Orsam Books


Even the murders cause Hawley problems.  In his 2018 book he tells us:

'The first brutal murder of an unfortunate occurred...on April 16 1888.  Her name was Emma Elizabeth Smith.'

Nope.  Emma Elizabeth Smith was attacked on 3 April 1888 and died the following day. Better luck in the third book.

However, I'm not interested in typo type howlers of which there are plenty in the book for anyone who wants to find them.  Far more substantial is what Hawley says about this extract from a 1907 article by George Sims:

'The other theory in support of which I have some curious information. puts the crime down to a young American medical student who was in London during the whole time of the murders, and who, according to statements of certain highly respectable people who knew him, made on two occasions an endeavour to obtain a certain internal organ, which for his purpose had to be removed from, as he put it, "the almost living body."'

Now we shall overlook the usual minor howler whereby Hawley tells us that Sims wrote this in the Sunday Referee in 1907 when it was, in fact, Lloyd's Weekly News (of 22 September 1907).  The substantial howler here is that Hawley states without qualification that this was:

'a particular theory he [Sims] received from Scotland Yard officials'.

Nowhere in Sims' article does he say that he received the theory about the young American medical student from anyone at Scotland Yard.  I really don't know if Hawley has imagined it, or simply deceived himself, but he then says that, 'Sims was in direct communication with the top officials in Scotland Yard and "highly respectable people"'.  Well Sims might well have been 'in communication' with top officials at Scotland Yard but that doesn't mean any of them mentioned a theory about the young American medical student to him!

Hawley seems to think that where there is a gap in the evidence he can just fill it in as it suits him.  

What Sims actually does in the 1907 article is to introduce us to 'two theories regarding the identity of the Ripper' of which, he says, 'One has everything in its favour, and is now generally accepted by the high authorities'.   That theory, which he describes as 'the official view', is that the murderer was either a Polish Jew, a Russian doctor or an insane doctor whose body was found in the Thames.  As we know, this WAS the view of a top official within Scotland Yard, namely the then Assistant Commissioner of the C.I.D., Melville Macnaghten. 

As a matter of logic, if that was the official view, then the theory about the young American medical student would appear to have been an unofficial view.  Sure, it was a view held by 'certain highly respectable people who knew him' but what does that show?  Only that the young American medical student knew some highly respectable people who thought he might be Jack the Ripper.

Hawley is actually citing the Sims story in his book to counter claims by unspecified 'modern researchers' that Scotland Yard discounted the theory that the murderer was attempting to possess uterus specimens once it was discovered that the American physician who had been inquiring about such specimens (as fingered by Wynne Baxter) was a reputable gynaecologist from Philadelphia.  His point is that Sims' 1907 story 'suggests many in Scotland yard rejected the Philadelphia gynecologist explanation' But that is an impossible conclusion for him to reach.  Even if the young American medical student theory did come from someone in Scotland Yard, for which there is no evidence, it doesn't mean that it was held by 'many' people in Scotland Yard, let alone by many top officials.  Consequently it does not mean, in any way, that officials in Scotland Yard discounted the gynaecologist from Philadelphia as being the person who had enquired about the uterus specimens.

It just seems to be a case of Hawley twisting evidence to support his case where none exists and, unfortunately, the reader needs to consult the original source material in order to determine this, something which should not be necessary because the reader should be able to trust the author to be relaying accurate information about his source material. 

But we find yet another example in Hawley's 2018 book of the source material not checking out, or conforming, as Hawley would presumably put it.  This is in respect of his claim about the U.S. special correspondents based in London in 1888 that:

'Professionally, the reporters were competitors, fighting for breaking stories, but personally, they socialized with each other; all were members of London's Savage Club'.

No reference is given to the claim that all of the special correspondents were members of the Savage Club.  So how does Hawley know this?

In the absence of a source reference, one can only guess the answer.  An obituary of Harold Frederic written by Arthur Warren in 1898 says that when Warren arrived in London (which was in December 1888) Frederic dined with him at the Savage Club.  This accounts for one member of the club in London at the time of the Ripper murders.  But Hawley's source is almost certainly an article published in September 1891 by the writer and journalist Frederick R. Burton in which, after listing the major special correspondents, Burton said:

'Nearly all these man appear to regard London as a permanent residence, for the bachelors among them have fitted up comfortable chambers (English for apartments) and the married men have taken long leases of houses or flats. Some of the bachelors like Creelman, are babbling of marriage when the leaves have fallen. Nearly all are club men, the famous Savage claiming their first allegiance, of course, and the National Liberal Club coming perhaps second.'

It will be noted that Burton says that 'nearly all' of the correspondents (and it is a bit unclear if he is referring just to those who were single or all correspondents, married and single) were members of the Savage Club.  So, if this is his source, Hawley has managed to twist the words 'nearly all' into 'all'

Furthermore, Burton wasn't in London in 1888 during the time of the Ripper murders and can only be talking about the position subsequent to 1888, presumably in or around September 1891 when he wrote the article, at which time not all the special correspondents who were in London in 1888 were still there.  Arthur Brisbane, for example, was long gone by 1891. Frederick R. Burton tells us that the Chief of the Associated Press Office in London in September 1891 was Walter Knieff so James McLean must have departed by this time too. Arthur Warren, who remained in London for 9 years, didn't arrive in the capital from Boston until December 1888.  So the group of correspondents during the period of the Ripper murders was rather different to the group of 1891.

In other words, Burton was talking about a different bunch of people 'nearly all', not all, of whom were members of the Savage Club in September 1891.  There is no actual evidence in other words that all of the foreign correspondents from America were members of the Savage Club during 1888.  

Again, a reader of Hawley's book should not have to check his source material in this way, only to find it doesn't support what he is saying in the book.  It's basic stuff.  All is not nearly all.  1891 is not 1888. Full stop. 

The final bonus howler is in respect of Hawley's claim about Scotland Yard's reaction to the Dear Boss letter.  He says in his 2018 book that, 'Scotland Yard initially considered this letter a hoax, but this changed once the next murders occurred just days later'.

Well, Scotland Yard only received the Dear Boss letter from the Central News agency on 29 September so they didn't have much time to consider it at all before the next murders which occurred on the very next day, not 'days later'.   Presumably Hawley is thinking of the Central News letter to Scotland Yard in which it was stated that they (i.e. the Central News) initially treated it as a joke but nevertheless decided to send it to Mr Williamson.  The Central News is not Scotland Yard. As for Scotland Yard's reaction to the letter in the 24 hours prior to the double event there is no contemporaneous evidence of this.  According to 'Letters from Hell' by Evans and Skinner, 'What the police thought of this letter upon receipt has not been recorded'. One can speculate about the police reaction behind the scenes, or make educated guesses, but Hawley does not tell us how he is in a position to say, as a matter of fact, that Scotland Yard thought it was a hoax prior to the Stride and Eddowes murders.  The truth is that he can't possibly say this based on the evidence.

It's just another Hawley howler. 

David Barrat
25 May 2019 

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