Who Was Saucy Jack?
Jack the Ripper is, arguably, the most famous killer of all time. It’s been over a hundred years since his killing spree in the Whitechapel district of London and, since then, Saucy Jack has been the subject of hundreds of books, movies and TV shows. A huge part of his allure has always been his mysterious identity. Jack the Ripper has never been identified, but numerous people have been put forward as possible suspects. Today we look at ten of them.
1. George Chapman
Given Jack the Ripper’s gruesome crimes, surely one of the most plausible suspects would be another serial killer. George Chapman was born Seweryn Klosowski. A Polish national, he immigrated to England in 1887, shortly before Jack’s murder spree started.
Decades later, in 1903, Chapman was hanged for killing three women. We know he was a killer and he arrived in London prior to the first murder. Circumstantial evidence points in his favor and Chapman was allegedly among Inspector Frederick Abberline’s top suspects.
However, other investigators dismiss Chapman due to the difference in modus operandi. While Jack the Ripper liked to cut and mutilate his victims, Chapman’s dispatching method of choice was poison. Given what we know today about serial killers, it would be unlikely (though not impossible) for the same killer to change his method so drastically.
2. Montague Druitt
For a long time, Montague Druitt had been at the top of the suspects list with very little evidence to support his guilt. A former barrister, Druitt committed suicide by drowning in late 1888, shortly after the end of Jack’s killing spree. If Druitt was the killer, this would explain what exactly made Jack the Ripper stop after five victims.
The main reason why Druitt remained a main suspect for so long was Inspector Melvin Macnaghten, future Assistance Commissioner of Scotland Yard. He wrote a report in 1894 that wasn’t made public until the late 1950s. In it he named three people he suspected of being Jack the Ripper and Montague Druitt was at the top of the list. As far as he was concerned, the Ripper case ended along with Druitt at the bottom of the Thames.
3. Frederick Bailey Deeming
Just a few years ago, a new investigation into the Ripper case using state-of-the-art forensics proclaimed Frederick Bailey Deeming as the most likely candidate of being Jack the Ripper. There have been other experts who considered Deeming a prime choice. Unlike most other suspects, we already know Deeming was capable of such gruesome acts. He was hanged in 1892 in Australia for six murders – two wives and his own four children.
The main reason why Deeming was dismissed as a suspect for a long time was an inconsistent timeline. Allegedly, he was either in jail or in South Africa during the killings. However, modern investigations challenge those notions and Deeming has emerged as a strong suspect in the eyes of many.
4. Sir William Gull
Although this is one of the unlikeliest hypotheses, it has remained popular through the years due to its dramatic nature. Sir William Gull was the physician-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. According to the story behind his suspicion, Gull served as Jack the Ripper as part of a conspiracy by the Freemasons to protect the royal family from scandal.
There was never any real evidence to support this idea, but Gull persisted as a suspect mostly because it made for a good story. He remains a well-known suspect to this day thanks to the 1996 graphic novel “From Hell” and the movie adaptation starring Johnny Depp where Gull is identified as Jack the Ripper.
5. Aaron Kosminski
Kosminski was another suspect named in Macnaghten’s report. After coming to England from Congress Poland, Kosminski was admitted to an insane asylum in 1891 due to his schizophrenia. Consequently, it is possible that Kosminski could have been a paranoid schizophrenic who felt a compulsion to kill.
In 2014, ripperologists who believed Kosminski was Jack the Ripper claimed to have indisputable DNA evidence that confirmed their suspicions. This came from a shawl allegedly left at the murder scene of Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. However, other forensic experts heavily criticized the method used for DNA analysis and dismissed the results.
6. Jill the Ripper
The idea that the killer might actually have been a woman is not a new one. In fact, it was Inspector Abberline who first raised the notion. A woman would have been far less suspicious to police as well as potential victims. If she posed as a midwife, she could explain being out at late hours and any potential bloodstains on her clothes. This was a hypothesis shared by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
As to the possible identity of Jill the Ripper, there were never any solid leads. Notorious female killers of the time like Mary Pearcey were brought up, but there was never any solid evidence against any of them.
7. H.H. Holmes
While Jack the Ripper was spreading terror through the streets of London, H.H. Holmes was doing the same in Chicago in his infamous “Murder Castle”. Holmes confessed to 27 murders but, since he was in the habit of making his victims disappear, his real body count could be in the hundreds.
The idea that Holmes moonlighted as Jack the Ripper is a new one, supported by one of Holmes’ descendants based on handwriting analysis. According to him, a written sample belonging to Holmes has a 97.95% chance of matching a sample taken from one of the Ripper letters.
Of course, not everyone is sold on this new hypothesis. For starters, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that Holmes was in London in 1888. Furthermore, the police received numerous letters during their Ripper investigation. While most were dismissed as hoaxes, some were considered potentially being written by Jack the Ripper. It’s impossible to say with certainty which ones, though (if any).
8. Jacob Levy
Jacob Levy was a butcher living in Whitechapel at the time of the murders. He also had a few stints in an insane asylum before and after the killings. According to his wife, Levy heard strange noises, wandered alone at night and feared that he might commit acts of violence if left unrestrained.
Levy’s trade granted him the skills necessary to kill like Jack did. Many experts always felt that the murders indicated basic knowledge of anatomy – nothing like a surgeon or physician, but more like a butcher. Furthermore, Levy also had a motive as he apparently contracted syphilis from a prostitute. Lastly, he was committed in 1890 and died in 1891, possibly explaining why the killings stopped.
9. Francis Tumblety
Francis Tumblety was an American conman who made his money peddling various quack medicines through America and Canada. After getting in trouble with the law, Tumblety fled the United States and came to England and he was in London around the time of the murders.
After being arrested on an unrelated charge, Scotland Yard started looking into Tumblety as a possible Ripper suspect. Detective Chief Inspector John George Littlechild considered him the best lead they had. Aware of the threat, Tumblety evaded law enforcement once again by going to France and, later, returning to the U.S. A deal to extradite was never arranged because there was no solid evidence tying Tumblety to the murders.
10. Thomas Neill Cream
We end the lineup by looking at another serial killer contemporary to Jack the Ripper. His name was Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, known as the Lambeth Poisoner. He was hanged in 1892 for killing five people, although it’s likely he had more victims in Canada, the United States and England.
According to official records, Cream was in prison in Illinois from 1881 to 1891. This would’ve made it pretty hard for him to be killing people in London in 1888. Supporters of his suspicion point out that Cream was eventually released through bribery so the official records aren’t entirely reliable. Some even floated the idea of a look-a-like Cream used to fool people into thinking he was still in prison.
There is only one tiny connection between Cream and Jack the Ripper which has fueled the imaginations of ripperologists. When he was hanged for his crimes, Cream’s last words allegedly were “I am Jack the…” before being dropped from the gallows. This alone is the reason why people made desperate efforts to connect the two killers. However, the story is considered by most apocryphal at this point as it has never been mentioned in any official reports or memorandums.
Check out our article on Whitechapel to learn more about Jack the Ripper’s infamous stomping grounds.
Featured image courtesy of Suman via Pixabay.