Jonathan Hainsworth who, it should be said, I regard as almost a personal friend, certainly a personal correspondent, never ceases to amaze me. Over on JTR Forums, in a series of posts starting on 21st January 2024, he said such extraordinarily false and misleading things that I felt it required a separate blog post to correct them.
THE NORTH COUNTRY VICAR'S TALE
Within a thread discussing George Sims' Referee article of 24th August 1914, in post 106, while discussing the unnamed member of the clergy (undoubtedly a vicar but Hainsworth seems to prefer the word 'priest') who contacted the Daily Mail in January 1899, Hainsworth said:
'When the Anglican priest finally made his move in 1899, he also tried to clothe the truth in "fictitious form" but clumsily admitted he was doing so, hence his letter was never published (we have to rely on fragments from a grumbling "Daily Mail" found by Chris Scott). The Ripper's confession to a vicar was a one-day wonder in the press and then instantly forgotten (despite Macnaghten admitting to a reporter how this priest's suspect died - he drowned himself in the Thames, a source found by Lord Orsam).'
Now, it's good of Jonathan to try and give me credit for discovering a source, but the source I discovered, namely a report in the Western Times of 19 January 1899, said nothing of the sort. It did not say that Macnaghten had admitted that the vicar's suspect had died by drowning himself in the Thames, or anything remotely similar. Macnaghten wasn't even mentioned. It follows that the claim that the vicar's suspect drowned in the Thames was certainly not attributed to Macnaghten. It wasn't, in fact, attributed to any police officer. Hainsworth is, unfortunately, imagining things again. This is a transcript of the short article he's referring to, which is a report in the Western Times published the day after the Daily Mail's story.
'In police circles there is the most deep distrust of the new version as to who Jack the Ripper really was. The new version is that he had been a surgeon and engaged in rescue work in the East End, and then, after confessing his crimes to a clergyman who told the story to another clergyman, now the narrator, committed suicide in the Thames. An earlier version made the man a petty officer on board a ship always in dock in the East End when the murders were committed who, being suspected, came no more to England but wholly disappeared. A third story, told elaborately, made him out to be a living inmate of one of our suburban asylums. Naturally one story is as good as another and the police offer none of their own, but prudently deny all three. But the mystery will be solved one day.'
As can be clearly seen, the only thing attributed to the police, or rather 'police circles', in this report - not to Macnaghten but to the police in general - is a 'deep distrust' of the vicar's story, which story is said to have been denied by the police. While, in describing the Daily Mail's report, the article says that the surgeon committed suicide in the Thames, which fact wasn't expressly mentioned in the Daily Mail's summary of the vicar's tale, it seems obvious that the Western Times journalist assumed that the Daily Mail was reporting that the vicar's suspect was the same person as the doctor who was said by Major Arthur Griffiths in his recently published book to have committed suicide in the Thames.
Indeed, before revealing what the vicar's story was, the Daily Mail report had said this:
'Certainly Major Arthur Griffiths, in his new work on "Mysteries of Police and Crime," suggests that the police believe the assassin to have been a doctor, bordering on insanity, whose body was found floating in the Thames soon after the last crime in the series...'
The next sentence of the report introduces the vicar's story so that anyone reading the report in 1899 would naturally have thought that the vicar's surgeon suspect was the same man as Griffiths' doctor. Indeed, just as Griffiths places the doctor's death as having occurred 'soon after the last crime in the series', the vicar told the Daily Mail that the man he suspected had died 'shortly after committing the last murder' which, said the vicar, was ten years earlier, i.e. late 1888. The Daily Mail took this to be corroborated by Griffiths' claim that the last Jack the Ripper murder had occurred in Miller's Court on 9 November 1888.
Although the Daily Mail noted that Griffiths had said that the police believed the assassin to have been the man found floating in the Thames, it also said that, according to Griffiths, he was only one of three men against whom the police held very plausible and reasonable suspicion so that, for the Mail, the case against him didn't amount to much.
