top of page

Cutbush City Limits

There's so much nonsense in Simon Wood's book that even I can't keep up with it.  A discussion on the Censorship Forum about the Sun's series of articles in February 1894 about Cutbush, which led Melville Macnaghten to compose his famous memorandum, caused me to extend my examination of Wood's book about a subject not dealt with by me in either Reconstructing Jack or Re-Reconstructing Jack.  One would think that there are limits to the amount of nonsense it's possible for one person to write in one book but, as we shall see during this discussion about the section in his book regarding Cutbush, who lived in the city called London, perfectly justifying the title of this article thank you, there don't seem to be any limits when it comes to Mr Wood saying things without evidence in support.

For Wood tells us in his book about the Sun's series of articles through which, using Cutbush as a, yawn, 'stalking horse' (the exact same thing that, according to Wood, Monro was doing with Jarvis in pushing to allow the inspector to sue Labouchere), he claims that the Sun, 'was attempting to press for a full inquiry into the Whitechapel murders which had taken place during the previous Tory administration'. Not a jot of evidence is forthcoming to support this statement. Nor is there any evidence to support a further statement in his book that, 'The Sun's elaborately-detailed 17,000-word story was intended to provoke an official inquiry into Scotland Yard's failure to catch Jack the Ripper.'

Pausing there, Wood doesn't seem to have quite decided whether the Sun was asking for an inquiry into the Whitechapel murders or one into Scotland Yard's failure to catch the killer - but it doesn't really matter because both notions have been invented in his over-active imagination.

After a long and highly speculative section about a 'spoiler' article in the Morning Leader, discussed below, Wood tells us that,'there was no reaction to the Sun's call for an official inquiry into the 1888 Whitechapel murders, and no questions were raised in Parliament'.  But hold on there a minute dawg gawn it.  What call for an official inquiry into the 1888 Whitechapel murders?  We've not been provided with a single extract from the Sun newspaper in which any such call was made.  Wood just tells us it happens and we are supposed to believe it.

Well, of course, anyone reading this will know that we can't actually believe Wood about anything he tells us regarding the events of the nineteenth century.  And in this case, sure enough, it's not true that the Sun was asking for a 'full' or 'official' inquiry into either the Whitechapel murders or Scotland Yard's failure to catch the murderer.  Wood has imagined it.  And he's imagined it because it suits his fantasy of what was happening in the nineteenth century. What the Sun actually said in an editorial on 19 February 1894 (in an extract reproduced by Wood but evidently not understood by him) was this:

'We understand that the attention of the highest police authorities has been called to our statements, and we confidently look forward to our story being subjected to the closest and most searching investigation.'

That is, quite clearly, NOT a request for a full or official inquiry into the Whitechapel murders, or into Scotland Yard's failure to catch the killer.  It is a request for an investigation by the police into the Sun's story that Cutbush was the Whitechapel murderer (although the newspaper had not actually named Cutbush in any of its articles, just mentioning that he was a Broadmoor patient).  In other words, the newspaper thought they had exclusively identified the killer and, naturally, they wanted the police to confirm it.  That's absolutely as far as the Sun was going. 

We find the exact same sentiment having been expressed on 17 February 1894 (at the end of its final article on the Ripper murders) when the paper said:

'These crimes have horrified the whole world. The perpetrator has remained unknown. To this paper was reserved the duty of discovering him....In the interests of peace and security of the community - of the tranquility of the public mind - we ask that our story may be subjected by the authorities and the public to the most rigid examination.'

And there it is again. That clue as big as the Rock of Gibraltar as to what the Sun was asking for.  An examination into 'our story'.  Not an examination into the Whitechapel murders, nor into Scotland Yard, but into their story. Do I need to say it again?  I hope not.

For the newspaper was ludicrously overconfident that it had solved the mystery.  This was the basis of the headline to all of its five articles, i.e.: 'THE STORY OF "JACK THE RIPPER." SOLUTION OF THE GREAT MURDER MYSTERY.'

Cutbush 1.jpg

Having misled himself into thinking that the Sun, and its editor T.P. O'Connor, was pressing for an official inquiry into the Whitechapel murders, or into Scotland Yard's failure to catch the murderer, Wood posted in the Forum on 10 June 2019 (in the thread 'What makes Druitt a viable suspect'):

'Why would T.P. O'Connor, a political bruiser, try to provoke an official inquiry into Scotland Yard's failure to catch Jack the Ripper at such a politically-sensitive moment?'

Leaving aside, for the moment, whether it was or was not a politically sensitive moment, we are, as we can see, back to an inquiry into Scotland Yard's failure to catch Jack the Ripper as opposed to an inquiry into the Whitechapel murders; Wood can't seem to make up his mind.  It doesn't matter because it's all invented by him, and it was, of course, neither.  It was a call for an inquiry by the police into the Sun's story that Cutbush was the murderer - and, there, I've been forced to say it again.  But what's the answer to Wood's question?  As usual, he doesn't tell us.  But he does tell us what he thinks it wasn't.  Thus:

'I doubt it was to discover whether the Ripper was a Polish Jew, a suicidal doctor, a homicidal Russian or perhaps Fred Thwait from the fish shop on Bethnal Green Road?

None were exactly headline-grabbing suspects.'

No, of course the Sun wasn't asking for an inquiry to discover that the Ripper was any of these things.  What the Sun was asking for was an inquiry to confirm that the Ripper was young clerk who had worked in the tea trade.  Is that a headline grabbing suspect?  Well, yes it was for the Sun actually because it grabbed their headline (as we can see above).

