set out on her own, walking a 'beat' between Higgler's Lane & Dirty Lane, that she was found murdered and mutilated most cruelly. 

Greenaway was charged with murder but there was such an uproar in court by Elizabeth's female friends that the judge found himself having to warn the jury against prejudice to the accused. With lack of evidence and no admission of guilt, 'Weeping Billy' was acquitted, even though witnesses had seen him arguing with the deceased at 2.00am on the morning of the murder. 

Southwark at the time of the murder

The Butcher of Hanover

Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann

Arrested in June 1924, Friedrich Haarmann was a butcher, meat smuggler, police informer & paedophile, convicted of the murder of 24 young men & boys.  After two police investigations converged, skulls found in a river at Hanover led to the recovery of bones from 27 bodies. Most belonged to missing boys who had been sleeping rough near a railway station in the area. It was only a month later, after one youngster accused Haarmann of indecent assault, that police searched his rooms & found belongings from the victims in the river. Haarmann, known as 'Fritz', confessed & implicated his lover Hans Grans. The two had butchered their victims, biting through their throats like vampires & sold the flesh as horsemeat.

Described by the judge at his trial as being 'forever degraded as a citizen', Fritz was found guilty & sentenced to death by beheading in April 1925. In a twist of events, before his death, Haarmann wrote a letter declaring Hans Grans' innocence & instead of facing execution, the accomplice served 12 years in prison. On release, Grans continued to live in Hanover, where he died of natural causes in 1975. 

Chasing a Poisoner

Cream wearing the infamous pin.

Many years ago, having read dozens & dozens of books about 'Jack the Ripper', an obsession began. Neither at the start of my research, nor since, did I believe that Dr. Thomas Neill Cream could be connected to the Whitechapel murders, but nor was I prepared for the enormity of my findings.

It was widely claimed that during the 'Autumn of Terror' in 1888, Cream was serving a life-sentence in Joilet State Penitentiary for the murder of his lover's husband, but many theories of early release and bribery told another tale. As I set about requesting the opening of the doctor's prison files, I was shocked to find that everything was intact, having lain untouched for over a century and within a matter of a few months copies of the file landed on my doorstep, making heavy but exciting reading. 

McGill University opened their records too, providing me with photographs and the Science Museum in London located a letter in their archives, which Cream sent to his fiancee whilst awaiting trial. They also hold Thomas Cream's spectacles, battered and blue with age but still incredibly fascinating. The Black Museum allowed me to reproduce an image of the doctor's medical bag, complete with vials just as it would have been during his poisoning spree. 

It takes many years of hard work to fit the jigsaw puzzle together when tracking a criminal and hunting down Doctor Cream's paper trail was no easy task. Although sometimes, a stroke of luck happens and something very special falls into a researcher's lap. For me it has been the discovery of the only known photograph of Cream's beloved young lady, Laura Sabatini. She looks demure and innocent, just as I would expect, and now the two sit side by side on my desk, something that, in life,was not destined to happen. 

The Crimes of Styllou Christofi

Did Mrs. Christofi murder twice?

On 13th December 1954, Greek-Cypriot Styllou Christofi was hanged at Holloway Prison for the brutal murder of her daughter-in-law Hella.

Mrs. Christofi knocked Hella out with a heavy ash-plate while she was washing herself at the kitchen sink, then dragged the body outside and doused it in paraffin. Styllou then left the children sleeping upstairs and ran out into the road to flag down a passing car. This was apparently a simple case of jealously and disapproval, the matriarch angered that her son had married a German & emigrated to England to start a new life.

However, in a twist to the tale, it turned out that Styllou Christofi had been tried for the murder of her own mother-in-law almost thirty years before. Whilst two accomplices held the woman down, Styllou had thrust a burning torch down the woman's throat. At the trial in 1925, no witnesses came forward and she was acquitted of the crime. Time did little to mellow the bitter Christofi woman though it seems, as she continued to demand absolute obedience from her family & ultimate control. 

The Prominent Thief

Horatio Bottomley making a wartime speech.

The rise & fall of Horatio Bottomley is a tale that lies forgotten with time but, nevertheless, it is a remarkable one in that this was a man who constantly reinvented himself although not always legitimately. 

