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The History Press

Jack the Ripper - Letters from Hell
Edition: HB
Authors: Stewart P Evans & Keith Skinner
ISBN: 2549307509
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2001

From the Introduction

In November 1987 a large brown envelope was sent anonymously to New Scotland Yard. It bore a Croydon postmark. Fingerprint tests were carried out but they did not lead to the identification of the sender.The envelope contained old documents relating to the Dr Crippen case and the 'Jack the Ripper' murders. Included was a letter written in red ink, together with its envelope and original police mounting sheet. The letter was creased, a piece was missing from one side, and the ink had bled into the rather poor - quality paper. For many years this infamous document, with its now almost illegible postscript, had been missing from Scotland Yard's files, believed taken as a souvenir by a senior police officer. The public announcement about the return of the documents was not made until August 1988 when it received considerable press coverage and the Deputy Commissioner, John Dellow, gave interviews to reporters. The 'Dear Boss' letter had hit the news again almost a century after its first exposure. A headline in the Sun of Friday 19 August 1988 said it all: 'Ripper Taunts Police Again 100 Years On'.

This book includes an examination of that letter and many others. They represent a large body of frequently overlooked primary source material in the official Metropolitan Police files and the City of London Police papers: the correspondence generated by the Whitechapel Murders of 1888-91 and purporting to have been sent by the killer. Other authors have surveyed these documents, of course, but our work has involved examining and transcribing the original letters in the archives. This, we believe, is the only way to fully understand how the correspondence impacted on the case, and to appreciate, almost marvel, at the striking visual impact of some of the letters. Their historical importance lies in their huge social relevance; they reveal not only the thinking of the time, but also the profound effect that the murders had on individuals and on the Victorian newspapers.

Some of the letters have deteriorated little over the years. Others have fared less well. Much depends on the quality of the paper used. Some are friable, others robust, but at least now they are all properly conserved. The envelopes preserved with some of the letters in the Metropolitan Police files at the Public Record Office (PRO) appear to have suffered the attention of a keen philatelist at some time. Many never bore a postage stamp and are stamped with the Post Office's 2d charge as a result, but most of those that did have a postage stamp have not survived intact. Presumably prior to their deposit in the PRO someone tore off most of the postage stamps thus damaging these valuable historical documents and removing the information that was carried by their postmarks.

We have not attempted a psychological assessment of these letters, which is beyond the scope of this book and certainly beyond the capability of both authors! But we have been struck by how charged some of them are with emotional energy and personality. A closer study and analysis of them may reveal facets and themes worth exploring or developing. We have merely presented the preserved scripts, thus making them readily available for the first time. What we may be certain of, however, is that the legend of 'Jack the Ripper' resulted from and has endured because of this correspondence. Experts on the case are divided over the status of the documents. We know for certain that some series murderers do write letters to the police, so the possibility can never be excluded that within this material there is an actual letter, or letters, from the real 'Jack the Ripper'.

A Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper’s London

Edition: First

Author: Neil R Storey


Publishers: The History Press

Price £16.99

Publication Date: 2004

Looking at the title I am reminded in some respects that the period covered was not so long ago.  My Grandfather was born in 1873 and my Grandmother in 1880, this then was their childhood.  They didn’t live in London, but then poverty was no stranger to any big city.. The Portsmouth City Creed Registers record that at various dates between 1913 and 1930 my Great Grandparents and their children were admitted to the workhouse, apparently these shorts stays were for medical treatment. By then this establishment was attached to the hospital. 

The book is about crime.  However, what strikes a chord immediately is the terrible poverty – the real need of the citizens in what is often described as the greatest city of the world, the heart of the greatest empire on earth. 

Already in the space of the first six pages you encounter two photographs that illustrate vividly what it was truly like to go without.  The first is on the title page and is of a queue of women and children ‘waiting to buy ‘trimmings’ of meat outside one of the largest butchers in the East End’.  The second is on Page 11 of a similar venue ‘waiting for free stale bread and cakes outside Sweetings in Cheapside at 5.30am’.  A Policeman was needed to maintain order in the rush.

