I was asked, on another thread, to outline a theory which shows that Francis Tumblety is the real figure behind the 'Drowned Doctor' mythos.
I'll start with some background bout my own journey on this theory.
I had never been interested in this topic until a few years ago when I saw the UK doco 'Secret History', which introduced me to the Littlechild Letter and Dr Tumblety.
Frankly I was gobsmacked, but not for the usual reason; that Tumblety was the great lost suspect. Quite the reverse; I felt that here potentially was the suspect the Ripper was supposed to be since the murders; a Gentile gentleman from the medical world.
In my adolescence I had heard that the so-called prime suspect, a middle-aged doctor who had drowned himself in the Thames on the night of the most ghastly murder, turned out not to be middle-aged, not to be a doctor, and not to have killed himself until later, and so I wrote off that suspect without a second thought [in fact, hardly a first thought either].
Now, years later, the aspect which stunned me about Tumblety was that he was a doctor, of sorts, was certainly middle-aged, and was being pursued by Scotland Yard in 1888 as a Ripper suspect, to what degree is today a matter of fierce and acrimonious contention [though only by a few humourless dogmatists who just do not understand that history is about competing interpretations of limited evidence, not final black-and-white conclusions].
But the doco [from 1996] was not saying that Tumblety had killed himself, or that police had thought he had done any such thing.
Plus he was certainly not English, so I put it down that this prime suspect had turned out to be a doctor as a co-incidence.
Until I read the excellent 'The Lodger' by Evans and Gainey.
It was then I discovered that not only was Littlechild writing to refute the 'Drowned Doctor' Super-suspect of George Sims himself, but that he also mentioned that, at the Yard, it was 'believed' [wrongly] that the American quack had committed suicide!
This was a revelation to me, for what that is worth, because now Sims' famous Ripper profile was being both challenged and explained.
Whilst M J Druitt was a too-late suspect and, according to the 1894 official version of Mac's Report, a minor, minor figure 'believed' only by his family -- not the police -- to be guilty, here was a 'very likely' suspect who had been, like Sims' figure, a medical man, no family only close pals, under-employed [no patients], very affluent, middle-aged, sexually 'deviant' and pursued by police [actually arrested unlike his fictional 'shilling shocker' counterpart].
A suspect who by implication was so promising that it involved both CID and the early version of Special Branch.
There were differences, of course, with Sims' figure; Irish-American not English, drowned himself in the Thames as opposed to vanishing after making it to France, homosexual not 'sexually insane', and so on.
Plus Sims' persistent detail that the 'demented doctor' had been once, 'perhaps twice', in a lunatic asylum did not apply at all to Tumblety or Druitt, though the latter's mother was incarcerated on the eve of the first Ripper murder.
Plus Druitt was a real person; as real as Tumblety, middle-aged doctor or not.
In the 1894 official version of the Mac Report Montague Druitt is a minor suspect, in the unofficial version [which I believe Mac rewrote in 1898 for one purpose only: to show and fool his literary cronies] he is transformed into the prime suspect. The heavy implication, swallowed whole by Griffiths and Sims, is that police were pursuing this 'Dr D' in 1888.
A complete misdirection.
Macnaghten was not on the Force in 1888 and so to make absolutely sure that Griffiths and Sims will buy this myth, Mac swaps places with the Druitt family. Now he, the police chief, is certain that this was the fiend, whilst the latter's unreliable relations only 'suspected', not 'believed'.
Then comes the about-face of Macnaghten's 1914 memoirs which deny that the un-named suicided suspect was contemporaneous with the 1888 investigation -- which Tumblety certainly was, and Druitt certainly was not?
Littlechild warns Sims that Major Griffiths probably got his information from Anderson who only had a theory. But Anderson's suspect was a Polish Jew, probably Aaron Kosminski.
Therefore, Littlechild may have misunderstood a comment by Sims who had written in 1903 that the 'drowned doctor' was the subject of a 'final' and 'conclusive' 'Home Office Report' by no less than the Commissioner. Littlechild may have misunderstood, wrongly assuming that Sims was referring to the Assistant Commissioner of 1888, Anderson, when he meant the Assistant Commissioner of 1903, when he wrote the article: Melville Macnaghten.
I believe that these lies Mac told Griffiths and Sims, to reassure them that the 'Drowned Doctor' was firmly believed by CID leadership to be the fiend, was partly sincere and partly a game he was playing; to hide certain embarrassing aspects of the case.
If Tumblety was the real prime suspect of 1888 then much that is obscure about competing police claims in the years afterwards makes sense -- to me at least.
I propose the following supposition for debate:
Francis Tumblety was the suspect of 1888 whom CID was hot for -- rightly or wrongly -- but there was nothing they could do without a confession, and that was hardly forthcoming. They arrested him for being a homsexual, and the swine got his big bail paid off, and slipped through their fingers. Ripper or not, this was hugely embarrassing in terms of what the tabloids could do with it.
