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Topping Hutchinson - looking at his son's account

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  • Topping Hutchinson - looking at his son's account

    I decided to look at the account of Hutchinson given by his supposed son to Melvyn Fairclough in 'The Ripper and the Royals' (1991/2003) usually this is dismissed just because of which book it appears in, which really is insufficient a reason to dismiss it.

    First the account:
    "Hutchinson's seventy-four-year-old son, Reginald Hutchinson, whom Joseph Sickert and I interviewed recently (May 1992), thinks otherwise. 'Reg' worked with his father for many years and was very close to him. 'Dad took careful note of details,' he said, 'and could remember things accurately. Part of his job was to work out estimates, and, no matter how big the job, he always remembered exactly which materials were needed, and in what quantities, without ever writing it down.' (245)
    'I remember,' said Reg, 'he mentioned several times that he knew one of the women and was interviewed by the police, but I'd never seen his actual statement until today, when you came round. But if that's what he said, that's what he saw. Dad was a very down-to-earth man, and didn't elaborate anything. It just wasn't in his nature. He knew more than he told though, but he kept it close to his chest. Whenever the subject of Jack the Ripper came up, as it often did in the East End in the twenties and thirties, because many people who were there when it happened were still alive, he used to say: "It was more to do with the Royal Family than ordinary people." And when asked who he thought it was he always said: "It was some one like Lord Randolph Churchill." Until you told me that about Abberline's diaries and that he named Churchill, I thought my father was merely saying that in his opinion the murderer was someone high up, like Churchill. Now I can see that he knew all along that the man he saw actually was Churchill, but he didn't want to come straight out with it. He said that at the time he was paid a hundred shillings, but he never said why. Perhaps he was paid to keep quiet about what really happened, and say nothing about what he really knew.' (246)

    Time to look at this as a piece of oral history:

    As with any qualitative account we have to work on the assumption that Reginald Hutchinson (from now on RH) was being totally honest.

    The account was given to Royal Conspiracy theorists and this has to be kept in mind (I will return to this towards the end of this post).

    The only point in this argument that can be confirmed in the police files is "'I remember,' said Reg, 'he mentioned several times that he knew one of the women and was interviewed by the police"

    On the face of it this is 'our' GH, however there are problems:

    As Stewart P. Evans has shown the RCT cannot be traced further than the 1960's http://www.casebook.org/dissertation...nsorigins.html. However it is not impossible that vernacular accounts predate that, it is unlikely in this case as there is considerable evidence that RG's account has been contaminated by the researchers: "Until you told me that about Abberline's diaries and that he named Churchill, I thought my father was merely saying that in his opinion the murderer was someone high up, like Churchill. Now I can see that he knew all along that the man he saw actually was Churchill" (1)
    This contamination has implications for believing this is our GH "I'd never seen his actual statement until today, when you came round." It is probable that RH's father had stories about Jack the Ripper but poor interviewing has rendered it valueless as this account may be an attempt to reconcile old information with new info. This interview should have been conducted in an open ended fashion, the interviewers should have asked what RH had heard in his childhood or later about JTR, and if he raised for example 'he mentioned several times that he knew one of the women and was interviewed by the police' try and draw more out from him on that point.
    With this in mind this account is of little value for determining if this is our GH.

    (1) Contamination could have entered the narrative through other sources, considering the popularity of the RCT.

    Regards,
    Chris Lowe

  • #2
    Hi Chris,

    With this in mind this account is of little value for determining if this is our GH.
    True enough, although it serves as a very reasonable indicator that Toppy wasn't the witness of Kelly notoriety.

    Besides the inescapable impression that the interviewers had contaminated the evidence, as you suggest, by effectively telling Reg who his father was and was he said, it's equally significant that the biographical details we do learn about are not compatible with those of the real individual. For example, we're told that Toppy cultivated the habit of taking "careful notes" and "remembering things accurately" as a result working as a plumber (who was "rarely, if ever, out of work" with his father. This is impossible to reconcile with the real Hutchinson's claim to have been a labourer who was formerly employed as a groom.

