Jack the Ripper – some news

TheDaily Telegraph ran an interesting article on the Ripper yesterday.

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8514000/Scotland-Yard-fights-to-keep-Jack-the-Ripper-files-secret.html

Scotland Yard is battling to keep 123-year-old files on Jack the Ripper secret.

Four thick ledgers compiled by Special Branch officers have been kept under lock and key since the Whitechapel murders in 1888.

Jack the Ripper murders reported by the Police News

Trevor Marriott, a Ripper investigator and former murder squad detective, has spent three years attempting to obtain uncensored versions of the documents.

But he has been repeatedly refused because the ledgers contain the identities of police informants – and the Metropolitan Police insist that revealing the information could compromise their attempts to gather information from “supergrasses” and other modern-day informants.

Last week, Mr Marriott took Scotland Yard to a tribunal in a last-ditch attempt to see the journals – containing 36,000 entries – which he believes contain evidence which could finally unmask the world’s most famous serial killer. ….

The ledgers provide details of the police’s dealings with thousands of informants from 1888 to 1912, including some who provided information during the original Ripper investigation. … According to Mr Marriott, the files contain the names of at least four new suspects, as well as other pieces of evidence.

… On uncovering references to the ledgers in 2008, Mr Marriott applied to see the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The Met refused and he appealed to the Information Commissioner who also decided the books should not be revealed. Now Mr Marriott has undergone the final appeal stage to the Information Tribunal, in which the case is heard by a panel of three judges.

The three-day hearing involved a detective inspector, identified only as ‘D’, speaking to the court from behind a screen because of his sensitive role running the force’s intelligence-gathering operation from informants. Detective Inspector ‘D’ told the tribunal that unveiling the files could deter informants from coming forward in future, and could even put off members of the public from phoning Crimestoppers or the antiterrorist hotline. Det Insp ‘D’ said the passage of time did not make publication of informants’ identities less sensitive because their descendants could be targeted by criminals with a grudge.

Another senior officer, Detective Superintendent Julian McKinney, told the tribunal that releasing names would make police officers less capable of preventing terrorist attacks and organised crime, and make informants vulnerable to attack.Det Supt McKinney said: “Regardless of the time, regardless of whether they are dead, they should never be disclosed. “They come to us only when they have the confidence in our system that their identity will not be disclosed.”

But Mr Marriott said a number of historical files have previously been released which contained details of informants. He argued there was no evidence to show descendants of informants who have been named had come to harm.

This is an interesting development. Looking back at my previous JtR post, I have tried to make clear under what enormous pressure the police were at the time to catch the killer and stop the murders. It would have been in their own best interest to let the public know as soon as they could that a) the danger posed by the Ripper was no more and that b) the credit for this belonged to them, that they had done a good job in protecting the public.  

And yet, no such announcement was ever made. The case was allowed to gradually fade from attention. There was no large-scale announcement that the Ripper was gone, people were safe now, police was not as goofy as they had been thought to be. They took the risk that panic would break out anew in the East End, caused by any murder similar enough to give the public the impression that the Ripper was back. And when  there were indeed a number of similar murders over the next two years, none were conclusively linked to the Ripper, and none were treated the same way by the police.

Perhaps the police really had no idea who the Ripper was and were simply trying to soft-pedal. On the other hand, we do have statements of several members of the police force that the police did indeed know who the Ripper was, giving different reasons just why there had not been an arrest and the killings had stopped.

The ledgers and the secrecy that still surrounds them support the theory that at least some of the police exactly knew who was behind the Ripper killings – and that there is a reason why this has to be kept quiet until today. In fact, the varying statements of police officials as to the identity of the Ripper could have been purposeful desinformation.

As one user on Casebook states: “As the article explains, the Special Branch Registers and Ledgers contain suspect names that pertain to these events. 4 more suspects. Special Branch themselves therefore were involved in this investigation. That means there was involvement on a political or national security level of some sort. That is what Special Branch, deal with. … Now that tells me that if the Whitechapel murders were subject to Special Branch involvement, there are things that we know nothing about. If Special Branch have listed suspects under THEIR watch, then political invovement exists. That is the nature of Special Branch activity.” http://forum.casebook.org/showpost.php?p=174744&postcount=164

Advertisements

Jack the Ripper – thoughts and theories 1

It is probably the most notorious unsolved case in the history of crime. Who was the serial killer who killed and mutilated prostitutes in the East End of London in the “Autumn of Terror” 1888?

