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Old 02-19-2008, 08:29 PM
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Casebook: Jack the Ripper - Forums > Ripper Discussions > Doctors and Coroners > Doctor John Rees Gabé

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Simon Wood7th November 2007, 05:21 PM
Hi All,

I've always wondered why Dr. John Rees Gabé was one of the many doctors called to visit Room 13 Millers Court on the afternoon of November 9th 1888.

Dr. Gabé, of Mecklenburgh Square, was surgeon to the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Young Children (The Times, March 29th 1888).

Could his attendance at Millers Court have had anything to do with the vexed question of whether or not (a) Kelly was pregnant, or (b) that she had a child living with her at the time?




tom_wescott7th November 2007, 05:32 PM
It may have had to do with the myth that Kelly had a child living with her (surely the pregnancy myth started later). More than likely though, the good doctor just called in a favor to get a 'ticket' to what was obviously going to be a legendary crime scene.

Yours truly,

Tom Wescott


dougie7th November 2007, 05:41 PM
called? do you mean called officially by the police to attend?how many doctors attended?....this is new to me...the many doctors that is.


Simon Wood7th November 2007, 05:46 PM
Hi Tom,

Dr. Gabé called in a favour to get a 'ticket' on what was obviously going to become a legendary crime scene?

Come on, Tom, that's a wild stretch of the imagination.

If true, your argument suggests there should have been a mile-long queue of doctors.




Simon Wood7th November 2007, 05:53 PM
Hi Dougie,

Doctors were summoned in their droves to Millers Court —

Dr. George Bagster Phillips—2 Spital Square
Mr. Anderson [Dr. Phillips' Assistant]
Dr. Thomas Bond—7 The Sanctuary, Westminster
Dr. Charles Alfred Hibbert—Westminster
Dr. J. R. Gabe—Mecklenburgh Square
Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown—17 Finsbury-Circus
Dr. Duke / Spitalfields [Brick Lane - E LONDON OBSERVER]

Overkill is a word that springs to mind.




chris7th November 2007, 06:01 PM
The Times:

19 November 1879
Royal College of Surgeons:
The following gentlemen, having undergone the necessary examinations for the diploma, were admitted as members of the College at a meeting of the Court of Examiners on November 17:
List includes John Gabe L.S.A., Merthyr Tydfil.

Gabe is listed as giving evidence in the following cases:

29 March 1888:
Patience Lee charged with burning her step-daughter.
Gabe is listed as surgeon to the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Young Children. He examined the child and gave evidence.

6 November 1911:
Inquest on unidentified woman (tentatively identified as a Miss Russell) who died of poison.
Gabe was called in to see the woman and performed the post mortem.

7 November 1917
The Bloomsbury Mystery
A headless body found in Regents Square, Bloomsbury.
Gabe, listed as police divisional surgeon, examined the package containing the remains and conducted the post mortem with Dr. Spilsbury.


John Guy7th November 2007, 06:08 PM

The Doctors had Millers Court to themselves till just after 16.00 hrs when the body was removed to Shoreditch mortuary.

All the police seemingly did inside Millers Court on Friday afternoon was to check that no weapon had been left.Reserving a complete investigation of the contents of the room for a later opportunity (Sat) . The Telegraph 10th Nov 1888

The investigation of the ashes is expected to take place during the course of this afternoon (Sat). The Star 10th Nov 1888


Simon Wood7th November 2007, 06:34 PM
Hi Jon,

I don't disagree at all with your timing.

The seven doctors had about two hours at their disposal.

Logic tells me they couldn't all have arrived spontaneously at the same time. So who summoned them, and for what reason? What could any one doctor tell the police that the other six couldn't?

So my question remains—why seven doctors for Mary Kelly?

The other so-called victims of JtR never had such intense medical attention.




robert7th November 2007, 07:01 PM
Gabe died on 2nd March 1920.


John Guy7th November 2007, 07:13 PM
Hi Simon

I am afraid I can only speculate !!

Question.Are we positive that seven doctors were at Millers Court ?

