So you've read 'Reconstructing Jack', my article from March 2016, which was a response to the first hardback edition of Simon Wood's 'Deconstructing Jack'. That was, sort of, the second edition of Wood's book. The first edition was a kindle/e-book edition published in March 2015. The second was the aforementioned hardback edition published in December 2015 (involving changes made in response to my Suckered! Trilogy). The third and current edition is a hardback and kindle edition published in June 2017, the subject of this article. You may be wondering if Wood made any modifications to his book as a result of my 2016 article.
Yes, he did, is the answer! How wonderful. Let's go through them in Part A. And we can award each one of them a nice big "LOL".
PART A - ERRORS CORRECTED
1. THE JUBILEE PLOT
In his first two editions, Wood said:
'That the Jubilee plot was an invention is perhaps implicit in the fact that James Monro did not receive a knighthood for having spared the life of his Sovereign Lady.'
It was pointed out by me, in my 2016 article, that 'spared' was the wrong word because it means an act of leniency, as if Monro would otherwise have murdered the queen! I also made the point that no-one ever claimed that the Jubilee Plot was designed to assassinate Queen Victoria. It was supposed to have been about causing an explosion at Westminster Abbey. And we find that, in response, Wood has now changed the above sentence in his book to this (with the two additions highlighted in colour):
'That the Jubilee plot was an invention is perhaps implicit in the fact that James Monro was not knighted for having prevented the murder of his Sovereign Lady and the destruction of Westminster Abbey'.
Of course Wood has still got it wrong. It’s not 'implicit' at all that the Jubilee plot was an invention because Monro wasn't knighted. It’s nonsense. The reason Monro wasn’t knighted in 1890 was because he led a rebellion in that year against Her Majesty’s Government over the pensions issue. It had nothing whatsoever to do with whether there had or had not been a Jubilee Plot three years earlier (and it should not be forgotten that Monro received the award of a CB, Companion of Bath, in June 1888 after the men behind a planned Jubilee explosion plot were convicted at the Old Bailey). Furthermore, Monro never ever, either in public or in private, claimed that he had prevented the murder of the Queen and it was never claimed by anyone else on his behalf either.
2. THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR
Regarding the discovery of a leather apron at the scene of Annie Chapman's murder, Wood, the great detective, told us in his first two editions:
'Here is a clue as big as the Rock of Gibraltar. Yet seven detectives and one Divisional surgeon neglected to record its presence in their various reports and testimonies.'
What a fantastic image. A clue as big as the Rock of Gibraltar. Hey, that's massive isn't it? The police missed a massive clue, so they were either stupid or involved in a conspiracy to cover up something, right? Wrong.
As I pointed out in my 2016 article, what Wood thought was a 'clue' was not a clue at all, let alone one as big as the Rock of Gibraltar. The leather apron was established on the day of the murder to have been the property of John Richardson, the son of Amelia Richardson who lived at 29 Hanbury Street.
So now we no longer find any mention of the Rock of Gibraltar in Wood's book.
But, hey, in contrast to the hard pressed police in 1888, Wood has only had forty years to consider the Ripper murders so he can hardly be expected to be up on all the details of the case in such a short period of time.
Wood has also given up on his point that seven detectives and one divisional surgeon neglected to record the presence of the leather apron in their reports. Apart from the fact there was no need for them to do so, as I mentioned in my 2016 article, Wood had miscounted the number of detectives and there was nothing in the point in any case.
3. THE DISAPPEARING CHURCH STREET
In the process of making fun of the police for searching for 'Leather Apron' in the wrong Church Street, Wood told us in his first two books:
'Church Street, Spitalfields, disappeared in 1879, subsumed as the eastern district of Hanbury Street'.
But, oh dear, as I mentioned in my 2016 article, that particular Church Street did not disappear in 1879 at all. It was still there in 1888. Wood had got confused with the other Church Street in Mile End New Town which was renamed Hanbury Street in 1879.
Lo and behold, although Church Street, Spitalfields, did not, in fact, disappear in 1879, the sentence in which its disappearance is mentioned has certainly disappeared from the latest edition of Wood's book!
However, with astonishing cheek, Wood still says that by searching for Pizer in Church Street, Spitalfields, Detective Enright and two constables were 'flashing their bullseye lanterns in completely the wrong district.'
I mean, come on, the irony of Wood confusing the two Church Streets while laughing at the police for confusing the two Church Streets (which they weren't even doing) is hilarious!
And of course the police were not flashing their lanterns in 'completely the wrong district' at all, albeit that they didn't find Pizer in Church Street. Wood seems to think that the police were searching for John Pizer in Church Street, Spitalfields, because he had been seen in Church Street, Mile End New Town, three days earlier. I mean, as if the police were so daft that they thought Pizer would have remained in Church Street for three whole days, just waiting for them to come and find him with their lanterns! It should have been perfectly obvious to Wood that the police were searching for Pizer in Church Street, Spitalfields, because they had reason to believe he might be in Church Street, Spitalfields. According to the Star newspaper of 6 September 1888, they went there because of 'a rumour having located the suspected man there.'
4. GOODBYE COWAN & SONS
For some reason, in his first two editions, Wood told us that it should perhaps be noted that a large sugar refiner of the time was Cowan & Sons located in Barnes in Richmond upon Thames. Why did he share this information with us? Well, it was because Cowan's Sugar Refinery sounds similar to Cohen's Sugar Refinery in Spitalfields which was near where Pizer was supposedly accused of being 'Leather Apron' in the street.
As I said in 'Reconstructing Jack': 'So did the eye-witness to the verbal assault on the man accused of being 'Leather Apron' confuse a refinery in Spitalfields with one across the other side of London, in Barnes? Rather unlikely'.
And LOL! Wood has had second thoughts. He doesn't, after all, think that 'it should perhaps be noted' that there was a refinery in Barnes called Cowen's Sugar Refinery. He no longer thinks it's of any relevance at all.
Strange that it needed me to tell him.
5. THE RE-SEXING OF THE EYE-WITNESS
In the first two editions, Wood referred to the 'Eye-Witness' who witnessed the arrest of Leather Apron as 'he/she'. I pointed out in 'Reconstructing Jack' that there was a clue as big as the Rock of Gibraltar that 'Eye-Witness' was male and, whaddya know, Wood now refers to 'Eye-Witness' as 'he'. LOL!
6. THE EVER CHANGING TIME ON 9 NOVEMBER
It will be recalled that, in the very first edition of his book, Wood was evidently under the impression that Sir Charles Warren wasn't informed of the murder of Mary Jane Kelly until 12.30pm on 9 November 1888. For that reason, using typical Wood logic, he didn't think that Inspector Abberline could possibly have reached the murder scene from Scotland Yard as early as 11.30am, as the detective claimed in his evidence at Kelly's inquest. The point was hopeless because Abberline was based in Whitechapel at the time, not Scotland Yard. But it gets worse because, as usual, Wood had misunderstood the source material. It was the Home Office which was informed of Kelly's murder at 12.30pm not Warren.
In the third edition, Wood is reduced to asking, feebly, whether it was Warren or the Home Office which learnt of the murder at 12.30pm - LOL! - but the answer, as I had already told him (in my sub-article, 'The Missing Hour, Found!' within 'Some Thoughts') was the Home Office. Wood obviously accepts this because he now asks why it took 90 minutes for a letter written by Sir Charles Warren bearing news of the murder to reach the Home Office, four hundred yards away from Scotland Yard, bearing in mind that Anderson says that the news reached him at Scotland Yard shortly after 11am.
It's hard to know what Wood thinks the significance of any delay would be, because he doesn't bother to explain it to his readers, but it would obviously take a certain amount of time for a hard copy letter to be sent from one building in Whitehall to another. One can only imagine that Warren would have placed such a sealed letter in an out-tray for collection by an internal messenger within Scotland Yard. That letter would then have been collected and taken to a mail room where it would have been recorded in some kind of ledger for administrative purposes before another messenger walked it over to the Home Office. At the Home Office it would, presumably, have been logged by the mail room and then an internal messenger within the Home Office would have walked it up to the recipient, Godfrey Lushington.
Frankly, it seems a model of efficiency for that process to be completed within 90 minutes. Perhaps Wood thinks that the Commissioner of Police walked all his letters over to the Home Office in person. Or perhaps he thinks that there was a messenger who was paid to remain on 24 hour standby at all times to run a letter over to any building in Whitehall at the drop of a hat. Internal office systems don't work like that. Perhaps Wood thinks that a telegram should have been sent from Scotland Yard to the Home Office but telegrams cost money and it would surely have been a complete waste of money to do this when there was obviously an efficient messenger system in operation between the two organisations. In any case, as at 12.30pm, the door to Kelly's room had not yet even been broken into so there is no significance whatsoever in the time when the Home Office learnt of the murder.
Amazingly, Wood has still not corrected his error in saying that Sir Charles Warren's letter to the Home Office was addressed to Charles Stuart-Wortley. It was not. It was addressed to the 'Under Secretary of State' and Warren would always intend such letters for the permanent under secretary, Godfrey Lushington, not the parliamentary under secretary, Charles Stuart-Wortley. I explained this to him back in 2015 but If Wood wants to misinform his readers of the facts that's entirely up to him, although I would have thought it will make it difficult to get to the bottom of what was going on if he does so.
I made the point in 'Reconstructing Jack' that, despite Wood deleting his claim that Sir Charles Warren didn't learn about the Kelly murder until 12.30pm from his second edition, some poor editing meant that two pages later Wood was still saying that Warren didn't learn of the murder until 'an hour-and-a-half later' than 11am. Readers will be pleased to know that Wood has accepted my proof reading and deleted that sentence - LOL! - although my contribution remains unacknowledged.
The other related mistake that Wood made in the first two editions of his book was to suggest that Superintendent Arnold couldn't possibly have spoken to Robert Anderson about the murder at 11am (as Anderson related to a reporter) because he simply couldn't have reached Scotland Yard in time after the discovery of the murder. I had to explain to Wood that Superintendent Arnold was already at Scotland Yard that morning due to preparations for the Lord Mayor's Parade. So once again, another of Wood's crazy suspicions falls away and Wood now includes in the third edition the very extract from Police Orders that I had directed his attention to in my Reconstructing Jack article. LOL!
7. THE MAGICAL TRANSFORMING DR GABE
On 12 October 2015, Wood posted on the Censorship Forum that Dr Gabe 'was not a gynaecologist'. A few days later, on 20 October, I asked Wood: 'Why do you say that Dr Gabe was not a gynaecologist'. His answer, a full six days later, was this:
'The reason I said Gabe wasn't a gynaecologist was because he never hung his qualification on a shingle.'
He had, however, obviously managed to do some checking in the interim and discovered, no doubt to his great surprise, that Dr Gabe was a founding fellow of the British Gynaecological Society. However, he still believed that he couldn't be described as a gynaecologist because he was listed in the Post Office Directory as an M.D. and a surgeon.
I told him in response the next day that, 'Of course he was a gynaecologist, Simon!'. In reply, Simon, loudly and confidently, told me that my statement was 'loud confident and wrong.' When I asked him why, he didn't explain but told me that I could find out for myself.
Shortly afterwards, I backed up my statement with an article on this website entitled 'Gynaecologist Society' which showed that none of the known leading gynaecologists of the day were listed in directories as 'gynaecologists'.
And now, lo and behold, in the third edition of his book, Wood finally confesses that: 'Dr Gabe was also a gynaecologist'. LOL! LOL!
Nevertheless, Wood doesn't think this can explain why Dr Gabe was present at Miller's Court and he says that Gabe was surplus to requirements, even though none of the other doctors at Miller's Court had gynaecological expertise.
But there is an even more straightforward explanation to explain Dr Gabe being at Miller's Court which was unknown to Simon Wood until I drew his attention to it. This is that Dr Gabe was, at the time, the resident medical officer of the London Dispensary in Church Street which was literally round the corner from Dorset Street. If the call had gone out locally for the assistance of a medical man, especially one with gynaecological experience, Dr Gabe would have been able to attend within minutes.
According to Wood, in the third edition of his book, one unnamed Ripperologist has suggested that Dr Gabe 'just happened to be in the area and dropped in out of professional courtesy.' It's a mystery who he is referring to because I haven't seen this argument made by anyone and I think I've been paying attention.
Strangely, Wood doesn't seem to wonder what Dr Dukes was doing at Miller's Court. For if Dr Gabe was surplus to requirements then surely so was Dr Dukes, a local doctor who was, for sure, a fellow of the Obstetrical Society, but with Dr Bagster Phillips, Dr Brown and Dr Bond in attendance why was he needed?. When I asked him this, Wood replied, 'Perhaps it was his proximity. Dr William Profit Dukes lived at 75 Brick Lane'. This was before he knew that Dr Gabe's place of work was even closer to Miller's Court than Dr Dukes! If Dr Dukes' proximity can explain his appearance at Miller's Court then why doesn't the same apply to Dr Gabe? Wood subsequently told me that Dr Dukes was a police surgeon but then so was Dr Phillips, who was the divisional surgeon, so why was another one needed?
In the third edition of his book, Wood still gets the order of attendance of the medical men at Miller's Court wrong. Misled by inaccurate newspaper reporting, he claims that Dr Dukes was the first doctor to reach Miller's Court and that he left following the arrival of Dr Phillips. This cannot possibly be true because Dr Phillips, as his evidence at the inquest made clear, arrived at 11.15am, long before the door to Miller's Court was forced open. We know that Dr Dukes entered Miller's Court with the other doctors so it's simply impossible for Dukes to have left following Dr Phillips' arrival. It's perfectly clear that Phillips arrived at the scene before Dukes. Wood falsely states the order of appearance so that he doesn't have to explain what Dr Dukes was doing at Miller's Court with all the other doctors. But it's clear that both Dr Dukes and Dr Phillips were inside Miller's Court at the same time. Here is what was reported in the Times of 10 November 1888:
'Dr Phillips, on his arrival, carefully examined the body of the dead woman, and later on again made a second examination, in company with Dr. Bond, from Westminster, Dr Gordon Brown, from the City, Dr Duke (sic), from Spitalfields, and Dr. Phillips's assistant.'
So Phillips was there first and subsequently examined the body with Dr Bond, Dr Brown and Dr Dukes. We also know that Dr Gabe was present although we don't know what time he arrived, despite Wood claiming that he arrived after Dr Bond (who arrived at around 2pm). Although Wood does not give a source reference for this claim in his book, it most certainly comes from a single agency press report which states:
'The whole space was closely packed with detective officers, and quite a small army of plain-constables was located in Dorset Street within an astonishing short space of time. Dr. Phillips, the divisional surgeon of police, soon arrived, and was followed by Dr. Bond, of Westminster, divisional surgeon of the A. Division, and Dr. J.R. Gabe of Mecklenburgh Square; and two or three other surgeons.'
Read properly, this isn't saying that Dr Gabe arrived after Dr Bond, only that both Dr Gabe and Dr Bond arrived after Dr Phillips. This is uncontroversial because we know that Dr Phillips was the first to arrive (although not Wood who, as we have seen, seems to think it was Dr Dukes). It's another example of how Wood misuses sources to arrive at the conclusion he prefers.
It transpired on the Forum that, at the time he wrote the first two editions of his book, Wood was under the impression that Joseph Barnett had let slip in an interview with the Star that Mary Kelly had a little boy, aged six or seven years, living with her. However, on analysis of the newspaper reporting following the murder, it is evident that the source of this information wasn't Barnett as Wood believed. In fact, it was information that was never confirmed. In addition, Wood was unaware that Dr Gabe was the resident medical officer of the London Dispensary around the corner from Dorset Street and he was also unaware that Gabe had gynaecological expertise.
Given Dr Gabe's proximity to Dorset Street, as well as the fact that he possessed expertise that none of other doctors at Miller's Court had, it isn't any kind of mystery why Dr Gabe was present at the inspection of Mary Kelly's corpse. For Wood, however, in ignorance of Dr Gabe's proximity to the crime scene, as well as his expertise, and believing that Barnett had told a newspaper reporter that Kelly had been looking after a little boy, Dr Gabe's presence at Miller's Court that day could only be explained by the fact that Dr Gabe was the medical officer of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Believing Gabe to have come from Mecklenburgh Street, Camden, he could only see a scenario where the doctor had travelled urgently across London to attend to the little boy.
On its own, this scenario is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, if Dr Gabe was at Miller's Court to attend urgently to a child, what was he doing ignoring that child and inspecting Mary Kelly's dead body? Secondly, the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children did not run a hospital or a service for treating sick children. Its primary role was to prosecute cases of child abuse. It employed an in-house doctor to examine abused children in order for that doctor to give evidence in court about the nature of the physical effects of the abuse. It wasn't his role to treat sick children in other words. There is no mention in any of the (false) reports about the child that he had been brutalized or even that he was sick. The police would surely only have contacted the LSPCC if there was the possibility of launching a prosecution against someone for abusing the child but if Kelly was the child's protector she was now dead. Who did they want to prosecute?
It's difficult to conceive of a sensible reason, therefore, for summoning Dr Gabe in order to attend to a child even if Kelly had been looking after one, but when we understand that Gabe was a doctor with gynaecological knowledge who worked at the London Dispensary in Church Street, Spitalfields, we really don't need to trouble ourselves about why Dr Gabe was at Miller's Court. There is no mystery here at all.
Yet, Wood cannot let it go. In the third version of his book, ignoring all the evidence that says otherwise, Wood tells us that Gabe's attendance 'appears to have been primarily on behalf of the little boy'. This is rather different from what he said in the first editions of his book in which he claimed that there appeared to be 'little doubt' that the presence of a child explains the presence of Dr Gabe. Somehow it seems that some doubt has now crept into Wood's mind. LOL!
As I said in 'Reconstructing Jack', Wood never even tells us in the first editions of his book what the significance of Kelly having had a child with her would have been. He still fails to do so in the third edition. The reason is, obviously, that he doesn't have a clue.
8. MONRO'S RESIGNATION
While Wood still cannot shake from his mind the false and ridiculous notion that James Monro resigned as Commissioner for some reason connected with the legal dispute between Inspector Jarvis and Henry Labouchere, he does seem to have taken some facts that I posted about Monro's resignation on board. For we find Wood stating in a footnote that the main sticking point for Monro was his insistence that police officers would be able to retire on a maximum pension after 25 years service whereas, having initially insisted on 28 years, Matthews finally compromised on 26 years.
This deserves a a big LOL! because Wood originally thought that Matthews gave in to all of Monro's demands, but only after Monro resigned. It was supposed to be a bait and switch. After I did all the research into the issue and explained it to him, he now knows that Matthews didn't quite do everything Monro had been demanding.
Amusingly, Wood also now quotes in a footnote from Monro's 1890 article on the subject of police pensions in the New Review which he had never mentioned until I posted about it on this website. Wood doesn't seem to be able to bring himself to admit that the fact that Monro wrote and had published an article on the subject after his resignation demonstrates the importance of the issue to him of police pensions. It was why he resigned as Commissioner after all!
9. ARE YOU SHAW?
In the first two editions of his book, Wood recorded that Henry Matthews answered a question in the House of Commons about inspectors Jarvis and Shaw but wrote 'Shaw [Shore]' as if the reference in the question to Shaw was intended to be to Shore. It needed me to point out to Wood that there was an Inspector Shaw in the C.I.D. at the time and that the Home Secretary must have understood the question to refer to this officer rather than Superintendent Shore.
At last, Wood now accepts that the questions were about Jarvis and Shaw and he adds in a footnote that there was an Inspector Edward Shaw in V Division. LOL!
But Wood can't just leave it there and he says that Robert Anderson's 'homophonous' reference to Shaw rather than Shore is 'interesting' although he doesn't explain what is interesting about it and it's hard to think of anything less interesting. The Home Secretary was asked about an Inspector Shaw in a written question and Anderson provided an answer for the Home Secretary about the only Inspector Shaw in the police force.
In passing, we may note that Wood reproduces a quote from Robert Anderson which appeared in my Suckered! Trilogy (but not in the first two editions of his book) confirming that Inspector Andrews was not in the United States in 1888 and the whole story in that respect being a stupid fabrication. Just more research done by me which ends up in Wood's book without acknowledgment.
10. FUNNY FANNIE
In one of the few direct references to me in his book (although not by name), Wood refers to my comment in 'Reconstructing Jack' about his spelling of the first name of the wife of Inspector Jarvis and describes it as 'nit picking'. In an earlier article, 'Fred Jarvis and the Secret Cypher', I had stated that the full name of Mrs F.S. Jarvis was Fannie Sarah Jarvis and noted that she and her husband were recorded as passengers on the Arizona which sailed from Liverpool on 17 November 1888, something of which Wood had been wholly unaware.
The point I was making in 'Reconstructing Jack' was that, in subsequently copying my research in his book, Wood referred to Mrs Jarvis as 'Fannie', as I had done, despite having previously referred to her in his book as 'Fanny'. Moreover, I pointed out that he had forgotten to amend one of the references so that he called her 'Fannie' at one point in the book and 'Fanny' in another.
My point wasn't really anything to do with spelling but with the fact that Wood had lifted information from my article without acknowledgment, yet had given himself away by using my spelling of Mrs Jarvis' name which was inconsistent with the way he had spelled it elsewhere. In his book, Wood pretends to misunderstand the point by saying that it is spelled 'Fanny' in the 1881 census but 'Fannie' in other sources, including on her gravestone. You'd think the gravestone would be correct wouldn't you? But not Wood. So he says he flipped a coin (although the truth is surely that he just didn't want to follow MY spelling) and has changed all the spellings in his book to 'Fanny', which is wrong!. LOL!
To the extent it matters, the correct spelling of Mrs Jarvis' name is definitely 'Fannie'. It's how Fred Jarvis spelled her name in his handwritten will - something Wood is unaware of - and you'd think he would have known how to spell his wife's name, wouldn't you?. Jarvis says in his will: 'I have a wife living one Fannie Sarah Jarvis maiden name Curtiss born at Tarrytown state of New York, United States of America.' So Wood's pretend coin flip was a bad idea.
Mind you, he might have been a bit flustered by the fact that I had already pointed out to him that Fred Jarvis didn't die of apoplexy in 1899 as he had stated in the first edition of his book nor did he have a (biological) son called Walter as he had also stated. More importantly, I had demonstrated to him that Jarvis was present at the arrest of Thomas Barton despite Wood originally being convinced that he was elsewhere, chasing Irish Nationalists for the Times or something.
Talking of Mrs Jarvis, we now find that Wood includes in the third edition of his book some long extracts from a letter from Mrs Jarvis which was published in the New York World of 13 September 1887. This didn't appear in the first two editions of his book but now suddenly appears in the third edition after it was mentioned by me in my article 'The English Detective' published on 29 September 2016. I referred to it because it shows that not all of the Scotland Yard detectives were good friends and was thus relevant to a point I was making in that article. I really don't know why Wood has included it in his book, though, because it doesn't seem to have any significance to anything he is saying in his book and, as usual, Wood does not explain why he thinks it is relevant.
11. WOOD'S FANTASY
Wood says that, under the name 'Johnstone', James Thompson, a former Metropolitan Police superintendent, had been staying at the Gilsey House Hotel in New York since November 1888 having been sent there by Robert Anderson. No source is provided for the last part of the statement. As I said in 'Reconstructing Jack,' it is 'pure fantasy' on Wood's part; he has confused a mission which might have been initiated by Robert Anderson, while he was working for the secret service, but before he had joined the Metropolitan Police Force, in the summer of 1887, for the Thomsons to go to Boulogne to spy on General Millen, with a quite separate mission for Thomson to go to New York in November 1888 on behalf of the Times to persuade Millen to give evidence at the Special Commission, a mission with which Robert Anderson had absolutely no involvement.
The interesting thing about the third edition is that Wood has, bizarrely, added a footnote at this point, not to provide any evidence that Anderson had sent Thomson to New York in November 1888 but to support a claim that Anderson had sent Thomson to Boulogne in the summer of 1887!!!
He's obviously seen my claim that what he has written about the 1888 mission is a fantasy, yet has such apparent contempt for his readers that he makes no attempt to change the text at this point but decides to add a footnote which doesn't provide any support to what he is saying the book but provides support for what I said in my article!!! The casual reader who doesn't bother to check will surely think that Wood's footnote must support the point he is making when it does no such thing. Indeed, there is no evidence which supports Wood's point. If he is simply going to make up facts why not just write fiction?Here's a funny thing though. In 'Reconstructing Jack' I wrote:
'While on the subject of expenses, we may note that Wood also says it is 'not known' whether the expenses of former Superintendent James Thomson incurred while staying at the Gilsey House Hotel were being paid for by the Times. On this point I can actually inform Wood that these expenses WERE being paid for by the Times because Thomson was in New York on behalf of the Times. The Times' lawyer, Joseph Soames, testified before the Special Commission on 15 February 1889 that he paid Thomson £500.'
Now, lo and behold, Wood adds into his text that Thomson was paid £500 by Joseph Soames!! LOL!
In passing, we may note that Wood has included the wrong reference in his book. He attributes Soames' statement that he paid Thomson £500 to his evidence before the Special Commission on 14 February 1889 but on that day Soames said that he paid Thomson £300. This evidence was corrected on the next day, during cross-examination, to £500, so the correct reference so Soames's evidence should have been to his evidence before the Commission on 15 February 1889, as I said in my article.
In his testimony on 14 February, Soames said in the clearest possible terms, 'I sent one other agent [Thomson] to America...Last autumn.' Yet, despite this, Wood perversely says in his book that it was Anderson who 'sent' Thomson to America in November 1888, having changed the previous wording in his earlier edition that Thomson had been 'charged' by Anderson to go to America. I've no idea what the difference between the two is but Wood has simply ignored Soames' evidence that he sent Thomson to America despite citing his evidence before the Special Commission of that very same day, albeit inaccurately, about the amount of money he had paid Thomson.
If Soames was paying Thomson's expenses where does Anderson come into this? The answer is that he doesn't, and Wood is doing no more than trying to write his own version of history without any factual support at all, while knowing full well that I was claiming that his version was untrue and a fantasy.
We might also note that, in the process of making the above amendment to his third edition, Wood has now deleted his claim that it is 'not known' whether the expenses of the Thomsons were paid for out of police funds. LOL! He now says that it is not known if the per diems of the Thomsons were being paid for by Scotland Yard. I don't know what difference Wood thinks there is between expenses and per diems but clearly the expenses and per diems, to the extent they are different, were not being paid by Scotland Yard, they were being paid for by the Times, and Wood does himself no credit in persisting in making this point when he now knows and actually says himself that Thomson was paid £500 by Joseph Soames on behalf of the Times.
At this point, the section of Wood's book gets worse because he adds in a new claim that Thomson's conduit to Anderson and Monro was the British Consul in New York, William Hoare. The sensible reader of Wood's book should now be saying 'WAIT! Where does Monro come into this?' For, in the previous paragraph, Wood had said no more than that Thomson had been charged by Anderson to go to New York. Now it's suddenly become Anderson AND Monro.
The reason Wood has introduced Monro into the equation is simply so that he can produce as a footnote reference a report by Nicholas Gosselin dated 7 October 1896 in which Gosselin said that, in 1890, the secret service work was being carried out in London by Commissioner Monro and in New York by William Hoare. Perhaps only Wood can reach the conclusion that because Monro was running the secret service work in London 1890 this means he must have despatched Thomson to New York in 1888! And further, only Wood can then go on to state that this also means that Anderson had sent Thomson to New York. It really is all fantasy, being the product of Wood's overactive imagination about what Scotland Yard were doing.
The fact of the matter is that Thomson was sent to New York by Joseph Soames, on behalf of the Times newspaper, who paid all his expenses. Anderson and Monro had nothing to do with it. If Wood wants to say otherwise he needs to produce some evidence. If he simply manufactures stories and says that Anderson and Monro did things for which there is no evidence then of course he is going to end up with all kinds of false conclusions: stuff about people who existed not existing and all that. Indeed, if he is going to publish his own speculative fantasy as if it is established fact, why not just go the whole hog and say that Robert Anderson killed all of the women and be done with it? The evidence for this is the same as the evidence for Anderson sending Thomson to America in November 1888, i.e. none.
Wood certainly seems to have concluded that Anderson and Monro were assisting the Times during 1888 despite both men having expressly denied doing so. No doubt he regards this as 'the fog of denial' so ignores it.
12. THE LABOUCHERE SETTLEMENT
A major victory for this site is that the entire claptrap imagined by Wood about the settlement of the Labouchere proceedings being related in some way to the O'Shea divorce proceedings has been deleted. LOL! It will be recalled that this theory was hurriedly added to Wood's hardback edition after I had demolished the idea that Labouchere was being blackmailed by the British Government into making a humiliating climbdown in the libel action brought by Inspector Jarvis.
This (in red) is what has been deleted:
'That at the eleventh hour Labouchere finally realised the error of his ways and decided to quietly settle out of court rather than face an embarrassing public climb-down is easy to believe doing so would be to ignore a hugely important political issue playing out at the time' (p.95 of book)
In deleting these words Wood IS now ignoring this so called 'hugely important political issue' (i.e. O'shea's divorce) for we hear no more about it.
Wood's third attempt at trying to explain Labouchere's humiliating climbdown, something which requires no explanation at all, because it was obviously due to Labouchere realizing he had got it wrong about Jarvis being in Kansas City and Del Norte, Colorado, is that it was something unspecified to do with...well I don't really know actually, he doesn't say.
What he does do is replace the words in red above with: 'some behind-the-scenes shenanigans.' These 'behind the scenes shenanigans' appear, as far as can be deduced from Wood's book, to be a reference to the contents of a file at the National Archives containing correspondence between senior officers in the Metropolitan Police, Wontners, Jarvis and the Home Office about allowing Jarvis to have permission to sue Labouchere for libel. I first mentioned the existence of this file in the third part of my Suckered! Trilogy, having transcribed and quoted almost the entirety of it. It's literally impossible to see what there is in this file which can explain why Labouchere decided to settle the libel proceedings brought by Jarvis in such a humiliating fashion. Other than a note reporting the result of the proceedings in October 1890, and a note relating to a parliamentary question asked in the House in June about why Jarvis was in America, the file ends on 16 May 1890 when Jarvis was given permission by the Home Secretary to commence proceedings. So how can anything in that file possibly explain why Labouchere made what even Wood describes as an embarrassing climbdown five months later?
The answer is that it cannot and it does not. Wood's third attempt to try and explain away Labouchere's actions fails yet again. He will never succeed because the answer is already known.
Wood still completely misunderstands Wontners' letter before action. It was not saying, as Wood reads it, that if Inspector Jarvis had travelled to Del Norte to see Sheridan it was of his own volition. Wonters were saying that Jarvis did not travel to Del Norte to see Sheridan, full stop. Wood simply does not understand that solicitors do not write prejudicial letters about their clients to opposing parties. What they were doing in writing to Labouchere by saying 'if what you suggest be true...' was demonstrating to Labouchere that what he had said was libellous and would involve him paying damages to their client. They weren't agreeing with him that it might be true!! Wood's lack of understanding of legal matters is so immense as to be laughable.
At the same time, Wood retains his claim that Labouchere’s allegation should have been the easiest thing in the world for Scotland Yard to quash and says that, 'there is not one record of anyone asking for, or, indeed, offering, some form of documentary evidence to the effect that Jarvis could not have been in Kansas City or Del Norte between 20th and 25th December 1888'. Well, sadly, for Wood that is no longer true because I have found such documentary evidence, being the existence of 25 official reports written by Inspector Jarvis while he was on the Barton case and which were disclosed to Labouchere during the libel proceedings (see my article 'Secrets of the Queen's Bench' in Ripperologist 164).
In the context of desperately attempting to link Monro's resignation to the Labouchere libel action, Wood moves into the realm of fantasy and fabrication when he says that there were more people who didn't want the Jarvis action to go ahead than were in favour of it. Weirdly, he doesn't manage to identify a single person who didn't want the Jarvis action to go ahead! You'd think that if he had identified all these people who didn't want the Jarvis action to go ahead he could have named at least a few of them. It's another element of the fictional story that Wood seems to be determined to write.
This fiction continues with a completely new paragraph in which Wood offers a barking mad theory that Monro was using the Jarvis libel action as a 'cat's paw' to bring the matter before a court of law. Why was he doing this? Because, says Wood, he was out to topple the Home Secretary!!! Not just that, but Wood thinks that Monro was possibly out to topple Anderson too!!!
This odd theory seems to be derived from a comment of Anderson that there was a 'painful incident' between him and Monro on the eve of Monro's resignation as Commissioner which broke up the close relationship between the two men. Wood dismisses the possibility I offered up, namely that the disagreement was over the issue of how best to respond to the Home Secretary's proposal about police pensions. That strikes me as a reasonable suggestion especially bearing in mind that Anderson's close friend, Edmund Yates, editor of the British journal, the World, was critical in print of Monro's decision to resign. Without offering any explanation at all, Wood says that the matter of police pensions and superannuation was unlikely to be the cause of the argument. But why? Why could they not have had a disagreement about the crucial issue of the day?
Wood appears to think that the painful incident that broke up the relationship between Monro and Anderson was the prospect of Anderson being subpoenaed as a Jarvis 'defense witness'. It's not clear which of the two, in Wood's mind, was supposed to have been opposed to this but assuming it was Monro (on the basis that Anderson would, presumably, have been gagging to give evidence against Labouchere in court) that would appear to be inconsistent with Wood's theory of Monro deliberately initiating the court proceedings in order to force Anderson's resignation. Surely it would have been part of Monro's cunning plan for Anderson to be torn apart during cross-examination. So he wouldn't have opposed it nor would Anderson. Why, therefore, would there have been an argument? In any case, it was far too early in the litigation to be thinking about who was going to be giving evidence for Jarvis to the extent of having an argument about it. Jarvis, of course, was the plaintiff (i.e. the claimant) in the proceedings so would not have had any defence witnesses. Labouchere was the defendant in the action. It's another example of Wood not knowing what he is talking about with legal matters.
When Monro resigned on 10 June, the Jarvis litigation was only a few weeks old. The writ had only been issued on 21 May. It would appear that the Statement of Claim on behalf of Jarvis was only served on 13 June, after Monro's resignation. This means that, at the time Monro resigned, Labouchere hadn't yet filed his Defence. Anyone who knows anything about litigation will know that a claimant can't plan his trial strategy until the defendant has filed a Defence. I mean, Jarvis and his solicitors couldn't have known if Labouchere was going to plead that his allegations were true or whether he was going to admit they were false but nevertheless defend the action on a point of law. It makes no sense, therefore, for Monro and Anderson to have had any kind of argument about whether Anderson would give evidence on behalf of Jarvis because both men could have had no idea at that time whether anyone would need to give factual evidence in court.
Wood's obsession that Monro's resignation had something to do with the Jarvis libel action borders on madness. It patently had nothing whatsoever to do with it. There is no possible connection between the two things at all.
I must also repeat that when Monro said that he resigned 'because he had refused to do what he considered to be wrong' he meant no more than that he refused to agree to a reduced pension for his men because to have done so (which would have been easy for him as a wealthy individual) would, in his view, have been wrong. Indeed, he would have regarded it as a betrayal of his men. This is hard cheese for the conspiracy theorists to swallow but his comment had nothing to with him being instructed to do something wrong by the government.
We may note, incidentally, that, following my Suckered! articles, in which I quoted from Monro's article on police pensions published in the New Review of September 1890, Wood has amended a sentence in his book in which he said that little was heard of Monro save for an article he wrote in an Italian periodical. He has now inserted into that sentence that little was heard from Monro save for an article on police pensions in The New Review. LOL!
Of course, Wood doesn't absorb what he now knows. As mentioned above, he doesn't seem to realize that Monro wrote this article because of the importance he attributed to the issue of police pensions. Other than mentioning its existence, he basically just ignores it as if it doesn't exist.
13. THE CURTIS BENNETT INQUIRY
In his first edition, Wood included a newspaper report dated 15 July 1888 referring to a mention of a secret inquiry being conducted by the magistrate Mr. Curtis Bennett and he then said there was no further mention of Curtis Bennett's inquiry which 'remained secret'.
On 16 April 2017, I posted on the Censorship Forum to ask if anyone had any information about the Curtis Bennett inquiry. I already knew what it was about but wanted to know if anyone else did. The first response was from Simon Wood who suggested it might have had a connection to an inquiry into a fire in the basement of No. 3 Palace Yard used for storing Fenian records.
It's a good example of how Wood seems to think that everything going on in 1888 was connected with Ireland and the Fenians. It's also another example of Wood getting it very wrong.
As I went on to explain, the inquiry was actually into alleged corruption within the Receiver's office at Scotland Yard. And now, the third edition of Wood's book contains a press report from the Star of 16 July 1888 (the very day after the other press report he quoted) which explains that the Curtis Bennett inquiry was into corruption in the Receiver's Department. LOL!
Far from there being no further mention of Curtis Bennet's 'secret' inquiry, the purpose of it was always clearly explained in the Star!
And, yes, Wood has deleted his sentence about there being no further mention of the inquiry and the following sentence about the secret inquiry remaining secret. LOL!
14. THE MYSTERIOUS INSPECTOR SOYLE AGAIN!
It will be recalled that in the first (e-book) edition of Wood's book, we were told in a footnote that Superintendent Shore 'may have been' the Detective Inspector Soyle who supposedly gave an interview to the Philadelphia Times at some point between 21 and 24 November 1888. Then, after I noted in the 2015 Suckered! Trilogy that Superintendent Shore could not have been in the United States in November 1888 because he was genuinely off sick with eczema for most of the month and, after returning to work, attended a meeting at Scotland Yard, Wood removed this claim in the hardback version of his book and said that Soyle 'may not have been' Detective Inspector Soyle. LOL!
Now in this new edition he has brought the issue out of being just a footnote and included the information I had published two years earlier in the Suckered! Trilogy about Shore's eczema. LOL!
So now we are told that 'on the face of things' Shore could not have been Soyle. LOL!
But Wood just can't let the point go. He mentions that sometimes Superintendent Shore was referred to in the press as an inspector as if he is saying that perhaps he could have been Inspector Soyle after all.