    Then of course there's the total mismatch when it came to the handwriting comparison.

    I would add, though, that at times it appears that Reg was rather too willing to embrace the views of the interviewers, and it can't be ignored that he was pinning such statements on his dad as "It was someone like Lord Randolph Churchill" and "It was more to do with the Royal Family than other people". I can't quite shake the suspicion that Sickert and Fairclough simply blitz-contacted anyone living in the right area with the surname Hutchinson, and that, in answer to the question "Are you related to the George Hutchinson who claimed to have seen one of Jack the Ripper's victim", they were simply met with a willing "Ummm....yeah".

    I'd agree that the interview was pretty useless for bolstering the case for Toppy as the witness in question, but spoke volumes for the likelihood that he wasn't.

    Best regards,
    Ben

    Comment


    • #3
      Interviews

      I find that contamination of information is a big problem when interviewing people. If you lay out what you believe then you will often find that subconsciously or otherwise the interviewee’s version will subtly change to take account of this.

      My golden rules are quite simple. Always tape record the interview. This has two functions, one you can always check back on what was actually said and two you can check that you are not giving any hints albeit innocently.

      Two, don’t ask questions just let the person talk. You will get a lot of garbage using this method but it will pay dividends in the end.

      One of my most successful interviews concerned the great, great grandson of a murderer. I had my own theories about the case but when I met him I just said ‘Tell me what you know about the incident”. He then recounted everything he knew including a very detailed oral tradition that had been handed down. I was really pleased with this as the oral tradition completely backed up my own theory on the case. It isn’t proof, of course not, but it is quite satisfying to know that your own ideas are not so outlandish after all!

      Comment


      • #4
        Hello Chris, Bob, and Ben

        Chris, quoting Fairclough you said:

        "'I remember,' said Reg, 'he mentioned several times that he knew one of the women and was interviewed by the police, but I'd never seen his actual statement until today, when you came round. But if that's what he said, that's what he saw. Dad was a very down-to-earth man, and didn't elaborate anything. It just wasn't in his nature. . . .'"

        You know, I wonder if it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that this could have been a second George Hutchinson who happened to have been interviewed by the police about the murders, maybe not the Kelly murder but one of the others? There was the George Hutchinson who saw Kelly and Astrakhan man and who gave the statement to Abberline, but then there was this other George Hutchinson who was interviewed among the many thousands of East Enders who spoke to the police during the enquiry?

        Of course, Reg, being approached by Fairclough, and maybe not knowing much about the murders beyond vague details, would think that it was his father who made the statement. So it's a natural mistake to make.

        As for George Hutchinson saying anything about the Royal conspiracy, that's just the same gossip that any East Ender or person who lived at the time might know and repeat, so it doesn't mean anything. It's akin to Billy Graham in the Maybrick Diary affair saying he knew something about Jack the Ripper and Maybrick but it's really only stuff anyone might know and say. Although Fairclough, like Paul Feldman, because of their need to believe in the Royal story or Maybrick, respectively, sees significance in what this George Hutchinson had to say, when there actually is none in terms of actually knowing what the murders were all about.

        All the best

        Chris
        Last edited by ChrisGeorge; 02-02-2009, 12:36 PM.
        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


        • #5
          Yes I think you should be very careful considering a TV interview as ‘Oral History’ unless that was the aim of the TV production.

          Interviewing by its very nature requires the Producer/Director to get his question into the talking head, as it’s the only way to cut the interview in edit.

          So it is normal procedure for the Director to ask the interviewee to put his question at the beginning of the sentence. This creates an easy sound bite that can be edited making ‘sense’ when used as a ‘Stand alone’.

          So if I wanted to know what you had for breakfast “Egg bacon and tomato’ would not be a very good reply. I would try and get you to say “What I had for breakfast this morning was egg, bacon and tomato.”

