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New Article on the Swanson Marginalia in Ripperologist 128

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  • New Article on the Swanson Marginalia in Ripperologist 128

    I thought I would inaugurate a new thread devoted to the new article on the Swanson Marginalia, by Adam Wood and Keith Skinner, in Ripperologist 128.

    I will start off by saying that the following comment is new to me:

    Jim Swanson c. 1981, (Speaking of Donald Sutherland Swanson):

    "... my grandfather was a very discreet man and never discussed the case with people outside the force. Even close members of the family knew very little about his work.

    But after he retired in 1903 he did reveal to members of the family that he knew the true identity of Jack the Ripper, but wild horses wouldn't drag the name out of him. ... We thought he would take the name to the grave with him..."


    etc.

    This comment seems to fly in the face of the oft repeated speculation that Swanson did not in fact agree with Anderson's belief in Kozminski's guilt, but that he was only adding additional details about Anderson's suspect. In other words, this seems to support the idea that the marginalia should be read as a corroboration of Anderson's belief.

    I am only halfway done with the article...

    RH

  • #2
    Also this:

    "Being a policeman and sticking strictly to procedure, my grandfather referred to Kosminski as "the suspect" because he was never brought to trial.

    But he was convinced in his own mind that Kosminski was Jack the Ripper." etc.

    Incidentally, at the conference I asked Nevill Swanson about the oral tradition in his family regarding this, and he confirmed that Donald Sutherland Swanson believed he knew the Ripper's identity.

    RH

    Comment


    • #3
      How interesting, and yes, that's possible for sure.

      If Donald Swanson told his family that he knew the name of Jack the Ripper and that 'wild horses' would not drag it out of him -- though it turned out to be as easy as checking in a book on a shelf which grandad had uneccessarily and isndiscreetly annotated -- then that would, I agree, make the theory of just repeating whilst not endorsing his ex-chief's tale much, much less likely.

      But I would want to know the first time it is on record that Swanson claimed to know the identity of the Ripper. I don't mean Donald Swanson -- as that was arguably in 1895.

      I mean the grandson's claim.

      Was it as late as just the other day, or a few years ago, or in 1987 to Fido, or earlier still when he first wrote to the press about his discovery?

      When did this claims of a family oral tradition about the Ripper's true identity first enter the extant record?

      Did the grandson making that discovery in 1981 think: wow, wow, wow! My grandfather never told my parents the name of the Ripper, they could get never get it out of him no matter how much they begged! No, no, he would never tells us -- and it turns out that he wrote it down and here it is!

      Is that what the grandson thought as he saw the marginalia in Anderson's memoir for the very first time? Is that on record at the time of the discovery, or soon after, or ... much later?

      Putting that issue to one side for the moment, there is already a through-line between Swanson's alleged claim to the 'Pall Mall Gazette' of 1895 and his annotation of 1910 (or in the years after).

      That the Ripper was a man who was safely deceased.

      The huge problem remains, in terms of Swasnon actually knowing much about Aaron Kosminski -- as opposed to his semi-ficitional variant 'Kosminski' -- is that he was still alive.

      And there were other 'Ripper' murders after he was sectioned, at least Swanson initially thought so about Coles (and perhaps he thought Grant was the fiend too if Lawende was really wheeled out again?).

      And he was not sectioned soon after the Kelly murder yet he does not scribble, these events happened in late 1890, or early 1891, or even after that.

      You could therefore still argue that Swanson is still repeating a tale told to him by Anderson -- which was first related to him in 1895 -- but with which he was not involved for reasons which may have had to do with different police jurisdictions, or that the alleged witness identification was [allegedly] out of London. Then the 'Seaside Home' element becomes an explanation for why Anderson knew this and yet Swasnon did not, and this explabation satisfied him. His boss whom he revered was reclusive and secretive after all.

      Another possibility is that in 1895 Swasnon is talking obliquely about Druitt.

      When he wrote that annotation it was just Anderson's opinion with which he did not think was kosher.

      Whereas to his family the name he would not reveal was Druitt's, which he certainly did not write anywhere (unless he had a copy of 'Days of My Years'?)

      How likely is that? In my opnion close to nil, as I do not think Macnaghten informed any of his fellow police about the posthumous suspect, Druitt, ever.

      'Scotland Yard Investigates' toys with the theory that perhaps the tale originated in the reverse direction; that it is a memory malfunction of Swanson's, honestly and mistakenly fusing Sadler and Kosminski and Lawende and the Sailor's Home, which the desk-bound Anderson accepted at face value in later years (and why not since it turned an irritating press beat-up, a public debacle and a ruined holiday-cure into a near-success).

