The journalist George Sims (1847 – 1922) regularly reported on and commented on the Jack the Ripper murders and the police investigation into them. He also continued to comment and look into the crimes long after they had come to an end.
It was he, for example, who, in 1913, wrote to the by then retired former Chief Inspector John Littlechild (1848 – 1923), asking if he had ever heard mention of a “Dr D” having been suspected of being Jack the Ripper.
Evidently Sims was referring to suspect Montague John Druitt.
A NEW SUSPECT REVEALED
Littlechild’s response was that he had never heard a “Dr D”, but he had heard of a “Dr T.” who was, to his mind, “a very likely” suspect.
It was this letter which led ripperologist Stewart P. Evans to suspect Dr Francis Tumblety.
HIS THOUGHTS ON THE RIPPER
Interestingly, when, a few years later, George Sims published his autobiography, modestly entitled My Life, he chose to ignore this revelation from Littlechild and made no mention of Tumblety as a suspect.
Indeed, he devotes very little space at all to the Jack the Ripper case, other than to give details of how he himself (Sims) was, at one stage, put forward as a suspect.
This is what George Sims had to say:-
“As a journalist, I followed the jack the Ripper crimes at close quarters.
I had a personal interest in the matter, for my portrait, which appeared outside the cover of a sixpenny edition of my “Social Kaleidoscope,” was taken to Scotland Yard by a coffee-stall keeper as the likeness of the assassin.
THE DOUBLE MURDER
On the night of the double murder [he is referring here to the 30th of September 1888, when Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride became victims of the ripper], or rather in the small hours of the morning, a man had drunk a cup of coffee at the stall.
The stall-keeper noticed that he had blood on his shirt-cuffs.
The coffee merchant said, looking at him keenly, “Jack the Ripper’s about perhaps to-night.”
“Yes,” replied the man, “he is pretty lively just now, isn’t he? You may hear of two murders in the morning.”
Then he walked away.
WAS HE JACK THE RIPPER?
At dawn the bodies of two women murdered by the Ripper were found.
Passing a newsvendor’s shop that afternoon the coffee-stall keeper saw my likeness outside the book.
“That’s the man!”, he said, and bought the book.
He took it first to Dr. Forbes Winslow, who was writing letters to the papers on the Ripper crimes at the time.
Forbes Winslow, who knew me, told him it was absurd, but the man went off with the book to the Yard, and Forbes Winslow wrote to me and told me of the interview and the coffee-stall keeper’s “mistake.”
But it was quite a pardonable mistake.
The redoubtable Ripper was not unlike me as I was at that time.”
INTERESTING BUT WRONG
Sims’s account is intriguing in that his final statement about the “redoubtable Ripper” being “not unlike me as I was at the time” is interesting, because he seems to be suggesting that he knew what Jack the Ripper looked like.
It is also worth noting that he was wrong about the time of the discovery of the bodies of the two victims in question.
Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes weren’t, as Sims states, found “at dawn”, but were found within moments of their murders having taken place – at 1 am and 1.45 am respectively.
Sims, however, then goes on to postulate on who he thought the killer was – and his suspicions seem to have been greatly influenced by the opinions of Melville Macnaghten, with whom he had been on reasonably close terms throughout the 1890’s.
HE WAS UNDOUBTEDLY A DOCTOR
This is what Sims wrote:-
“He was undoubtedly a doctor who had been in a lunatic asylum and had developed homicidal mania of a special kind.
Each of his murders was more maniacal than its predecessors, and the last was the worst of all.
After committing that he drowned himself.
His body was found in the Thames after it had been in the river for nearly a month.
Had he been found alive there would have been no mystery about Jack the Ripper. The man would have been arrested and tried.
But you can’t try a corpse for a crime, however strong the suspicion may be.
And the authorities could not say, “This dead man was Jack the Ripper.” The dead cannot defend themselves.
But there were circumstances which left very little doubt in the official mind as to the Ripper’s identity.”
MOST CERTAINLY DRUITT
So, tantalisingly, Sims did not reveal the identity of the doctor whom he was convinced had carried out the Whitechapel murders spree.
However, all the facts that he reveals about the fate of his suspect point to his having been referring to Montague John Druitt.
It is also more than obvious that his suspicions were as a result of his acquaintance with Melville Macnaghten as he commits to paper a glaring error that Macnaghten had been responsible for – that Druitt was a doctor.
Druitt actually came from a family of doctors, but he himself was a lawyer and a school teacher.
Macnaghten’s musings on the case are both intriguing and annoying.
He, most certainly, was convinced of Druitt’s guilt; and he even goes so far as to state that he had concrete proof of the fact that Druitt was Jack the Ripper.
Yet, in many of the statements that he makes about his favoured suspect, he is demonstrably and provably wrong in the facts he so confidently states about Druitt and his guilt.
BUT HE WAS RIGHT ABOUT ONE THING
Still, Sims is correct in one of his statements concerning the perpetrator of history’s most infamous killing spree.
If Jack the Ripper had, indeed, been found alive, there would have been no mystery concerning the case, and the murders themselves would soon have been forgotten.
And, if that had happened, what would I have to blog about?