Bottomley started life as a workhouse orphan who rose to found the Financial Times in 1888 due to his journalistic talent, later becoming Liberal MP for Hackney. However, not everything ran smoothly for the self-made millionaire. First came the collapse of his Hansards newspaper empire, followed closely by a prosecution in 1908 for manipulating the crash of his Joint Stock Institute and then, to top it all, he was declared bankrupt & had to leave parliament. 

Not one to be defeated, Horatio reinstated himself by making recruitment speeches during the First World War, promoting competitions & lotteries. However, in 1923 it was proven that the former politician had actually pocketed funds from the £900,000 Victory Bond Club. He was sentenced in 1922 and, at the age of sixty-two, began a sentence of seven years penal servitude. 

Emma Smith - Ripper Victim or Husband's Revenge?

Image source: Old Bailey

On 6th April 1888, Coroner Wynne Baxter reported to police  the death of 45 year-old Emma Smith, a woman who had been attacked four days previously by a gang of men, and had died from her terrible wounds. It was later believed that this was the first of the infamous 'Whitechapel Murders' perpetrated by a fiend who became known as 'Jack the Ripper.' However, a case brought before London magistrates in 1880, may hold the key to poor Emma's murderer. 

In 1880 a shoemaker named Samuel Smith was found guilty of stabbing his estranged wife, Emma, in the chest with a knife. The assault was the direct result of a domestic argument in which Emma had returned to the family home to visit the children. Samuel had demanded she return her wedding ring and a pair of earrings but the woman refused, causing her husband to become enraged. 

During the trial, Emma Smith gave evidence stating that she had been taken to the London Hospital for treatment and that it had been necessary for her to stay on a ward for several days. She also confessed that, upon her release, Emma was threatened by her brother-in-law who wanted the couple to reconcile. Given the gravity of the wound, after testimony from Dr. Albert Jones who attended the victim, Samuel Smith was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. 

I have been able to ascertain that upon release Smith became a pauper inmate at the local workhouse. This case could of course have no bearing upon that of the Emma Smith from 1888, but the ages match and the circumstances of Emma's unfortunate lifestyle would make sense. Perhaps we shall never know. 

John Hadfield - Swindler & Bigamist

The beautiful Mary Robinson circa. 1802

In  1802, a young man calling himself ' The Honourable Augustus Hope' turned up at the Fish Inn, near the village of Buttermere in the Lake District. He had plans to marry a local heiress but his claim of being brother to an Earl didn't convince the young woman's father & he was sent packing. Next the so-called gentleman turned his affections towards the innkeeper's daughter, Mary Robinson, who was flattered by the attention. Shortly the pair were married. 

It wasn't long before the cheques and bills signed by 'Augustus Hope' were dishonoured & as the man fled, he was identified as plain John Hadfield, a swindler & forger who was already married! After a short escape to South Wales, the bounder was caught & hauled up to Carlisle where he was tried. Hadfield was found guilty & he was hanged in 1803. 

As for poor Mary, dubbed 'The Maid of Buttermere', she was pitied by all around with letters of sympathy coming from all corners of the country. However, Mary did have a happy life thereafter. In 1807 she married local farmer Richard Harrison & they went on to have four children. Mary died in 1837, aged 59. 

Carl Feigenbaum - The Myth

A photofit profile of 'Feigenbaum'

I have been reading a lot of articles lately about the possibility of convicted murderer Carl Feigenbaum being a valid 'Jack the Ripper' suspect. This was first discussed, written about & a documentary made a few years ago but, despite my research showing proof to the contrary being shared, others chose to ignore it. Here, for the first time, I will share what I found. 

The main issue with Feigenbaum is the apparent 'destruction' of shipping records that prove he was in London in 1888. Those records, naming Feigenbaum' do not exist. The simple reason being that his real name was Karl Kosch. Kosch was the sailor who left Germany in 1887 on a ship bound for Nicaragua and returned in 1889 under the assumed name of Carl Feigenbaum. Shipping  records in the name of Karl Kosch still exist.

As those who speak German will realise, the word 'Feigenbaum' means 'fig tree' & in the late 1800s figs were Nicaragua's main export.  Of course we cannot rule out the possibility that this sailor committed murders prior to the one in the U.S. for which he was executed, but it certainly wasn't in London. 

