THE SUN’S JACK THE RIPPER SUSPECT
Speculation about the killer’s true identity was rife shortly after the murders ended, and a number of the most senior officers on the case actually went on record to name their favoured suspects.
On 13th February 1894 The Sun Newspaper began a series of articles that apparently ruffled more than a few feathers at Scotland Yard. The first article informed readers that:
“…The general impression for a long time has been that Jack the Ripper is dead. It was evident that the fiend who committed so many murders in such rapid succession – with such extraordinary daring – with such untiring ferocity – would never cease his bloody work until death or detection. Just three years have now passed away since these murders ceased to take place; and such an interruption in the series of crimes points clearly to the disappearance in some form or other of the man who was guilty of them…”
The article then went on to claim that Sun reporters had discovered the fate of Jack the Ripper:
“…He was first brought to imprisonment on the charge of being simply a dangerous lunatic. And the evidence of his lunacy – hopeless, abysmal and loathsome – was so palpable that he was not permitted even to plead. In the brief of the counsel who prosecuted, in the instructions of the solicitor who defended, there was the same statement – that he was suspected of being Jack the Ripper. In the case of both the one and the other, the very mention of this or any other dark suspicion was precluded; for, unable to plead, the wretched creature in the dock was saved from all indictment; was spared the necessity of all defence. He was sent forthwith to the living tomb of a lunatic asylum, and there he might have passed to death without mention of his terrible secret if a chance clue had not put a representative of The Sun on the track. The clue thus accidentally obtained has been followed up by months of patient investigation, and has been thoroughly sifted. Today we lay before the world a story – consecutive, careful, and firmly knit – which we believe will offer the solution of the greatest murder mystery of the nineteenth century…”
The Sun didn’t actually name this dangerous lunatic in its article but in the next days edition it continued to tease its readers:
“…We know the Christian name and surname of Jack the Ripper. We know his present habitation; our representatives have seen him, and we have in our possession a morass of declarations, documents and other proofs which prove his identity. We have a facsimile of the knife with which the murders were committed, purchased at the same place. We are able to trace the whole career of the man who committed those crimes, we can give the names of his employers, their places of business, the terms of his service there, and the incidents of his connection with them – incidents which clearly show that he was in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel at the time when the murders were committed; that he developed tendencies even in his employment of homicidal insanity; and finally he was at liberty and close to Whitechapel during all that period when the murders were committed; and that these murders immediately came to an end – as well as other crimes of violence – from the moment when he was safely under lock and key.
But at this moment our readers must be satisfied with less information than is at our disposal. Jack the Ripper has relatives; they are some of them in positions which would make them a target for the natural curiosity…”
The newspaper, however, provided its readers with an insight into the character of their suspect to back up their accusations:
“…His habits of life when he was out of employment were those one would imagine in such a creature as Jack the Ripper. He has spent most of his day in bed; it was only when night came that he seemed roused to activity and to interest in life. Then he used to go out, disappear no one knew whither, and never return till early on the following morning. And when he did return, his appearance was such as to reveal to any gaze but that of blind affection some idea of this bloody and horrible work in which he had been engaged. Even, however, to his relatives his appearance suggested something terrible. His clothes were covered with mud; there were other stains which might suggest the nature of his work; but, above all things, there was the expression of his face. His face was so distorted as hardly to be recognized. Such is the description which has been given of him.
The manner in which the creature spent the portion of the day in which he was not in bed, is also clear proof of his nocturnal occupations and of his identity. Persons who knew him declare that he always exhibited a strong love for anatomical study, and that – this is most significant – he spent a portion of the day in making rough drawings of the bodies of women, and of their mutilations, after the fashion in which the bodies of the women murdered in Whitechapel were found to be mutilated …”
Over the next few days The Sun treated its readers to further revelations about Jack the Ripper, including a visit paid to him in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. The last of this particular series of articles appeared on the 17th February 1894 with a challenge to the authorities:
“…These crimes have horrified the whole world. The perpetrator has remained unknown. To this paper was accorded the duty of discovering him. The story, brought to us months ago, has been subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. Not days, or weeks, but months have been devoted to its investigation. Clues, elusive and slight, have been followed up; witness after witness has been examined. Every line of evidence has been sifted, weighed, collated. Much of the information in our possession we have not mentioned in the desire to make plain within the narrowest and most stringent limits which the telling of an intelligible narrative would permit we have kept our account. In the interests of the peace and security of the community and the tranquility of the public mind we ask that this story may be subjected by the authorities and the public to the most rigid investigation…”
Although The Sun articles don’t reveal the name of their suspect it is obvious that they are referring to Thomas Hayne Cutbush. Thomas is said to have contracted syphilis in 1888 after which he began suffering paranoid delusions. On March 5th 1891 he was detained at Lambeth Infirmary as a wandering lunatic, but he escaped within hours. Over the next few days he stabbed a lady named Florence Grace Johnson, using a knife he had purchased in Houndsditch the week before. He then attempted to stab another lady, Isabelle Frazer Anderson before being arrested on 9th March 1891. He was arraigned at the London County Sessions in April 1891, found to be insane and was sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum where he remained until his death in 1903.
Cutbush was the nephew of Superintendent Charles Henry Cutbush, who was responsible for supplies and pay at Scotland Yard. Doubtless he was one of the “relatives” referred to as being “in positions which would make them a target for the natural curiosity…” In 1896 Superintendent Cutbush shot himself in the head in his own kitchen in the presence of his daughter.