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Viability of Charles Cross as the Ripper

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  • Viability of Charles Cross as the Ripper

    I just finished reading an excellent dissertation by Michael Connor, who proposed that Charles Cross should be considered a Ripper suspect. After all, he was found standing over the body of Nichols. Connor argues that Cross committed at least some of the killings (Tabram, Nichols, Chapman) on his way to work. My question is this: Is it possible that someone could commit such mutilations and then go to work, unnoticed?

  • #2
    Hi Barnaby!

    To begin with, Charles Cross was actually not found standing over the body of Nichols - he was standing in the middle of the street as Robert Paul passed by, alerting the latter to come with him to take a closer look at the body. I know that Connor challenges this, but I think he does so with poor evidence - more on that later!

    However, the answer to your question whether it would have been possible to commit the kind of mutilations inflicted on the victims, and afterwards go to job unnoticed, will be an answer that differs with the differing victims.
    In Chapmans case, no, it would probably not be possible, since he would have had a considerable amount of blood on his hands. But in the Nichols case, I believe that he may not have had a single drop of blood on him as he left.

    So, is Cross a viable suspect? Well, he is a man that we can put on the murder spot, and that means that we cannot rule him out. My own feeling, though, is that if he had been the Ripper, then the obvious position he would have been in as he first heard Pauls´ footsteps, would have been kneeling at Nichols´ body. And if so, he would have been faced with the task of tucking away a much bloodied knife (no weapon was found at the site, and the only obvious reason for this would have been that the killer brought his knife with him, away from the murder spot).
    After having concealed the knife, he would then have risen from the body, and stepped a few paces out into the street, where Robert Paul came upon him. If this was what he did, I think we must accept that he did so because he did not want to arouse the suspicion that he himself was the killer.

    If we accept all of this, it rises a question or two:

    Cross heard Paul before he saw him in the darkness of Buck´s Row. That means he did not know to whom the sound of the steps belonged. And one good guess at that time in the morning would have been a policeman. And if a policeman found a man standing close to the body of a murdered woman, he would undoubtedly have searched that man, producing the knife – and that would have been it.

    Now, let´s for theory´s sake assume that Cross for some reason actually knew that the steps did not belong to a policeman. Let´s make the assumption I threw forward earlier: that Cross realized that trying to make a run for it would have given him away.
    Then why would he leave the murder spot in company with Paul, looking for a policeman? The obvious thing, since Paul knew not from what end Cross had entered Bucks Row, would have been to say ”You go that way, and I´ll go this way, and that will double our chances of finding a policeman swiftly. Of course, it would also provide the knife-carrying Cross with an excellent opportunity to escape.

    All of this points – at least to my mind – very clearly to Cross NOT being the Ripper.

    Since Connors tries to place Cross close to the body of Nichols in his dissertation, I think that the report from the inquest provides useful reading. These are the relevant parts:

    "Cross, carman, said he had been in the employment of Messrs. Pickford and Co. for over twenty years. About half-past three on Friday he left his home to go to work, and he passed through Buck's-row. He discerned on the opposite side something lying against the gateway, but he could not at once make out what it was. He thought it was a tarpaulin sheet. He walked into the middle of the road, and saw that it was the figure of a woman. He then heard the footsteps of a man going up Buck's-row, about forty yards away, in the direction that he himself had come from. When he came up witness said to him, "Come and look over here; there is a woman lying on the pavement." They both crossed over to the body, and witness took hold of the woman's hands, which were cold and limp."

    ”Robert Baul [Paul], 30, Forster-street, Whitechapel, carman, said as he was going to work at Cobbett's-court, Spitalfields, he saw in Buck's-row a man standing in the middle of the road. As witness drew closer he walked towards the pavement, and he (Baul) stepped in the roadway to pass him. The man touched witness on the shoulder and asked him to look at the woman, who was lying across the gateway. He felt her hands and face, and they were cold. The clothes were disarranged, and he helped to pull them down. Before he did so he detected a slight movement as of breathing, but very faint. The man walked with him to Montague-street, and there they saw a policeman. Not more than four minutes had elapsed from the time he first saw the woman. Before he reached Buck's-row he had seen no one running away.”

    Meaning what? Meaning that Cross WAS in the middle of the road as Paul approached. He (Cross) then took a few steps to the pavement, on which Paul obviously was walking. In all probability Cross had set or was setting foot on the pavement as Paul came up to him, since the latter chose to step out into the street to pass Cross, who in his turn reached out and touched Pauls shoulder, stopping him.