Sadly, the dream is over for Wood. On 28 August 2016 I made an addition to 'Reconstructing Jack' to note that John Shore's police records state that he had brown eyes whereas, as Wood himself notes in his book, Soyle was said to have had 'steel-blue eyes'. So that's the final nail in the coffin for the idea of the two men being the same person, not that Wood sees fit to mention Shore's eye colour in his book.
There was definitely no inspector called Soyle at Scotland Yard during this period (as confirmed by the Post Office directories which list all Metropolitan Police inspectors) so we really have to conclude that this man was an invention.
15. JOSHUA JONES
In the hardback edition of his book, Wood reassured any of his readers who were worried that Joshua Jones (the pawnbroker based in Church Street who had possession of items for which Catherine Eddowes held pawn tickets at the time of her murder) might have been a shady character in the world of Whitechapel pawnbroking that Jones and his son had made a number of expert witness appearances at the Old Bailey. I pointed out to him in the Censorship Forum that he was wrong about this and that Jones and his son were merely witnesses of fact, not expert witnesses.
Wood now says that Jones and his son were not shady characters in Whitechapel pawnbroking simply because they made a number of witness appearances at the Old Bailey. LOL! But this does not follow at all. As I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack', the only reason they were witnesses for the prosecution so many times was that they kept on accepting stolen goods from people in pawn who gave them false names. How does the fact that they occasionally gave evidence in court mean that they were respectable? The answer is that it doesn't.
16. RESIGNATION OF WARREN
It may be recalled that in Reconstructing Jack I said, 'I can offer Simon a lifeline of sorts by directing his attention to a report in the London Evening Post of 12 November 1888 which said that Sir Charles handed in his resignation on the evening of Saturday, 10 November 1888. That report said that Sir Charles consulted with friends on the Saturday and then sent in his resignation.' Lo and behold Wood has been onto the British Newspaper Archive and found reference to the Press Association report on which the Evening Post based its story and included it in the third edition of his book, LOL! Unusually, Wood doesn't give a reference to an actual newspaper, no doubt because he has only found the story in regional newspapers whereas I cited a London newspaper.
Naturally, there is no consideration by Wood as to whether the Press Association or the Evening Post could have got it wrong. If it's in the newspapers it must be true!
PART B - FAILURE BY WOOD TO CORRECT KNOWN ERRORS
Now, you might think that someone who is so bothered by criticism of how to spell a name correctly, and ensures that the name Fanny/Fannie is made consistent in his book, will make sure that he corrects all errors that are pointed out to him wouldn't you? Well you would be wrong.
I'm sure everyone will agree that it would be both incomprehensible and reprehensible for an author to deliberately and knowingly allow falsehoods to remain in his or her book. This is why it is so baffling that Wood allows a number of serious factual errors to remain in 'Deconstructing Jack' without any correction, despite them being clearly pointed out to him.
We have seen from the above that Wood has read all my articles on this website and he's corrected some mistakes as a result. He certainly confirmed on the Censorship Forum that he had read 'Reconstructing Jack'. Yet, for some reason, Wood has failed to correct a large number of serious errors which remain in his third edition.
I would argue that in allowing errors to go uncorrected Wood is showing contempt for the people who purchase and read his book. It is something I cannot understand. Why would anyone be happy for their readers to be fed falsehoods and errors? Let us list those errors, all of which have been mentioned either in 'Reconstructing Jack' or in another of my articles on this site.
1. THE NON-ARRIVAL OF THE SCOTLAND YARD DETECTIVES IN MADRID
One very serious error that Wood makes in his book is to say that Richard Pigott shot himself in the head as two detectives arrived from Scotland Yard to arrest him. This must mean (according to Wood) that there were two Scotland Yard detectives present in Madrid, if not inside the Hotel de Embajadores, at the time of Pigott's death. Bearing in mind that Wood expresses scepticism that Pigott died as a result of suicide, and thinks he was murdered, the implication of there being two Scotland Yard detectives near Pigott at the time of his death is clear.
Yet, as I pointed out in 'Reconstructing Jack', with evidence, the two Scotland Yard detectives identified by Wood did not leave England until after Pigott's death. They went to Madrid in order to identify his body and collect his possessions. The only reference Wood gave to support his claim about the two detectives was a report in the Times of 12 March 1890 which stated that the two detectives had returned from Madrid. So how is it possible that Wood, having read my article, has kept in the sentence about Pigott shooting himself as two Scotland Yard detectives arrived to arrest him?
As it happens, I was able to ask Wood this very question on the Censorship Forum at at time when members were allowed to question authors.On 16 August 2017, in the thread 'The Suicide of Pigott', at #62, I asked Wood why the sentence about two Scotland Yard officers arriving to arrest Pigott when he shot himself remained in the third iteration of his book and I added:
'I have certainly told you this is untrue so why have you kept it in your book? Do you have a policy of publishing false statements?'
I didn't receive an answer from him (although he was responding to other things I was posting) so I tried again (in #72):
'You've deleted quite a lot of stuff in the latest iteration of your book in response to my articles but you've left the claim that Pigott shot himself as detectives arrived from Scotland Yard to arrest him.
Why? Is it because you believe it true? Or do you simply not care whether the contents of your book are true or not?'
Incredibly, Wood didn't offer the slightest defence or excuse. He merely said this (#73):
'To stop your yapper, in the next edition of my book - and, yes, there will be one - I will change "arrived" to "travelled."
My response in #74 was:
'No, still wrong. He did not shoot himself in the head with a pistol "as two detectives travelled from Scotland Yard to arrest him".
He was already dead when they set off on their journey. Don't you get it?'
All Wood said in reply was this:
I knew you'd pick up on that.'
In other words, he seemed to be saying that he had been planning to include another sentence in the next edition of his book which he knew to be untrue and he was expecting me to say that it was untrue!
It's really not good enough. Wood never explained why he didn't correct the falsehood in the third edition of his book. The only conclusion I can reach is that he has utter contempt for his readers.
2. THE JEWISH NEW YEAR, 1888
As part of his conspiracy theory regarding Leather Apron and John Pizer, Wood claims that Sergeant Thick must have known that Pizer could have been found at his stepmother's house on 6 September 1888 because sunset on 6 September 1888 marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
I stated very clearly in Reconstructing Jack that this is wrong. Yet Wood has taken no notice and, indeed, he has repeated this falsehood in the third edition of his book (as well as online in multiple forum posts).
I know exactly what he's done. He's looked at a Jewish calendar from 1888 and has seen this:
The calendar appears to show that Rosh Hashanah started on 6 September in 1888 (see enlarged extract below). For someone, like Wood, who obviously knows nothing about the Jewish religion, it might appear that this means that this was the start of the New Year. However, this is not the case. For the calendar shows that Erev Rosh Hashanah was on 5 September:
Erev Rosh Hashanah can be translated as the Eve of Rosh Hashanah but it's not like Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve as Wood evidently thinks. Sunset of the night before Rosh Hashanah is actually the start of Rosh Hashanah. In other words, Erev Rosh Hashanah marks the actual start of the New Year. It's a difficult concept for someone not familiar with the religion to grasp but it is a fact.
If Wood doesn't believe me then perhaps he will believe the Jewish Chronicle:
As can be seen, the Jewish Chronicle of 31 August 1888 stated that 'The New Year Festival (5649) will commence on Wednesday evening next, Sept 5'.
So the start of the Jewish New Year in 1888 was sunset on the evening of 5 September, not on the evening of 6 September. The most important evening of the two was the evening of the 5 September. The second night is not quite as important. If it was important for Pizer to return home for the Jewish New Year (and there is no obvious reason why this should have been the case) he would have returned before sunset of 5 September. Yet he didn't return until the evening of the next day which makes no sense if the purpose of his visit was Rosh Hashanah.
What this means is that Wood's preposterous theory that Sergeant Thick must have known where to find Pizer on 6 September is self-evidently wrong. Pizer was no more likely to have been with his stepmother on 6 September than on 5 September. He wasn't with her on 5 September and Thick, not being psychic, could not possibly have known with any degree of certainty that he would be with her the following night.
3. TAKING A TUMBLE WITH TUMBLETY
Despite me having provided the clearest possible evidence that the Central Criminal Court Calendars do not prove that Tumblety was in prison for the whole period between 7 and 14 November, Wood writes that there is 'no doubt' that Tumblety was remanded in custody for that entire period. It isn't true. He could have been bailed on 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 or 13 of November if he had been remanded with bail. Consequently, if he had been released on 8 November, it was possible for him to have murdered Kelly. We just don't know if he was or was not in prison at this time. So for Wood to say that he definitely was, is him doing no more than choosing a conclusion that he likes rather than one based on the evidence.
(Why does he like this conclusion? Well it's because he is utterly obsessed by the fact that there was no Jack the Ripper and, consequently, he is resolutely opposed to any theory which identifies any individual as being Jack the Ripper. Of course, the odds are very much in his favour on every occasion but his arguments are inevitably poor. Even when he was arguing on the same side as me on the Forum in respect of the Maybrick Diary, I knew that he was just saying that the Diary was a fake because, if it was genuine, it would mean that James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper. And he can't accept that anyone was Jack the Ripper. So I didn't find his posts at all helpful, interesting or thought provoking. He kept posting that it was a fake without actually making reasonable points to support that conclusion.)
We might also note that Wood repeats the fallacy that Mr Muir, counsel for the prosecution, agreed to the defence application on 20 November to postpone Tumblety's trial. There is absolutely no evidence about Muir's position on the application. I already made this point in 'Reconstructing Jack'. Why Wood wants to repeat this false claim I have no idea. And Muir in November 1888 was not Junior Treasury Counsel as Wood claims in his book.
Wood also keeps in his book the claim that it 'beggars belief' that Tumblety, who was distinctive looking, managed to evade security at every railway station and port on his journey from London to Le Havre. But how does he know that Tumblety evaded security? Perhaps he was spotted at every port. Even if the officers at the stations and ports had instructions to look out for Tumblety (which is highly unlikely) why does Wood think that these officers could or would have been able to do anything to prevent Tumblety from leaving the country? He needs to answer those questions before saying that it 'beggars belief' that Tumblety wasn't seen. As I have stated on more than one occasion, there was nothing which prevented Tumblety from leaving the country despite being out on bail awaiting trial. There was no live warrant for his arrest and it certainly wasn't the case that every officer in the country was provided with a list and description of every person on bail and given instructions to stop them at the train stations and the ports.
Wood's claim that Tumblety was given a cover story and allowed to escape England is as nonsensical now as it was when he made it in his first edition.
4. JAMES SHAW vs FRANCIS TUMBLETY
In 'Reconstructing Jack' I explained why it is totally wrong to compare the arrest by New York Police of James Shaw with the failure of the same police force to arrest Francis Tumblety. Nevertheless, Wood still asks the readers of his book to compare the way the police in New York allowed Tumblety to travel from the pier to his lodging house with the way Shaw was arrested at Castle Garden immediately after disembarking from the Guion steamer Wyoming. Amazingly, Wood doesn't even mention that Shaw was believed to have been the man who murdered Hannah Pennock and that this is why officers from the New York Police Department arrested him in New York (at the request of the Northallerton police). Instead, he refers to a newspaper report that Shaw was believed (by the American press) to be a Jack the Ripper suspect as if this was the reason why he was arrested. It wasn't. And, as I've also explained, the Northallerton police broke protocol by contacting the New York Police directly to ask them to arrest Shaw, so this wasn't something Scotland Yard could have done with Tumblety even if they had had any evidence that he had committed any of the Ripper murders (which they didn't).
5. INSPECTOR ANDREWS AND THE TRAIN JOURNEY THAT NEVER WAS
In 'Reconstructing Jack', I explained that Wood's source for his claim that Inspector Andrews' train into Montreal in the morning of 19 December 1888 was delayed by one hour and fifteen minutes is a physical impossibility. His footnote no. 88 cites the Toronto Daily Mail of 19 December 1888 but that particular newspaper was referring to a delayed Toronto train in the morning of 18 December, i.e. the day before. This obviously means it could not possibly have been Inspector Andrews' train (of 19 December).
This isn't the only mistake Wood made on the subject of Andrews' visit to Canada in his first and second editions which is now repeated in his third edition despite me having pointed out those errors. I have no idea why Wood wants to keep factual errors in his book. The other mistakes include saying that press reports place Jarvis in the company of Andrews at Niagara (when it's just a single report), that Andrews left Montreal on 22 December 1888 (it was on 20/21 December) and also that he caught the Peruvian on the journey back to England when he actually took the Sarnia again on its return journey.
These errors are symptomatic of Wood's misunderstanding of the purpose of Andrews' mission to Toronto which I have explained at length elsewhere.
PART C - GENERAL ERRORS AND FAILED ARGUMENTS
Identifying additional errors in Wood's book is like shooting fish in a barrel. There are just so many of them. But it's fun to do and here's a few bad ones.
1. THE CONFERENCE WITH THE HOME SECRETARY
Here is what Wood says about a conference between the Home Secretary and Sir Charles Warren which took place on 3 October 2018:
'On 3rd October 1888, Home Secretary Henry Matthews "had a long conference" with Sir Charles Warren and James Monro. Two old adversaries had been brought back together in a common cause, and one of the topics of the agenda was rewards, about which Monro approved and Warren "did not disapprove".'
This statement is......false.
Wood gives a footnote reference in support of this statement as 'Henry Matthews letter to Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, 6th October 1888.'
Let's ignore the fact that the correct date of this letter, reproduced in Paul Begg's 2013 book 'Jack the Ripper: the Facts', is 5 October 1888, not 6 October. The more important fact is there was no long conference involving the Home Secretary, Sir Charles Warren and James Monro on 3 October or any day in October 1888. Henry Matthews met Sir Charles Warren alone on Wednesday 3rd October and he then met James Monro separately on Thursday 4th October. There were, in other words, two separate long conferences on two different days. Wood has simply misread the Home Secretary's letter. Yet the wording of the letter is very clear:
'I had...a long conference with Sir C W day before yesterday and Mr Monro yesterday...'.
The two old adversaries were not, therefore, reunited in a common cause. How is it possible that Wood failed to understand such simple English? Really, this type of mistake, which, to be frank, permeates Wood's book, is embarrassing.
2. THE TWO SERGEANT PLANTS
Edward Plant was an old friend of Thomas Barton who was chosen to travel to America to assist Inspector Jarvis in formally identifying the fugitive.
I mentioned in 'The Suckered! Trilogy' that Plant's father was 'the son of police inspector William Plant of Macclesfield'.
Presumably hoping that, for the first time ever, he can get one over on me, Wood adds a footnote in the third edition of his book saying that William Plant did not rise above the rank of sergeant. His last publicized appearance, according to Wood, was at Crewe Police Court in January 1879, 'after which he appears to have retired.' He adds that he next appears in the 1881 census as a silk inspector.
It evidently didn't occur to Wood to wonder what a sergeant in the Macclesfield Police Force was doing giving evidence in Crewe, over 20 miles from Macclesfield. And if William Plant didn't rise about the rank of sergeant then how does Wood explain the below extract from Plant's obituary, published in his local newspaper, the Macclesfield Times and Chronicle of 16 February 1912?
As can be seen, it says:
'DEATH AND FUNERAL OF AN EX POLICE-INSPECTOR - Our readers will regret to learn of the death of Mr. Wm. Plant, a former Inspector in the Macclesfield Borough Police Force.'
Can it be possible that Wood has searched the British Newspaper Archive, found a reference to a Sergeant Plant of the Crewe Police and assumed this must have been William Plant? Oh yes, it certainly is possible for that's exactly what Wood has done, in the process confusing two officers in the county of Cheshire with the surname of Plant. It's an illustration of the poor quality of Wood's research but, sadly, not untypical.
The Sergeant Plant identified by Wood was mentioned in the Nantwich Guardian of 29 January 1879. This wasn't William Plant though. It was Sergeant John Plant of the Cheshire Constabulary. He joined the force in June 1866 and was promoted to sergeant in October 1872. From October 1878 to April 1879 he was stationed in the Nantwich Division of the Cheshire Constabulary (Nantwich being four miles from Crewe). This Sergeant Plant was actually promoted to Inspector during January 1879 and became Chief Inspector shortly afterwards so, even if this was the correct Plant, Wood would still have got it wrong! John Plant was subsequently appointed superintendent and retired from the force at the end of February 1892.
William Plant, the father of Edward, was a former brass moulder from Staffordshire who joined the Staffordshire Police Force in 1849 and then the Macclesfield Borough Police Force (which was a separate entity from the Cheshire Constabulary) two years later in 1851. He was recorded in the 1851 census as a police constable aged 24. He was subsequently promoted to sergeant and, on 25 January 1860, the Watch Committee Minutes of the Macclesfield Borough Police, held at the Chester Archives and Local Studies Centre, noted that, 'Sergt Plant be allowed to employ his time as a Silk Detective Officer' , with, 'the Silk Association through Mr T.U. Brocklehurst and Mr Joseph Barker agreeing to pay his wages and this without losing his status in the Police Force'. Plant's job was to investigate offences involving silk which harmed the members of the Silk Association. It was obviously unusual for an officer of a police force to be paid by a private organisation but this demonstrates the importance of the silk industry to Macclesfield at this time.
According to the Macclesfield Courier of 20 October 1860, reporting the court case of Nathanial Bell who was charged with unaccounted for possession of silk:
'William Plant...deposed that he is an Inspector for the Macclesfield Silk Association.'
This is from the Edinburgh Evening News of 24 December 1874:
'An extensive seizure of silk has just been made by the Macclesfield Police. On Saturday, Detective Inspector Plant visited a depot from which parcels are despatched...'
Two days later the Macclesfield Guardian referred to William Plant as 'Detective Inspector Plant of the Macclesfield Silk Association.'
The Macclesfield Borough Police Watch Committee Minutes of 24 September 1877 refer an application 'of Silk Detective Inspector William Plant' to be admitted to the benefits of the police superannuation fund. The following is then recorded:
'Resolved that his application be granted on the following conditions viz: that he subscribes to the fund like other members of the Police Force and pays up his arrears of contributions since the fund for superannuation was established.
That half of his time served with the Silk Association be allowed.
That he be under the control of the Chief Constable like all other members of the force, and
That he be paid monthly (as heretofore) through the corporation by the Chief Constable, the Silk Association to deposit his salary half yearly in advance with the Borough Treasurer.'
While William Plant formally remained as a police sergeant within the Macclesfield force, he was also (and primarily) a detective silk inspector, or silk detective inspector, within the same force. He remained in the role as silk inspector until 1884 when the Silk Association folded due to a depression in the silk industry. No doubt his dual role is what led the Macclesfield Advertiser of 30 October 1885 to describe him as 'Inspector Plant' as did the Macclesfield Courier and Herald of the following day. He retired from the force in June 1889 so was a serving officer at the time his son went to America.
3. JARVIS IN AMERICA 1892
According to Wood, in a new passage added into the third edition of his book, Inspector Jarvis 'tracked down and arrested' Ignatius Wieder in New York in August 1892 in response to a telegram from Superintendent Shore. As is often the case, he gives no source for this claim.
I really have no idea why this information is included in Wood's book devoted to the question of the existence of Jack the Ripper but, in case it is important, we might want to ask ourselves: Did Inspector Jarvis really track down and arrest Ignatius Wieder in New York? The answer is: of course he didn't. He didn't have the power of arrest in New York so he couldn't have done it.
According to the New York press, Wieder was arrested in a New York street on 2 August 1892 by Detectives John Dunn and Arthur Carey of the New York Police Department after they had followed him from his home on 632 East Ninth Street while he was in the process of collecting his baggage which had been sent to a Custom House broker in Wall Street (New York World, 3 August 1892 and New York Sun of the same date).
The New York detectives were acting as a result of information contained in a telegram sent by the Foreign Office on behalf of Commissioner Henry Smith of the City of London Police to Acting Consul Fraser on 27 July 1892 (FO 5/2156) which stated:
'Luggage consisting of tin Box hamper and bundle addressed Blumenthal Messrs Van Oppen 20 Exchange Place New York forwarded from Liverpool by Steamship Germanic due 29th instant. Believed for Ignatius Wieder. Ask police watch luggage. Arrest Wieder should he call for it.'
Fraser communicated the information in this telegram to the New York Police Department. It transpired that the baggage had actually been sent to R.J. Downing & Co (representatives of Messrs Van Oppen & Co) at 20 Exchange Place and one of the New York detectives worked undercover as a clerk in their office in order to identify Wieder when he turned up.
The extradition of Wieder had been requested by the City of London Police and, consequently, Detective-Inspector Taylor of that force sailed for New York on 13 August holding warrants for Wieder's arrest which he had obtained in June from Guildhall and Clerkenwell police courts. Wieder was handed over to him on 31 August on board the City of Paris steamship in New York harbour.
Another dead end in Wood's book.
4. AGOG FOR OSTROG
Even for Wood, the twisting of logic in his section on Ostrog is quite extraordinary. Having told us that Philip Sugden established when researching his 2002 book that Ostrog had been in a Parisian jail during the period of the Whitechapel murders in 1888, Wood simply assumes that Macnaghten became aware of this information at some point after he wrote his famous memorandum about the Whitechapel murders in February 1894. Consequently, Wood asks why Macnaghten didn't remove Ostrog from his list of suspects before Major Griffiths wrote his book in 1898.
It's an odd point even if Macnaghten did become aware of the information about Ostrog having been in a Parisian jail because Macnaghten didn't make any changes to his memorandum after February 1894 - he was under no obligation to update it - and it's not clear why he is supposed to have any responsibility for what Griffiths decided to publish four years later. Macnaghten can't sensibly be said to have kept Ostrog in the 'frame', as Wood does, in circumstances where he didn't write or publish anything about Ostrog himself, after having learnt that he had been in prison in May 1889, or even in 1888, assuming that he did learn this.
All Wood actually demonstrates in his book is that, at some point after Macnaghten wrote his February 1894 memorandum, officials at the Home Office and the Treasury became aware that Ostrog had been in a French prison during May 1889, because this information was contained in a Home Office letter to the Treasury dated 9 October 1894. It's notable that Wood gives a wrong reference to this letter - one might call it a 'fake' reference - in his book. Footnote number 153 in his latest edition (number 132 in his 2016 hardback) claims that the letter can be found in'A.56090/B'. There is, however, no such file in existence. The correct reference is HO 34/77 which is a Home Office file of letters sent to various Public Departments held at the National Archives (with the letter in question being found at page 314 of that file). What Wood has done here has simply been to reproduce the original internal Home Office file reference number (a file which no longer exists) which is visible on the face of the letter, in the top left hand corner. It's a sign of his poor standards that he feels able to include incorrect file references in his book which will mislead or baffle any researchers attempting to check his work.
Anyway, the fact of being in prison in May 1889 wouldn't, on its own, have cleared Ostrog from suspicion of committing the Whitechapel murders during the previous year (and, of course, Macnaghten believed the last Ripper murder occurred on 9 November 1888). There is no actual evidence that Macnaghten ever knew that Ostrog had been in prison at any time during 1888. It's an assumption made on the basis that the Metropolitan Police was aware in October 1894 that Ostrog, whose term of imprisonment after conviction began on 14 November 1888, had been held in custody by French Police since July 1888, a knowledge which Wood does not demonstrate.
Had Wood actually done some original research into the matter, rather than simply relying on Sugden, he would have discovered that the actual sequence of events (exclusively revealed here) was as follows:
Shortly after Ostrog's conviction at Aylsebury on 2 July 1894 for having obtained goods by false pretences in Eton five years earlier in May 1889, the Vice Consul General of the United States in Paris informed the Home Secretary, Herbert Henry Asquith, that during May 1889 Ostrog had been confined as a lunatic in the Central House of detention in Gaillon, Normandy, under the name of Lublinsky, having been transferred to that institution from prison on 26 January 1889 and subsequently discharged and expelled from France on 14 November 1890 (FO 146/3381). This appeared to corroborate Ostrog's claim during his trial that he had been confined in a French asylum at the time he was accused of having committed the crime in Eton.
It's important to note that there was no doubt in the Home Secretary's mind that Lublinsky was in prison during May 1889. The only question was whether Lublinsky was also Ostrog.On 23 July 1894, the Home Office wrote to the Foreign Office to request that the Foreign Secretary, Lord Kimberley, instruct his officials in Paris to write to the French Government, 'for the purpose of obtaining Lublinsky's measurements and description so that it may be ascertained by the anthropometric system whether Ostrog's assertion is true' (FO 146/3381).
The letter to the French government was duly written by Edmund Constantine Henry Phipps, the Secretary of the British Embassy in Paris, on 26 July 1894, and, in line with the Home Office's letter, an official request for Lublinsky's measurements and description was made.
In a reply dated 3 August 1894, from Gabriel Hanotaux, the French minister of Foreign Affairs, it was stated that Lublinsky, or Lublinski (which appears to be the correct spelling), had originally been convicted in Versailles on 2 July 1885 when he had been sentenced to 13 months imprisonment but had been expelled from France on 9 June 1886 and then left the country on 2 August of that year. At some unspecified later date, he had returned to France without permission and was convicted for theft on 14 November 1888. During the course of his sentence, he was transferred from prison to a special asylum in Gaillon and freed on 14 November 1890, when he was again expelled (FO 146/3395).
Crucially, the letter from the French government did not contain the information discovered by Sugden more than 100 years later in a document held at the Archives Départmentales de Paris, when researching for his 2002 book, that Ostrog had been arrested on 26 July 1888 and held in custody until his conviction on 14 November 1888. It's true that the letter from Hanotaux attached two documents which have not been retained in the Foreign Office file so that their contents cannot be established but it is likely that either one or both of them contained the details of Ostrog's description and measurements which had been specifically requested by the Home Office (and which were not included in Hanotaux's letter). Consequently, it's perfectly possible that the information as to the date of Lublinski's arrest was never transmitted to the British authorities. This information would not have been regarded as of any importance by the Home Office bearing in mind that, as stated above, the Home Secretary already knew that Lublinski had been locked up during May 1889 and he didn't need (and was not requesting) proof of this fact, nor was the date of Ostrog's arrest relevant to the enquiries the Home Office via the Foreign Office was making of the French authorities.
Mr Phipps at the British embassy in Paris forwarded Monsieur Hanotaux's letter to Lord Kimberly in London on 7 August 1894 and Kimberly, in turn, forwarded it to Asquith two days later on 9 August. The information must have been forwarded by the Home Office to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Edward Bradford, because he sent a memorandum about Ostrog to the Home Office on 18 September 1894, reporting the result of certain (unknown) enquiries, as recorded in a Home Office Register (HO 46/112). A copy of the memo doesn't appear to have survived but it presumably confirmed that Ostrog had been wrongfully convicted at Aylsebury and recommended, on the basis of the information received from France, that Ostrog's prison sentence be remitted. The Assistant Commissioner, Robert Anderson, who was the police authority on the anthropometric system of identification, provided a further memorandum about Ostrog to the Home Office on 22 September 1894 in which he suggested that Ostrog should be photographed before his release from prison (see the letter from the Home Office to Anderson dated 26 September 1888 in HO 65/88). The Home Secretary subsequently ordered on 26 September that Ostrog be released from Reading Prison (HO 147/5).
On 1 October 1894, Ostrog applied to the Home Office for compensation for wrongful imprisonment (HO 46/111) and it was to Anderson that the Home Secretary wrote on 8 October 1894 requesting him to give £10 to Ostrog (HO 65/88). The Commissioner subsequently confirmed, by way of letter to the Home Office dated 22 October 1894, that the £10 payment had been made (HO 46/112). The Receiver of the Metropolitan Police also wrote to the Home Office about this payment eight days later, on 30 October (HO 46/112).
As we have seen, the information which proved Ostrog was innocent had been obtained from the French authorities by the Foreign Office pursuant to a Home Office request. It was not the result of an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department of which Macnaghten was Chief Constable. However, it is evident that the C.I.D. had some part to play in the process due to Anderson's involvement but this still does not necessarily mean that Macnaghten read the reports or was even necessarily aware of the compensation payment. Anderson obviously knew that Ostrog had been in prison from 14 November 1888 but whether Macnaghten would have needed to have known this historical information too, and was thus told about it, is uncertain. Without any evidence as to how information was circulated internally within the C.I.D. at the time we just can't know for sure. Given that there is no evidence that the British authorities (including the Metropolitan Police) were ever informed of the date of Ostrog's arrest as being July 1888 it is impossible to say that Macnaghten was aware of it or must have been aware of it.
I did ask Wood about the state of Macnaghten's knowledge on the Censorship Forum on 4 May 2017 in the thread 'Deconstructing Jack by Simon Wood' at post #326. I asked him if Macnaghten knew at any time prior to 1898, or indeed at any time in his life, about Ostrog being locked up in prison during 1888. He never answered the question (merely referring me to his book, which I had already read).
On its own, it would seem to be a minor point about a minor suspect but it goes much further than this, for Wood claims that because Macnaghten 'lied' about Ostrog - on the basis that he knew that Ostrog was in prison during the period of the Ripper murders and thus falsely labelled him a suspect - it can be said that he also lied about Aaron Kosminski and Montague Druitt being Ripper suspects. Thus, as he said in a Censorship Forum post dated 27 March 2019 (in thread 'What Makes Druitt a Viable Suspect', #298); 'Macnaghten lied about Ostrog....Why should we believe him about Druitt?' and then in a subsequent post dated 1 April 2019 (#431): 'If Macnaghten lied about him [Ostrog], chances are he lied about the other two.'.
The logic here is so remarkably twisted because even Wood doesn't claim that Macnaghten knew that Ostrog was ever in a French prison at the time he wrote his February 1894 memorandum. So he can't possibly claim that Macnaghten lied about Ostrog in his memorandum. Indeed, Wood confirmed in a Forum post on 1 April 2019 (#400 in the thread 'What Makes Druitt a Viable Suspect) that Macnaghten's claim that Ostrog's whereabouts at the time of the Ripper murders couldn't be ascertained was 'true' at the time he wrote his memorandum. His argument seems to be that Macnaghten 'lied' by not preventing Griffiths from publishing untrue information four years later, something which doesn't seem to fall into the normal definition of lying. One might equally (or, in fact, with more justification) ask if Wood's failure to correct the many errors in his book, which have been pointed out to him, so he knows about them, means that he is lying about there being no Jack the Ripper.
Further, as we have seen, there is no actual evidence that Macnaghten ever knew during his lifetime that Ostrog was in a French prison in May 1889 let alone during 1888. It's all based on conjecture. Wood speculated in a Forum post dated 1 April 2019 (#393 in Druitt thread) that Macnaghten's heart must have 'skipped a beat' when he learnt of Ostrog's 1889 imprisonment and he said that, as Chief Constable, there is 'little doubt that wouldn't (sic) have heard of it, even if he was not directly involved in the matter.' Wood is, in other words, just guessing about Macnaghten's knowledge relating to Ostrog's whereabouts at the time of the murders, at a time after his 1894 memorandum had been completed.
This is just one flaw in Wood's book about Ostrog. Another is that he doesn't produce any evidence that Macnaghten passed his memo to Major Griffiths in 1898. Having said this, it wouldn't really matter if he had because it was a historical document, dated 23 February 1894, which obviously reflected Macnaghten's knowledge at the time he wrote it. He wasn't under any duty to provide an updated version (to the extent that he was aware that any information in it was out of date) and, even if he did pass his 1894 memo to Griffiths in 1898, and was consciously aware that the section on Ostrog was out of date, it certainly doesn't mean he lied about anything. He could reasonably have regarded the new information about Ostrog as irrelevant, bearing in mind that his favoured candidate was Druitt so that Ostrog was effectively eliminated as a suspect anyway. Indeed, Griffiths said in his book that the case against the 'Russian doctor' (i.e. Ostrog) was 'weak'. Griffiths didn't actually publish the names of any of the three suspects in his book so it hardly even matters.
Most important of all is the fact that Griffiths was telling his readers about three supposed police suspects investigated by the police 'after the last murder', of which the unnamed Ostrog was said to have been one. Sure, in respect of all three suspects that may have been wrong, or misleading at the very least, because it's possible that Druitt didn't become a suspect in the eyes of the police until some years after the murder of Kelly (and then possibly only in the eyes of Macnaghten) but Macnaghten can't possibly be responsible for what Griffiths wrote in his book. Macnaghten himself, in his memorandum, did not describe Druitt, Kosminski and Ostrog as contemporary police suspects from 1888; he merely said that they were more likely than Cutbush to have committed the murders. It was Griffiths who gave the impression that they were all suspects in late 1888.
But the key point here is that Macnaghten's knowledge (or otherwise) in August, September or October 1894 of Ostrog's imprisonment in 1888/89, or even the knowledge of the Metropolitan Police as a whole at that time, was of no importance to Griffiths, and would have made no difference to what he published in his book, because Griffiths was simply informing his readers of the existence of three police suspects who were supposedly investigated following the Kelly murder. He wasn't writing a Ripperologist type book setting out who the Ripper suspects currently (in 1898) were, and weighing the evidence against each of them in order to try and discover who the murderer was. In that context, it simply didn't matter that Ostrog was discovered six years later to have had an alibi for the Ripper murders. It wouldn't change the fact that he was a police suspect at the time! Wood, in other words, has got completely the wrong end of the stick about what Griffiths was saying in his 1898 book.
In the end, and amusingly, Wood's argument about Macnaghten not telling the truth about Ostrog doesn't seem to rest on whether he had been in a French prison or not. For he said in a Forum post dated 1 April 2019 (#400 in Druitt thread), 'There is nothing in the known history of Ostrog to suggest he was a Ripper suspect, so I would suggest that in February 1894 Macnaghten simply made it up.' That is some strange logic on its own but, as mentioned above, Wood positively accepts that Macnaghten's claim in February 1894 that Ostrog's whereabouts at the time of the Whitechapel murders were unknown was true which means that official enquiries simply must have been made as to his whereabouts at the time of the murders (otherwise how else could Macnaghten have known it?) which, in turn, means that Ostrog must have been a suspect for those murders. By Wood's own admission, therefore, Macnaghten wasn't lying about Ostrog having been a suspect and thus we might feel this gives credibility to Kosminski and Druitt having been suspects too!
Furthermore, we know for a fact that the police were trying to track the missing surgeon Ostrog down during October 1888, following the double event, because there was a wanted notice about him published in the Police Gazette of 26 October 1888 in which he was referred to as 'a dangerous man' for whom 'special attention' was required. This would appear to strongly corroborate Macnaghten's claim that Ostrog was a suspect and makes a nonsense of Wood's belief that he was somehow lying about this. Ironically, it was the very fact that Ostrog was, unknown to the Metropolitan Police, locked up in a French prison under the name of Stanislas Lublinski during the time of the Ripper murders that created suspicion about him in the minds of the Met Police because it meant that they couldn't establish his whereabouts.
Although not actually mentioned in Wood's book, but referred to in his online posts, one argument that Macnaghten wasn't telling the truth in his 1894 memorandum is that he stated that Ostrog had, after 1888, been 'detained in a lunatic asylum as a homicidal maniac'. There is no doubt that Ostrog was admitted to a lunatic asylum in Banstead Asylum in Surrey in May 1891 (having, prior to the Ripper murders, been detained in Surrey County Lunatic Asylum) but what about him being a homicidal maniac? Was there any evidence of this?Well, Ostrog told a doctor who examined him on 4 May 1891 (and who certified him as insane) that he intended to commit suicide by cutting his left femoral artery. Today, we would not regard this as homicidal but what I think has been overlooked by everyone, including Sugden in his 2002 book, is that suicide was not only a criminal offence in the nineteenth century but the crime of self-murder was regarded as a homicide. The following is a quotation from an 1891 book entitled 'A Guide to the Criminal Law Intended for the use of students for the Bar Final and for the Solicitors' Final Examination' by Charles Thwaites (Third Edition):
'Felonious homicide is the killing of one's self or another without just cause or excuse; it is always a punishable crime and may be suicide, murder or manslaughter'.
So technically and legally, Macnaghten was perfectly correct to say that Ostrog would have been regarded as homicidal (and thus a homicidal maniac) by threatening to commit suicide by cutting his left femoral artery.
One final point on this subject is that Wood posted this on 1 April 2019 (#400 in Druitt thread):
Can you imagine what might have happened had Macnaghten's memo ever seen the light of day? In October 1894 a Secretary of State might have asked him to explain, "why are we giving £10 compensation to a possible Jack the Ripper suspect?"
Were it not for the fact that he says something similar in his book, one would naturally have assumed this to have been an an April Fool's prank on Wood's part because he surely must have read the letter from the Home Office to the Treasury dated 9 October 1894, a copy of which he himself posted on the Forum, in which it is made clear that it was the Secretary of State's own decision to award Ostrog £10 in compensation and that he had directed the police to make that payment. So the chances of him asking the Chief Constable to tell him why he had done it are frankly zero. And the basis of Wood's post seems to be that, by virtue of being a Ripper suspect, an individual would have lost all their legal rights to compensation should they ever be wrongly convicted and imprisoned on another charge. This is a ludicrous (and not legally correct) thought. Ripper suspect or not, Ostrog would have been perfectly entitled to compensation for wrongful imprisonment. If the Home Secretary had discovered from the French authorities that Ostrog had been in prison during the time of the Ripper murders during 1888 (and Wood presumably believes he did), the entire fantasy imagined by Wood of the Home Secretary being upset by paying compensation to a man who was once a Ripper suspect (but who had now been cleared) would be entirely exploded. If, on the other hand, he didn't know it, then neither did Macnaghten, so Wood's entire point falls away.
5. ANDERSON'S ANECDOTES
Wood has taken his campaign against Robert Anderson to a new level. And a new low. Determined to undermine his belief that the Whitechapel murderer was a Polish Jew, Wood has been spending (wasting?) time trying to disprove some of the lighthearted anecdotes which can be found in Anderson's 1910 memoirs (which themselves only deal with 'the lighter side' of his official life, the clue being in the title). Apparently, if Anderson confused some facts or dates in his lighthearted anecdotes everything else in the book must be wrong. Good logic!