There are many theories about, and basically, the only thing that is known for certain is that we know almost nothing. We can´t even be certain about the exact number of victims: although the most wide accepted consensus is that he killed five women, some count only four, others add other cases to a number of eight.

For information on this case, I am taking the easy way and just refer anyone interested to: http://www.casebook.org/intro.html.

So… trying to work out who the Ripper might have been… where to start?

Let´s take a look at the timeline and the overall attention that the case drew in its time.

The murders

http://www.casebook.org/timeline.html

The earliest murder ascribed to the Ripper occured in August 1888 (Martha Tabram). There were two murders in August, two in September, none in the five weeks after the “double event” on September 30, and one in early November. This, the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, is generally considered the final Ripper murder.

Further, there was one more murder in December 1888 (Rose Mylett), one in July 1889 (Alice McKenzie), one in 1891 (Frances Coles) that at some point have been considered possible Ripper murders.

The impact

The impact the Ripper case had on the public at the time sets the background against which the police investigation took place.

“Jack the Ripper … was not the first serial killer, but he was probably the first to appear in a large metropolis at a time when the general populace had become literate and the press was a force for social change. The Ripper also appeared when there were tremendous political turmoil and both the liberals and social reformers, as well as the Irish Home rule partisans tried to use the crimes for their own ends. Every day the activities of the Ripper were chronicled in the newspapers as were the results of the inquiries and the actions taken by the police. Even the feelings of the people living in the East End, and the editorials that attacked the various establishments of Society appeared each day for both the people of London and the whole world to read. It was the press coverage that made this series of murders a “new thing”, something that the world had never known before.” (quoted from above link, my bold). 

http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/dst-rippermania.html

LeannePerry describes in  

http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/ripperoo-terror.html

how these crimes held the East End in a grip of terror: “Over the weekend of Annie Chapman’s murder, anxious and agitated crowds, gathered outside the murder site, the mortuary, the local police station and at the ‘Ten Bells’ pub. Businesses were forced to close and thousands of people swarmed the streets. The crowds came from all over London. People were quick to capitalize on the situation and set up stalls, that did a thriving business. Residents even charged people to view the actual murder site, until they were stopped by police.

When ambulances rushed towards London Hospital, at anytime over the ‘Autumn of Terror‘, informed crowds pursued it, sensing another victim. Angry mobs called for a mans lynching, after he suddenly threw a woman to the ground and began kicking her and threatening her with a knife. The man turned out to be blind and the woman his regular escort. People “saw” the supposed killer everywherethousands of fake Jack the Ripper letters [showed up], wasting a great deal of police time… 

Police conducted house-to-house searches, ten thousand handbills were distributed and more police were drafted to the area, (including plain-clothed detectives).”

Lisa Johnstone concentrates on the treatment of the case in the press in

http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/rippercussions.html.

“The killer – nameless, faceless, seemingly motiveless – defied all attempts at being put into an understandable order, and this lack of a comprehensible and complete story (‘Something terrible’s happened! … Oh, but it’s over now.’) gave the public no way of thinking clearly about their fears; the Ripper became the boogeyman, so elusive, so mysterious, so alien that he could hardly be seen as human. …”

” The now infamous ‘Dear Boss’ letter was posted to the Central News Agency, and although it wasn’t the first Ripper letter – and certainly wouldn’t be the last – it and its ‘brother’, a postcard received on 1st October, are the most well known and are considered to possibly be from the actual killer. Whether they were or not was irrelevant to the press, who, under the pretence that publishing the letters would cause members of the public to recognise the handwriting, ran several stories on these letters. This was more than enough to spark widespread public reaction, although it wasn’t the reaction the police had hoped for…” (referring to the thousands of fake letters that followed).

