Thursday, March 27, 2008
Crippen Innocent?
A researcher thinks he can prove Dr. Crippen was innocent of killing his wife. From Channel 8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Exonerated after execution, 100 years later

By Jessica Leffler

COLDWATER, Mich (WOOD) -- DNA testing and science not available almost a hundred years ago is beginning to shed light on a case of a man tried and executed.

Hawley Crippen, originally from Coldwater, Mich., was hanged for the murder of his wife Cora Crippen in London in 1910.

Now, John Trestrail, a toxicologist from West Michigan, believes he might have exonerated Crippen.

"I often refer to this as the O.J. Simpson trial of the early 1900s," Trestrail said. "This is the second most famous murder case in London, exceeded only by Jack the Ripper."

Jack's Number One! Jack's Number One! Jack--sorry.

It was a sensational trial with convoluted twists.

Crippen's wife, Cora, was missing, and he was rushing across the Atlantic on a ship with his mistress.

Meanwhile, back in London, a dismembered body was discovered, buried beneath his house and believed to be Cora.

Crippen claimed the pair had a fight and she headed back home to the United States. However, the trial revealed gruesome details saying Crippen poisoned his wife, then mutilated her body, burying the remains with no head or bones.

Trestrail, who works in foresic toxicology, thought something just did not add up.

"The thing that kept me coming to the case was the dismemberment of his wife Cora," he said. "Because a poisoner is against what they normally do, poisoners are secret, visible killers. They like deaths to appear natural, then they walk away."

On their way to Canada, the captain of the ship told Scotland Yard he had Crippen and his mistress, Ethel La Neve, who was diguised as a boy aboard the ship.

It isn't "walking" away, but he did leave her behind, like a poisoner would. Palmer did; Cream did; Shipman did. But I agree--the mutilation is odd, but still understandable.

Detectives greeted them when their boat landed. La Neve was aquitted, but Crippen wasn't as lucky.

"The jury is out only 27 minutes," Trestrail said of the trial. "They come in and say 'Guilty.'"

The reasons for that? Overwhelming circumstantial evidence tying him to the crime, the proximity of the body, the relationship between the Crippens, his affair, his knowledge of poisons and "elixirs," his opportunity, his desire to leave his wife, his leaving the country right after talking to the police, the testimony of Bernard Spilsbury--how much time do you need to convict?

Throughout the trial, Crippen maintained his innocence.

Now, 100 years later, Trestrail is armed with information about Mitochondrial DNA, which can prove lineage from mother to daughter and is a genetic blue print.

Along with the help of a geneologist and a forensic biologist, the trio tracked down two half-grand nieces of Cora Crippen.

The family members matched one another. The original slides with the remains of the body from the trial did not.

"He called me and said it's done," Trestrail said. "I've done the test twice and got the same results both times. It's not her, and that kind of raised the hair on my arms because now there's more questions."

More questions than answers, like whose body was discovered under the home?

Exactly.

"He may have killed this person," Trestrail said. "Whoever it is, not (his wife Cora). But that's another trial."

You have got to be kidding.

And if the body wasn't his wife, where did she go? These questions may not be solved.

For 30 years, Trestrail has worked on this case, collecting antiquated newspapers or photographs, frozen into their yellowed pages as a glimpse into the past. A history he is hoping to help rewrite.

"Like I say, 40 books have been written on this case," he said. "I suppose I'll have to write number 41."

Trestrail was able to contact some distant relatives of Crippen who now live in Ohio. They want Crippen posthumously cleared of the crime.

Trestrail is now working on a documentary with a film team from London this week.

Um, even IF he's exonerated (a HUGE "if," colossal, grand even), there was A BODY BURIED UNDERNEATH HIS HOUSE WHICH HE APPARENTLY KNEW ABOUT, HAD ACCESS TO AND COVERED IN (what turned out to be the wrong kind of) LIME. I'd hold off on the cries of "innocent," if I were the family. Plus, why say his wife went to New York if he didn't kill her? He admitted he lied about that--it's not like proving the body in his house wasn't Belle would remove all suspicion from him for her disappearance. It's just as likely that he's responsible for two bodies. Not likely, just as likely as the scenario that he didn't kill his wife and the body underneath his house had nothing to do with him.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:38 PM | 2 comments

Is This English?
I am the first to admit I'm not hip, but I did think I could understand American English and even most British English. But I guess not...

