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Is it right?

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  • Is it right?

    Is it right to build a case against a person with very little actual evidence/no real evidence/very flimsy evidence for being the Ripper? Or are we better to stick to suspects that were suspected at the time or are proven murderers that were around at the time and can be proven to be in London in 1888?
    Last edited by John Wheat; 05-16-2021, 11:01 PM.

  • #2
    Morality wise everyone connected to the case died such a long time ago I don't really think there is any issue about investigating / accusing people who could easily be innocent.

    Also imo the closest solved modern case we can compare JtR to in terms of a case that for many years was considered unsolvable and had dedicated internet forums discussing it is the Golden State Killer (EARONS). The other one is the Zodiac Killer, which should hopefully be solved within months. JJD ended up being someone off the radar but the what he showed was he eventually stopped his crimes and became a law abiding family man, albeit an occasionally very rude individual. He was liked by his neighbours and there are stories of him waving at cyclists who went by his house everyday, once even helping them fix their bikes. He seemed to be a completely normal person not the absolute monster he truly was. This shows JtR could've easily appeared to be a normal person following the autumn of terror.

    ​​​​​In a way I want Jack to be a suspect like Seweryn Klosowski because it would mean he hadn't fully gotten away with it and karma did catch up eventually. Monsters like Jack and EARONS deserve to suffer.

    But if you compare Jack and EARONS, you see the reason why suspects like Lechmere who on the surface seem innocent need fully investigating as they easily could be the Ripper.
    Last edited by Astatine211; 05-16-2021, 11:42 PM.


    • #3
      Not sure about the morality issue, but in my opinion if we ever find the answer it is odds to to be either

      Mr U N Known


      One of the contemporary suspects.
      G U T

      There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.


      • #4
        Well, look at Henry DeFries, the gas-fitter at 7 Middlesex Street. It could have been him, but will we ever really know?


        • #5
          Originally posted by John Wheat View Post
          Is it right to build a case against a person with very little actual evidence/no real evidence/very flimsy evidence for being the Ripper? Or are we better to stick to suspects that were suspected at the time or are proven murderers that were around at the time and can be proven to be in London in 1888?
          I do agree with the sentiment of your first question. It has become a parlour game to try identify the Ripper. There is no evidence, nor will there ever be any evidence to finally name the Ripper.
          In my view it doesn't matter if we stick to contemporary suspects, or invent one's of our own, the answer is the same.

          That train has already left the station , the best we can do is guess who might have been on it.
          Regards, Jon S.


          • #6
            Somewhere out there in the world, there will be a diary or pile of MET documents. Maybe hidden behind a boiler in an attic or basement, or for sale in a charity or antique shop there will be something which will help move the case forward.


            • #7
              Dead or not,no one should be named a murderer or suspect,without reasonable cause to do so.In situations where a person has been identified as a murderer,and convicted,it is quite correct to use that fact.


              • #8
                The issue is entirely moot IMO because of the death of everyone involved decades ago.


                • #9
                  It's an interesting question. On the surface there's the argument based upon the immorality of making unfounded accusations against someone, whether they be alive or dead. When there is little evidence to support the claim that Mr. X was JtR (or Zodiac, or ...), then I think it's immoral. It sullies the name of the individual, and brings disrepute to their family, which is a history of currently living people. On the other hand, if in the presentation of the "case against Mr. X" we have a well researched presentation into that person's life, documenting their life history, and so forth, then there is a benefit of having preserved the life history of someone who may otherwise have vanished into the mists of time. I think that especially is apparent with regards to the preservation of the life histories of the victims, who otherwise would be unknowns today. While their murders is too large a price for them to have paid for this, it seems somehow worse for them to have been both brutally murdered and forgotten. With regards to Mr. X., I can think of some well researched books into suspects who otherwise would not be known. There is no reason for anyone to know anything about Druitt, for example, apart from his name being connected with the JtR case. Tumblety as well was an unknown until he appeared in the Littlechild letter.

                  Both of those suspects, however, were researched as a result of their names appearing in contemporary sources by members of the police (along with others, who also have been likewise researched). In the books I've read, most have been quite good at recognizing that, despite the personal histories being well documented, scant little has been turned up that actually connects them to the case in any real or meaningful way. Much is based on a web of theoretical cotton, woven with verbal skills that come across as convincing, but which just mask arguments that come unwound when pulled at by even the slightest call for actual objective support.

