Authors Preface

 

In the last decade of the nineteenth century Doctor Thomas Neill Cream was hanged at Newgate for poisoning prostitutes. More recently a letter appeared in the press written by a W. Jack Heaney of Lincolnshire, stating that his grandfather had a friend, the hangman Billington, who insisted that Cream had gasped with his last breath: “I am Jack ---” before being dispatched abruptly below. That Billington was apparently the only one to hear the confession in no way detracts from the veracity of his claim, since he was obviously positioned closest to the hooded and therefore slightly muffled wretch.

Intrigued and, like the Victorian police, having not a clue as to the identity of Jack the Ripper”, I decided to inquire into the history of the sinister Doctor Cream - finding that he had during the Whitechapel atrocities in 1888, to all intents, been confined in an American prison for the crime of murder by means of strychnine poisoning.

Yet an odd contradiction in Cream’s character caught my attention. Raised from early childhood in Canada, he was already displaying criminal tendencies as a high-flying medical student at McGill University while also indulging in frequent bouts of religious fervour, often preaching piously at Sunday school.

I felt it questionable whether such a man, doubtless convinced in that awful moment of reckoning that Divine Judgment was at hand, would with his last breath utter a false confession. Unless, of course he was not merely depraved but insane - a plea which was found totally unacceptable at his final trial in 1892.

The venue of Cream’s first conviction having been Chicago of the eighteen eighties, which, as a result of widespread corruption was soon to become a gangland citadel for the likes of Al Capone, I began seriously to consider whether, after all, the good doctor might not have managed to bribe his way out of jail earlier than was recorded. Particularly since one year previous to the Ripper crimes he had come into what was for those days a sizable inheritance.

Given that under such circumstances he had been able to buy his freedom and escape to England some time before 1888, and that he certainly specialised in the sadistic murder of prostitutes, Thomas Neill Cream would undoubtedly, have been a prime Ripper suspect; but it is generally assumed that his term of imprisonment in America constituted a perfect alibi. A hardened cynic however might be disposed to question. such an assumption, readily accepting that large sums of available cash could (and can) open any doors ---even the barred variety.

Mr. A.C. Trude, a prominent American attorney who had defended Cream in the notorious Chicago murder trial went on record as suggesting that the subsequent shortening of Cream’s life sentence, ostensibly to ten years,was effected by political influence obtained by a free use of money”; and, furthermore, that on commencement of his sentence in 1881 the prisoner’s father had furnished a well-known politician with the sum of five thousand dollars, to procure, so it was implied, his unconditional release.

From which the inference may be drawn that there is nothing new in political sleaze, except perhaps the term, turning up Donald Bell’s inspirational article published in `The Criminologist’ (Volume 9, No. 33, 1974) entitled `Jack the Ripper - the Final Solution’, I was encouraged to find his hypothesis outlining Cream as the Whitechapel slayer agreed in almost all essentials, with my own, particularly on the pivotal issue of Cream having been bought out or escaped from jail before 1888. Far from being impossibility, as Bell revealed, between 1924 and 1936 when prison security was far tighter than it had been back in the eighteen eighties, it was recorded that as many as 204 convicts escaped from Illinois jails. But had Cream done so? Donald Rumbelow, in his excellent book `The Complete Jack the Ripper’ M. H. Allen, London 1987); he thought not, by reason of three affidavits. none of which, however, in my opinion, establishes entirely beyond doubt that Cream was still in prison until 1891. The substance of these is as follows:

1) On the death of Cream’s father in 1887 an executor to his Will, Thomas Davidson, applied for evidence as to Cream’s guilt in respect of the murder for which he was serving a life sentence in Illinois. Davidson claimed he received “such documentary evidence as convinced me of his innocence.” One wonders by what evidence he was so convinced, for during an interview with the `Chicago Tribune’ of 28th October 1881, Senator Fuller expressed no such conviction: “he … believes there is as little error in the record of this case as in any criminal case he was ever connected with, and he does not believe it possible for the Supreme Court to find anything than can reverse the case. It is a case, he says, where there can be no possible doubt of the guilt of the defendant, and the crime is one that stands almost without a parallel in the annals of crime.”

