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“We are inundated with suggestions and names of suspects.”
Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner, Metropolitan Police

WHAT DO WE KNOW about Jack the Ripper?

Witness evidence suggests he was a white male in his 20s or 30s of average height or below. Reports on his clothing range from “rough and shabby” to affluent. That the murders took place in so small an area indicates a person living locally, but probably in a private dwelling rather than in a lodging house. A psychological profile would suggest that the murderer was an alienated loner, perhaps nursing huge grievances, perhaps driven by an intense but warped sexual appetite.

The panic of the time threw up the names of dozens of suspects. An end to the murders did nothing to quell the debate. In 1894, to debunk sensational newspaper theories, Assistant Chief Constable Macnaghten privately listed his prime suspects. Detectives in retirement published their favourite theories. For the last century “Ripperologists” have combed the archives for fresh evidence and ideas. Although many suggestions can be discarded immediately, there several names for whom a convincing case can be argued. Here we look at some of this, together with some of the more interesting outsiders.

The Duke of Clarence was of limited intelligence and either homo- or bisexual, with a dissipated private life, but he was not Jack the Ripper. At the time of all the key Ripper murders his whereabouts were well documented. The Masonic Conspiracy, a theory explained on page 18, was alleged to be an attempt to cover up the Duke’s involvement.

After Martha Tabram’s death, any doctor with Whitechapel connections mistakenly came under suspicion. Barnardo worked to relieve poverty and suffering in the East End, and viewed the body of Catherine Eddowes, having once spoken to her. But at 43, Barnardo was too old to match witnesses’ descriptions, too distinctive with his heavy moustache, and in any case too well-known in the area to escape identification.

Having lived in nearby Bow throughout 1888, Bury moved to Dundee in January 1889. There, early the following month, he murdered and mutilated his wife and was hanged for the crime in March. If Mary Jane Kelly is considered the last Ripper victim, Bury is a plausible suspect.

GEORGE CHAPMAN (Severin Klosowski)
Chapman hanged in1903 for poisoning three of the many women in his life. He was also known to be violent with women at times. Once a surgical student in his native Poland, he had worked as a hairdresser in Whitechapel during 1888. Despite there being no more substantial links with the killings, in later years Chapman became a strong police suspect, particularly of Chief Inspector Abberline.

A late, very strong candidate, discovered by Martin Fido in 1987 in searching for the asylum records of Aaron Kosminski. Kaminsky, a 23-year-old bootmaker from Whitechapel, was an extremely violent Polish Jew who, suffering from syphilis, was committed to Colney Hatch asylum in December 1888, dying a year later. He ties in with several people’s ideas about the killer (including “Leather Apron”), and Assistant Chief Constable Macnaghten (see above) could well have muddled the two names. His committal and death would explain the cessation of the murders.


Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, had a shade private life, but not a serious suspect.


George Chapman was certainly a murderer, but was he Jack the Ripper?


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