From RWD Magazine, which is I guess a music mag, comes the following "profile" of an artist called Black the Ripper. What interests me about this interview are the references to Jack the Ripper and how he still resonates in British popular culture.


From the article:
Black the Ripper: When Black Met Jack
Artist: RWD

N18 resident, ex-footballer and grime soldier Black the Ripper aka SAMSON delves into LDN’S hugely historic, murderously murky and seriously smelly past to discover more about his namesake. We pinch our noses and take a trip back to ye olde London and speak slaughter as Black the Ripper meets Jack the Ripper (see what we did there?)

Cute.
The plague avoided by Danny Walker. For more on one of Britannia’s most ruthless characters (ruthless as in 19th Century serial killer or killers that were NEVER caught, not ruthless as in 21st Century serial loser like Simon ‘Mi trousers are so high I can smell mi skid marks’ Cowell’)

Oh, God. Anyway:
all you have to do is look back into the history books. Since this is 2008 there is no need to go down to the boring library, read a book or even spell, all you have to do is get on that web and get your search on.

Yeah. To Hell with that book crap.
Three facts your auntie didn’t tell you about Jack the Ripper:
1. The name is actually taken from a letter sent to a newspaper by someone claiming to be the man himself. Like Jim’ll Fix It gone bad.
Black: I think that is deep. It just goes to show what effect the media have on things if we know this story now.

So you didn't know how Jack got his name? I'll give you that one-not many people know that much about the case.
2. The victims were women making a living as prostitutes/ ladies of the night/ hookers/ looser-than-loose gash.
Black: I don’t know what he’s on. He was a hungry guy. I don’t know what his frustrations were.

What? Now come on. You have to at least know what kind of women Jack killed.
3. The Ripper murders were often found displayed in public areas. The victim's throat was cut, after which the body was mutilated. The meat was so raw, often shanked-up beyond recognition that the only thing it is comparable to now is that of Chicken Cottage.
Black: That’s... [takes a drag from a “cigarette”] that’s real sh*t. [Laughs]

??????????
So then the writer and Black the Ripper go to the London Dungeon to learn more about Jack:
So what do you know about Jack the Ripper?
[Calmly] There is a negative obviously... that he killed girls.

Yeah, I would say that qualifies as a "negative." Apart from that though, a real smashing bloke.
I’m not about that, innit.

????????????????+1
The only positive is he was never found by no feds. It’s not good; it’s just what I know.

Ah. OK. Saved himself, there, I guess.
[Black knows far more than he’s letting on. We up our line of questioning] The murders were around the Whitechapel area in the 19th Century... where were you? Could it have been you?
[Laughs] Nah... I get girls. [Laughs] I get girls.

Well, so did Jack--oh, I see what you mean.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:06 PM | 2 comments

Friday, March 21, 2008
A Little Political Discussion
Humorous Pictures
see more crazy cat pics

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 2:26 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 08, 2008
Jack the Ripper had 11 victims?
According to a new story in the East London Advertiser, Jack the Ripper may have been responsible for eleven victims, not the so-called canonical five, based on "new evidence." This story accompanies the Ripper exhibit that is making the rounds in Britain. Now, it's important to say up front that of course we don't know how many victims Jack had for sure. But there are some troubling things in this report. Any person who has studied the case knows that we are hampered not only by the paucity of evidence left, the time that has elapsed and the inexperience of contemporary investigators-we are also hampered by slapdash reporting and perpetuation of myths, which work to obfuscate any serious research.

From the story:

Jack the Ripper murdered 11 women, evidence now suggests

By Mike Brooke

JACK the Ripper could have killed as many as 11 women, according to evidence about to be unveiled in the first-ever major exhibition of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders using authentic Home Office and police documents.

