One thing that I have often found to be remarkable – and also slightly disturbing – about the case, is the number of people who, year after year, come forward to make the astonishing claim that they are descended from Jack the Ripper.
Books and TV series often feature people who, whilst researching their family history, have unearthed the shocking truth about their great grandfather, great, great uncle, or some other ancestor who, they have discovered, was the most infamous murderer of all time.
Many – in fact, almost all – of these claims fall down on close scrutiny by researchers and historians.
But, as is evidenced by the recent press excitement over the shawl that belonged to Catherine Eddowes, newspapers can’t resist a story that purports to “prove” the identity of the elusive Victorian serial killer, not caring one iota for the veracity of the sources, or, for that matter, the accuracy of the facts.
Jack the Ripper has always sold newspapers, and so stories about him continue, and will continue, to appear, mostly without checks and balances being done about the legitimacy of a candidate or the accuracy of the facts.
The Worthing Gazette, on Wednesday, on the 11th of February, 1959, published just such a story in which an elderly gentleman felt it necessary to reveal a dark family secret, and, in so doing, made the decision to malign the memory of his cousin, Frank, who was probably a perfectly charming and charismatic accountant:-
JACK THE RIPPER
DID HE LIVE IN WORTHING?
Did Jack the Ripper mingle with Worthing holidaymakers about 25 years ago? Did he frequently visit the town and did his final holiday here last nearly a year? Were some people aware of his identity but afraid to reveal this?
The answers to all these questions are “Yes,” according to 82- year-old Mr. George Henry Edwards, of George-street, Worthing, who claims that Jack the Ripper was his cousin.
His Christian name was Frank and he was an accountant. He is believed to be dead.
HIS ARRIVAL IN ST ELMO ROAD
After an accident, in which he broke his leg, cousin Frank came to stay with Mrs. Bertha Parkhurst, now 75, at her house in St. Elmo Road, Worthing. She remembers him well and says that he was often criticising women as a sex and saying that they were no good.
She did not suspect he was Jack the Ripper, but she heard a rumour that he killed a woman in London.
The secret of Frank’s possible identity has been nursed for many years by Mr Edwards, a retired farrier and blacksmith, but now he has told his story of a night in Chichester in 1888 when Frank arrived unexpectedly from London.
BLOODSTAINS AND A LOCKED DOOR
Mr. Edwards was living with his parents in a house in Northgate, Chichester, and one of his sisters answered a knock at the door. It was their cousin, Frank, and he said that he had decided to visit them, for a few days.
There was no room at the Edwards’s house so he went to stay at a neighbour’s for the night.
The next morning he did not return to the Edwards’s house for breakfast and his bedroom was found still locked. The door was forced and he had disappeared, but he left behind an attaché case. Inside it was a razor and a bloodstained collar.
THE MURDERER’S DESCRIPTION
Those circumstances were suspicious enough, but that night, when the evening newspaper was delivered, there was a story about another murder in Whitechapel, and of a policeman seeing a man walking away from the scene. His description was: bowler hat, gold, rimmed spectacles, black moustache and brown cardigan with red spots.
“And that,” says George, “is an exact description of my cousin the night he arrived unexpectedly in Chichester.
When my mother read the report she fainted.
KEPT THE SECRET
Why was all this not reported before?
I kept my mouth shut or I might have been murdered too.
George’s sister, Mrs. Parkhurst, describes cousin Frank as a man who could be difficult, but gave her no trouble. He spent a long time as her lodger, on holiday.
The man left Worthing and was apparently never heard of again by his relatives.
EAST END ATROCITIES
Scotland Yard officers are reported as saying that the Jack the Ripper docket is still open as he was never brought to justice The new information may be passed on to Worthing police.
Jack the Ripper murdered six women and terrorised London.
London newspapers carried such headlines as “East End atrocities” and “Two more butcheries.”