      This led me to theorise that Macnaghten deliberately misled Anderson and/or Swanson about 'Kosminski' in 1895, for unlike those two police officers the former knew that the Polish Jew suspect was alive and was a long time on the streets before he was sectioned. Mac also seems to have told Sims another fictitious detail in 1907: that this suspect had worked in a hospital which provided 'anatomical knowledge'.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have read ther article now but do not have it in front of me.

        The answer to the question I posed in the previous post seems to come from a female member of the Swanson family who said, though I am not sure when, that it was known among them from Donald that the Ripper had been positively identified.

        This creates a stronger through-line between the 1895 press comment attributed to Swanson, Anderson's various claims, and the Marginalia in Anderson's book.

        That is that the semi-fictional variant of a real person who was only named 'Kosminski' -- on the prowl for a few weeks until at some point being positively identified by a Jewish witness, then 'safely caged' soon after the Kelly murder, and then thankfully deceased -- was a belief of Swanson's too, and not just of Anderson.

        This is still a theory based on meagre sources but it is firmed up.

        What it does not do is disprove that swasnon relied on what Adnerson had learned, perhaps from his confidential assistant who seems to have known about Aaron Kosminski.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by robhouse View Post
          This comment seems to fly in the face of the oft repeated speculation that Swanson did not in fact agree with Anderson's belief in Kozminski's guilt, but that he was only adding additional details about Anderson's suspect. In other words, this seems to support the idea that the marginalia should be read as a corroboration of Anderson's belief.

          RH
          Hi Rob,

          One small thing which I think has been overlooked is Swanson's choice of words:

          because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind. (my emphasis)

          Swanson's use of the word 'murderer' would seem to indicate that he believed Kosminski was the killer, and not 'just' a suspect.

          Best wishes
          Adam

          Comment


          • #6
            But he uses the word "suspects" in the same sentence as the word "murderer".

            Could the explanation not be that he regarded Kosminski (properly) as a suspect. However, if convicted as a MURDERER he would have been hanged.

            One is factual the other a hypothetical situation. Grammatically, it also avoids the use of the same word twice.

            In a more general sence, any convicted murderer would have been hanged in 1888 (with few exceptions), and this construction might also imply that the witnesses reluctance was to anyone being killed on his word.

            Just a thought,

            Phil H

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by AdamNeilWood View Post
              Hi Rob,

              One small thing which I think has been overlooked is Swanson's choice of words:

              because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind. (my emphasis)

              Swanson's use of the word 'murderer' would seem to indicate that he believed Kosminski was the killer, and not 'just' a suspect.

              Best wishes
              Adam
              Hi Adam
              Also, the repeated claim by Swanson that the suspect "Knew he was identified" would seem to also indicate that Swanson thought the suspect was guilty.
              "Is all that we see or seem
              but a dream within a dream?"

              -Edgar Allan Poe


              "...the man and the peaked cap he is said to have worn
              quite tallies with the descriptions I got of him."

              -Frederick G. Abberline

              Comment


              • #8
                kudos

                Hello Adam. Well done. Much research and work went into this fine piece.

                Kudos.

                Cheers.
                LC

                Comment


                • #9
                  I can testify to that!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lynn cates View Post
                    Hello Adam. Well done. Much research and work went into this fine piece.

                    Kudos.

                    Cheers.
                    LC
                    Many thanks Lynn.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It was a great piece of work... great Job to you both Adam and Keith.

                      Yes Adam that is a good point about his choice of the word "murderer". I do think it is interesting that Jim Swanson said "my grandfather referred to Kosminski as "the suspect" because he was never brought to trial."

                      To Abby Normal... yes that is also a good point. I have always felt that Swanson believed Kozminski was the Ripper, partly because of the point you raise. Also partly because there is a sort of tacit corroboration in the fact the he does not contradict anything Anderson says... we see in some of the other marginalia Adam has cited that Swanson did not hesitate to contradict what he saw as errors in the text. Surely, he would have noted Anderson's statement "By saying that he was a Polish Jew I am merely stating a definitely ascertained fact."... and would (in my opinion) have made a notation if he had disagreed with this statement.

                      RH

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        But nor does Swanson fix the errors in Anderson's account, in fact he adds a problemmatic element of his own -- if it his element -- about the Seaside Home, and the murderer-suspect being deceased (a critical error shared by Anderson according to the biography by his son) yet Macnaghten knew this was not the case.

                        The notion that Kelly was the final murder -- and that the police knew this at the time -- and that 'Kosminski' was sectioned after Miller's Ct. but before the McKenzie murder in July 1889 matches fictional information by Anderson's confidential assistant but not the real Aaron Kosminski.

                        Primary sources from 1892 arguably show Anderson with no knwledge as yet of 'Kosminski', let alone of Aaron Kosminski -- let alone about a positive witness identification which turned a debacle into a near-triumph.

                        Why in 1891 would you wheel in a Whitechapel witness to have a 'confrontation' with Lawende if you knew that the real murderer was already 'safely caged'?