Davidson nevertheless pursued his efforts to secure Cream’s pardon up until the summer of 1891. “...he came to me immediately in Quebec on being liberated …”

While Mr Davidson, in swearing that Cream came to him “immediately”, was probably doing so in good faith, he had absolutely no way of being certain that this was so. If the prisoner had been secretly freed by the authorities in 1887, only appearing in Quebec four years later, when the per-arranged “official” date of his release, July 31st, 1891, was announced (in low key) Mr Davidson might have been deceived into an incorrect assumption as to exactly when Cream left jail.

2) An affidavit from Cream’s sister-in-law Jessie swore that Cream (to the best of her knowledge) had been released from prison “on or about 29 July 1891,” and stayed with her family in Quebec until he had sailed for England in October 1891. This statement did not tally with one made by her husband Daniel to Inspector Frederick Jarvis, reporting from Montreal on July 4th 1892 that Daniel Cream had told him: “..the prisoner arrived at his (Daniel’s) house in Quebec on the morning of 20th January last but his wife objected to his staying there as she did not like his manner … In consequence he went to Blanchard’s Hotel.” Ruling out Cream’s arrival and whereabouts in Quebec, it is reasonable to suppose that Jessie Cream had simply been duped by the same means as W. Davidson into believing he had recently been set free.

3) Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency said that Cream had written to them from prison in December of 1890, requesting an interview. Assuming again that there had been collusion between Cream and the authorities, letters could conceivably have been penned elsewhere by Cream from the prison...

There is no evidence as to whether such an interview actually took place, but if so the Pinkerton agent, who had probably never met Cream, would be unaware that he was confronting the look-alike, paid, arguably, to serve the remainder of Cream’s sentence. Had it dawned on the authorities, two years after the Ripper crimes, that they may inadvertently have loosed on the world a serial killer, some such deception would have been essential for their own protection, as well as Cream’s, with the object of establishing that he was still in jail until 1891 - a cover up of cover ups, as it were. Based on the premise that there was such collusion between Cream and the authorities on the matter of his earlier release, the three affidavits have little validity.

If it appears distinctly improbable that Cream had an accomplice serving out his sentence at Joliet, I would cite an account made by the celebrated advocate: Sir Edward Marshall Hall, in his biography by Edward Marjoribanks “The Life of Sir Edward Marshall Hall”. At Cream’s second murder trial in 1892,

Hall recognised the prisoner in the dock as a former client whom he had once defended at the Old Bailey on a charge of bigamy. Cream, confronted by a number of women, all insisting he who hadmarried” each and every one of them; he was advised by Hall, to plead guilty.

Cream eschewed his advice, insisting he was serving a sentence in an Australian prison when the offences were said to have taken place. Hall sent a cable to the Sydney authorities, and was astounded to have Cream’s story verified, inasmuch as a man of his description had in fact been detained by them at the time in question. The case was accordingly dismissed, leaving a baffled Hall to conclude that Cream must have a double in the underworld willing for some reason to provide him with an alibi - a not unprecedented situation at a time when, without even an established fingerprinting system, much less more recent innovations such as DNA and blood typing, there were few reliable means of identification.

If Marshall Hall was right in suspecting that his client had a confederate to supply him with an alibi, it is highly probable that Cream would in the future, if and when necessary, make further use of such an arrangement; and he may well have done so, as soon as the opportunity arose, in order to abscond from Joliet.

As against Bell’s thesis (and my own) it has been observed that Cream’s established modus operandi (poisoning of prostitutes) differed from that of the Ripper. However, the ever increasing incidence of unsolved crimes does suggest that implicit reliance on modus operandi is now archaic; and should perhaps be replaced by modern methods of psychological profiling, together with assessments of the criminal’s genetic makeup.

The modus operandi of both Peter Kurten, the Dusseldorf Ripper and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, varied as follows: Peter Kurten, murder by means of drowning, strangling, axe attacks, battering, stabbing, and in his own admission, poisoning. A criminal of Cream’s (and indeed the Ripper’s) devious mentality was more than capable of changing his modus operandi deliberately to confuse the police as, wholly consciously, did Kurten. Rumbelow in `The Complete Jack the Ripper’ observes of Kurten:More importantly, he thought that these variations would give him still greater sexual satisfaction.” And, in the same book, regarding the Yorkshire Ripper. “Sutcliffe’s last six victims have a special significance. None of them were prostitutes. All of them were respectable women. This made a change in the modus operandi employed.”