It's funny how Wood thinks, isn't it?  Solving the Whitechapel murders just wasn't enough.  Proving the killer to have been Druitt, Kosminski or Ostrog, or a person working in a fish shop, wouldn't have grabbed any headlines, apparently!!!  I guess it had to be the King of England or the Prince of Wales or the Chief of Police, or someone like that, in Wood's mind for that to happen.  But, really, the truth is that identifying the killer whoever he was, including Cutbush, and including a worker in a fish shop, was a headline grabber and any newspaper would have been delighted to have solved the mystery.

The Sun certainly thought they had solved the mystery. It was Cutbush!  This is why they ran a five part series of articles on the subject claiming that the unnamed Cutbush was the murderer.


Furthermore, the inquiry which the Sun was pressing for did take place - the evidence against Cutbush was considered at a high level within Scotland Yard - but the conclusion was that Cutbush was less likely to have been Jack the Ripper than a number of other possible suspects.  

Wood asks another question in his Forum post to which he does not provide an answer: 

'Would T.P. O'Connor have launched such an elaborate story without having a shrewd idea of what the WM were all about and how they could impact the Conservative Party?'

The answer is absolutely and resoundingly YES.  It was a story about the Sun having solved the mystery of the Ripper murders.  It wasn't particularly 'elaborate' as Wood describes it - it was a pretty straightforward piece of journalism - and he doesn't explain why he calls it this.  The only thing that's elaborate is the balderdash that Wood insists on expressing about T.P. O'Connor's motives. 

As far as I can work out, Wood's barking mad theory is that T.P. O'Connor, the editor of the Sun, deliberately and knowingly inserted a false story into the Sun (his own newspaper!) to the effect that Cutbush was the Whitechapel murderer hoping that it would provoke the Liberal government into setting up an inquiry to disprove the Sun's story and to investigate the fact that the police under a Conservative government had....... Well we have to pause there because I have no idea what Wood thinks that T.P. O'Connor thought would have been discovered.  When pressed on the matter, Wood always denies that he has ever claimed that there was a conspiracy regarding the Whitechapel murders.  So, with no conspiracy to uncover, what would have happened? An inquiry would have rubbished the Sun's false story and the Sun's credibility would have been destroyed.  Is that likely to be something that the Sun's editor was aiming at?  Has Wood given this question any thought at all? The Sun's editor wanted to destroy his own newspaper, and rubbish his own story, in order to save the Liberal government??!  Really?  Is that how newspapers work?  It wouldn't even be so bad (albeit still wrong) if Wood thought that the Sun was trying to bring down the government of the day, because at least that would have been some kind of journalistic achievement, but he seems to think that they just wanted to shore up a weak minority Liberal government. 

But then let's go on.  So the inquiry proves that the murderer was not Cutbush.  What else would it have proved? That the police failed to catch the real Jack the Ripper? Well everyone already knew that.  Everyone knew that the police (under the Conservative government) had been a bit rubbish and had failed to find the killer.   So what would have been the cunning purpose of the imaginary inquiry?

What is it that Wood thinks T.P. O'Connor knew (or suspected)?  I very much doubt O'Connor believed that there were five separate murderers prowling around Whitechapel (which is what Wood has claimed the Forum, but not in his book, was the case). In fact, the Sun of 17 February 1894 expressly told its readers that a single individual called Jack the Ripper was responsible for no fewer than nine murders: Tabram, Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie, the unidentified woman in Pinchin Lane and 'Cole' (sic).  These are the victims listed by the Sun after the words: 'And now let us set forth the terrible list of crimes which were committed by the wretched man called "Jack the Ripper" by himself'.  So did O'Connor believe there were nine different killers?  I very much doubt it.  That is certainly not what his newspaper was saying.  The Sun was clearly telling us that one man called Jack the Ripper was responsible for nine murders. So I repeat.  What was the Sun and T.P. O'Connor expecting to uncover?  As I've mentioned, when pressed, Wood denies that he has ever claimed there was a conspiracy.  He says there was a cover-up but never tells us what was being covered up. So it's all a great mystery as to what he could possibly think that T.P. O'Connor thought would be discovered.

I'm sure I'm pushing at an open door here.  There can't be anyone who truly believes that the Sun was trumpeting that it had solved the murders while knowing that it done no such thing and was actually hoping that the authorities would institute an inquiry to disprove its own story. I mean, it's just madness! 

It's not as if Cutbush is a bad candidate for being the Ripper.  He's not.  According to the Sun's story, he worked in Whitechapel during 1888, liked to go out during the night, was found in possession of anatomical drawings of women, including at least one drawing of a disembowelled woman, associated with prostitutes, some of his clothes were found tucked up a chimney, wet and smelling of turpentine, he had attacked a number of other individuals, believed he was suffering from syphilis, owned a six inch knife and once claimed to a stranger that the police had offered £500 for his capture (which was the sum that the Corporation of London had offered for the capture of the Whitechapel murderer).  So it was a decent attempt at solving the mystery.  There were other things too but I won't repeat them all here.  Cutbush remains a candidate today so it wasn't an obviously false story that the Sun was putting forward.  And how would an inquiry in 1894 have even cleared him? 

Macnaghten tells us that Cutbush's whereabouts at the time of the Whitechapel murders could not be established, so the discovery of an alibi to clear him wasn't a realistic possibility.