The five 'known' East End prostitutes murdered that year are the most avidly followed killings of any crime in modern times.

Theorists and debaters can be found in every corner of the Globe.

More was written about Jack the Ripper at the time than any serial killings before or since. There have been more books and memoirs than almost any other subject.


OK. Strange way to shape a sentence there at the end, but whatever. The author knows that a lot has been written about Jack--therefore, it would have been helpful to perhaps scan some of that literature before either repeating incorrect information or being ill-informed altogether.

But visitors to the Museum of Docklands in May will be confronted with no fewer than 11 case studies officially liked [sic] to the world's most notorious killer.

Another seven women murdered over three years between the autumn of 1888 and January 1891 are included.

I'm confused. Wouldn't this be eighteen murders, then?

The five 'known' victims of 1888 are well researched:

Emma Smith on April 3,

Mary Ann Nicholls on August 31,

Annie Chapman on September 8,

Elizabeth Stride on September 30,

Catherine Eddowes on September 30 and

Mary Jane Kelly on November 8.

Uh, that's six. And Emma Smith is NOT considered one of the five.

"We always seem to focus on just these five," explains museum senior curator Alex Werner.

"But at the time the public had no idea how many women were killed.

"Any murder in Whitechapel was identified with the Ripper if there was a degree of mutilation.

"But we've found 11 murders in police files that were linked over a three-year period. That's what we have concentrated on."

He is anxious to bypass the "salacious speculation and the whodunit sleuthing" that has long crowded 'Ripperology' down the years.

"The coming of the telegraph made the Whitechapel Murders the first mass-reported crime around the world," Alex adds.

"The interest was global, so we want to give a sense of what people thought at the time."

The exhibition which is "more about the contemporary moral panic" looks at the human stories behind the 'penny dreadful' accounts.

It brings together surviving documents for the first time, including access to Home Office accounts, many it is claimed only recently coming into the public domain.

Documents on victims after 1888 have been stamped 'Whitechapel' by investigators of the day.

It was more to allay public panic that prompted the authorities at the time to formally ascribe just five killings to 'Jack the Ripper' who was never caught.

Is the author saying that these files, which were confidential and had been hidden away for almost a century were marked so in order to alleviate public panic, the public who had no access to the files? In fact, the more important "files" would be the press reports, not because they would be true but because they would better indicate what the public was exposed to in the form of information on the case. And, as the author states earlier, many other murders after Mary Kelly were attributed to Jack even though no proof has held up in those cases.

A sixth murder victim that year was Rose Mylett, whose body was discovered on September 20 in Poplar, three miles from Whitechapel. So she never 'made the headlines' as one of the 'Whitechapel' murders.

The case was widely reported, especially as Wynne Baxter, the coroner in some of the Ripper victims' cases, was the coroner in this case as well. In fact, as casebook.org mentions, "Baxter is an important figure in the story of the Whitechapel murders. He conducted the inquests into the deaths, chronologically, of Annie Millwood, Emma Smith, Martha Tabram, Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, the Pinchin Street Torso, and Frances Coles." The only person we can prove had anything to do with all the women is Baxter. Maybe he did it? If anyone would have raised the alarm of another Ripper victim, or at least mentioned in passing that another "unfortunate" had been killed during the inquest, surely it would have made the news. The fact that it did not, along with the fact that Rose appears to have been strangled (which did not come to light until after the body was examined-not on cursory glance) points to the reason why the Ripper did not get credit for Rose. No one believed he did it based on evidence.

This also leads to the misnomer of the title of this story. "Evidence now suggests" implies something new. Yet all we have are more victims attributed to Jack, not any sort of materials that point the finger at Jack. The Home Office documents are nothing new that I can see, and the fact that police and/or the Home Office questioned whether Rose was a Ripper victim doesn't mean they thought she was, but that they were doing their jobs and following up any case which even had the appearance of being another Ripper murder.

The following year, 1889, there were three more brutal slayings now thought to have been the work of The Ripper, including a headless torso discovered September 10 in Pinchin-street in Whitechapel.