This book does of course cover all the murders alleged to have been committed by the person or persons who came to be called Jack the Ripper.  However, it covers much more as it journeys through the years month by month and catalogues all the other aspects of life in this period and very many other murders by persons who were known and executed. 

Perhaps a warning should be issued to potential readers, that many of the details are not pleasant, eg on 13 January 1885 Horace Robert Jay murdered his Fiancée by cutting her throat with a razor and attempting the same upon himself.  We are told that the Hangman had to take great care because of his neck wounds, the fear being that the head might come off!  In the book on the same page it features the death on 14 January 1892 of Prince Albert Victor Duke of Clarence (Eddy), one-time suspect in the Ripper murders.  I say one-time, because it seems he was proved to be elsewhere at those times.

At the very end of the book on Page 191 we meet another Ripper suspect.  On 31 December 1888 the body of Montague John Druitt was recovered from the Thames.  Could he have been Jack the Ripper?  Melville Macnaghten was in no doubt.

This book is more than a catalogue of murder, albeit at times it reads that way.  What it does do is highlight the terrible conditions that existed in so many households where human beings, often driven by poverty and need just snapped under pressure. 

There are many photographs I had never seen before.  The one of Newgate Prison 1895 shows exactly how it stood, on what is now the site of the Old Bailey, (Central Criminal Court) in the City of London.   "When will you pay me?" say the bells of old bailey? St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church.  The Old Bailey did not have its own bell.  This is probably the most famous criminal court in the world, and has been London's principal criminal court for centuries.  It hears cases remitted to it from all over England and Wales as well as the Greater London area. This is as it says, Murder, Dark Deeds and Macabre events in Victorian London.  It is worth buying this book for the photographs alone.

Rob Jerrard

Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard Investigates

Edition 1st

Authors: Stewart P Evans & Donald Rumbelow

ISBN: 0750942282

Publishers: The History Press

Price £20

Publication Date: November 2006

Publisher’s Title Information and the Preface

In 1888 the dreaded figure of Jack the Ripper stalked London's East End murdering prostitutes.  His crimes set in motion a huge police operation and have held a dark fascination over the public's imagination for over a century, yet his identity has never been proved.  Now, for the first time, two leading Ripper experts have joined forces to treat the case like a police investigation. Drawing on their unparalleled knowledge of the Jack the Ripper murders and their professional experience as police officers, they uncover clues that have remained undetected for over a hundred years.

The 'canonical' five Ripper victims are Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly.  Yet Scotland Yard's `Whitechapel Murders' files include another six suspected victims.  Drawing the reader into the world of police investigation in Victorian London, Evans and Rumbelow reveal, the conflict between the City and Metropolitan forces and the ridicule heaped on the police by the press. Investigating each murder, they conclude that only four of the eleven victims were actually killed by the Ripper.  Perhaps most tellingly, they question the motives behind the destruction of evidence - particularly the message ‘The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’, which was chalked on the wall near one murder site and rubbed out on the order of the Chief Commissioner - and ask whether the enigmatic Dr Robert Anderson, officer in charge of the investigation, knew the Ripper's true identity.

Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard Investigates strips away much of the nonsense that has accumulated since 1888 and reopens files on a case that will perhaps never be fully solved but will always fascinate.


Reviewing the literature on the subject of Jack the Ripper, both authors were struck that despite the plethora of books, nobody had approached the subject from the police viewpoint.  Usually suspect theories dominate any account of the Whitechapel murders and the police, notably Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, come in for abuse, ridicule and charges of incompetence at best.  We decided to look at the investigation as far as was possible from the police perspective, including only suspects known to the original police investigators and their contemporaries.  This means that well-known theories, such as those involving the Duke of Clarence (Queen Victoria's grandson), the artist Walter Sickert, James Maybrick and many others have been excluded from this book. That they will not have to go through yet another reworking of these ideas will no doubt come as a great relief to the reader, just as it did to the authors.