Cream conversely specialized in murdering prostitutes, (or probably any woman whom he might class as “low”), but not necessarily in the method of killing them. Most certainly he was strongly motivated by a compulsive sadistic urge, i.e. an intense desire to inflict suffering - his methods ranging from blackmail, and the writing of scurrilous post-cards (inflicting acute mental suffering) to poisoning by strychnine (inflicting acute physical suffering).

The mere awareness of his victim’s pain was sufficient to afford him intense gratification - he did not require necessarily to witness the events.

Presuming that Cream had been the Ripper, and found himself on at least one occasion uncomfortably close to capture, it would have been typical of him some four years later, confirmed sadist that he was, to resort again to strychnine as an equally if not more agonizing method than the knife – and without the attendant risks of being present at the kill.

Bell must certainly be credited with producing some remarkable material to support his case, particularly the photograph showing Cream wearing a horseshoe pin, precisely as described by George Hutchinson, considered by the police a reliable eye-witness to the suspected murderer of Mary Jane Kelly in Miller’s Court. That Cream possessed and continually displayed such a pin does not of course in itself prove that he was the same man spotted by Hutchinson - the “lucky” horseshoe was doubtless a popular form of adornment at the time. However there were surely not many men established as sadists, prostitute killers, qualified surgeons, users of American terminology, (& etc) - all characterized by the Ripper - who also wore horseshoe pins!

More recently, on November 21st, 2006, in a televised episode of Channel Five’sRevealed,” Laura Richards, Behaviour Psychologist attached to New Scotland Yard’s Violent Crime Directorate, revealed that as a result of compiling all available witness statements made to the police at the time, she had come up with an E-Fit photograph which, when superimposed on the above mentioned photograph of Cream, matched with astonishing accuracy his jaw structure, nose and prognathous chin.

In `The Crimes Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper’ (George Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987) while in no way intending to discredit Martin Fido’s splendid book, he does seem unintentionally to underline the likelihood that Cream was the Ripper. Regarding the Ripper letters:The reoccurring Americanism; `Boss’, does not point to the murderer’s nationality. Their sadistic humour does not necessarily reflect his temperament. The similarity of some letters to the handwriting of the poisoner Neill Cream does not mean that he wrote them.”

Taken individually - agreed - but there again, taken collectively: Cream’s background was American, he was arrested for writing sadistic postcards and - what one would assume to be a confirmation of Cream’s guilt rather than a denial - a handwriting expert positively identified his writing with that of the Ripper.

It seems extraordinary that Donald Bell, who in my view put forward the most plausible theory of all, backed on solid research and sound common sense, was generally dismissed for suggesting, on grounds too numerous to be entirely coincidental, that Cream was the Ripper. Yet at least one film company produced a star-studded extravaganza based on the extremely unlikely supposition that Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Sir William Gull (ailing and in his seventies) abetted by several prominent members of the British government, including the Prime Minister, had committed the ripping

xii  in an attempt to shield the monarchy from scandal. If so, with what dreaded apprehension must the poor dear Queen, presumably also in on the plot, have anticipated the visits of her Physician Extraordinary!

Again, the elaborate theory, reintroduced with due solemnity by Brian Worth, O.B.E. on an I.T.V. Crime Monthly Special that the Ripper was actually an East End Jewish immigrant called Aaron Kosminski seemed to be based on the flimsiest of evidence. Though that unfortunate person, thrown in Coney Hatch Asylum for what is to be hoped were valid reasons, could read and write, he was almost certainly not wholly at ease in the language of his adopted country. How then to account for the famous letter, graphically inscribed in red ink and expressed in fluent English (or is it American?) -- a relic which, despite conflicting beliefs as to its authenticity, has been observed by this author reverently exhibited on the wall of the Black Museum at New Scotland Yard, and therefore presumably regarded by the police as genuinely from Jack the Ripper. And Mr. Worth formerly assistant head of the C.I.D.!

Worth’s Victorian predecessor was Sir Robert Anderson who claimed rather feebly in his memoirs `The Lighter Side of Life’ that he was “almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer, but no public benefit would result from such a course and the traditions of my own department would suffer.”

