Could Any of These Suspects Be the Real Jack the Ripper?
Who was Jack the Ripper? Police and amateur sleuths alike have tried for over a century to uncover the identity of the person responsible for the gruesome murders of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.
The victims' bodies were slashed and their organs were carefully removed. It was believed the person responsible had training as a doctor or a butcher. While the case remains unsolved, the following individuals are some of the most likely suspects.
Famous Painter Walter Sickert
Could acclaimed British artist Walter Sickert be Jack the Ripper? Sickert was a prominent painter whose work depicted ordinary people and everyday life. While never linked to the murders during his lifetime, Sickert’s name was first tied to the Ripper murders back in the 1970s.
Sickert Painted the Murder of a Prostitute
As a young man, Sickert studied under many influential artists, including Edgar Degas and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Sickert’s attraction to urban culture was so intense that he often lived and worked in some of London’s grittier neighborhoods. Sickert’s art frequently depicted dance hall girls and prostitutes.
Sickert Painted "Jack the Ripper's Bedroom"
Sickert developed an interest in Jack the Ripper after his landlady told him she suspected her previous tenant was the murderer. Sickert’s interest soon turned into fascination. He eventually painted the dark space and named the piece "Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom."
Author Patricia Cornwell Believes Sickert Is the Leading Suspect
Some researchers pegged Sickert either as Jack the Ripper or his accomplice. But the theory that Sickert was the killer heated up in 2002 when best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell wrote "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed," a nonfiction book in which she put forth her theory that Sickert was the killer.
Cornwell May Have Cut Up One of Sickert's Paintings for Proof
Cornwell was so convinced that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper that she purchased 31 of his paintings, some of his letters and his writing desk in search of evidence to support her theory. According to Cornwell, her investigation cost about $7 million.
Polish Barber Aaron Kosminski
Polish barber Aaron Kosminski has been repeatedly named as a viable Jack the Ripper suspect. After the pogroms forced many Eastern European Jews to flee their homes, Kosminski and his siblings immigrated to Great Britain from Poland. They ended up in the slums of Whitechapel, where Kosminski worked sporadically as a barber.
Kosminski Was a Paranoid Schizophrenic
Kosminski was thought to have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. His symptoms included auditory hallucinations and an intense fear of accepting food from other people. Kosminski was so fearful of food that was offered to him that he preferred to eat morsels that had dropped on the ground.
Ripper Victim Catherine Eddowes' Shawl Was Analyzed for DNA Evidence
In 2007, author Russell Edwards purchased the stained shawl of Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. It's believed police constable Amos Simpson discovered the shawl when he arrived at the scene of the murder and kept it for unknown reasons. Hoping to solve the Ripper mystery, he gave it to Liverpool John Moores University biochemist Dr. Jari Louhelainen for DNA analysis.
Could Eddowes' Shawl Hold Ripper Clues?
The tests run by the two researchers compared fragments of mitochondrial DNA, that portion of DNA inherited from a person's mother. According to the researchers, The DNA was a positive match to the sample provided by the living relative of Kosminski, which concluded the study that appeared in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.
Skeptics Debate Louhelainen and Miller's Findings
Not everyone subscribes to the conclusions made in Louhelainen and Miller’s study. Some scientists believe key details of the DNA were omitted, making the data difficult to verify. According to Louhelainen and Miller, the information was purposely omitted to protect the privacy of the Eddowes and Kosminski descendants.
Was Jack the Ripper an American Ripper?
Could Jack the Ripper have actually been an American Ripper? H.H. Holmes was a physician who gained fame as America’s first known serial killer. Born Herman Webster Mudgett, Holmes was a known con artist and bigamist. Like Jack the Ripper, he was cold and calculating and easily evaded detection.
Holmes Said He'd Always Been Fascinated With Death
Holmes was born in 1861 to an affluent New Hampshire family. He claimed that he was bullied as a child and that schoolmates locked him into a closet with a skeleton. Rather than feeling horror, Holmes said he developed a fascination with death.
Holmes Built a "Murder Castle"
Following his graduation, Mudgett changed his name and moved to Chicago after he was involved in several scams and his name was linked to the disappearance of a little boy. In 1886, Holmes set up shop in Chicago as a pharmacist and began murdering people in order to steal their property.
"I Was Born With the Devil in Me"
Holmes was eventually arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of his friend, Benjamin Pitezel. Pitezel had helped Holmes scam insurance companies, but he and his children were murdered when Holmes thought their deaths might bring in some money.
Mudgett Insists Holmes Is Linked to the Ripper Murders
Holmes was hanged on May 7, 1896. Jeff Mudgett believes a lookalike was tricked into taking Holmes’ place in prison. Although Holmes’ body was discovered in a Pennsylvania grave, and DNA has conclusively proven his identity, Mudgett insists Holmes is linked to the Jack the Ripper murders.