          I’m not saying that TV fabricates things but there are some necessities when creating a program for getting clean sound bites out of people, and this is an art form in itself.

          Yours Pirate

          Comment


          • #6
            How old was this kid's father? The boy was born in 1918 if his age is given correctly. Which is 30 years after Hutchinson gave his immortal statement to Abberline. It's not impossible, of course. But by the time the kid was old enough to hear Ripper stories, Dad must have been getting on in years. If Hutch was 25 or so at the time of the Kelly killing, then he's 55 when he has little Reg there. And I assume he doesn't tell Reg all the nasty truth before he's at least 12 or 14. Maybe even later. Must have had a wonderful imagination..ahem...memory for an old codger.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi,
              I can almost see one or two people squirming , however I simple have to repeat my party piece.
              I appreciate that 'The Ripper and the Royals' has been cast aside by many as being a complete farce, and because of that Reg Hutchinson was branded an accomplice to Fairclough, and words were feed into the conspiracy angle to the story.
              However back in the early-mid 1970s without faircloughs intervention, Reg did [yes did] appear in a radio programme which was intitled something like 'The man that saw jack' he featured in the end part of the programme, and mentioned that his father told him he saw the woman he knew with a man dressed respectably.
              He stated that he assisted the police, and he was paid a sum of money equivilent to five pounds[ five guineas/hundred shillings] and stated it was his fathers biggest regret that nothing came of it.
              The above is a true account of what I heard, alas sadly no one on casebook can verify it, therefore it remains 'Good on Nunners' we dont disbelief him, but what does it prove?
              I would say it says quite a bit, remember this radio show[ advertised in the radio times[fact]] was some 18years before Fairclough arrived on the scene, and before any such thing as Casebook was invented, infact at that time Barnett was just the poor man that had lost his common law in terrible consequences, and George Hutchinson was just a witness of the 9th november, not a mugger. pimp. liar. an alias for Fleming, or indeed a murderer, infact until Bob wrote his excellent book, nothing more then a witness with good observation.
              All Reg did on that radio show was to say he was the son of a witness, and most certainly not a notorious one, he did not aquire instant fame, or reconigtion from that oral broadcast, magazines were not waving their checkbooks, neither did Russell harty plead with him to be a quest on his show.
              No big deal, its a bit like Mrs Longs grandson saying 'My granny saw a man with a woman just before she was killed... intresting but not a lie.
              And last but not least.
              The only mention of any payment to George Hutchinson came from a rare publication 'The wheelers directory' it states that the witness was paid the sum of approx five weeks wages for his assistance.
              It is extremely unlikely that George Hutchinson had access to that report during his lifetime, and the same applies to Reg, infact even Casebook were not made aware of its exsistance until recently.
              That regardless of anything else is a reasonable assumption to make.
              It is irrelevant that the police apparently dismisssed his account[ according to the press] was that before, or after he received that healthy sum of cash?
              Regards Richard.

              Comment


              • #8
                Not Again

                Once again Richard is trying to put snippets before us and demands that we take them as 'fact'. For example he says in his latest post:

                I would say it says quite a bit, remember this radio show[ advertised in the radio times[fact]] was some 18years before Fairclough arrived on the scene

                How many times Richard? THIS IS NOT A FACT!!!!! It is something that you believe to be true but cannot find anything at all to back it up. Not one other person on these boards can remember such a thing; exhaustive searches of the BBC archives and back copies of Radio Times have turned up nothing. There is not one scrap, not one iota not one slightest hint that this programme ever existed yet you still keep demanding we accept it as a fact!

                I have done my best to find it for you, I even turned up a Radio Script about Jack the Ripper that was broadcast about the time your broadcast was supposed to have aired and it didn’t contain anything in it along the lines you suggest.

                I sincerely hope that one day you will find this programme and then present the evidence to us – but even if you do it will still not be proof, merely what someone who is now dead might or not of said to someone who is now also dead.

                Comment


                • #9
                  And furthermore....