A demonstration of the Sun's enthusiasm for Cutbush's candidacy can be found in an interview one of its journalists conducted with Henry Labouchere on 17 February 1894, as published two days later on 19 February.  For some reason, Wood thinks that this interview was conducted prior to publication of the Sun's series of articles despite the date of the interview being clearly stated within the story. During the interview, Labouchere makes clear that he had suspected that Jack the Ripper was a Spanish sailor because the murders were all committed when the sailor's vessel was in the London docks, but when the sailor died the murders stopped.  To this, the Sun's representative says, presumptuously (but showing great faith in its own story), 'But now, I suppose, you have given up the sailor and believe in the lunatic at Broadmoor?'  Labouchere replied by saying that he wasn't sure and that 'hundreds of men might have been Jack', but, 'only one of them was'.  I guess this isn't the stuff that Wood likes to hear from a conspiracy-loving radical like Henry Labouchere, and he certainly doesn't quote it.  The Sun's reporter pressed Labouchere as to whether the newspaper's story hadn't demonstrated that Cutbush was the Ripper and eventually Labouchere said that the newspaper had 'made out a fair case for public investigation'.  The Sun's representative asked him if he would, therefore, recommend a public investigation to which (in an answer quoted by Wood) he said, 'Yes, if I were Mr Asquith, I should expect a clever officer to look into the matter'.  So the type of investigation Labouchere had in mind was not a public inquiry conducted by a government official or a judge or an independent body or something like that but a simple police investigation conducted by 'a clever officer' to look into the question of whether Cutbush was or was not Jack the Ripper.

One member of the Casebook Forum dared to ask Simon Wood, an author, who has privileged status according to the Forum rules, a question about his claim that the Sun was calling for an official inquiry into either the Whitechapel murders or Scotland Yard.  This was Herlock Sholmes who posted on 11 June 2019 (#2501):

'Simon, isn’t it simply the case that The Sun just wanted their Cutbush story looked into and verified? After the series of articles they said “that “our story may be subjected by the authorities and the public to the most rigid investigation.”

The use of the word ‘‘our’’ surely shows that they weren’t seeking an enquiry into The Whitechapel Murders as a whole but just their own solution.

Needless to say, Wood didn't answer the question, no doubt being aware that under the Casebook Forum rules it is not permissible for ordinary members to repeat unanswered questions to authors, as this is regarded as badgering and harassment, which is no doubt why Herlock Sholmes didn't dare to repeat it.  Instead, Wood answered a question which he hadn't been asked, for in #2507 he said:

'Hi Herlock,


The six-part Sun story was an ingenious attempt to cause maximum political damage.


How was it going to be demonstrated that Thomas Cutbush was not the non-existent "Ripper"?

Equally, had Macnaghten's memorandum ever seen the light of day, how was it going to be demonstrated that Druitt was the likeliest suspect to have been the non-existent "Ripper"?' 

Amazingly, that's the very opposite of what Wood was being asked!!   For Herlock had pointed out that the Sun wanted it to be demonstrated that Thomas Cutbush WAS the Ripper.  The notion that the Sun's story was an attempt, ingenious or otherwise, to cause maximum political damage is a figment of Wood's overactive imagination.

In the same Forum post in which Wood asks those ridiculous unanswered questions, he also asks another question.  Hence:

'...why didn't Macnaghten step in and tell the Sun that Cutbush couldn't have been the Ripper because of the three suspects he had short-listed in his confidential memorandum?

What was so secret about his three suspects?' 

There are two answers to these two questions which are so obvious as to make it incredible that Wood even wastes his time asking it.  The first is that Macnaghten never said in his memorandum that 'Cutbush couldn't have been the Ripper' or anything like it.  His point was nothing more than that Druitt, Kosminiski and Ostrog could just as easily as Cutbush have been the murderer, if not more so.  In other words, he was saying that the evidence against Cutbush was not, in his view, so overwhelming as to eliminate all other suspects.  In this respect, he was able to find some flaws in the Sun's case.  For example, he noted that the knife owned by Cutbush at the time of his arrest couldn't have been used for the Whitechapel murders.  He also noted that it wasn't true that Cutbush had drawn pictures of any mutilated women. But he didn't claim to be able to show that Cutbush wasn't the Whitechapel murderer.  So he could hardly tell the Sun that they were wrong.  He didn't know if they were wrong or not.  But in any case, his memorandum (written after the last of the Sun's articles, thus not allowing Macnaghten to 'step in'), was not written for the benefit of the Sun.  That's not how the police work.  They don't do investigations on behalf of newspapers.  Macnaghten was writing for his superiors, not for T.P. O'Connor.

As for what was 'so secret' about his memorandum, this must be obvious.  In the same way that the Sun didn't name Cutbush in its five articles, so Macnaghten, and the police as a whole, would never have broadcast the names of suspects who, they fully appreciated, might have been innocent of the crimes.  Even if Druitt was guilty, I very much doubt that Druitt's surviving family would have been happy for their name to have been linked with the Ripper in the press and the authorities would not have wanted this to happen bearing in mind there was no need for his name to be made public.  The same is true of Kosminski who wasn't named by Anderson in his 1910 memoir.  So if you are an Assistant Chief Constable you don't go blabbing out the names of suspects to a newspaper. At the same time, had there been such a public clamour for action following the Sun's story, including questions in Parliament, it might well have been that the Home Secretary would have revealed some of the information in Macnaghten's memorandum to the public (especially in respect of the alleged factual errors in the Sun's article) without naming the suspects.  It's just that it wasn't necessary for him to do so.  There was no clamour. 

Unusually, Wood does actually answer the question as to why Macnaghten did not reveal the names of Druitt, Kosminski and Ostrog to the public.  He says it is because 'they weren't true.  They were BS'.  But if that was the case, why did Macnaghten include them in a memorandum which must have been intended to have been read by his superiors and possibly by the Home Secretary himself?  What benefit could he have possibly had for lying to the Assistant Commissioner, the Commissioner and the Home Secretary?  Wouldn't he just have been sacked?  It's not as if he was personally responsible for the police's failure to catch the murderer so what possible motive could he have had for lying about the subject? And, in any case, how would the general public have known that none of Macnaghten's suspects could have been Jack the Ripper?  Other than Ostrog, we can't say today that it was impossible, so how could members of the public have done so in 1894?  

The whole thing is really just one piece of nonsense by Wood after another.  

