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Littlechild Ltr Survey Complete - Absent Bias?

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  • Littlechild Ltr Survey Complete - Absent Bias?

    Greetings all,

    As many of you know, the Littlechild letter was acquired by Stewart Evans in 1993 when he purchased some Ripper items from Eric Barton. To his surprise it revealed another contemporary Ripper suspect –Francis Tumblety. To many Ripper enthusiasts, the wording of the letter shows that Francis Tumblety was considered by Littlechild, a chief inspector at Scotland Yard during the murders, to be a suspect Scotland Yard took very seriously. To others, it shows Tumblety was just another one of hundreds of ‘suspects’ that Littlechild decided to talk about, thus, should not be taken seriously. Others even suggest Tumblety was never a serious suspect and at best merely a person of interest due solely to happenstance.

    To me, the divergence of opinions by ripperologists reveals bias. If one has rejected the idea of Tumblety being considered by Scotland Yard an important suspect, it may be because he does not fit into ones idea of who the killer was based upon their assessment of the available evidence, especially if they have had years of research and study behind their belt. True; the experience of a seasoned researcher/investigator should carry weight in Ripper discussions, but because ripperology does not have a scholarly peer review process with rigorous publishing rules, confirmation bias and assimilation (an entrenchment of denial) amongst the best of us may set in ultimately affecting the search for truth.

    It is my opinion that the Littlechild letter clearly shows an ex-chief inspector telling a famous reporter that Tumblety was considered by Scotland Yard as one of the chief suspects and a likely suspect in Littlechild’s mind, but I may be even more biased than those who disagree with me. Because of this, I decided to survey a number of well-educated people who have little knowledge of Ripper research in order to see how they interpret the Littlechild letter. Ideally, their interpretations will not have been influenced by pre-conceived notions, thus, be unaffected by bias. I purposely selected individuals on equal educational footing as both Littlechild and Simms, so 95% of the participants have at least a master’s degree in one field or another. One of the exceptions is a retired police detective and another is a retired police officer, but both have much more experience evaluating suspects. Additionally, I attempted not to lead the reader with creative questioning (you can be the judge of this). Below is the survey request I emailed to each individual, which included a reprint of the entire Littlechild letter.

    Below this are the results, which are self-explanatory. All I did was cut-n-paste their answers.

    Survey letter and questions:
    Greetings,

    I am hoping that you will participate in a quick survey for me. Below is a 1913 letter from John G. Littlechild to a famous British journalist named G. R. Simms (discovered in the 1990's). Littlechild was a chief inspector at Scotland Yard headquarters during the 1888 unsolved Jack the Ripper murder case 25 years earlier. Two questions:

    1) Within the context of the letter, what was Chief Inspector Littlechild trying to tell Simms about ‘Dr. T’ (Tumblety) specific to him being a Jack the Ripper suspect?


    2) Using a scale from 1 to 10, what level of suspect did Littlechild consider Tumblety as a Ripper suspect; 1 being ‘Littlechild did not consider Tumblety a significant Ripper suspect that Scotland Yard investigated’, 5 being ‘He considered Tumblety a suspect no more significant than the average suspect Scotland Yard investigated’, and 10 being ‘Littlechild considered Tumblety the one of the most significant suspects Scotland Yard investigated’.

    Thank you very much for your participation.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Hawley

    [Copy of the entire Littlechild letter]

    Results:
    Participant –
    1- He was a sexual deviant likely to have sadistic tendencies (even though not specifically no record). However, definitely on record was his animosity toward women; even extreme animosity.
    2- 10 (Especially since the murders stopped when he left the country.)

    Participant-
    1- He is telling him that Dr. T was a likely suspect and that the murders stopped when he was dead.
    2- 7 to 8 (Littlechild believed Dr. T to be a legit suspect.)