That year, the body of Alice McKenzie was found on July 17 in Castle-alley, off Whitechapel High-street, followed by Martha Tabram nearby on August 7.

Martha Tabram/Turner was murdered BEFORE Alice McKenzie. In fact, she was murdered in August of 1888, NOT 1889.

The last recorded victim linked in Home Office files to the Whitechapel Murders was Frances Coles, discovered on February 13, 1891.

Again, while the victims are in the Whitechapel files, it does not mean that the police considered them Ripper victims. It merely means that all of the unsolved murders which occurred in Whitechapel could be put in the file-or it could mean that any mention of Jack, whether directly or indirectly (by a witness, officer, press, etc.) meant that the case wound up in the file. It would have been more specific to have the police mark the case "Jack the Ripper" in order to be sure that all the cases Home Office files were referring to him, but of course the police weren't about to use the appellation of the press-so we can't be sure what "Whitechapel" as a case file name even means, besides the obvious. In fact, the press at the time considered Polly Nichols the third victim (with Emma Smith and Martha Tabram as the first two), but the police (and, one believes, the Home Office that got their information from the police), did NOT.

One thing the exhibition avoids is retrospective speculation trying to identify Jack the Ripper.

Thank God.

It leaves that to the visitor, 120 years later, wandering from section to section looking at the news as it unfolded.

It aims to get the 21st century observer thinking about the lives of the women, the suspects and the investigators of 1888 Whitechapel.

But in reality, it will doubtless stimulate the debate for the next 120 years about who really was the world's most infamous killer.

And you're not helping.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 8:07 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I got a notice from Amazon in the UK that a hardback version of the indispensable Jack the Ripper A to Z is about to come out. As far as I know, the UK will be the only place you can get it. I can't really tell from the site whether it's an updated version or just a reprint. Either way, a hardback copy will be very welcome, as I have two paperbacks because I'm afraid they'll fall apart. The book in paperback form is not cheap as it's scarce--I hope that the new edition will remedy that and allow more people to be able to afford it. The new one costs 19 pounds (about 40 or so dollars)which, to me, is a steal. Philip Sugden's book The Complete History of Jack the Ripper reconciles some of the errors of A to Z and is great on its own (a must-have for any true Ripperphile), but I've always enjoyed the readability of A to Z. Paul Begg (perhaps my favorite Ripperologist--succinct, deliberate and knowledgeable), Keith Skinner and Martin Fido have yet to be surpassed in sheer guts to undertake the huge labyrinthine project of collating all the minutiae of the case.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 11:35 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 01, 2008
Constance Kent in the Providentia Blog
This is a concise yet gripping psychological account of the Kent case, where a 16-year-old girl was accused of killing her 4-year-old half-brother. The story, as they say, "shocked the world." She confessed years later, but as doubts loomed about her guilt, she was sentenced to life and served 20 years. An amazing tale from 1860's England, and the policeman who investigated wound up being a model of the constable in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 1:59 AM | 2 comments

Ripper Exhibit
A traveling Jack the Ripper exhibit is heading toward the very place where the Ripper became famous. This story from Reuters outlines the exhibit's usefulness in context:

The return of the 19th century prostitute killer is in the form of an exhibition looking at the era, the area, the victims and the possible perpetrators of the crimes that shocked the nation and have since become a rich seam of popular fiction.

"We explore Jack the Ripper in the context of the East End and explain who lived there and what it was like to live there," said exhibition curator Julia Hoffbrand.

"The murders and the media interest they generated shone a light into a terrible conditions in the area which was riddled with prostitution, dirt, violence and crime," she told Reuters at a preview of the exhibition this week.


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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 1:32 AM | 0 comments

Thomas Neill Cream
Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Frederick Deeming
The Bravo Case
Madeleine Smith
Constance Kent
William Palmer
My Ripper Inventory
JTRForums.com
Ripper Notes
Ripperologist
Hollywood Ripper
Jack the Ripper Forum
Archives: Jack the Ripper
The Whitechapel Society
Largest German Jack the Ripper Site
The Victorian Web
Victorian Dictionary
Victoria Research Web

The Final Solution by Walter Harmidarow
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