Friday, September 9, 2011

Not quite up to 21st century standards -- UPDATED

Following up on the recent post discussing British Detective Trevor Marriott's claim that he has identified Jack the Ripper as German merchant seaman Carl Feigenbaum, I re-read his book Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation.   Unfortunately, in my edition of Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation, Marriott does not identify Feigenbaum as the killer.  Marriott apparently does so in a later edition of the book, and I seem to be having trouble finding places that differentiate between the two editions.  And in any event, I was so unimpressed by the earlier edition that I am reluctant to spend the money on a rehash of the same.

Casebook: Jack the Ripper investigates Marriott's theory and pretty much levels it.  After discussing the lack of corroboration of the evidence provided by Feigenbaum's attorney, Willam Sanford Lawton, Casebook goes into Marriott's independent evidence on Feigenbaum:

His suggestion that Jack the Ripper may have been a merchant seaman is, of course, not new. At the time of the Whitechapel murders Edward Knight Larkins, a clerk in the Customs Statistical Department, annoyed anyone he could write to, or buttonhole, that he believed that the murderer sailed to London aboard cattle boats which sailed out of Portugal. He named three ships: City of Oporto, City of Cork and the City of Malaga as having carried the murderer, or murderers, into London on, or just before, the dates of the murders. His list of possible Rippers included cattlemen Manuel Crux Xavier, Jose Laurenco, Joao de Souza Machado and J. Da Rocha. Dr. Forbes Winslow also pointed to sailors who came into London on cattle boats as likely Ripper suspects. Another man who pointed the finger at merchant vessels at the time of the murders was Mr. Charles Barber who wrote to the authorities to point out, incorrectly, that the S.S. Alaska was in port in Liverpool during every murder. Mr. Barber later believed that Frederick Deeming, sailing aboard the Alaska, was the Ripper. More recently theorist Michael Conlon has stated that National Line steamships were in port in London during each of the murders and that this points the finger of guilt at his suspect Arbie La Bruckman who was a cattleman working the ships of the National Line.

The point is that although it is perfectly feasible that the Ripper could have been a merchant seaman, there is no way to positively connect any sailor to the Whitechapel murders simply because he worked for a shipping company which docked one of its ships in London on the dates of the murders. Marriott pinpoints the Norddeutscher Lloyd Line out of Bremen, although he doesn’t clearly explain why, and shows that Feigenbaum sailed with this line. However, the NLL was a large shipping company with dozens of ships, sailing steam lines around the world and with hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors in its employ 36. Worse, it is known that Feigenbaum also sailed with other shipping lines and not always on boats out of Bremen. He therefore could have been anywhere in the world during the Whitechapel murders. Unless you can show positively that Carl Feigenbaum, or Anton Zahn, was in London during each of the murders all you have is unsatisfactory speculation.

Where Marriott goes beyond Lawton is in actually identifying several Ripper-like murders that occurred around the world that he suggests might have been the work of Feigenbaum, or at least that he might have had the opportunity to have committed them. Unfortunately most of these murders [...] seem to have absolutely no connection with either Carl Feigenbaum or Jack the Ripper.
To sum it up:

Was Carl Feigenbaum Jack the Ripper? It seems unlikely. William Lawton’s word, on which the whole case rests, cannot be trusted. A supposed confession was not shared. The confessor refused to confess. Connection to Whitechapel, London, in 1888 has not been proved. A series of mutilation murders in Wisconsin did not exist. Co-counsel, who knew the suspect, dismissed the claims. The story quickly disappeared.

Marriott suggests that Lawton is a credible witness merely based on the opinion that if he was lying why didn’t he go all out and claim that Feigenbaum had actually confessed to him that he was the Ripper? For that matter, why would Lawton make up the story at all? What did he stand to gain by it? These are questions that cannot be answered now. The answer depends upon the thinking and character and personal circumstances of a man now long dead. All we can do is examine Lawton’s words for evidence of truth. The evidence is lacking.

Trevor Marriott initially made a case for a German merchant seaman being Saucy Jack. He then discovered Carl Feigenbaum, almost a perfect fit for his theory. However, Marriott failed originally to show that the Ripper was a German merchant seaman. The theory was plausible but not proven. Could the Ripper have been a German sailor? Or an American sailor? Or a Portuguese sailor? Or a Malay sailor? Of course. Could he have been a butcher, baker, tinker, tailor, beggar man or thief? Of course. Could he have been Carl Feigenbaum? Not with the almost complete lack of evidence that has been presented to support his candidacy. Wishful thinking cannot solve this puzzle.
I must concur, but I must add other reasons.