Naturally, the thought doesn't cross Wood's mind that all the errors of facts in his own book, only some of which he has bothered to correct, undermine his own credibility and, using his own logic, must mean that everything else in his book is wrong (which, funnily enough, it is!).
And what about his own anecdotes? I only know a single anecdote told by Wood. It's about his meeting with Stephen Knight. This is what he said about that meeting on the Censorship Forum on 22 July 2017 (in thread: 'Annie and Alice Crook Photographs', #12):
'I had a face to face meeting with Stephen Knight about a year or so after publication of his book.
His story wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.
I knew it, and he knew it.'
So here we have Wood saying that he met Stephen Knight 'a year or so' after publication of Knight's book. In the introduction to 'Deconstructing Jack', however, he says it was 'a few years' after publication of that book that he met Knight. So which was it? A year or so after publication or a few years after publication?
And did Knight really know that his story wasn't worth the paper it was printed on? Well, this is what Wood said about that same encounter with Knight in a post on JTR Forums (in the thread 'The Final Solution') on 27 March 2009:
'Despite having read my research he didn't back off one inch, firmly maintaining that he was right and I was wrong. There was little point in arguing, so we shook hands and declared a draw.'
This is about as far away from a situation of 'His story wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. He knew it and I knew it' as it is possible to get.
Either Knight firmly maintained that he was right or he gave the impression that he knew he was wrong. Which one was it?
So with a single anecdote - the only Wood anecdote in existence as far as I am aware - we find two glaring inconsistencies. Is Wood prepared to apply the same standards to himself as he applies to Robert Anderson?
And I mean, just look at the petty nature of Wood's complaints about Anderson. For, at one point, he draws attention to the way Anderson spells the name of the head of the Russian Secret Service in Paris. He says: 'Note the different spellings - Ratchkoysky and Ratchkosky - both incorrect.' Wood spells the name as 'Rachkovsky' but this is no more than an English transliteration of a Russian name. This is the correct spelling of the man's name:
I've looked through Wood's book and I never once see him spelling it correctly, as above. There is no single correct spelling of the name in English. If you were to run the above Russian name through an online converter you might get Raĉkovskij or Rachkovskiy.
And how did everyone else in the world do with the spelling of the man's name?
Well the Pall Mall Gazette of 21 September 1896 referred to 'M. Ratchkowsky of the diplomatic service.' The Dundee Courier of 15 April 1909 referred to 'M. Ratchkowsky head of the Russian secret police.' In the 1918 book, 'Suicide of Monarchy: Recollections of a Dipolomat' the author, Eugene Schelking, refers to 'M. Ratchkowsky, Chief of the Russian Secret Service.' Bernard Porter in his influential 1987 'Origins of the Vigilant State' spells the name throughout as 'Rachkovskii'. In a 2000 book by Janine Stingel entitled 'Social Discredit: Anti-Semitism, Social Credit, and the Jewish response', we find reference to 'The secret police of Russia under General Rachowsky' and in a 2011 book by Malcolm Anderson entitled 'In Thrall to Political Change: Police and Gendarmie in France' we find it said that, 'The one [police official] who attracted the highest praise was Ratchkowsky, in post in Paris from 1882 to 1903.
All these supposedly 'wrong' spellings of 'Rachkovsky'. What does Wood make of it? Because he actually tells us to 'note' how Anderson spells it. What are we supposed to make of that? Is Anderson supposed to have been able to flawlessly transliterate Russian names into English? He probably just wrote it how it sounded and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that. It's perfectly obvious who Anderson was referring to.
And surely Wood can't be asking us to note that Anderson spelled the name in two different ways. Not the same Wood who managed to spell the first name of the wife of Fred Jarvis as both Fannie and Fanny in his own book!!
Here's the amazing thing though. In a Forum post on 13 June 2010, Wood said of the different spellings in Anderson's book:
'is it possible they were two intentional misspellings to thinly veil the identity of Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, Tsar Nicholas II's personal emissary in secret matters and, from 1884-1902, head of the Okhrana's Foreign Bureau in Paris?'
I mean, seriously? Wood thinks that Anderson was veiling the identity of Rachkovsky by spelling his very distinctive name as Ratchkoysky? It just doesn't make any sense. Sure, Wood doesn't include this suggestion in his book but it shows where he is coming from in drawing attention to the spelling issue at all.
There's a little twist here, though, for let's see exactly what Wood wrote in that 2010 forum post. Here is what he said. Observe carefully the spelling of one name:
'At the time Sergei Witte was the Minister of Finance and one of the most powerful figures in the Russian government. The negotiation of loans for railway building, trade, and determining the size of naval and military budgets was his responsibility.
Witte's memoirs record the following—
"Before leaving the subject of Goremykin I want to say something about Rachkovskii [sic], the head of our secret police in Paris, and his trip to England with Goremykin in the summer of 1899.
"Rachkovskii had been named to his post by Emperor Alexander III. As our relations with France improved, so did his status, because the French, who had given Russian terrorists asylum, began to take a less kindly attitude towards them, thus helping Rachkovskii. Also, his position was strengthened by the fact that he was a remarkably intelligent man, in fact the most gifted and intelligent police official I have ever met . . . Rachkovskii's position in Paris was strengthened, too, by the insignificance of our ambassadors there, Mohrenheim and Urusov.
"Consequently, Rachkovskii was able to exercise more influence on the course of our rapprochement with France than did our ambassadors: he exercised this influence with the help of our ministers of interior, our palace commandants, and our ambassadors. In what high regard he was held in France can be judged from the fact (which I learned from President Loubet) that when the president had to go to Lyons, where threats had been made against his life, he entrusted the arrangements for his security there to Rachkovskii because he had more confidence in him than he had in his own security force.'
So, according to Wood himself, here we have the Russian Finance Minister apparently spelling the name of the head of the secret police as 'Rachkovskii' no fewer than six times!!! Yet Wood seems to feel make a point about the way Anderson spells the name!
There's a further twist here. For when Wood reproduces part of the above extract in his book, this is how it appears:
'Before leaving the subject of Goremykin I want to say something about Rachkovsky, the head of our secret police in Paris, and his trip to England with Goremykin in the summer of 1899.'
Yes, somehow Witte's spelling, or the spelling of his translator, has magically improved and he now spells the name as 'Rachkovsky' which just happens to be what Wood believes to be the acceptable spelling! Yet Wood had already confirmed in his Forum post, by the use of '[sic]', that Witte's memoirs record the name as 'Rachkovskii' and, by the use of that '[sic]', Wood was clearly indicating that he believes that to be incorrect, even though it isn't!
There doesn't seem to be a limit to the pettiness Wood shows about Anderson's book.
He even goes so far as to reproduce a bad review of it in the Sphere newspaper which called it 'dreary'. I mean, honestly, so what?
On the other side of the coin, not mentioned by Wood, the Dundee Courier of 1 January 1910 said: 'In the January number of Blackwood's Magazine Sir Robert Anderson continues his amusing papers on "The Lighter Side of My Official Life".' The Globe of 4 February 1910 said: 'Every month Sir R. Anderson's revelations in "The Lighter Side of My Official Life" get more interesting.' In the Globe of 4 March 1910 it was stated: 'This is one of the best articles in the March "Blackwood," to which Sir Robert Anderson makes further and piquant contribution in "The Lighter Side of My Official Life." What he has to tell about the real author of the terrible crimes in the East End more than twenty years ago, and his revelations as to the true and patriotic work of Major Le Caron, the "informer" of the Parnell Commission, are genuine sidelights on history. Sir Robert's reminiscences have become one of the most attractive features of "Blackwood".' According to the Globe of 6 April 1910, 'In continuing his reminiscences, "The Lighter Side of My Official Life," Sir Robert Anderson well maintains the interest of his jottings...' For the Globe of 4 May 1910: 'Sir Robert Anderson manages to sustain the interest of his chatty reminiscences remarkably well'. The Sheffield Evening Telegraph of 27 May 1910 said: 'Sir Robert Anderson continues his interesting papers on "The Lighter Side of My Official Life".'
What do we get out of this? Nothing I suggest. Newspaper reviews of Anderson's book get us nowhere. Wood's conclusion is that we need corroborative evidence of Anderson's anecdotes before we can believe any of them but the reality is that he doesn't actually care about those anecdotes. All he is really trying to say is that we can't believe that Anderson truly suspected that Jack the Ripper was a Polish Jew. For this, however, we do have corroboration, which is the Swanson marginalia.
6. THE SWANSON MARGINALIA
Naturally, Wood's brain can't cope with the idea that a proper detective, Donald Swanson, corroborated Anderson's Polish Jew theory by identifying Anderson's suspect as a real person called Kosminski. To try and discredit the Swanson marginalia, he manufactures suspicion about it in a number of new pages added to the third edition of his book.
We don't need to spend too much time on this but the key point Wood wants to make is that in a 1981 draft article about the marginalia written by the News of the World journalist Charles Sandell, Swanson's comment that 'Kosminski was the suspect' is not referred to. At first this seems like that very rare thing, a good point made by Wood. For if Sandell wasn't recording that Swanson had identified Kosminski as the suspect being referred to by Anderson, then perhaps the reference to Kosminski in the marginalia (or, more accurately, in the endpaper notes) was a later addition, made after 1981. However, it very quickly turns out to be a typical Wood non-point when Wood reveals that Sandell wrote in his draft:
'The former Detective Chief Inspector Swanson, writing in pencil on a blank page at the back of the book named the man. He said he was a Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski.'
So Sandell did obviously see Swanson's naming of Kosminski as the suspect being referred to after all! Wood's comment on this is laughable. 'No such thing had been written on the endpaper' he says. But that's not true. The words 'Kosminski was the suspect' , as written by Swanson, exactly cover what Sandell included in his draft article. Sandell said that Swanson named the man and that's precisely what occurs in the words 'Kosminski was the suspect'. Sandell said that he was a man named Kosminski. That's exactly what Swanson wrote. The fact that Sandell was independently aware that Kosminski was a Polish Jewish immigrant doesn't change anything. Sandell didn't put the words 'Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski' in quotes as if Swanson had written those words. He was simply summarizing. It's obviously perfectly correct to say that Swanson said that the suspect was called Kosminski (even though he didn't say exactly those words). It's equally perfectly correct to add by way of explanation that Swanson said that the suspect was a Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski.
None of this is difficult. Perhaps Wood thinks that anyone who paid £16.50 for his book is an idiot. And perhaps they are.
But that is only what can be deduced from Wood's book. What Wood completely fails to mention in his book is that a covering memo from Sandell to the news editor of the News of the World dated 15 April 1981 expressly states that, in the marginalia to Robert Anderson's book, at the point where Anderson speaks of the man suspected of being Jack the Ripper, 'The Yard detective [i.e Swanson] names the man as Kosminski, a Polish Jew'. That makes it as clear as crystal that Sandell saw the marginalia in 1981 exactly as it is today, with Kosminski named as the suspect so that there is no mystery here whatsoever at all.
After I finished writing the above section regarding Sandell's draft article, I discovered a thread on the Censorship Forum from May 2013, at a time before I joined, called 'Identification by confrontation' in which Wood posted this on 17 May 2013 (#9):
'Just as a point of order, Anderson never mentioned the name Kosminski.
And, according to Charles Sandell's transcription of the pencilled TLSOMOL endpaper notation for his 1981 News of the World article [see Rip 128], neither did Swanson.
It sure is a puzzler.'
It was then pointed out to him by a member called Chris (in #10) that Sandell actually noted in his 1981 draft article that Swanson had written in pencil that Anderson's suspect was, as we have seen, 'a Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski'. Despite having been proved to be totally wrong, without missing a beat, Wood changed course and replied with the nonsense that he later included in his book, saying:
'Swanson didn't write "he was a Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski."
Or if he did, he must have written it in invisible pencil.'
When Chris replied to point out that Sandell's article demonstrates that the name of Kosminski wasn't added to Swanson's marginalia after 1981, Wood responded (in #13) by saying:
So far so familiar (and ridiculous) but the particular reason I wanted to quote all this was because in the next post (#14), a poster called Roy Corduroy absolutely nailed it and expressed the flaw in Wood's position probably better than I did above. Here is what he said:
'In the absence of the all-important "Kosminski was the suspect", Sandell can only have been told that D.S.S. said "he was a Polish Jewish immigrant called Kosminski," for there is nothing else in the pencilled marginalia to substantiate such a claim.'
'Mr. Sandell read what Anderson wrote in his book, and what Swanson pencilled in. He then described this in a readable, condensed two sentence statement.
That's what newsmen do. They write with the reader in mind. To make things clear and easy to grasp. Yes he was entirely accurate in how he described it.
Unless, Simon you are [arguing] that instead, Sandell should have written this so that his readers are supposed to not know this was pencilled into Anderson's book, and therefore nothing in the book has any relevance.
Is that what you are arguing, Simon? Or are you saying that because he did not exactly quote the words Swanson used that there's something wrong with that? When in fact what he wrote is perfectly ok. Or feel free to answer any way you like, Simon. Because I don't get your argument.'
I understand what Sandell wrote, I don't understand your problem with it.'
So there we have a complete answer to Wood's strange point by a normal person written back in 2013. Wood's response will not surprise anyone who has followed his online postings. He completely ignored it! He said absolutely nothing about Corduroy's post, preferring to comment in #16 and #18 on further posts by Chris only. Yet despite having been provided with a complete and comprehensive answer to his nonsense about Sandell's article, Wood went on to repeat that nonsense in his book a few years later. It's consistent with the pattern we have seen in this article of Wood apparently treating the readers of his book with contempt, by including things which he has already been told are not correct.
Anyway, returning to his book, through gritted teeth, Wood notes that a handwriting expert has concluded that there is nothing suspicious about the Swanson marginalia. That being so, there is really nothing to see here so let's move along. But first...
6a - The Sandell Article
For some reason, while discussing the Swanson marginalia, Wood decides to analyze Sandell's article. He suggests that Sandell has borrowed a conclusion of Stephen Knight that Swanson regarded Schwartz as a reliable witness. Knight's conclusion was hardly a difficult one for anyone to arrive at bearing in mind that Swanson said that the police report of the murder casts no doubt on Schwartz's statement, and Swanson himself thought that Schwartz probably saw the murderer. But even if Sandell had read Stephen Knight's book and used the same word, 'reliable', to describe Schwartz's evidence, what on earth does that tell us about the Swanson marginalia? And why does Wood think that it leads to the conclusion that the jury is out on the Swanson marginalia? There really is nothing to see here so let us definitely move along.
6b - The Discovery of the Sandell article
Actually, before leaving the topic of the Swanson marginalia, I note that Wood observes that a typewritten draft of Sandell's unpublished News of the World article was found in Scotland Yard's Crime Museum. Wood says that it is 'anyone's guess' what it was doing there. In which case, I'm going to have a crack at it: the news editor of the News of the World sent it to Scotland Yard's press office for their comments, the Scotland Yard press office had no idea about crimes committed in the nineteenth century so passed the draft article on to the curator of the Crime Museum in the hope that he could assist and the curator of the Crime Museum retained the letter. How about that for a guess?
7. ROBERT ANDERSON AND THE 1910 DEBATE
Just a few words about the way Wood deals with the response to the revelations in Anderson's Blackwood's magazine article in the House of Commons during 1910.
Wood claims that Parliament in 1910 was under 'no illusions' about what had been going on between 1887 and 1889 (which Wood thinks involved some kind of conspiracy against Parnell by the Metropolitan Police). I don't think that is true at all. Parliament actually voted on 21 April 1910 to put an end to the debate about Anderson by a vote of 232 to 111, a majority of 121, probably because it was tired of the endless stream of conspiracy theories emanating from a few Nationalist members and supporters. When Balfour said that T.P. O'Connor had accused the Government from 1887-1889 of 'every kind of political crime, treachery and meanness' it brought 'Ministerial cheers' according to the Times or perhaps I should say that the front bench of the House erupted into cheering ('erupted' being the word used by Wood, but not by any contemporary reporters, to describe the laughter following Jeremiah Macveagh's 'Anderson's fairy tales' crack).
Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, had already pointed out that Anderson had denied that he assisted the Times in getting up its case in 1888/89 and all members of Parliament would surely have read Anderson's letter to the Times of 12 April 1889 in which he stated categorically that 'at no time did the Criminal Investigation Department render any assistance to The Times in the Parnell case.' Crucially, this was confirmed in writing by Monro. Wood may choose to disbelieve Anderson but the House of Commons evidently did believe him and the amendment to reduce the Law Charges vote by the amount of Anderson's pension was defeated by 164 votes to 94.
Without any evidence, Wood says that Anderson retained his pension, like he always knew he would, because he knew where the bodies were buried. In actual fact, the real reason why Anderson retained his pension is because a written legal opinion by the government's Law Officers dated 20 April 1910 had already concluded that the evidence to prove that Anderson had published confidential information in a manner which could be described as 'discreditable or improper' (which was the legal test required to enable a Secretary of State to cancel an Assistant Commissioner's pension under the Police Superannuation Act of 1906) was 'not sufficiently strong' as to be sure of surviving a legal challenge by Anderson to any such decision of the Secretary of State (HO 144/926/A49962). Further, Wood provides no evidence as to Anderson's state of mind at this time. It's impossible for Wood to say that Anderson always knew his pension was safe. He's just guessing or, rather, writing fiction. But if Anderson did know his pension was safe (and we have no idea if he did or did not) it was probably because he thought the government was unlikely to cancel it, due to the legal difficulty in doing so, despite all the hot air from the Nationalist members of Parliament. In this respect, it should be noted that the Secretary of State would have had no legal power to cancel Anderson's pension for disclosing confidential information at any time prior to 1906 (by which time Anderson had retired from the Metropolitan Police) and it was at least arguable that the 1906 Police Act could not be applied to an officer who had retired prior to that date. This wasn't the opinion of the government's Law Officers but Anderson might well have (wrongly) thought his pension was safe on that basis. In any event, there is no evidence that Anderson knew where any bodies were buried (literally or metaphorically) or that anyone in government believed that he did. Certainly the idea that Anderson could potentially embarrass the government in some way played no part whatsoever in the conclusion set out in the written opinion of the Law Officers.
One strange thing is that Wood, a supposed historian, seems to think that Anderson should have been punished for publishing his memoirs in 1910 and giving his thoughts on the Ripper investigation. Perhaps Wood likes less information to be in the public domain. Comparisons were drawn in the House with Sir Charles Warren's situation in 1888 and Wood quotes Jeremiah MacVeagh as saying 'What was the fate of a Commissioner of Police who wrote much less serious articles in Murray's Magazine? He was censured and retired from office because he wrote an article on the administration of Scotland Yard'. Those facts are true enough but Robert Anderson was equally censured by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons in 1910! This couldn't possibly have happened any earlier because no-one in the government knew that Anderson was the author of the 1887 articles in the Times. Furthermore, Warren wasn't formally disciplined for writing his article. He resigned because he was told he couldn't write any more while he was a Commissioner and found that to be an intolerable restriction. Anderson was no longer at Scotland Yard in 1910 so it's a completely different situation. His book could more properly be compared with the memoirs of former Scotland Yard officers which had been published in the nineteenth century without any censure at all.
It's really amazing how much time Wood spends on the issue of the response to Anderson's 1910 memoirs in his book. Yet it adds nothing at all to his thesis and most of what he says about it is fictional, being what Wood would like to have been the case rather than what actually happened.
8. TED STANLEY EXISTS!
In 'Reconstructing Jack' I pointed out that the very evidence relied on by Wood to try to prove that Ted Stanley could not have been a member of the Hampshire Militia actually disproves Wood's barking theory that Stanley was also Colonel Hughes Hallett. This is the evidence of Charles Argent, the proprietor of the lodging house at 1 Osborn Place, that Stanley had 'mainly' lodged in that house since 1876. It should have been perfectly obvious to Wood that Colonel Hallett Hughes, a member of Parliament, had not been living in a Whitechapel lodging house for the best part of 12 years!
Things get worse for Wood because, as he is forced to admit in his third edition, researcher Debra Arif recently discovered that the man known to Charles Argent as Edward Stanley was admitted to the Whitechapel Infirmary on 11 February 1887 in the name of Edward Wand and was discharged 17 days later on 28 February. Wood concedes that Edward Wand is 'the right man' because his address is given on the Whitechapel Infirmary records as 1 Osborn Place (the lodging house run by Argent) and Argent stated that Stanley went by the name of Wand.
On its own, this disproves the crackpot theory that Ted Stanley did not exist, and was actually Colonel Hughes Hallett in disguise, because the Colonel was hardly likely to seek treatment for his bad toe over a 17 day period at the Whitechapel Infirmary. In any case, Hughes Hallett asked a number of questions in the House of Commons during the period when he was supposed to have been a patient in the infirmary. Further, on the evening of 22 February 1887, Hughes Hallett is recorded as having attended a banquet for the Chancellor of the Exchequer at St George's Club, Hanover Square (Times, 23 February 1887). How did he manage to do this while being a patient in the Whitechapel Infirmary? The answer is he couldn't, ergo he was not Edward Stanley.
It really is time for Wood to give up on this nonsensical theory about Ted Stanley.
Mind you, Wood seems to be in a state of confusion about Edward Wand. Having said that the Edward Wand in the infirmary is 'the right man' he then says in the very next paragraph that census and military records have been trawled in an attempt to establish 'if this man may have been Edward Stanley'. But isn't that exactly what he's admitted that Debra Arif has already established? That's what 'the right man' means doesn't it? He has told us that Edward Wand is the right man, i.e. Edward Stanley. So why does anyone need to trawl census and military records? All that will show is Edward Wand's previous life history. It won't show he's also Edward Stanley. But, as that's already been established, we don't need to spend much time on the census and military records.
9. HAMPSHIRE MILITIA
I've already mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack' that there is no reason why Edward Stanley couldn't have been a member of the Hampshire Militia. There was nothing about his age to exclude him (as Wood reluctantly admits) and, while Stanley had to live in either Hampshire or a surrounding county in order to join the Hampshire Militia, we simply don't know enough about Stanley's history to say that he couldn't have lived in Hampshire, or another county like Surrey, at the time he joined.
As I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack', Wood falsely states that 'all accounts' say that Stanley had lived at 1 Osborne Place, Whitechapel, since 1876 because this comes from a single account - of Argent - who only said that Stanley had 'mainly' lived in this location for the previous 12 years, which makes it uncertain if he had lived in another county during that period. Wood hasn't removed the reference to 'all accounts' although he must know that there is only one account regarding Stanley's life history.
In his book, Wood gives contradictory information about the residential qualifications for the Hampshire Militia. At one point he refers to the Militia Regulations of 1853 which stated that 'Volunteers must, at the time of their engagement, be resident within the county of the Militia of which they engage to serve, or in the county immediately adjoining thereto'. This would have opened up the Hampshire Militia to anyone living in Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. Yet, later in the book, Wood suggests that a volunteer in Stanley's brigade had to be living in Hampshire. This is on the basis that, in January 1889, the authorities sanctioned recruitment in Dorset and Wiltshire.
Either way, as we don't know when Stanley enrolled in the Hampshire Militia, we simply have no idea where he was living at the time of his enrollment. Can we rule out the notion that he was living somewhere in Hampshire? Certainly not.
In any case, the Reading Mercury of 9 June 1888 refers to an appearance at the Newbury County Court of William Nalder who was 'charged with absenting himself from the training of the Hampshire Militia last month'. The newspaper states that Nalder 'lived in Stockcross.' Well Stockcross was in Berkshire. So either the Hampshire Militia did allow men living in counties adjoining Hampshire to join the Militia or Nalder had moved from Hampshire to Berkshire after joining. Just like with Stanley we don't know when Nalder joined the Militia and we don't know where he was living at the time.
Could Stanley have joined the Hampshire Militia while living in Hampshire and then moved to London? Well Wood misquotes the 1853 Militia Regulations as saying:
'...in every case of a volunteer removing any considerable distance beyond the border of the county, he should be transferred to the Militia regiment of the county in which he resides.'
What the regulations actually said was:
'It is very desirable that in every case of a volunteer removing any considerable distance beyond the border of the county, he should be transferred to the Militia regiment of the county in which he resides.'
By omitting the words 'It is very desirable that', Wood changes the meaning of the regulations. Desirable is one thing but essential is another. How do we know that if Stanley had asked for permission to live in London while remaining in the Hampshire Militia it wouldn't have been granted? The answer is we don't. And we don't even know if London would qualify as 'a considerable distance' beyond the border of Hampshire.
Clearly, William Nalder was serving in the Hampshire Militia while living in Berkshire rather than transferring to Royal Berkshire Militia. So it was perfectly possible to remain in the Hampshire Militia while living in a county other than Hampshire. It may be that Wood thinks there was something uniquely different about the recruitment standards of Stanley's brigade within the Hampshire Militia but there isn't enough evidence of this and it's difficult to see why that brigade would not have followed the Militia Regulations.
The only other point made by Wood against Stanley being a member of the Hampshire Militia is that Stanley would not have been able 'week after week' to afford the return train fare to Gosport. Well the Militia did not assemble week after week, only once or twice a year, so that was hardly a problem. There was also a special military rate for militiamen when travelling on duty (see Murray and Co.'s book of information for Railway Travellers and Railway Officials, 1865) so Wood may not even have calculated the fare correctly as being 14 shillings (which is based on the standard third class fare in 1890). Whatever the fare was, it appears to have been refunded to militiamen on arrival at their destination (See the Journal of the Royal Artillery, Vol 21, p.406).
In any case, Wood cannot possibly know whether Stanley had savings or assets which he could sell or pawn. Nor does he know what Stanley's wages were as a bricklayer's labourer. So that's another non-point.
In short, Wood has failed to show that Stanley was ineligible to volunteer with the 2nd Brigade, Southern Division, Royal Artillery a.k.a the Hampshire Artillery Militia. He has also failed miserably to show that Stanley did not exist!
10. THE NOVEMBER REPORTS
I recognize a reference to myself in Wood's book when he refers to four police reports about the Goulston Street graffiti which were written on 6 November 1888 and says that the sudden need for these reports has been 'explained away' as the anticipation of questions being raised in the House of Commons. This refers back to the below exchange I had with him on the Censorship Forum on 12 June 2016 (in the thread 'an experiment'):
As can be seen from the above, I didn't 'explain away' why the police reports were prepared on 6 November, I explained it.
'What interests me is why Warren, Arnold, Swanson and PC Long all waited five weeks - until 6th November - before writing their CSG reports, in which they all offered differing versions of the grammar and spelling.'
It's really very simple Simon.
The Commissioner was instructed by the Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office on 5 November 1888 to provide the Home Secretary urgently with a full report of all the circumstances surrounding the erasure of the writing on the wall in advance of parliament meeting on 6 November 1888.
Okay. Why did the Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office wait five weeks—until the day before parliament reconvened—before "urgently" requesting a full report on the GSG?
The answer to that would be that he was only instructed to write the letter to the Commissioner by the Home Secretary on 5 November.
As to why the Home Secretary decided on the day before parliament reconvened that he wanted a full report about the circumstances of the erasure of the writing on the wall, I don't have a pathway into the mind of the deceased gentleman nor can I really be expected to do your thinking for you. But one possible and very simple explanation is that he might have been worried that he was going to be asked about the topic in the House the next day - which would have been the first chance MPs would have had to raise the topic since the allegations about the erasure had been raised in the press in October - and thus wanted to ensure he was fully briefed on the subject.
All Wood has to say about this in his book is that it doesn't excuse the tardiness of the Metropolitan Police in not having these reports already written. It's the kind of comment that makes one wonder if Wood is writing a book about sloppy police practices in the nineteenth century rather than one about whether Jack the Ripper existed or not. I mean, what relevance is it to anything that the police should have anticipated that the Home Secretary would have asked to see a full report into the CSG? And by what standards is Wood operating here? Modern standards or those of 1888?
Anyway, Wood now has his explanation as to why four reports were prepared by the police on 6 November. The Home Secretary had only asked for them on the previous day. This doesn't seem to assist us in understanding whether Jack the Ripper existed or not.
11. LEATHER APRON AND THE LAW OF LIBEL
The law of libel is extremely complex and not something for amateurs to dabble in. This is what Mr Justice Bell said about it in 1996:
‘For better or worse, the law of defamation has grown up in its own special way over…the last hundred and fifty years, and whereas in ordinary negligence claims if you don’t know what the law is you can say what you think is sensible and there is a ninety per cent chance of you being right, I am not sure the percentage isn’t the reverse of that in the law of defamation. But there we are.’ (quoted in McLibel by John Vidal, 1997, p. 173.)
Wood has shown on a number of occasions that he doesn't understand legal matters and gets confused by them. The libel laws have certainly defeated him because in his amusing attempt to try and demonstrate that Pizer could not have sued newspapers for defamation he gets it all badly wrong.
Well, he correctly manages to define a libellous publication as one which, without justification or lawful excuse, exposes a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, per Mr Justice Parke in the 1840 case of Parmiter v Coupland. That remained the case in 1888. He is wrong to say that it was also held in this case that to constitute an offence a libel must be falsely and maliciously published but it is true that the gist of libel was that there needed to be malice and that a claim for libel could be defeated by a defence of justification (i.e. because the published words were true). But Wood is wrong to suggest that Pizer could not have sued any newspapers in 1888 because neither malice nor falsity was found in their reports.
In respect of malice, Wood has gone hopelessly wrong. In an ordinary case of libel there was no requirement for the plaintiff to prove malice. Hence the judgment of Mr Justice Bayley in Bromage v Prosser, 1825, 107 E.R. 1051:
'… in an ordinary action for a libel or for words, though evidence of malice may be given to increase the damages, it never is considered as essential, nor is there any instance of a verdict for a defendant on the ground of want of malice.'
And note the observation of Lord Bramwell in his 1886 judgment in the case of Abrath v The North Eastern Railway Company, House of Lords, (1886) 11 App. Cas. 247):
'That unfortunate word “malice” has got into cases of actions for libel. We all know that a man may be the publisher of a libel without a particle of malice or improper motive. Therefore the case is not the same as where actual and real malice is necessary. Take the case where a person may make an untrue statement of a man in writing, not privileged on account of the occasion of its publication; he would be liable although he had not a particle of malice against the man.'
Thus, as Lord Alverstone said very succinctly in his 1909 judgment in Jones v Hulton (see below for reference):
'What is passing in the mind of the writer is wholly immaterial, or what was his intention, if he has in fact published a libel upon the plaintiff.'
Other judges would say that the presence of malice in an ordinary case of libel would be presumed (e.g. Baron Huddleston in the case of Bryce v Rusden, Times 10 March 1886). So Pizer would not have needed to prove there was any malice in the reports against him to win a libel case against the newspapers.
That is not to say that malice was completely irrelevant. A newspaper was entitled put up a defence to libel that its report was privileged, or, in other words, published for the public benefit, but this defence could only succeed if the report was free of malice. But what Wood has failed to grasp is that the legal definition of malice was different to the normal definition of the word, i.e. as meaning animosity or ill will. According to Mr Justice Best in R. v. Harvey and Chapman, (1823) 107 E.R. 379, 'Malice, in the law relative to libels, means legal malice.' And 'legal malice', also referred to as 'malice in law', meant no more than a wrongful intention (see e.g. Bromage v Prosser 1825, 107 E.R. 1051 and Wason v Walter, 1868, L.R. 4 QB 73 (1868-69)). In the words of Mr Justice Bayley in Bromage v Prosser:
'Malice in common acceptation means ill will against a person, but in its legal sense it means a wrongful act, done intentionally, without just cause or excuse'.
This type of malice could incorporate personal gain (Pankhurst v Hamilton, Times 23 March 1887). In other words, if a newspaper published a story which exposed a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule and did so to sell newspapers in order to make money, that would be regarded as malice and would defeat a defence of privilege.
The stories published about Leather Apron in the Star and other newspapers were so sensational that it is difficult to see that those newspapers could have run a public interest (i.e. privilege) defence but, even if they could, and did, they would probably have fallen down due to the presence of malice because their motive was clearly to sell newspapers.
On the issue of falsity, Wood has overlooked the fact that at least one newspaper (the Pall Mall Gazette) reported that long-bladed knives were found in Pizer's personal possession when he was arrested and it would seem that the Evening News did too. That wasn’t true, so we do have falsity here.
Wood has also overlooked the fact that not all editions of the Star have survived. All we have on 10 September is the fourth edition so we don't know what that newspaper said in the first three editions on that date immediately following the arrest of Pizer at a time when facts were scarce and rumours prevailed. They too might well have falsely reported the presence of deadly knives in Pizer's possession or something else detrimental to Pizer.
Wood is also wrong to say that 'libel requires a person to be uniquely recognizable and identifiable’ as the object of a libellous publication. He doesn't give a source to this statement and I think he's just made it up, assuming that it is common sense. But common sense does not apply to the law of libel. The concept of ‘uniquely recognizable and identifiable’ does not exist in libel law in the England and never has done. In English law at the time, defamatory words ‘must refer to some ascertained or ascertainable person’ (Odgers, 1887, p. 127) but that’s as far as it went.
Mr Justice Abbott in an 1826 case (Bourke v Warren) said in summing up to the jury: ‘The question for your consideration is, whether you think the libel designates the plaintiff in such a way as to let those who knew him understand that he was the person meant. It is not necessary that all the world should understand the libel; it is sufficient if those who know the plaintiff can make out that he is the person meant.’ In an 1869 case of Harrison v Smith, Mr Justice Lush stated in his direction to the jury that:
‘In the first place you have to say whether this libel points to the plaintiff—that is to say, whether the plaintiff is the person at whom the writer intended to point….I shall rule that, if a person chooses to publish a thing of this description, the question is really, not whether the man intended it—it does not matter what he intended—but whether it would be understood by readers to apply to a particular person….If you did not intend it, and it was a mere misfortune of yours to fix upon some individual name when you did not refer to that individual, and the writing unfortunately by accident libelled him, a jury probably would not give the same amount of damages as they would if they thought you knew him perfectly well because he had been in your service and you intended to hit at him. If they thought that, they would give very different damages from what they would in the other case. At the same time an action lies if you have libelled a gentleman when you did not intend it… If you think that by what is somehow or other rather a misfortune than anything else they have happened to publish something which has seriously damaged the plaintiff, then it seems to me that, in the way in which this case has been put to you, you are bound to find for the plaintiff.’
The effect of this was that it didn’t matter if a person in a written publication had been expressly referred to by name or not and it didn’t matter what name was used, it could still be a case of libel. Based on these principles, a 1909 Court of Appeal decided the case of Jones v Hulton, approved by the House of Lords in which a person legally named Thomas Jones, but who called himself 'Artemus Jones', sued a newspaper for libel after it published a joke story about someone its reporter had invented (or thought he had invented) with the name of Artemus Jones. The Court of Appeal ruling in favour of Mr Jones (upheld by the House of Lords) expressly stated that two people with the same nickname could sue for libel if others believed that a reference in the newspaper to a person with that nickname applied to either of them. So libel did not require a person to be uniquely recognizable and identifiable at all. But a plaintiff did require evidence showing that people understood a publication to be referring to him. It didn't need to be everyone in the world, just people who knew him.
Wood is simply wrong, therefore, to say that 'as long as Pizer denied being known as Leather Apron no libel could attach to him'. It didn't matter what Pizer said or did not say at the inquest and it didn't matter whether Pizer admitted or denied being Leather Apron or whether he knew or did not know that he was called this. To win a case for libel on the basis of what the newspapers had said about Leather Apron, Pizer would have needed to have produced evidence from other people who knew him as Leather Apron and who therefore understood or assumed that he was the Whitechapel murderer when they read about Leather Apron in the newspapers. If he didn't have such evidence then everything the newspapers had said about 'Leather Apron' was irrelevant in respect of a libel claim. But that was just one possible line of attack for Pizer. Where the newspapers had got themselves on dangerous ground was in what they had said about Pizer personally, even if it was only that Pizer was the man the police had been seeking, thereby attributing to him all the characteristics of Leather Apron that had previously been reported, namely a man who threatened, assaulted and murdered women.
Ultimately it doesn't actually matter whether Pizer could or could not have won a case for libel. This is where Wood's approach is fatally flawed. For anyone in 1888 or today, a claim can be issued with a winning case or a losing case. Sometimes it's pretty clear if a claimant (or plaintiff as he would have been called in 1888) had a winning case, sometimes not. If one looks at some of the claims issued in the 1880s we find what might appear to us to be some obvious losers. One example is a builder called Thomas Farrell who sued the Newcastle Daily Leader which had reported that he 'went to gaol for 28 days' after a magistrate at Newcastle Police Court had sentenced him to 28 days in prison under the Master and Servants Act for non-payment of wages to men working for him. Farrell was taken away to prison but, before he got there, he managed to arrange for the payment of the wages to his men and was consequently released. As the newspaper had reported that he had gone to prison, which didn't actually happen, he sued the newspaper for libel. He lost the case before Mr Justice Mathew but then appealed, losing again (Times 14 Jan 1888, case of Farrell v Martin), but obviously he and his lawyers, including Mr Gainsford Bruce QC, who acted on his behalf in court, must have thought he had a chance of success. Very few cases have no hope at all but the fact of the matter is that some pretty hopeless claims can get issued (because anyone can issue any properly formulated claim they choose without any judicial intervention at the first stage) and some of these can even manage to extract a payment from the defendant because sometimes it's less hassle for a defendant to make a payment to the claimant than instruct solicitors and barristers and go all the way to trial (or issue a summary judgment application) even if they are confident of victory. Where it might seem that a claimant actually has a reasonable or possible chance of winning the case, the pressure is obviously much greater to settle even if the defendant is nevertheless confident of victory themselves.