“… the xenophobic feel that infused the entire case: the suspicion of Jews – the first major suspect being Jewish John Pizer, known as ‘Leather Apron’ – the supposed anti-Semitic Ripper graffiti ‘The Juwes are not the men who will not be blamed for nothing’, the fact that Mary Kelly, the last victim, was Irish, and so on. Victorian Londoners had become increasingly disturbed by the influx of foreign immigrants into the city, partly in light of recent ‘international terrorism’  and partly due to the inherent xenophobia that the English seem to possess. Londoners were desperate to believe that the killer was not English, as only a less-civilised foreigner could commit such awful acts… ”

“Meanwhile, the papers showed a rise in ‘suspicious incidents’ – possible Ripper-related attacks, since any man who now harassed a woman on the street could be Jack himself -… Yet reports of ‘economic’ related crimes – i.e. burglary, mugging, etc. – went up during the Ripper murders. The East End News reported that while the police had been occupied with the killing at Mitre Square, ‘the Aldgate post office was entered and ransacked […] under the very noses of the “guardians of peace and order.”‘ Much of the blame was thrown at the police, from members of the press and general public; on 10th November, the Star published an article citing Sir Charles Warren, police commissioner as ‘clumsy, wilful’ and ‘ignorant’, while many letters to editors suggested more effective methods of police organisation, such as a policeman dressing up as a female prostitute to lure the Ripper or, more sensibly, that a policeman remain on one beat, getting to know that area of the city well, as a ‘policeman who knows his beat […] is worth three who do not’.… The reaction of the general public was to either form voluntary groups who patrolled Whitechapel on the lookout for suspicious men, or to form lynch mobs who would pursue any male with the cry of ‘Jack the Ripper!’

During the “autumn of terror”, the East End was a dangerous powder keg. People were scared almost to a point of hysteria. A militia had formed. There was a considerable risk of lynchings and riots breaking out (which was one of the reasons why the Goulton Street graffiti blaming the “Jewes” was erased even before it could be photographed and established for certain whether it had anything to do with the Ripper).

 The police was under heavy scrutiny and criticism.

In this situation, it would have been in their own best interest to let the public know as soon as they could that a) the danger posed by the Ripper was no more and that b) the credit for this belonged to them, that they had done a good job in protecting the public. But did they? And if not, why?

After all, several members of the police force claimed, later on, that police had indeed known who the Ripper was and had been certain that after the last murder definitely ascribed to him (Kelly) he would not return and start another killing spree. Yet, if that is true, it seems they allowed the public to live with this fear.

Brian W. Schoeneman writes in:

http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/schoeneman-crisis.html

“After the death of Mary Jane Kelly, over the next two years there were at least three similar killings: Rose Mylett, Alice MacKenzie, and Frances Coles. While these killings were similar to the Ripper murders, they took place over a wider time period, did not display the same ferocity as the previous murders and the public did not receive them with the same fear and panic as they did the canonical killings.”

As Schoenemann lays out, there were two rival policing agencies involved in the Whitechapel murder investigations:  the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police force. The latter was – and still is – responsible for the one square mile zone that made up London City proper, which was a separate political entity, with its own figurehead – the Lord Mayor – and city council. …  The bulk of the canonical murders took place within the jurisdiction of the Met – only Catharine Eddowes was killed inside the jurisidiction of the City. In the eyes of the public and the press, the Met alone was responsible for the Ripper’s successful apprehension.

The Metropolitan Police, at the time of the Ripper murders, consisted of 22 divisions. “A Superintendent led each division, who, in turn, supervised a number of inspectors and sergeants. The inspectors and sergeants were responsible for the individual Police Constables who walked the beat. By 1888, the Metropolitan Police numbered a total of 14,106 officers, not including the senior administrators.17 The two divisions that responded to the Whitechapel killings – Division H (Whitechapel) and Division J (Bethnal Green) – numbered 548 and 617 officers, respectively.”

The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was made up of plainclothes detectives and inspectors, and had a troubled history. It was consistently undermanned – 15 men in a force of over 8000 in 1868 – and was constantly embroiled in controversy and, near its end, in allegations of misconduct. The CID played the lead role in the investigations of the Ripper murders. 

The highest-ranking officers of the Metropolitan Police were at odds with each other, and during the Whitechapel murders – when they should have been united in the resolve to catch the Ripper, and appear united to the press – they were engaged in near constant bickering. In the end, the two most important leadership positions within the Met – the Chief Commission, and the head of the CID – were vacated during the Ripper crisis. This was due in small part to the failure to catch the murderer, but primarily because of personality conflicts. …

Both the rivalry between City and Met Police and the top ranking officers would provide just the more reason to publically announce that the Ripper was gone as soon as that could be done and take the credit for it.