                  Richard you have to stop twisting details to fit your story. According to you Reg stated that his father was paid £5.

                  Now again according to you this is backed up by an account in Wheelers Directory which states the same. But it doesn't there is no mention of £5 in Wheelers directory simply five weeks wages which can be zero if the man is out of work to anything you like.

                  Those two things are not the same, and besides the interview with Reg took the form of giving him all the information first and then him saying "That's right" which is not an interview at all.

                  You then go on to say:

                  It is irrelevant that the police apparently dismisssed his account[ according to the press] was that before, or after he received that healthy sum of cash?

                  Again you offer no evidence that this ever happened just expect us to accept your word. If you come on the boards and post a picture of a petty cash voucher from a file in the archives, which you give the full reference to, stating that the sum of £5 was paid to Mr George Hutchinson on 13th November 1888 and signed by a police officer, that is evidence. Anything else is just wishful thinking.
                  Last edited by Bob Hinton; 02-06-2009, 12:57 PM. Reason: addition

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Bob,
                    With respect as much as I enjoyed your book[ fact] you will be the first to acknowledge I am sure, that a lot of it was sheer speculation based on possible happenings.
                    I appreciate you admitted you fingered the wrong GH, and respect is due to you for that honesty.
                    My story however is not speculation, such a radio programme did exist, regardless of casebook members not hearing the broadcast life, we are after all talking of an event some thirty five years ago, and it therefore [ because it was aired] is a fact that any transcript of that programme [ if in exsistance]would have contained exactly what I have maintained rigidly for many years, infact ever since I heard it..
                    The sum of five pounds was mentioned, although five guineas, or one hundred shillings i believe was the way it was mentioned, and if one takes the average manual worker as earning around a guinea a week back in 1888, then five weeks wages [ average] would approx total that amount..
                    My whole reason for sticking to my guns on this issue is ,it would appear to me that Reg Hutchinson was simply relaying the truth to anyone who asked him , even though I would accept that the version of a well dressed man with Lord Randolph appearance, would have suited Faircloughs theory, and would be a asset to his publication in his eyes.
                    I cannot present proof Bob, it was advertised in the Radio times, I distinctly remember reading it, otherwise I would not have sat myself down on my aunts leather settee, and tuned in to the 40minute airing, simply I would not have known it was on.
                    I fail to see why it is so impossible why Gwt D.O.B 1/10/66 is not the George Hutchinson of fame, is the handwritten evidence absolutely gospel?
                    I realise that my insistance annoys you Bob, also my spelling, also my phrases, etc, etc, but I will always believe, until proven otherwise, that Regs father was George Hutchinson, and that he relayed his story to his son as stated, that is not to say that it contains all the truth.
                    Regards Richard.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi Richard,

                      No police force was remotely likely to have paid off a witness, otherwise they'd be bombareded with false "witnesses" all eager to be paid off for their stories, and as Bob mentioned, 5 times the salary of a man currently out of work would have amounted to zero pounds. Besides which, you ignore the fact that the alleged "pay-off" was for entirely different reasons. In the Wheeling Register, under the heading of "Gossip" we're told that a man who had "invented" a description had been paid to accompany police round the district, whereas according to Reg, he was paid to keep quiet about what he "really knew".

                      however I simple have to repeat my party piece.
                      No you don't, Richard.

                      Regards,
                      Ben

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hello Ben,
                        It all boils down to interpretation, and who one chooses to believe.
                        Pray tell me if George Hutchinson was unemployed how he was able to stay at the Victoria home, I was not under the impression that it was a a hostel for the unemployed.
                        He told kelly that sorry he had no money as he had spent all going to Romford, how many times have you said a similar line to a friend in need?
                        Reg in my opinion was used by fairclough to enhance his theory, and Hutchinson seniors posh gent was just what the doctor ordered.
                        According to Reg, his father never told him exactly what the payment was for, so speculation was the order of the day.
                        I would never suggest that the payment of witnesses was normal practise, for the very reasons you suggested, however if GH did venture out and assist the police then he could well have received payment, it hardly is uncommon for payments to be made nowadays to informers, and expenses occured by helpers.
                        George hutchinson whoever he was, must have at least occupied himself with casual work, even if he was not employed in his normal profession at that time.
                        So what is meant by 5 times zero =zero, you and Bob are simply making a assumption, not based on logic, in order to reject a point made by yours truely to back up the story of Reg.
                        Regards Richard.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi Richard,