                        If Swanson actually agreed with this tale then it was one, as was noted, that he did not correct.

                        But he did not correct it because perhaoshe had no first-hand experience of it, of 'Kosminski', hence no first name for 'Jack'. He was relying completelyon what Sir Robert had confided in him and specifically about the witness identification maybe as late as 1910 -- a seminal event yet one which does not appear in the scanty extant record until that date.

                        This maybe how the 'Seaside Home', from Sadler's Sailor's Home, partly entered the scene: a perplexed Swanson asked his beloved ex-chief how the Polish Jew could have been identified without his knowledge? Sir Robert, sincerely and mistakenly -- whose fading memory by then could mix up entirely different ministers in opposing political parties-governments from completely different years -- replied that it was because of the maniac being transported by City police to a location outside of London.

                        Are other interpretations possible of this material? Of course, because the surviving records are so contradictory and scrappy.

                        Critically these 1910 sources are arguably at odds with the primary police sources from 1888 to 1891 (and into 1895) and do not match what little we know about Aaron Kosminski in a couple of vital details (hence one of the reasons Fido stuck with Cohen, because at least he was off the scene so much earlier).

                        While these sources, Anderson and Swanson, are sincere -- and real -- they are not straight-forward and are, as late primary sources often are, soself-serving: eg. we solved it, he was safely locked up and then even more safely dead, and all that painful press criticism and gutless political pressure (from Harcout?) was entirely unjust!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Amazing work, Adam and Keith. There can be no argument made that the marginalia was in any way faked. And that address book has me salivating. I can't wait for your follow up pieces.

                          Originally posted by AdamNeilWood
                          One small thing which I think has been overlooked is Swanson's choice of words:

                          because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind. (my emphasis)

                          Swanson's use of the word 'murderer' would seem to indicate that he believed Kosminski was the killer, and not 'just' a suspect.
                          Actually, Swanson was just being accurate in his choice of words. No doubt from years of writing reports. He personally identifies Koz as a 'suspect', but from the witness' point of view, if he were convicted (and thus ready to be hanged), he would legally be a murderer and no longer a suspect. Because there was no conviction, he remained a 'suspect' as far as Swanson was concerned.

                          Yours truly,

                          Tom Wescott

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A well researched and, just as important, a well present articlean

                            Its a denfinitive piece with regards the Marginalia. A very well done to Messers Wood and Skinner.

                            "...because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind"

                            I do not think 'murderer' is in reference to the individual but rather the played out potential scenario the witness may have to endure.

                            As for the address book, oh yes Tom. To me that is better than the marginalia. When Adam mentioned it to me some months back now I'm afraid he was innundated with questions from me.

                            I managed to get a few names outta him, just a coupe anyway. Yes, I suspect a follow up piece from Mr Wood.....there had better be.

                            Monty




                            Author of Capturing Jack the Ripper.

                            http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1445621622

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hello Adam,

                              A very good article from your good self and Keith Skinner. My congratulations to you both.

                              After due consideration, I feel the history of the marginalia shows, in my personal opinion, a strengthening for the idea that when Swanson wrote his annotations etc, he was expanding on Anderson's theory, and not his own knowledge. Why? Well, for two reasons.

                              One, that "wild horses" wouldn't drag what HE knew about the name of JTR out of him, and two, that he was commenting on Anderson's story as HE knew it or was told it.

                              Therefore, IF Swanson knew the true identity of the Whitechapel Murderer, he would not, in my opinion, have written any mistakes into his annotations. He would have been in total knowledge of how, when, why etc etc. He would have known if the suspect was alive or dead. He would have known in far more detail exactly what had happened and when first "revealing" it, would have been factually certain.

                              I believe that IF Swanson knew any identity, he really did take it to his grave, and wild horses didn't drag out of him what he actually knew. From what I read of the man's character, the comments from family members, he was a man that kept his word in reference to his work, and actually spoke very little of his case work in general.

                              It therefore seems far more likely to me that Swanson is expanding on Anderson's tale, and what Swanson knew of it, giving more details of Anderson's story.

                              The 2nd thing of interest is that the Stride murder outside the Berner Street Club seems to be singled out, as of a different character. This has strengthened my idea that Anderson, with his work involving radicals etc, whom were known to frequent that same club, is concentrating upon this one murder only, and by dint of grouping, gave the Stride murderer the responsibility of having committed all the murders.
                              I believe that Anderson had no idea, in actual fact, of the name of any potential multi-murderer or additional murderers that committed the other crimes. Swanson, on the other hand, may well have known. That "wild horses" comment is particularly striking and reinforces the general view that Swanson may well have known more than others. Anderson included.