                  I don't think those types of presentations are immoral, as they begin with factual evidence (Littlechild did suggest a Dr. T., whether or not his suggestion leads to the solution was a question that required researching said Dr. T., which was done well, but in the end did not produce anything that really could tie Dr. T to JtR). Reporting the end result of that research is an obligation of the researcher, even if it didn't lead to a firm conclusion. While books that end with "And so was our suspect JtR? Well, no, but it was a good question to ask nonetheless given the starting point." are hardly going to be met with heaps of praise for their objective purity, I think as long as the factual evidence that comes from the research is fully and faithfully reported, then the reader can come to their own conclusion. In fact, I think most authors have a pretty big challenge convincing anyone probably because the reader knows from the outset the authors are going to claim the case has been closed yet again and so from the start the reader is looking for weaknesses.

                  Where I think it does cross the line, however, is when someone is named without a stitch of real evidence to even create a starting point. And no, simply showing that Mr. X. lived in London at the time is not real evidence. When a theory is a convoluted story, built upon highly improbable connections bordering on magical thinking (anagrams and Lewis Carrol, for example), then these are nothing more than imaginative stories, and while they can be entertaining, in the end they sully the name of someone with no justifiable reason - if you want to just entertain and tell tales, make up a name for Mr. X. and don't drag in a real person. I've seen a few books on other murder mysteries (I think Elizabeth Short - Black Dahlia - has about 3 different murderers now) which are no better than that sort of thing, and the Royal Conspiracy would be a JtR example along with the Lewis Carrol ones too (which I've never actually read, and have no desire to).

                  Too often researchers mistake as fact what is no more than their ability to imagine a way through the blockade of disconfirming evidence. We have very few facts to work with for the cases themselves, so sure, once you get into that aspect of a discussion the blockade is pretty leaky. Indeed, the majority of what we have comes from transcribed testimonies (fortunately we have a couple of independent sources of those transcripts for some of the cases so comparisons can be made and, hopefully, errors resolved or at least detected), but research into the lives of an individual should be much more complete and if it is throwing up roadblocks, then cleverly routing pass them just to get to the more airy location of the murders themselves is a demonstration that nothing is going to get in the way of "proving Mr. X is JtR". And if a researcher is not willing to accept that their initial idea was wrong, well, don't waste your energy doing the research. Just make it up, it will save you time, and in the end, that's what you're going to do anyway. I hope it's apparent I have little respect for that approach.

                  - Jeff


                  • #10
                    I think Jeff does make some valid points. However, I try and look at this as more of a legal question than a moral one. Laws after all, are above morals which often are subjective to the individual. They are not perfect, but I prefer them to the variable notion of morality.

                    Which brings me to the naming of suspects. Firstly, you cannot defame the dead. Once that person has died their fight to protect their own character goes with them. Legally you can name Houdini or Dan Leno as JTR - it matters not a jot legally. There might be an slim outside risk the family of that named suspect may feel you are publicly bringing the family name into disrepute, and as such affects their ability to get work or has caused them undue stress. These cases are often hugely dependant on the accuser proving the impact on their lives, more so than the defendants to prove why they printed their Great-Great-Great Grandfather's name as being JTR. If there are no direct descendants, then the case is as weak as just anyone having the same surname. It would be extremely difficult to prove the stress on your life as Smith when you distant relative was Smith who was named.

                    I am not a historical researcher. I am an aspiring crime fiction writer. So I want my stories to be felt, rather than just read. I believe in order for someone to feel a story, they must believe it. So I prefer to use a combination fact and fiction to create a "what if" scenario. Facts must be present. The things we do know and the things we can hang our hat on. The rest is story-telling, dramatic effect and effectively joining the dots. Some of the "facts" are so impenetrable though; "who was MJK, the witness accounts at Strides murder etc" that you will have to formulate a scenario that could have happened from what is available. In such story-telling, it does inevitably lead to some form of cover-up in order for the narrative to work. Some tales can go on to be true. Which is why I am writing this story. It could well be the case.

                    I do not promise everything in my fictional book will be 100% factual, how can it be? I am honest enough to declare it as fiction from the outset. Perhaps over time the work can mature into one of accuracy and foresight. Egotistical perhaps. If it doesn't then I hope it's an interesting enough read that took the reader to specific times and places in Victorian London.

                    I cannot see how there is a moral issue here, only a legal one. Present what you have, let people make their own judgments with the case you present. I cannot see how on any practical level can anyone with any ambition to solve the ultimate cold case cannot but name potential suspects? It is after all a 130 year old case - who exactly is being hurt by these accusations?
                    Last edited by erobitha; 05-17-2021, 07:23 AM.
                    "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
                    - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)


                    • #11
                      Hi erobitha,

                      I wouldn't say laws are above morals, or vice versa, but rather that legality and morality are different independent dimensions by which one can address the issue. That quibble aside, I believe you are correct and that legally in countries that are based upon English law one cannot slander the dead. However, I don't know if that is the case in all countries, though, and so would suggest that even a legal approach has it's subjective side to it as one has to put it in the context of a particular legal system. That's similar to how moral arguments are based upon a particular framework of morality. In my view, slandering someone is amoral because it is destructive to the truth. And I believe that advancement, and improvements, in all things are more quickly and accurately found when one has at hand reality based information (meaning true information). Therefore, misrepresentation of reality results in unnecessary delays and worse decisions being made, both of which lead to more negative consequences that could have been avoided (which is what to me makes misrepresentation of reality immoral, it causes unnecessary and avoidable damage).