Some cases might seem hopeless but then succeed. For example, the Manchester Courier reported in 1885 a speech given by a member of the Manchester Town Council, and a magistrate, at a public election meeting in support of the conservative candidate, Arthur Balfour, in which it was said that a barrister called Dr Pankhurst, a friend of the Liberal candidate, held atheistical views. Pankhurst sued both the speaker and the newspaper for reporting the speech. According to the Newspaper Libels Act of 1881, 'any report published in any newspaper of the proceedings of a public meeting shall be privileged', and thus protected from a libel suit, as long as 'such a meeting was lawfully convened for a lawful purpose and open to the public, and… [the report] was fair and accurate, and published without malice, and… the publication of the matter complained of was for the public benefit'. As a result, Pankhurst should have had no chance in his claim against the Manchester Courier and, indeed, the jury at the trial did find in favour of the newspaper. On appeal, however, this decision was overturned by the Divisional Court with the judges finding that the report of the allegation against Pankhurst was not for the public benefit and a new trial was ordered (Pankhurst v Sowler, Times 13 December 1886). Having knocked out the newspaper's privilege defence the only question at a new trial would have been what damages the newspaper would have to pay and this question appears to have been settled out of court.
So Wood's entire thinking on this issue as expressed in his book is wrong. Pizer probably did have the basis of a libel claim but, even if he didn't, he could still have sued any newspaper he liked in the hope of receiving a nuisance payment to go away. I have now demonstrated that Pizer did, in fact, sue the Star and the Evening News for libel in September/October 1888 (see my article 'Secrets of the Queen's Bench', in Ripperologist 164) so we don't need to discuss this hypothetically any longer.
11a - Harry doesn't give a Dam
Wood makes another mistake about the law of libel when he quotes Lincoln Springfield as saying that an American journalist, Harry Dam, felt able to create the story of Leather Apron because, as a free-born American, he ‘was not, as the rest of us, cowed by the English libel laws’. Wood says that this claim ‘holds no water’ because ‘being an American citizen was no defense’. In saying this, Wood appears to have misunderstood the meaning of the English word ‘cowed’. Springfield wasn’t saying that Dam was exempt from the English libel laws he was simply saying that he wasn’t scared by those laws. That’s all. So Wood’s point doesn’t make sense in the first place.
In pointlessly trying to demonstrate that Dam, in writing about Leather Apron, was subject to the English libel laws, Wood cites an 1889 textbook by Hugh Fraser entitled ‘The Law of Libel in its Relation to the Press’ which says that the author of a newspaper report is liable for the publication of a libel in that report, just the same as the newspaper proprietor, publisher or editor. Somehow, however, Wood has missed an important note added by Fraser which says:
‘In most cases of newspaper libel the proprietor, however, is alone sued, for his name and address can be discovered without any difficulty at Somerset House, room No. 7. Moreover he will not, as a rule, disclose the name of the author of the libel, nor can he be compelled to do so.’
In other words, journalists were not normally sued for libel in the nineteenth century, just the owner or publisher. So it’s no great surprise that an American journalist (who could have left the country at any time) did not feel cowed by the English libel laws!
In Chapter 24 of his third edition, Wood notes for the first time in his series of books that a report by Sergeant White dated 4 October 1888 contains the number 52983 in the margin and comments mysteriously 'of which more later.' Sadly, Wood never gets round to telling his readers more about this five digit number in his book and one has to hunt through his footnotes to footnote number 618 to be told that 52893 appears on various reports but has never been 'clarified'. He also says that it appears in various Special Branch ledger indexes but not amongst available MEPO files. This is wrong because the number 52893 is found in a number of MEPO reports. One finds it, for example, on Inspector Helson's report of 7 September 1888 which is in MEPO 3/140. It is nothing more than a standard Metropolitan Police file reference number for the Whitechapel murders. It's possible that Wood thinks there is something more to this reference number than a dull item of administration but, as he never shares his thoughts with us, we can move on.
12a. SAY GOODBYE WAVE HELLO
But before we do move on, I can't leave this subject without noting that it was at the very moment that I was explaining what 59283 actually was to Wood on the Censorship Forum on 23 August 2017 (at a time when it was actually permissible to explain things to authors on that Forum) that Wood bade farewell to the Forum with the following post:
A number of Forum members were lured into wishing him well etc., but I didn't because I knew better. I've seen people run away from a forum before, the moment they realise they've goofed, only to return after a short gap. And sure enough Wood soon returned and continues to post on the Forum to this day. As Wood said to his fellow Forum members, 'stop believing all the nonsense you've told', i.e. the nonsense told by Wood himself, such as 'This is my last post on Casebook or anywhere else.'
13. THE NON-EXISTENT NEWSPAPER
Wood likes a quote which he attributes to Inspector Abberline, namely: 'The key of the woman's door has been found, so her murderer did not carry it away with him, as was first supposed.' Wood sources this quote to 'the early evening of the Evening Standard edition' of 12 November and to the fifth edition of the Star, both of which, he says,'reported a development which would not be disclosed at the inquest'.
Wood is wrong in two ways. Firstly, the quote did not appear in an early evening edition, or indeed any known edition, of the Evening Standard. It was first published on 12 November in a morning newspaper, associated with the Evening Standard but separate from it, called the Standard. This, I repeat, is not the Evening Standard. Here is an entry from an 1888 newspaper directory:
As you can see, the Standard in 1888 was 'a Morning Paper'. The Evening Standard was a distinct evening paper (established in 30 years earlier) also published by G.S Bentley. So the story in the Standard would have been based on information obtained on 11 November.
Secondly, the quote was not attributed in the Standard (or the Star) to Abberline. Yet Wood repeatedly posts it on the internet, as he does in his book, in this fashion:
'On Monday 12th November, the early edition of the Evening Standard—on sale before the start of the inquest, and the fifth edition of the Star, on sale before Inspector Abberline gave his evidence—reported a development which would not be disclosed at the inquest—
The key to Room 13 was no longer missing.
Inspector Abberline—“The key of the woman’s door has been found, so her murderer did not carry it away with him, as was at first supposed.”'
That was posted in the Censorship Forum on 24 December 2018 (in thread 'Help On Some Details' at #54).
The Standard of 12 November said nothing about this information having come from Abberline. In fact, from the context in which it appears in the newspaper, if it came from anyone it was McCarthy. Hence we find this stated in the Standard of 12 November:
'M'Carthy's shop, in which he sells cheap provisions, was thronged throughout the day, people being greatly attracted, no doubt, by the fact that he, his son, and his man knew more about the murder than any one else, and were not at all reticent on the subject. The key of the murdered woman's door has been found, so that her murderer did not carry it away with him, as was at first supposed'.
As can be seen, it reads, to some extent, like something that McCarthy has said, although it may equally have had nothing to do with him. Abberline is certainly not mentioned at all in connection with the statement. And there is a third error. Wood has inaccurately reproduced the quote, omitting the word 'murdered'.
The Star (an evening newspaper) of 12 November subsequently reproduced the quote about the key exactly as it had appeared in the Standard earlier that day (but not mentioning the bit about McCarthy) suggesting that the Star had simply plagiarised it from the morning newspaper.
The story of the key being found, therefore, could simply and easily be a newspaper myth. Wood has given it an undeserved credibility by falsely attributing it in his book, and on internet posts, directly to the mouth of Abberline. More than this, on such a flimsy basis he goes on to suggest that Abberline withheld information from the inquest!
14. THE "DEAR BOSS" LETTER
I can't help wondering if Wood hates the readers and purchasers of his book, which is why he appears to treat them with such contempt. His book opens with a series of newspaper and book extracts showing that the 'Dear Boss' letter was believed to have been the work of a journalist. Thus, we are introduced at the start of Chapter 1 to (a) the thoughts from 1891 of Arthur Brisbane who claimed that the handwriting on the 'Dear Boss' correspondence was identical to that of John Moore of the Central News Agency, (b) the thoughts from 1910 of Robert Anderson who believed that it was written by 'a pressman', (c) the thoughts from 1913 of John Littlechild who said that it was believed at the Yard that the author was Tom Bullen (Bulling) of the Central News (but that he personally thought it was probably Moore), and (d) the 1914 thoughts of Melville Macnaghten who thought he had a shrewd idea which journalist it was. Wood then contrasts these thoughts with the views of 'an apparently gullible Metropolitan Police' who 'fell for the ruse' and ordered posters of the 'Dear Boss' correspondence, bearing the name of 'Jack the Ripper' to be reproduced on posters outside police stations. However, after saying this he tells us immediately that the Metropolitan Police was 'far from gullible'.
So a clear and straightforward picture is being presented by Wood for his readers here. The Metropolitan Police, knowing that a journalist had created the 'Dear Boss' correspondence (because it was so obviously the work of a journalist per Brisbane, Anderson, Littlechild and Macnaghten), nevertheless spread the image of this correspondence around London as part of a design, the purpose of which is not explained, to implant into the public mind a fictional character called 'Jack the Ripper'.
The reason why I say that Wood treats his readers with contempt is because it is not until Chapter 22 that he shares his own view that it was 'unlikely' that the 'Dear Boss' letter was, in fact, conceived by a journalist.
Now, Wood has deliberately used the word 'conceived' to allow for the 'Dear Boss' letter to have been written by a journalist but conceived by someone else. Later in the book he expressly tells us that it doesn't matter if it was'penned' by Moore, Bulling or Best because, he says, the more interesting question is 'who originally conceived the darkly jocular persona of Jack the Ripper', a persona which, he says, was 'designed to tip Sir Charles Warren's Metropolitan Police into a no-win situation.' It's just another way of treating his readers with contempt because he never explains how Moore, Bulling or Best could possibly have been induced by a third party to write this correspondence, if that is indeed what he is saying - it's never made clear. Furthermore, Wood's own evident uncertainty as to who actually penned the letter, and whether it was even a journalist or not, destroys the significance of Brisbane's claim that the handwriting matched that of Moore, the very claim with which Wood chose to open his book. Clearly if Wood isn't sure which, if any, of the three nominated journalists was responsible then the handwriting doesn't match that of Moore to his own satisfaction.
Wood never clarifies who was behind the correspondence yet the original impression he gave at the start of the book, based on the quotes from Brisbane, Anderson, Littlechild and Macnaghten was that it was obviously the work of a journalist. So much so that the Metropolitan Police must have known this but went ahead and circulated the poster anyway.
Later in the book, in chapter 22, Wood says that 'nobody' was under illusions about Jack the Ripper being a journalistic hoax except Sir Charles Warren, although how Wood was able to gauge the views of everybody in 1888 is never made clear by him and I don't recall having seen a survey being taken.
Mind you, it's funny that Wood says that Sir Charles Warren didn't consider the 'Jack the Ripper' letter to have been a journalistic hoax because at one point in the book he quotes Warren as saying about it in a letter to the Home Office on 10 October, 'At present I think the whole thing a hoax...'. So Warren by this stage evidently wasn't under any illusions (although he added that 'we are bound to try and ascertain the writer in any case').
Wood can't seem to understand how a poster of the correspondence could have been placed outside police stations when there was no certainty as to whether that correspondence was genuine but it's really not that difficult.
Firstly, there may well have been those within the Criminal Investigation Department or Scotland Yard who were of the view that the correspondence was or might have been been genuine. After all, the letter received at Central News on 27 September 1888 suggested that the author wanted to start killing again and only a few days later two women were found murdered. Furthermore, the author suggested that in the next murder the victim's ears would be clipped off and then, although the letter hadn't been seen by anyone outside of the Central News Agency and the police, the right ear lobe Catherine Eddowes was cut through.
It wasn't entirely unreasonable, therefore, for an intelligent police officer in early October 1888 to have thought that the correspondence might be genuine. The thoughts of Arthur Brisbane, Robert Anderson and Melville Macnaghten, to the extent they held the same views in 1888 as they did later (which is highly unlikely), were not available to the decision makers within the police at the time. Robert Anderson, the head of the C.I.D was in Switzerland so, even if he thought it was a hoax at the time, his views are totally irrelevant. If, as Brisbane later suggested, the handwriting of the 'Dear Boss' letter was similar to the handwriting of John Moore of the Central News agency there is no reason for the police to have known this. John Littlechild was a chief inspector in Special Branch who would probably not have been consulted about the letter but he tells us that there was a view at Scotland Yard (although he doesn't say when this view was formed) that the author was Tom Bullen (Bulling) not Moore, so perhaps the handwriting of Moore was not identical to that of the Dear Boss correspondence after all.
Secondly, Sir Charles appears to have been specifically instructed by the Home Secretary to leave no stone unturned and not to ignore any clue, however unlikely. As stated in the Morning Advertiser of 4 October 1888, during a conference between the Home Secretary and Sir Charles Warren on the previous day, the Home Secretary was understood to have directed 'that no power in the hands of the police should be left untried and no clue, however unpromising, neglected'. This is consistent with a Home Office note dated 4 October 1888 which states that it was agreed at the conference that 'no means will be spared of tracing the offender and bringing him to justice' (HO 144/221/A49301C).
The 'Dear Boss' letter was a potential clue and, even if it was unpromising, and even if the Commissioner thought that it might be a hoax, the police would surely not have wanted to neglect it, consistent with the Home Secretary's instructions.
How was it possible for anyone to have known in October 1888 whether the Jack the Ripper letter was genuine or not? Perhaps by circulating the posters someone would have recognized the handwriting of the author of the correspondence. Why is that not a legitimate thought for someone to have had in October 1888?
With the superhuman power of hindsight which Simon Wood possesses, he knows that the posters did not assist in finding the killer but that couldn't possibly have been known to anyone at the time. With the benefit of hundreds of books, articles and online posts written about the correspondence, Wood has also felt able to conclude that the 'Dear Boss' correspondence was a fake, albeit that it has never been entirely proven and remains a matter of opinion. However, it doesn't matter if the correspondence was, in fact, fake or not, only whether the police in 1888 could have known this with such a degree of certainty that they would have been justified in ignoring it completely.
But even if the police were stupid and negligent in their approach to the 'Dear Boss' correspondence, so what? At times, Wood seems to enjoy moments where the police got things wrong but the subject of his book isn't about police negligence in 1888, is it? Surely it's all about deliberate actions that were taken to promote the idea of Jack the Ripper. But where is the evidence of it? What was the purpose of promoting the idea of Jack the Ripper? More importantly, why doesn't Wood give us the answers to these questions in his book?
Incidentally, I don't think we need to spend any time on Wood's odd suggestion that there was a 'risk' in circulating the Jack the Ripper posters because this might have caused 'public unrest'. Unless there is any contemporary evidence which suggests that anyone ever considered this a factor to be taken into consideration (and Wood doesn't produce any) it can be ignored as an unhistorical, modern suggestion by Wood which has no basis in fact whatsoever.
We do have the contemporary argument of Sims who doubted in his column in the Referee of 7 October 1888 that anyone other than a journalist would have chosen to send a letter of this nature to a Press agency. It's a reasonable point but one only has to look at newspaper reports of the murders from early September 1888 to see that, while the names of the journalists are never stated, they frequently refer to being based on information from the Central News. It wasn't a secret and it doesn't seem to have been beyond the ken of an average newspaper reader to have sent a letter to that very same Central News. The correct address of the Central News (i.e. 5 New Bridge Street) isn't even written on the envelope which states 'London, City', not the correct postal district of 'London, E.C.' (while the postcard wrongly used 'London E.')
Leaving aside the issue of whether the 'Dear Boss' correspondence was genuine or not, Wood is guilty of an even greater offence than falsely alleging that the police knew it was fake. For Wood bamboozles his readers in the very first sentence of his book when he says the following, just before introducing the thoughts of Brisbane, Anderson, Littlechild and Macnaghten to the effect that the name 'Jack the Ripper' was created by a journalist:
'Jack the Ripper being an invention is not a new idea'.
That sentence itself is meaningless because it has always been known that the name of 'Jack the Ripper' was an invention, invented by the author of the 'Dear Boss' correspondence who may or may not have been the person who murdered women in Whitechapel. This is in the same way as the nickname for the Yorkshire Ripper, the Black Panther, the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer, the Son of Sam etc. etc. were all invented names for serial killers. The fact that those names were invented obviously doesn't mean that the crimes were also invented or that those killers did not exist.
We now know, contrary to the impression given in his book, that when Wood says that Jack the Ripper was 'an invention', he doesn't in fact mean that a journalist created the name. He means that there were at least five different murderers on the loose (and that the authorities deliberately and falsely presented these five men as a single killer). Yet the examples he gives of an invented Jack the Ripper being an old idea are all of people saying no more than that a journalist created the name. It's not an 'old idea' at all that Jack the Ripper was an invention. While some of the victims might have been excluded from the list of Ripper victims due to the lack of mutilations or other differences in the way the murders were committed, no-one in 1888, or thereabouts, argued that each separate murder was committed by a different person or persons. No-one argued that there wasn't a mass murderer (or group of mass murderers) on the loose. This is a recent idea expressed by modern Ripperologists. But Wood seems to be trying to say that his thesis of Jack as an invention was being supported by Arthur Brisbane et al. It was not, in any way.
In the context of a book in which Wood never makes clear what he means when he says that Jack the Ripper was an invention (and we only know it ourselves from his Forum posts, where the information had to be dragged out of him kicking and screaming), this type of obfuscation can only lead his reader down the garden path, through the flower bed, over to where the fairies live.
Unless Wood can demonstrate that the Metropolitan Police deliberately circulated a poster which they knew to be a hoax it's not worth wasting more time discussing it.
PART D - DID JACK THE RIPPER EXIST?
So far we've dealt with a mixed bunch of topics most of which are pretty much irrelevant to the Jack the Ripper murders and in particular to the central topic of Wood's book which is whether Jack the Ripper existed or not. This is due to the way Wood writes his book. After pages and pages of extracts from newspapers and journeys down blind alleys it isn't until Chapter 17 that we get to the murders themselves.
I've written about the way Wood deals with the murders in 'Reconstructing Jack' and won't repeat it all again but Wood adds a number of new paragraphs relating to the murders in his third edition and, in that context, it's worth expanding some of the earlier points.
When it comes to the murder of Nichols, it is still hard to get over the fact that there is not a single mention of P.C. Neil in Wood's entire book of 600 or so pages. Nor is there a single mention of P.C. Mizen. Or P.C. Thain. How is it even possible to discuss the murder of Nichols without mentioning those three officers? I really don't know, but Wood somehow manages it.
Yet, as recently as 17 October 2018, Wood posted on the Censorship Forum, in the thread, 'What direction Was Polly Travelling When She Was Killed?' (at #26):
'My money is on PCs Neil and Thain, plus the slaughtermen.'
By which he appears to have meant that Neil and Thain and the slaughtermen were responsible for Nichols' murder and mutilation.
We don't find any this in the book though. What we do get in Chapter 17, called 'Blackmail', is a lot of talk about policemen being involved in blackmailing prostitutes and, at first, it all seems quite promising. Is Wood going to reveal to us that the murders, or even just one of them, were committed by blackmailing police officers? No, he isn't. For at the end of the chapter, Wood lets us down big time by telling us that there is 'no available evidence' that the murders of Smith, Tabram and Nichols were the work of blackmailing policemen.
So in that chapter we've got nowhere. But we seem to get a glimpse of a theory of a sort when Wood suggests that the police were so keen to avoid the possibility of the subject of blackmailing policemen even being discussed (presumably because they were all doing it) that they created the idea of a lone mad killer roaming around Whitechapel. Indeed, he says that the police's fear of the subject of a blackmailing policeman being discussed in the press is actually 'evidenced' by the existence of the theory of a lone mad killer. Yes, he really does use the word 'evidenced', so that the press discussion about there being a lone mad killer is actually said to be evidence of the police's desire to avoid the subject of blackmailing policemen!
That might make some kind of sense if the police can be shown to have been behind an irrational notion of a lone mad killer and were telling the press what to publish but there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.
For Wood, the two newspapers assisting the police in their design were the Star and the Echo. According to Wood, the Star's promulgation of the notion of a lone maniac when reporting on the Nichols murder steered minds away from blackmailing gangs. And he thinks that the Echo had been doing the same thing when it reported the earlier murders of Smith and Tabram.
The thing is: even if the police were the cunning masterminds behind the way the press was reporting the murders, wasn't the purpose of 'Jack the Ripper' to deflect attention from events relating to the Parnell Commission? That's what we were told earlier in the book, wasn't it?
Or is Wood saying that 'Jack the Ripper' was invented by police officers so worried that the public might (wrongly) think that a gang of blackmailing policemen had murdered Smith, Tabram and Nichols that they deliberately made sure that the three murders were linked in the public mind, when this might not otherwise have been the case, but to a mad lone individual, quickly known as 'Leather Apron', rather than any kind of gang, involving the police or otherwise?
That's a bit strange because you'd think that the police would have wanted to have avoided any kind of link between the Nichols murder and the earlier murders of Tabram and Smith if they wanted to deflect attention from blackmailing gangs. Further, the only evidence offered up by Wood that 'the police' had any thoughts about who had committed the murders is a report from London dated 31 August 1888 in the New York Times of 1 September 1888 which stated that, 'The police have concluded that the same man did all three murders [Smith, Tabram and Nichols] and that the most dangerous kind of lunatic is at large.' I don't know why Wood quotes an American newspaper here because this part of the New York Times report has obviously been lifted shamelessly by that paper's London correspondent from the London Star which, noting that the previous two murders in the area had both occurred on bank holidays, said on 31 August, 'All this leads to the conclusion, that the police have now formed, that there is a maniac haunting Whitechapel, and that the three woman were all victims of his murderous frenzy.'
As noted by the New York Times, the notion that the murders of Smith, Tabram and Nichols were committed by the same person appears to have been based on the fact that all three victims were of the lowest class, all three murders had taken place in the same district, at about the same time of night, and were all 'characterized by the same ghoul-like brutality.' On that basis, it's hardly unreasonable for someone within the police to have thought that the same person might have committed all three of the murders. Yes, Smith said that she was attacked by a number of men but perhaps she hadn't been telling the truth or was confused due to her injuries. In addition, it was obvious that, with Nichols having had her throat cut, the mutilations inflicted on her were wholly unnecessary for the purpose of causing death so another reasonable thought was that the murderer was some kind of maniac.
The Star report doesn't mention who within the police had formed the so-called 'conclusion' about the three murders but perhaps someone in the Met Police did think that all three murders were by the same person. There were probably different theories held by different officers within the force and this might well have been one of them bearing in mind that it does not seem to have been an unreasonable view to have formed. But who was it? Sir Charles Warren was in the South of France so it couldn't have been him. Monro had resigned and Anderson hadn't yet taken up his duties as head of the C.I.D. Within Scotland Yard, Colonel Pearson was the acting Assistant Commissioner for the C.I.D. and Superintendent Cutbush was receiving reports of the murders from the divisions at that time with Abberline being assigned to investigate the Nichols murder. Within 'H' and 'J' Divisions there was Superintendent Arnold, Inspectors Helson, Spratling and Reid assisted by Detective-Sergeant Enwright and Sergeant Godley. Any one of them could have spoken to a journalist to mention that a working theory was that Smith, Tabram and Nichols had been murdered by the same person. It would appear that this thought had entered the minds of the police on the day of the discovery of Nichols' murder. Certainly, some in the police appear to have thought that only a madman could have carried out such a murder.
Thus, we find it stated in the Echo of 31 August that:
'As a Criminal Investigation officer remarked this afternoon, "The injuries were such that they could only have been inflicted by a madman."'
The Echo also said that:
'It is surmised by the detective authorities that several of the undiscovered crimes of a hideous character have been inflicted by one person whom they think is a madman.'
It will be noted that this is not referred to as a 'conclusion', as the Star had stated (almost certainly inaccurately), but a surmise. And the explanation for it in the context of the Nichols murder is given as follows:
'A feature incomprehensible to the medical man and the police engaged in the case, and one only to be accounted for by classing her murderer as a maniac, is the fact that the wounds in the woman's throat were alone sufficient to cause death. Yet there were various injuries to her body, which could only have been perpetrated for purposes of mutilation. It is this which makes the police think that the deceased was the victim of a criminal who has, while suffering from some special form of madness, wandered about London and committed crime of a mysterious nature.'
That sounds perfectly reasonable.
At the same time, 'the police' wasn't one homogeneous mass. Some officers might have had one theory about the Nichols murder, other officers might have thought something else (something that Wood's brain doesn't seem to be able to cope with). It certainly seems to be the case that there was another theory within the force on 31 August which held that the three murders were the result of a blackmailing gang (but not a gang of blackmailing policemen!). Hence we also find this in the Echo that day:
'There is yet another suggestion, that these murders may have been the work of a gang of scoundrels who seek to levy blackmail upon unfortunate women. But it is hardly possible to believe them to have been the work of sane, however depraved people.'
In both the Evening Standard and Evening News of the same day we find this:
'The officers engaged in the case are pushing their inquiries in the neighbourhood as to the doings of certain gangs known to frequent these parts, and an opinion is gaining ground amongst them that the murderers are the same who committed the two previous murders near the same spot. It is believed that these gangs, who make their appearance during the early hours of the morning, are in the habit of blackmailing these poor unfortunate creatures, and when their demands are refused, violence follows.'
To the extent that this message was coming from the police on 31 August it is difficult to see how this is in any was consistent with Wood's belief that the police were trying to direct attention away from the idea of a blackmailing gang. Surely this is directing attention towards such a theory. One might just as well say that the police were using the idea of a blackmailing gang to divert attention away from the idea of a lone madman! It would certainly make just as much sense, i.e. none.
Here is what the Evening Standard reported on 1 September:
'...the police, of course, have their theories on the subject. But they seem to be purely conjectural, and based on no substantial evidence. One hypothesis is that both murders have been committed by a gang of street robbers, who systematically extort money from any unfortunate and defenceless woman whom they meet - whose life is naturally in great danger if she refuses their demands. Another and even more horrible supposition is that the murders are the work of an escaped lunatic, who is concealed in the vicinity, and certainly the extraordinary and unnecessary violence used in both cases might go some way towards supporting this conception. The love of the marvellous, common to human nature in every station of life, will account for the ready acceptance which this suggestion has met with among the population of the district. But if ever the mystery is unravelled, it will probably be found to have had its origin in some much more commonplace circumstances. '
And surely this is the truth. That the police could only speculate about who had murdered Nichols and why. Wood seems to think that the entire police force should have formed a 100% correct theory on day one of the investigation and no-one within that organisation should ever have deviated from that thinking. That is completely unrealistic.
According to the Times/Daily News of 1 September 1888 the police had 'no theory'. Hence:
'The police have no theory with respect to the matter, except that a gang of ruffians exists in the neighborhood, which, blackmailing women of the "unfortunate" class, takes vengeance on those who do not find money for them. They base that surmise on the fact that within 12 months two other women have been murdered in the district by almost similar means--one as recently as the 6th of August last--and left in the gutter of the street in the early hours of the morning.'
The Echo of 1 September expressly tells us that there were competing theories held by different police officers. Thus:
'One of the chief theories of the police with respect to the matter is that the sort of "High Rip" gang exists in the neighbourhood which, blackmailing women of the same class as the deceased, takes vengeance on those who do not find money for them. They base their surmise on the fact that within twelve months two other women have been murdered in the district by almost similar means, and left in the gutter of the street in the early hours of the morning. The theory is that the woman was murdered in a house and killed whilst undressed, her clothes being then huddles on the body, which was afterwards conveyed out, to be deposited in the street. Though a "High Rip" gang is suspected of the deed, most of the detectives who are investigating the case believe that it was the work of a maniac. '
So when we place the extract from the New York Times of 31 August, claiming that the police had 'concluded' that the three murders were all the work of lone madman, into the full context of all the press reports from that day and the next day, it can be clearly seen that the true picture was not at all how the New York Times presented it, even though this is how Wood would like the picture to have been.
There was no actual police 'conclusion' on 31 August - that was a newspaper word - just some competing theories or surmises as to why Nichols and the other women had been murdered and by whom. If the police were really trying to divert attention from a blackmailing gang they weren't doing a very good job of it bearing in mind that, as we have seen, the Echo was still saying on the evening of 1 September that it was one of the chief theories of the police at the time! Only an additional sentence at the end tells us that 'most detectives' (so not all) thought the murders to be the work of a maniac.
The notion of a lone maniac wasn't even always sourced to the police. According to the Morning Post of 1 September:
'The theory that the murder is the work of a lunatic, who is also the perpetrator of the other two murders of women which have occurred in Whitechapel during the last six months, meets with very general acceptance among the inhabitants of the district.'
Perhaps Wood thinks that the inhabitants of Whitechapel were in on the conspiracy! But the Morning Post continued:
'The more probable theory is that the murder has been committed by one or more of a gang of men who are in the habit of frequenting the streets at late hours of the night and levying blackmail on women.'
This just shows how ludicrous is Wood's theory that the police introduced the notion of a lone maniac on 31 August in order to stop chatter about a blackmailing gang. The police had no chance of controlling what the press thought or said and we can see that the Morning Post on the morning of 1 September was telling its readers that a blackmailing gang was the 'most probable' solution to the mystery. Wood mentions this - he can hardly ignore it - but he doesn't explain it. He simply says that the Star was in the forefront of promoting a different theory over the next twelve days but, so what? The Star wasn't the police and Wood produces no links between the Star and the police so what does it matter what the Star was saying?
We may even note that there was a third theory in circulation on the day of Nichols' murder. Thus, according to the Echo of 31 August:
'Another theory advanced is that the deceased was mistaken for another woman, and was murdered from motives of jealousy.'
All this reveals is uncertainty as to why Nichols was murdered. It doesn't reveal any sort of police conspiracy to create some kind of distraction away from anything, a notion which is really quite ridiculous.
Of course, for Wood the classic police and press distraction technique (although distracting from what is not quite clear) is the existence of 'Leather Apron'. On this, Wood seems confused as to its origins. He appears to suggest that it was a journalistic invention yet reproduces a story from the Echo of 5 September 1888 which said that it was the natives of Whitechapel who had suggested to a journalist that the murder of Nichols had been committed by a 'wild looking man, wearing a leather apron.' Wood tells us that this was a Star journalist, although it's clear that the Echo, rightly or wrongly, was talking about an American journalist employed by a New York newspaper. Wood also reproduces a second story, told by Vince Thompson in 1898, in which a Star journalist was supposedly told by Edward Solomon (the author of the opera 'Billee Taylor') that he should read De Quincy, to which the Star journalist replied 'What - Leathern (sic) Apron?', thus instantly creating the name of the suspect who was, therefore, supposed to be a figment of his imagination. Wood fails to mention that such word association doesn't make sense because the name 'Leathern Apron' isn't obviously associated with De Quincy. He also fails to point out that Thompson wrongly said that the 'innocent Hebrew' who answered to the name of Leather Apron was 'a butcher down in Besis Court, and he lay in jail for two weeks'. This is obviously untrue. Furthermore, Wood doesn't even quote the part of Thompson's story which said that the conversation between the Star journalist and Edward Solomon occurred after the double event (i.e. in October 1888), long after Pizer had been arrested and released and at a time when 'Leather Apron' was a fading memory. Normally, when Wood doesn't like an anecdote, he lasers in on mistakes like this to discredit the entire story. Yet, in this case, he seems perfectly happy with Thompson's account because, of course, Thompson was saying that a journalist had invented Leather Apron.
If Wood had turned his bullshit detector on, he would have concluded that Thompson was telling a lighthearted story devoid of any factual basis. What obviously happened in reality is that a Star reporter spoke to some women in the Whitechapel area on 31 August who described a strange but real man (Pizer) who walked around the district wearing a leather apron whom they suspected of having murdered Nichols. The journalist then clearly filled in any evidential gaps in the story by attributing to this 'Leather Apron' various exaggerated and invented characteristics of a homicidal maniac. That's all that happened. It's very simple. The only thing that's hard to understand is why it causes so much difficulty to conspiracy theorists like Wood.
Wood, incidentally, still seems to think that 'Leather Apron' was first mentioned in a regional newspaper on 1 September when it is patently obvious (as I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack') that his first appearance was in a late edition of the Star of 31 August which is now lost to history.
I've already set out at various places where Wood goes wrong with the whole Leather Apron issue and won't repeat it now.
Let's continue for the moment with the reports of police thinking about the murder of Nichols. There was initial uncertainty as to whether Nichols was murdered where she was found or brought from another place. This uncertainty continues to the present day. Eventually the police concluded that Nichols was murdered where she was found in Bucks Row and this, together with the fact that a blackmailing gang had no need to mutilate their victims, is apparently what led them to discard the blackmailing gang theory which was an attractive one if the body had been moved. This is what the Evening Post said on 3 September:
'After much cogitation upon the matter, the police have discarded the idea of a “high rip” gang being responsible for this and the previous murders of a similar character, and have returned to the first idea, that they are the work of one man.'
According to the Daily News of the same day:
'The murder committed in the early hours of Friday morning of the woman now known as Mary Ann Nicholls has so many points of similarity with the murders of the two other women in the same neighbourhood - one, Martha Turner, as recently as 7th August, and the other less than twelve months previously - that the police admit their belief that the three crimes are the work of one individual. All three women were of the same class, and each of them was so poor that robbery could have formed no motive for the crime. The three murders were committed within a distance of 200 yards of each other. In the earliest case a thrust into the body sufficed to cause the victim's death, in the second some 30 stabs were inflicted before Martha Turner was left to die on the door steps of the model dwellings in George yard, and in the latest case the woman was so violently attacked that she was nearly disembowelled. These facts have led the police almost to abandon the idea of a gang being abroad to wreak vengeance on women for not supplying them with money. Detective Inspector Abberline, of the Criminal Investigation Department, and Detective Inspector Helson, J Division, are both of opinion that only one person, and that a man, had a hand in the latest murder.'
Aside from the fact that the murder of Smith appears to have involved more than one person, one simply can't discern from Wood's book what is wrong with this type of thinking. What does Wood believe the police should have concluded about the murder of Nichols on the basis of the available evidence? He doesn't tell us. And what we see in the Daily News is that the thinking about the murder was being led by the investigating officers on the ground: Abberline and Helson, not by an evil mastermind in Scotland Yard or the Home Office.
While we don't find what the police should have concluded about Nichols' murder set out in Wood's book he clearly doesn't believe that she was murdered in Bucks Row. Again we don't find this in Wood's book but this is what he posted on the Censorship Forum on 23 October 2018 (thread #161):
'I will, however, be pursuing the possible use of Mr. James Brown's Stable Yard as a conduit for getting a hurriedly-dressed corpse from one place to another without unduly alerting the local citizenry. All that business about Nichols being murdered where she was found is a load of old horsefeathers.'
So Wood obviously thinks that there was some kind of organization behind the murder of Nichols. One can only guess that he truly thinks it was a blackmailing gang behind the murder after all, only it was a blackmailing gang of police officers.
Surely this must be the reason behind the question that he posted to a member of the Censorship Forum called Pierre on 4 December 2016 (in thread 'Minutae in Buck's Row', #42):
What your minutiae fails to explain is how, according to official testimony, at 3.45 am we find Robert Paul walking up Buck’s Row on his way to work; Charles Cross standing by Polly’s body; PC Neil discovering Polly’s body; PC Thain being signalled by PC Neil; and PC Mizen encountering Cross and Paul 300 yards away at the corner of Bakers Row and Old Montague Street.
With no watches or accurate public clocks at their disposal, how did everyone contrive to agree upon 3.45 am?
Something is clearly wrong with this scenario.'
Similarly, on 18 June 2018 at #15 in the thread 'Mizen's inquest statement reconstructed' we find this post from Wood:
Here's another question that falls under the Mizen banner.
According to official testimony, at 3.45 am Robert Paul was walking up Buck’s Row on his way to work; Charles Cross was standing by Polly's body; PC Neil was discovering Polly’s body; PC Thain was being signalled by PC Neil; and PC Mizen was encountering Cross and Paul 300 yards away at the corner of Bakers Row and Old Montague Street. I've heard all the arguments about public clocks being inaccurate and people not carrying watches, so would appreciate any explanation of how all these people quite independently agreed upon 3.45 am.
Good luck with this one.'
We can see that not only does Wood think this is an important point, which he felt the need to repeat over a two year period - albeit not, for some inexplicable reason, mentioned in his book - he actually believes it's unanswerable, as revealed by him saying 'Good luck with this one'.
Obviously, members of the Forum responded by telling him that people naturally tend to round times up or down to the nearest five minutes (or even to the nearest fifteen minutes) but I want to look at the underlying premise of Wood's question. Is it true that according to 'official testimony' everyone said that everything was happening at 3.45am?
Let's start with Robert Paul. Did he say in his official testimony that he was walking up Bucks Row at 3.45am as Wood claims? Well it's very easy to check. We can just look at the report of his official testimony in the Times. It says:
'He left home at about quarter to 4 on Friday morning, and as he was passing up Buck's-row he saw a man standing in the middle of the road.'
So there is Wood's first fail. In the official testimony at the inquest, Paul didn't state the time he was passing up Buck's Row. He only mentioned the time he left his house. And he didn't say this was 'at 3.45'. He said it was 'at about 3.45'. The word 'about' is a rather important qualification. Further, he was not asked how he fixed the time. It can only be regarded as a rough estimate.
The second thing that was supposed to have happened 'at 3.45', according to Wood, is that Cross was supposed to have been standing by Polly's body. In all but one of the many reports of the evidence of Cross' testimony, the time that he saw Polly's body isn't mentioned. All that he is reported to have said is that he left his house at 3.30am and arrived at work at 4am. However, according to the Birmingham Daily Post of 4 September 1888:
'C.H. Cross, a carman, said that he left his home at half-past three on Friday morning and passed through Brady Street and Buck’s Row. When he got near the gateway of the wool warehouse in Buck’s Row, at about a quarter to four, he saw the figure of a woman on the opposite side of the road.'
Given that this is uncorroborated, it's a little difficult to place much reliance on it (and the reporter, trying to be helpful for his readers, could have inserted that time based on other evidence) but again, even if it is correct, Cross didn't say that he was in Buck's Row at 3.45, he said he was there 'at about a quarter to four'. It's not the same thing. Another Wood fail.
The next one is that P.C. Neil was discovering Polly's body at 3.45. Is this one true? Well here is the official testimony of P.C. Neil about his discovery of Polly's body from the Times:
'Police-constable John Neil 97, deposed that on Friday morning he was passing down Buck's-row, Whitechapel, and going in the direction of Brady-street, and he did not notice any one about. He had been round the same place about half an hour previous to that and he did not see any one.'