And we may also question Wood's claim that the Sun's story about Cutbush came at 'a critical time' or 'a politically sensitive moment'.  He says in his book that, at the time of the publication of the Sun's story about Jack the Ripper, the Prime Minister, 84-year-old William Gladstone, who was frail and afflicted by failing eye-sight,'had just returned from Biarritz to rumours of his resignation'.  Well the fact of the matter is that rumours of Gladstone's resignation were in existence during January 1894 while Gladstone was actually in Biarritz and he had heard of them at that time. 

Gladstone had left London for Biarritz on 13 January 1894, and while he was still there, the Pall Mall Gazette of 31 January claimed in an exclusive story that he had 'finally decided to resign office immediately' as a result of his advanced age and stress of office. According to the Times the next day, this story caused 'considerable excitement' amongst the press and led to many enquiries and telegrams from newspapers and press agencies.  Gladstone's unofficial private secretary, Sir Algernon West, who was with him in Biarritz, recorded in his diary that Spencer Lyttleton, Gladstone's Principal Private Secretary wrote to him that day from Downing Street saying, 'The whole place is in a state of excitement over the rumour of the resignation.'  A statement in response, drafted by Gladstone in Biarritz, was issued by Sir Algernon on the same day and published in the Times of 1 February 1894 as follows:

'The statement that Mr. Gladstone has definitely decided, or has decided at all, on resigning office is untrue.  It is true that for many months past his age and condition of his sight and hearing have, in his judgment, made relief from public cares desirable, and that, accordingly, his tenure of office has been at any moment liable to interruption from these causes, in their nature permanent....'

As mentioned, this statement was issued while Gladstone was in Biarritz, so Wood's claim that Gladstone returned from Biarritz to rumours of his retirement is misleading.  To a large extent, those rumours were quashed by Sir Algernon's statement, at least in the short term.  Additionally, an interview with Gladstone by Henri Deloncle was published in La Patrie, a French newspaper, on 8 February, in which it was stated that Gladstone never had any intention of resigning and was resolved to persevere with his reforms. Hence, the Leamington Spa Courier of 10 February 1894 (the day Gladstone returned to London from Biarritz) noted that, '...the "scare "occasioned by the rumour of Mr. Gladstone's intended resignation has subsided...'.  According to an editorial in the Sun of the same day, no doubt written by T.P. O'Connor: 'If we are to believe Mr. Deloncle's widely circulated interview, Mr. Gladstone is coming back from the orange-scented air of Biarritz in rare fighting trim'.  Then, two days later, another optimistic editorial in the Sun stated:

'The cheers which greeted Mr. Gladstone's return to England, and the anxiety, which was everywhere felt as to his health and spirits, proved that his hold on the affections of the masses of the people is as firm as ever, and that the Liberal and Radical papers faithfully registered the opinions of the public when, in connection with the publication of a senseless rumour, they unhesitatingly declared that his severance from English public life was not to be thought of at this juncture.' 

This was the day before publication of the first article in the Sun's series of articles about Jack the Ripper so it's clear that T.P. O'Connor was dismissive of the story about Gladstone's resignation, meaning it is unlikely to have been a factor in his mind when it came to publishing the articles about Cutbush (and that's leaving aside the fact that there's no plausible connection between Gladstone's health and the Ripper story in any case).  It's true that O'Connor was forced to publish the Cutbush articles earlier than he would have liked due to the Morning Leader publishing its 'spoiler' on 13 February but that alone seems to show that political considerations were not uppermost in the mind of the Sun's editor: it was normal newspaper considerations and the desire to publish a scoop about Jack the Ripper.

We can see from the story in the Pall Mall Gazette that Gladstone's health had not been good for 'many months past'.  Not surprising really because, shortly before being 84 years old and frail, he had been 83 years old and frail! As at 31 January, when the statement was issued about his health, he remained old and frail. So what was so 'critical' about the situation 13 days later when the Sun published its story about Cutbush?  The answer is there wasn't really anything.  Wood, as usual, has tried to twist history to suit his purposes. 


You can probably take almost any time in politics and call it 'critical' if you like, and the minority Liberal Government under Gladstone certainly lurched from crisis to crisis, but what was so critical on 13 February? 

When we come to 28 February we find in the Times that, 'For the past few days the political world has been in a state of suppressed excitement'.  It stated that, 'The social atmosphere has been thick with rumours of Mr Gladstone's impending resignation and its consequences'.  So here we are again back with rumours of the prime minister's resignation, two weeks after the Sun's first article on Jack the Ripper.  Then a couple of days later Gladstone resigned.  But that was essentially due to his health. How was a story about Jack the Ripper possibly going to have any effect on this?  He would have had to have resigned due to poor health regardless of anything published in the Sun.   The Liberal government itself did not collapse with Gladstone's resignation and it continued until June 1895 under the premiership of Lord Rosebery. 

As it happens, there is a twist in the story of Gladstone's resignation because, according to the Times of 2 March 1894, 'We understand that before leaving this country for Biarritz he made known to two or three intimate friends his intention to resign at the close of the Session, although no hint was vouchsafed to the majority of his colleagues in the Cabinet.'  He had learnt he had a cataract, requiring an operation, and would not be able to continue as Prime Minister. So the Pall Mall Gazette had been right all along, save for the resignation not coming 'immediately'. That being so, the story in the Sun could never have affected the outcome with respect to Gladstone's position.  He was always going to resign.  A story about Jack the Ripper wasn't going to have any effect on this whatsoever.

A good example of Wood's use of sources is in this passage from his book which he has repeated word for word on the Forum, referring to the supposed context in which the Sun published its series of articles about Jack the Ripper: 

'There were also rumours of parliamentary dissolution, and The Times had earlier reported T.P. O’Connor as declaring that if an election were to take place under present circumstances the Liberals would undergo a crushing defeat; also that a big Tory majority would dash any future hopes of Irish Home Rule.'