    Another part of the testimony that is telling is that Paul says that he, alerted to the situation by Cross, felt her (Nichols´) hands and face, and they were cold. And if ew accept that the Ripper moved on from neck-cutting to mutilation as swiftly as possible – and the evidence existing points very much to this – then how could Nichols body have grown cold it the very short time transpired?

    The best,


    • #3
      There's a possible paralell here with the case of John Eric Armstrong, a relatively recent prositute serial killer.

      Armstrong called the police claiming to have discovered the body of murdered prostitute Wendy Jordan at Dearborn Heights. The police were suspicious of his "witness account", and it soon transpired that Armstrong was the killer. When it subsequently came to light that additional witnesses had seen him in the area before he claimed to have arrived on the scene, it seemed likely that he phoned the police in order to pre-empt those other witnesses coming forward and incriminating him. His defence was on the lame side:

      "I’m not the bad guy, here. I called you guys, remember?”

      I have my reservations about Cross as a viable ripper contender - such as why he would continue killing after that police exposure - but I thought the Armstrong case worth commenting on as a possible paralell.

      Best regards,


      • #4
        Derek Osborne proposed Cross as the Ripper more than five years ago, and wrote about his theory in articles published by Ripper Notes, Ripperana and Ripperoo. While Cross was at least in the area at the time -- so many supposed suspects offered by other authors cannot be shown to have been anywhere near the East End -- there just isn't anything incriminating about the man in the slightest, and it just seems highly unlikely that he'd be brought in to testify at the Nichols inquest on Sept. 2 and then go out and kill again on Sept. 8.

        Dan Norder
        Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
        Web site: - Email:


        • #5
          Chris Scott did some important work on Cross, just before the crash :


          • #6
            Thanks for that link, Robert - hadn't read it yet!

            "You can rob me, you can starve me and you can beat me and you can kill me. Just don't bore me."
            Clint Eastwood as Gunny in "Heartbreak Ridge"


            • #7
              well to me, he is in the innermost circle of suspects likely to have been Jack The Ripper.

              The reasons why:

              1) he was a "Zero", an ordinary worker just like millions out there. Throughout the last 120 years the notion that the Ripper was an ordinary man has been brought forth from time to time. I remember having read a quote by some Ripperologist that, if the Ripper was called upon my God to step forward and give his name, everybody would be surprised.

              2) concerning the contra arguments: he may not have been so quick in thinking because he was an ordinary man, not a professional killer, to think of some way to get rid of Paul as soon as possible. He probably was in panic because of somebody approaching, so he just did the first thing that came to mind. What about the blood on his hands? Well, he may have washed them in the Eddowes case maybe

              3) he was ordinary enough not to arouse suspicion

              4) nearly all the victims were of his generation, as he was 40 something years old I think to remember from the old board. Perhaps the hatred of women that he possessed was based on the deeds of a woman of his age
              In heaven I am a wild ox
              On earth I am a lion
              A jester from hell and shadows almighty
              The scientist of darkness
              Older than the constellations
              The mysterious jinx and the error in heaven's masterplan


              • #8
                Hi, Hellrider!
                Her hands were cold. It had been some time since she had been killed and Jack was long gone then.
                Cheers, Jan
                Headcoates rule ok.


                • #9
                  Thanks for all of your thoughtful replies. I suppose that I am attracted to Cross as a suspect because he can be placed at a murder scene. Moreover I would like to believe that the police actually interviewed the Ripper and/or he interjected himself into the investigation (no evidence of this of course). But by using that logic, many of the witnesses then could be considered suspects. Given that Nichol's hands were cold I suppose that it is even possible that Paul could have doublebacked via a parallel street (is this possible?) and interjected himself into the case. Highly unlikely, of course.

                  If we were to consider witnesses as suspects, where does Cross rank in terms of viability? Below Hutchinson?


                  • #10
                    Barnaby writes:

                    ”I suppose that I am attracted to Cross as a suspect because he can be placed at a murder scene.”

                    ...and that is fair enough; those you can put at a murder spot are of course interesting people. But then again, Cross found Nichols, Reeves found Tabram, Davis discovered Chapman, Diemschutz happened upon Stride, Eddowes was spotted by P C Watkins and Bowyer had the bad luck to look through the broken windowpanes of Mary Kellys room.
                    With the East end littered by corpses, somebody had to find them. And in all honesty, Diemschutz and Watkins are at least as fair game as is Cross ...