Yet the case was allowed to gradually fade from attention. There was no large-scale announcement that the Ripper was gone, people were safe now, police was not as goofy as they had been thought to be. The risk was taken that panic would break out anew in the East End, which could be caused by any murder similar enough to give the public the impression that the Ripper was back. Now, why would police let that happen? Perhaps simply because they did not have a clue who the Ripper was, and so could neither be certain that he wouldn´t return, nor would they want to draw attention to the fact.

“As suddenly as the killings had begun, they stopped. Though there were a number of similar murders over the next two years, none were conclusively linked to Ripper, and none were treated the same way by the press, police and public. London and the East End had adapted to the fear. There were no further Ripper style killings after 1891. The crisis had resolved itself – though not through the actions of the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office or the public. The Ripper resolved the crisis for them. He simply stopped killing.”

But on the other hand, we do have statements of several members of the police force that the police did indeed know who the Ripper was, giving different reasons just why there had not been an arrest and the killings had stopped.

Let´s take a look at them in the next post, and see how credible these theories are, considering that they must provide a plausible reason why the police did not make any public statement.

Italian Murder Mystery

I heard about an intriguing murder case in Italy in the news last night. A bizarre discovery was made by firefighters in July 2007 who had been called to a blaze in waste ground, close to a cycle path, in the Magliana suburb of southern Rome. Police who were called to the scene found a skeleton and alongside it a wallet and keys belonging to pensioner Libero Ricci, 77, who lived nearby and who disappeared in November 2003. Initially police believed that he had been the victim of a mugging and that his body had then been burnt but the investigation took a surprise twist when Ricci’s relatives said clothes found near the body were not his. The remains were examined again by pathologists at Rome’s La Sapienza University who established that the bones were not the missing man. Forensic scientists established that the skeleton was not the remains of one person, but was made up from the bones of three women and two men, all aged between 25 and 55 years old, and who died over a 20 year period from the mid 1980s until 2006. DNA from the woman’s skull was compatible with someone related to Ricci. A closer examination of the woman’s skull showed she did not have good dental hygiene and had probably never been to a dentist. Injuries were found on the woman’s skull but because the skull was in such a poor condition it is not clear if they were caused by foul play, the fire or by an animal uncovering the remains.

Rizzi, of the murder section of the Rome Flying Squad, said:”The skull is the only item with an apparent injury but it’s not clear how it was caused. “The other bones do not have injuries but bear in mind we do not have the full body so we don’t know what happened – the skeleton is made up of five different people”. The bones were made up as follows: a woman aged 45-55, who died between 2002 and 2006, a woman aged 20-35, who died between 1992 and 1998 and a female aged 35-45 and who died between 1995 and 2000. The first man is aged 40-50 and died between 2002 and 2006 and the second is aged 25-40 and died between 1986 to 1989. ”It’s possible that the bones were gathered by a collector who killed the five people to make up the full skeleton but at this moment we just don’t know – the only fact we know for certain is that the bones are not that of Libero Ricci.”

(quoted from: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20100212/twl-murder-hunt-after-five-body-skeleton-3fd0ae9.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1250262/Murder-riddle-perfect-skeleton-bones-FIVE-different-people.html#ixzz0fQGg2sUg)

Wow. Those five people died at different times, so whoever did this must either have had a long term plan, collecting parts (and, possibly, killing people) for two decades or must have gotten the parts from a graveyard. But then, why not take an entire skeleton? If I were police in this case, I´d check people working in hospitals where amputated limbs are incinerated, and in funeral parlours offering cremation. I suppose a clever perp would be able to sneak out a limb here and there from both places. As the police will be looking for missing people, they probably won´t check those that are not missing but are known to be long dead and buried (at least in parts). But why would someone “fake” a skeleton this way? Or was it all just a sick joke, as someone commented on the Daily Mail article: “This may not be about murder at all. These bones could have been stolen from a medical school or other bone collections. These collections are not well guarded and medical students routinely have unsupervised time with the bones.”

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,