Somehow the US tabloids picked up on this suspect but the British, except for the odd, un-named reference, did not. This may have been how Littlechild came to be involved at all. That Scotland Yard went for a security clampdown to muzzle the British press, using Tumblety's Irish-Fenien links -- if there were any -- to keep his name out of their media.
This worked a treat which is very typical of British laws and inconceivable to Americans -- prior to the Patriot Act.
Anderson hoped that he could put the debacle permanently behind him by charging a better suspect, but both Sadler in 1891 and Grainger in 1895, fizzled despite the latter being picked by the best witness -- probably Lawende.
As Anderson's memory began to crumble about a case he always thought received way too much attention, he began to fasten on an anti-Tumblety suspect: Kosminski.
Though the latter had never been hunted for between 1888 and 1891 Anderson began wishing he had been. This wish turned into a false memory, fusing the hunt for Tumblety in 1888 with the desire and regret that it had not been the Polish Jew, a wish fueled by the bitterness of the 'definitely ascertained fact' who got away.
Ever the public relations smoothie, Macnaghten was disgusted and alarmed by this ugly turn of events; that Anderson was beginning to tell the press that the Ripper had been some bloody poor Jew after all.
What next? That he got away because of another treacherous Jew??
Mac launched a propaganda offensive to head this off, quite successfully. He knew that the real chief suspect, rightly or wrongly, had been Tumblety, a Gentile not a Jew, though certainly a foreigner.
Yet disclosing Tumblety as the better suspect would severely embarrass Mac's beloved Yard?! Getting Tumblety off the English radar had worked so well, so don't ruin it.
Instead Mac dug out his Report of 1894 in which some minor suspects had been prepared in case of a Home Office request over the Cutbush matter [the real three suspects should have read: Tumblety, Sadler and Grainger but they were all too excruciating]. He decided that Druitt, a non-starter created by an hysterical family via a nitwit MP-school chum, could be used as a Trojan Horse for Dr Tumblety.
Mac had written, only half-seriously, that this surgeon's son might be a doctor to give him some Dr Jekyllish credibility with the Home Sec. but now that piece of fiction, and his suicide, could be exploited to get Tumblety out to the public ahead of Kosminski -- an even more minor, quite ludicrous suspect. [Mac must have thought Anderson was crackers?]
Macnaghten fused Druitt and Tumblety together, though only for public consumption and to quash what he perceived to be Anderson's egocentric, sectarian-driven sour grapes.
When Littlechild writes in 1913 that it was 'believed' at the Yard that Dr T killed himself he may either be referring to something he experienced which came from either Macnaghten -- who knew better -- or a befuddled Anderson, who didn't; that it was being actively put about that the American had killed himself soon after the Kelly murder.
I see Mac's discreet hand in all that.
It was the perfect fix in that both Druitt and Tumblety were unrecoverable, and so the American and the Druitts could not sue. The Tumblety fumble was now inverted, via Druitt, to become the super-efficient police hunt for a Super-suspect whom they nearly caught. Who practically killed himself because the Bobbies were fast closing upon the fiend.
Yes, Druitt's name would come out in a hundred years but in a document which claimed he was a minor suspect -- and made the 'error' that he was a doctor. Nobody would take him seriously as the Ripper if anybody still cared.
Well, mission accomplished on that one.
The Mac Memoirs of 1914 far from being candid are actually his last attempt to deflect anybody's attention away from Tumblety in 1888. Instead a suicided suspect who came to police attention 'some years after' was the best bet. Once more the un-named Druitt though so little of him is used here [eg. no mention of the Thames] that it is really Jack Not-a-Jew that counts, and little else.
Only Littlechild in 1913 lifted the lid on this shell game for Sims, 'Dr T' not some 'Dr D' [who never literaly existed] was the only contemporaneous prime suspect who matches your 'Drowned Doctor'. Yet Sims seems to have ignored the scoop he was being handed, or been privately 'reassured' by a sly-boots Mac -- or both.
"My arrest came about this way," said he. "I had been going over to England for a long time-ever since 1869, indeed-and I used to go about the city a great deal until every part of it became familiar to me.
I happened to be there when these Whitechapel murders attracted the attention of the whole world, and, in the company with thousands of other people, I went down to the Whitechapel district. I was not dressed in a way to attract attention, I thought, though it afterwards turned out that I did. I was interested by the excitement and the crowds and the queer scenes and sights, and did not know that all the time I was being followed by English detectives."
Jonathan, this certainly suggests the authorities took Tumblety seriously. I am excited to see the responses to your comments. It deserves some serious attention.
Just to be clear, I agree -- in this theory Tumblety is the prime suspect of 1888, no question. [And Littlechild never claims he was cleared either.]
Yet the theory exists independent of whether Dr T was the Ripper, something which Mac probably did not know and could not know. Mac's agenda was to nullify Anderson's nonsense, make the Yard look better, protect it from a libel backlash, and make it clear that there was a prime GENTILE suspect in 1888 who was a medical man.