Let's deal first with the supposed parliamentary dissolution.  That idea was initially floated during September and October 1893 after the House of Lords had provoked a constitutional crisis by rejecting the Liberal government's Home Rule Bill which had passed through the House of Commons. 

The Liberal party was in power but only with support from other parties.  In the 1892 general election it had won 272 seats compared to the Conservative and Liberal Unionists' 314 but it was able to form a minority government due to support from the Irish National Federation with 72 seats and the Irish National League with 9 seats.  Together with three independent Labour MPs it had a majority of 42 but was obviously heavily dependent on the support of the Irish Nationalists.

After the Home Rule Bill was defeated by the House of Lords, there were various discussions about how to react.  One possibility was a dissolution of Parliament and an appeal to the country (i.e. a general election).  It's wrong to say that there were 'rumours' of a dissolution, it was a possibility that was being openly discussed in October 1893 (and subsequently).  If it was going to happen it would have been a conscious decision by the Prime Minister.  But the preferred option from most Liberals was to embark on measures of domestic reform in England (and Scotland/Wales) in order to secure public support for liberalism and thereby win the next election so that they could hopefully deliver Home Rule for Ireland in the end.

The problem was that the Irish nationalists on whose support the Liberal government depended were not terribly happy with that approach.  John Redmond, the leader of the Irish National League, made a speech on 23 October 1893 in which he complained that the Liberal party hadn't delivered its promises to the Irish nationalists (not just in respect of Home Rule but also in respect of the release of political prisoners and the restoration of evicted tenants to their homes) and he urged the Liberal party to focus on sorting out Irish issues and then to dissolve Parliament in order to force through the Home Rule Bill. 

It was in response to Redmond's speech that T.P. O'Connor made a statement on 30 October 1893 rejecting Redmond's approach and suggesting that the best course for the Liberal government was to focus on introducing Liberal domestic reform measures and getting legislation through Parliament which would be popular in England, in order to attract voters so that they would gain a big majority at the next election.  In rebutting Redmond's call for a dissolution of Parliament and a general election he said (in a passage which Wood is obviously referring to in his book):

'Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Morley and Mr. Balfour, Mr McCarthy and Lord Randolph Churchill, agree in thinking that a Ministry, with no Liberal work done, would mean that the Liberals would undergo a crashing and overwhelming defeat, and a big Liberal defeat and a big Tory majority at the next election would mean, perhaps, the destruction of the Home Rule cause in our generation.  This, it appears to me, is where Mr. Redmond's policy is leading us.'

In other words, when speaking in October 1893 of the 'crushing defeat' that the Liberals would suffer if they went to the country before they had managed to introduce their package of domestic reforms, T.P. O'Connor was doing no more than trying to rebut what he regarded as a misguided strategy by the leader of one of the Irish nationalist parties which he felt could end up with defeat for the Liberal party and thus no Home Rule for the Irish nationalists. So his point was that Redmond's strategy was self-defeating.

Taken out of context, as Wood does take it, it might seem that T.P. O'Connor was so terrified in February 1894 of an imminent dissolution of parliament due to Gladstone's poor health that he needed to do something extraordinary to try and damage the Conservative party to prevent a Liberal defeat at the next election.  But it's just a fantasy devised by Wood because, when the facts are seen in context, this was simply not the case.  

It's so easy for a conspiracy theorist like Wood to take completely unconnected events and link them.  So rumours of Gladstone's resignation going on at about the same time as the Sun's story somehow get connected with the Sun's story, even though there was absolutely no connection between them.  It's exactly the same with how Wood treats the Ripper murders and the Parnell Commission by asserting that there was a link between them for no other reason that they both occurred in late 1888.  If you want to connect the two it's very easy.  But, without any evidence, it's called writing fiction. 

Another virtually incomprehensible strand of Wood's conspiracy imaginings about the Sun's story relates to the 'spoiler' that the Morning Leader attempted on 13 February which forced the Sun to publish its story much earlier than it had planned. The Looney Tunes version put forward by Wood is that Scotland Yard was behind the Morning Leader story although there is no evidence to support this idea. 

According to Wood, it 'doesn't add up' that the Sun's exclusive story was being peddled amongst the competition because, he says, the two stories 'had many differences', the most obvious being what Wood refers to as the Morning Leader's 'substitution' of Dartmoor for Broadmoor.  But this assumes that the Morning Leader was somehow in possession of the Sun's story and had deliberately decided to change the details. 

The fact of the matter is that there were certainly not 'many differences' between the Morning Leader's story and the Sun's story, mainly because the Morning Leader story of 13 February 1894 barely provided any details at all and it was extremely vague.  All we are told by the Morning Leader, based on information provided to it by an unnamed Metropolitan Police inspector, is that a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper had been incarcerated in 'Dartmoor asylum' since the date of the last Whitechapel murder (which was evidently the murder of Frances Coles on 13 February 1891) and that all his conversations and confessions during the period of his incarceration related 'to the East-end horrors'.  And that really is it.  The only other piece of information revealed by the Morning Leader is that the Metropolitan Police inspector in question was in possession of a knife of Chinese manufacture which was supposed to have been used by the suspect to commit the Whitechapel murders.

This can be compared to what is known about Thomas Cutbush, namely that he had been incarcerated in Broadmoor asylum since April 1891 (having initially been detained at the Lambeth Infirmary on 5 March 1891). As reported by the Sun, Cutbush had been heard to say things which suggested that he had committed the Whitechapel murders.  Most importantly, it is known from Melville Macnaghten's 1894 memorandum that a police inspector (William Race) had been in possession of Cutbush's knife since 1891.

