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Old 04-10-2017, 12:55 PM
John G John G is offline
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 4,445

Originally Posted by David Orsam View Post
Some comments from me about the paper issue.

One of the most pertinent questions asked earlier in this thread was: which Ripper letters are supposed to have been written by Sickert according to Cornwell? More to the point: which Ripper letters are supposed to forensically match the stationery used by Sickert? I don't think these questions have ever been properly answered in this thread. It's not very easy to work it out even when you read Cornwell's book. The letter with coffin and skull identified by Fisherman in #92 & #96 as coming from a 24 paper stack is not, I think, one of the letters forensically linked to Sickert.

I will attempt to answer these questions later in this post but first I have a few issues with Cornwell's general approach.

Apparently, 392 letters and envelopes supposedly written by the murderer were forensically examined on Cornwell's behalf, of which 59 were found to have watermarks. Now, by my count, Cornwell identifies 14 letters (with 5 different types of watermarks) which match watermarks known to have been used by Sickert.

So my first question would be: what does Cornwell say about the circa 45 letters with watermarks not known to have been used by Sickert? Can we rule them out as being Sickert letters on the basis that he did not use such stationery?

And what about all the hundreds of letters without watermarks? Shouldn't we be concluding that these were not by Sickert? Cornwell certainly does not do this and, in fact, she says she believes that 'the majority' of the Ripper letters in the National Archives were written by the killer (i.e. Sickert).

Cornwell tells us that there were some 1,200 different watermarks in use in the late 1880s with some paper makers producing over 100 different varieties but she doesn't tell us which were the most popular types of paper, which must make a difference to the results. I can't work out if the fact that Sickert is known to have used five different types of watermarked stationery increases or decreases the likelihood that Ripper letters would be found with those same watermarks.

The five types of watermarks used by Sickert in the 1880s according to Cornwell were these:

1. Joynson Superfine
2. A. Pirie & Sons
3. Monckton's Superfine
4. Brookleigh Fine
5. Gurney Ivory Laid

It is the Gurney Ivory Laid paper where Cornwell feels that her expert has found a precise forensic match with Sickert's stationery. But let me deal with each of these in turn.

Joynson Superfine

We are not given much information about the "several Ripper letters" which Cornwell tells us are on this paper. One, we are told, was sent to the City of London police. And two letters signed 'Nemo' are on this paper but it's not clear if 'Nemo' was claiming to be the Ripper.

A. Pirie & Sons

There are 3 letters on this watermarked paper. One being the Dr Openshaw letter of 29 October 1888 and the other two both being dated 22 November 1888, one claiming to be from Manchester, the other, says Cornwell, coming from East London which, by a process of elimination, I take to be a letter which starts "I do larf when I hears you have cort me I shall do for two more next Saturday..."

Monckton's Superfine

All we have here is a single letter sent to the City of London police in the LMA archive, from a different batch used by Sickert.

Brookleigh Fine

Two Ripper letters at the National Archives are said to be written on this paper but no details are given.

Gurney Ivory Laid

This is the crucial paper. Cornwell's expert has found two letters which can be forensically matched to the same quire of paper used by Sickert.

The first of these is a Ripper letter received by the City of London police on 4 October 1888 which has "doodles and three cartoonish faces on it". No more details are provided (possibly because Cornwell is not allowed to reproduce letters from the LMA archive).

The second is a letter postmarked 31 October 1888. All Cornwell tells us about the letter is that it commences "Dear Boss, I am living 129 C Rd...". She rather coyly cuts it short at this point but we learn from Evans & Skinner's Letters from Hell that this letter was addressed to Old Street police station and said:

"Dear Boss,
I am living in 129 C Rd...and I mean to do another murder in PEN Rd to night
Yours truly
Jack the ripper"

As we can see it's such an innocuous letter that it's hard to see why someone with Sickert's obvious creative ability would have bothered with it, even if he was trying to hoax the police. Certainly it's not a very convincing example of him as the murderer because there weren't any murders committed on 31 October.

We don't get very many details of the forensic match between these two letters and three of Sickert's letters which are supposed to come from the same small batch. But apparently the matches are in the short-edge cuts, fiber analysis, wire profile of forming surface, weight, bulk and opacity of the sheet and surface finish. Cornwell quotes her expert Peter Bower saying "One can only assert that two sheets come from the same batch if everything matches" but she does not actually quote Bower as saying that everything matches although she tells us herself that they do. Well I don't suppose she is making that up but it's a shame we don't hear it in Bower's own words. It worries me that we are not told if there were any control samples used. No report from Bower is included so we don't really know if there are any caveats to his findings or if we are looking at a 100% certain match of the paper.

I have no good scientific reason to doubt the expert findings but it's just that the 31 October letter is so dull that it's hard to conceive why an imaginative person like Sickert would have written it (either as a hoax or because he was the murderer).

