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Jack the Ripper revealed at last—by great-grandson of cop who tracked him down

PUBLISHED: 23:26 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:36 05 October 2010

Nevill visits Jack the Ripper exhibition and (inset) the main suspect

Nevill visits Jack the Ripper exhibition and (inset) the main suspect

THE Jack the Ripper industry' got a boost on the 120th anniversary of his first acknowledged murder. The great-grandson of the police chief in charge of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders arrived at the Ripper exhibition at the Museum in Docklands in East London—just before the 120th anniversary of the murder Mary Ann Nichols, a prostitute known as Polly,' believed to be his first victim. He arrived with evidence from his Victorian ancestor revealing who the Ripper was

Mike Brooke

THE Jack the Ripper industry’ got a boost on the 120th anniversary of his first acknowledged murder.

The great-grandson of the police chief in charge of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders arrived at the Ripper exhibition at the Museum in Docklands in East London—just before the 120th anniversary of the murder Mary Ann Nichols, a prostitute known as Polly,’ believed by many to be his first victim.

He arrived with evidence from his Victorian ancestor revealing the Ripper’s true identity.

Jack the Ripper was never caught and his identity has remained a mystery for 120 years, feeding a whole industry’ that has evolved worldwide with Ripperologists’ keen to tell us who he really was.

One of the strong theories re-emerged this week was when Nevill Swanson, great-grandson of Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, turned up at the museum in Canary Wharf to see the exhibition before it closes in November.

“My great-grandfather knew who Jack the Ripper was,” Nevill told the East London Advertiser.

“He solved the case—but police couldn’t prosecute because the only witness who could identify the killer in a court of law wouldn’t testify.”

Donald Swanson scribbled who he knew to be Jack the Ripper in the margin of a copy of the memoirs of Sir Robert Anderson, Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time of the Whitechapel Murders, in a chapter that just referred to the main suspect, but not by name.

“The suspect was Kosminsky,” Swanson pencilled in.

Aaron Kosminsky was a Polish immigrant living in Whitechapel who had been identified’ by another Polish emigre, who then refused to take the witness stand.

“The police knew the case would collapse in court,” Swanson’s great-grandson added.

“He knew Kosminsky would get away with it—so he had him committed to an asylum instead.

“There were no more murders after that.”

It was Nevill’s father who uncovered the margin notes from the family possessions when Nevill’s great aunt—daughter of Chief Inspector Swanson—died in 1978. The book with the margin notes was left to Nevill’s father.

But the story got buried for several years after he sold the rights to the News of the World in a deal worth £1,000, Nevill remembers. For some reason, the notes were never published.

It wasn’t until 2001—some 113 years after the Whitechapel Murders—that the Kosminsky theory finally emerged.

“My father died in 2001 and the book with the margin notes came down to me,” Nevill added. “I knew the significance of the notes and have since loaned the book to Scotland Yard’s Black Museum.”

It is a strong and compelling theory—but would spoil the Ripper Industry’ if even this was not challenged by rival theories over the Ripper’s identity.

The marginalia was probably added some time after 1910, and Anderson wouldn’t have known anything that Swanson hadn’t told him, a reader has informed us.

Martin Fido was the person who identified Kosminsky by going through asylum records.

This week, the Australians bowled their own theory to stump the Ripperology world with a claim that it wasn’t Kosminsky at all—but an immigrant named Walter Thomas Porriott who is now buried in a cemetery in Brisbane.

The Brisbane Times claims that Porriott, another suspect on Scotland Yard’s list, was the real Jack the Ripper.

Porriott was living at Limehouse in East London at the time, just two miles from Whitechapel. He was a convicted killer, a conman, bigamist and quack doctor known to hate prostitutes, the paper insists.

The murders ended as soon as Porriott emigrated in 1888. He died in Brisbane in 1952, some 62 years later.

But there’s more... Members of the renowned Whitechapel Society—dedicated to research into East London’s Victorian and Edwardian society and the 1888 Whitechapel Murders—hold a 21st century public investigation’ at the Museum in Docklands this Saturday (September 6), where the most comprehensive Ripper exhibition ever has been staged all summer.

They are promising “fresh photographic evidence” when the investigation’ begins at 3pm.

Three authors are putting their theories to the public, Trevor Marriott, Bill Beadle (the society’s chairman) and Frogg Moody.

Ripperologists, of course, are a determined breed, determined to keep the fires of the industry’ burning with different theories—and doubtless will continue to keep them burning for the next 120 years.

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