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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Doctors and Coroners

 
 
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Old 11-07-2017, 10:19 AM
Sam Flynn Sam Flynn is offline
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Default Baxter's influence on Ripper lore

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisherman View Post
Sam Flynn: Phillips certainly mentioned anatomical knowledge, which Baxter turned into anatomical SKILL in his summing up.

Sorry, Gareth - this can be nothing but an unsubstatiated guess of yours.
It is substantiated by the evidence that survives and, because it is based on the historical sources, it's not a "guess" either.
Quote:
Sam Flynn: Baxter's assertion that the killer must have been accustomed with the dissection room seems to have been conjured out of thin air...

Fisherman No, it seems to be a quotation from Phillips´ testimony.
That is not confirmed by the sources. This is the exchange that went on between Baxter and Phillips, reported by several newspapers, in this case the Morning Advertiser:

Baxter: Could the wounds have been inflicted by any instrument used by a military man, such as a sword or sword bayonet?
Phillips: No, I think.
Baxter: Or any instrument such as a medical man would use for post-mortem purposes?
Phillips: No ordinary case would contain such an instrument.
Baxter: Would a slaughterman use such a knife?
Phillips: I think so, especially if the knife was well ground down.

Note that Phillips says quite clearly that the murder weapon was not of the kind that one would find in a post-mortem room, and - furthermore - he evidently didn't rule out the possibility that the murder weapon might have belonged to a slaughterman.

Therefore, how on earth could Baxter, summing up a few days later, say:

"Baxter: There are no meaningless cuts... No unskilled person could have known where to find [the uterus], or have recognised it when it was found. For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been some one accustomed to the post mortem room." (Several sources)

I've looked around in the sources a bit, but I cannot for the life of me find any reference to Phillips having said, or even hinted, at anything like all that. It seems to be entirely based on Baxter's opinions. No medical person worth their salt would suggest that only anatomically "skilled" people would know where the uterus was, nor that they wouldn't recognise it when found. Butchers and slaughterers might not have had many dealings with human bodies, but it's preposterous to suggest that they wouldn't have known roughly where to find and recognise a womb. And how Baxter got from Phillips' "no ordinary [post mortem] case would contain such an instrument" to "[the killer] must have been someone accustomed to the post mortem room" is baffling.
Quote:
Sam Flynn: it is perhaps significant that Baxter said this almost as a prelude to trotting out his pet theory that the killer was involved in the black market organ trade.

Fisherman: Once again, if he had gravely misqouted Phillips, we would have heard of it.
I don't see that we'd necessarily have heard about it at all.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisherman
The american doctor matter cannot be used to alter that - the whole world was listening, and there was no room for lying on behalf of a coroner.
I'm not saying that Baxter was lying, just flowering things up. He was about to embark on trotting out his pet theory about the black-market organ trade, and my guess - yes, it is a guess this time - is that Baxter's theory may have looked a little more credible if he made the killer seem a little more skilled than Phillips actually said.

Incidentally, perhaps world wasn't yet listening, although interest in the Ripper case was certainly picking up. I'm not even sure that Phillips was present, as Baxter's summing-up took place a few days after Phillips had been recalled to give evidence.

I've had some fun with Bagster Phillips in the past but, on closer inspection, some of the more outlandish claims often attributed to him seem to have stemmed, if not from enterprising journalists, then from the famously flamboyant, and evidently larger-than-life figure of Coroner Wynne Baxter. How much influence, for good or ill, do you think he had on the case?

Discuss.
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