                          Pray tell me if George Hutchinson was unemployed how he was able to stay at the Victoria home, I was not under the impression that it was a a hostel for the unemployed.
                          Well, exactly.

                          That's another aspect of Hutchinson's account that doesn't add up.

                          That doesn't ennervate the more germane point that he told the police that he was temporarily unemployed, and the police clearly believed him when he said so (at that stage, at least). As far as the police were concerned, he was temporarily unemployed and therefore not entitled to reimbursement for money he wasn't even earning.

                          He told kelly that sorry he had no money as he had spent all going to Romford, how many times have you said a similar line to a friend in need?
                          Not very often as it happens, but I'm not sure what point you're making. Cherry-picking one innocuous snippet from an otherwise implausible and suspicious account and claiming that it makes the rest of it believable is obviously fallacious.

                          I would never suggest that the payment of witnesses was normal practise, for the very reasons you suggested, however if GH did venture out and assist the police then he could well have received payment
                          Extremely unlikely.

                          If one witness came forward and received payment, the police would have been deluged with other "witnesses" as soon as that payment was made public knowledge. It wasn't as if Hutchinson had any choice in the matter. If police wanted him to accompany them round the district to aid in the biggest manhunt London had ever witnessed, it wouldn't be a question of "Awww...please come!". He would have been obliged to jump to it. It certainly is uncommon for police to pay witnesses and informers, especially the ones that couldn't claim a loss of earning.

                          So what is meant by 5 times zero =zero, you and Bob are simply making a assumption, not based on logic
                          Well that's just utter bumkum, Richard.

                          All we've done is dismiss the fallacy that two highly dubious sources - a bloke who said his dad saw Lord Randolph Churchill in a discredited book, and a press article that was headlined "Gossip" despite that gossip being contradicted by aall other press sources - somehow equate to good provenance.

                          Regards,
                          Ben

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            In reply

                            Dear Richard

                            In your post you say:

                            I realise that my insistance annoys you Bob, also my spelling, also my phrases, etc, etc, but I will always believe, until proven otherwise, that Regs father was George Hutchinson

                            Lets take this in order. First of all your spelling and phraseology have improved beyond all recognition – top marks for effort there! Somewhat similar to another poster “Hoo culdent spel becos ime dysxwlic”, who after being taken to task strangely enough managed to find where the spell checker lived and now offers posts that have improved out of all recognition.

                            However it is the part that says:

                            , but I will always believe, until proven otherwise, that Regs father was George Hutchinson


                            But that is not the way it works. You are putting forward the theory that Reg’s father was the GH. This is your theory and up to you to prove it – it is not up to others to disprove it. In my book I always made quite sure the reader could differentiate between what was fact and what I thought was fact.

                            You need to focus your mind on accuracy, for example I notice you keep saying £5 or 5 guineas, treating them as the same thing. They are not. A guinea was £1 1s so £5 would be 100 shillings and 5 guineas would be 105 shillings, in those days a considerable difference. Unless you can nail down points like this you will never get anywhere.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi Richard -
                              about your radio program, do you recall if this interview was presented as a "companion piece"? For example, here in the US, it is unusual for historical events to be portrayed in the popular media unless it ties in to something, like the anniversary of the event a book or movie being released, some kind of new evidence found, that sort of thing.

                              Also, was the entire broadcast interviewing GH's son, or were there other things covered during it also?

                              Does Reg Hutchinson have descendents?

                              Comment

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