Friday, November 20, 2009

Annie Farmer (November 20, 1888)

A scant twelve days after the brutal slaying of Mary Jane Kelly in her room at Miller's Court, news came of another prostitute found slain and mutilated in an East End boarding house. When police arrived on the scene at a boarding house on George Street in Spitalfields, they discovered a false alarm, of a sort. No woman had been killed, although one had been attacked. Annie Farmer, 40, was taken to the George Street house by a man she met on Commercial Road. The man wore a dark suit and black hat, and had a dark moustache. He was approximately 36 years old, and about 5'6" in height.

Men in the house's kitchen reported that Farmer came down the stairs, partially unclothed and bleeding from a wound on her throat. It was later determined that Farmer had previously met the man a year before. Detective William Thicke and others searched for the man to no avail. Witnesses who provided the description testified that they saw him later but that he eluded them. A gun-wielding man was arrested but proved to be an amateur detective trying to capture the man.

Today in Ripper History: November 20

1888: Scant weeks after the Mary Jane Kelly murder, Annie Farmer is attacked, according to some by Jack the Ripper.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Suspect: James Kelly (1860-1929)

Just today I watched an interesting documentary we had recorded off of the Discovery Channel which was about the Carrie Brown ("Old Shakespeare") murder in New York and its possible connection to Jack the Ripper. The suspect du jour was James Kelly. I decided to read up on Mr. Kelly.

An illegitimate son of a single mother and raised by his grandmother, James Kelly entered the upholstery trade early in life. From an early age, he suffered mood swings and complained of severe headaches. Kelly was a frequenter of the East End prostitutes. He married Sarah Brider in 1883, and within a few months she was dead, stabbed in the neck. Apparently, Kelly discovered that he had some veneral disease which he was self-medicating for, and apparently he had become convinced that Sarah was a prostitute and had infected him, although in all likelihood the disease was a product of his earlier ways. during his attack on Sarah, he also threw her mother across the room when she attempted to save her daughter. He had previously believed Sarah had some sort of sexual deformity.

Kelly was due to be hanged, but at the last minute he was declared to be a paranoid schizophrenic by a doctor from Broadmoor Asylum. He was admitted to Broadmoor later that year. It is interesting that when imprisoned and condemned, Kelly refused to believe he would be hanged. He claimed that God had a mission for him.

A gardener and violinist in the asylum, Kelly and another patient named George Shatton came up with a daring plan to escape. The two fashion keys from metal scraps found in the asylum gardens and use these to escape. Kelly has been on the run for an hour before his escape is discovered. This was in January, 1888.

Kelly's whereabouts are unknown for the next 39 years. An aged and sickly James Kelly reappeared at Broadmoor in 1927. Many of his movements in the intervening time are known, but all surface from the reports of Kelly himself and cannot be confirmed. It is theorized by some that while in Broadmoor, he discovered where his disease originated and swore vengeance on the prostitutes of Whitechapel.

As early as February, James Monro, chief of the Metropolitan CID, took an interest in Kelly.

On November 10, 1888, the day after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, the home at 21 Cottage Lane was visited by police and Mrs. Brider questioned about his whereabouts. A note in one of the police files dated November 12 made it clear that police should make all effort to ascertain James' whereabouts. The note was written by someone with the initials CET.

Kelly's own admission places him in London between June and November of 1888. In November, he walked from London to Dover and boarded a ship for France, where he stayed until 1891. Later movements can place him in New York in January, 1892; in New Orleans in January, 1896; back in England (mainly Guildford) for several years; Vancouver ca. 1900-1901; then back to England (north London). In 1907, he was formally discharged by Broadmoor on account of his not being captured. He claimed to have moved back and forth over the Atlantic several more times until 1927.

In short, Kelly is a very good suspect. The only problem with his status is himself. Can we really take for granted the word of a paranoid schizophrenic as to his whereabouts?

The Kelly theory is dealt with in book form in Prisoner 1167 by Jim Tully.

The Ghost of Jill the Ripper

Mysterious Britain and Ireland has an article on the ghost of Mary Pearcey, who is infamous as the hypothetical "Jill the Ripper". But why does her ghost haunt Whitechapel when she lived and committed her crime in Kentish Town up near Highgate? In the realm of paranormal theory, could the (imagined) connection of her to the Jack the Ripper ordeal have somehow "created" a ghost of her in Whitechapel? Or is it all just an urban legend?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Lusk 'From Hell' letter

On October 16, 1888, George Lusk, chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received in the mail a package containing a jar of wine, in which was suspended half a kidney, and the pictured letter. The letter is referred to as the From Hell letter, and it was notable that one of the kidneys of Catherine Eddowes, killed September 30, was removed. It has been presumed by many that this was Eddowes' kidney, and therefore that the letter was genuine. Whether it was or not, the fact remains that the sender of the letter knew about the missing kidney and as the police did not release that information, it is likely that the letter is genuinely from the Ripper, perhaps alone among all the received letters.
From hell.
Mr Lusk,
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer

Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk

Today in Ripper History: October 16

1888: Suspect John Langan is released.
----: George Lusk receives the From Hell letter and half a kidney.
----: First communications between Roslyn d'Onston Stephenson and the police.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The FBI's psychological profile of Jack the Ripper

In 1988, John E. Douglas from the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) released a psychological profile of Jack the Ripper in the television production The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper. The profile revealed that in all likelihood, Jack was single and lived alone, which would allow him to avoid detection a bit more easily (some have also noted that Jack may have had a job which would negate the need to explain any bloody clothing, for instance work in a slaughteryard).

