If there is one mystery that has been rife with conspiracy theories its the Jack the Ripper case.
Almost from the moment some unknown miscreant began his series of murders on the streets of the East End of London people have been coming up with wilder and wilder theories as to who he (or in many cases they) was/were and the reason why the crimes themselves were committed.
At the height of the ripper scare, George Bernard Shaw was suggesting that the reason for the murders was some “independent genius” had discovered the perfect way of exposing the horrific conditions in the districts of Spitalfields and Whitechapel and was carrying out a series of murders as a sort of social reformer. Admittedly Shaw’s tongue was firmly in his cheek when he made his social reformer suggestion, but others were coming up with equally bizarre and unlikely theories.
It was the police themselves, it was the Russian Secret Police trying to discredit their counterparts in the Metropolitan Police. It was the anarchists trying to destabilise British society and bring the government down. All these were put forward as potential suspects at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders and many of them continue to be put forward today.
But the most oft quoted conspiracy theory, and the one that is still trotted out time and time again is that the murders were carried out by a member of the Royal family and the government and the police closed ranks to keep it from becoming public knowledge.
The Royal’s name who is put forward as being either the perpetrator of the crimes or the instigator of the crimes is Prince Albert Edward Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson and the heir presumptive to the throne of England.
The fact that he wasn’t even in London on the nights of the murders seldom features in the various conspiracy theories that link him to the crimes.
But the fact that many people, despite so much evidence that exonerates him, wish to put him in the frame for the Jack the Ripper murders shows that we need our villains to be big, bold and important.
The real Jack the Ripper, on the other hand, was probably an undistinguished nobody who lived in the heart of the area where the murders occurred for whom, every so often, the voices in his head proved too much and he went out and committed another murder.
How’s that for a conspiracy theory? Now, where’s my publisher!