The key point to emerge from the Western Times' report is that the police had strongly denied that the vicar's surgeon was Jack the Ripper. If this man was the same man as Macnaghten's suspect (as Jonathan Hainsworth seems to believe), and the Western Times report was accurate, then the police were denying that Macnaghten's suspect was Jack the Ripper and letting the public know that they deeply distrusted that story. If Macnaghten was the police's spokesman - the 'police circles' referred to by the Western Times - and there is no good reason to think he was (although Hainsworth seems to think he was) - then he was rubbishing his own preferred suspect! So he probably was not the 'police circles' being referred to.
How it's possible for Hainsworth to say that the Western Times report I discovered involves 'Macnaghten admitting to a reporter' that the vicar's suspect had died in the Thames is beyond me.
THE SIMS POEM
I think Hainsworth's next misrepresentation is perhaps even worse. In post 108 in the same thread he writes:
'The MP Henry Farquarharson has been mentioned over there due to an under-researched article in "Ripperologist", one that was welcomed by those many who desperately want to turn the clock back to before Skinner found this breakthrough primary source from 1891 which established that Druitt as the solution to the Ripper case did not originate with Macnaghten in 1894.
We say under-researched because the author did not consider that Macnaghten would have been well aware of Farquharson's flaws as a source. Is there evidence from the era for this opinion. Yes, Christine found an article by George Sims from 1893 covering the MP losing his case for libel. In humourous verse, Sims as Dagonet kicks living hell out of this upper class twit.'
I've highlighted two names in red to show the absurdity of what Hainsworth is saying.
He is purportedly providing evidence to show that Macnaghten was 'well aware of Farquharson's flaws as a source'. And what is the evidence he provides to demonstrate Macnaghten's state of mind? Well knock me down, it's a poem written by a completely different person!!! A poem by Sims.
Even if Hainsworth has understood the poem, which he has not, how in any existing universe can it be said that Macnaghten's awareness of Farquharson's flaws as a source can be demonstrated by what another person (Sims) has written?
Unfortunately it's a reflection of the way Hainsworth thinks, namely that everything written by George Sims is somehow reflecting the opinions of Melville Macnaghten.
But what reason is there to think this? None! Sure, Sims and Macnaghten were good friends but is there any evidence that Sim consulted Macnaghten about every single article he wrote in Referee, or even any one of them? No, there isn't.
Sims' poem related to the law of libel, a civil matter which, not being a criminal matter, had nothing to do with police affairs. So there is no reason for Sims to have discussed it with Macnaghten, either before or after he wrote it.
Furthermore, while Sims was highlighting in his poem the absurdity of Farquharson's legal defence to a libel claim, how is that in any way demonstrating Farquharson's flaws as a source, which is what Hainsworth is claiming the Sims poem provides evidence of?
It gets worse, though, because Hainsworth goes on to say:
'On the one hand what else you would expect as Sims was a socialistic Liberal and Farquharson a ruling elite, landed gentry snob of the Tory Party.
On the other hand, Sims brought up what had been forgotten by all the other reporters who were gleefully piling on the condemnation: that the MP (back in 1891) was so low he was prepared to libel innocent men as "Jack the Ripper".'
No, Hainsworth has misunderstood the poem.
Sims did not bring up from the past what had been forgotten by other reporters. He wasn't saying in his poem that Farquaharson was so low that he was prepared to libel innocent men (or even just one innocent man) as "Jack the Ripper". Not at all. He wasn't saying anything remotely like that. Indeed, there was no allegation in the poem of Farquaharson doing anything bad.
What Sims was doing was highlighting the absurdity of the legal consequences if Farquharson's defence to libel was accepted, so that a false allegation was unpunishable if said in the heat of an election, for it would mean that anyone could say anything about anybody, including that they were a serial killer like Jack the Ripper, without any legal sanction, as long as that allegation was made during an election campaign and was thus made by a candidate against an opposing candidate. It had nothing, repeat nothing, to do with Farquharson's tale about the son of a surgeon from eight years earlier during a period when there was no election and not involving an opposing candidate or, indeed, any identifiable individual.