The police documents that survive, including letters from the public, can be found in the National Archives at Kew and in the Corporation of the City of London Records now deposited (temporarily) in the London Municipal Archives.  Stewart Evans spent more than five years transcribing the handwritten police documents to get as accurate a record of the case as was possible.  His work was subsequently published, in collaboration with Keith Skinner, as Jack the Ripper: The Ultimate Source Book.  This was our primary documentary source for the Scotland Yard investigation.  What survives is only a fraction of the original documentation, however.  Much was destroyed because of pressure on storage space.  Some was borrowed or stolen by contemporaries and their successors, and worse, by the modern ­day document thief still active in the National Archives.  Contemporary newspapers covered the investigation in great detail and we were able to use them to expand upon the available material still further. Newspaper reporters dogged the heels of the detectives, making the investigations more difficult, but adding to the record extra detail that otherwise might have been lost.

To understand the investigation more completely, it is necessary to show how the two London police forces, the Metropolitan and the City, worked both at the investigative and the beat level.  This has led us to include here explanations of force structures, organisation and methods of work.  The authors' own experience gave them some insight because some of the work practices discussed were still continuing when, armed only with the Victorian truncheon and whistle, they pounded their beats in the swinging sixties.

It is necessary, too, to clear away some of the misconceptions about the Victorian chain of command.  Popular belief greatly influenced by several movies which have him as their hero, is that Inspector Abberline was in charge of the case and the key investigator. While important, he was much further down the chain of command than is generally believed.  The key players for the Metropolitan Police were Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner; James Monro, who was his head of CID; and Dr Robert Anderson, who was to replace Monro when he resigned in the summer of 1888.  To understand the relationship between these men and the politicians at the Home Office it is necessary to explore the background to their careers and to examine why there was such conflict within Scotland Yard at the time of the Whitechapel murders.  Warren, it became clear, had to play the biggest role in this book and without understanding his past it is almost impossible to understand his behaviour during his period as commissioner.  This made it necessary to go back to the time when he was a soldier-archaeologist, the Indiana Jones of his day, which is why the book begins with the early career of Captain Warren in Jerusalem.  His subsequent treatment by Home Secretary Henry Matthews generally gets downplayed in examinations of the Ripper case, which is unfair to Warren, but it is instructive to note that Monro, when he succeeded Warren, was treated hardly more fairly.  When he in turn resigned it must have constituted something of a record for a home secretary to lose two commissioners in under two years.

Warren's character and the effect he had on the investigation form the spine of this story.  With the police angle in mind, we have concentrated on examining the ideas and suspect theories put forward by the leading officers in the case, especially Sir Robert Anderson, who claimed that the identity of the murderer was a definitely ascertained fact.  If any sort of solution to this case does exist, it has to be found in the police sources. If it is not there, then it may be safely assumed not to exist at all.

Stewart P Evans Donald Rumbelow

Authors' note: Letters, reports and notes are reproduced here in their original form without the introduction of modern punctuation or spelling, which could, the authors feel, unintentionally alter the writer's original meaning.

The Authors

STEWART EVANS is a leading crime historian who is widely considered one of the foremost specialists on the Victorian era, particularly on the exploits of Jack the Ripper. A former police officer, he is a frequent broadcaster on Ripper-related topics.  His previous books include, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, Jack the Ripper. Letters from Hell and The Man Who Hunted Jack the Ripper.  His most recent book is Executioner.  The Chronicles of James Berry, Victorian Hangman (Sutton, 2003).  He lives in Cambridgeshire.

DONALD RUMBELOW is an internationally recognised crime and London historian. He has featured in many radio and television documentaries.  Two of his books, The Houndsditch Murders and The Complete Jack the Ripper, which won the Swedish Academy of Detection Award as the Best Non-fiction Crime Book of the Year, were based wholly or in part on manuscripts and photographs which he rescued from destruction.  He is a former Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association and he collects first editions, eighteenth- and nineteenth ­century political prints and Napoleonica.  He is a professional lecturer/tour guide and former policeman.  He is married and lives in London.

Two Reviews

This book will be of great interest to members and ex-members of the Metropolitan and City of London Police as well as Ripperologists, because before re-examining all the evidence surrounding the deaths in 1888, it begins by looking at both forces, their organisation and leaders at that time. 