According  to both 1881 and 1991 UK  Census records there was indeed a young man by the name of Feigenbaum living in Whitechapel. However, he was an Austrian tailor called Moritz, a hard-working family man. 

Identifying Feigenbaum was easy work. While in Sing Sing Prison he bequeathed his money  to a widow named Magdalena Strohband. Magdalena's dead husband was Rheiner Kosch, Karl Kosch/Carl Feigenbaum's brother. 

'Too Mad to Live With'

Ronald True was sent to Broadmoor in 1922

On the morning of March 6th, 1922, a prostitute named Olive Young lay battered to death in her basement flat in Fulham, West London. The woman's real name was Gertrude Yates & she had been beaten with a rolling pin and then strangled with the cord of her dressing-gown. 

On the day in question, Gertrude's maid bumped into a man leaving the flat & he claimed to have left Miss. Yates a cup of tea on her bedside table. It wasn't long before the maid discovered that pillows had been stuffed under the sheets to resemble a sleeping body & her employee lay motionless on the bathroom floor. 

The visitor, Ronald True, had left a calling card at the flat & was quickly traced. Having changed his bloodstained clothing & pawned some of his victim's jewellery that very afternoon, True was arrested. In court he offered the bizarre defence that he had a double named 'Ronald Trew' who had been forging checks around the city & committing theft, which he blamed on True. 

The facts of the matter were far less extraordinary. Ronald True had been thrown out of the Royal Flying Corps due to his eccentric behaviour & his estranged wife stated that he was 'too mad to live with', both instances raising questions in court as to his long-term unbalanced behaviour. It was this reasoning that led to the Home Secretary granting a reprieve & sending True to Broadmoor, although many have argued that it was actually Ronald True's middle-class upbringing that saved him from the hangman's noose. 

Crime Scene Clues

Could this prosthetic limb hold a clue?

As 'Ripperologists' will tell you, the crime scene photograph of Mary Jane Kelly has been the source of discussion, confusion & debate for decades. Presumed to be 'Jack the Ripper's' final victim, this poor young woman was found mutilated in her little room on 9th November 1888. But has something been missed? 

I have refrained from posting the photograph of Mary Jane's body out of respect but, for those who have seen it, I would like to draw your attention to the victim's right leg. Just below the knee you will note a distinct & very straight line, quite out of place but hardly mentioned. What if this were the groove of a lower leg prosthetic? 

No artificial limb was mentioned in the Coroner's report, but neither were usual considerations such as any blood under the victim's fingernails or bruises to the wrists. The official papers also appear to focus only on the wounds inflicted & not on Kelly's general health, hardly unusual for the  period & resources. As you can see from the photo (right) the upper part of the prosthetic would have been laced up against the flesh & could easily have been sliced through with a knife. 

Could Mary Jane having a disability explain her landlord's apparent compassion regarding the rent arrears (see article below)? It would certainly make sense of his comment "She was able to walk about and was not helpless." Take a look at the crime scene photo, a search will find it, and look at that line! 


An Intriguing Comment

Article dated 11th November 1888

There are few clues to identify & trace the life of 'Jack the Ripper's' supposed last victim Mary Jane Kelly, but perhaps newspaper reports from the time hold more information than we give them credit for. 

Take this snippet, printed two days after Kelly's murder, particularly the very last sentence in the bottom paragraph. Landlord John McCarthy states that his tenant 'was able to walk about, and was not helpless.' Such a strange comment to make unless Mary Jane had some kind of disability or impairment. 

Should we perhaps be looking more closely at the crime scene photographs? Do they reveal something that has been completely overlooked because we weren't expecting to see it? And if Kelly did have some deformity, did that explain why McCarthy allowed her to fall 29 shillings in arrears with the rent? Was he trying to show compassion? 

In another twist, one Mary Jane Kelly born in Ireland in 1863 spent around twelve years of her life living two doors from a McCarthy family, one of which travelled to France  for work in the early 1880s, just the same time as Mary Jane Kelly told her lover that she'd been there. Intrigue grows & research continues. 


A Sudden Death

Newspaper clipping from 13th June 1889

Over the years, I have come across many suicides which occured in the months following the notorious 'Jack the Ripper' murders but one which particularly caught my attention was the death of William Evans Thomas. 

