Many homicidal maniacs were suspected

On 17 February 1894, the Sun newspaper published the last in a series of five articles which accused a lunatic of being Jack the Ripper. The British tabloids have a longstanding tradition of blending fiction and speculation, and this is a fine early example. The value to researchers lies in the response. Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten penned an internal memo in which he described three men more likely than the lunatic, Thomas Hayne Cutbush, to have been the killer. He then dropped the bombshell that Cutbush was a nephew of a former Superintendent Executive.

 The memo contains serious factual errors about all three men and one has since been exonerated. It has also been established, despite many coincidences, that Superintendent Charles Cutbush was not Thomas’s uncle. We do not know where Macnaghten obtained his information or what evidence, if any, was held against the men accused. At the time of the murders the police investigated many suspects and cleared the vast majority. There are few extant records of the ongoing investigation, which is why the names given are so important. To them can be added a fourth, mentioned in the private correspondence of Chief Inspector Littlechild.

 Most Jack the Ripper suspects stand accused only by hearsay or fiction. Later this year I hope to publish a book which concludes that only 10 of the 340 suspects should remain on the list. They include the three uncleared men named by the Police, and Thomas Cutbush. Macnagthen’s memo is as unreliable as the Sun but it remains the starting point for those brave enough to seek the identity of the most famous criminal in history.

 

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