    Participant –
    1- I think he was trying to say that Tumblety, despite not being known for being sexually violent - could have been so even though the police had not seen this in him when they charged him with other sexually deviant behavior. He then goes on to give some examples of people tying their deviant sexual desires to a tendency toward violence (the story of the boy at the end). Not exactly sure about the middle part with the press man - other than to say that the author seems to think that the media attention the case spawned may have influenced the way Scotland Yard handled the case (sounds quite similar to how things happen today).
    2- 8 (At least)

    Participant –
    1- It would seem that Chief was naming Tumblety as a “person of [great] interest” in the case.
    2- 8.5

    Participant –
    1- That although many suspect Dr. D, Dr. T was his prime suspect. Dr. T had a propensity for violence against women and had been arrested several times for his offense. When he escaped and supposedly committed suicide the murders did stop.
    2- 8.5

    Participant –
    1- I believe that he was telling that Dr. T should be seriously considered as a person of interest regarding the killings and there was reason to suspect him as being Jack the Ripper. It also seems as the newspaper writer, as many do, elaborate with regard to the name so as to get people more interested and sell papers.
    2- 8

    Participant –
    1- They realized he was JTR but he got out on bail and thought to have committed suicide before they could bring him up on trial.
    2- 9

    Participant –
    1- I almost thought this was a trick question because after having read the attachment, I think it is blatantly obvious that Littlechild was pointing to Tumblety as a suspect in the cases.
    2- 10 (Scotland Yard considered him to be one of the more viable suspects in the case. Why else would he have sent this letter explaining his thoughts and suspicions?)

    Participant –
    1- I think Littlechild very likely suspected "T" because he made reference to the arrest and unnatural offenses and connected the fact that after "T" fled there were never anymore murders.
    2- 7

    Participant –
    1- I think he was comparing the M.O.'s of Dr. T and Jack the Ripper. There were some similarities but also stark differences according to him.
    2- 8 to 10

    Participant –
    1- He seems to imply that the two had some similarities in regards to their feelings and actions towards women except for the fact that Tumblety was not labeled a sadist and the Ripper most certainly was. He also mentions that the Ripper murders seemed to have ceased following Tumblety's suspected suicide.
    2- 8

    Participant –
    1- I initially felt that this was a trick question, since it’s obvious that Chief Inspector Littlechild, in hindsight, considered Dr. T the most important suspect.
    2- 9

    Participant –
    1- He was accused of irregular sexual activities (although that may just have been through a very conservative view of the times) that occurred at about the same time period. Had pretty negative views and possibly actions ("bitter") towards women. His disappearance coincided with the end of the Ripper attacks.
    2- 7

    Participant –
    1- It is clear by the letter that Littlechild suspected Tumblety. I don't understand the references in the last two paragraphs. I'm not sure why Littlechild was writing about the sadistic behavior of Harry Thaw, and I don't get who Griffiths and Anderson are - are they important to what he is writing, or is it just a reference to something in the letter he's responding to? And who is Wilde?
    2- 10

    Participant –
    1- He was definitely a suspect, but probably not the one because he had no record of being a sadist.
    2- 5

    Participant –
    1- Tumblety was not only a suspect, but a likely one to have committed the murders.
    2- 9



    Average rating in question # 2: 8.3
    The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
    http://www.michaelLhawley.com

  • #2
    results

    Hello Mike. Those are interesting results. Do you think that additional research into the case by the participants would significantly alter these findings?

    Cheers.
    LC

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Lynn,

      That could very well happen, because a number of them have expressed interest into knowing more. Besides the two police officers another one teaches a CSI course. The danger is that I could biased them by spinning it to my personal confirmation bias (ignoring certain facts and emphasizing others). ...but, if someone else generates information for them.

      Mike
      The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
      http://www.michaelLhawley.com

      Comment


      • #4
        involvement

        Hello Mike. Perhaps you could steer them towards 3 or 4 good, relatively unbiased, ripper books?

        I DO wish we could get some medicos and forensics people involved. Perhaps many misconceptions would be cleared up?

