Today marks 23 years since the publication of a book that highlighted a plausible Jack the Ripper suspect. The Secret of Prisoner 1167: Was this Man Jack the Ripper? by James Tully, suggested that James Kelly was responsible for the murders. John Morrison made the same connection in a booklet published eight years earlier. This week I was asked if Jack the Ripper will ever be identified. My answer was no, and the case of James Kelly illustrates why.
A known user of prostitutes and wife-murderer Kelly was at liberty in 1888, the year of the Ripper murders, having escaped from Broadmoor in January. He returned to the asylum voluntarily in 1927. There is no hard evidence against him or any of the nine others that I identified in my examination of 333 Jack the Ripper suspects as the most plausible. He is also the most recently accused of those ten.
In the last thirty years the number of books about individual suspects has dramatically increased and researchers now, thanks to digitisation of records, have easy access to a wide range of source material. Despite this nobody has managed to build a convincing case against any of the known suspects or identify someone new. The chances of them doing so in the future are, in my opinion, slim.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia.