Remarkable Theories

With the murder of Mary Kelly, which took place in Dorset Street, Spitalfields, on the 9th of November, 1888, the newspapers began expounding all manner of theories as to who the murderer might be, and what, if any, could be the motivation for his dreadful atrocities.

The police were being inundated with letters from the public, offering numerous suggestions of likely suspects.

On Sunday, 18th November, 1888, Gorge Sims published an article in his “Mustard and Cress” column in The Referee in which he poked fun at many of the theories and suspects, albeit he couldn’t resist suggesting his own opinion of where the murderer might reside, and what the murderer might look like.

A photograph of George Sims.
George Sims.


“To get at the actual facts of anything nowadays seems to be as hopeless a task as discovering the exact whereabouts of the North Pole.

With every fresh outburst of horror caused by a fresh murder, the theorists rush to the front to air their remarkable theories.

Some of the most remarkable go to the police and never reach the columns of the ever-enterprising Press.


If the letters which the police have received come to be published, they would at once lead to an earnest public discussion as to the advisability of building a few hundred extra lunatic asylums, and of insisting upon the contractors working on at night by the aid of the electric light in order to have them completed as soon as possible.


Many well-known persons have been named to the police by gratuitous informers as the real original Jack the Ripper.

One earnest citizen is convinced that a nobleman, whose name he mentions, is committing these crimes because his wife ran away with a paramour; another gives the name of a well-known Social Purity advocate in confidence, and declares that there are blood-stains still on his doorstep.


But perhaps the most remarkable piece of evidence is that of a laundress, who forwards a pair of cuffs, and says:-

“Sir Charles Warren.

Sir, – These cuffs come in the washing from Mr. —” (name and address given). “There is a stain on them which looks like blood. He is a queer-looking man, my dorter says, as she as seen him when calling for the bill, and ‘is wife is a inverlid. If he is not the Whitechapel murderer, please return, as I do not want to be mix up in the affair. P.S. – if the reward is paid, I hope I shall have my rites.”

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. From The Illustrated London News, 1st May 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Everyone has, of course, by this time heard the absurd and utterly idiotic idea that the unhappy Matthews is really Jack, and that is why he refused to offer a reward.

This is only a fair specimen of the utter twaddle which the murders have given rise to.

Up to the present the Archbishop of Canterbury has not been mentioned, but there is no knowing what the latest rumour, that a suspicious-looking clergyman has been seen about Dorset-square, may give rise to.

A portrait of Sir Henry Matthews.
Sir Henry Matthews. The Home Secretary.


My own opinion (perhaps as mad as those I have ridiculed) is that when – if ever – the culprit is arrested, he will be found to be a man who resides in the locality, or whose business brings him there, that his calling is one which has familiarised him with the sight of blood, and that most probably he has had frequent opportunity of witnessing the dissection of human bodies.

He is a man who lives either in lodgings or in one of the numerous flats in the neighbourhood by himself, and is enabled to let himself in at any hour without attracting attention.

The neighbourhood of his crimes has not been selected haphazard, but because he has been familiar with it for some years, and he is thoroughly acquainted with the habits and haunts of his victims.

The probabilities are that the monster known as “Jack the Ripper” is at the present moment living in the calm and peaceable enjoyment of his quiet lodging or flat, within one mile of the scene of his exploits.


He is not a man who uses common lodging-houses; he is not a sailor who has to go on board his ship to sleep; he does not apply for a bed at coffee-houses, and he does not have to take a long walk to disappear after his work is done.

In either of these cases, the chances are a million to one that he would have been spotted by someone and connected with the crimes in consequence of the peculiarity of his conduct, or of his appearance.


He is probably a man of the type of the Alton murderer, who, after butchering a little girl in the most awful manner, entered in his diary against the date, “Killed a little girl – nice and warm.”

This form of mania takes a fierce delight in the sight of blood, and is a form that is well known to experts in criminal cases.

Such a man, for example, was Dr. Tardieu, of Paris.


The man’s face would betray him to an expert.

The features in most of these bloodthirsty maniacs are peculiar – especially the mouth, the chin, and the eyes.

If you look at a collection of the photographs of criminals of the Alton type (I had such a collection myself for years, and it only got scattered by friends borrowing one or two and forgetting to return them), you will see at once what I mean.


If a thorough and searching inquiry were made among the unfortunate women of the neighbourhood of the murders, it would be found that many of them know a man of this type (let the police show them a photograph or two of the Alton kind), and it will be found that many of them have seen him lately, and probably even been spoken to by him.

It was a man of exactly this type, I gather from the slight description (peculiar looking), who spoke to the Kennedys on the night of the last murder.


Once flx this point, and the police can narrow their search, for they will know the description and type of man for whom they must look.

The man who is wanted has a mouth, a chin, and a pair of eyes which are characteristic of nearly all “blood maniacs” – the expression will do for lack of a better.

This fact, once understood and appreciated by the police and the unfortunates who are likely to furnish Jack the Ripper with his next victim, means that the chances of his discovery are increased a thousand-fold.


If the Continental system of regulation was pursued, such a series of butcheries would have been impossible – the whole body of unfortunates would have been a huge vigilance committee, under police direction, on the look-out for the monster directly his first murder had been committed.

As it is, it is to the unfortunate class that the police should look for the capture.

The difficulty is to get them together to give them the little lesson in physiognomy which will enable them to detect Jack the Ripper at once, and lure him into the arms of the police.


This man is a murderer not for a reason, but by instinct. And an instinct of this sort is always be shown in the features.

Jack murders and mutilates exactly as another man goes to the theatre or the music-hall.”