He doesn't say anything there about when he found the body. At the end of his testimony he said that he had previously seen two men working in a slaughterhouse at quarter past 3 which, he said, was 'half an hour before he found the body.' But he doesn't say it was exactly half an hour before he found the body. How could he? It's hardly testimony that he found the body at 3.45am. In his testimony he only said that he was in Bucks Row 'about half an hour' earlier (my underlining). I call it another Wood fail.
PC Thain? 'Nothing attracted his attention until about 3.45am, when he was signalled by a brother constable flashing his lamp some way down Buck's-row.' There's that important word again, the one which Wood didn't mention: 'about'.
Let's pause there for a minute. On the most conservative view of timings, anything that happened between 3.42 and 30 seconds and 3.47 and 30 seconds can properly be rounded up or down to 3.45 being the nearest five minute number. In other words, the period 'about 3.45' easily encompasses at least a five minute period. Quite a few things can happen within five minutes. And that's assuming that everyone could accurately know they were closer to 3.45 than to 3.40 or 3.50. But one can go further because people could quite properly round times to the nearest 15 minutes. So the whole period from about 3.38 to 4.52 could easily encompass 3.45.
Finally, we have PC Mizen's evidence about when he was spoken to by Cross and Paul. He is probably the person who was most accurate about the timing of events bearing in mind it was his duty to wake local residents up to go to work which he was in the process of doing (presumably needing to wake them up at 3.45am). In some reports he is recorded as having said that he was approached by Cross at 3.45am but in the Evening News it is 'about quarter to four', in the Evening Post it is 'about quarter to four', in the Illustrated Police News it is 'at about a quarter to four' (some reports say it was 20 minutes past four but that must be an error). As newspaper reporters are more likely to exclude the words of a witness than to add words that weren't said, my conclusion would be that Mizen said the exchange with Cross and Paul happened at about 3.45, not at 3.45.
Wood's impossible conundrum suddenly becomes very easy to answer. The key would appear to be found in Inspector Abberline's report of 19 September 1888 in which he says that at 'about 3.40am' Charles Cross found the body of Polly Nichols. If that is a roughly correct statement then, bearing in mind that no-one involved was carrying a watch, everything fits perfectly. Cross and Paul spent a few minutes with the body of Nichols at about 3.40 before walking off to find Mizen. If they met Mizen at 3.45am, Neil could have been finding the body of Nichols at exactly the same time. Thain could have been signalled two or three minutes later. Absolutely everything, from the finding of the body to the appearance of Thain, could easily have happened at about 3.45.
Wood's thesis is, of course, that there was some funny business going on here and that the police officers, or possibly everyone, including civilians, was making up the time of 3.45. But if they had collaborated to create a fake story wouldn't they have ensured that they each gave different times for the different events?
It's not the only flaw with Wood's thesis about the events that night. He thinks that Mizen and Neil collaborated to tell a false story. Let's have Wood's own words, for this is what he said on 27 June 2018 (#80 in the thread 'Mizen's inquest statement reconstructed'):
'Cross said that he had not seen a policeman between leaving Bucks Row and meeting PC Mizen.
This was because he had not seen a policeman, which suggests that PC Neil was not where he said he was at 3.45 am.
Mizen on the other hand told the inquest that he was informed by a carman who passed in company with another man that he was wanted by a policeman in Buck's Row.
This was the policeman Cross hadn't seen, the policeman who wasn't there when he should have been.
It doesn't take a great deal of brain cudgeling to work out what was going on here.'
Again, this is not in his book but there are two obvious and basic flaws. The first is that it is quite untrue to say that Neil 'should have been' at Bucks Row at the time Cross and Paul were there. Neil was walking a beat, not manning a fixed point, and wasn't walking to a set schedule. He obviously couldn't be in Bucks Row all night so why did he need to be there at the very moment Cross and Paul were walking down the street? He couldn't possibly have been criticized for not being there at that exact time. The second flaw is that, while Mizen is supposed to be covering for Neil, he and Neil were not telling the same story. Mizen said that Cross told him that an officer had asked for him in Bucks Row but this was never part of Neil's account of events. Neil never said he asked Cross to fetch another officer. If Mizen was deliberately lying about what Cross said to him in order to cover for Neil, what would have been the point, bearing in mind that Cross was obviously going to deny it? It would only make sense if Neil was going to support Mizen by falsely testifying that he had arrived on the scene while Cross and Paul were with the body and expressly asked the two men to fetch another officer. That would have been a false story by Neil that was consistent with Mizen's alleged false story. But with Mizen and Neil saying different things, how is it possible for Wood to conclude that they put their heads together to come up with a fake story? I would suggest it requires an enormous amount of brain cudgeling to work out what could possibly be going on here, on Wood's version of events. Too much indeed for Wood because he never tells us what it is, either in his online posts on in his book. He just isn't a brave enough conspiracy theorist to set out his conspiracy theory. In fact, he may be the only conspiracy theorist in existence who doesn't know what his conspiracy theory actually is!
1a. The Lying Star
According to Wood, the Star newspaper deliberately and blatantly lied about the facts of the Emma Smith case to make them consistent with a lone killer murdering her and Tabram and Nichols. I'm not sure if Wood knows the difference between a lie and a mistake but he doesn't offer any evidence that the Star knowingly told any lies about the Smith murder. Sure, the Star said on 1 September that Smith 'died in hospital without recovering her senses' when the truth was that she was able to mention a few things about her attack. But when the Star said on 31 August that Smith died 'without being able to tell anything about her murderer' that is closer to the truth because a contemporary press report of her murder (LWN, 8 April 1888) said that 'she did not describe the men', while the official police report by Chief Inspector West said that she 'could not describe the men who ill used her'. That's not far off saying that she wasn't able to tell the police anything about her murderer. For the reasons set out above, it's just nonsensical for Wood to say that the Star told blatant lies in order to steer minds away from blackmailing gangs.
In fact, we need look no further than the summing up of Wynne Baxter on 23 September in the Nichols inquest to show how ridiculous Wood's claims are. For Baxter, in a widely reported summing up, stated that Smith, 'survived in hospital for upwards of 24 hours and was able to state that she had been followed by some men, robbed and mutilated, and even to describe imperfectly one of them.' Baxter had officiated at Smith's inquest so was well placed to know what had happened but the point here is that if it was so important for the Star to pretend that Smith hadn't been able to say anything about her murderer, and to give the impression that she was murdered by a single individual, why did Baxter (who Wood appears to think is in on the entire conspiracy) blow the whistle and reveal the truth? More than this, Baxter was suggesting as a possibility that the same person who murdered Smith had murdered Tabram, Nichols and Chapman yet here he was, at the same time, revealing to his jury (and to the public at large) that Smith said she had been robbed and mutilated by 'some men'. Clearly it wasn't so important to conceal the truth after all.
As for why Baxter thought that the same killer or killers were responsible, he gave some cogent reasons namely that all the murders had occurred within the space of about five months, all within a very short distance of each other, all four victims were women of middle age, all were married but living apart from their husbands due to the intemperate habits, all leading 'irregular lives' and living in common lodging houses and all murdered after midnight, in fairly public areas with all four suffering abdominal as well as other injures. Why wouldn't the thought have crossed his or anyone else's mind that the four murders might have been connected? Baxter did not, however, say that they were connected only that there were many points of similarity.
As for motive, Baxter felt easily able to rule out robbery due to the poverty of the victims and noted that there was nothing to suggest jealousy. The fact that some internal organs had been removed from Chapman led him to conclude that a desire to obtain such organs was the motive in the Nichols case (due to the mutilation of Nichols). Indeed, in the end, for this reason, he only really connected the Nichols and Chapman murders and thus anticipated the first two victims of Melville Macnaghten's canonical five.
What problem does Wood have with issues surrounding the murder of Annie Chapman?
Well he starts the story of her murder by noting that Dr Phillips estimated the time of her death as no later than 4.30am (which was primarily on the basis of body temperature). As a result, he thinks that Chapman cannot have been murdered as late as 5.30am. He doesn't seem to realize that it was literally impossible for Dr Phillips to have accurately estimated Chapman's time of death.
Consequently, as a result of this lack of understanding, Wood finds it very suspicious that John Richardson could have been sitting on the steps in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street at 4.45am without seeing the body of Chapman. It makes perfect sense, however, once we understand that Dr Phillips was not infallible and that Chapman could have been murdered after 4.45am. But Wood seems to think the good doctor shared qualities of infallibility with His Holiness The Pope.
For anyone who is under the impression that Dr Phillips was such an experienced surgeon (23 years of experience as a police surgeon Wood tells us) that he could not possibly have thought someone had been dead for two hours when it was really only one hour, I would draw your attention to 'Time of Death: The Story of Forensic Science and the Search for Death's Stopwatch' (2002) by Jessica Snyder Sachs. This makes clear that whatever Dr Phillips might have thought he could do, he couldn't do it.
The experienced Coroner Baxter might well have known this. Perhaps he had experience of doctors getting estimates of the time of death wrong. Perhaps he knew that witness evidence was a more reliable indicator of the time of death. In fact, he pointed out quite rightly that Dr Phillips had qualified his opinion as to the time of death by saying that it was a fairly cool morning and a body would be apt to cool rapidly by having lost a great quantity of blood. Phillips had told the coroner, in other words, that he might have been deceived into thinking her body was too cold for the murder to have taken place within the last hour, at the time he examined her at 6.30am. Wood's reaction to this is baffling and shows that he doesn't understand this very simple point. He claims that Dr Phillips had not qualified his opinion, as Baxter claimed, when he clearly had. That's what Phillips meant when, after saying that Chapman had been dead for two hours and probably more, he added, 'but it is right to say that it was a fairly cool morning, and that the body would be more apt to cool rapidly from its having lost the greater portion of its blood.' I don't know what meaning Wood attributes to the words 'but it is right to say' but it is obviously a qualification of his opinion about the time of death. In other words she could have been murdered later than he thought. Perhaps Mr Wood has more experience of inquiring into deaths than Coroner Baxter had in 1888 but I don't think so.
Wood is also very unhappy that Baxter attempted to reconcile the evidence of Mrs Long (who believed she saw Chapman talking to a man at 5.30am) with the evidence of Albert Cadosch who heard what might have been the murder happening in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street at a time he estimated as being about ten minutes earlier than Long's sighting of Chapman. Perhaps Wood thinks that witness timings are all also infallible too and that it's impermissible to think that one witness might just have got his or her times muddled up. For that is all that Baxter suggested.
Yet, according to Wood, Baxter was making a determined and perverse attempt to ignore the medical evidence and to fix the time of death as 5.30am. I'm not sure what the significance of this is for Wood but he evidently thinks Baxter is covering something up, namely Chapman being murdered at 4.30 and her body being moved later to the yard behind number 29?
But that's just Wynne Baxter. What about the police? Wood points out that, in his report of 19 September 1888, Inspector Abberline made no reference to the time of death. This is true but he doesn't refer to the time of death of Nichols either, despite the report dealing with both murders, and, as he points out in his report, the inquests of both deaths were ongoing so perhaps he was sensibly leaving this issue pending the outcome of the inquests. However, Wood notes that Swanson in his later report is puzzled by the coroner having ignored the evidence of Dr Phillips as to the time of death and, assuming Phillips to have been correct, thinks that the evidence of Mrs Long was doubtful.
Let's leave aside whether Baxter or Swanson was better placed to judge the reliability of the doctor's estimate of time of death and simply note that if Swanson was preferring a time of death as early 4.30am what has happened to the grand conspiracy? Why are Swanson and Baxter not singing from the same hymn sheet here? Wood simply doesn't explain it.
According to Wood, not only was Baxter trying to cover up the fact that Chapman was killed elsewhere (and in support of this notion Wood relies on some bloodstains found in the passage of number 29 which were easily explained by an accidental transfer of Chapman's blood when her body was removed) but, in falsely trying to conclude that the murder took place an hour later than it actually did, he was, supposedly, trying to create a scenario whereby the killer showed an ability to mutilate a body in poor lighting conditions with split second timing coupled with an ability to melt away unnoticed into the crowd. Frankly this is nonsense and a murder at 4.30 or 5.30 made absolutely no difference to how the killer was perceived. In fact, it would have been lighter at 5.30 than 4.30 so if it was important for the killer to have worked in poor lighting conditions then a 4.30 murder would have been more useful for this purpose. Above all, though, how could Wynne Baxter have been trying to give credibility to what would become Jack the Ripper's unique set of signatures, as Wood claims, when he couldn't possibly have known there were going to be any more Jack the Ripper type murders? Or is Wood saying that Baxter was part of the conspiracy to murder the remaining victims? Because surely that's the only way he could have known it. Really, the whole thing is ridiculous.
Baxter was doing no more than his best in a confusing set of circumstances to try and accurately reconstruct the murder of Chapman. If Wood can't see it then he isn't looking properly. It's also strange that Wood seems to criticize Baxter for thinking that Cadosch got his timings wrong when Wood presumably thinks that Cadosch's entire evidence about hearing a woman say 'no' in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street followed by a thud, at around 5.20am, was all wrong bearing in mind that he believes Chapman was murdered at 4.30am, in line with the view of Dr Phillips. Indeed, Wood must think that both Cadosch and Long were completely wrong whereas all Baxter did is adjusted Cadosch's timings by about 10 minutes.
Wood really doesn't like Baxter because, in his summing up at the Nichols murder, Baxter suggested that the murderer of both Nichols and Chapman might have been the same person who had earlier murdered Smith and Tabram. For Wood, anyone who did this was basically inventing the non-existent Jack the Ripper for nefarious purposes. Yet he was clearly doing no such thing. Just trying to get to the bottom of the matter, which Wood seems to want to avoid doing.
2a Prime Suspect
If the police really were involved in some kind of distraction programme regarding the killer of Nichols and Chapman and pretending he was a lone maniac they obviously wouldn't have been searching for lone maniacs would they?
So Wood must regard it as remarkable that in a report to his superiors at Scotland Yard dated 18 September 1888 - a report which was, of course, entirely private - Inspector Abberline stated that the mad butcher, Joseph Isenschmid, was 'the most likely person that has come under our notice to have committed the crimes'. That reflects the private and official thoughts of the lead investigator on the case ten days after the murder of Annie Chapman.
Then the following day, 19 September 1888, the Commissioner privately reported to the Home Secretary that there were three suspects, one of them being Isenschmid (described as 'a very suspicious case'), the second being a mad surgeon called Puckeridge who had been released from an asylum and the third an unknown man who had lived in a house with a brothel keeper who had been seen with blood on him on the morning of the last murder and who had run from detectives.
This must be regarded as concrete proof that the police themselves in September 1888 not only believed that one person was responsible for 'the crimes' but that this person was likely to be a lone maniac. If this was the message they were giving to the press at the time, therefore, it was a genuine one, not one they were falsely promoting, knowing it to be untrue.
The time of death is again the giveaway for Wood that something isn't right in the case of Stride. The testimony of Louis Diemschutz was that he found Stride's body at 'exactly' 1 o'clock on Sunday morning. By 1.16am Dr Blackwell was on the scene and saying, according to Wood, that he thought Stride had been murdered between 12.46 and 12.56. The problem with this estimate, however, is not only that it wasn't based on any medical opinion (which itself could not have allowed an accurate estimate) but that it was based on the fact that the clothes of Stride were 'not wet with rain'. One wonders if doctors were taught at medical school how to estimate time of death based on the dampness of clothing. Could he really have known the difference between the effect 15 minutes of rain on outer clothing and 25 minutes? And we might note that the drier the clothes then, presumably, the later the murder. Blackwell was saying that the clothing was relatively dry! Could he really have been in a position to rule out death at 1am?
I think the answer is no but more than this, in fairness to the doctor, it's not actually what Blackwell was saying. True, in the Times, his answer to the coroner's question,'How long had the deceased been dead when you saw her?' was reported as being, 'From 20 minutes to half an hour when I arrived.' However, in the Standard, the doctor was quoted as saying, 'I think deceased could not have been dead more than from twenty minutes to half an hour when I arrived'. That puts a very different complexion on his evidence, for he wasn't thereby estimating time of death as between twenty minutes and half an hour prior to 1.16am but saying instead that it could not have been more than 20 minutes to half an hour before that time, which is totally different from what Wood thinks he was saying. And this is how we find it reported in the Morning News: 'I do not think the deceased could have been dead more than twenty minutes, at the most half an hour'. This is a far more sensible answer than the one reported in the Times which assumes that Blackwell could have ruled out a more recent death. As reported in the Morning News, Blackwell was certainly not saying that she couldn't have been murdered sooner than twenty minutes before his arrival, just setting the extreme maximum. In other words: no way could she have been murdered earlier than 12.45. That's all he was saying there. And it was based on the fact that her clothing was relatively dry despite the rain.
Wood also notes that the doctor thought that Stride would have bled to death 'comparatively slowly' so he decides, randomly, to allow ten minutes for her to have bled to death even though the doctor himself gave no time for normal bleeding to death to occur. As a result, Wood thinks that this pushes the time of the attack on Stride back to at least ten minutes before 12.56am. But what if Dr Blackwell only meant that normal bleeding to death took about one minute? In fact, we don't need to speculate about Blackwell's timing because, evidently unknown to Wood, he stated in his evidence at the inquest, at least according to the report in the Times, that, 'Deceased would have taken about a minute and a half to bleed to death.' If reported accurately, this must, therefore, be what he meant by 'comparatively slowly'. That could have allowed an attack and cutting of throat at 12.59, the arrival of Diemschutz one minute later and then death at shortly after 1.01, after the killer had fled before having had a chance to mutilate the body.
Can that be ruled out? No, clearly not. On a fair reading of his evidence, Blackwell did not rule out the murder having been committed 15 minutes prior to his examination, rather than 20 minutes. Wood's criticism of the coroner for saying that the murderer must have been disturbed in the act at 1am 'for the death had only just taken place' must fail. It is, indeed, not only possible but likely that death had only just taken place at this time. This is because of the evidence of Edward Spooner which Wood completely ignores in his book. Spooner stated that he saw the dead body of Stride immediately after the alarm had been raised and noted that, 'Blood was still flowing from the throat'. This would have indicated to anyone - and certainly to the coroner - that death must have occurred very shortly before Spooner saw the body. With Diemschutz insisting that he only found the body and raised the alarm at 1am and Spooner appearing to corroborate this by his own timings, the coroner was perfectly entitled to form a view that Stride's throat had been cut very shortly before 1am. With the direct evidence of Dr Blackwell completely contradicting Wood's assumption that Stride would have taken 10 minutes to bleed to death, one of his key planks for undermining the notion of the double event and thus undermining the very existence of Jack the Ripper is broken. Wood suggests that Baxter should have been taken away to an asylum in leather restraints but one can't help wondering if that item of attire might not be better suited for Wood himself.
Wood's other big issue with the Stride murder is in the report of Swanson about the involvement of Schwartz. Although Swanson's report was for the Home Office and not for publication to the wider public, Wood says that there is an 'Alice in Wonderland' scenario in Swanson's report. The problem is that he fails to tell us just what that 'Alice in Wonderland' scenario is!
As I read Swanson's report, he simply makes the point that, as Schwartz saw a woman being attacked at 12.45am, and, bearing in mind that Stride was found very recently murdered fifteen minutes later, it was not entirely certain that the man seen by Schwartz was the murderer. This seems like a sensible remark but Wood, for some reason, regards it as Swanson desperately trying to support the notion of murderer having been interrupted. What Wood doesn't explain is why Swanson would have been trying to convince the Home Office of a false scenario? It becomes even more puzzling when we bear in mind that Wood has told us that the whole fake 'Jack the Ripper' business was created by some sort of faceless cabal within the Home Office. So was Swanson attempting to deceive the creators of Jack the Ripper into thinking Jack the Ripper existed?
When Swanson's report is read properly, he is clearly not trying to argue that the murderer was interrupted nor is he pushing the notion that the man seen by Schwartz in Berner Street was identical to the man seen by Lawende near Mitre Square. He merely notes that there was similarity between the two descriptions. Remarkably, Wood tells us that Swanson had 'neglected to mention' in his report that he thought that Stride had been murdered by someone other than the man seen by Schwartz despite Wood having literally just criticized Swanson for theorizing that Stride might have been murdered by someone other than the man seen by Schwartz!!! Perhaps Wood had simply forgotten it by the time he came to write the next page in his book.
Wood seems to think that the evidence of Schwartz is the key to the murder which means he must believe that Schwartz saw the murderer attacking Stride at 12.45am. That being so, in Wood's view, the murderer only intended to cut Stride's throat and was not interrupted by Diemschutz at 1am because he had long since fled the scene by that time. Well that's possible of course. It's consistent with what Wood imagines to be Dr Blackwell's wet but not too wet clothing scenario time of death estimate. It wouldn't necessarily mean that the murderer wasn't interrupted, however, because he might easily have been disturbed by someone other than Diemschutz. Perhaps he was worried about Schwartz (or the other man) coming back and decided against mutilating Stride's body. Or perhaps the man attacked Stride, apologized to her, spoke to her for a few more minutes and then cut her throat shortly before 1am before going off to murder Eddowes. But equally it could have been someone different from the killer of Eddowes who murdered Stride. That's possible. But what Wood simply hasn't done is demonstrated that Swanson was irrationally and perversely trying to argue against this idea.
In fact, Wood completely misrepresents Swanson's report when he says that Swanson had 'discounted' the man seen by Schwartz in favour of Stride having been killed mutilandum interruptus at 1am. Swanson did absolutely no such thing. On the contrary, in his report, he stated that the man seen by Schwartz was more likely to have been the murderer than the man seen by PC Smith talking to a woman wearing a red rose in Berner Street. All Swanson went on to say was that it was 'not clearly proved' that this man was the murderer of Stride. How can that fairly be portrayed as Swanson discounting this man as being the murderer? Wood is so convinced that the police were pushing the idea of mutilandum interruptus that he can't seem to read documents properly. It wouldn't be so bad if Wood himself had managed to clearly prove that the man seen by Schwartz was the murderer, but he can't seem to do any better than Swanson did in October 1888. So his criticism of Swanson is blatantly unfair.
Wood then goes on at some length about the grapes as if the police discounting their significance in some way shows they were trying to rubbish crucial evidence in favour of pushing the double event scenario. I have read Wood's book quite carefully at this point and I simply cannot fathom how the issue of the grapes can be said to support the notion of two different murderers. I mean, if Packer sold the murderer some grapes and Stride was holding them in her hand when she was killed, how does this help us to ascertain whether this man also went on to murder Eddowes or not? It is inexplicable and baffling.
As far as I can tell, Wood starts from the premise that the police were trying to hide the evidence of the grapes and, therefore, as the police were trying to promote the double event, the evidence of the grapes must disprove the notion of the double event. But I can't for the life of me see how this is the case.
If Wood's thesis is correct then both Schwartz and Packer must have identified the same man, being the man who murdered Stride, right? Well the man seen by Schwartz to attack Stride was described as aged about 30, height 5 foot five inches, while the man to whom Packer sold grapes was described as being a young man, aged 25 to 30, about 5 foot 7 inches in height. Okay not too far apart, albeit not identical, but Packer also said that the man he sold the grapes to was wearing 'a long black coat' whereas the man seen by Schwartz was only wearing a 'dark jacket'. Had the killer removed and discarded his long black coat, to reveal a dark jacket underneath, by the time Schwartz saw him then?
Before leaving this topic we might want to note an amusing modification that Wood has made to his book following my 'Reconstructing Jack' article. It will no doubt be recalled that I referred to Wood's claim in his book that, had the statements of Schwartz and Packer been admitted into evidence at the inquest, the whole story of the double event 'would have been exposed as an elaborate fiction'. Unable to understand why this would have been the case, I asked all the members of the Censorship Forum what Wood meant but they were all as baffled as I was. Even Wood couldn't explain it! So that sentence has been completely removed in the third edition. He now just tells us that someone (by which he means the police) didn't want Schwartz or Packer to testify at the inquest, but he doesn't explain why. All he then says is that the idea that the murderer was interrupted was an elaborate fiction. I think that deserves a massive LOL!
When it comes to Schwartz, incidentally, Wood has added into his third edition some utter nonsense about a report in the Star (claiming that the Leman Street police had reason to doubt Schwartz's story) which he says would have rendered inadmissible any evidence given by Schwartz at the inquest. But a newspaper comment, however extreme, cannot possibly make the evidence of a witness at an inquest inadmissible. It's just ignorant nonsense from Wood who appears to be making it up as he goes along. I can only assume he is thinking of a situation where a criminal prosecution is put in jeopardy because of sub judice comments in the media that could influence a jury against a defendant. Such issues do not arise at an inquest where no-one is being tried.
In my article 'From Commissioner to Asterisk' I made the point that, in my absence from the Censorship Forum, there was an opportunity for members to post nonsense without any challenge from me. Furthermore, under the Forum rules, any Ripper author is allowed to post nonsense without anyone else being allowed to question them. Simon Wood has taken full advantage of the situation. Having previously announced his retirement from the Forum he is not only back posting but he's now taken to starting new threads.
On 22 June 2019 he started one called 'The Keystone Cops' although perhaps that was a typo and he meant to type 'The Keyboard Cops', referring to himself as a keyboard detective who has the solution to the mystery of the Whitechapel murders. Apparently, if you understand that there was no Jack the Ripper, it's possible to solve the Ripper mystery, although, sadly, Wood has so far failed to do so.In this 'Keystone Cops' thread, Wood wants to focus on the murder of Elizabeth Stride. Thus, he says:
'Elizabeth Stride is the keystone to the WM. Don't bother asking yourself whether or not she was a Ripper victim. Rather, ask yourself why she had to be included as part of the Ripper tally. Approaching it this way around puts the WM in a whole new light.'
Firstly, this doesn't make any sense. If Stride was a Ripper victim then that alone explains why she had to be included in the Ripper tally, i.e. for reasons of accuracy. So the first question that needs to be asked is whether or not she was a Ripper victim. As to that, no-one can answer the question with any degree of accuracy but it seems likely that she was, bearing in mind that an undisputed Ripper victim, i.e. Eddowes, appears to have been murdered not far from the location of Stride's murder within about fifteen minutes of the murder of Stride (who had her throat cut like other Ripper victims). Dr Bond, who actually saw the Stride post-mortem notes (which no-one alive today has seen), and who had personally examined the dead body of Mary Jane Kelly, concluded that the person who murdered Stride had also murdered Kelly and three other victims. Wood himself certainly doesn't manage to put forward a case as to why we can conclude Stride was not a Ripper victim.
But let's play along with Wood and (on the assumption that Stride was not a Ripper victim) ask why it was essential or important for Stride to be included as part of the Ripper tally. The short answer is that there is (and was) no reason. If Eddowes alone had been murdered on 30 September it wouldn't have materially changed the situation. The morning newspapers on both the Sunday and Monday would still have dramatically reported about yet another horrible murder in Whitechapel. If the person who wrote the Jack the Ripper letter sent a similar letter, the name 'Jack the Ripper' would still have entered into the lexicon.
Equally, if the police had quickly established that Stride had been murdered by a lone killer, such as Michael Kidney, I'm sure they would have been delighted to have solved that murder. But the shock of another Whitechapel murder would still have been about the same due to the horrific mutilations inflicted upon Eddowes. Just like there was a huge shock after the single murders of both Nichols and Chapman. It's only in Wood's crazy fantasy that there somehow needed to be two murders in one night. There really didn't and the police had no interest in falsely assigning two murders to the individual who became known as Jack the Ripper. If they did have an interest it would be lovely if Wood would tell us what it was. But he seems strangely reticent on the subject.
So when Wood then posted in #3 of his thread: 'Consider the consequences of Stride not being included in the Ripper's tally.', we can safely say there were no consequences other than that we would be referring to a canonical four rather than a canonical five. So what? What difference would it make? The answer is none, basically.
Then Wood just posted the same thing again in #7 when he said:
'Ask yourself why it was imperative that Stride had to be included in/couldn't be left out of the Ripper tally.'
Again, the answer is that it wasn't imperative. So we've still got nowhere.And then in #12:
'Stride's murder had nothing to do with the "Ripper."
But Stride had to be made part of the "Ripper's" tally, because, if she had been treated as the victim of, say, a one-off domestic murder, it would have destroyed any notion of a lone "serial killer" stalking the East End of London.
Send a postcard to the press, sign it Jack the Ripper, and claim Stride as the first victim in a double event.
And everyone fell for it. Even Macnaghten.'
The first thing to note about this weird post is that Wood contradicts what he said in his Opening Post in which, it will be recalled, he had stated, 'Don't bother asking yourself whether [Stride] was or was not a Ripper victim'. For, now, he's telling us categorically that 'Stride's murder had nothing to do with the "Ripper". The very thing that we weren't supposed to ask ourselves!!! But how does Wood know that Stride's murder had nothing to do with the Ripper? As we've seen in this article, Wood's analysis of the Stride murder is seriously flawed. The meagre reasons he put forward in his book to argue that Stride's murder wasn't a Ripper murder were based on a misunderstanding of the evidence.
So there's a big problem right there. The first thing you have to do is ask whether Stride was or was not a Ripper victim and if you conclude that she wasn't you need to provide some good reasons in support. For there is nothing 'Keystone Cops' , or stupid, in the way that the Metropolitan Police in 1888 appear to have concluded that Stride was probably murdered by the same man who then went on to murder Eddowes, having been interrupted in his plan to mutilate the body. It's not 100% certain of course but it seems to be rather likely.
Picking up on Wood's reference to Macnaghten being 'fooled', that is strange in itself. For the really novel thing about Macnaghten's memorandum is that he managed to REDUCE the number of Ripper victims. Thus, crucially, he excluded Tabram and he excluded Mackenzie, both of whom until then were widely considered to have been victims of the Jack the Ripper. What possible purpose could it have served for Macnaghten to have reduced the tally from seven down to five instead of four? If he needed for some bizarre reason to keep the total at five he could simply have excluded Stride but kept Tabram. Well, Wood doesn't say that he did want to keep Stride in as a Ripper victim for any reason, just that he was 'fooled' into doing so, although he doesn't tell us who fooled him. It doesn't seem to occur to Wood that, in excluding all the other possible Ripper victims, Macnaghten was making a judgement call and, indeed, he seems to have made a reasonable one that Stride was a Ripper victim, especially bearing in mind that Wood can't even seem to begin to make out a case that she wasn't.
Continuing with Wood's post, we see some terribly flawed logic. If Stride had been regarded as having been murdered by, say, Kidney it would in no way have destroyed the notion of a lone serial killer stalking the East End of London. In fact, it's a mad thing to say. As at 30 September, if Stride were excluded, there would still have been the murders of Nichols, Chapman and Eddowes (if not Tabram) to solve. There would, in other words, have been believed to be a lone serial killer stalking the East End of London. So how does Wood's claim make any sense at all? He doesn't explain it.
Even worse is that he goes on to suggest that if Stride wasn't a Ripper victim then there was a problem for which a solution was required and that the solution was the Jack the Ripper postcard. But for whom was it a problem that Stride wasn't a Ripper victim? Wood doesn't say. Apart from the incomprehensible nature of the premise that Stride not being a Ripper victim would have undermined the notion of a serial killer, Wood just fails to explain why anyone wanted there to have been a serial killer loose in the East end in 1888.
This is, of course, a major theme of this article but Wood simply fails yet again to confront the central and fatal flaw of his entire theory.
He entitles his thread 'Keystone Cops' as if the police were too stupid not to realize that Stride wasn't a Ripper murder then, at the same time, suggests, hints or implies that the police were somehow, and for some unknown reason, deliberately and falsely promoting Stride as a Ripper victim, perhaps even being behind the Jack the Ripper postcard although, of course, he doesn't expressly say this.
Then we have this further nonsense from Wood in #14:
'You can't promote a "lone serial killer" stalking the East End, when a totally unconnected killing takes place within the hour on the same day.
You have to own it.'
Well of course you can "promote" a lone serial killer stalking the East End when an unconnected killing takes place within the hour on the same day. You absolutely can! Why can't you?
The reason you can is because there had already been at least two Ripper type murders at the time of the double-event and Eddowes was a third. So, regardless of Stride, there's a lone serial killer right there.
But more importantly: who was wanting to "promote" a lone serial killer stalking the East End and why on earth would they have wanted to do so?
These really are the questions I would have asked Simon Wood had I been a member of the Forum but of course he wouldn't have answered them, so I would have repeated them, and, as he is a published author, such questions would have been totally against the rules and would surely have led to the closure and locking of the thread. Members are not allowed to badger authors with questions.
Wood has a question of his own in the thread: 'Do you believe Stride was murdered by the non-existent "Ripper"?'
It is of course a loaded question. If one answers "yes", one is agreeing that there is a non-existent Ripper! If one answers "no", it agrees with Wood's view of the world. But, apart from being a loaded question, it is one which Wood shouldn't even be asking in a thread in which everyone was told not to bother asking oneself if Stride was a Ripper victim!!!
But it's also a pointless question. A much better question would be:
"Are there reasons to believe that Stride was murdered by the person known as Jack the Ripper?"
The answer to this question has to be: yes there are. These reasons have already been set out in both this article and my earlier article, Reconstructing Jack. One can obviously say that the fact that Stride wasn't mutilated is a reason to think that she might not have been a Ripper murder but even Jack the Ripper couldn't have mutilated a woman if he was interrupted in the act of murder before he had a chance to carry out those mutilations.
As for whether Stride was actually murdered by the same person who murdered Eddowes, this is far less important. If she wasn't, then sure the police were wrong in making the link. You could even, if you want to be unfair with the use of hindsight (assuming it can be proved that the police were actually wrong), say they were a bit dumb in connecting the two because, with this speculative premise, they obviously were wrong. So, fine, they were Keystone Cops. I don't agree with it because it's perfectly reasonable for an intelligent person to say that Stride was a Ripper victim but calling the Met Police 'Keystone Cops' isn't saying anything different to what the Punch cartoonist was saying in September 1888 with the image of the blindfolded officer. But what you can't say is that they deliberately and falsely linked the two murders. Not, at least, without a rational explanation as to why they felt the need to do such a strange thing.
For that reason, Wood's thread is just a complete waste of time and is another classic example of his lack of understanding of the events of 1888.
When it comes to the murder of Eddowes, Wood throws up issues about the writing on the wall, Eddowes' apron, a pawn ticket, a walk from Maidstone and various other irrelevancies.
The first bit of nonsense we get from Wood on this topic is a remark that P.C. Long found the piece of apron in Goulston Street about half an hour before anyone realized it was missing. But Long never said he was searching for a missing apron. He saw a bloodstained apron adjacent to some suspicious writing on a wall. That was it.
In a truly dazzling passage, Wood tells us that the City of London Police inventory of Eddowes' clothing does not include an apron before confessing that the inventory includes 'One piece of old White Apron.' So the inventory does include an apron! It's just that Wood has decided that this isn't an apron. For some reason, Wood seems to prefer a report in the Times, probably written by someone who had never seen the body, which said that an old white coarse apron and a piece of riband was tied around Eddowes' neck, despite the inventory of contents not referring to a piece of riband, and on that basis (I think) he rules out the piece of white apron in the inventory as being the remaining part of the white apron cut by the killer (although the logic of this eludes me). Amusingly, Wood refers to 'official police descriptions which appeared in the press' although he doesn't tell us in what way they were 'official'.
One can only conclude that Eddowes wasn't wearing an apron by ignoring the evidence of Dr Brown who matched the piece found by P.C. Long in Goulston Street with the piece that he said in his evidence was attached the strings on Eddowes' body. Other witnesses also noted that Eddowes was wearing an apron with a piece missing. I really don't know why Wood thinks that someone planted a piece of an apron in Goulston Street that Eddowes hadn't been wearing or who would conceivably have done so or for what possible reason. Presumably it has something to do with wanting to draw attention to the writing on the wall and Wood tells us that this was something to do with blaming the murder on a Jew. This is amazing enough anyway because someone would have had to have decided to do this within minutes of the discovery of a murder that they presumably could not have had any idea was going to happen in Mitre Square that night. But as Eddowes clearly was wearing an apron, a piece of which had been cut off, he hasn't got anywhere.
I dealt with the pawn ticket in 'Reconstructing Jack' and Wood really should give up the idea that Eddowes' acceptance of a free pawn ticket was some kind of burden on her, as if it would have been too heavy for her to carry, and was of no conceivable benefit to her, when it obviously would have had value, either by her redeeming it herself (and thus acquiring a shirt of greater value than the sum spent in redeeming the ticket) or by her selling or exchanging it. Even if he is right that there was something odd about her carrying it (which there wasn't) he doesn't even begin to explain how it all fits into the grand conspiracy. The reality, however, is that Wood initially assumed that, when an item was pawned, the owner received the full value of the item so that it certainly wouldn't make sense to pass on a pawn ticket to someone else who, in paying to redeem it, would end up spending more than the item is worth. What Wood obviously didn't understand when he wrote his book is that you would only ever receive a fraction of the value of an item, which meant that there was a genuine market for second hand pawn tickets because you could end up with a bargain by redeeming them for a small fee. So by handing over her pawn ticket (which she couldn't redeem because she wasn't going back to London) to Eddowes, Emily Burrell did her new friend a small favour, that's it.
Wood has a problem with Eddowes and John Kelly walking the 37 miles from Maidstone to London in one day. But, at a normal average walking speed of 3 miles an hour, that distance could have been walked in about 12 hours. According to a reporter from the Echo of 31 August, hop pickers woke up at 5am and were expected to start work at 6am. If Eddowes and Kelly had started their walk from Maidstone at 6am, they would have been back in London by 8pm, allowing two hours for rest and food along the way. It was probably a walk that many hoppers did year in and year out. Wood tries to make the walk sound impossible by mentioning that Kelly was wearing new shoes and was not in the best of health and had to walk along country lanes and unmetalled roads but it was hardly a superhuman feat, walking all day at a normal average walking speed.