Certainly if he was the murderer he must surely have written the Dear Boss letter of 25 September. I say this because it is inconceivable that the killer would have adopted the name "Jack the Ripper", as well as the use of the expression "Dear Boss", used by someone who he would have known was a hoaxer. Yet not only does Cornwell not tell us that there is any forensic match between the 25 September letter and any Sickert letters but I find it very odd that having caused such a sensation when this letter was published at the start of October, the Ripper was happy to write letters which were ignored and likely to be ignored. Why would he not have written subsequent letters in the same handwriting to prove that they were genuine? Why would he not have written to the same person at the Central News Agency? Why, as with the 31 October example, write to Old Street police station? Why not include details which only the killer could have known? Why, to repeat, would he have written such low impact letters?

It's strange that it is only what one might term 'minor' letters that are able to be connected to Sickert which, other than some supposed cartoonish characters on one of the Gurney Ivory letters, don't seem to contain any artwork, let alone good artwork.

On the basis of the very minimal information given in the book about the forensic matching I personally remain sceptical that Cornwell has managed to prove that Sickert wrote any Ripper letters but can't refute the possibility that she has done.
Hi David,

Yes, some excellent points. However, do you think it possible, or even probable, that Sickert write a number of hoax letters?
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Old 04-10-2017, 01:52 PM
David Orsam David Orsam is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 7,916

Originally Posted by John G View Post
Hi David,

Yes, some excellent points. However, do you think it possible, or even probable, that Sickert write a number of hoax letters?
It's certainly possible John, just as it's possible he was Jack the Ripper. I don't know about the probabilities as I think that must depend on how rare the five items of watermarked stationery were in 1888/89. My main point is that I'm unconvinced that it has been forensically established that Sickert wrote two of the letters. Perhaps it has, but I think there needs to be a proper report published. I should say that Cornwell explains this hasn't been possible due to copyright reasons - her expert wasn't allowed to reproduce some of the key correspondence - which is unfortunate, but I don't quite see how one can accept the findings without it.
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Old 04-11-2017, 06:36 AM
Phil Carter Phil Carter is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,193

Hello all,

I've read the book and remain unconvinced.
Although a more mellow tone has been used this time around, Cornwell "knows" she is right. That is a defiant comment usual to suspect authors.

I looked carefully at the presentation. A plethora of Ripper letters and Sickert paintings are presented. "Swamping" may be too strong a word..but it certainly distracts away from no nonsense facts.
Worryingly for me at least was the concentration on the weird and macabre "happenings" she attributed to JTR not having "gone away" although dead..

"..I sensed an entity, a terrifically negative energy that when invoked causes strange aberrations of physics".

"Doors opened and slammed, and windows flew up on their own" "Lights flickered" much much more besides..
and even.."The autopilot on our jet quit while my team were flying over the Atlantic Ocean".

All this..and much much more.. due to an energy that when "invoked" etc etc...

Cornwell's sister in law Mary's house was struck by lightening in 2012 when Cornwell decided to rewrite the book...

Cornwell admits making small mistakes in her previous book. Well Ms Cornwell, trying to tie in lightening strikes and auto pilot airline disfunction to the "entity" of either Walter Sickert or Jack the Ripper.. made your book even more unconvincing. Perhaps you may see that in ten years time too? Fascinating it may be..but it goes from the non-fiction to the fantasifull. My opinion only of course.

The possibility of her being one of many willingly led down the garden path by ex police officers, and others, interested in promoting the legend of Jack will not have crossed her mind either.

Sickert.. Druitt.. Kosminski.. PAV.. you name them..and believe me. .someone with a clever mind will help re promote each one..time and time again. The game has become very predictable. Sorry.

Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙

Justice for the 96 = achieved
Accountability? ....
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Old 04-11-2017, 12:44 PM
Phil Carter Phil Carter is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4,193

To add..

I also note.. that the now retired policeman, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, whom Cornwell desribes as " still the most respected investigator in Great Britain as far as I'm concerned"..
Is also the very same person right bang slap in the middle of the "Freddie Mercury" suspect fit done by Scotland Yard a few years ago stating that the suspect was between "25-35" and between 5ft 5in and 5ft 7in, was of stocky build and lived at a known address in the area".

Not a very good description of Walter Sickert..who didnt have a Freddie Mercury moustache either please note.

As I said earlier. Led along the garden path. Keeping the story spinning.
Good old Scotland Yard.

Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙

Justice for the 96 = achieved
Accountability? ....
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Old 04-12-2017, 07:24 AM
Ozzy Ozzy is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: The Bar Of Gold Upper Swandam Lane
Posts: 142

Can't wait till Jonathan gets her on Rippercast for a one-to-one.
These are not clues, Fred.
It is not yarn leading us to the dark heart of this place.
They are half-glimpsed imaginings, tangle of shadows.
And you and I floundering at them in the ever vainer hope that we might corral then into meaning when we will not.
We will not.
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Old 02-03-2018, 08:21 PM
Roy Corduroy Roy Corduroy is offline
Chief Inspector
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,601

As in book 1, in book 2 the author continues to use Insp Abberline as a literary device, the hardworking detective "who never spoke of the case again."

Sink the Bismark
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