I cannot speak for the Metropolitan Police, but I know City of London officers past and present, will smile as their memories are jogged by some of the facts, surroundings and excellent photographs.  We are reminded that it was not until the Police Act of 1964 that Jurisdiction was granted for the City of London Police to enter Middle and Inner Temple.  I recall as the book says, senior barristers trying to order me to leave and still being convinced I was there merely upon invitation. 

We are reminded of the fact that to avoid accusations the London policemen had to wear uniform on and off duty. An armband showed whether a Constable or Sergeant was on duty. During my service as a Constable and a Sergeant I still wore the City’s red, which I personally liked. The book refers to how a Constable on the beat passed on news of a Sergeant or Inspector approaching and the methods were still used by some of the older officers, but mostly that it was the Governor approaching eg, the signal would be rubbing the tunic buttons up and down. 

Inspectors had a difficult time sneaking up on Constables in my service on Tower Bridge, because the London Transport Omnibus would flash its lights as it went south.  This of course did not account for certain underhand Sergeants, who travelled on the bus and came upon us from the south.

Reference is also given to whalebone marks (clips) to insert into doors as wedges.  Cotton thread was another way of seeing if illegal entry had been gained.  This practise still continued in the City in 1963 when Donald Rumbelow was a probationer on C Bishopsgate Division, but I can confirm that by 1968 when I was a probationer it had died out. CH Rolph in his autobiography explains all these practises in more detail - see ‘Living Twice' by CH Rolph (Chief Inspector Cecil Rolph Hewitt, City of London Police 1921 - 1946).

Like so many Bishopsgate Constables I often walked through Mitre Square on night duty, Catherine Eddowes hadn’t strayed very far into the City of London the night she died there.  She probably came straight down Houndsditch after turning left out of Bishopsgate Police Station when she was released.

This book like many before it does not solve the problem of who Jack was or finally confirm how many of these unfortunate women were killed by him - four or more.  I myself would settle on four.  The ‘canonical’ five of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly are fully considered.

This book should stand as a good social history as well as a good account of the evidence available and it should serve to warn us, as Don Rumbelow points out in his ‘notes for the curious’ - his author’s epilogue - we are guilty often of throwing out documentation that future generations may treasure or would have, had they had the opportunity.

It is understood that City Police photographs of the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey (1973) and the Moorgate tube disaster (1975) were thrown away after five years. 

I have been trying to redress this matter in a small way by asking on my website for any old City of London Police photographs and a few have been forwarded to me.  I pass these on to our welfare office for publication in the City of London pensioners’ newsletter and they are also on my website.

I do not confess to have been a great reader of Ripper books over the years, however they are still appearing at an alarming rate with about six being reviewed on my website between 2005-2006.   Many try to pin the murders on one individual.  This book covers the available evidence well.  I doubt if I shall be lined up with Ripperologists on the Day of Judgment when the Ripper is asked to step forward, but I might join them all in saying "Who?"

When I remember night duty in the City of London, some dark alleyways around Bishopsgate beat did give way to even darker ones if you strayed east, I prefer to remember French Ordinary Court, which runs north out of Crutched Friars and those beautiful smells of spice and rum at the bonded warehouse not far from it.  The authors are to be congratulated on an excellent book.  I have only commented briefly on a very well researched book.

Rob Jerrard

The credentials of the writers are impeccable.  Donald Rumbelow was the author of the first edition of The Complete Jack the Ripper as far back as 1975.  Stuart Evans was co-author of Jack the Ripper: The Ultimate Source Book and Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell in 2000 and 2001 respectively.  His Ultimate Source Book, containing transcriptions of the original documents, was used as the primary source for the new book.

The authors set themselves the task of producing a work which approaches the subject from a ‘police’ viewpoint.  In other words, following only the evidence gleaned by the police even at the risk of it producing absolutely no closure.  To the delight of the serious reader, this means avoiding the rehashing of theories about the Duke of Clarence, Walter Sickert, Dr Tumblety and others whose names do not appear in any official file.