As usual, Wood also has some kind of problem with the timing of the murder. Despite having made clear in his book that P.C. Harvey did not enter Mitre Square, he then appears to work on the assumption that he did enter Mitre Square at about 1.40am (five minutes before the body of Eddowes was discovered) for he refers to 'James Harvey's 1.40 am appearance at Mitre Square' and to the possibility of the perpetrator having commenced operations 'after Constable Harvey left the square at 1.40 am'. For that reason Wood has confused himself into thinking that the murderer could not have been at work at 1.40am because Harvey would have seen him - but if Harvey didn't enter the square this isn't the case. A little bit later, having remembered that Harvey didn't, in fact, enter Mitre Square, Wood tells us that, despite it being during the middle of a dark night, there was 'a clear line of sight' down Church Passage to the murder spot. Had that been the case you'd have thought Harvey would have said so in his evidence at the inquest but he never did. In the middle of the night, with the murder having been committed in the darkest part of the square, it is unlikely that this was the case and without actual evidence in support is a point that cannot properly be made.
In any case, here is a contemporary sketch map of Mitre Square which shows that there was only a limited line of sight from Church Passage to the site of the murder (marked with an X and noted as Point 1).
While the murder spot was visible from the middle of Church Passage and on the right hand side, If Harvey's beat involved him walking down the pavement on the left side of the passage (in the direction of the square), his view of the murder, had it been ongoing at the time, would have been completely blocked. This is demonstrated in the below:
There was, self-evidently, no line of sight in Church Passage at any point above the coloured line, which area comprises at least 50% of the passage. Another Simon Wood point crumbles to dust.
The other problem with Wood's thinking about the Eddowes murder is that he not only assumes that the woman seen by Lawende talking to a man was Eddowes (which was never positively established) but he assumes that every timing is 100% accurate. Thus he thinks that Lawende saw Eddowes alive at exactly 1.35am and with P.C. Harvey being in Church Passage at exactly 1.40am and the body being discovered at 1.44am (exactly) there was no time for the murderer to have committed the crime bearing in mind that Dr Brown said he would have needed at least five minutes. Mind you, if all the times were precisely accurate, there was actually six or seven minutes between Lawende seeing Eddowes at 1.35 and Harvey being in Church Passage at 1.41 or 1.42, which is what he said in his evidence, as Wood reluctantly concedes. Wood eventually notes this rather unfortunate timing possibility but would clearly have preferred it if the murder was impossible to commit, which it wasn't so that's the end of that.
4a - The Double Event
A central if inexplicable part of Wood's thesis is that the police were far too quick to connect the murders of Stride and Eddowes and that, in fact, they falsely promoted the idea of a 'double event' in order to create a distraction from....errr... well....something or other. In this respect, Wood seems to find importance in an account by Thomas Catling, the editor of Lloyds Weekly News, which was one of the first newspapers to report on the two murders. Wood thinks that Henry Smith told Catling that the two murders were connected (although why the City of London Police were getting involved in the grand conspiracy which was, until then, presumably being conducted by the Metropolitan Police is not explained by Wood) and that Catling then published this in his newspaper, thus setting the seal on the notion of a 'double event' and creating a serial killer out of, apparently, nothing.
Wood is, however, immediately confused about Catling's story. He quotes Catling as saying in his newspaper on 7 October 1888 that when intelligence of the two murders reached his newspaper's office, 'it was necessary to despatch a reporter to Mitre-Square' and he tells us that this reporter was Thomas Catling. But Wood has obviously misunderstood. I mean, honestly, an editor doesn't despatch himself! What actually happened is that, separate to an LWN reporter being despatched to Mitre Square (unsuccessfully because he found every road leading to the square heavily guarded), Catling himself paid a visit to Bishopsgate Police Station where he met Major Henry Smith of the City of London Police. Writing some twenty years after the night in question, Catling recalled that Smith told him that, 'he feared both murders must be put down as the act of the unknown "Ripper".' Well clearly Major Smith did not mention the 'Ripper' to Catling on the night of 30 September, at a time prior to publication of the 'Ripper' correspondence, and it just shows that one cannot rely on memories long after an event. Indeed, when we look at the contemporary account of what Smith told Catling, as published in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper of 30 September 1888, something Wood fails to quote, we find a very different story. For what was published was this:
'At the police station in Bishopsgate Chief Superintendent Major Henry Smith most courteously informed the Editor that the reports furnished to Lloyd's of the two murders having been committed this morning were unhappily true.'
And that is undoubtedly all that Smith said to Catling that night. No more than that there had indeed been two murders in the early hours of the morning. Had he told the editor of LWN that he feared the two murders must have been the work of the same hand, Catling would surely have reported this information. Instead, the closest we get to Wood's conspiracy theory in the early edition of LWN is the newspaper saying that 'it is thought that the murderer [of Stride] may probably have been disturbed.' That is not only independent of whether the murderer then went on to murder Eddowes but is unlikely to have been sourced from Henry Smith who would probably not have had sufficient knowledge of the Stride murder which had occurred within the Metropolitan Police district. The reason given by the newspaper to explain the thinking that the murderer was disturbed was because there was no further injury to the body of Stride. One can, of course, say this was circular thinking based on the assumption that the murderer of Stride was the same person who had murdered and mutilated Nichols and Chapman (as well as Eddowes), and thus intended to mutilate his victim, but this was a newspaper speaking not the police. There is no indication that the newspaper was even reflecting police thinking. It's not what Catling said he was told by Smith. And the words 'may probably' should be noted here. It's hardly indicative of an attempt to force the concept of an interrupted murderer onto the nation.
In a later edition of the newspaper, published after 11am on the Sunday morning, it was stated that, 'There is a growing belief that the two crimes were committed by one man'. The reason given for this was that, 'the two bodies were found within a distance of each other which can be easily walked in ten minutes.' Again, this theory is not sourced to the police and it may well have been based on what other newspapers were reporting on that Sunday morning, especially The People.
Talking of which, not mentioned at all in Wood's book is the account given by W.T. Madge, the proprietor of the The People, during an 1897 interview, to which I drew Wood's attention on 3 June 2017, having mentioned it in an update to 'Reconstructing Jack' the previous day. For Madge said that as soon as he heard of the Whitechapel murders on 30 September, 'I rushed off to the spot'. He doesn't say which spot but he might have meant Berner Street as much as Mitre Square. He then said: 'I hit upon the idea that both had been done by the same hand, and no one had hit on that'. He claimed that the People sold half a million copies that day based on 'my theory' (which may be compared to the quarter of a million that Catling said was circulated of the later editions of LWN).
As I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack', this account completely undermines Wood's theory that the 'double event' was promoted by the police, for here we have a newspaper man clearly saying that it was all his idea!!! There was no involvement by the police in this account at all.
Naturally, Wood does not like this so he ignores it. As it happens, I managed to confront him with it on the Casebook Forum on 3 June 2017 at a time when it was possible to question authors without the thread being closed. His feeble response was this:
'It might be a case of W.T. Madge being wise after the event.
Thomas Catling didn't mention his presence that morning.'
I say this is feeble for three reasons. Firstly, it's hardly a case of Madge being wise after the event because he was talking about what he published in The People at the time, on 30 September. By contrast, it would appear that Catling was the one who was wise after the event, claiming in 1911 not only that Henry Smith had told him about the 'Ripper' (which was all but impossible) but that Smith had said that the murders were by the same man even though this wasn't reported in his newspaper at the time. Secondly, there is nothing in the point that Catling didn't mention Madge's presence that morning because, apart from anything else, Catling didn't visit the scene of Stride's murder. He only went to Bishopsgate Police Station before attempting unsuccessfully to gain access to Mitre Square (like his reporter before him) before going to the mortuary where Eddowes' corpse lay. If Madge only went to Berner Street, or went to Mitre Square after (or before) Catling had been turned away, it would obviously explain why he didn't see Catling. There was absolutely no need for the two men to see each other but, even if they did, there was even less need for either of them to mention seeing each other in their later accounts. In any case, as I pointed out to Wood, by the same logic, the fact that Madge didn't mention seeing Catling must mean (to Wood) that Catling wasn't there. Why does he believe Catling over Madge, especially in circumstances where Catling recalled being told something about the 'Ripper' which plainly wasn't true? It's kind of desperate stuff from Wood but if he thinks there was a problem with Madge's account why doesn't he mention it in his book in order to discount it? Well perhaps he didn't know about it at the time his book was published in June 2017, only becoming aware when I raised it, so let's see if he mentions it in the next edition or if he runs scared of it.
The short point here is that Wood fails to provide any evidence at all that the police were promoting a double event during the early hours of 30 September, let alone doing so knowing or suspecting that both women had been murdered by different individuals.
As I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack', the physical and temporal proximity of the two murders, not to mention the fact that both victims were lower class women, was such that it was immediately obvious that it was at least a possibility that the same man was responsible for the murders. Even Wood acknowledges this, so it's bizarre that he thinks there is something odd about the police seriously considering this scenario.
4b - Baxter's Comments on the Double Event
Wood notes in his book that Wynne Baxter suggests that the murder of Eddowes might have been the work of an imitator. Thus, Baxter said in respect of Stride's murder (underlining added):
'In the absence of motive, the age and class of woman selected as victim, and the place and time of the crime, there was a similarity between this case and those mysteries which had recently occurred in that neighbourhood. There had been no skilful mutilation as in the cases of Nichols and Chapman, and no unskilful injuries as in the case of Mitre Square - possibly the work of an imitator; but there had been the same skill exhibited in the way in which the victim had been entrapped, and the injuries inflicted, so as to cause instant death and prevent blood from soiling the operator, and the same daring defiance of immediate detection..'
So we have something going on here that Wood can't seem to explain. For, on the one hand, Baxter is giving cogent reasons why there are similarities between the murders of Nichols, Chapman and Stride (and Eddowes) while at the same time floating the possibility that Nichols, Chapman and Stride were murdered by a different person to the man who killed Eddowes. If the coroner was part of a grand conspiracy to attribute all the murders to a fictional 'Jack the Ripper', or, alternatively, was on a lone mission to do so, why would he possibly be doing such a thing?
We might first ask ourselves why Baxter thought that the mutilations on Eddowes were so different to those on Chapman and Stride. Baxter, of course, was not involved in the inquest on Eddowes and possibly had in mind the reported evidence of Dr Sequeira at the Eddowes inquest on 11 October 1888 that the murderer was not possessed of great anatomical skill. Dr Brown's earlier evidence on 4 October had been somewhat different, but Baxter, who was then heavily involved in the Stride inquest, must not have been concentrating. For there is no good reason for him to have said that the injuries inflicted upon Eddowes were 'unskilful' in comparison to those inflicted on Nichols and Chapman.
But Baxter's opinions on the injuries inflicted upon Eddowes are not much more important than those of any other intelligent person who read the newspapers at the time. What is surely important for Wood's thesis is that Baxter was certainly not pushing the idea that Eddowes was murdered by the man then known as 'Jack the Ripper'. What Wood needs to tell us is: why not? Why wasn't he doing so bearing in mind that Wood is also telling us that Baxter was desperately, and against the evidence, trying to push the idea of the murderer being interrupted after having cut the throat of Stride? What purpose could Baxter have had in promoting the notion of mutilandum interruptus (as Wood likes to call it) for the murder of Stride, while, at the same time, suggesting that Stride's murderer did not then go on to murder Eddowes? It's bizarre! Surely the entire purpose of the mutilandum interruptus theory is that the killer was so frustrated at not being able to mutilate Stride that he went on to murder and mutilate Eddowes. Wood just says it's hard to explain. Well, yes, it is if you believe that Baxter was involved in promoting the idea of a fictional Jack the Ripper but not so hard to explain if you think that this is complete nonsense.
Wood, incidentally, says that Baxter's view on the matter is shared by Dr Phillips. But that isn't the case. Phillips was only reported as saying that the murders of Stride and Eddowes were not committed by the same person. He might well have believed this on the basis of the way the throats of the two women were cut and believed, contrary to Baxter, that Nichols, Chapman and Eddowes were all murdered by the same person. Phillips wasn't asked to offer an opinion on the matter during the Stride inquest so we don't have any more than a third hand newspaper report based on what Dr Brown told a newspaper reporter was the opinion of Dr Phillips. Yet Wood seems convinced that both Baxter and Phillips were saying that Eddowes was killed by an imitator. And on this basis he seems to assume that Eddowes was indeed killed by an imitator for he asks as the end of his Chapter 24 who the imitator was trying to imitate. His answer is weird one because he says it wasn't Nichols or Stride. He then adds that the Eddowes murder resembles one only. So presumably the murder of Chapman? If that's the case why doesn't he say so? Or does he mean the murder of Kelly? But that was in the future and someone couldn't have been imitating something that hadn't yet happened could they?
But the 'imitator' theory is based on no more than the thoughts of Wynne Baxter at the Stride inquest which seem to have been based on a false notion that the mutilations of Eddowes were made by an unskilled hand. This wasn't what Dr Brown said at any rate.
What does Wood actually say about the murder of Mary Jane Kelly? If we ignore all the irrelevant diversions surrounding the murder which are obsessed over by Wood such as the little boy, Dr Gabe, the bloodhounds, the missing key and the locked room, what are we left with? Well, Wood says that 'cooler minds', by which he really means paranoid conspiratorial minds, will understand that the woman murdered was not Mary Jane Kelly. Let's leave that aside too. The key passage is found towards the end of chapter 28. I've mentioned this before in 'Reconstructing Jack' but it's worth another look.
Wood tells us firstly that some people from 'our secret world' have told him a lot of 'interesting' things. But he doesn't say about what. A woman who is described as a 'historian' has told him that the period 1887 to 1891 is 'far darker and more intriguing' than can be found in any history book which makes me wonder why that so-called historian hasn't written a new history book of her own containing this darker and intriguing material. Is it perhaps because there is no evidence, and the material exists only in her imagination? I think so. None of this, however, seems to have any direct bearing on the murder of Mary Kelly.
Regarding Kelly, what we are told by Wood is that 'others' who have pondered on the subject believe that Millers Court bore all the hallmarks of a Special Branch operation as opposed to a C.I.D. investigation. He doesn't give us any clue as to who these 'others' are and they could be no more than a couple of his conspiracy theorist internet buddies, or perhaps a couple of people he met in a pub. By 'Millers Court' he appears to mean the police investigation rather than the murder and it's not clear what difference it makes which division of the police investigated the murder but if the investigation into Kelly's murder bore the hallmarks of a Special Branch 'operation' why doesn't Wood simply tell all those people who have paid money to buy his book what those hallmarks are? Or did the men in the pub, or his internet buddies, not tell him?
It's a complete swizz that Wood uses this type of 'evidence' to sneak into his book a vague theory that he attributes to anonymous others and and can thus avoid any responsibility for. Who killed Kelly? And if she wasn't Kelly who was she? What was the connection between Kelly and the other victims? Wood can't seem to answer any of these questions. He doesn't even provide a theory. So what is the point of his book?A classic example of Wood's nudge nudge, wink wink, approach to the Kelly murder occurs in his book when he reproduces a short report from the Aberdeen Evening Express of 9 November 1888 which was stated to have been telegraphed to Aberdeen by the Central News at 3pm. The report says this:
'Present indications go to show that the woman murdered in a lodging house, in a court leading from Dorset Street, Spitalfields, fell victim to the man who has already made himself a terror to the East End of London. On this occasion, however, the fiend has departed from his usual method, inasmuch as the crime was committed, not in the open streets, but in a room in a lodging house. This should afford a more definite clue in tracing the murderer than has been given in any of the previous cases.'
Commenting on this in his book, Wood says that, at the time the Central News was telegraphing its story: Kelly's body was still in Room 13, the witnesses had yet to be let out of Millers Court and the police had barely begun its investigation, 'yet four hundred miles away in northern Scotland the press had been telegraphed by Central News, informing them that 'the fiend' had struck again.'
As is his usual practice, Wood has copied and pasted this entire extract from his book into a post on the Casebook Forum to which he has added the ridiculous question: 'Anybody smell a rat?' (thread: 'Conspiracy to suppress the identity of JTR? #21).
His entire approach is comical. The news of the murder in Spitalfields had circulated round the crowd watching the Lord Mayor's Show much earlier than 3pm. In fact, this occurred at noon by which time the news had already reached the Press Association, for we find this in the Edinburgh Evening Times of 9 November:
'The Press Association says a report from Spitalfields at noon states that a woman was murdered this morning in Dorset Court, Dorset Street, Whitechapel. The particulars have not yet transpired.'
This news would have reached Edinburgh shortly thereafter by the miracle of telegraphic communication. Very soon after that first telegraph, the Edinburgh Evening News' own London correspondent sent a telegraph as follows:
At about the same time, the Central News telegraphed a report from a Star journalist:
'A woman was found in a house 25 Dorset Street, Spitalfields, this morning, decapitated and cut up. The mutilations are more horrible than ever.'
'Another Whitechapel murder has been done. This time the tragedy was carried out even more openly than the murder in Mitre Square. A woman early this morning was found murdered and mutilated in the room of a house in a court in Dorset Street, Spitalfields. The details at hand are meagre enough. There seems to be no doubt that the sickening details of the crimes that shocked London a short time ago were repeated. A man who saw the body said it was cut up something awful....This report has not been confirmed from any other sources.'
This was followed by another Press Association telegram timed at 1pm (according to the Aberdeen Evening Express) which said:
'At half past ten this morning the dead body of a woman with her head almost severed from her body was found in an untenanted house or shed in Dorset Court, Dorset Street, Commercial Street, Spitalfields...'
We have reports that first editions of that day's evening papers, carrying the news of another 'orrible murder, were being sold by the young newspaper hawkers prior to the arrival of the Lord Mayor's procession at the Royal Courts of Justice at 2pm. At 2.30pm, according to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, the Central News sent out a telegram with some considerable detail:
'The murdered woman, whose name has not yet been ascertained, is a tall, fair female about thirty years of age, and she is a prostitute, like the former victims. She has for some time past hired the furnished room in which her mutilated body was found about ten o'clock this morning. Late last night she was heard coming in with a companion and the couple retired immediately to the woman's room...Shortly before ten o'clock, a man who keeps a general shop at the corner of the court went into the room, and, not hearing the woman stirring, knocked at the door. He received no answer, and, becoming suspicious, pushed open the door, and then rushed shouting from the house. The body lay partly on the bed, throat was cut, and the breast and other parts of the body hacked about in a fearful manner. It is said (but this requires confirmation) that at least one limb was severed from the trunk.'
At some point prior to 3pm, as discussed further below, Scotland Yard confirmed that a woman had been found in a room with her throat cut with 'further mutilations'. So by the time the Central News was sending its telegram to Aberdeen, the story of a murder of a woman in Spitalfields, involving a throat being cut and mutilations to the body, was already very much in circulation. Indeed, the Three O'Clock Editions of the Dundee Evening Telegraph and the Glasgow Evening Citizen both carried news of the latest murder in Whitechapel based on the Press Association and Central News telegrams. The headline for the Dundee Evening Telegraph story (at 3pm) was 'THE EAST END TRAGEDIES. ANOTHER WOMAN REPORTED MURDERED' thus clearly linking the previous murders with this one. Even Wood can't think that the Metropolitan Police had the ability or inclination, during the afternoon of 9 November, to influence an editor's choice of headline in a Dundee newspaper!
Wood seems to think there is some relevance in the fact that the news of the murder was telegraphed to Scotland at 3pm. Perhaps he doesn't understand how the new fangled telegraphic system of communication worked. Perhaps he is in awe of how news could travel around the country literally in seconds in 1888. It made no real difference whether the Central News was sending its report by telegraph to Scotland or to Southend or even to someone in West London. It took about the same amount of time. So it's irrelevant that we are talking about a report being sent to Scotland, in particular, at 3pm.
So what actual information is in that 3pm telegram that Wood thinks an agency journalist couldn't have found out by 3pm without some kind of secret police assistance? Factually speaking, all it said was that a woman had been found murdered in a room in a lodging house in Dorset Street. It didn't give a name of the victim. An opinion was offered that she was killed by the same man who had murdered the previous victims and this was said to be based on 'Present indications'. Those indications were likely to have been that the victim was a woman whose throat had been cut and body mutilated, which information was already in the public domain, having been confirmed in a statement by Scotland Yard before 3pm. In any event, there was almost certainly a (true) rumour in circulation even earlier than this that the murdered woman had been horribly mutilated. There's no real secret as to how this might have reached newspaper reporters prior to Scotland Yard's confirmation. When Bowyer and McCarthy saw the mutilated body of Kelly through the window they would hardly have kept that news a secret to those in the immediate vicinity. McCarthy would certainly have told his wife and his wife could have told anyone. The news of the mutilations was probably half-way round the East End before the police even turned up at Miller's Court. As stated in the Echo of 9 November, 'The news of the tragedy spread like wildfire.' According to the next day's Morning Advertiser, 'Women rushed about the streets telling their neighbours the news', so that, 'Nothwithstanding the reticence of the police, the main facts of the crime soon became known...'. We have already seen that a Central News telegram sent before 1pm stated that a man who had seen the body said it was 'cut up something awful'. At 2.30pm, some of the basic details of how Kelly's dead body had been discovered were already known to the Central News, probably from local residents. Furthermore, it would appear that Dr Gabe spoke to a Press Association reporter before 3pm to say that he had never seen such a horrible sight as the murdered woman had presented. Knowing that a woman had been murdered and horribly mutilated in Spitalfields it wouldn't have taken Sherlock Holmes to work out that the 'indications' were that it was another Jack the Ripper murder.
According to the Echo's Special Edition of 9 November, 'Up to the present the police refuse the Press any information. Two stalwart constables guard the entrance to the court. The members of the Press are even denied admittance to the court.' An earlier edition of the Evening News, published at a time when the victim's name was not yet known, stated that, having heard of a rumour of a murder in Dorset Street:
'We at once sent a reporter to the spot, who, on applying to the inspector at Commercial-street station, was informed that orders had been received not to give any information beyond the bare fact that a woman had been murdered, all official information being forwarded to Scotland Yard.'
'Consequently', said the Evening News, 'the details of the crime are difficult to obtain, but inquiry in the neighbourhood elicited the information that the victim's head was nearly, or quite nearly severed from the body, and that, as in the other terrible cases, the abdomen was ripped open.'
The Evening News at this stage didn't attribute this murder to the Ripper. The Star, in its Fifth Edition, did carry a headline 'ANOTHER CRIME BY THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERER' but it explained why it did so, which was nothing to do with the police. Indeed, like the Echo, it too sent a reporter to Commercial-street but he got nowhere. Further, the Star stated:
'From the police who, in uniform and plain clothes, simply swarm all over the place, nothing whatever can be gleaned. But from the startled inhabitants of the lodging-houses in Dorset-street a Star man got a few details.'
Hence the Star reporter learned of the mutilations and stated that (underlining added), 'from the daring manner in which the murder had been committed, there seems little doubt that the murderer is the man who has given Whitechapel a regular succession of horrors'.
At Commercial Street police station, the Star reporter says he was politely but firmly referred to Scotland Yard and it is clear, as mentioned above, that the Yard did make a short statement in the early afternoon of 9 November which appears to have been circulated by the Central News agency prior to 3pm. This is it, as featured in the Globe's edition of 4.30pm on 9 November:
And that is all the information the press was given by Scotland Yard during the early afternoon of 9 November. As can be clearly seen, nothing at all was said about the murder being the latest in a series. In fact, the very opposite appears to be the case for look how the same statement was reported in the Edinburgh Evening News:
The final part of the report says that the extent of the mutilations has not transpired, 'nor is it known whether the murder is similar to the previous tragedies.'
As we can see, therefore, it would appear that Scotland Yard was actually saying that it was not known whether the murderer was the same person who was responsible for the previous tragedies. That's about as far away from them pushing the notion that Kelly's murder was another Ripper murder as it's possible to get!
In short, there is no 'rat' to smell. The Central News story circulated at 3pm on 9 November just involved an agency reporter offering an opinion based on the little information available at that time
And look at this report which appeared in a newspaper published on 9 November:
This is East London Advertiser which was dated Saturday 10 November 1888 but was available for sale on the Friday, 9 November. We can see that the news of another murder in the East End has only just reached this newspaper, which was based in the Mile End Road, prior to the presses rolling, and not much is known other than the murdered woman has had her throat cut and has been 'more fearfully mutilated than in the previous murders'. As a result, it is 'greatly to be feared that this is an addition to the series of atrocities recently perpetrated in our locality'. This all seems perfectly reasonable and sensible. Nothing is stated as a fact, it's just that it is feared to be another Ripper murder. Why would it not be?
In the above mentioned online thread (at #29), Simon Wood says this:
'It had been six weeks since the so-called double event. Memories are short. People weren't sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the Ripper to strike again.
So why did the police automatically assume that Millers Court was the work of the "Ripper", a fact that they were happy for the newspapers to broadcast in quick-smart time.'
We don't even need to trouble ourselves with the false premise, and non sequitur, that because a newspaper was assuming Millers Court was the work of the Ripper this means the police were too. Wood is living in La La Land if he thinks that newspaper journalists and residents of the East End had forgotten all about the Ripper murders by November 1888!!! I mean, what a load of absolute nonsense. It doesn't matter if people were 'sitting on the edge of their seats' waiting for the Ripper to strike again or not. What happened on the morning of 9 November, while the recent series of 'Ripper' murders was very fresh in the memory, was that another woman had been found murdered (with her throat cut) and mutilated and the natural and obvious worry was that this was another Jack the Ripper murder. A newspaper editor or journalist didn't need the police to tell him that! Despite this, Wood says, without any evidence at all, in the 'Conspiracy to suppress the identity of JTR' Forum thread, that ,'Newspapers carried much of what the police required them to print.'
The truth, of course, is that the police in 1888 could not 'require' newspapers to print anything but if Wood thinks they did, I do wonder what he makes of the following report which was also published on Friday, 9 November, in the Eastern Post (a weekly newspaper dated Saturday 10 November but also in the newsagents on the Friday):
Here we have a story which does the exact opposite of what Wood seems to think was going on. Far from suggesting that the murder of Kelly was the work of Jack the Ripper, despite reporting that the woman's throat had been cut (and her head removed from her body!), this newspaper said that an arrest had been made and the cause of the crime was jealousy, so that, 'this is not supposed to be another of the series of Whitechapel murders which have caused so much sensation in the past.' This conclusion was, presumably, based on the fact that the newspaper had learnt that the police were interviewing Joseph Barnett about the murder and had jumped to the conclusion that he had not only been arrested but was responsible for it. Yet, this no more shows that the police were pushing a story that Barnett was the murderer than it does that they were pushing the story that the murderer was a serial killer who had murdered the other women in the East End.
Additionally, this how the Pall Mall Gazette broke the story of the murder in its Fourth Edition:
So this newspaper was also not linking the murder to the Ripper murders at an early stage, saying no more than that, 'it is at present impossible to say whether the crime belongs to the same category as those which so recently startled the civilised world'. How does Wood explain this if newspapers printed only what the police required them to print?
But let's say that the murder of Kelly turned out, by the end of 9 November, to have been the work of a jealous boyfriend (i.e. Barnett) as the Eastern Post had speculated. Perhaps her throat hadn't been cut and her body not mutilated. Then what? Well, all that would have happened is that the newspapers would have issued a correction. I mean, look at this report from the Central News which appeared in an early edition of the Evening News on 21 November 1888:
It was established later the same day that this report was false. There was no murder and no shocking mutilations. It wasn't another Jack the Ripper tragedy. A woman called Annie Farmer claimed to have been attacked and that was that. The story was retracted. The world did not come to an end, just as it would not have done if the Kelly story had been corrected after 3pm as not being another Ripper murder after all. Sometimes, as in the Farmer case, reporters jumped to conclusions without having obtained official confirmation for their story.
Wood doesn't mention the Farmer incident in his book so it's difficult to know what he thinks about it. It certainly doesn't seem to have suited any conceivable purpose for the public to have thought there was another Ripper murder for a few hours on 21 November only to be told on the same day that one hadn't, in fact, occurred.
Before I leave this subject, I must just note an incident on the Casebook Forum which occurred on 30 May 2019. A ordinary member of the Forum, Joshua Rogan, dared to challenge Wood's assertion that the only way the press could have learnt that the Millers Court murder was a "Ripper" murder at 3pm was because 'Somebody', by which Wood meant that the police, 'must have told them'. Now, obviously, challenging a protected author on the Forum is strictly forbidden under the rules of that Forum but Rogan took his life into his hands by posting an extract from the Morning Advertiser, to which I refer above, which explained that the press learnt details of the murder from the noisy local residents. Wood responded to this in a strange way. For he posted in response an extract from the Pall Mall Gazette of 10 November which said that there had been 'no disposition on the part of the police officers at Commercial Street police station to correct any of the conflicting statements which have been made by the newspapers, or to supply further particulars'. Wood's laughable comment about this on the Forum was that this showed that, 'The Metropolitan Police maintained its silence, careful not to discourage the public from spreading the rumour that this murder was the work of the Whitechapel murderer, or more specifically "Jack the Ripper".'
So without batting an eyelid, Wood seems to have abandoned his position that the Metropolitan Police was the source of the information that the Millers Court murder was another Ripper murder and now it has become that they were merely not discouraging the rumour that it was a Ripper murder which is, of course, a totally different thing. But the logic here is non-existent. If the police weren't discouraging the rumour that it was a Ripper murder then they equally weren't discouraging the rumour that it was a murder by a jealous boyfriend and, thus, nothing to do with the Ripper! Furthermore, in refusing to comment at this early stage, surely the police were doing exactly what Wood had earlier been saying that they should have been doing at this time, i.e. saying nothing to the press about this being a Ripper murder until the facts had been confirmed. Wasn't that the whole point of his criticism of the Central News telegram at 3pm, namely that that agency couldn't have had sufficient knowledge of the facts to attribute the murder to the Ripper and thus must have been told it was a Ripper murder by the blabbermouth police who themselves could not have known it was a Ripper murder at this early stage when they had barely begun their investigation? So, if the police officers at Commercial Street were remaining silent, they were surely behaving totally responsibly and doing exactly what Wood must think they should have been doing, even if this didn't please the news hungry editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Or perhaps Wood just wants to damn the police if they do and damn them if they don't (perish the thought).
In any event, what happened, as we have seen, is that the officers at Commercial Street police station very responsibly made no comment to the press, referring journalists to Scotland Yard which, at an early stage (prior to 3pm) put out a helpful and totally factual statement that a woman had been found murdered, with her throat cut and mutilations to her body, but without attributing the murder to Jack the Ripper. What more could they have possibly done to satisfy Wood?
The chapter on Kelly in Wood's book concludes with Wood noting that Robert Anderson paid the funeral expenses of two informers, or relatives of informers, which are recorded in a ledger seen by Lindsay Clutterbuck. He evidently thinks that Anderson paid for Kelly's funeral and that she was thus an informer or spy. For some reason Wood doesn't ask himself why, if this was the case, Clutterbuck didn't note that the expenses for the Kelly funeral were recorded in the same ledger. The absence of such a record seems to be fatal to Wood's theory.
6. LINKING THE MURDERS
In his book, Wood claims that people 'want to believe' in Jack the Ripper despite the fact that there is 'no evidence' to support the idea that someone called Jack the Ripper murdered five prostitutes between 31 August and 9 November but 'much to refute it'. This statement is simply not true. The report of Dr Thomas Bond dated 10 November 1888 which concluded that 'All five murders were no doubt committed by the same hand' is contemporary medical evidence of there having been one killer (who was undoubtedly called 'Jack the Ripper' by the press) and there is no evidence of which I am aware to refute the notion of a single killer - and believe me I read Wood's massive book carefully trying to find it.
I rather think that Wood has been a bit crafty here because he doesn't actually say there is much evidence to refute the notion of single killer, just that there is 'much' to refute it, by which he presumably means the hundreds of newspaper stories he reproduces verbatim in his book with either no or minimal explanation as to why he has done so or what they actually tell us.
As we don't know who murdered the five women, the evidence either way is certainly minimal by definition, but the argument that they were murdered by one person is very strong due to the geographical location, the short time span and the similar way they were all murdered (and all but one of them mutilated). It wasn't as if women were having their throats cut in the streets of Whitechapel, or the surrounding area, every night of the week which is obviously why the murder of Stride was attributed to the same person who cut the throat of Eddowes within 15 minutes, less than a mile away, on the same night. Murdered women were rarely mutilated which is undoubtedly why the murders of Nichols, Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly were quite reasonably attributed to the same person. Wood's argument that they were all killed by different people is weak, and practically non-existent in his book. If there is so much to refute the idea of a single killer, what is it? Hard though one looks in Wood's book, one simply doesn't find it. He just keeps on stating over and over that Jack the Ripper is a myth without giving us a better explanation for the murders and mutilations of all these women, let alone any evidence to support an alternative theory. And a theory without evidence is no better than fiction.
But what about Dr Bond's report? Well Wood notes that, on 23 October, Anderson informed the Home Office that 'five successive murders' had occurred, yet two days later he only sent him copies of the medical evidence from four inquests, those of Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Eddowes. Wood says that Anderson's fifth victim had fallen by the wayside. But had she? Did Anderson actually possess the notes of the Tabram post-mortem? For if he didn't have them he couldn't have sent them to Bond. Perhaps the explanation is that simple. In any case, Anderson only said that there had been five successive murders, he didn't attribute them to a single individual. More than this, when instructing Dr Bond to prepare his opinion two days later, on 25 October, Anderson asked the doctor to provide guidance as to the amount of surgical skill and anatomical knowledge 'probably possessed by the murderer or murderers' thus expressly not ruling out the possibility of there being more than one murderer. It was Dr Bond who took it upon himself to conclude that there was only one murderer.
In Reconstructing Jack, in a section added in August 2016, I pointed out that Wood's suggestion that Dr Bond had not been given access to the full inquest transcripts must be true, but is nevertheless ridiculous, because there were no inquest transcripts in existence! Despite this, Wood hasn't modified his criticism that the transcripts were not provided. I also pointed out that what Dr Bond was evidently given were the medical notes of the doctors who examined the bodies, not the depositions (which is presumably what Wood means by 'full inquest transcripts'). So when Wood tells us what Bond 'would have read', by which he means conflicting views of the doctors who examined the bodies of the victims, he is way off beam. He wouldn't have been given the opinions of other doctors. That would have been pointless. He would have been given the medical notes only. Bond even says in his report that he has 'seen the notes only' in respect of the murders of Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Eddowes. From the medical notes, Bond formed his own opinion as to whether the same person committed all the murders. That's what he was being asked to do. Wood seems to think he should have formed the same conclusions as Phillips and Brown but the whole point of Bond being asked for his opinion was for him to give his opinion not the opinion(s) of others.
After having drafted the above section I noticed to my amusement that Simon Wood posted on the Censorship Forum on 8 May 2019 (in the thread 'What makes Druitt a viable suspect' #1553) to say this:
'Dr Bond only saw the medical evidence from the inquests on Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Eddowes. These had been sent to him in a letter from Robert Anderson dated 25th October 1988'.
The ignorance revealed in that statement is staggering, especially bearing in mind that I had already told him in 'Reconstructing Jack' (which he had read) what Anderson had sent to Dr Bond. To repeat, it was the notes of the medical examinations of the corpses of the previous victims, not the evidence from the inquests. Wood even quotes Bond from his 10 November report saying, 'In the four murders of which I have seen the notes only...'. Scotland Yard didn't possess a record of the inquest evidence, other than from newspaper reports or reports of the officers who attended the inquests. Copies of the depositions (the originals of which were retained by the coroner) were only sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Wood's error was drawn to his attention on the Forum by a poster called Wickerman (who referred to the notes of the post-mortem as 'the autopsy report') but as usual Wood was silent in the face of his own mistake and it's impossible to say if the truth has sunk in and has been deprogrammed out of him or if he will be repeating the same nonsense in the future.
I think an addition to this section will be useful in view of what has been written in the Censorship Forum since I published this article. It’s a subject I already dealt with in Reconstructing Jack and thought had been disposed of but clearly not.
Wood says in his book that Robert Anderson wrote to Dr Bond on 25 October 1888, ‘enclosing copies of the medical evidence from just four inquests…’. Well, actually, we don’t know if this is true. Only an extract of Anderson’s letter to Dr Bond survives and nowhere in that letter does Anderson say he is enclosing anything. What Anderson does say (and which may have misled Wood) is this:
‘I brought this matter before Sir C. Warren some time since and he has now authorised me to ask if you will be good enough to take up the medical evidence given at the several inquests and favour him with your opinion on the matter’.
So there is no hint in that sentence that Anderson has actually enclosed any medical evidence given at ‘the several inquests’. As he was the consulting surgeon to Scotland Yard, Anderson might have expected Bond to obtain his own evidence from the medical men involved. Certainly, the documentation which Bond tells Anderson he has looked at when he provides his report is very clear:
‘I have read the notes of the 4 Whitechapel murders, viz 1. Bucks Row. 2. Hanbury Street. 3. Bener’s Square. 4. Mitre Square’
‘In the four murders of which I have seen the notes only…’
Although one can’t say for sure what Anderson did or did not send to Bond, it is at least possible that he didn’t send him anything. For it is by no means certain that Scotland Yard held the post-mortem notes for the Whitechapel victims. I don’t believe it was standard practice for those notes (or copies of them) to be sent to Scotland Yard in murder cases, albeit that Dr Bond did send his own notes of the Kelly post-mortem to Scotland Yard but those were in unusual circumstances due to Bond having been instructed directly by Scotland Yard, not by the coroner. If Scotland Yard didn’t have the post-mortem notes then Anderson couldn’t have sent them to Dr Bond. QED. So it may well be that Anderson was asking Dr Bond to make his own enquiries and collect the evidence himself because he was in a good position to do so.
From the way he worded his letter, perhaps Anderson expected Dr Bond to obtain the inquest depositions, or perhaps look at the newspaper reports, but, if that is the case, Dr Bond clearly told him in his report of 10 November that he had only seen the notes.