The fact that his department had failed abysmally to apprehend the Ripper, thereby exposing the police force to stringent criticism, was undoubtedly far more damaging than any revelation he might, possibly, have been in a position to make as to the identity of the killer. Indeed, were Anderson able to name the Ripper, it would surely have been his clear duty, in the interests both of his department and public security, to have done so.

Anderson, as it emerged, merely shared a commonly held suspicion (did not, after all, Whitechapel abound with their sort?) that the Ripper was a Polish Jew, suggesting that it was “a remarkable fact that “people of that class in the East End will not give up one of their number to Gentile Justice” - an accusation against the integrity of the Jewish community which was not backed by a vestige of real evidence and which would no doubt today be considered a clear breach of race relations. One might be forgiven for speculating that if the Ripper ever had been brought to book it would have been by error rather than trial! Nor were Sir Melville Macnaghten’s notes, written some years after the events, any the more reassuring, since he seemed to be under the misguided impression that his main suspect, the aforementioned Kosminski, had developed homicidal tendencies as a result of indulgence, so it was claimed, in “solitary vices”; and was therefore a perfect candidate for the role of Ripper. It would seem the police were so desperate to find a scapegoat for the crimes that practically anyone who could be established as rather eccentric, foreign, weak in the head, of a poetic temperament or downright insane was in danger of becoming a suspect.

xiii

Into this category I would place among many others, the likes of Druitt the Cricketer (the rumour of his guilt only surfacing way after 1888, and then via NcNaghten and his unfounded suspicions); Pedachenko the Assassin (whose motivation for the rippings, so we are asked to swallow, was a purported plot by the Russians to discredit the British police); and Eddy the Royal (who happened inconveniently to be out of town on the night of at least one ripping).

It is surely a good deal more credible that a cunning and moneyed criminal with all the hallmarks of a psychotic killer, bribed his way out of an Illinois jail earlier than the authorities dared admit, absconded to England where he committed the Ripper atrocities, and returned to America to hide out until his supposed release in 1891. Of established sociopaths, George Chapman was in the right place at the right time and possessed rudimentary medical know-how, but no particular predilection for murdering prostitutes; the same applying to Frederic Bailey Deeming who specialised rather in dispatching wives than whores. That Deeming had claimed to be the Ripper was never substantiated, and besides he did not have the professional expertise demonstrated by the Ripper -- any more than did the other butchers, bakers and candlestick makers who used knives to perform their work. Despite a certain amount of contradictory medical opinion, the majority of doctors who had examined the victims were convinced that the Ripper possessed considerable surgical skill. At the inquest on Annie Chapman, Dr. George Bagster Phillips, who was a Division Police Surgeon with twenty years of practical experience said: “Obviously the work was that of an expert - or one, at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical or pathological examinations as to be enabled to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife.” Cream was a practised and qualified surgeon who had trained both in Montreal and St.Thomas’s Hospital, London.

The super hyped “The Diary of Jack the Ripper” by Shirley Harrison and Michael Barrett which surfaced dramatically in 1993, purporting to be the long-lost genuine confession of Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick (himself allegedly murdered by his wife Florence) was exposed as a fraud by a national newspaper.

In the scholarly “Jack the Ripper. Summing up and Verdict” by Colin Wilson and Robin Odell (Bantam Press, 1987) it is observed that there is no hard evidence Cream was the Ripper. Quite so, but with the greatest respect to Messrs Wilson and Odell, neither is there, in my submission, an iota of evidence that would stand up in a Court of Law behind any theory hitherto propounded as to the identity of the Whitechapel killer. Nor after more than a century, with the exception of circumstantial evidence, is anything likely to emerge.

For this reason I have, in part, used the technique of psychological profilers, in an attempt to fathom the criminal mentality of this Victorian sociopath. However, the study as a whole is not based on dramatic representation, but solidly researched documentary records, which are clearly set out in the text and can be corroborated. Licence has only been employed to illustrate, for instance, how Cream’s elaborate scam might have been contrived. Whether or not it was so contrived must be judged from the information provided, and which I believe, taken as a whole, will convince the reader that Thomas Neill Cream, as he himself confessed, was indeed Jack the Ripper.

 

SHIRLEY vE. Embry (nee Goulden) ©2006