Having qualified as a doctor a decade before taking his own life, Thomas was the son of a chemist  from Aberffraw on the isle of Anglesey, North Wales. A quiet intelligent man, the medic had successfully set up a small private practice in Green Street, near Victoria Park in London. He was attended upon by a housekeeper and went about his daily business in a professional manner. 

Around the 9th or 10th of June 1889, Dr. Thomas was visited by his father who became concerned about the state of his son's mental health & persuaded the young man to accompany him back home to take the fresh sea air of his native land. They duly arrived and all seemed normal until Thomas senior caught his son behind the pharmacy counter, appearing to take something. 

Following the young man upstairs a while later, the father was horrified to find that his son had taken his own life by drinking prussic acid, or liquid cyanide, a method which most certainly would have been quick but traumatic. 

The reason behind Dr. Thomas's suicide remains a mystery to this day, leaving one to wonder whether he knew or did something that he was unable to live with. 

Strange Letters

A snippet from one of the many letters.

Whilst other criminal minds wrangle over the authenticity of the 'Jack the Ripper' diary found at Battlecrease House, Liverpool, let me share with you some correspondence that leaves no doubt over its provenance. 

The letter on the left is just one sample of dozens, written by my suspect in the years before, during & after the Whitechapel murders. Unlike the paper trail sent to Scotland Yard, these letters have a known author which can be proven. Most unusual of all is the word 'Ripper' which you will see is written with a capital 'R'. Something also worthy of note is that the letters become very erratic after 1888, almost as if they were written in a frenzy. 

The fact that I have been able to find these documents after them lying untouched for so many years proves that there is still material out there, maybe in an old trunk in an attic or perhaps squirrelled away in a vault. There is much work to do as I continue the mammoth task of wading through this gentleman's personal papers, seeking the truth about his movements in the fateful Autumn of Terror but wherever the trail leads I promise you that no stone will be left unturned as I dig for clues. 

The Last Hanging at Shrewsbury Gaol

Outside Shrewsbury Gaol on 9th February 1961

On 9th February 1961, 21 year-old George Riley was hanged for the robbery & murder of Adeline Smith, aged 62. It was to be the very last hanging at Shrewsbury Gaol. 

Riley had been out drinking with a friend & later went to a dance in town where he got into a fight with another man. The pair were separated by P.C. Mason, who suggested Riley's friend take him home. He was dropped off at 1:30am & was very drunk. 

Meanwhile Adeline had been found battered to death at her home. Neighbour's were immediately interviewed, one of which was Riley. Police noted that he had scratch marks on his face which, according to P.C. Mason, had not been there earlier. George Riley had a previous conviction for robbery & a search of his home revealed that his shoes & trousers were covered in mud. It wasn't long before Riley made a statement confessing his guilt. 

However, apart from his admission, the case against George Riley was weak, lacking any forensic evidence, and a petition for reprieve was launched, causing many to believe that his hanging was a miscarriage of justice. 

So You Want To Know About 'R'.......

Could he be 'Jack the Ripper'?

When it comes to research I play my cards close to my chest, especially when it involves an unidentified serial killer known as 'Jack the Ripper.' 

I first came across the person whom I shall only refer to as 'R' while researching Doctor Thomas Neill Cream a few years ago. Since then the trail has led me across Great Britain, to Egypt and unexpectedly down to Australia as I attempt to find out everything possible about a man who could be a likely candidate for the Whitechapel murders in 1888. 

In his personal letters 'R' refers to women as petticoated-fiends & shows a general dislike of anything remotely amorous or sexual. He tends to rant, going into a rage when life isn't quite going as planned, and abhores those who drink & enjoy a good time. Here we have a man who was born in Whitechapel & knew the dark alleys and passages well, should he need a quick getaway. He lived side by side with the lowest of society & despite having a good profession, found himself borrowing money throughout his life just to make ends meet. 

'R' is also a man who actually used the word 'Ripper' in his correspondence, a most puzzling and unusual fact which leads me to conclude that he needs to be looked at in depth. I will continue my research & allow you time to ponder. 

On the Trail of MJK

Original enlistment document for T. Davies

There is very little known about Mary Jane Kelly, 'Jack the Ripper's' fifth victim. The information that we do have is sketchy and came from her live-in lover Joe Barnett who claims that Mary was born in Ireland, moved to Wales with her family, spent some time in Cardiff infirmary & that her father's name was John. He also said that Mary told him she was briefly married to a man called Davies who died in an explosion in a mine. 

