During the odyssey of both working full-time and writing Jack the Ripper - Case Solved, 1891 part-time, my partner and research assistant Christine Ward-Agius, and I took a much needed break and travelled to the United Kingdom in 2014.
There we caught up with family in London and Cambridge and visited various sites of historical interest. This trip, quite unexpectedly, set in motion a new train of research that would unearth a critical source to help (provisionally) solve the Jack the Ripper case, a source that lay buried for 124 years.
In the tiny picturesque town of Ross-on-Wye we stumbled upon a splendid bookshop which specialised in the literature of the past: Ross Old Books, on High Street. Knowing we had a bus to catch within a few minutes and frustrated at the inability to spend a day perusing its treasures, we literally sped-read through the shelves looking for any titles of interest and a long shot hope, perhaps relevant to our investigation.
At the last possible moment Chris found a book without which the breakthrough of 'Case Solved' could not have been made.
This book led us to look closer at sources previously given a lower priority. It led to hard evidence that supported and further strengthened our book’s theory - vital knowledge that had lain dormant since 1922.
Sir Melville Macnaghten - the Scotland Yard police chief - had insisted he knew the identity of 'Jack the Ripper' and had discovered the murderer’s identity via “private information”. The research we pursued in 2014 augmented the theory of the first manuscript of the book, being that Sir Melville and a close friend, the most famous writer of the era, George R. Sims, had known the identity of the (deceased) fiend, but covered it up to protect the identity of the very good and respectable middle-class family that had, tragically, produced a maniac.
What occurred after our excursion to the UK and the research path our book from the Ross Old Bookshop took us on, led us to find the likely source of Sir Melville Macnaghten’s “private information” and this find opened a floodgate of discovery about this mystery and the people who surrounded it.
After returning from the UK, I was granted permission from my publishers McFarland to update the manuscript with the new information.
This partial re-write is what caused the delay of the book’s debut, that had been originally scheduled for early 2015. Had it not been for that quick excursion into the Ross bookshop, this missing link would probably still remain completely unknown.
Jack the Ripper - Case Solved, 1891 is a book in many ways quite unlike the standard book on this subject.
It does not claim to have solved the mystery. Rather it claims the mystery was solved at the time and, what’s more, that solution was broadly shared with the public. No absolute solution is possible, now or then – as the killer was already deceased.
This book does not offer slick, paranoid or outrageous solutions, but it does bring back to life the fascinating people at the heart of the private investigation that they believed solved the case in 1891.
There is no DNA involved, no royal or masonic conspiracies, no faked artefacts to ‘break the case wide open’, or spurious claims that the police were entirely incompetent and the killer was right under their noses all the time.
There is, however, new evidence that shows how Macnaghten had already determined the mystery of the killer before the turn of the century.
This book will appeal to true crime readers and those interested in this particular case. It will also appeal to readers with a passion for the more genteel elements of Victorian and Edwardian society, cohabiting with the ghastly and the grotesque!
Most importantly, you'll fall in love with the police sleuth, Sir Melville Macnaghten, and the popular, left-wing writer, George R. Sims, who were unforgettable characters who have been unfairly forgotten by history and caricatured as minor nobodies in so many of today’s Whitechapel books.
These upper class gents were anxious that the public at large know an unwelcome and uncomfortable truth; that the fiend had been a fellow member of the so-called “better classes”, and therefore not some foreigner, or a person of the Hebrew faith, or a poor person, or an escaped patient from an asylum.
The pop image of “Jack the Ripper” sporting a top hat and carrying medical bag is not true, but it is partly accurate—whilst he was not a surgeon the murderer was an English gentleman.
Thankyou for your patience and support during the three-year process of writing this book.
It is soon to go to print and will be available in November.
Picture: Sir Melville Macnaghten (1853-1921) pictured as a young man. Sir Melville was described as tall, handsome and a man of action. A lover of cricket, boxing, theatre and the classics he had a noted ability to get along with all types of people, upstairs and downstairs. Educated at Eton, he rose to the position of Assistant Commissioner of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard. (Supplied)