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.