One of the big questions that all ripper enthusiasts, investigators and researchers, will, sooner or later, need to answer is – what became of Jack the Ripper?
The fact that the perpetrator of the Whitechapel Murders was never brought to book and charged with the crimes, leaves a huge mystery that has baffled professional and amateur detectives in equal measure over the course of the last 126 years.
Of course, before you can even attempt to answer the question of what became of him, you must first tackle the question of when exactly his killing spree ended.
Although most researchers would tell you that Mary Kelly was the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims it is not quite that simple. The Whitechapel Murders continued for several years after the murder of Mary Kelly on the 9th November 1888 and, whereas several of the later crimes almost certainly weren’t the work of Jack the Ripper, others – such as Alice Mackenzie and Frances Coles to bear similarities to the canonical five murders and so may well have been the work of the ripper.
Why should that be important in establishing what happened to Jack the Ripper?
Well, if you draw a line after the murder of Mary Kelly then you can look at certain suspects and say exactly what did happen to him. However, if you accept, as several police officers at the time did, that some of the later murders were the work of the same hand that slew the canonical five victims, then it rules out some of those suspects and still leaves us with a mystery as to what exactly happened to him.
The major suspect who would be incriminated if Mary Kelly was the last of his victims, and about whom we could say exactly what happened to him, is Montague John Druitt, who was the favoured suspect of Melville Macnaghten.
Druitt committed suicide at the end of November 1888 (his body was fished out of the Thames at Chiswick on the last day of the year) and, according to Macnaghten, his own family suspected him of being the perpetrator of the heinous crimes in the East End of London.
So, if Macnaghten is to be believed, the murders came to an end because the man responsible ended his life because his mind gave way after the awful glut in Miller’s Court when Mary Kelly was murdered.
But, if any of the later murders were the work of Jack the Ripper, then Druitt is ruled out as a suspect and we find ourselves back at square one.
As any one who has dedicated time to researching these murders will attest, the case is riddled with problems such as this. You take a step forward in identifying him when some inconvenient fact or truth turns up that results in you having to take two steps back!
However, whether Druitt was the ripper or not, his case at least illustrates one possible fate for the killer that we now know as Jack the Ripper and that is that, the murders came to an end because the perpetrator died, either by his own hand, or from natural causes.
Another possibility, that has oft been considered, is that he was living with family members who, realising that he was the man responsible, had him incarcerated in an asylum where the secret of his true identity was hidden from all but a few close relatives.
By the same token, he may have been identified by the authorities, found to be hopelessly insane, and confined to an asylum for the remainder of his days. Two of the suspects Aaron Kosminski and Thomas Cutbush fall in to this latter category.
The third possibility is that the killer left London, or even England, shortly after the last murder and continued his killing spree without the connection being made. This one is highly unlikely as the murders were reported all over the World and many foreign police forces were on the look out for the arrival of the ripper in their midst. So, if he did continue murdering elsewhere and in the same fashion, the connection would most certainly have been made.However, of the major suspects in the case, the one that did leave the country shortly after the murder of Mary Kelly was Dr. Francis Tumblety.
There is a further possibility that the killer simply got tired of murdering and, therefore, retired, having sated his appetite for bloodshed and mayhem in the tiny room in Miller’s Court on 9th November 1888 , with the murder of Mary Kelly. This is, again, a highly unlikely scenario since serial killers such as this may remain dormant for several years, but they rarely give up unless circumstances intervene that force them to end their killing sprees.
Which brings us to our final possibility. That the murders were ended because the police, contrary to popular opinion, did indeed get their man and Jack the Ripper was caught.
Now, if this was the case, there’s a chance that they might not have realised that they had caught their prey. Suppose, for example, that he was arrested for a different crime, unrelated to the Whitechapel Murders and sent to prison for the remainder of his days where his secret died with him?
Suppose also, that he was sent to prison, released after a period of time, say 20 years, and he carried out further murders that were not seen as being connected to the killing spree of 1888?
Finally, there is every possibility that the police caught Jack the Ripper himself, knew they had their man, but were unable prosecute him for lack of evidence. This is what, according to Robert Anderson and Donald Swanson – the two highest ranking police officials on the ripper case – happened with Aaron Kosminski.
No matter which scenario you favour, however, one fact is certain, something happened to Jack the Ripper that ended the murders. Whether that something happened in the wake of the murder of Mary Kelly on the 9th of November 1888, or in the wake of the murder of Frances Coles on the 13th February 1891 is the mystery that needs to be pondered in order to decide what may have happened to Jack the Ripper.
And today, 126 years after the onslaught of the Whitechapel Murders, we’re probably no nearer to knowing what happened to the killer, than the police , press and public were back in 1888.
Or are we?
Perhaps, we’ve known what it was that happened to him all along but, overwhelmed, by the veritable tsunami of information that continues to pour forth on the case, we simply can’t see the solution for looking!