If this is what happened, it very easily disposes of the faux mystery created by Wood as to why Anderson had referred in his memorandum to the Home Office in October of ‘five successive murders’ yet Dr Bond only looked at evidence relating to four murders (plus the murder of Kelly which had not happened at the time of Anderson’s memorandum). I've already suggested that Anderson didn't possess the medical notes of the Tabram post-mortem and, while this may well be true, it may be equally true that he didn’t possess any of the post-mortem notes.
Pausing there, it really is extraordinary that even after I published this article, Wood on 9 June 2019, Wood posted this on the Forum on 15 June 2019:
‘On 25th October 1888 Anderson sent Dr. Bond the medical evidence from four inquests: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.
Two days earlier, in a 23rd October 1888 report to the Home Office, Robert Anderson's mentioned a fifth victim?
Who was it? What happened to her?’
This post was made in response to another poster (Herlock Sholmes) who had had the temerity to respond to Wood’s challenge to: “Give me one piece of hard evidence or, if you can't manage that, a whisper of truth in support of the proposition that the same person murdered all five women”. Herlock drew attention to Dr Bond’s conclusion that ‘All five murders were no doubt committed by the same person’. This led Wood into a fury of cutting and pasting from his book designed to undermine Bond but all to no avail. The challenge had been met. Bond’s report was more than a“whisper of truth” in support of the proposition that the same person murdered all five women. Indeed, an expert opinion from Dr Bond would surely have been accepted in a court of law in support of the proposition; it is, therefore, exactly the type of hard evidence that Wood was asking for. The fact that he doesn’t like it is neither here nor there. And, of course, Wood has never managed to provide even a whisper of truth in support of the proposition that five different people committed the C5 murders.
Anyway, let’s just look at Wood’s question in the above post. Who was Anderson’s fifth victim? Well the answer is perfectly obvious. Only a few days before Anderson’s memorandum to the Home Office of 23 October 1888 referring to five successive murders, Chief Inspector Swanson had prepared a series of reports for the Home Office relating to, well, five successive murders: those of Tabram, Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Eddowes. As a factual matter, it’s perfectly obvious that five women had been brutally murdered in Whitechapel in a two month period between August and September of 1888. Those were the five successive murders from Tabram to Eddowes. While the press tended to include the murder of Emma Elizabeth Smith from April as a ‘Ripper’ murder, she was probably excluded from consideration within the C.I.D. due to the significant differences in the way she was murdered compared to the others; differences which are too well known for me to repeat here.
But that’s all so obvious. The real question is what Wood can possibly think the answer to his own question is. I mean there are three possibilities. The first is that Anderson had miscounted, so that when he said there had been five successive murders, there were actually four. That seems rather unlikely. The second is that Anderson only counted Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Eddowes but knew there was going to be a fifth murder during November and he got so carried away that he accidentally let slip this prophetic fact to the Home Office. I think we can discard this one too. The third is that Anderson included Tabram in his list so that she was the fifth victim.
I think the answer must be number 3. And Wood must too. So what does he think was going on? Presumably he thinks that Anderson deliberately withheld from Dr Bond the evidence relating to Tabram. For some reason, in Wood’s mind, Anderson didn’t want Dr Bond to consider the subject of Tabram’s murder. But why??? If Dr Bond had said that Tabram was killed by a different person then surely this would just put into sharp focus the doctor’s opinion that the others were all killed by the same hand (if that was supposed to be an important consideration to Anderson). Why would that have been objectionable to Anderson? The alternative is that Dr Bond would have concluded that Tabram was also killed by the same person. Why would that have been objectionable to Anderson?
The answer to these questions is surely that there couldn’t have been anything objectionable from Anderson’s perspective for Dr Bond to have concluded either that Tabram was killed by the same person who killed the others OR that she wasn’t. So on any level it is impossible to understand what Wood is getting at when he asks who the fifth victim was and ‘what had happened to her’.
More importantly, in the surviving extract of Anderson’s letter to Dr Bond, Anderson did not ask Dr Bond to investigate five murders. He didn’t even identify any of the victims individually. All we can see is that he asks the doctor to ‘take up the medical evidence given at the several inquests’ and provide guidance as to the amount of surgical skill and anatomical knowledge ‘probably possessed by the murderer or murderers’. That surely keeps it open that there could have been one murderer or a number of them. We certainly don’t even see Anderson asking Dr Bond to form an opinion as to whether one person was responsible for all the murders. But Dr Bond does this anyway.
The short point here is that Anderson’s fifth victim had not ‘fallen by the wayside’. On the evidence available to us, all we can say is that Dr Bond only consulted the post-mortem notes of four of the victims in the series of five murders. To the extent that Anderson left him to gather his own evidence, it may well be possible that Dr Bond didn’t manage to obtain the PM notes for Tabram (or, if Anderson sent him the other notes, Anderson didn’t have them in his possession, as I’ve already suggested). Alternatively, Dr Bond simply didn't consider Tabram's murder as being one of the murders he was being asked by Anderson to look at.
Before looking at Bond’s conclusions, let me just stress that it is irrelevant, and potentially misleading, that Anderson requested Dr Bond to ‘take up the medical evidence given at the several inquests’. That may be careless wording by Anderson or Dr Bond might not have done what Anderson expected him to do. It really doesn’t matter. For Dr Bond is clear as crystal in his report in saying. ‘I have seen the notes only’. Any medical examiner in the world would know that he is referring to post-mortem notes. Robert Anderson would have known it too.
When I was researching my book, The Islington Murder Mystery, I actually consulted the original post-mortem notes of the pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury in respect of the murder of Annie Wootten in 1915, held at the Wellcome Library. They are written on lined index cards such as are kept in card boxes. This kind of thing.
I haven’t seen the originals of Dr Bond’s post-mortem notes relating to Mary Jane Kelly but from the microfilm copy they look like they are written on a number of pieces of lined card, or possibly paper, similar to the Spilsbury cards (albeit somewhat larger).
So I think that is the way many of them were done. Bond’s post-mortem notes, incidentally, are entitled ‘Notes of examination of body of woman found murdered and mutilated in Dorset street’. They are not referred to as a ‘report’ and, writing today, I personally would not call any of these notes a ‘report’ or an ‘autopsy report’ because I would regard that as something that would be written up from the notes at a later stage. The first four of Bond's cards relate to the position of the body. The final three cards are the post-mortem examination.
Back in the Forum, Wood tells us that the only way Bond’s conclusion that one person was responsible for all five murders can be explained is because Anderson asked him to come to this conclusion. Thus:
'Anderson got the answer he wanted from Bond.'
'If you're asking me how Bond arrived at his conclusion, the only answer can be that it was the conclusion Anderson requested.'
But why did Anderson want this answer from Bond? Wood doesn’t tell us. Bond’s report was private and never referred to by Anderson, or anyone else, publicly. The police never made a statement following receipt of Bond's report that they were now in possession of private evidence that all five murders were in the same hand. I made this point in Reconstructing Jack. Wood hasn't seen fit to respond to it. I suggest it is unanswerable.
We might equally ask: Did Anderson want the murder of Alice McKenzie to be in the same hand as the previous murders? For that is what Dr Bond concluded in respect of that case in his report of July 1889. Yet, Anderson’s assistant, Macnaghten, excluded McKenzie from the canon in his 1894 memorandum. So how does that make any sense?
In the available extract of Anderson's letter to Bond, we don't even see Anderson asking for Bond to tell him if the murders were all in the same hand or not, let alone that he wanted the answer to be that they were all by the same hand. Was Bond supposed to be psychic? Why would Dr Bond possibly think that Anderson wanted a particular outcome, namely that there was only one murderer? It's perfectly clear that the very reason Dr Bond was being asked to give his expert opinion on this matter is because the evidence given by the doctors at the various inquests had been confusing and contradictory with respect to the level of anatomical knowledge shown by the murderer which could, indeed, if they were all right, have suggested that there was more than one murderer. This is why Anderson asked Dr Bond to give him guidance as to the skill ‘probably possessed by the murderer or murderers’ (underlining added). That request is wholly inconsistent with the notion that Anderson was asking Bond to attribute all the murders to a single murderer. Anderson was trying to get to the truth of the matter. It's obvious.
Wood’s theory is crazy because how could Anderson properly have asked Dr Bond to give an opinion which he believed to be false? If he had written him a letter asking him to act improperly for some inexplicable reason, how could Anderson know that Dr Bond wouldn’t show that letter to the Commissioner or to the Home Office by way of complaint? The answer is that he couldn’t which means that he would never have asked Dr Bond to behave improperly in a letter. So the alternative is that Anderson sought out Dr Bond to ask him to behave improperly in person while giving him different instructions in writing. But again, Dr Bond could simply have complained to Anderson’s superiors. Why would Anderson have taken such a stupid risk?
Wood likes to say that he is not a conspiracy theorist but, right here, we’ve caught him red handed pushing a conspiracy involving Robert Anderson and Dr Bond designed to falsely attribute all the Whitechapel murders to a single person. It’s a crazy conspiracy theory on its own, made even worse by the fact that Wood is obviously unable to explain the purpose of such a conspiracy. Why on god’s green earth would Anderson have cared whether there was one murderer or more than one murderer? Other than the trite answer that it might have been easier and cheaper for the police to catch a single murderer rather than focus on having to track down more than one, there was no conceivable benefit to Anderson for there to have only been a single murderer and even less benefit to Dr Bond to put his reputation and career on the line by falsely stating that this was the case.
Wood’s failure to provide even a half-plausible motive for Anderson to have wanted there to be a single murderer is very telling. There is not even ‘a whisper of truth’ in the idea! It makes no sense on any level you want to view it. There is no imaginable reason, other than ease of capture, for the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office or Robert Anderson to have wanted there to be one murderer rather than two, three four or five. There is certainly no imaginable reason for Anderson to want Dr Bond to present a dishonest report about the number of murderers. And I repeat Wood never provides one.
Incredibly, even after my article was published, and after another poster on the forum (Wickerman) made clear to Wood that Dr Bond would only have seen 'the notes', i.e. the medical or post-mortem notes, Wood persisted in claiming that Dr Bond would have been aware of, and considered for his report, all the evidence given at the inquests, something which is palpably not the case. Consequently Wood posted on 18 June 2019 (copying and pasting from his book):
'This is what Dr. Bond would have learned—
Polly Nichols: No suggestion of surgical skill involved.
Annie Chapman: Dr. Phillips agreed that the viscera were extracted with some anatomical knowledge.
Elizabeth Stride: No suggestion of surgical skill involved.
Catherine Eddowes: Dr. Brown agreed that the murderer must have had a good deal of knowledge as to the position of the abdominal organs and the way to remove them. Also that the removal of the kidney would have required a good deal of knowledge as to its position.'
That is not, however, what Dr Bond would have learned because Wood is referring to the evidence given at the inquest in which the doctors were asked to an express an opinion about the level of anatomical skill possessed by the murderer. This is not evidence which is likely to have been in the PM notes. But even if it was in the notes, or even if Dr Bond was aware of the opinions of the other doctors from what he had read in the newspapers, he didn't have to agree with them. As I've already mentioned in Reconstructing Jack, Dr Bond was expressly being asked for his expert opinion, being the only medical man to consider all of the murders. He was perfectly entitled to disagree with any of the opinions expressed by doctors less senior and less qualified than himself. If he didn't happen to believe that the viscera were extracted with some anatomical knowledge in the case of Chapman, or that the murderer did not have a good deal of knowledge as to the position of the abdominal organs (albeit that Dr Brown said this was knowledge available to someone used to cutting up dead animals), he was entitled to hold and express that belief. At the same time, of course, it's possible that, if he had subsequently became aware of the opinions of the other doctors, or other facts, he might have changed his mind, which is no doubt why he caveated his report by saying that he had only read the medical notes. It's all very simple but Wood gives the impression that he doesn't understand it at all.
The fact of the matter is that Dr Bond didn’t believe that any anatomical knowledge was required to make the mutilations in any of the cases which is one reason why he believed that the same person committed all the murders. Other factors were that the women were all attacked from the right side, their throats were cut in the same way from left to right with a strong, straight and sharp knife at least six inches long while the victims were lying on the ground, there were no signs of resistance so that death would have occurred very quickly indicating a‘sudden onslaught on a prostate woman with the throat skilfully and resolutely cut with subsequent mutilation indicating sexual thoughts and a desire to mutilate the abdomen and sexual organs’ (as he said in his report on the murder of Alice McKenzie). Dr Bond may or may not have been correct about all this but it was a reasonable and cogent opinion. He must have been satisfied that the injuries inflicted on the first four victims as set out in the respective post-mortem notes matched the injuries that he saw with his own eyes had been inflicted on Mary Jane Kelly. It's got nothing to do with him telling Anderson what he wanted to hear and, as I have mentioned, there is no evidence or reason to think that Anderson wanted to be told that there was only a single murderer or that, if he did, he ever communicated such a desire to Dr Bond.
In Reconstructing Jack, I made the point that Wood never puts forward an argument that the murders were all committed by different individuals based on the medical evidence. He could, had he so wanted, have made a case that Chapman and Eddowes must have been murdered by a different person or persons to the murderer or murderers of Nichols, Stride and Kelly because of the different levels of anatomical skill displayed. But he never does make this argument.
That Dr Bond concluded that the murderer had no anatomical knowledge and that all five murders were by the same hand does not prove either of those propositions. But it is evidence that the murderer had no anatomical knowledge and it is evidence that all five murders were in the same hand. One can still argue against those conclusions. Dr Bond, had he given evidence as an expert in a court of law, could have been cross-examined as to his conclusions which might have been undermined. Nevertheless, to repeat, it is evidence that all five murders were committed by the same person and it is certainly more than a 'whisper of truth' that this was the case. Wood asked for this, he was given it but he didn’t like it.
If we look at Dr Bond's report we can certainly question some of his statements. It's odd that he thinks that three or four hours could have elapsed between the murder and the discovery of the bodies of Nichols and Eddowes in particular, but not having had access to any witness evidence as to the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the bodies, he was reliant on the PM notes to arrive at such a conclusion and, evidently, those notes did not make clear how long after the murders the bodies were discovered. It's wrong to judge Bond's report on the basis of information available to us which he would not have been aware of.
Dr Bond said that the attacks ‘were probably so sudden and made in such a position that the women could nether resist nor cry out’ so the medical notes which he examined evidently showed no signs of the victims having fought with the murderer (or, if they did, he didn’t spot them) and the clean cuts to the throat would have suggested to Dr Bond that the victims had no time to cry out. Again, he had made it clear that his information was derived from the notes only, so he would have been aware that there might have been witness evidence of hearing cries from the victims which could have contradicted his conclusion. But his conclusion was based only on the notes he had seen.
Ultimately, Wood has never seen the notes of the post-mortem examinations that Dr Bond considered for his report nor does he have any medical training or expertise. Dr Bond, on the other hand, had seen the post-mortem notes of all of the victims in question (having personally conducted the post-mortem of Kelly) and he did have medical training and expertise. He concluded that there was a single murderer and he did so in a report that was written privately, and not for publication, to assist the Metropolitan Police so that there was no possible motive for him to give anything other than his genuine expert opinion. If Wood wants to tell us that there were five different murderers of the C5 victims let him provide some hard evidence or even a whisper of truth to support that claim. So far, in the three editions of his books of hundreds of pages, and in his thousands of internet posts, he has abjectly failed to do so.
I hope this puts an end to the subject but, of course, I’ll return to it if I have to.
SECTION F - AFTER THE BOOK
1. The Man Who Didn't Exist
In the book, Wood comes up with some crazy ideas. But on the forums, he turns the crazy dial up to eleven. In the book we are told that Jack the Ripper didn't exist, Leather Apron didn't exist and Edward Stanley didn't exist. I think that's about it. But on the forums it turns out that (in addition to Mary Kelly) George Hutchinson didn't exist either. And he's not joking, he's serious.
5 July 2018, #59 in thread 'Any updates, or opinions on this witness':
'I've always thought that George Hutchinson was an invention.'
22 July 2018, #522, same thread:
And then, emboldened by his own madness, the more categorical statement:
'I doubt Hutchinson existed'
'George Hutchinson did not exist' (9 August 2018, #1142, same thread)
This is completely mad. Let's just look at Inspector Abberline's report of 12 November 1888. Well, I call it Abberline's report but it was actually written by Sergeant Badham, then countersigned by Inspector Ellisdon, then countersigned again by Superintendent Arnold before being signed off and submitted to Scotland Yard by Inspector Abberline. It's a completely private internal report, not for public consumption, written for Abberline's superiors at Scotland Yard. In a covering report by Abberline of the same date, it was stated that 'An important statement has been made by a man named Hutchinson which I forward herewith.' Wood needs to tell us why Abberline would be saying and doing this if there was no such man named Hutchinson. Does he think that Abberline and the other officers were deceiving the Assistant Commissioner, Robert Anderson and the Commissioner? Crucially, Abberline tells his superiors that Hutchinson had already been taken round the district by two officers with a view to finding the man he had seen with Kelly and that he had promised to go with an officer the next day to the Shoreditch mortuary to identify the deceased. If Abberline was somehow involved in a conspiracy to pretend that a man named Hutchinson existed, why would he say such a thing? How could he think he could get away with telling such blatant lies to his superior officers? How many people must have been involved in such a conspiracy? It makes absolutely no sense for Abberline to include this information in what I repeat was an internal Metropolitan Police report.
It seems Wood believes that Abberline (or someone) forged Superintendent Arnold's signature on Abberline's covering report. This is quite utterly mad especially as Wood does not question the authenticity of Arnold's signature on Hutchinson's statement itself. But, on the Censorship Forum, Wood posted three examples of Arnold's signature with the comment that 'One of the two Hutchinson-related documents has been forged with Arnold's signature. Which one, by whom and why?' Asked why he believed one had been forged, he replied, 'The two signatures are wholly different. One was not written by Arnold, but was meant to look like Arnold's signature.'
As usual with Wood, all is not as it seems. For it transpired, under questioning, that he didn't mean that there was any difference in the three examples he had given of Arnold's actual signature. What he meant was that the word 'Superintendent' (or 'Supt') which followed Arnold's signature (referred to by Wood as 'the suffixes') was inconsistent. That, of course, is a totally different matter.
Here is an example of an indisputably genuine example of Superintendent Arnold's signature and suffix on an report of Swanson's dated 10 September 1889:
Here is Arnold's signature on Hutchinson's statement of 12 November 1888:
So far so genuine as far as Wood is concerned, at least as far as we know what he thinks about them.
Now, this is the 'signature' believed by Wood to be a forgery, on Abberline's covering report of 12 November 1888:
As I've mentioned, Wood doesn't dispute the signature 'T. Arnold' itself, just the word (or abbreviation of a word) 'Supt'. And the thing is, he's right; that word was definitely not written by Superintendent Arnold. It's in Abberline's handwriting and was written by him. Anything suspicious about that? No. Because it wasn't uncommon for the inspector writing the report to write his own name and rank and then write the word 'Supt' indicating that the superintendent was to countersign the report. Don't believe me? Well here is an example of exactly such a thing where the superintendent didn't actually get round to signing:
I promise I haven't photoshopped this! It's as it appears on a report of Abberline dated 1 November 1888. Abberline has signed his name, added his rank and written in 'Supt' with the obvious intention that it would be signed by Arnold. Only Arnold never did sign it and it was submitted without his counter-signature.
And here's another example of exactly the same thing where Arnold did sign his name next to 'Supt' as written by Abberline, from a report by Abberline dated 4 October 1888:
This wasn't just a practice of Inspector Abberline. Here's an example where it is obvious from the handwriting and the different pen used that Inspector Reid has written in 'Superintendent' in advance of that signature. It's from a report of Inspector Reid dated 16 August 1888:
And this is it how it looked when Arnold wrote in the 'Supt' bit himself (from a report dated 24 August 1888):
So there is absolutely nothing in Wood's point and all it has achieved is to make me waste my time by digging out examples of signatures that he should have been well aware of.
We have the same nonsense from Wood in respect of Hutchinson's signature on his statement of 12 November 1888. It's basically the same on each of the pages Hutchinson signed but Wood lasers in on a small difference on one signature. What does he think the supposed forger of Hutchinson's signature was up to? If Wood was correct, it would just be a fake invented signature so it would have been the easiest thing in the world for the forger to just sign it the same way on each page. It just doesn't make sense for the forger to have done it differently on only one of the three pages. Or, to put it another way, if a forger could do it differently on one page then so could Hutchinson.
Then we have Wood's obsession with the fact that some newspapers got confused about Hutchinson's statement to the press made on 13 November, first published in the morning papers on 14 November, thinking that it was corroborating a statement by a different witness that had been reported the previous day (i.e. 13 November), not realizing that this was nothing more than another version of Hutchinson's own statement. Wood takes delight in saying that Hutchinson 'corroborated his own story' but that wasn't the case at all, it was nothing more than a press error. It's just another non-point.
Then Wood has a theory about the 'statement' (or rather statements) of Hutchinson reported by the press of 13 and 14 November 1888. He's even prepared a table to demonstrate it:
His theory is that Hutchinson 'never gave a statement to the press' . He thinks that the press simply used the statement Hutchinson gave to the police on 12 November as the basis of their report of a supposed interview with him. 'Any textual differences', he posted on the Forum on 2 July 2018 (thread 'Any updates or opinions on this witness', #71), 'are down to sub-editors on various newspapers'. But is that really the case?
On Wood's own table the notion is completely disproved. For, in his press interview, Hutchinson evidently told the reporter that the man he saw was carrying a small parcel about 8 inches long with a strap around it covered with dark American cloth. Although Hutchinson does, in his statement to the police, contrary to the information in Wood's table, refer to the man carrying a small parcel, he doesn't describe it any further. The additional detail that it was 8 inches long, with a strap round it covered with dark American cloth, cannot possibly be explained by an addition by a sub-editor. Similarly, Hutchinson told the press reporter that the man was holding a pair of brown kid gloves, something not in his police statement. He mentioned to the reporter that the watch chain had a big seal with a red stone hanging from it which hadn't been mentioned to the police. I don't know what Wood thinks sub-editors do but it's not putting words into witnesses mouths and inventing facts.
Hutchinson did, incidentally, include mention of the man's red handkerchief in his statement to the police, contrary to Wood's table, and its omission, like the omission of the parcel, shows the care Wood has taken when comparing the statements. Similarly, Hutchinson told the police that the man 'looked at me stern' compared with the press account that he 'looked at me very sternly.'Although Wood's table focuses on the description of the man seen by Hutchinson, there is a huge amount of additional detail in Hutchinson's press interview which is not to be found in his police statement which makes Wood's theory that Hutchinson never gave a press interview untenable. Hutchinson starts off telling the reporter that he had been to Romford on the Thursday which is not found in his police statement. And nothing in the following entire passage from the press interview can be found in his police statement:
'I believe he lives in the neighbourhood, and I fancied that I saw him in Petticoat lane on Sunday morning, but I was not certain. I have been to the Shoreditch mortuary and recognised the body as that of the woman Kelly whom I saw at two o'clock on Friday morning. Kelly did not seem to me to be drunk, but was a little bit "spreeish". I was quite sober, not having had anything to drink all day. After I left the court I walked about all night, as the place where I usually sleep was closed. I came in as soon as it opened in the morning. I am able to fix the time, as it was between ten and five minutes to two o'clock as I came by Whitechapel Church. When I left the corner of Miller's court the clock struck three. One policeman went by the Commercial street end of Dorset street while I was standing there, but not one came down Dorset street. I saw one man go into a lodging house in Dorset street, and no one else. I have been looking for the man all day.'
How is it even possible for Wood to say that Hutchinson never gave a statement to the press on the basis of the above? A sub-editor of a newspaper can't possibly have written all that! Indeed, it's not possible because Hutchinson gave his statement to the police on Monday, 12 November. A covering report to that statement by Inspector Abberline on the same date said that Hutchinson had promised to go to Shoreditch mortuary 'tomorrow morning', i.e. Tuesday 13 November, to identify the deceased. And then we can see from the above press statement which first appeared in the morning newspapers of Wednesday 14 November that Hutchinson said that he had been to the mortuary to identify the body, thus confirming that he had done exactly would Abberline said he would do. This visit to the mortuary must have been on Tuesday 13 November. So it's utterly ludicrous to claim that a journalist only had the police statement of 12 September and turned that into a pretend interview with Hutchinson.
Having analysed the three versions of Hutchinson's account I believe I know what happened. Let's first remind ourselves of the description of the man known as 'Astrakhan man' given by Hutchinson to the police on 12 November. It was this:
During the late evening of 12 November, someone from the police must have spoken to a press agency reporter and passed on a summary of the description of the man that the police were now seeking (but giving no further details from Hutchinson's statement). Thus, we find the press of 13 November providing this description (with changes from the police statement marked in colour):
'age about 34 or 35 years of age, height 5ft 6, complexion pale, dark eyes and lashes, dark moustache [later amended to 'slight moustache'] curled up each end and hair dark, very surly looking; dress, long dark coat, collar and cuffs trimmed astracan and a dark jacket under light waistcoat, dark trousers, dark felt hat turned down in the middle, button boots and gaiters with white buttons, wore a very thick gold chain, white linen collar, black tie with horse shoe pin, respectable appearance, walked very sharp, Jewish appearance, can be identified.'
'The man was about 5 feet 6 inches in height, and 34 or 35 years of age, with dark complexion and [dark] moustache curled up at the ends. He was wearing a long dark coat trimmed with astrakhan, a white collar with a black neck-tie, in which was affixed a horseshoe pin. He wore a pair of dark gaiters with light buttons, over button boots, and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain.'
The reference to a 'dark moustache' in the press version is understandable because this was the original wording in Hutchinson's statement but was subsequently changed in manuscript to 'slight moustache' . One assumes it was changed after the description was given to the press. The 'massive' gold chain can be explained by a slight exaggeration either by the police officer giving the description to the reporter or by the reporter himself exaggerating on the basis of it having been said by Hutchinson to be 'very thick'. But how does one explain the change from 'light complexion' to 'dark complexion' and from 'white buttons' to 'light buttons'? True, light buttons are not dissimilar to white buttons but I would suggest that the reporter misheard what he was being told. A dark complexion is the complete opposite from a pale or light complexion so this must have just been the police officer reading the wrong word or the reporter getting his notes confused.
When it comes to the press interview on 13 November (reported in the papers on 14 November) one would not expect those errors to be repeated, if Hutchinson was telling the story in his own words, but they are. For we find this passage in the report of the interview:
'The man was about 5ft 6in in height and 34 or 35 years of age, with dark complexion and dark moustache turned up at the ends. He was wearing a long dark coat trimmed with astrachan, a white collar with black necktie, in which was affixed a horseshoe pin. He wore a pair of dark "spats" with light buttons over button boots, and displayed from his waistcoat a massive gold chain.'
What I would suggest has obviously happened is that the press reporter from the Central News agency who spoke to Hutchinson was not here quoting from anything that Hutchinson had said to him but simply included in his copy the description which had previously been circulated to the press (changing the word 'gaiters' to 'spats'). There was no point in asking Hutchinson to repeat a description already in circulation, so the reporter probably didn't bother, or he possibly did no more than ask Hutchinson to confirm that the description published in the newspapers was accurate, and Hutchinson did so without noticing the minor differences between that description and the one he had given the police. But then Hutchinson elaborated on that description to the reporter by saying:
'His watch chain had a big seal, with a red stone hanging from it. He had a heavy moustache, curled up, dark eyes, and bushy eyebrows. He had no side whiskers and his chin was clean shaven. He looked like a foreigner .'
None of this had been included in the summary given to the press and not all of it was in Hutchinson's police statement (i.e. there was no mention of the man having no side whiskers and being clean shaven). But crucially it will be noted that Hutchinson here tells the reporter that the man had a 'heavy moustache, curled up'. Why would he have done this if he had already told him in the same interview that the man had a 'dark moustache, turned up at the ends'? I suggest he wasn't repeating himself at all but that the repetition in the article supports the theory that the earlier description was not something that Hutchinson had said to the reporter but was something the reporter had, for convenience, lifted from the previous day's press summary.
Later in his press interview, Hutchinson goes on to mention the parcel and the pair of brown kid gloves. Again, the fact that this is separate from the description of the man suggests that Hutchinson did not actually provide a new description but included a few descriptive pieces about the man at various points while he spoke to the reporter. The reason for this, I suggest, is that the reporter already had Hutchinson's description in writing and didn't need him to repeat it. So he didn't actually ask for a description of the man, being more interested in Hutchinson's overall story.
When one looks at Wood's table, one would think that Hutchinson said that the man was wearing a felt hat as part of his description of him. But this information appeared separately in his story while he was explaining what the man was doing with Kelly. Thus he told the press reporter that, 'As they came by me his arm was still on her shoulder. He had a soft felt hat on, and this was drawn down somewhat over his eyes. I put my head down to look him in the face, and he turned and looked at me very sternly.' The information about the hat being soft and felt is incidental to what Hutchinson was here saying. In his police statement, Hutchinson simply said this: 'They both then came past me, and the man hung down his head with his hat over his eyes. I stooped down and looked him in the face. He looked at me stern.' No mention of the hat being made of felt at this point. Only in the description provided separately to the police did Hutchinson say that the hat was a 'dark felt hat'.
So while I can see why Wood has got the wrong end of the stick, due to Hutchinson's 12 November description of Astrakhan man in his police statement being wedged into his 13 November interview with a press agency reporter, he should have considered the matter more carefully bearing in mind the form of the entire interview. Quite clearly, the little table he has prepared goes nowhere near supporting the notion that the press interview was derived from the police statement - and, indeed, such a thing is a literal impossibility bearing in mind the additional information in the press interview - so that it provides no support to Wood's notion that Hutchinson did not exist.
Finally, we have the best and most incredible mistake of all by Wood. He has got it into his head that gangs of workmen were frantically tearing up the road in the middle of the night of 8/9 November in Commercial Street, creating such a disturbance that Hutchinson could not possibly have failed to mention it in his police statement - and so the fact that he did not mention it means that the statement must be false. It's such an obviously daft point on the face of it because there is no way that workmen would have been working in the dark, in a residential area, creating a loud noise while people were sleeping, at 2am and, even if they had been, there would have been no reason for Hutchinson to have mentioned this in his statement. But it gets worse than that. Before I explain why, let's have a look at Wood's own words. Firstly, from the 'Any updates, or opinions on this witness' thread, 8 August 2018, #1109:
'It's interesting to note that George Hutchinson's legendary encounter with MJK is always described as if it took place on an otherwise empty stage, whereas on the night/morning in question road gangs were at work tearing up Commercial Street to put the finishing touches to the Commercial Street Tramway, which opened on 15th November 1888.
George Hutchinson appears to have been oblivious to all this activity.'
Same thread, #1112, 8 August 2018,
'George Hutchinson, walking from Whitechapel Church on Whitechapel Road, up Commercial Street and as far as Dorset Street would have been hard pressed not to notice all the noise and activity. Especially when he managed to so accurately note Mr. Astrakhan's attire and bling and overhear parts of his conversations with MJK.'
Same thread, #1116, 8 August 2018
'Hutchinson didn't mention anything because he wasn't there.
But over all the banging and clanging, one of the road gang was heard to shout—
"Keep the noise down, boys, there's two people over there trying to have a quiet conversation."
The whole story is BS.'
And this is the real beauty:
Same thread, #1122, 8 August 2018:
'It [i.e. a mention of the noise of the workmen] would certainly have lent a degree of verisimilitude to his statement.'
But the hilarious truth is that if Hutchinson had, for some strange reason, mentioned in his statement that there were workmen working loudly in Commercial Street it would have proven his statement to be a lie.
Because there were no workmen working either day or night in Commercial Street to finish the Commercial Street Tramway on 9 November 1888. Wood has simply assumed that because the tramway was opened on 15 November there must have been some kind of frantic attempt to finish the works during the preceding week. It's a very dodgy assumption as it is. But we find the truth in a report in the Tower Hamlets Independent and East End Local Advertiser of 25 August 1888:
'COMMERCIAL STREET TRAMWAY. The new line of tramways along Commercial-street has now been completed, but the North Metropolitan Tramway Company will be unable to open it for traffic for a few weeks, as the line has to be passed by Government Inspectors. This, it is hoped, will be done shortly, and the trams will commence running some time in September.'
In other words, the work on the tramway had been completed long before November 1888. In fact, it had been completed even before the murder of Polly Nichols! There was no need for any men to be tearing up Commercial Street during the early hours of 9 November.
One can only imagine what Wood, knowing the above, would actually have said if Hutchinson had referred in his statement to some (imaginary) men working on the tramway. The truly unbelievable thing is that Wood uses the absence of any mention of such workmen in Hutchinson's statement as a key point in his argument that Hutchinson didn't exist!!! It really is quite extraordinary.
2. The Woman Who Didn't Exist
Not actually stated in his book but shouted loudly on the Censorship Forum by Wood is that Mary Kelly didn't exist. Thus, he posted on 10 October 2018: 'Personally, I don't believe Kelly existed'. To which one can only ask who the woman was who was seen by Bowyer, McCarthy and many others to have been grotesquely mutilated in a room in Millers Court. Who cares if her real name was or was not 'Mary Jane Kelly'. No doubt a prostitute in Victorian London adopted a number of names and this might have been one of the murder victim's. This does not, however, mean by default that she was a spy or informer in the pay of the British Government as Wood appears to think.
3. No prostitutes were harmed
Wood seems to be determined to ignore the evidence that at least three (and perhaps all five) of the C5 'Ripper' victims were prostitutes. This is what he told one member of the Forum on 4 October 2018 (in thread 'the victims werent prostitutes':
'The JtR legend relies on two core beliefs.
1. All the victims were prostitutes.
2. All the victims were murdered where their bodies were found.'
Neither of these propositions is remotely true. I mean, regarding the second point, Stephen Knight's 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution' is a classic Ripper solution book of the type Wood despises yet, according to Knight's theory, the victims were murdered in a coach by a trio of killers and their bodies deposited on the streets. Even if there was no coach involved and only one murderer it wouldn't have been impossible for a single man to carry a dead body a short distance. Nichols, for example, could have been murdered in Brady Street by Jack the Ripper and her body carried into Bucks Row. The so-called 'JtR legend' is in no way dependent on the victims having been murdered where they lay.
Equally, it wouldn't matter one jot if none of the women murdered were prostitutes. A single 'Jack the Ripper' could still have murdered them all. The Yorkshire Ripper, for example, didn't only murder prostitutes so it really makes no difference whether the 'Jack the Ripper' victims were or were not all prostitutes. Wood is eager to show that they were not prostitutes because he wants to undermine the argument that all the C5 women were murdered by the same individual. Sure, if the women were all prostitutes it strengthens the theory that they were all killed by the same person - because it would be too much a coincidence for five prostitutes to be killed by the same person over such a short space of time - but it's not essential to it. It's equally implausible that five women of the same class in the same small geographical area were murdered during the night by having their throats cut and (in four cases) suffering similar mutilations after death, regardless of whether they were prostitutes or not.
But were the murdered women prostitutes? Here is what Wood says about the matter (29 September 2018, #162 in the thread 'the victims werent prostitutes'):
For a supposedly experienced Ripperologist, Wood doesn't half make some basic errors. Mary Malcolm was giving evidence about a different woman, Elizabeth Watts (who had married, to become Elizabeth Stokes), so, unless Stride had been impersonating Watts during her lifetime (which is not something Wood tells us he thinks happened), Mrs Malcolm's testimony regarding her doubts about what her sister did for a living is neither here nor there; and even if Stride had been impersonating Watts it would mean that Mary Malcolm knew so little about Stride's double life that her 'doubts' about how she earned a living would be meaningless (albeit that those doubts would appear to be in the form of her thinking that her sister was earning her money on the streets!).
'I've just had a rummage through the inquest transcripts on Casebook, Ripperology's vade mecum.
Emily Holland "did not know in what way she [Polly Nichols] obtained a living. She always seemed to her to be a quiet woman, and kept very much to herself." Wynne Baxter called her unfortunate, but in the context of her being a murder victim.
Nobody at Annie Chapman's inquest mentioned 'unfortunate' or prostitution. Asked what she did for a living, Amelia Palmer said, "She used to do crochet work, make antimaccassars, and sell flowers. She was out late at night at times."
John Kelly said he . . . "never knew she [Eddowes] went out for any immoral purpose," although "We had been unfortunate at the hop-picking."
The word 'prostitute' wasn't uttered at Elizabeth Stride's inquest. Wynne Baxter mentioned that Stride sometimes being worse for drink was 'unfortunately' a failing with her, and asked what she was doing for a livelihood, Mary Malcolm replied, "I had my doubts."
Asked why Barnett left Kelly, he said, "Because she had a woman of bad character there, whom she took in out of compassion, and I objected to it. That was the only reason." Caroline Maxwell said, "I believe she was an unfortunate," without explaining the basis for her belief.
Ubi autem probationem? [where is the proof?]'
But the proof Wood claims to seek that Nichols and Chapmen were prostitutes is not hard to find.
According to Emily Holland, the last person who saw her alive, the last words of Polly Nichols at 2.30am on 31 August, before she walked along Whitechapel Road, were that 'she was going to get some money to pay for her lodgings' (Inquest testimony of Emily Holland, Daily News, 4 September 1888). Holland added that Nichols told her it would not be long before she was back. How does Wood think that Nichols was going to quickly find some money in Whitechapel at that time of night?
Emily Holland's further evidence was quoted in the Daily News as being: 'The witness did not know what she did for a living, or whether she stayed out late at night.' The fact that she also described her as a quiet woman who kept to herself is neither here nor there. She had only known her for six weeks. Her testimony was that Nichols was staggering along drunk when she saw her on 31 August. That, in itself, does not mean she intended to engage in prostitution but when she was known to not only have been drunkenly staggering along the street in the middle of the night but also announcing that she was going to find some money to pay for her lodgings what else can it realistically mean but that she was intending to prostitute herself?
On its own, this would be sufficient evidence to conclude that Nichols was involved in prostitution but it doesn't exist on its own. A Metropolitan Police report by Inspector Helson dated 7 September 1888 (MEPO 3/140) states that, in 1882, it had come to the knowledge of Nichols' estranged husband that Nichols was 'living the life of a prostitute'.