The FBI felt that Jack's (obviously) notable dislike of women was probably due to an absent or dead father and his being raised by a domineering or even abusive mother. Age is a difficult factor and while the FBI stated he was likely between 28 and 36, it is possible that he was a bit older than estimated due to his apparent preference for older victims.

He was likely someone who was accustomed to moving by night, possibly someone with a night job. His job was likely a menial, thankless one. He was of the same social class as his victims, possibly a bit higher; all of which would likely place him firmly in the poorer classes. It was also felt that these were unlikely to have been his first attacks on women, though it is fairly likely that they do represent his first forays into actual murder; his earlier attacks were likely either less violent or merely unreported. He also was probably a quiet individual who could avoid eliciting any serious suspicion.

They also felt that he likely had some sort of physical or mental handicap which caused him anger or frustration.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Suspect: John Langan (dates unknown)

I've been waiting for today to post things on this man, who I think is one of the more interesting suspects due to some bits of coincidence, or perhaps not. After the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes on September 30, police in France arrested a vagrant named John Langan (Langran in some communications) who could also give no reason for his being in the French port.

It was noted by E.W. Bonham that Langan bore a resemblance to certain sketches of the Ripper made based on witness descriptions, and so he brought the seemingly unrelated arrest to the attention of the Home Office. Interestingly, Langan revealed that he was American, and that he had no desire to be sent to England, but that if arrested he wished to be sent to Cardiff, Wales to work in coal mines. Under questioning, he revealed that he had been to Wales ten months previous, after which he returned to America.

He claimed that
...when in Wales he lodged with Mrs Davis 30 Dufferin, a village two miles from Merthyr Glamorganshire, that lately he was lodging with John Richmond 47 Castle Street Hamilton near Glasgow, and that when last in America he was employed in some ironworks.
A search of the 1882 census of Britain revealed that a girl named Mary Jane Davies, a widow at the age of 16, was employed at the Brunswick Hotel in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. This may dovetail with the information provided by Joseph Barnett at the inquest into the death of Mary Jane Kelly:
The deceased told me on one occasion that her father named John Kelly was a foreman at some iron works at...Carmarthen or Carnarvon, that she had a brother named Henry serving in 2nd Battn. Scots Guards, and known amongst his comrades as Johnto, and I believe the Regiment is now in Ireland. She also told me that she had obtained her livelihood as a prostitute for some considerable time before I took her from the Streets, and that she left her home about 4 years ago, and that she was married to a collier, who was killed through some explosion. I think she said her husband [sic] name was Davis or Davies.
Should "Mary Jane Davies" have been Mary Jane Kelly (who would have been approximately 16 in 1882) this is interesting: also assuming the possibility that the "Mrs Davis" of Langan's statement could have been the Mary Jane Davies of Merthyr Tydfil, we must conclude that a suspect possibly with previous knowledge of Mary Jane Kelly bears further investigation.

Scotland Yard released John Langan on October 16. What would they do if they knew that they possibly had been holding Jack the Ripper?

Today in Ripper History: October 12

1888: French police in Boulogne arrest John Langan for vagrancy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Police Profile: Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918)

Sir Robert Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1841. He became a lawyer and married in 1873. In 1876 he became employed by Scotland Yard in Special Branch, investigating the actions of the Fenians (a Victorian group similar to the Irish Republican army or IRA). He was involved in the investigation of the Phoenix Park Murders, in which two British government officials were killed, in 1882. By 1886, Anderson had made an enemy of the Home Secretary and was relieved of all official duties save the handling of Thomas Beach, a spy who had infiltrated the Fenians.

In August of 1888 James Monro became Commissioner of the CID (Criminal Investigation Division) and Anderson was promoted to Assistant Commissioner. Shortly after Anderson's promotion, the first canonical victim, Polly Nichols, was killed.

Anderson's memoirs reveal that he was an early proponent of the idea that the Ripper was "a Polish Jew" and that "he had been safely caged in an Asylum", a theory which most likely refers to Aaron Kosminski.

Today in Ripper History: October 8

October 8, 1888: The body of Catherine Eddowes is buried.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Today in Ripper History: October 7

On October 7, 1888 George Lusk wrote Scotland Yard suggesting that the Ripper's accomplice, if any, be pardoned in the case if he turned in his "employer".

Suspect: Robert Mann (1835-1896)

A fellow in England has identified a new possible Ripper suspect: Robert Mann, a 53-year old inmate at the Whitechapel Workhouse and who was at the Old Montague Street mortuary the morning of August 31, 1888 when the body of Polly Nichols was brought in. He undressed and examined the body. His testimony was of questionable value, and it was noted during Nichols' inquest that Mann was subject to fits (an epileptic?). Despite what is stated in Trow's research, Mann claimed to not remember if he was told not to touch the body; he likewise was unsure whether the police were present or not.