                    I think, however, that by reasoning, Cross must be a slightly more credible killer than Hutch, for the simple reason that we know that he (Cross) spent time alone with Nichols, although the latter would in all probability not have noticed it...

                    The best, Barnaby!


                    • #11
                      Hi Fisherman,
                      Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
                      ...those you can put at a murder spot are of course interesting people.
                      Although you didn’t mention him, the one who I’ve always found interesting in this (not too serious) respect is George Morris.

                      The best,
                      "You can rob me, you can starve me and you can beat me and you can kill me. Just don't bore me."
                      Clint Eastwood as Gunny in "Heartbreak Ridge"


                      • #12
                        I left him out since I only mentioned the people who actually found the respective victims, Frank. I know that many people take an active interest in him, at least as an accomplice, but I have never bought into it. I think it would be strange to place the fourth or fifth (or whatever) strike in your own backyard, if you have refrained from doing so before.

                        The best,


                        • #13
                          You can rest assured, Fisherman, my intererest is purely of the non-serious kind. I don't believe in an accomplice anyway!

                          The best,
                          "You can rob me, you can starve me and you can beat me and you can kill me. Just don't bore me."
                          Clint Eastwood as Gunny in "Heartbreak Ridge"


                          • #14
                            I think, however, that by reasoning, Cross must be a slightly more credible killer than Hutch, for the simple reason that we know that he (Cross) spent time alone with Nichols
                            Only if you use proximity to the crime scene as the chief or only criterion, Fish. Hutchinson's a better overall bet, I feel.

                            It would be very strange for the real murderer to have continued killing after the degree of police exposure that Cross was subject to in the wake of the Nichols murder. More commonly, that sort of exposure is likely to stall a serial killer for some considerable time. Cross, in addition, had a legitimate reason for being where he was; he was on his way to work. Better than a claim to have loitered opposite a crime scene after a 16-mile footslog from Romford purely for the sake of idle curiosity. Hutchinson can be proven to have lied, at the very least, about some aspects of his account, but however much we might suspect Cross of fabrication, there is no evidence that he fabricated anything.

                            Best regards,
                            Last edited by Ben; 04-01-2008, 03:37 PM.


                            • #15
                              Hi Ben!

                              Hutch is Ben-country, so I will tread VERY carefully here!

                              I will, however, say that the argument "It would be very strange for the real murderer to have continued killing after the degree of police exposure that Cross was subject to in the wake of the Nichols murder" is an argument that has been put forward numerous times. And I think that just as willing as I am to accept that it would indeed have been strange, I think - and hope - that this is a judgement based on rational reasoning. And such reasoning does not always apply when we deal with serial killers.
                              If the killer felt compelled to do what he did, if he heard "inner voices" and so on, then who are we to say that he would have stayed off the killing for rational reasons?
                              Moreover, serialists often display a treat of believing themselves invincible and undetectable, and if Cross WAS the killer, and if he WAS of a disposition such as this, then the whole thing may have boosted his ego instead of cooling him of.
                              Rationality is all good and well - long as it applies. If it had applied to all serial killers, a good deal of them would still be out there instead of doing time in jail or getting lethal injections.

                              As for Hutch´s lying, a good deal of it is in the eyes of the beholder, I think. I know your stance on his being a very exact observer, extremely rich in detail, but I think you must agree that different posters will ascribe a differing grade of untruthfullness to it all.

                              Finally, one more thing: You say that we know that Cross had a legitimate reason for being there, implying that Hutch had not. That will earn you two counterstrikes:
                              1. In what way is it illegitimate to stand outside the court where a female, perhaps a near aquaintance of yours, lives?
                              2. We can not even be sure that Hutch was in Dorset Street at all, can we? Whose word do we have for it? His own, nothing else. What if he was a publicity seeker, and nothing else?

                              Now, before you challenge me all to hard on these points, I will add that my picture of Hutch is much the same as the one you have. I do believe that he was there, and I do believe that his testimony was of crap value and I do believe that we must accept that the police ascribed no interest to it after the first stage.

                              But that does not alter the fact that I favour Cross as a viable suspect, for the simple reason that we KNOW that he was there, and we KNOW that he was alone with Nichols (body). And although a number of serial killers have injected themselves into the police investigations of their own deeds, they more often than not refrain from doing so, statistically rendering Hutch even less probable as the killer.

                              Jumping for shelter,