Additionally, when a press reporter made enquiries of other female residents of Nichols' Thrawl Street lodgings in Spitalfields on 31 August he discovered that Nichols had 'led the life of an unfortunate while lodging in the house.' (Times, 1 September 1888).
In respect of Chapman, the evidence is equally clear.
From the Daily News report of the testimony of Amelia Farmer:
The Coroner: Is it correct that she got money in the streets?
Amelia Farmer: I am afraid that she was not particular how she earned her living. She has told me that she was out late sometimes.
In other words, using nineteenth century speak, the coroner was asking if Chapman earned money through prostitution and Farmer confirmed that she did. She also said that she had been living 'an irregular life' for the previous five years.
This is how the Star reported Farmer's testimony:
'I am afraid deceased used to earn her living partly on the streets. She was a very straightforward woman when she was sober, clever and industrious with her needle; but she could not take much drink without getting intoxicated. She had been living a very irregular life all the time I've known her.'
Farmer's testimony was also reported in the Evening Post as follows:
'She did crochet work and made antimacassars for a living and also sold flowers. Witness was afraid she also went on the streets at night. In fact, deceased had told her she did'.
That is Farmer admitting that her friend had told her she worked as a prostitute. That's what she meant by saying 'I am afraid that...'. Sure, Chapman might have done some crochet work and sold flowers but she obviously supplemented any meagre income earned in this way by selling her body for sex. She didn't need to be doing it exclusively and full time to qualify as a prostitute as Wood seems to think.
Wood's point that no-one mentioned the word 'unfortunate' at the Chapman inquest is, therefore, a red herring, and he is simply wrong to say that no-one mentioned prostitution. As we have seen, the coroner asked Farmer directly if Chapman had been a streetwalker, i.e. a prostitute, and Farmer replied that she was afraid to say that she had. That having been established, there wasn't any need to dwell on the point further at any great length at the inquest.
We may also note that Chapman's last words, like those of Nichols, were that she was going off to get some money to pay for her lodgings and again, in the middle of the night, while drunk, there was only one way she was realistically going to be able to do this.
As with Nichols, the press established very quickly, prior to the inquest, that Chapman was a prostitute. According to the London Evening News of 8 September 1888 (underlining added):
'The murdered woman was known among her companions as "Dark Annie," and gave her name as Annie Sievey, but it is not yet known whether this was her correct name. She was a prostitute and had been recently living at a common lodging house at Dorset Street, which is near by the scene of last night's atrocious crime.'
The police had also independently established that Chapman was a prostitute from speaking to Timothy Donovan, the deputy of the lodging house at 35 Dorset Street, where Chapman had been living for the four months prior to her murder. Inspector Chandler of H Division stated in his report about Chapman's murder, dated 8 September 1888, that Donovan 'has known her about 16 months, as a prostitute' (MEPO 3/140). This corroborates a report in the Times of 10 September 1888 which reveals that Donovan told a reporter on 9 September that he knew Chapman 'as an unfortunate'. At the inquest the following day, Donovan appears to have been reluctant to repeat this and, according to the Evening News of 10 September 1888, said that he did not know that Chapman walked the streets, although, according to the Star of the same date, he said the exact opposite because it reported Donovan as saying that he 'knew she was on the streets.' What is certainly the case is that Donovan testified that Chapman came to the lodging house 'with other men' (i.e. other than 'the pensioner' Ted Stanley) and he refused them entry (see e.g. the Times and Daily Telegraph of 11 September 1888).
There can be no doubt, on the evidence, that Chapman, like Nichols, resorted to prostitution to make ends meet.
Regarding Stride, some suspicion naturally arises because she was known to get drunk and stay out late at nights. Michael Kidney, her partner, gave evidence that she would disappear without explanation at times. However, the real evidence that she was a prostitute was given to a reporter on 1 October 1888 (as recorded in the Star, Echo, Globe and Evening Post of that date) by a watchman called Thomas Bates who said that she was known to him as 'Long Liz' and had lived in the same lodging house as him (in Flower and Dean Street) for five or six years. He correctly told the reporter that she was a Swede by birth and that her husband had supposedly been shipwrecked and drowned. He also knew that her occupation was a charwoman and he described her as 'a clean and hardworking woman'. Consequently, his credibility must be regarded as very good - and he clearly had a high opinion of Stride so was in no way out to rubbish her reputation. Nevertheless, he stated unambiguously that, when 'driven to extremities' ,she would 'walk the streets'. He added that, 'when she could get no work she had to do the best she could for her living, but a neater and cleaner woman never lived.'
We might also note that a Star reporter encountered, and made a sketch of, a man called Toby (see picture below) during the evening of 30 September. He was an acquaintance of 'One Armed Liz', who was reportedly the first person to identify Stride at the mortuary. Toby said that, while he had never spoken to Stride himself, he had seen her in a lodging house in which he worked. When asked if she had had 'any particular follower' (i.e. boyfriend) he replied 'Not her', before adding, 'she wasn't particular. I wasn't a bit surprised when I heard it was her. That sort of women are sure to get done by him'. That he must have been saying that Stride was a prostitute is evident by the follow-up question from the reporter which was, 'Then you think there is someone on the look out for that sort?' to which Toby replied 'Don't it look like it?' (Star, 1 October 1888)
Even Hallie Rubenhold, who strongly argues against the victims being prostitutes in her 2019 book, 'The Five', has apparently discovered that Stride had been a prostitute in her native Sweden (I haven't read her book but this comes from the review of it in the Times).
With Eddowes, there is some evidence of her having resorted to prostitution while married to Thomas Conway. A report by Inspector McWilliam of the City of London Police dated 27 October 1888 notes that Conway was forced to leave Eddowes 'on account of her drunken and immoral habits'. While those 'immoral habits' are not spelled out in the report, it should be noted that in his report of 19 October 1888, Chief Inspector Swanson reproduced Polly Nichols' life story almost verbatim from Inspector Helson's report of 7 September but changed the statement that Nichols 'was living the life of a prostitute' to the statement that she was 'leading an immoral life' which demonstrates that an 'immoral life' was regarded as the equivalent of, and interchangeable with,'the life of a prostitute'.
At Eddowes' inquest, her partner, John Kelly, initially said that he did not know that she ever went out for 'immoral purposes', and that he never 'suffered' (i.e. allowed) her to do it, but he subsequently stated that shortly before her death she intended to go Bermondsey to get some money precisely so that 'she need not walk the streets' . According to the reporter for the Times, this was picked up on by the coroner who challenged Kelly for having changed his story: 'You were asked before if she walked the streets and you said she did not' . Kelly's answer, as reported in the Times (of 5 October 1888), looks like an admission that Eddowes did occasionally dabble in prostitution in order to get a roof over her head for he supposedly said: 'Sometimes we were without money to pay for our lodging'.
There is, however, another version of Kelly's evidence, reported in other newspapers, which makes it unlikely that he was making such an admission. According to the Morning Post (5 October 1888):
At the same time, this is very unlikely to be an entirely accurate report, at least in respect of Kelly initially saying that Eddowes went looking for money to prevent them both walking the streets. This is how the same exchange was reported in the Daily Chronicle of 5 October 1888 (underlining added):
When the witness [John Kelly] left her she had no money, her object being to see her daughter, with a view to obtain some to prevent them walking the streets.
The Coroner: What do you mean by that?
Well, sir, many a time we have not had the money to pay for a shelter, and have had to tramp about.
Kelly: She went to get a trifle to prevent her walking the streets.
Coroner: What do you mean by walking the streets?
Kelly: At the time we had no money to pay for our lodging.
We can see that in this version, Kelly has specifically said that Eddowes wanted to get money from her daughter so that she (Eddowes) would not have to walk the streets. This puts a rather different complexion on the matter and means something different than if Kelly had said it was to prevent both him and Eddowes from walking the streets. In this exchange, the coroner does not expressly point out that Kelly has contradicted himself but neither does Kelly say that he and Eddowes would tramp about the streets at night, thus leaving it open to the reader of the report as to whether he meant that Eddowes needed to resort to prostitution to obtain money for their lodgings.
The report of the same exchange in the Daily Telegraph, however, is similar to that in the Morning Post in respect of Kelly referring to them both walking about the streets at night but again records that Kelly said that Eddowes needed money to prevent her from walking the streets. Thus, the report states Kelly's testimony as being:
She went to see and find her daughter to get a trifle, so that I shouldn’t see her walk about the streets at night.
What do you mean by “walking the streets”? I mean that if we had no money to pay for our lodgings we would have to walk about all night. I was without money to pay for our lodgings at the time.
One can see that just the addition of the single word 'about' in Kelly's initial answer changes the meaning quite considerably. Walking about the streets carries a different connotation to simply walking the streets. Again though, Kelly, was, initially, talking about him seeing Eddowes walking (about) the streets as opposed to them both doing so. We can also see that the Telegraph report includes the statement 'if we had no money we would have to walk about all night' which does not feature in the Daily Chronicle report. If we compare that quote with what was reported in the Morning Post, we see that the Post has Kelly saying, 'Well, sir, many a time we have not had the money to pay for a shelter, and have had to tramp about.' Clearly at least one of the reporters has re-phrased Kelly's words, making it difficult to know exactly what he said, especially bearing in mind the completely different report in the Times.
Here are four other reports of the same exchange:
Daily News, 5 October 1888
She went over to see her daughter to get a trifle from her, in order that I might not see her walking the streets at night.
What do you mean by that? Well, neither of us had money to pay for our lodgings at night.
Echo, 4 October 1888
The deceased went to look for a daughter with a view to getting a little money to prevent her from walking the streets.
“What do you mean by that?” asked the Coroner.
“I mean that there have been times when we have had no money, and we have had to walk about the streets together all night”.
Star, 4 October 1888
Evening News, 4 October 1888
What was her object of going to see her daughter?
With a view that I should not see her walking the streets at night without shelter.
Then was she in the habit of walking the streets? No, sir, but there’s been many a night we have not had the money to pay for our lodging.
Why did she go to see her daughter? Did she want to get money from her? - Yes. I did not want to see her walking the streets all night.
What do you mean by "walking the street"?- Several times we have had to walk the streets all night together because we had not money to pay for our lodgings.'
There are clearly different ways of interpreting what Kelly said (and the press reporters do appear to have interpreted it in different ways) but it is at least arguable that Kelly initially let slip that Eddowes needed money to prevent her walking the streets (i.e. engage in prostitution) but attempted to downplay or modify his answer when challenged by the coroner for appearing to contradict himself.
We may note that Kelly's deposition (which does not necessarily capture evidence verbatim) records Kelly as saying: 'She went over to see her Daughter with a view of getting some money. I was without money to pay for the lodging at the time.' This doesn't really help us much.
It's fair to point out that, according to the Daily Chronicle, Kelly was subsequently asked by the City Solicitor, Mr Crawford, if Eddowes had ever brought money to him in the morning, after 'having earned it at night' to which Kelly replied, 'Never'. According to the Evening News, Crawford also repeated the coroner's question about whether Kelly had known Eddowes to engage in 'immoral practices' and Kelly again said 'Never'. For this reason, one can effectively rule out the notion that Kelly had earlier admitted to the coroner that Eddowes sometimes took to prostitution to pay for her lodgings, as could have been inferred from the Times' report. Had he done so, there would have been no need for Crawford to even ask the question, and Kelly couldn't have denied it without challenge. Crawford also asked if Kelly had been 'walking the streets' on the night before her murder to which he said, 'No, she went into the casual ward in Mile End.'
According to the Daily Chronicle, Frederick William Wilkinson, the deputy at 55 Flower and Dean Street, was asked by the coroner if he knew how Kelly got her living to which he replied, 'I have heard her say by hawking in the streets and cleaning amongst the Jews'. The coroner also asked: 'Do you know if she was in the habit of walking the streets at all?' He responded, 'Not to my knowledge. She had to be in between 9 and 10 at night generally.' According to the Morning Advertiser, the coroner's question was 'Did you know she was in the habit of walking the streets at night?'. It's clear that this question, asked after Kelly had given his evidence, was directed to whether Eddowes was engaged in prostitution. Indeed, the Evening News reported the same question as being whether he had heard of Eddowes 'walking the streets for an immoral purpose.' This is undoubtedly what was generally understood by the expression 'walking the streets.'
Ultimately, one can only wonder how Eddowes, who did not obtain any money from her daughter in Bermondsey and thus must have been penniless, ended up in Mitre Square on the night of her murder, and, while there are various possibilities, not all of which involve her agreeing to go there with a man for sex in return for cash, that must be regarded as one of them. The fact that Kelly might not have known (or been prepared to admit) that his partner was engaged in prostitution doesn't mean that she didn't sometimes offer her services in this way.
When it comes to Mary Jane Kelly, Wood is deluding himself. In his statement to the police, Joseph Barnett categorically referred to Kelly 'resorting to prostitution' as a reason why he left her. Further, he said, 'She also told me that she had obtained her livelihood as a prostitute for some considerable time before I took her from the streets.' In his evidence at the inquest, he told of Kelly having lived 'a bad life' in Cardiff. Wood concedes that Mrs Maxwell also described Kelly as an 'unfortunate' but quibbles on the basis that Maxwell didn't say why she believed this. But really, did Mrs Maxwell actually need to explain why she believed Kelly was a prostitute? In any case, Elizabeth Foster, in a press interview, also described Kelly as 'an unfortunate'. Julia Venturney, in her police statement, said she had heard Barnett telling her that he didn't like her 'going out on the streets'. At the inquest she confirmed that Barnett 'would not let her go on the streets'. Lizzie Albrook informed a reporter that Kelly had warned her against going out on the streets 'as she had done' adding that she didn't believe Kelly would have 'gone out as she did' had she not been obliged to do so in order to keep herself from starvation. Kelly's death certificate officially describes her as a 'prostitute' and she clearly was one. Wood's feeble attempt to say she wasn't is hopeless.
As an addendum to the above, on 27 February 2019 (in thread: 'The Five...' #1017), Wood posted on JTR Forums to say: 'I have found no evidence to support the contention that the C5 were working prostitutes'. We may note with some amusement the sudden appearance of the word 'working'. Who has ever claimed, either in 1888 or more recently, that they were all 'working' prostitutes? Why does one even need to make a distinction? If each of the C5 was engaged in prostitution on the night they were murdered what difference would it make if they had, or had not, been engaged in prostitution previously? Certainly the murderer would have taken them to be prostitutes so that, to the extent he or she targeted women of this class, it would be consistent with a single serial killer. And Wood's introduction of the expression 'working prostitutes' seems to be an admission that there is evidence that the C5 were prostitutes, engaged in prostitution when they were murdered. In any case, it's apparent from the evidence that Nichols, Chapman and Kelly were regularly engaged in prostitution and must therefore qualify for the title of 'working prostitutes'. But the real error here is to assume that 'prostitute' is a profession like that of a doctor, teacher, soldier etc. Being a prostitute is not like having a full time job with regular working hours and conditions of employment. It can be occasional work to supplement income. By prostituting oneself one becomes a prostitute by definition, but there are many shades and degrees of prostitution and Wood's attempt to create a new test of 'working prostitute' before any of the C5 can be considered to have been a prostitute is both anachronistic and, frankly, ignorant.
Bizarrely, however, when asked in JTR Forums by Paul Begg what he meant by the expression 'working prostitute', Wood defined it as 'one on the game immediately prior to their demise' which is so far from the normal definition of a working prostitute as to pervert the meaning of the English language. It's one that can only have been formulated by Wood because of the impossibility, in his mind, of proving that the victims were 'on the game' immediately prior to their demise bearing in mind that the only man they were likely to have approached immediately prior to their demise is their murderer (although as we have seen, the evidence that Nichols and Chapman were planning to engage in prostitution to find money to pay for their lodgings on the nights of their respective murders is perfectly clear).
That Wood actually understands a 'working prostitute' to be one who regularly sells sex is apparent from the definition he then gives for the 'evidence' which he says will prove it, namely 'appearing on a charge sheet for solicitation'. Apart from being completely illogical - any appearance by any of the women on a historic charge sheet for solicitation could never be evidence for any of them being on the game immediately prior to their demise - Wood must know that it's an impossible demand to fulfill. Such arrests were rarely reported in the press, if at all, and no police arrest records from the period survive nor have the records of the Worship Street and Thames police courts, where prostitutes from the East End would have been charged with soliciting. In fact, by Wood's definition of the word 'evidence', there is unlikely to be existing evidence that ANY women in the East End in 1888 were prostitutes, even though we can be sure that there was, in fact, a large number of such women.
By defining 'evidence' in such a narrow way, all Wood has done is ensure that neither he nor anyone else will ever find any evidence, as he defines it, of the victims having been engaged in prostitution, while ignoring the actual evidence which does exist proving that they were.
In any event, Wood seems to be under the impression that every single prostitute in the East End must have been arrested at some point in their lives. It's a proposition for which he provides no evidence and is extremely unlikely. If the C5 victims were prostitutes who had avoided arrest, then Wood's demand for evidence of arrest takes on an Alice in Wonderland quality of its own.
It's all thrown into irrelevance anyway by Wood's insistence that all he is saying is that the women were not engaged in prostitution on the night of their deaths. On that basis. it wouldn't matter if Kelly had been engaged in prostitution every single day of her adult life up to 9 November and had a rap sheet as long as her arm - for nothing in her previous history could prove what she was doing in the early hours of 9 November.
Interestingly, Wood watered down his argument even further on 9 March 2019 (after Paul Begg, in a thread about Rubenhold's book, had posted most of the evidence set out above that the women were all prostitutes) by saying: 'Full disclosure, I doubt the C5 were prostituting themselves at the moment of their demise'. I say this is watered down further by Wood due to his use of the words 'I doubt'. Instead of a claim that the C5 were not prostitutes, it's now just Wood having personal doubts that they were engaged in prostitution on the nights of their murders. But Wood's doubts clearly stem from his belief that there was no 'Jack the Ripper', and thus no-one who going around murdering prostitutes in the East End 1888, so his entire argument is circular and he reaches the conclusion he wants to.
The simple fact of the matter is that there are reasonable evidential grounds to say that every single one of the C5 was a prostitute or was at least prepared to engage in prostitution and did so during their lives. While some of the evidence comes from press reports, and press reports are not always accurate, there is no reason to think that these particular reports are wrong. On the contrary, the reports that Nichols, Chapman and Stride were prostitutes were early reports, sourced to people who knew them, and contained other accurate information about them. They are corroborated by other evidence, some of which comes from official documents. Eddowes was almost certainly said to have engaged in prostitution by her ex-husband, if not by her partner at her inquest, and Kelly was obviously a prostitute as recorded on her death certificate.
As in previous editions, Wood comments in the third edition of his book that, according to Ripperologists (who he despises), anything which cannot be shown to be false must be true and anything which cannot be shown to be true might still be true. He doesn't seem to realize the irony of the fact that this philosophy is the very philosophy he follows in his book. If the supposed grand conspiracy behind the murders can't be shown to be false then it must exist, despite the complete absence of any evidence for it. For Wood, this grand conspiracy might still be true even though he can neither show it existed nor articulate what it was.
We are simply told that there was a 'prize'. There had to be one apparently to make 'the exercise' worthwhile, although we are not told exactly what the exercise was. The 'prize' may, and note the word 'may', have been connected with the Special Commission but there are'other possible scenarios'. Whatever the 'prize' was, he wants to convince his reader that there was a grand conspiracy connected with the Whitechapel murders which invented a fictional character called 'Jack the Ripper'.
So who committed the murders? Don't ask such a question! You won't get an answer in the whole book. Well, I call it a book. It strikes me as more of a huge collection of press cuttings interspersed with some caustic comments by Wood, trying to be clever, with the reader left to work out what is supposed to be happening from his or her own imagination.
On the few occasions when one does hear Wood's voice in the book, it seems that he is railing against an imaginary opponent who exists in his own mind only, which is kind of ironic bearing in mind his thesis that Jack the Ripper is a fictional creation. That imaginary opponent is someone who literally cannot conceive of the possibility that one or more of the canonical five victims was murdered by anyone other than a serial killer and who is so embedded to the idea of 'Jack the Ripper' (or, as Wood describes it, 'the deception of Jack the Ripper') that they are literally upset when anyone even suggests that it wasn't one person who killed them all. Yet I think that any serious researcher or person interested in the subject today can handle perfectly well the concept of there being more than one killer of the C5, it's just that it seems a bit unlikely.
Wood's real target seems to be authors of books on the Ripper from the fifties and sixties who treated sources uncritically and didn't question the concept they were writing about. Or perhaps his target is the readers of those books who accepted the concept uncritically. In fact, it seems that Wood himself originally and unreservedly accepted the idea that all five victims were murdered by Jack the Ripper so I think he is really shouting at a younger version of himself for believing everything he read in those books from the fifties and sixties whereas he now sees inconsistencies, implausibilities and downright lies everywhere.
Time and again Wood wants to bang home the point that it is, in his words, an 'article of faith' to some people that an individual known as Jack the Ripper murdered five prostitutes in 1888 between 31 August and 9 November. I don't think anyone really holds that kind of view, yet when I challenged him on the Censorship Forum (at a time when challenging of authors was allowed on that Forum) about what he meant when he said that Jack the Ripper did not exist, and if he meant to say that the canonical five victims (or just four of them) were killed by different individuals, he repeatedly came back to ask me why I thought Jack the Ripper existed and killed five women. It's a strange question (especially when offered in answer to another question) but it wasn't something I've ever said or insisted upon yet Wood seems to believe that anyone who challenges his book must hold such an ingrained view and have a totally closed mind. Perhaps Wood was deceived by the title of my article 'Reconstructing Jack', but it only reconstructs Jack in the sense that it is saying that Wood never managed to deconstruct him!
Even though it's no more than an unsupported theory, Wood tells us repeatedly as a fact that Jack the Ripper did not exist. How can he possibly make such a statement? How does he know what happened over 130 years ago? We are told, as if we are naughty children, that, 'It is time for us to grow up, move on and agree that no one is hiding under the bed, lurking in the wardrobe, rattling the trees or making the house creak, and realise that it is only our imaginations playing their funny little games'. Imagine if Wood had been around in 1888 and made that same little speech to Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Liz Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly while they were alive. For someone certainly murdered each of these five women. I don't think they imagined having their throats cut and then, for four of them, being horribly mutilated. Someone evil was hiding under their beds, possibly even literally in the case of Kelly! If Wood has any good reason to think that these women were murdered by different individuals, and not by the solitary individual commonly known as 'Jack the Ripper', why didn't he think to let us know it in very long 600 page book which is supposed to demonstrate that there was no such person?
Bizarrely, Wood tells us that the 'real conspirators' are those 'with no supporting evidence whatsoever' who defend the status quo. He is wrong. There is no conspiracy to the defend the status quo. It's just that the argument that the five victims were all killed by different individuals is so weak that it holds little appeal to anyone who has a serious interest in the subject. As I mentioned in 'Reconstructing Jack', Wood doesn't make the case for five different killers in his first two editions - and he fails to do so again in the third.
But this really isn't why Wood's book is so objectionable. The problem with his book is the claim that there was some kind of organised conspiracy behind the scenes, involving the Home Office, the Prime Minister, the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police, the Coroner for the Eastern District of Middlesex, the press, and goodness knows who else, to positively promote the idea of 'Jack the Ripper'. It's this thesis, for which there is simply no evidence at all, which makes no sense and which is the elaborate balderdash that I criticized in my 'Reconstructing Jack' article.
Even worse is that this elaborate balderdash is not only not supported by evidence but the evidence is entirely against it - and Wood, time and time again, is guilty of twisting the evidence to try and fit it into his far-fetched and palpably incorrect theory.
As demonstrated in this article, I am shocked by how many basic factual errors and misinterpretations of sources remain in Wood's book despite me exposing and correcting them in my article.
I know that Wood read the article 'Deconstructing Jack'. He said so on the Casebook Forum and he's modified his book in response to that article as well as other articles on this website. But, as we have seen, there are many obvious and basic mistakes he has made, which I referred to in my article, which he hasn't removed from the book or corrected. There is no excuse for this.
As usual, Wood doesn't mention me by name at all, preferring to bury his head in the sand, but there does appear to have been a response by him to my article when he says this:
'Many readers commented favourably on this book after its first publication in 2015, finding it useful in clearing the ground, dispelling some hoary old myths Ripperology stubbornly refused to throw away and helping to pare the mystery down to the bone. Some could barely bring themselves to acknowledge the book's existence. Some damned it with faint praise, whilst others worked themselves up into an apoplectic froth of righteous indignation whilst they bludgeoned the book as if it was some vengeful beast.'
I assume he places me in the latter category. I certainly bludgeoned the book but only because of the factual errors, the blatant misuse of sources, the basic misunderstandings, the poor arguments, the non sequiturs, the confusion throughout the entire work and the elaborate balderdash which needed to be exposed in the same way that Wood himself exposed and bludgeoned Stephen Knight's 1976 book.
It's interesting that Wood takes note of one of my criticisms of his book (one certainly made by others too):
'The main complaint about my book was that I failed to state categorically who, in the absence of Jack the Ripper, had murdered these women; or to provide a non-serial killer scenario which explained their deaths.'
Who would have thought that people would expect an author who claims there was no Jack the Ripper to explain to them, in a book they had purchased, why and by whom a number of women were murdered and mutilated in the East End over a period of four months? Not Wood apparently. The criticism seems to have taken him by surprise. The third edition of his book contains a lot of waffle designed to fill the gap but he never actually gets down to answering or resolving the question in his book of whether there was or was not an individual, or individuals, going around murdering women in the East End in 1888.
On one or two occasions in the book he actually seems to suggest that the same person who murdered Chapman also murdered Eddowes. Thus, he says that Eddowes had been 'mutilated in an horrific manner not dissimilar to that of Annie Chapman.' He also refers to the attack on Eddowes as 'a savage attack not dissimilar to that on Annie Chapman.' Otherwise he barely addresses the question of whether there was a connection between the murders or how many killers there were. However, he does say this:
'...there is much to suggest that, rather than a linear mystery, the Whitechapel murders were a series of discrete events, with a quasi-supernatural Jack the Ripper used as an umbrella device to explain things away whilst whipping up a diversionary scare.'
Elsewhere he refers to the possibility of 'five discrete murders taking place, three of which were first subsumed under the rubric of 'Leather Apron' and then, once that idea proved untenable, 'Jack the Ripper'.
Neither formulation is satisfactory. If Mary Ann Nichols was murdered and then mutilated by a 'discrete' killer how could the authorities, the police, or anyone else supposedly creating the names of 'Leather Apron' and 'Jack the Ripper' for some purpose, have known that there was going to be another 'discrete' murder in the near future? Even the killer of Nichols couldn't have known it because, if there were five 'discrete' murders, that particular killer didn't go on to kill anyone else.
At what point, therefore, do the authorities - those authorities who want to create the 'umbrella' of a'diversionary scare' - realise that there is going to be a series of murders which they can use for their own nefarious but undefined purpose?
As I understand Wood, the concept of 'Leather Apron' was created by a journalist and promulgated by the police. But that name entered the public domain immediately following the murder of Nichols and would surely have died away within a week or two had Anne Chapman also not been murdered and mutilated. If the two murders (and mutilations) were 'discrete' and unconnected events, no-one could possibly have planned to create a fictional 'Leather Apron' as part of some kind of diversionary exercise because no-one could have known a second murder with mutilation was going to happen.
The whole thing would work if there was an evil mastermind behind the murders, instructing a person or persons to commit them for some reason, but then we move into the realm of Stephen Knight and the 'final solution', with someone like William Gull and his assistants travelling around London to wipe out certain targeted victims, the very kind of fantastic idea that Wood doesn't seem to want to entertain and which he criticized so strongly back in the day.
After the publication of the third edition of Wood's book, at a time when it was possible to question authors on the Casebook Forum without the thread being closed, I pestered and badgered Wood to say whether he believed that all the five canonical victims were murdered by different people. It wasn't easy but after much pressing and repeating of various questions, having started to question him on a daily basis from 1 August 2017 (#249 of the thread entitled 'Deconstructing Jack by Simon Wood'), Wood finally cracked on 4 August (#372 of the thread) saying: 'Five murders, five different murderers', adding, 'Yes, but there is a connection'. He wasn't, however, willing (or able) to tell me what that connection was but said that it wasn't Jack the Ripper.
In response, I made a joke post speculating who Wood thought the killers of each of the women were, as follows:
Nichols - Neil, Mizen and Thain (the blackmailing police gang)
Chapman - Ted Stanley a.k.a Colonel Hughes Hallett
Stride - Unfortunate shaving accident
Eddowes - John Kelly and Emily Birrell
Kelly - Robert Anderson and the Special Branch Hit Squad
Reading Wood's book again I'm not sure I was too far out! No other scenarios are offered. But, again, if it's anything like this, there was no way anyone, other then the next killer in the sequence, could have possibly known after each murder that there was going to be another one. Wood evidently believes that the 'Dear Boss' letter which created the name 'Jack the Ripper' was deliberately created by the authorities on 25 September to increase the drama and fear (or something like that) but how did they know that two women were going to be murdered in the East End a few days later? I don't think that Wood is saying that the name of 'Jack the Ripper' was created by a group of psychics with a crystal ball!
But this is just one fundamental flaw of Wood's theory. Another is that, as a 'diversionary scare', the Ripper murders simply didn't work. They didn't divert attention from anything. If Wood means (which he appears to) that the murders were supposed to divert attention from the Special Commission (or from issues arising from the Commission), they didn't, nor could they ever have done so.
The Commission had not yet begun when Nichols and Chapman were murdered. When it held its first preliminary hearing on 17 September 1888, the very same day of the penultimate day of the Nichols inquest, it knocked the news of the Nichols inquest off all the 'front pages' (albeit that what could be regarded as the 'front pages' were usually inside the newspaper, often on page 3 as it happens). Even though the Commission hearing that day was devoted to some quite dull administrative matters, it is apparent that all the best newspaper court reporters were sent to the Royal Courts of Justice which is why, in contrast to earlier inquest hearings, we only seem to have one or two different reports of the testimony given at the inquest on 17 September (which includes the evidence of Robert Paul and P.C. Thain).
One only has to look at any newspaper of the period to see that the report of the Commission hearing of 17 September takes up far more column inches than the Nichols inquest.
By the end of September, the murders in Whitechapel had virtually been forgotten. It was the sensational double event which sparked off public interest in those murders again but, at this time, the Special Commission wasn't sitting. It didn't start its inquiry until 22 October 1888 by which time the excitement caused by the Stride and Eddowes murders had pretty much died down. Even Wood says that the murders of Stride and Eddowes were quickly forgotten amidst interest in the Special Commission.
On 9 November, the evidence taken by the Commission on that day was of a couple of Irish farmers and some other Irish civilians as well as a couple of members of the Irish Constabulary. It wasn't anything that the British public needed to be diverted from by a murder and it was all reported in the newspapers anyway.
The real action in the Special Commission occurred in February 1889 with the dramatic evidence of the British spy, Le Caron, the lawyer Soames, MacDonald of the Times, Houston the journalist and Pigott the forger. If the British authorities wanted to divert attention from the Special Commission, either by committing murders themselves or by falsely promoting the concept of a serial killer on the loose, surely it was going to be during this month. Yet by February 1889 the murders of a few women in Whitechapel had been pretty much forgotten.
Those murders had been confined to a small geographical area in any case. The majority of the British population were unaffected. Sure it was a bit scary to read about them in the newspapers but for most people (including those all around the world) it was just an interesting and shocking story from which they were geographically detached. There was absolutely no diversion from the Special Commission and a few murders in the East End of London could never have diverted attention from that Commission.
Wood's so-called 'prize' didn't exist. Wood tells us that the Special Commission inquiry led to a shooting, two suspected London murders, an alleged suicide in Madrid, illegal Scotland Yard activity in North America and the sudden resignation of James Monro. I've already explained in 'Reconstructing Jack', and I trust the reader is familiar with that article, that the shooting Wood refers to was the result of a brawl in a pub that was irrelevant to the inquiry, the two 'suspected London murders' of which Wood speaks were not murders at all, there was nothing 'alleged' about the suicide in Madrid, it was a suicide (and everyone around the world knew all about it), there was no illegal Scotland Yard activity in North America and the resignation of James Monro was about Metropolitan Police pensions and thus nothing to do with the Whitechapel murders.
Despite me having debunked that entire list, Wood has literally nothing to say in response. He just repeats the list as if the debunking had not happened.
Another fundamental flaw about Wood's theory is that it simply doesn't seem to have been in anyone's interest for there to have been a serial killer loose in London during 1888 and 1889. Not only did it put the entire Metropolitan Police force under pressure, and made Sir Charles Warren and the detective department look like fools, but there was also plenty of comment in the newspapers that the Home Secretary should resign, thus affecting the stability of the government itself. One can, of course, say that James Monro was the person to benefit by replacing Sir Charles Warren but, at the same time, he failed to catch 'Jack the Ripper' who was believed to have murdered Alice McKenzie in July 1889.
Wood frequently says that the Metropolitan Police was red hot keen to (falsely) suggest that all the murders were committed by a single person but I don't think he's really thought this one through. Imagine if the police in 1888 had attempted to say that there was no single killer on the loose and that the murders were all the work of different people. They would surely have been ridiculed to a far greater extent than they actually were! And it's not clear that the idea of five or six maniacs on the loose would have been more reassuring to the public than just one.
It wouldn't be so bad if Wood could come up with even one half-credible argument to explain these murders as five 'discrete' events but that's where he completely fails. How can he possibly criticize the police in 1888 for failing to do something that he can't do himself today? For if the police had said that there were five different murderers they would have needed a bloody good and cogent reason to explain to the press and public why they believed this to be the case. Surely if the police had taken this line in 1888 we would have a large group of people today saying that the police were deliberately and falsely trying to pretend that there was no serial killer on the loose!
Probably the most baffling part of Wood's book is his apparent failure to understand why, after each ghastly murder, the police assumed it to have been committed by the same person. I mean, come on, it's the obvious explanation. That's not to say that it was necessarily the correct explanation. But it was certainly the most obvious one and surely not unreasonable. Even though Elizabeth Stride wasn't mutilated it was hardly unreasonable for anyone to have theorized that the killer was interrupted. It wasn't a very difficult conclusion to reach.
For Wood, there appears to be some meaning in the fact that different people have held different theories at different times about the identity of Jack the Ripper. By some strange logic, if different people (especially different police officers) hold different views as to who the Ripper was, and as to when he or she died, then it can only mean that Jack the Ripper didn't exist. It's a baffling thought process but that it really does seem to be what Wood believes can be seen in the following Forum post he made on 31 May 2019 when he posted an 1891 news article about the murder of Frances Coles and said:
'We have Montagu Williams MP, who was pushing the Portuguese cattleman Ripper theory, a West of England MP reporting that the Ripper committed suicide in 1888, and, with Frances Coles, a possible brand new Ripper murder being investigated by Inspector Swanson.
How can these stories co-exist?'
But to anyone who can think straight, of course those stories can co-exist. It just means that two private individuals had different theories (or different information which led them to different conclusions) while the police, in the form of Chief Inspector, Swanson didn't know if Jack the Ripper was alive or dead. Wood can't possibly be saying that unless everyone held exactly the same view about the identity of Jack the Ripper then Jack the Ripper didn't exist, can he? Well that seems to be exactly what he is saying, unfortunately, at least on this occasion. He just doesn't seem to be able to cope with the possibility that either no-one has ever known who Jack the Ripper was, or only one theory that has ever been put forward is correct. Yet stories saying that the Ripper was dead can co-exist perfectly well with stories that the Ripper was still alive. It would just mean that one set of stories was right (possibly by luck rather than judgement) while the other set of stories was wrong. It's known as what happens in the real world as opposed to La La Land.
Ultimately, Wood's theory is based on misunderstandings and twisting of evidence and an abundance of false premises but more than this it is perfectly clear that even in the third edition of his book, and even having read all I have said about the previous two editions in my article 'Reconstructing Jack', he still doesn’t understand what his theory his. He loves to repeat the mantra 'Jack the Ripper did not exist, Jack the Ripper did not exist' but doesn't understand what he means by it. He is selling a theory in other words that he cannot articulate or explain. It's a meaningless claim anyway because 'Jack the Ripper' was nothing more than a label assigned to the unknown person or persons who was murdering women in the East End. As his, her or their identity is unknown, none of the characteristics attributed to 'Jack the Ripper' by the press or public are in any way certain but that doesn't mean a single individual didn’t murder all the women. But this isn't the heart of the problem because what Wood evidently hasn't got a clue about is why those women were murdered. He would like the answer to be that it was connected in some way with the Parnell Commission but the fact that he freely admits it could be something else entirely means that he has absolutely no evidence that it was connected with the Parnell Commission which means that line of thought could be completely wrong and that there is no connection between the murders other than that they were committed by the same person!! That person being the one commonly known as Jack the Ripper.
What I am saying to put it bluntly is that Wood is trying to sell a bag of horsefeathers. He doesn’t know if the murders were connected and he doesn't know if the police tried to pretend that they were connected for some nefarious reason and he certainly doesn't know, and hasn't managed to work out, what that supposed nefarious reason was. And if he doesn't know any of this what is the purpose of his book? To repeat that Jack the Ripper didn't exist over and over again interspersed with hundreds of irrelevant and contradictory press cuttings? That seems to be all he does, with a few hints and taps of his nose that he knows much more than he is able to reveal.
Let us conclude with Wood's own words as posted on the Censorship Forum on 17 January 2019 (thread 'Help On Some Details'):
'Ripperology never lets the facts stand in a way of a good story'.
There I do agree with Wood, at least in respect of his own contribution to the Ripperology canon. He repeatedly ignores the facts so that he can tell his own story about the Ripper murders being connected with the Special Commission and a grand conspiracy. I wouldn't mind so much but Wood doesn't even tell a good story. If you are looking for elaborate balderdash, Stephen Knight did it so much better.
9 June 2019
Addition 10 June 2019
Addition 29 June 2019