                              Now that leaves a potential possibility for the name of the murderer of Elizabeth Stride. Was this "Kosminski" responsible? If Anderson's Polish Jew was infact "Kosminski", as stated by Swanson in his recollections of the Anderson story, and the Berner Street Club was being shadowed (as we know at least at a later date that it was) regarding radicals, then the obvious possibility is to find a connection between a "Kosminski" and the club, or any group likely to be shadowed. The fascinating discovery of Wolf Kozminski's previous addresses (in 1882) was 38 Berner Street, right next door to the future home of the IWEC and the site of the Elizabeth Stride Murder as shown in the Marshall/Phillips article. The shame is the time. 1882 and the club not being there at that time. But a physical connection between Berner Street and a "Kozminski" we have. And that brings in the grouping that Anderson was fully connected with..Special Branch.

                              Remembering that Special Branch had, and has, a tradition for keeping their work, especially undercover work, strictly in-house, and strictly on a need to know basis, the only answer would be some form of documentation from that specific source. If this source is infact the original "secrecy" of the WM genre, then it is understandable to a certain degree that an aura of secrecy has grown up and surrounded the case.

                              So why then, one asks, would Anderson "break" with tradition, and in-house policy, and start revealing details through his writings? Well here I believe his personality comes in. Strikingly, for me, is a thought of a man with a massive ego. He is "morally certain" of people that he believes committed crimes when not being tried, certain that the WM murderer was "caught" and safely locked away, and doesn't class the WM crimes as an unsolved case. These conclusions, by definition, because of the notorious nature of the case, elevates, in Anderson's own mind, his own sense of superiority and sense of achievement.

                              The last thing that strikes me when reading this esxcellent historical article, involves again, the "wild horses" comment. If Swanson DID know the identity of the Whitechapel murderer or murderers, then what would cause Swanson to make the decision that "wild horses" wouldn't drag the name out of him?
                              It didn't take much for his to pencil in "Kosminski". The name of a lowly Polish Jew wasn't someone he needed to keep quiet about forever, obviously. This was an utter nobody, whom the revealing of the name would not cause a problem to man nor beast. The world could easily have been told about this man, without fear of repercussion, especially after Kosminski's death. By that time, any possible backlash from the Jewish Community was almost non-existant. So who was it Swanson knew but kept tight lipped about?

                              Jonathan will argue that Druitt would be the ideal man. Others have their doubts. Here I introduce a few thoughts of my own.

                              The existance of the comment from 1956 that a connection between the WM and the leader of an Irish group plotting to kill a politician, Balfour, raises enormous questions in itself. Anything Ireland connected was certainly a "hot potato", certainly needing work by Special Branch and certainly would have caused secrecy to be paramount. Now whether this little tit-bit was enough to keep Swanson, for example, quiet, one has only specualation to live on. But I'd wager that any group that was SO dangerous, SO threatening and SO powerful in it's deeds, would keep most men to keep quiet. Speculation... what if Swanson DID know the name/names of the killer/killers and there WAS an Irish connection? How safe would Swanson feel regarding him revealing a name? Even to his family? A family he would protect at all costs, I'd wager. He wouldn't want to endanger them in the slightest. That, I believe could very well be why he was so insistent that he would NOT tell even his closest family. "Jack" may have been long dead, but the group to which he/they belonged wasn't. Even whilst Swanson was alive, the Irish problem raged on incessantly, and violence was regular. I wonder therefore, if the person/person he had in mind HAD died a long time before. (The leader of a plot to kill Balfour, whoever that was). What makes this interesting, is that in 1956 when this tit-bit was revealed, it was Macnagthen who is the connection. Not Swanson, not Anderson, not Littlechild, not a Special Branch man at all.

                              Fear of his life is one very good reason for keeping quiet. Fear for his family's safety would be a certain second reason. And it would certainly trump any idea of a "famous" person, to be the source of any secrecy (PAV etc).

                              I only have one other, unconnected point to make.

                              Whilst the furore of the handwriting blew at it's strongest, the most obvious and shortest, quickest way to pour water over any possible suggestion of fakery was to produce more examples, both in Anderson's book, of the handwriting, and other examples, i.e. the address book for immediate comparison. It would have quashed any question stone dead. Why, pray, was this not done and ioffered for obvious immediate inspection? So many examples of the handwriting would have killed the notion stone dead. With that kind of certainty, an awful lot of rancour and ill feeling could have been avoided. I do not blame any individual for the lack of such materialistic presentation, but it seems obvious to me that it should have been done. Just my opinion.

                              Adam, again, an excellent article. Many thanks again for your (plural) work and presentation. The History of the Marginalia certainly answers many questions about it. For my own thoughts, it should have been presented a long time ago. But that's just my opinion.

                              best wishes

                              Phil
                              Last edited by Phil Carter; 10-12-2012, 11:13 AM.
                              Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                              Justice for the 96 = achieved
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