So was Inspector William Race the source of the Morning Leader's story?   Well Race wasn't an 'officer of the Criminal Investigation Department' as he was described by the Morning Leader. He was a uniformed divisional inspector in 'L' Division (albeit sometimes allowed to operate in plain clothes) and was not a detective in the Criminal Investigation Department, not even a local detective.  It's possible that the Morning Leader wrongly assumed that Race was a C.I.D. detective. The Morning Leader quotes the inspector as saying:

'I became a detective in more than the ordinary sense.  Dates, clues, suggestions and theories I eagerly devoured.  My pertinacity was rewarded. After a time I secured evidence, in my judgment, ample to lay before the Scotland Yard authorities.' 

Those could be the words of a uniformed officer who was pretending to be a detective.

Cutbush 2.jpg

The other discrepancy is that the unnamed inspector is quoted as saying:

'It was while I was on duty in the vicinity of Whitechapel that I became acquainted with the outrages upon women that baffled the police and shocked the sensitivity of London'.

William Race had been promoted to the rank of inspector in July 1887 while he was in 'W' Division which covered Clapham and was transferred to 'L' Division, covering Lambeth (and Kennington, where Cutbush lived), in December of the same year.  During the period of the Whitechapel murders in 1888, Race remained an officer in Lambeth which is inconsistent with what the unnamed inspector was quoted as saying about being on duty in Whitechapel at the time, but it's possible, one supposes, that he was one of those temporarily drafted into the area in 1888 due to the Ripper murders.  Even if that is so, however, it must be the case that he only became acquainted with Cutbush's candidacy as Jack the Ripper when he arrested him in March 1891 whereas the inspector in the Morning Leader gives the impression he had been on his trail since 1888. 

Those discrepancies aside, the most important piece of information in the Morning Leader's story is that the inspector said:

'In my possession I hold the knife, of Chinese manufacture, with which the Whitechapel crimes were perpetrated.' 

As mentioned above, Race had definitely had Cutbush's knife in his personal possession since 1891 (although he shouldn't have done), as confirmed by Macnaghten's memorandum.  The Sun did refer to Cutbush's knife in its own story but called it a knife 'of the bowie pattern' which doesn't sound much like a knife of Chinese manufacture (although it could have been, especially as it was said to have a knotted black handle with seven points on either side being tipped with pearl).  The Sun only said it had a 'facsimile' of the knife. 

If Race was the Morning Leader's source he might simply have confused Dartmoor with Broadmoor, thus confusing the Morning Leader too. 

Another possible candidate as the Morning Leader's informant (assuming its suspect was Cutbush) would be Detective-Sergeant McCarthy, who was in C.I.D. but was not an inspector.  As mentioned in Macnaghten's memorandum, he certainly did work in Whitechapel in 1888, and it's perfectly possible that the Morning Leader could have mistakenly described him as an inspector, but it doesn't seem likely that he too would have been in possession of Cutbush's knife, unless there were two of them.

It's not impossible that the Morning Leader simply fabricated the existence of the inspector, having stolen a part of the Sun's story, but the fact that a real police inspector did have possession of Cutbush's knife (which was something not mentioned by the Sun) does suggest that it did have a real informant and this informant was Inspector Race.  Certainly this is what the 2008 version of Simon Wood believed, because he posted on the Censorship Forum on 12 September 2008 (in thread 'The Laying Out' at #8) as follows:

'It was Inspector William Race, L Division [Lambeth], who gave interviews about the Whitechapel Murders to Reynolds News, 18th February 1894.'

The story in Reynolds News of 18 February 1894 was no more than a repeat of the Morning Leader story from five days earlier; so there we have Wood saying that Inspector Race was the Morning Leader's source.


One thing that seems obvious about the Morning Leader's story is that it does not have 'the imprimatur of Scotland Yard', as Wood describes it in his book.  In the first place, one of the headlines to the Morning Leader story on 13 February was 'Why do the authorities not move in the matter?' 

Cutbush 3.jpg

The unnamed police inspector was quoted in the Morning Leader as saying that he had lain his information before Scotland Yard but they had, apparently, done nothing with it.  'All I wish', said the inspector, 'is that the authorities may be moved to interest themselves in my investigations so that my story may be either confirmed or refuted.'  Now, that sounds remarkably like the very same call for an investigation that T.P. O'Connor and the Sun were going to demand (but had not yet done so) and which Wood tells us was a call to reveal the entire truth about the Whitechapel murders that Scotland Yard was hiding!  Very odd for it to be doing that if it was trying to cover the whole thing up.  But even ignoring Wood's fantastical version of events, it doesn't seem likely that Scotland Yard planted a story in the Morning Leader about the identity of Jack the Ripper which gave the impression that it had not investigated the story properly and then waited for the Sun to run its story over two days before telling the Morning Leader that 'There is a large basis of truth' in its story, with the 'only defect' being that it was about three years old, which is what a 'head official' at Scotland Yard was quoted by the Morning Leader as saying on 15 February.

So one thing we can definitely reject is that the Morning Leader's source was Scotland Yard. 

To me, what seems to have happened is this:  The Sun's story was probably prompted by a member of the public, perhaps the chap who had encountered Cutbush when he was on the run from the police and became suspicious that he was Jack the Ripper.  Or it could have been someone who had known him and was suspicious of him because of his violent behaviour.  Such people are cited throughout the Sun's article.  On the other hand, there isn't a single quote from a police officer in the entire story spread over six days in the Sun.  Most of the newspaper's information about Cutbush has clearly come from members of his family and people who knew him. The rest, with one exception, can be sourced to newspaper accounts of the hearings in March and April 1891 when the evidence of Cutbush's arrest was presented in court, or to the long article about Cutbush in Lloyd's Weekly News of 19 April 1891, shortly after Cutbush's incarceration to Broadmoor.  The sole exception is the supposed discovery by a police inspector of Cutbush's clothing hidden up a chimney, wet and smelling of turpentine, but this could have been known about by Cutbush's mother or aunt and passed onto the Sun.  It doesn't necessarily have had to come from a police officer. By contrast with the Sun's absence of any obvious police source, the Morning Leader carried a number of quotes from its unnamed police inspector. 