Some may have been present at the postmortem ,but not actually at Millers Court .

Obviously,Dr Phillips was first medic on the scene.We have to assume his assistant was involved - although I haven`t seen it anywhere stating that his assistant was at Millers Court ?

Tom may be correct in that it was a celebrated case that at some point hinted at the murderer having "anatomical knowledge",which in itself would interest most Doctors.

I am not at home so I cannot check but look in the Ultimate Source Book,the Kelly chapter,at the begining there are a number of police reports noting that a prostitute had been found in Dorset Street.There may be something there where Anderson or Warren has got involved.


cats meat man7th November 2007, 07:41 PM
Hi All,
Interesting Thread Simon.Dr Duke was Dr William P Dukes MD,a Police Surgeon based at 75 Brick Lane.He was at Millers Court on 9 November 1888.Although he was not called to give evidence at Mary Kelly's inquest,he was present at her autopsy,along with Dr George Bagster Phillips,who had relieved him of his duty at Millers Court.
The cause of death(Pthisis Haemoptysis) of my JTR suspect,James Hardiman at 29 Hanbury Street on 22 December 1891,was certified by the same Dr Dukes!
What is the collective term for a group of Doctor's?
All we need now is for a blue police box to appear at the scene!
All the best


Simon Wood7th November 2007, 08:07 PM
Hi Jon,

All of us can only speculate.

I can only go by various contemporary press reports as to the number of doctors in attendance at Millers Court, and I have no reason to doubt them.

Over the course of the Millers Court investigation a number of important people were in attendance.

Seven doctors, Inspector Beck, Walter Dew (allegedly), Inspector (First Class) Frederick George Abberline, Detective-Inspector Reid, Chief Inspector West, Superintendent Thomas Arnold, three Chief Constables, members of the RIC, a high ranking Post Office official, Robert Anderson—Assistant Commissioner of Police—and "a small army of detectives". Not to mention a highly suspicious gaggle of witnesses.

And the sum total of what they have to tell us wouldn't fill up the head of a pin.

Hi Cats Meat Man,

Possibly a 'Prescription of Doctors'.

Maybe a Blue Box did appear at Millers Court—that would make eight doctors—and all the cops stepped into Time and Relative Dimensions in Space to agree on what BS to leave the world.




PerryMason7th November 2007, 08:30 PM
Hi Dougie,

Doctors were summoned in their droves to Millers Court —

Dr. George Bagster Phillips—2 Spital Square
Mr. Anderson [Dr. Phillips' Assistant]
Dr. Thomas Bond—7 The Sanctuary, Westminster
Dr. Charles Alfred Hibbert—Westminster
Dr. J. R. Gabe—Mecklenburgh Square
Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown—17 Finsbury-Circus
Dr. Duke / Spitalfields

[b]"Overkill is a word that springs to mind."



Mary was Overkill... no doubt, but there was also apparently a lot of medicos at the scene too.

Best regards Simon.


supe7th November 2007, 08:32 PM
Why Dr. Gabe was at the scene remains unclear, though I suppose it could be as simple as that he was with one of the other doctors when they were summoned. Why his involvement with the case ended that afternoon is probably easier to explain. Throughout the fall of 1888 the Metropolitan Police strove to keep the press at arm's length or more. Gabe, however, opened up like an oyster on the half-shell once he left Miller's Court, something certain to put him in immediate disfavor with the police officials.



PerryMason7th November 2007, 08:51 PM
Hi again,

Don, its akin to a similar question relating to the following week ....we have a few people at Millers Court that really have no official reason to be there,... that we know of anyway.

A senior post Office Official, members of The Royal Irish Constabulary, and Members of Parliment. Im actually suprised Victoria Regina herself didnt scoot by also. And quite exciting for the Parlimentary folks, they only just resumed Parliment the week of the murder. What a welcome back.

Simons list also infers that of all the people who attended, most would be likely to have made their own notes as well. I know official documents were destroyed, lost misplaced or nicked, but odd that notes from some of the above, personal surviving notes from Millers Court,...never surfaced.

