Although he is not the first in history, he has become the one of the most controversial serial killer due to the fact that he was never captured, and he was the beneficiary of the beginning of the widespread of press coverage. The suspects were never apprehended due to the lack of evidences. The press were responsible for creating a myth behind Jack the Ripper. There are differences of opinion as to how many victims are there that Jack the Ripper was responsible. As Philip Sugden wrote on his book, The Complete History of Jack the Ripper: There is no simple answer.
In a sentence: at least four, probably six, just possibly eight (Barbee, Introduction to the Case). There are, however, five universally accepted victims of Jack the Ripper, dubbed as the canonical five. They are: Mary Ann Nichols who was found dead on a Friday, August 31, 1888; Annie Chapman who was found dead on a Saturday, September 8, 1888; Elizabeth Stride, who was found dead on a Sunday, September 30, 1888; Catherine Eddowes, who was found dead on the same day as Elizabeth Stride; and Mary Jane Kelly, who was found dead on a Friday, November 9, 1888. According to Robin Odell in his book Ripperology:
The five victims are bound together by the fact that they were all prostitutes living and working in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. They were all found with their throats cut and suffered various degrees of mutilation, except Stride. It is likely that she too would have been mutilated if the killer had not been disturbed¦ What is not in doubt is that the murderer was adept with the knife. With the exception of the final murder of Mary Kelly, all the killings occurred in the street, or in the case of Annie Chapman, a backyard accessed from the street. (p. xvii). It is important to study the facts on the cases of Jack the Ripper.
They were the bases of the theories that have been presented. We know that all of the victims were women who are living and working as prostitutes within the areas of Whitechapel and Spitalfields area. They were strangled to death or until they were unconscious. The autopsies constantly revealed clear indications that the victims had been strangled (Barbee, Introduction to the Case). No scream was heard before the bodies of the victims were found. There were no bruises found at the back of the heads of the victims, indicating that the bodies were lowered to the ground rather than having been thrown or been left to fall.
No sign of struggle. No sign of rape or of any sexual intercourse. The victims throat were cut while they were on the ground. Splatter stains show that the blood pooled beside or under the neck and head of the victim rather than the front which is where the blood would flow if they had been standing up (Barbee, Introduction to the Case). The bodies were then mutilated and eviscerated on different degrees. There were also missing internal organs from the crime scene. All of the victims were left on plain sight. The method of killing and the type of victims provide an insight on the profile of the killer.
The most plausible theory of who the real Jack the Ripper is that he is a doctor or someone with surgical knowledge. The coroner who studied the murder of Annie Chapman said that no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations. It must have been someone in the post-mortem room (Hayes, Revelations of the True Ripper, p. 27). Dr. George Bagster Phillips said that the murder was obviously the work¦of an expert or one, at least, who had such knowledge of pathological examinations as to be able to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife (Hayes, p 27).
According to Vanessa Hayes in her book Revelations of the True Ripper: One can conclude from these official reports that the person who committed the murders had a good knowledge of female organs and was adept at using a knife or a scalpel (p. 27). Furthermore, the coroner concluded: His anatomical skill carries him out of the category of a common criminal, for his knowledge could only have been obtained by assisting in post-mortems, or by frequenting the post-mortem rooms¦ His hands were undoubtedly bloodstained, for he did not stop to use the tap in the yard as the pan of clear water under it shows¦
that he was a foreigner of dark complexion, over forty years of age,.. , of shabby-genteel, with a brown deer stalker hat on his head, and a dark coat on his back¦ we are confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge or robbery, but from motives less adequate than the many which still disgrace our civilisation¦ (Hayes, p. 85) From these forensic evidences and from subject-matter experts testimonies, one can really conclude that the suspect would really have some level of surgical knowledge.
No wonder there are at least four suspects who are doctors, at lease two of which are surgeons; one is a son of a medical practitioner believed to be a doctor himself, but was in fact a barrister and schoolmaster; another claims to have medical knowledge but is considered by many to be a quack; one is a fish porter who was undoubtedly experienced in gutting fish (Joseph Barnett); and another is a butcher by trade. The last two were included because of the fact that they too were undoubtedly adept with a knife (Hayes, p.
27) and since the knowledge of anatomy may be possessed by someone in the habit of cutting up animals (King, Jacob Levy). One famous theory is that Jack the Ripper is of American nationality. This developed from the fact that eyewitness accounts say that the suspect is a foreigner. Hayes also mentioned that the word Boss, from the Dear Boss Ripper letter received by the Central News Agency, is an Americanism and should be taken as a clue to the killers nationality (p. 86).
The authenticity of the Ripper letters, however, is highly dubious. There are two plausible named suspects pointing from the fact that the killer has medical or surgical knowledge and the theory that the killer is an American. Hayes suspect is one named Dr. John Thomas Barnardo, and Francis Tumblety who was named and rated by Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey in their book Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer to be the most likely person to have been the unknown killer awarded the chilling name Jack the Ripper (p.
xx). Despite of being tagged as a quack, Francis Tumblety may have the anatomical knowledge specifically with the female organs as inferred by his collection of wombs (Francis Tumblety). His name was also mentioned by Chief Inspector John George Littlechild in his letter, which was later dubbed the Littlechild Letter, in response to a previous one by G. R. Sims, to be a very likely suspect in connection with the Whitechapel murders (The Littlechild Letter).
There are other reasons why Francis Tumblety is suspect to the murders. He was at London during the time of the murders, he was arrested on suspicion but was released because of lack of evidence, and the murders stopped when he flee, that is if one only considers the canonical five. London Police, with the coordination of American Police, continued to put him under surveillance even when he came back to New York. Furthermore, he had reason to hate women, prostitutes in particular.
The problem with the Francis Tumblety theory is that opponents take note of the fact that his homosexuality would rule him out as a suspect, as homosexual serial killers are concerned singularly with male victims and would be uninterested in female prostitutes (Francis Tumblety). There are other theories on who might the real Jack the Ripper be. There are theories of a Royal cover-up, that the murder was done by a person plagued by insanity (definitely no doubt about this), that the murderer was a Jew, or that a doctor convicted of poisoning his patients confessed he is Jack¦ .
There is even a theory that Jack the Ripper is a woman later dubbed as Jill the Ripper (Jill the Ripper). There is very little doubt that the real Jack the Ripper possessed medical or surgical knowledge. This, to me, is the most plausible theory that is based on the facts. But with all the claims and contradictions, we can only be sure of one thing: that the real identity of Jack the Ripper can never be revealed with absolute certainty.
Barbee, Larry S. Introduction to the Case. Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Stephen P. Ryder & Johnno. 20 March 2008. http://www.casebook.org/suspects/jacoblevy.html