What I would suggest has happened is that the Morning Leader's story came from a different source to the Sun but was nevertheless a story about Cutbush.  As mentioned, there are not 'many differences' between the stories published by the Sun and the Morning Leader.  They appear to be basically the same story suggesting that the unnamed Cutbush was the Whitechapel murderer but the Morning Leader's information came from a single source (presumably Inspector Race), while the Sun's story had been meticulously researched, having spoken to a number of witnesses, over an extended period of some months.  Hence the Morning Leader's story was a very light on detail.  All it had, as I have mentioned, was a brief interview with the unnamed inspector.

And the way that the interview could have come about is that the Morning Leader had learnt that the Sun was working on an exclusive story about Cutbush being Jack the Ripper and then made contact with the inspector who was known to have arrested Cutbush in 1891.   Even if the Sun had spoken to Inspector Race when preparing its story, which is quite possible, he was clearly not the newspaper's main source, and he wouldn't have signed any kind of contract with the Sun, so Race could have felt himself free to speak to any other newspaper of his choosing.

Wood's theory that it was Scotland Yard who had briefed the Morning Leader in order to spoil the Sun's story is, apart from being pretty daft, not supported by the internal evidence from the stories of the respective newspapers and certain to be just plain wrong. 

At one point in his book, Wood appears to rely on unnamed 'modern theorists' who have, apparently, posited that the source of the stories in both the Sun were 'essentially the same', being Inspector Race.  But he then tells us that the idea of the Morning Leader's source being Inspector Race being 'does not bear much scrutiny'.   His argument on this is very confusing because rather than telling us why Race could not have been the Morning Leader's source (which is what he had claimed in his 2008 Forum post cited above), he immediately switches in his book to discussing the Sun's story. He notes that the Sun had said that it was a 'chance clue' that put the Sun on the track of Cutbush and then says, 'If the chance clue was William Race it implies that the Inspector took his story to the Sun "months" beforehand'.  Well that depends heavily on the newspaper referring to a police source as a 'chance clue' (said to have been 'accidentally obtained') which seems rather unlikely.  What if they were speaking about something else entirely?  Wood doesn't seem to consider the possibility.  Nevertheless, he seems to have convinced himself that Race was the Sun's source and, therefore, is not likely have been the source of the Morning Leader's story because he would have effectively been out-scooping his own story. 

At least I think that's what he is saying.  As far as I can work out, Wood thinks that Race was the source of the Sun's story, while Scotland Yard was the source of the spoiler.  Mind you, if that's the case, I don't understand his statement: 'what could have been the source of and purpose of the Morning Leader story if it was not an act of self-immolation by Inspector Race, or....a leaked portion of his own six-part series in the Sun.'

We may note at this point that David Bullock, the author of 'The Man Who Would Be Jack: The Hunt for the Real Ripper' states categorically, but without any identifiable sources or footnote references, that Inspector Race was the source for the Sun's story, having supposedly spoken to that newspaper in 1893.  I'm afraid to say that Bullock appears to be guessing here.  I can't see that he has located any additional sources of information over and above what was published in the Sun and other newspapers at the time.  The only new material he consulted was Cutubush's Broadmoor files which don't assist us with anything to do with the Sun's story. 

Wood says that 'theorists' (in which he possibly includes Bullock) claim that Inspector Race was passed over for promotion by Scotland Yard due to his dealings with the Sun and the embarrassment its revelations had caused.  Well, regardless of any embarrassment, a Metropolitan Police inspector wasn't supposed to be having 'dealings' with newspapers and we also can't ignore the revelation in Macnaghten's memorandum that Race had kept Cutbush's knife in his personal possession since 1891 instead of sending it to the Prisoners' Property Store.  That kind of thing, which was presumably against the rules, might have affected the inspector's promotion prospects. 

If there was any embarrassment, it might have been caused by a belief that Thomas Cutbush was related to Charles Cutbush, formerly of Scotland Yard. Perhaps, for that reason, the inspector's actions in pushing Cutbush as the Ripper to the press without any conclusive evidence is why he was not highly regarded by his superiors after 1894 (if that was the case). 

Having said this, we should look a little bit closer at Inspector Race's career, using the information available in Police Orders, something no-one ever appears to have done before.

Before doing so, we may note that the notion that Race was treated unfairly comes from two press reports.  The first, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 3 July 1898, stated that, 'strange to say, he never received the promotion he so well deserved.'  The second, the Police Review & Parade Gossip (a national journal for police officers), stated that Race 'had been several times recommended for promotion by his Superintendent which his record richly deserved but through some unknown reason he never heard anything further, a thing almost unprecedented in the service, and which worried him greatly.'

Neither report mentions anything about Jack the Ripper or suggests that Race's career problems had anything to do with any theory he held about Cutbush or any communications with the press.  It has always been assumed that Race was unfairly overlooked for promotion towards the end of his career, due to his role in the Sun's story, but the facts suggest that something different was happening.

On 12 December 1891, Inspector Race, then still in 'L' division, had his pay advanced to the maximum salary for a divisional inspector of 64 shillings per week. But then, long before the Sun's story about Cutbush, it could be said that his career stalled somewhat.  1892 passed then 1893 and Race remained an inspector within Lambeth.  He was still at the same rank at the start of 1894.  The next step up from a divisional inspector was a sub-divisional inspector, and then on to Chief Inspector. The promotion being said to have been denied to him was presumably a promotion to sub-divisional inspector.  