Was the Lambeth Poisoner the True Ripper?
Thomas Neill Cream was a Scottish-Canadian physician-turned-serial killer who was known in the press as the "Lambeth Poisoner." Born in Scotland and raised near Quebec City, Cream received his medical degree from McGill University and did post-graduate training at St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London. His affinity for killing prostitutes made him a likely suspect.
Cream Escaped Two Murder Convictions
Due to multiple run-ins with the law, Cream moved between Canada, the United States and England, typically setting up shop as an abortionist in seedy areas. After his return to Canada, the body of chambermaid Kate Gardener was found in Cream’s office. Lying next to the body was a bottle of chloroform. Despite the unusual circumstances and Cream’s nefarious background, Cream was not charged with murder.
Cream Begins Selling Poisonous Potions
In 1891, Cream began selling strychnine "medicines" to prostitutes, claiming they prevented venereal diseases and cured epilepsy. Cream also added strychnine to a potion that killed Daniel Stott, a patient who learned Cream was having an affair with his wife. Investigators discovered Stott had been poisoned and sent Cream off to the Illinois State Penitentiary.
Cream Attempted to Extort Money After the Murders
In addition to working as an abortionist and poisoner, Cream also became an accomplished extortionist. When a prostitute died, Cream would then accuse a prominent man of the murders and attempt blackmail. Cream tried to blackmail his neighbor, Joseph Harper, claiming he had evidence that the man had killed Marsh and Shrivell. He told Harper that a sum of £1,500 could make the unfortunate accusation go away.
Cream was convicted of murdering Matilda Clover and hanged in 1892 at the age of 42. According to executioner James Billington, Cream’s last words on the scaffold before his death were "I am Jack the…." Billington reported that this was Cream's confession, revealing his identity as Jack the Ripper.
Was the Ripper a Royal?
One of the most sensational suspects is Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor. Known fondly as "Eddy," the prince was the son of Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra. When his father became king, Albert Victor became second in line to the British throne. But the prince never had the chance to become king, dying at the age of 28 from influenza during the 1891 pandemic.
Prince Albert Victor
In 1970, British physician Thomas Stowell wrote an article that accused the prince of being the infamous murderer. According to Stowell, the prince's Jack the Ripper alter ego committed the murders during bouts of temporary insanity caused by an advanced case of syphilis.
Were the Murders an Act of Revenge?
Ripperologists who agree with Stowell believe the prince may have been exacting revenge on prostitutes. Rumors swirled that he'd contracted syphilis from an illicit encounter while at sea with the Royal Navy in the Caribbean. However, the stories of his illness have never been verified.
Did the Royal Family Hide Albert Victor's Violence?
Stowell alleged that after the second Whitechapel murder, the royal family was certain that Eddy was actually Jack the Ripper, but they needed to keep his violence and illness a secret. Stowell claims that his violent behavior was concealed from the public when the royal family had him committed to a private mental hospital in Sandringham.
Did the Murders Cover Up a Royal Secret?
A second theory hypothesized that the murders covered up a secret union between the prince and a local woman. In the book "Prince Jack" by Frederick Spiering, the prince had fallen in love with a commoner by the name of Elizabeth Crook, and the two married and had a child. In addition to her lowly station in life, Crook was also a Catholic.
Was Jack the Ripper a Woman?
Could Jack the Ripper have been Jill the Ripper? Some Ripperologists developed the theory after a murder in 1890 was committed by a woman named Mary Pearcey. Pearcey invited friend Phoebe Hogg to visit her home and brutally murdered Hogg and her infant. It's believed Pearcey was having an affair with Hogg’s husband when she decided to murder the woman and child.
Pearcey Seemed Unconcerned When Police Searched Her Blood-spattered Home
Like Jack the Ripper's victims, police discovered the bodies of Hogg and her baby had been savagely attacked and dumped. When investigators went to question Pearcey, they found her home was spattered with blood. Upon asking for an explanation, Pearcey replied, "Killing mice, killing mice, killing mice."
The Pearcey Murders Had Similarities to the Ripper Killings
According to some Ripperologists, Hogg’s vicious murder shared similarities with the horrific Whitechapel killings. Phoebe Hogg and the Whitechapel prostitutes died from slashes to the throat, and all had their bodies dumped in public places.
Pearcey Never Confessed to Any Crimes
According to those present at her execution, Pearcey's final words were, "My sentence is a just one, but a good deal of the evidence against me was false." Pearcey was so infamous that Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum created a likeness of her that attracted 30,000 curious visitors. The noose used to hang Pearcey can be found at the Black Museum of Scotland Yard.
"Jill the Ripper" Could Have Been a Midwife...or a Man
After Pearcey's trial, some investigators theorized that Jack the Ripper may have been a man dressed as a woman. At the time of the murders, it was common for midwives to deliver babies and sometimes perform abortions. Their blood-stained clothing typically went unnoticed by area residents.