My best regards.


Sam Flynn7th November 2007, 09:42 PM
Hi Mike,
Don, its akin to a similar question relating to the following week ....we have a few people at Millers Court that really have no official reason to be there,... that we know of anyway. A senior post Office Official, members of The Royal Irish Constabulary, and Members of Parliment...
...except inasmuch as none of those are on record as actually having been allowed into 13 Miller's Court, as I've pointed out on a few (i.e. "many") occasions. But let's not go there again


Sam Flynn7th November 2007, 11:35 PM
Just some census info. Interestingly, Gabe's family originated in Carmarthenshire, and moved to Merthyr where Rees (JR's dad) appears to have been a reasonably well-off publican:

1861 Census return for the "Lord Raglan", Merthyr Tydfil
Rees Gabe (Head), 38, born Llangathen, Carmarthenshire. Innkeeper
Anne (Wife), 35, born Llangathen, Carmarthenshire. Innkeeper
Mary Anne (Daur), 11, born Merthyr. Scholar
William (Son), 13, born Merthyr. Scholar
Joseph (Son), 8, born Merthyr. Scholar
Benjamin (Son), 7, born Merthyr. Scholar
John (Son), 6, born Merthyr. Scholar
Elizabeth (Daur), 6, born Merthyr. Scholar
Henry (Son), 1, born Merthyr
Anne Williams (Servant), born Carmarthen Town. House Servant
Mary A Williams (Servant), 15, born Pontypool, Monmouthshire. House Servant

1871 Census return for 119 High St, Merthyr Tydfil - the "Lord Raglan"
Rees Gabe (Head), 48, born Carmarthenshire. Innkeeper
Ann (Wife), 44, born Carmarthenshire. Innkeeper
Benjamin (Son), 16, born Merthyr. Plasterer
John (Son), 16, born Merthyr. Clerk
Elizabeth (Daur), 13, born Merthyr. Scholar
Henry (Son), 11, born Merthyr
Rees (Son), 9, born Merthyr
Rachel M (Daur), 4, born Merthyr
Mary Thomas (Servant), 21, born Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Barmaid
Margaret Thomas (Servant), 35, born Llangadoc, Carmarthenshire. Domestic Servant
Margaret Harris (Servant), 19, born Cardiganshire. Domestic Servant
Margaret Harris (Servant), 13, born Breconshire. Domestic Servant
Thomas Price (Ostler), 27, born Merthyr. Ostler. Idiot.

1891 Census return for 16 Mecklenburgh Sq, St Pancras
John R Gabe (Head), 39, born Merthyr Tydfil. Registered Medical Practitioner
Marion LS (Wife), 35, born St Helens, Lancashire
Caroline M (Daur), 10, born London, Spitalfields. Scholar
Winifred A (Daur), 7, born London, Spitalfields. Scholar
Ivor S (Son), 5, born London, St Pancras
Rachel M (Visitor), 23, born Merthyr Tydfil [John's sister]
Frederick G Foniham (Visitor), 37, born St Helens, Lancashire. Woollen Agent
Ellen F Cobb (Servant), 28, born Plymouth. Domestic Servant

London Telephone Directory (various editions) 1903-1919
Central 4027 - Gabe, John Rees, Dctr of Mdcne/Physician & Surgeon .. 3 Mecklenburg[h] sq W.C1


Sam Flynn7th November 2007, 11:38 PM
Whilst digging through the census info above, I found a "Dr John B Gabe" - General Practitioner - in 1881 and 1901, living in Llansamlet, Swansea, of the right age and birthplace. Thought the "B" middle initial was a misprint for "R", but he had a different wife and children. Not the same Dr Gabe, then, but given the rarity of the name in Wales (only 15 Gabes in the 1861 Wales Census), he was quite probably a close relative, perhaps a cousin.