One of the problems arising in this approach is the absence from the files of some of the original documents.  Even before the records were officially opened to the public privileged individuals were allowed an unofficial peek.  Regrettably, some appear to have removed documents as souvenirs!  Either that or some official pruning could have taken place before the papers were deposited in the Public Records Office.  Be that as it may, there has never been anything to suggest that the Duke of Clarence et al ever got a mention in those missing documents or elsewhere.  Even worse, the premature destruction by the police of documents such as police notebooks, station occurrence books, witness statements and reports, means that source material, available to the police in late Victorian times, is now sadly incomplete.  The City Police might have had a fairly complete collection of its documents at their stations or headquarters.  However, the activities of the Luftwaffe in the 1940s, followed by the attentions of a well-meaning London Fire Brigade, would have left little for the archivist.  In any event, might it not be the case that the surviving files tell only the story of what the senior investigators felt should be properly documented and submitted to Scotland Yard, or the Home Office, rather than burdening them with the minutiae which might have been contained in other papers kept at the stations?  Probably not, but these were the type of problems facing the authors.  Bearing those caveats in mind, they have done an exceptionally good job of recording the events in logical sequence while describing the issues they saw as having confronted the investigating officers at the time.  One thing is clear, most police forces never had a clear policy about the retention of documents, even those of possible archive value. 

Before getting down to the actual murders, the authors examine the policing of London as it existed in 1888.  The antecedents of the Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, are studied in some depth on the basis that only by understanding his earlier experiences, both military and archaeological, can the difficulties facing him on his first appointment as a police chief be fully appreciated.  What emerges is a picture of a man, while without a police or civil service background, was nonetheless an honourable man, often unjustly vilified by the contemporary media.  Indeed, had the Trafalgar riots not erupted during his early months in office, he might have received a fairer hearing from the press thereafter.  Whoever had been in post at that time would have had a rough ride with the media.  The picture often painted by writers of his disappearance from the scene after the Mary Kelly murder is incorrect, since he effectively worked out a months notice thereafter.  The reader will come away with the impression that Warren certainly did his best under extremely difficult circumstances.  He was rarely supported, indeed his efforts were often frustrated, by a Home Office with its own, rather unclear agenda.

At the time the newly appointed Head of CID, Sir Robert Anderson, and the City’s Acting Commissioner Henry Smith enjoyed a relatively peaceful ride by comparison due to their non-involvement in the Trafalgar Square events.  However, when the authors examine their writings, penned in retirement, inconsistencies appear.  Fading memories become apparent and to this day continue to lead researchers to question their post facto accounts.  The more dignified silence in retirement of subordinates, such as Swanson, stand out and the little comment they did make has more credibility.

The actual murders, from Emma Smith in early 1888 through to Alice Coles in 1891, are examined through witness statements and the reports of officers actually engaged at the murder scenes or on the investigations.  Only where necessary for completeness is supporting comment from press reports used.

Letters from a wide variety of sources, addressed either to the police or the press, illustrate a Victorian public offering advice as to who the perpetrator might be and how particular courses of action might lead to an arrest.  These letters and the commentary of the authors throughout the book serve to recreate the atmosphere of the time.  Indeed readers may come away with the feeling that they are a little clearer in their minds about late Victorian thinking, than who the mysterious killer is likely to have been.  The book, incidentally, is profusely illustrated throughout.  Understandably some of the same photographs and illustrations have appeared in many of the books produced on the murders in the last three decades.  There are, however some which will be new to all save the most serious police historian.  The authors, and indeed The History Press and their printers, are to be congratulated in making the illustrations match the appropriate text.  These help capture the context of events admirably.    

Having dealt with the murders the writers devote excellent chapters to the questions ‘Was there a Police Solution?’ and ‘Did Anderson Know?   As to the first the reader is assisted by accounts from contemporary police officers.  The reader is likely to conclude that  there is no hard evidence against any suspect.  As to Anderson’s ‘information’, which suggests he did know something but was not telling, the absence of satisfactory corroboration leaves the reader in doubt.  Even the unfortunate Kosminski is rated only as a ‘suspect’.