        Cheers.
        LC

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Mike,

          Well, if they didn't know much about the Ripper, and you show them a letter about one suspect, doesn't that create bias? They may feel differently if they were aware of other suspects and those who favored them. Still, it's an interesting exercise. Still, I think the idea that Tumblety was a chief suspect comes from sources other than the Littlechild letter (because, regardless of bias, it simply doesn't say he was a chief suspect in the letter, only that he was 'among the suspects'), namely the American press.

          Yours truly,

          Tom Wescott

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Tom_Wescott View Post
            Hi Mike,

            Well, if they didn't know much about the Ripper, and you show them a letter about one suspect, doesn't that create bias? They may feel differently if they were aware of other suspects and those who favored them. Still, it's an interesting exercise. Still, I think the idea that Tumblety was a chief suspect comes from sources other than the Littlechild letter (because, regardless of bias, it simply doesn't say he was a chief suspect in the letter, only that he was 'among the suspects'), namely the American press.

            Yours truly,

            Tom Wescott
            That's what I'm saying Tom. The phrase 'amongst the suspects' is merely creating the backdrop for his next phrase 'a very likely one'. It's not supposed to be taken by itself. This is the reason why I decided to have unbiased educated people look at it. Unbiased eyes agree with the former not the latter. You are as biased with your suspect as I am with mine, of course for good reason. The problem is confirmation bias is inevitable.

            Sincerely,
            Mike
            The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
            http://www.michaelLhawley.com

            Comment


            • #7
              ...and with the American press, the idea that they were practicing sensationalism in the case of Tumblety is counter to the evidence. Most of the US articles disregarded Tumblety as a valid suspect (yet they still accepted the fact that Scotland Yard considered him a serious suspect) as evidenced by them stating this. Take a look at them. I posted it.

              Mike
              The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
              http://www.michaelLhawley.com

              Comment


              • #8
                The evidence that the American press were practicing sensationalism is indicated by the fact that the British press barely mentioned him. The story had landed on American shores and they ran with it, hook line and sinker.
                Best Wishes,
                Hunter
                ____________________________________________

                When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hunter View Post
                  The evidence that the American press were practicing sensationalism is indicated by the fact that the British press barely mentioned him. The story had landed on American shores and they ran with it, hook line and sinker.
                  Of course you did not comment upon the results of the survey.

                  You are mistaking an interesting story with sensationalism. Of course people in America would be interested in a significant JTR suspect as an American (pre-December 1, 1888, info) -and then when he jumped bail on his way to New York interest level would skyrocket. Just think a JTR suspect sneaking away from Scotland Yard back to the US.

                  That's not sensationalism. The fact that Littlechild considered Tumblety a serious suspect agreeing with the US Newspaper sources confirms it as credible news. The fact that the US newspaper reporters not agreeing with Scotland Yard's assessment confirms it not being sensationalism.

                  What conforms to the British papers not printing info on a specific person being a JTR suspect are the liability issues. The US papers were not sensitive to this as the British papers were.
                  Last edited by mklhawley; 11-28-2011, 10:31 PM.
                  The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
                  http://www.michaelLhawley.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'll say this for the last time.

                    Historical methodology teaches us that the Littlechild Letter must be seen in context in terms of who wrote it, to whom, and when?

                    eg. You have to measure against what we know Sims had already written about 'Jack the Ripper'.

                    Mike is right -- bias by some is as thick here as London fog when it comes to the American suspect.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mklhawley View Post
                      Of course you did not comment upon the results of the survey.
                      Hi Mike,

                      You're right... and I should have included a comment on the original intent of the thread as you obviously put some thoughful work into it.

                      I think, based on Littlechild's letter, the overwhelming opinions that Jack Littlechild considered Tumblety a 'likely suspect' was a valid interpretation of the text and some of the other opinions reflect a lack of knowlege of predispositons in the Victorian world.

                      Participent No. 1 was very astute.
                      Best Wishes,
                      Hunter
                      ____________________________________________

                      When evidence is not to be had, theories abound. Even the most plausible of them do not carry conviction- London Times Nov. 10.1888

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks Hunter for your comments. Interestingly, that particular participant is the CSI instructor.