Hainsworth knows this. I've told him personally by email and publicly on this website. Yet he persists in spreading this absolute misinformation based on a poem which he has clearly not read properly.
While the next example of misrepresentation in Hainsworth's posts is not as egregious, especially as he uses the word 'arguably', rather than stating something as a fact which is not a fact, it is still worthy of comment. In post 107 he wrote:
'We can never measure the evidence that this handful of Victorians had against Montague Druitt, but it convinced them: arguably a police chief, a member of parliament, a bomb disposal expert, a famous writer, a not as famous writer, two clergymen and members of the dead man's family.'
So let's see. Who is he talking about here? I'm going to guess at Macnaghten (police chief), Farquharson (member of parliament), Majendie (bomb disposal expert), Sims (famous writer), Logan? (a not as famous writer), unnamed north country vicar being one clergyman, the second I don't know but I assume it's the vicar to whom the suspect is supposed to have confessed and who passed on the story to the north country vicar.
Let's take Colonel Vivian Majendie, the Chief Inspector of Explosives at Scotland Yard. How is it arguable that he was convinced that Montague Druitt was Jack the Ripper? When did he ever comment on the matter? Surely the argument can't simply be that he was a friend and colleague of Macnaghten and a distant relative of Druitt's which means that he was thereby convinced that Druitt was the Ripper. How does that work? One can't even say that Majendie was aware that Druitt had been accused of the murders. I truly have no idea how Hainsworth feels able to say that it's arguable that Majendie was convinced of Druitt's guilt when there's no evidence whatsoever of this. I can only assume he is thinking of his own unfounded speculation in his book that Majendie might have been the source of Macnaghten's private information but, then, he also speculates that it might have been Farquharson, while, in a later post (#134) he says '...when Macnaghten met with either William or Charles Druitt', suggesting to me, at least, that, for Hainsworth, one of these two men was his source. If someone other than Majendie was Macnaghten's source, such as Farquharson, as Hainsworth seems to think possible, how can it be said that Majendie was convinced by the evidence?
If Hainsworth's not so famous writer is supposed to be Guy Logan it really isn't arguable that he was convinced that Druitt was Jack the Ripper. In the first place, his 1905 serialised novel The True Identity of Jack the Ripper was a work of fiction and cannot be said to represent the author's actual views of the crime. More importantly, nothing, not one thing about his central character, Mortemer Slade, matches Montague Druitt. So there just isn't an argument there. But I can't help wondering if Hainsworth's desperate attempt to make the connection is what explains why he keeps referring to Druitt as a 'sporty barrister'. I do not know what was 'sporty' about Druitt. Sure, he played cricket during the summer but a cricketer isn't normally described as a sporty person. I can only assume he keeps saying this so he can link Druitt to the fictional Slade who was said to have been a boxer (for a specific plot purpose) and, in his mind, a boxer and a cricketer are both 'sporty' so it's the same thing.
As for Farquharson, the only details known about the man he accused of being Jack the Ripper are that he was the son of a surgeon who suffered from homicidal mania and committed suicide on the night of the last murder. While Druitt was the son of a surgeon he couldn't possibly have committed suicide on the night of the last murder (9 November 1888) because he appeared in court as a barrister on 27th November 1888. The only other pointer towards Druitt is that Farquharson happened to represent the constituency of West Dorset, and the Druitts were from western Dorset. So while one can argue that Farquharson thought Druitt was the Ripper, it isn't entirely clear by any means.