The text concludes with the authors’ epilogues.  Readers may be tempted to turn to this first to see what conclusions the authors reach as to the possible perpetrator.  Stuart Evans is comparatively pessimistic, fearing that, after such a long passage of time, we may never learn the true identity of the Victorian ‘Jack the Ripper’.  Donald Rumbelow reveals signs of optimism on the basis that, since snippets of information pertinent to the murders do come to light from time to time, something might just might turn up.   He does, however, admit to having a personal ‘favourite’ suspect offering the name of Timothy Donovan, the keeper of the lodging house frequented by Annie Chapman.     Now there’s a thing!  Mr Rumbelow has had a particular interest in Donovan for some time as evidenced by an entry under Donovan’s name in The Jack the Ripper A-Z as far back as 1991.   Yet these suspicions were not examined in detail in either of his Complete Jack the Ripper editions.  What does he know that we do not?  It would be interesting to know exactly what it is that points him in Donovan’s direction.

Overall, the book provides probably the best introductory account of the Whitechapel murders to date.  Hard-nosed Ripperologists will find it an excellent read and just maybe, the book will help bring about the final ditching of some of the ‘wilder’ views expounded over the last fifty years.


The Secret Lives of Montague Druitt

Author: D J Leighton

ISBN: 0750943297

Publishers: The History Press

Price £18.99

Publication Date: 2006


1888 saw a series of murders in the East End of London which were attributed to the same hand, thus starting the ‘Jack the Ripper’ legend.  The case files were ‘closed’ in 1892 but, during 1894, the head of the Metropolitan detective branch, Melville Macnaghten, penned a report which was added to the file.

The report followed a story in the Sun newspaper, claiming that a mentally ill man, who had wounded two women in Kennington, was the elusive ‘Jack the Ripper’.  The purpose of Macnaghten’s report was to indicate that there were three particular suspects who were far more likely candidates.  He named Montague Druitt as the one about whom he had the strongest suspicions, although he gave no indication as to why.  Druitt’s body had been found floating in the Thames at the end of December 1888.  Presumably Macnaghten’s report was intended for use should the Home Office request information, but it was filed away never to see the light of day until the papers were officially open to the public in 1976.

Prior to their release, the writer Daniel Farson was given access to a privately held draft of the report.   Subsequently he and others wrote books putting forward a case against Druitt.  Not many people who have studied the official documentation in any depth support the Druitt theory, although a number remain convinced of his guilt.  But the ‘evidence’ is highly circumstantial and there is nothing to put Druitt in the vicinity of any of the murder scenes.  

In ‘Ripper Suspect’ DJ Leighton examines the life of Druitt and, in a few paragraphs at the end, debunks the idea of him being the murderer and makes a strong case for Druitt’s innocence.

The author is a lifelong cricket supporter and it was the game that attracted him to the story, Druitt himself  being a keen cricketer.  Although he never quite made it into county cricket, Druitt played for teams that, at various times, contained people who had represented their country.  He himself was no mean cricketer.  The author was able to turn up many score cards from games in which Druitt played, acquitting himself particularly well as a bowler. 

Cricketing facts abound.  Even ‘Bodyline’ bowling in the 1930s gets a mention, suggesting the author was not prepared to let the Druitt story get in the way of cricketing history.  We also learn that Conan Doyle was good enough to play for the MCC and to have dismissed WG Grace.  Grace himself should have been a good candidate to become the first ‘cricketing knight’, Mr Leighton says.  However, the suggestion is that he was seen as overly ‘professional’ and fees paid to him amounted to over a million pounds at present values.  Much of the book is devoted to cricket in the 19th century and how the well-to-do spent their leisure time.

The main thrust of the book is that Druitt’s cricketing activities in 1888 are well documented.  Thus he is unlikely to have been responsible for some of the ‘Ripper’ murders and there is absolutely no evidence against him for the remainder.  The Duke of Clarence, Freemasonry and the Cleveland Street house of ill-repute are taken out for their customary airing, as are the ‘usual suspects’ although it is not the object of the book to examine them in any depth.

Strangely enough it may be the cricketing aspect of the book that intrigues readers even more than the Druitt connection!  Many will return the book to the library and immediately take home something on the history of cricket!  


"Internet Law Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard 2009