Another Carmarthenshire Gabe is a bit of a Welsh sporting hero - Rhys Thomas Gabe, a mathematics teacher living in London, originally of Llangennech, Carmarthenshire. "RT" Gabe memorably set up the only Welsh score, and made a match-saving tackle to ensure that Wales beat the first ever NZ "All-blacks" touring party in 1905. Until that day, the New Zealanders had never lost to any team, earning them the nickname of the "Invincibles", but Gabe's tackle on New Zealand's Bob Deans late in the game changed all that, and gave Wales an historic 3-0 victory.

The tackle has a place in rugby folklore because Deans claimed he'd crossed the line - Gabe, however, maintained to his dying day that the tackle was good. The controversy raged for decades, and Gabe's intervention was still disputed by some rugby die-hards until very recently. I daresay some New Zealanders still nag about it!

Anyhow, if anybody has a picture of Dr John "Rhys" Gabe, perhaps we can compare it with RT Gabe, shown circled in the team photo below:



Simon Wood8th November 2007, 01:48 AM
Hi Sam,

Doctor Gabé—Central 4027?

Puhleeze! Check your research.

I keep getting number unobtainable.




Sam Flynn8th November 2007, 02:01 AM
Hi Sam,

Doctor Gabé—Central 4027?

Puhleeze! Check your research.

I keep getting number unobtainable.
Bloody British Telecom!

Sorry, Simon - try Directory Enquiries


chris8th November 2007, 04:57 PM
There are also some details of Gabe in this thread


oberlin8th November 2007, 05:22 PM

I think it more likely that Dr. Gabe was summoned to assist, as a qualified practitioner who resided nearby and was familiar with the area, like Llewellyn and Sequeira in earlier cases (I think I've got it right that these fellows weren't divisional surgeons, please correct me if I'm wrong). I believe that Gabe had a history of serving as a medical witness, so I think the police would have known him.


Sam Flynn8th November 2007, 06:16 PM
There are also some details of Gabe in this thread
Thanks, Chris. Thanks to John Carey on that old thread, my suggestion that Dr John B[ernard] Gabe (of Llansamlet, Swansea) was John Rees Gabe's cousin was right. Hunches can work, sometimes


Sam Flynn29th December 2007, 02:39 AM
I have no idea whether or not Kelly (or whoever she really was) was pregnant or had a child living with her, but it's always seemed odd to me that one of the seven doctors called to attend her corpse—Dr. J. R. Gabe of Mecklenburgh Square— specialised in paediatrics
You got me thinking, Simon. Gabe was a surgeon affiliated to the Society for the Protection [sic. - "prevention"] of Cruelty to Young Children - but whether that made him a "paediatrician" is a moot point. Gabe was certainly called upon by the Society in cases of child abuse in the East End and elsewhere in London. However, although these cases make up the bulk of his entries in the Times, Gabe also testified at inquests into the deaths of late teenagers and adults on occasion - once, in 1890, he gave evidence in a case of wife-murder in Clerkenwell.

Perhaps he was no more a full-time paediatrician than Bagster Phillips was a full-time "forensic pathologist", but - by association with the society to which he was affiliated - one might be forgiven for thinking that he was. Gabe certainly had a degree of experience in examining and describing wounds, and perhaps it was simply in this capacity that he attended Miller's Court. "Oberlin" has already suggested this, and the more I read about Gabe, the more the idea makes sense.


Simon Wood29th December 2007, 03:36 AM
Hi Sam,

I agree completely with the points you raise. Gabe went on to appear at many an inquest—children and adults alike.

It was a fair old hike from Mecklenburgh Square to Dorset Street, so it would be interesting to know at what point between the pick-axing of the door to Room 13 at 1.30 p.m. and the removal of the body at around 4.00 p.m. that Doctor Gabe was summoned and at what time he arrived.

Bagster Phillips was already in attendance. Bond arrived at around 2.00 p.m. Both men had their assistants—Anderson and Hibbert respectively. Closer than Gabe to Dorset Street were Doctors Brown and Duke, who were also on the scene. And don't let's forget our old [i]eminence grise Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson. I forget the details, but didn't he try to turn a murder into a case of suicide? I wouldn't put anything past that bastard.