As for the north country vicar, it's by no means clear that he was talking about Druitt. Nothing in his story points towards Druitt. The man who had confessed was said to have been a surgeon which Druitt was not. He was said to have died shortly after having committed the last murder but there was no mention in the vicar's story of any form of suicide, let alone by drowning in the Thames. While the vicar appears to have confused Whitechapel, London, with Whitchurch, Dorset, in the title of his story (said to have been entitled 'The Whitechurch Murders: Solution of a London Mystery') this is an extremely tenuous connection to Druitt simply because of what appears to have been a silly geographical error on the vicar's part. Furthermore, George Sims rubbished the vicar's story in his Referee column, suggesting that it was a completely different person to Druitt.
So I would say that there is no possible argument that Majendie was convinced that Druitt was Jack the Ripper, no real argument that Logan was convinced that Druitt was Jack the Ripper, a weak argument that Farquharson was convinced that Druitt was Jack the Ripper and an extremely weak argument that two clergyman thought so. Mind you, Hainsworth seems to think he can argue anything, however implausible, and however lacking any factual basis, so maybe he's right on this one.
THE PARIS ASYLUM
On 26th January (post 136), Hainsworth was back to offer up his theory that "Druitt was the English patient in the French asylum of "The Philadelphia Times" alleged scoop of Jan 13, 1889." He was careful not to give any details of this scoop, and, no wonder, because not a single detail in the story, if correct, can possibly apply to Montague Druitt.
For the story in The Philadelphia Times was filed in Paris on 24th December 1888 at which point, the report says, the unknown English patient in the asylum who was the subject of the story was still in the Paris asylum, whereas Druitt by this time had unquestionably been dead for about three weeks. So there's the first kind of awkward problem for Hainsworth which he would prefer not to mention.
Not only was the patient said to be still in the asylum at the time the report was filed but it was said in the report that two experienced Scotland Yard detectives had arrived in Paris on about 14th December, after having been contacted by the French Police about the patient who was believed by staff in the asylum to be Jack the Ripper due to his own ravings. At the time these detectives were supposed to have arrived in Paris, Druitt was, of course, still dead.
In the story, the patient had arrived at the asylum in about the last week of November. But Druitt was appearing in court at the Royal Courts of Justice in a registration appeal on 27th November 1888. The timing simply does not work.
Hainsworth has to ignore every single detail about the timings in The Philadelphia Times report to create a totally different story whereby, in his reading, Druitt was brought to Paris on about 10th November 1888, immediately after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, and committed to an asylum, on the basis that he murdered her and four other women, and pronounced insane. Despite this, according to Hainsworth, the patient, who had been admitted under a false name by two friends or relatives also using false names, and who was said to be "extremely violent", known for his "frantic ravings" and long periods of sleep induced by opiates - even after having been semi-conscious and asleep for a total period of 60 hours following his admission - and who was reported to the French police after talking about the Whitechapel murders and all the crimes he had committed, causing Scotland Yard detectives to travel to France to interview him, was miraculously cured only about two weeks after his arrival in Paris and, within mere days, somehow (in a fashion Hainsworth can't explain) ends up back in London, free to resume his profession as a barrister, being lucid and successful in arguing a legal case on behalf of his family - the very same people who had caused him to be locked up in an asylum due to his being an insane homicidal serial killer maniac - before Lord Coleridge, Mr Justice Hawkins and Mr Justice Manisty in the Royal Courts of Justice on the 27th November 1888.
This is seriously the story that Hainsworth wants people to swallow although, rather wisely, he doesn't bother to explain that this is the story he is wanting them to swallow when posting about it on JTR Forums.
As for the patient's release from the asylum, Hainsworth seems to think that the Paris asylum would have happily released their insane and extremely violent patient back into the custody of the two men (one a fake barrister the other a fake clergyman) who had brought him to the asylum, despite the director of the asylum and the French police having established that these men had provided false names and false paperwork involving fake certificates of lunacy from deceased London doctors, while using a correspondence address of a small newsvendor's shop. In circumstances in which Scotland Yard were now involved, as well as the French police, it is impossible to see how the two men could possibly have re-appeared in Paris without being subject to criminal charges.
But this is what we are expected to believe.
8 February 2024