First, Marriott is to quick to dismiss other suspects almost summarily, especially the American Francis Tumblety, with little in the way of explanation.  In Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer, Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey show not so much that Tumblety committed the Ripper murders, but that Scotland Yard believed he did.  And they make the case that Tumblety was the "Batty Street Lodger" who acted suspiciously during the worst of the Whitechapel murders and then disappeared.  Marriott believes there was no "Batty Street Lodger."  Tumblety then showed up in New York City, with agents of Scotland Yard's Special Branch on his heels.  Marriott attributes this to Tumblety's Irish sympathies, and Special branch was primarily interested in investigating Irish terrorism.  However, catching Jack the Ripper was the Number One Priority of British law enforcement (or, to paraphrase Joe Biden, "a big effin' deal"), with even Queen Victoria becoming involved.  And Special Branch had experience in dealing with foreign, especially American, law enforcement.  Marriott just waives this all away.

Moreover, Marriott's theory that Jack the Ripper was a merchant seaman depends on the his other theory that the organs removed from the bodies of Annie Chapman and Catharine Eddowes were removed not by the Ripper, but by some unidentified doctor or medical assistant at the mortuary before the autopsy was begun.  Therefore, contrary to profiling of the case, Jack the Ripper did not need any medical knowledge and therefore could have been an uneducated seaman like Carl Feigenbaum.

To be kind to Marriott as well as to simplify things, his theory as to the removal of the organs is based on "chain of custody."  Generally, to be admissible in court, possession of the evidence must be accounted for from the time it is collected until it is introduced into court.  This was not done in the Ripper murders, as the bodies were often left unattended and in one case was washed before the medical examiner arrived, much to the examiner's disgust.  It was only upon the autopsy that the organs were found to be missing.

But that is an awfully frail reed upon which to place the allegation that the organs were stolen by some unnamed medical assistant just before the autopsy.  Especially when in the cases of Chapman and Eddowes the bodies were observed at the crime scenes to have had most of the intestines removed and placed "out of the way."  That the killer went to the trouble to remove the intestines so he (or she, in the case of "Jill the Ripper") could access other areas of the body, then left those areas untouched, sounds absurd on its face.

But in one case, Merriott has provided a good insight and thus a valuable service.  The night of the Eddowes murder, a piece of her apron was found smeared with blood and fecal matter at the Wentworth Model Dwellings, where the Ghoulston Street Graffito was found.  Scotland Yard has treated both as connected to Eddowes' murder, with the graffito written by the killer and the piece of apron dropped by the killer.

According to Marriott, that the piece of apron was not connected to the Eddowes murder, but was connected to Eddowes herself.  He says that before before she was murdered Eddowes used that piece of apron for, um, feminine hygiene while using the Wentworth stairwell as a bathroom.  That actually makes sense.  And it would leave the entire incident on Ghoulston Street as likely having nothing to do with the Ripper murders.

One more thing.  People may ask why are we interested in Jack the Ripper.  I don't know that there is any simple or short answer, but as I did on my old blog, I want to borrow a line of argument from Patricia Cornwell, who did a much more modern job of investigating the Ripper murders than Marriott has, and should be given credit for at least trying to solve the murders through modern methods, even if her theory is questionable.  She cited Elizabeth Stride as deserving of justice for her near decapitation by, most believe, Jack the Ripper.  I'll go one further.

Here is an artist's rendition of Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly:

Artist's rendition of Mary Jane Kelly, a victim of Jack the RipperPainting by Jane Coram.

I'd love to credit the artist, but I downloaded the picture years ago and can no longer find it online.  This is a great picture taking into account the eyewitness statements and the crime scene photograph of the appearance of Kelly.  She was a beautiful woman.

If someone knows who the artist is, please let me know so I can give them proper credit.  They deserve it for trying to give Mary Kelly a face.  (UPDATE: thanks to commenter Anonymous 11;12 for identifying the artist as Jane Coram, a regular on the website Casebook: Jack the Ripper.  Go check out her work.  Lotsa good stuff)

Because Jack the Ripper took it away.

Police photograph of the body of Mary Jane Kelly as found in her room at 13 Miller's Court, off Dorset Street, Whitechapel.
This killer erased not just Kelly's life, but erased her from history to the point where we don't even know what she looked like.

That is a crime.  Mary Jane Kelly deserves justice.


  1. The artist is Jane Coram. She did it in 2005. Here is a thread with more of her paintings:

  2. Thank you. I have updated the post.