“On the twenty-first of May, Frederick Deeming passed away.”
Frederick Bailey Deeming was labelled the criminal of the century after his execution in Melbourne on 23 May 1892. A folk song with a fictitious date forever linked him to a greater fiction that he was Jack the Ripper. Deeming killed his wife and four children in England in July 1891 and a second wife in Australia in December that year. The press reported that he was in Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper murders, that he matched the description of a suspect, and had confessed. Tour guides in the Scotland Yard museum later allegedly identified his death mask as that of Jack the Ripper.
One story came from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where a man claimed to know Deeming under an alias and reported that he lured a woman called Kelly from Wales to Whitechapel. Jack the Ripper’s last victim, Mary Kelly, allegedly came from Wales to Whitechapel. In my ongoing quest to identify her I investigated this report and found it, like the others involving Deeming and Jack the Ripper, to have no foundation.
Those convicted of sensational crimes are often associated with other unsolved offences. Facts get ignored and the real criminal of the century, like his most famous victim, cannot be named.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.