With little concrete facts to go on, finding Mary Jane Kelly has become a very difficult task, although many have tried and are indeed still searching. In my own quest to identify the woman, and to find out about her life, I came across a young man who might be connected. 

Thomas Davies was born in Cardiff and lived very close to a family whom I think could be related to Mary Jane. The paper on the right is Thomas's army enlistment form from 1879. You can see that his profession is a collier. However, the most interesting part is that the witness signature on the document is J.Kelly. Could this possibly be Mary's father, acting as guardian for his future son-in-law? 

If Mary's birth date on her grave is correct, given as 1865, she would have been just fourteen years old when Thomas Davies joined the Light Infantry. I have only found army records for him spanning three years, so if he left in 1882, a marriage to a then seventeen year old Mary Jane would be entirely feasible. 

For now the search continues but I will keep you posted. 

Wicked Jack Blondell

Shrewsbury Castle as it is today.

I'm very interested in historical crime from my home county of Shropshire & thought I'd share a story about Shrewsbury Castle, where I got married.

In the 12th century, the keeper of the castle was a feisty man called Jack Blondell, known to the locals as 'Bloudie Jack'. Now Jack happened to have one big weakness, and that was women, although he soon became bored of them and would soon start seeking sexual pleasure elsewhere. During his time at Shrewsbury Castle, Bloudie Jack married six women in succession but only the last wife survived. 

 One day a young serving maid called Mary-Anne went missing while working in the castle & her sister Fanny decided to search the rooms to find her. Unfortunately for Fanny, she failed to find her sister but did discover a trunk full of Jack's souvenirs - the fingers and toes from his first five wives! Rushing to call the local authorities, Fanny told of what she had found and Jack Blondell was arrested. It transpired that Jack had disposed of the women and buried them in the castle grounds. Very shortly afterwards, he was sentenced to death, then hanged drawn and quartered at Old Heath. His head was displayed upon a pole at Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury town. 

It is rumoured that the ghost of  Bloudie Jack still walks the castle corridors. 

Jack's Knife

Museum of Medicine, Venice

One of the debated topics in the unsolved Jack the Ripper case is the murder weapon. Many experts agree that it was probably a double-edged knife of at least six inches in length, such as the kind used by a butcher or surgeon.

Recently travelling in Italy, we stopped to see an exhibition at the Museum of Medicine in Venice, which once again brought  the subject of Jack's knife to the fore. The photograph on the right is that of an amputation kit, common in the early to mid-nineteenth century but still widely used in the 1880's. As you can see the selection of knives is varied & all with two sharp edges.

Another interesting observation is the box in which the kit was carried, slim & organised, perhaps not so different in size or shape to that noticed by witness George Hutchinson, the gentleman who claimed to have seen victim Marie Jeanette Kelly with a man carrying a parcel on the fatal night of her murder. 

Of course, we have no evidence as to the weapon used by the Whitechapel fiend to slay his prey, but it does make one wonder whether 'Jack' was a medical man or one who had access to the tools of his trade, such as a hospital worker. 

Illustration of Cream's Crime

Deaths of Shrivell & Marsh

This interesting penny publication depicts the discovery of Emma Shrivell & Alice Marsh, two unfortunate young women who were poisoned by Dr. Thomas Neill Cream in their room at 118 Stamford Street, Lambeth.

Since his release from Joliet State Penitentiary in June 1891, Cream had been on a killing spree in London, using strychnine pills to murder his victims. Young & gullible, the women on whom he preyed were easily taken in by the doctor's apparent quack cure for skin complaints & eagerly took the prepared capsules. 

On the night of Marsh & Shrivell's demise, Cream (at that time calling himself Dr.Neill) even partook in a meal of tinned salmon & beer with the young women before leaving them writhing in agony as the poison took effect. 

It is interesting to see the detail in this publication, depicting the girls with their landlady & a local police officer, as the sketch artist would have had to draw on his imagination to capture much of the scene. 

A Traveller's Notes

Image from the original document

As many of my readers will know, I have been researching 'Jack the Ripper' for over thirty years. This quest had led me to some unusual locations, not least the one from which I have been able to gain access to a large quantity of letters, which I think may have reference to the Whitechapel case. 