It's possible that the authorities at Scotland Yard turned against Race after February 1894 and blocked his chances of promotion.  We may note that on 28 March 1894, Race was commended for an arrest earlier that month and received a reward of 10 shillings, but that means very little.  More significantly, on 19 June 1895, Race was transferred from 'L' Division to the Public Carriage Branch of Central Office (C.O.) on the same salary of 64 shillings per week.  Perhaps it was considered by him to be a sideways move but he was put on Special Duty and it might have been a route for promotion.  One imagines that a move to Central Office was a desirable one for most officers but it's hard to say how Race viewed it at the time.  Given the amount of time that had passed since the Sun's Cutbush story, it's hard to think that there was any connection between Race's (prestigious?) transfer to Scotland Yard and the Sun's series of articles.

Either way, Race badly ruined his chances of promotion a few months later, in December 1895.  For in that month he failed to attend an afternoon appointment at the Public Carriage Inspector's Office at Kennington Lane Police Station in order to parade his Sergeant and Constable and he neglected to make an entry in his diary after 10am on that day and then failed to return to his office at Scotland Yard until 10pm, his whereabouts in the meantime being unknown to his superiors.  That was regarded by Assistant Commissioner Alexander Carmichael Bruce as a serious neglect of duty for which Race was 'severely reprimanded', 'strictly cautioned', removed from Special Duty and transferred from C.O. to 'H' Division (Whitechapel) with a reduction in salary from 64 to 60 shillings per week as further punishment.

Perhaps Race would have recovered in 'H' Division.  There were, presumably, plenty of criminals to catch there.  Things seemed to be looking up one year later, in December 1896, when his salary was increased from 60 to 62 shillings per week.  It appeared that he was back on the path to promotion.  But then a few months later he totally blew his chances.   On 24 May 1897, he was an hour and forty-five minutes late parading for duty and subsequently made a false entry in the duty book.  For this offence he was immediately suspended pending investigation and then, on 1 June, he was 'severely reprimanded', 'cautioned' and reduced to the rank of a station sergeant in 'F' Division (Paddington and Notting Hill) to which he was transferred and his salary was ruthlessly cut down to 48 shillings per week. 

It's quite possible that Race was affected by the death from 'Diabetes Exhaustion' of his 20-year-old son, Arthur, on 15 April 1897.  According to the death certificate, Race was present at the death which occurred at 48 Bromley Street in the district of Ratcliff, Stepney.  Nevertheless, the offence for which he was demoted occurred over a month later so that his lateness couldn't have been a result of having to tend to his dying son. 

After being signed off sick for periods in January and February 1898, Race decided to call it a day and retired in April 1898 at a pension of just over £48 a year.

Cutbush 4.jpg

Going back to the story in the Police Review (which appears to have been based on Race's own, somewhat partial, view of events) it would seem to be unlikely that it was Superintendent Beavis who was unsuccessfully pushing Race for promotion during the six months he was at the Public Carriage Department within C.O.  It could have been Superintendent Mulvany of 'H' Division but Race was only in Whitechapel for 17 months.  The most likely superintendent to have been pushing Race for promotion was Superintendent James Brannan of 'L' Division who was Race's superintendent between December 1887 and June 1895. If this was the case, then there was only a period of about a year when Race could have been passed over for promotion for anything to do with the Cutbush story in the press.  As already mentioned, nothing happened during 1892 or 1893 which were years in which Race, having been an inspector for over five years, could have qualified for the rank of sub-divisional inspector.  Equally, though, it was probably too soon at this stage for Race to have been considered for the position of Chief-Inspector, for which there was usually only one in each division, so vacancies were scarce.  Over in C.O. we find that Inspectors Quinn, Hare and Haines, all of whom were promoted to the rank of inspector before, or at about the same time as, Race, remained inspectors in 1896.   Ripperologists will be familiar with Inspector John Spratling of 'J' Division at the time of the Whitechapel murders.  He retired in March 1897 as an inspector in 'K' Division.  So he hadn't advanced in nine years and he had joined the Metropolitan Police some ten years earlier than Race.  It's difficult, therefore, to be certain that Race wouldn't have been promoted eventually had it not been for his disciplinary issues.  It's not, however, the most important part of this story.


By way of conclusion, it hardly needs stating that Wood has produced zero evidence for his daft 'stalking horse' theory whereby T.P. O'Connor pinned the Sun's colours to the mast of a false story spread over six days in order to force some kind of inquiry into the Whitechapel murders which would reveal some sort of unspecified shenanigans about those murders.  We know that Wood misread and misunderstood what the Sun was actually asking the police to investigate so his theory is basically based on nothing.  Worse than that, though, in many respects, is that his theory is also based on a defective thought process. I mean, if evidence isn't available, it can still be possible for a historian to provide a coherent theory to explain historical events, even if such a theory is highly speculative, as long as all the bits of the puzzle can be seen to fit together.  It's here that Wood fails so badly because he can't seem to give us a plausible, cogent or coherent reason for T.P. O'Connor to have wanted a government inquiry into the Whitechapel murders.  In one of his Forum posts he confidently says that 'T.P. O'Connor knew what the WM were all about' but he can't seem to tell us what T.P. O'Connor would have known (or even believed or suspected) about the Whitechapel murders.  What was it?  If T.P. O'Connor had known or believed there was some wrongdoing regarding the Whitechapel murders why did he not investigate and publish THAT story?  Why publish a so-called 'stalking horse' story accusing Cutbush of being the Whitechapel murderer - which will, quite obviously, for any rational person looking at it, achieve precisely nothing - when he knows there is a far more explosive story to be published, albeit that Wood seems to have no clue as to what the explosive story could possibly have been, or, if he does have a clue, has never bothered to share it with the readers of his 600 page book.  Nothing that Wood says about the Sun's story makes any sense at all.  That is why his approach is such a catastrophic failure.

Even in Cutbush City, there are limits. 


First published: 29 June 2019

bottom of page