But I digress.

At the time Gabe was resident at the children's hospital in Mecklenburgh Square. So, with all due respect to him, what could he possibly add to the opinions of six doctors (two of whom had previous "Ripper" experience) unless he had specialised knowledge pertinent to the case in hand?

In the end, Sam, I just don't know. I'm wondering out loud. But I think you'll agree (in the light of Kelly's alleged child and pregnancy) that the presence of Doctor Gabe is intriguing.


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supe29th December 2007, 03:53 AM

As I pointed out on the other thread, only if someone who specialized in Ob-Gyn were called would it give any credence to the rumors that Kelly had been pregnant. And for the late-starting reports Kelly had a child living with her, surely John McCarthy knew that was nonsense from the start. Why Dr. Gabe was there is open to any number of possibilities, not the least of which being he simply happened to be with one of the other physicians and accompanied him. Doctors are, after all, notorious for sharing interesting cases with colleagues.



Simon Wood29th December 2007, 07:26 AM
Hi Don,

I'm attempting to answer the two posts you put on different threads.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with Sir John Williams.

The police might call a paediatrician if the child in question was alive.

Tom Wescott put forward the idea that Gabe was in for "the ticket"—that he just happened along in the company of another doctor on a sensational case—but I cannot buy this. It stretches credulity to the limit to believe that Gabe simply invited himself to what would have been an extremely high-security party.

We know so little about Millers Court that anything is possible. Who's word should we take for it that Kelly wasn't pregnant?

McCarthy? I think not.

Doctor Bond? Only one word in his post mortem report indicated that the corpse was a woman.

Doctor Bagster Phillips? All he established at the inquest was the immediate cause of death and that the corpse was female.

Bond and Phillips could not agree on whether the corpse was naked or partly-clothed.

Bond, in his next-day report to Anderson, acknowledged the corpse was female and then discussed blood spurts and the contents of Kelly's stomach.

Doctor Frederick Brown? No word.

Doctors Duke, Hibbert, and Anderson? No word.

Doctor Gabe? Not even a mention of the victim's sex.

Why involve six extra doctors if only one (Bagster Phillips) would be called to give scant evidence at Kelly's inquest?

Seven doctors, and one a paediatrician. Curious.




Sam Flynn29th December 2007, 02:22 PM
Hi Simon,
Why involve six extra doctors if only one (Bagster Phillips) would be called to give scant evidence at Kelly's inquest?
We may as well read a lot into why some of the other five were involved. Why pick on Gabe especially?
Seven doctors, and one a paediatrician. Curious.
We don't know that he was a "paediatrician", and in any case an out-and-out paediatrician wouldn't be of much use if there were a dead child involved. They specialise in the treatment of living children, and Gabe certainly came to the rescue of abused living children as part of his work for the RSPCC. Problem is, we don't know what proportion of Gabe's casebook was taken up with such matters or whether, as with Dr Phillips, Llewelyn, Bond et al, he was a "generalist" surgeon brought in to help particular organisations (viz., the police and the RSPCC) on the basis of his surgical knowledge.

It seems that Gabe passed the examinations of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1879, at which point he was listed as an "L.S.A" (Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries) in the Times. I say "seems", because this newspaper entry might refer to that dratted cousin of his, with the same name, vocation, and also born in Merthyr Tydfil.


robert29th December 2007, 03:41 PM
Hi all

I don't know whether Gabe was a specialist in gynaecology/pregnancy, but I do know that if I had been a doctor at Miller's Court, I would certainly have sent for such a person. This is because :

1. Kelly was the only one of the canonical five who was definitely of child-bearing age (the others were sort of on the borderline, weren't they?)

2. There was no hurry to remove the remains, compared with the other four victims who were murdered outdoors.

3. Kelly's mutilations were the worst of the lot.

In such a situation, I wouldn't want to risk missing a tiny foetus.

Whether Kelly was pregnant is one issue, and I don't believe she was. But from the doctors' point of view, confonted with that shambles in poor light, wouldn't they have wanted to make sure?