In the image to the right, you will see an extract of a typed letter, which was sent to my suspect in the year after the Ripper murders. In the left hand upper corner, a crude knife or dagger has been sketched, the purpose of which is unknown. 

The author of the letter also makes reference to the 'ripping' waves on his journey  (inverting the word ripping in quotation marks as I have done) as though this bears significance to the recipient. 

Naturally, whilst my research is still ongoing, I am unable to share more of this letter with you, although I can tell you that the person to whom it was sent lived in the district in which the murders were carried out. He knew the area well, fits several witness descriptions and had good reason to carry out the crimes.

I will keep you posted with my progress. 

A Permanent Reminder

Photo courtesy of Adam Selzer

As many of you who have read my book 'Prisoner 4374' will know, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream was sentenced to 'the term of his natural life' in Joliet State Penitentiary for the wilful murder of Daniel Stott, his lover's husband. Stott was a successful railroad agent but,  at sixty-one, was much older than his beautiful wife Julia. He also suffered from epilepsy and, after having consulted Cream at his clinic in Chicago, became convinced of the medic's cure. However, not wishing to take the arduous train journey into the city, Stott sent his wife to collect the prescription on a regular basis. It wasn't long before the charming Dr. Cream & Julia Stott became lovers & a plot to poison the old man emerged. Cream's epilepsy cure already contained a controlled dose of strychnine, therefore it would be easy to give Stott an overdose. Both wife & lover were charged. 

Throughout the trial Cream maintained his claim of innocence but Julia Stott turned states evidence against him & got away scot-free. It was only after serving ten years in prison that a petition was successful in securing Cream's release. However, in a twist of fate, the gravestone of Daniel Stott in Garden Prairie, Illinois, proclaims the truth as a permanent reminder of  the guilty pair. 

Stabbing in Whitechapel

Pall Mall Gazette December 1888

On 9th November 1888, Mary Jane Kelly fell victim to notorious 'Jack the Ripper' who slashed her beyond recognition in her little room in Miller's Court, Whitechapel. Kelly's lodgings belonged to landlord John McCarthy, a well-known character in the area, who owned several properties in the vicinity. 

McCarthy himself lived above his shop premises in Dorset Street & employed family members as well as local help. Earlier that decade, in 1881, he hired a young man to work as assistant grocer and storeman & offered lodgings as well as a wage. The man's name was Henry Buckley.

In a twist of events, the same Henry Buckley was arrested in Dorset Street in December 1888, just a month after Mary Kelly's death, and charged with stabbing a man named Patrick Manning after a brief altercation. However, despite evidence from several witnesses, Manning dropped the charges and Buckley was set free after just a brief spell in the police cells. 

It might be noteable that one of the 'Jack the Ripper' letters sent to the police stated 'I won't stop until I've been buckled', could this have been Buckley's own play on words, hinting at his surname? Certainly a man to be looked at further. 

A Sad Tale Indeed....

Newspaper article reporting the murder.

Last year I met a gentleman who was interested in finding out about his grandmother's death. He knew that Alice Anderson had been murdered in her London home during the First World War but knew little of the circumstances or fate of her killer. There was also an element of mystery surrounding her sons, George & Edwin, who were called back from fighting on the front at news of their mother's demise. 

We knew that Alice had lost her husband, John, before the outbreak of war but had no idea that she was in a possible relationship with Marshall until I gained access to his prison record, which stated that Alice was, indeed, his lover. It seems that there was a a drunken quarrel between the two, resulting in poor Ms. Anderson being stabbed. The trial of her killer was short, with Marshall himself confessing to his guilt, and the sentence was death by hanging. 

In a surprising twist, tracking census reports & birth certificates, I discovered that Edwin, the elder child, had been born out of wedlock & was not the legitimate son of John Anderson. The family told me that they knew little about Edwin & were eager to learn more. Sadly, I had to break the news that although Edwin did marry, his only daughter died very young, leaving no blood relatives. Edwin himself died during WWII, although as a citizen rather than a soldier. 

Such a tragic tale of loss but the mystery is now put to rest & the family have been able to visit John & Alice's house in Queens Road, Tottenham to pay their respects to their long lost ancestors.