A Russian Jack The Ripper

By early December, 1888, all sorts of rumours were doing the rounds as to who the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders might have been, and what his possible motives for his atrocious crimes were.

On the 4th of December, 1888, a story appeared in several newspapers that purported that the murderer was in fact an insane Russian anarchist by the name Nicolai Vassilyeff who, following a spell in a Paris asylum, had come to London where he carried out the crimes that were attributed to Jack the Ripper.

The theory of the murderer as a deranged anarchist is an intriguing one, and it has surfaced several times since, most recently in the research of private investigator Randy Williams who, very kindly, outlined his theory in this article, which was published in June 2017.

Randy standing by the sign in Mitre Square.
Randy Williams In Mitre Square


The following story, about Nicolai Vassilyeff, appeared in The Bury and Norwich Post, on Tuesday 4th of December, 1888:-

“A Russian newspaper, in an article on the Whitechapel murders, expresses the belief that the perpetrator of these dreadful crimes is a Russian named Nicolai Vassilyeff, of whose past career it gives the following details.


Vassilyeff, who was born at Tiraspol in 1847, was a student at the Odessa University, and having become a fanatical Anarchist, he migrated to Paris in the seventies, where be shortly afterwards became insane, and was placed under restraint.


Before being lodged in an asylum, however, Vassilyeff, whose mania appears to have been that fallen women could only atone for their sins and obtain redemption by being killed, murdered several unfortunates in Paris under conditions somewhat similar to those of the Whitechapel crimes, and on his arrest, his insanity having been proved, he was placed in a criminal lunatic asylum.


This happened sixteen years ago and Vassilyeff, or the mad Russian as he was called, remained in the Paris asylum until shortly before the first Whitechapel outrage, when he was dismissed as cured.


He is then said to have proceeded to London, where for some time he lived with the lower class of his fellow countrymen.


After the first Whitechapel murder, however, Vassilyeff was lost sight of, and the Russian residents in London believe that their insane countryman is none other than the murderer.”


The news that a released lunatic may have been responsible for the Whitechapel murders, attracted the attention of Dr, Forbes Winslow, who, on the 4th of December, 1888 wrote to the central News Office proffering his opinion on this latest revelation.

His missive was published on that day by The Londonderry Sentinel:-

“Dr. Forbes Winslow, in a letter to the Central News, says:-

“With reference to the statement currently made to the effect that the murderer of the women in Whitechapel was a Russian who suffered from homicidal insanity, and had been discharged from a lunatic asylum in Paris as cured, I think the statement a most important one, especially if it can be confirmed that such an individual was actually discharged as cured, and that he came to London just before the first murder in Whitechapel, and that he entertained morbid religious beliefs as to the destruction of a certain class of our community, to which these women belonged.

A photograph of Dr. Forbes Winslow.
Dr Forbes Winslow


It bears out in every way what I have stated from the first, when I suggested to the authorities that the lunatic asylums should be communicated with as to whether they had discharged any persons who had been originally admitted suffering from homicidal insanity as ‘cured.’

I have frequently drawn attention to the incurability of this form of insanity, though apparently the victim to it may appear rational to all the outside world.


I would most strongly urge upon the authorities to immediately communicate with the lunacy officials in Paris, and so endeavour to trace out the history, antecedents, description, and, if possible, the whereabouts of this person so lately discharged from the Paris asylum.


To my mind, it is a most important and vital matter, and I quite expect that the individual in question will turn out to be the actual murderer of all the Whitechapel women.

No time should be lost, and delays are dangerous; for as long as the homicidal lunatic is about we must expect any minute to hear of more outrages.”