Sam Flynn29th December 2007, 04:10 PM
Hi Robert,

Even if Gabe were indeed a full-time pædiatrician, he'd have been no more specially qualified to identify a foetus than the others. Pædiatricians kick in after obstetricians and midwives leave off, and after the foetus has morphed into a screaming, kicking bundle of joy.


robert29th December 2007, 05:03 PM
Hi Gareth

Maybe so, but I myself would have wanted an obstetrician or someone similar there. This was the only crime scene they had a chance to investigate in private.


Sam Flynn29th December 2007, 05:37 PM
Hi Rob,Maybe so, but I myself would have wanted an obstetrician or someone similar there. This was the only crime scene they had a chance to investigate in private.
I honestly can't see that Bond, Brown or Phillips (or Llewelyn, Sequeira, Killeen et al) would have been any less qualified to recognise pregnancy than Gabe. The fact that any one of those medics present were capable of diagnosing gravidity means that Gabe's input would have been entirely redundant in that context.

Now, it may have been the case that the word on the streets was that Kelly indeed had a young child - witness the earliest newspaper reports - and that Gabe may have been called in on the basis of that rumour, in light of his experience in such matters.

Alternatively, Gabe may have simply been on his rounds at one of the children's homes in the vicinity and was invited in because of his "expert witness" experience in examining the wounds of younger people - Kelly being a "younger person" in the context of the Whitechapel Murders.

Finally, perhaps he was asked, or blagged his way in because he was an old chum of one of the other doctors - like Tom, I see no problem with that possibility, or any other of the less "spooky" reasons why Gabe might have been called in.


robert29th December 2007, 06:09 PM
Well Gareth, it would certainly be interesting if someone could turn up a link between Gabe and one of the other medics.



supe29th December 2007, 07:06 PM

Sorry, the Sir John Williams mention was aomething of a throwaway line. In fact, he was a noted gynecologist in London at the time and the subject of the execrable book Uncle Jack that named him as Jack the Ripper. Thus, his presence would have been quite a double whammy for theorists.

Anyway, it seems to me your problem is more with the dearth of medical information provided at the inquest, something that has been remarked upon for 119 years. It may all have been part of a conspiracy to suppress information, as some are quick to believe, or it simply might have been Dr. Roderick MacDonald doing what an inquest is supposed to do--determine cause of death--and leave the rest to the police...especially when dealing with an obviously fractious coroner's jury.

As to whether Dr. Gabe was actually callled or simply accompanied another physician we will never know, but to suggest he was there because of his assumed speciality--pediatrics--is not likely. Surely, the only reason a physician who deals with young children might be wanted is if there were a young child in need of attention (and even then any of the other doctors on hand could have rendered treatment).

Moreover, McCarthy and Bowyer were at the immediate scen in addition to the police and they surely would have known if a child had been living with Kelly. And if she had been pregnant (of no particular concern to the police at the moment anyway), well Mary and any presumptive fetus weren't going anywhere anyway and the doctors who were to do the post morten were well capable as part of the routine of determing whether a female body was gravid or not.

So why was Gabe there? Any of the alternate explanations that have been offered would suffice, though I lean toward the possibility that Tom and I offered ages ago. Tom suggests a morbid curiousity and I incline more toward professional ditto, but the result would be the same. And if you think that strains credulity you are a bit naive. Have a patient with an interesting and uncommon complaint enter a hospital and it will seem like it's parade time for lemmings as doctors march in and out of his room to "observe."

Indeed, Gabe's willingness to talk with the press afterwards lends credence to the notion he was there "unofficially." That he was there for any reason other than opportunity seems an unlikely explanation. Burdened as we are with the superior knowledge of hindsight, we must ever guard against the impulse to read more than mere "human nature" into the actions of many involved in the Whitechapel murders. Most of the time most of the participants, including curious doctors, acted as they would always act independent of the fact that they were involved in crimes that would so fascinate us 12 decades later.



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