                      It's probably easier to consider the issue through the flip side. In many ways what we're talking about is similar to exposing the actual misdeeds of past historical figures that have been masked. It is considered important to rectify the historical record despite the fact they are long dead and so cannot be directly punished for their misdeeds. In this thread we're simply reversing that idea, imposing fictional misdeeds and covering up actual innocence rather than exposing factual misdeeds that were covered up by false innocence. Anyway, that's where I see the moral issue entering into it despite the lack of any legal transgression (under English law). But again, that all comes from a particular viewpoint that morality is evaluated based upon knowingly doing something that has the potential for inflicting unnecessary harm. (note, a past figure that did what they thought was best even though we may now know that their actions are not the best option cannot be said to have been acting in an immoral manner, but someone today could do the same action and be judged differently because we now know better options exist). Of course, it may be hard to know how misrepresenting the life of someone long dead could lead to poor decisions that end up unnecessarily damaging anything this many years later, but it really would not surprise me if examples could be found where that has happened, and that suggests to me it has a real potential for some unnecessary harm.

                      As for your own work, given you describe it as being fictional, then the intent is very different. You're not presenting it as a non-fictional account, even though you are researching for historical accuracy. That's just doing the hard yards necessary to create a good story, and should be applauded.

                      - Jeff


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by John Wheat View Post
                        Is it right to build a case against a person with very little actual evidence/no real evidence/very flimsy evidence for being the Ripper? Or are we better to stick to suspects that were suspected at the time or are proven murderers that were around at the time and can be proven to be in London in 1888?
                        This is a sweeping generation, but I don't think an unfair one. It is more of an intellectual observation, than a moral one, and I offer it without any ill-will.

                        It's hard not to notice that those who champion suspects who were unsuspected by anyone at the time of the murders, 1888-1891, tend to be--for lack of better words--eccentrics, cranks, dreamers, and crackpots.

                        Those who champion suspects who were actually suspected at the time of the murders, 1888-1891, generally avoid that accusation, and tend to be more circumspect and disciplined in their thinking.

                        There are exceptions, of course, but it appears to be a general, if somewhat fuzzy, rule. Even though they've come up with different solutions and may violently disagree about the case, it's impossible to see Sugden, Begg, Fido, Evans, Beadle, Rumbelow, House, etc., as "crackpots."

                        The same can seldom be said of those who obsessively accuse those with no actual connection to the case or the case evidence.

                        Why is this? Well, the second group obviously thinks of themselves as mavericks. They tend to be more adamant and insistent about their claims because they are self-educated scholars, going it alone and in isolation, who believe they can see something that no one else sees. At a root level, it is necessary for them to believe they are more clever than the police who actually investigated the case, whereas Sugden, Begg, etc. obviously do not, since their own suspicions were shared by one or more contemporaries.

                        Of course, it is theoretically possible for an independent genius to actually discover the murderer's identity, and, since these theorists tend to see themselves as falling into that category, they have no difficulty in convincing themselves that they are on the right track.

                        Respectfully submitted.

                        R P


                        • #13
                          Just to add a little contrast to RJ’s comments, I proffer the idea that “crackpots” are not necessarily believing “they know better than the police” of that time. They simply have access to knowledge, data and technology that was not in existence in 1888. It is useful to bring that to the table.

                          Secondly, you can argue many “traditional” suspects are somewhat modern anyway. In the respect we hear only of them decades or more after the murders. Depends on the date of cut off of when you accept them as being of that time and on what basis.

                          I rely heavily on the work that has been done by researchers like Skinner, Begg, Fido et el - it is their discipline that allows “Mavericks” like myself to see if the dots can be connected in some way. It’s not that I am the only who sees the dots, just I might just be crazy enough to connect them up.

                          Of course I speak only of myself. Being a Maverick is solitary work.
                          "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
                          - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Scott Nelson View Post
                            Well, look at Henry DeFries, the gas-fitter at 7 Middlesex Street. It could have been him, but will we ever really know?
                            I've always had my doubts about Henry Defries and the more I think the matter over...


                            • #15
                              I predict Jack, Astrakhan and Kelly will be identified, in the reasonably near future, and there will be more evidence to back up their identification than you shake a walking stick at!

                              Feel free to hold me to this!