                        And thanks Jonathan for your comments. You are about 8 JTR books ahead of me in your reading. I just bought Spiro's book online. Someday I'll catch up to you!

                        Sincerely,
                        Mike
                        The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)
                        http://www.michaelLhawley.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi Mike

                          Interesting survey. But several things:

                          First, I think we should take Littlechild at his word that he thought Tumblety a "very likely" suspect or that Scotland Yard thought that the man was a very likely suspect... although note that those are not the same thing -- that is Littlechild might personally have thought Tumblety was a leading suspect but others at the Yard might not have been so persuaded.

                          Second, Mike, you are talking about people having bias when it comes to Tumblety, but the Littlechild letter itself is full of bias, and it is partly that bias that your respondents are responding to. For example, that Tumblety had an extreme hatred against women. Yes, such had been reported about the man, but it might not actually have been as marked in the man as made out. Also that sexual deviants are capable of sadism and murder. A dodgy premise, I should say. And last that Tumblety was believed to have killed himself and the murders stopped. Now we know the last bit is untrue, i.e., the truth is that Dr T. did not kill himself after the last murder, but your respondents are dutifully responding to this bit in the letter as if it is true!

                          So then what value does your survey really have, Mike? I should think the above shows that it is seriously flawed. Sorry, my friend.

                          All the best

                          Chris
                          Last edited by ChrisGeorge; 11-29-2011, 03:59 AM.
                          Christopher T. George
                          Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conference
                          just held in Baltimore, April 7-8, 2018.
                          For information about RipperCon, go to http://rippercon.com/
                          RipperCon 2018 talks can now be heard at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mklhawley
                            The phrase 'amongst the suspects' is merely creating the backdrop for his next phrase 'a very likely one'.
                            Actually, isn't 'a very likely one' preceeded by 'to my mind'? As Littlechild did not speak for the police (though arguably he could have done a better job than some of those who did), the letter reflects his personal opinion, which is fine, but without supporting evidence it can't be said he was the or even A primary suspect. Maybe he was the big suspect in Dec 1888, as you and Jonathan say, but the quickest way to relieve the rest of us of our 'bias' against that argument is to prove it to us.

                            By the way, I very much enjoyed the interview with you that you posted a link to. You're pretty radical in your thinking (non-Ripper wise).

                            Yours truly,

                            Tom Wescott

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              To Mike

                              The 'proof' which Tom wants is right in front of us, and has been since 'The Lodger' was published in 1995, and confirmed by subsequent research by the likes of Joe Chechuti and R J Palmer, who have added to the obvious: that Tumblety was a major Ripper suspect, if not the police suspect of 1888 (that is not the same as saying he was the murderer).

                              Historical methodology says that if a source goes against its expected bias then it is potentially more relibale than one that does.

                              Littlechild would be expected to be ignorant of Druitt -- which he is -- and could have left it at that.

                              Instead he goes against the expected bias of always defending Scotland Yard by admitting an embarrassment. Of course this is not his personal-professional humiliation but a parallel dept. eg. CID, and involves the failure of a conceited chief, that is Anderson. And yet Littlechild knew he was writing to a writer who might publish the truth and set the record straight about the suicided chief suspect -- whose status the retired cop does not challenge.

                              The above is one of the most misunderstood elements of the letter.

                              Another is that when Littlechild, in his own hand, adds that bit about Griffiths and Anderson he is not alluding to 'Kosminski' but to Tumblety.

                              He means that Anderson 'only thought he knew' about 'Dr D'; who is either made up, completely minor, or a garbled version of 'Dr T' -- as the initals do rhyme.

                              Francis Tumblety could not be named in the British press, or identified without attendant risk of a libel suit down the track. When the affluent, under-employed, dodgy doctor spectaulcarly resurfaced for the public in 1898 he was libel-proofed against any such trouble -- he was even implied to be English.

                              Comment

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