39 GEORGE HUTCHINSON
George Hutchinson was born in 1859 but because of the complicated way human beings respond to each other he has acquired millennial status. In the Ripper world George Hutchinson is fashionable. In 1999 author Bob Hinton published From Hell. Hinton produced points that added to the existing and widespread doubt that existed about the witness statement that Hutchinson had given to Inspector Abberline. Hinton also claimed that George Hutchinson was Jack the Ripper. Hutchinson is not the favourite suspect but he is millennial and fashionable.
Hutchinson saw the last of the canonical victims Mary Jane Kelly talking to a well-dressed man. Kelly took the man to her home in Miller’s Court. So far three men have been identified as the person who might be the George Hutchinson that on the 9th of November 1888 stood in Commercial Street near Miller’s Court. Bob Hinton traced a George Hutchinson that in 1859 was born in Shadwell. This George worked as a barman and had three wives. In his book The Ripper And The Royals the author Melvyn Fairclough revealed that someone called Reginald Hutchinson believed that his father was the witness in the Ripper crime. According to Reginald, his father had claimed that he knew one of the Ripper victims. Reginald also challenged the traditional view that George Hutchinson was an unskilled man who endured long periods of unemployment. Reginald stated that his father became a plumber and was also an accomplished violinist and ice-skater. Well, someone in all this is skating on thin ice.
Like Hinton, Australian author and journalist Stephen Senise believes that George Hutchinson is Jack the Ripper. Senise has examined boat arrivals, looked at photographs and various documents and signatures. He reckons that in 1888 George Hutchinson travelled to Australia on the Ormuz. In 1896 two young boys were assaulted by George Hutchinson. The crime resulted in him being sentenced to two years in prison. Senise argues that Hutchinson number three killed the women of Whitechapel to provoke anti-Semitism within England. This argument is undermined by the descriptions of the murderer included in the witness statements Hutchinson signed before Inspector Abberline. Hutchinson first described the man he saw as pale. Later he made a statement to the newspapers and described a man ‘with dark complexion and dark moustache’. Anti-Semitism strong enough to inspire a murderous crime wave should inspire consistent accusations.
The two witness statements from Hutchinson are extensive and detailed. Most Ripper books produce them in full. It is the detail in the statements that has persuaded most writers to assume Hutchinson was lying. In his statement Hutchinson recalled talking to Mary Jane Kelly and hearing a conversation between Kelly and a well-dressed man. He also remembered a red handkerchief that the man gave the victim. The description of the man offered by Hutchinson includes references to eye lashes, a trimmed astrakhan collar and cuffs, a waistcoat, a thick gold chain, a horse shoe pin in a black tie and so on. Hutchinson also mentioned how he had been alerted by the man being so well dressed. Because Hutchinson had known Mary Jane Kelly for some years and was in the habit of lending her ‘a few shillings’, he waited outside Miller’s Court for three quarters of an hour. Or so he said.
Witnesses are vague regarding details. They are most reliable in identifying gender and height. After that the results are inconsistent. Philip Sugden in The Complete Jack the Ripper allows Hutchinson more leeway than most. Sugden concedes that there are two discrepancies between the statements Hutchinson gave to the Police and the Press but he is impressed by how the second statement to the Press corroborates everything else that is in the first statement. Sugden claims that there are over forty points of corroboration between the two statements. The items that do not match, though, are important or should be to a master of detail. The well-dressed man is either dark or pale or has a slight or heavy moustache. Sugden is impressed by the conviction of Inspector Abberline and what the Inspector writes in his police report. ‘An important statement has been made by a man named George Hutchinson which I forward herewith. I have interrogated him this evening, and I am of opinion his statement is true.’
There is nothing in either witness statement to explain why Hutchinson waited three days until the evening after the inquest was concluded to visit the police station. Bob Hinton and those who believe that Hutchinson was the Ripper argue that Hutchinson reacted to the appearance of Sarah Lewis at the inquest. Lewis told the Coroner that she had seen a man waiting outside. The accusers of Hutchinson believe he visited the police with the intention of creating the existence of an alternative man and to deflect attention from himself. Perhaps but most of us would have responded by going into hiding and relying on the anonymity provided by a densely populated metropolis. Inspector Abberline assigned two detectives to Hutchinson, and the three men wandered around Whitechapel and searched for the man Hutchinson claimed to have seen. The search ended in failure. Those who believe Hutchinson was the Ripper assert that Hutchinson taking part in the investigation is consistent with the behaviour of other serial killers, a desire to become part of the investigation.
There is more. Until the millennial accusers arrived Ripperologists assumed that the detectives and Hutchinson were roaming the streets of Whitechapel in order to find the man who was seen talking to Kelly. Despite the endorsement of Hutchinson added by Inspector Abberline to a confidential police report it is now argued by some that Abberline realised that the witness was Jack the Ripper. If that is the case, Inspector Abberline had an odd attitude towards public funds. Hutchinson was paid for the days he walked with the two detectives around Whitechapel. The payment amounted to what would have been a month’s wages for Hutchinson. Neither did Inspector Abberline prevent the Press making substantial payments to Hutchinson.
The witness statement by Hutchinson was detailed and dubious but the claim that witnesses are unreliable does not automatically strengthen the case against Hutchinson. All we can conclude is that Hutchinson belongs in the company of unreliable witnesses except in this instance he has more imagination than most. Bob Hinton makes decent points about what could have been seen on a murky Victorian Street. This scepticism was anticipated by the contemporary reaction in The Graphic newspaper. ‘Yet at two o’clock in the morning in a badly lighted thoroughfare, he observed more than most of us would observe in broad daylight.’ This makes sense but it leaves the problem of why and how a highly regarded policeman was seduced by what most would define as obvious nonsense.
Abberline uses the word ‘interrogate’ to describe what happened between Hutchinson and the Inspector. He does not say interview. The reference to an interrogation implies an encounter that lasted for some time. The details that were provided by Hutchinson were a response to persistent prodding by Abberline. And it is a thin line between probing the memory of someone and delving into the imagination of the sub-conscious. Acting with the best of intentions, Inspector Abberline may have been as culpable in whatever invention emerged from the interrogation.
The case against Hutchinson relies too heavily on two issues. These are him delaying for three days before telling the police what he had seen in Commercial Street and Hutchinson waiting outside Miller’s court for three quarters of an hour after seeing Mary Jane Kelly. Whatever the reason for the delay by Hutchinson it did not alarm the police. Neither did the story about waiting outside for forty-five minutes. The waiting outside may have been sinister or nothing more than an example of a hopeless unemployed man with nothing left but curiosity. The police arrested around 40 people on suspicion of being Jack the Ripper. None of them were taken around Whitechapel by two detectives. The norm was to take Ripper suspects down to the cells, interrogate and add the odd thump. This did not happen to George Hutchinson.
I am as big a fan of Alfred Hitchcock as anyone but comparing what happened to the wives of a man who we are not even certain is George Hutchinson to the plot of Vertigo is conspiratorial fancy. The George Hutchinson that was born in Shadwell took his third wife to live in Carmarthenshire in Wales. Victim Mary Jane Kelly may or may not have lived in Carmarthenshire. The second wife of this particular Hutchinson changed her name to Mary Jane. That is a possible explanation as to why Hutchinson waited outside Miller’s Court. We should not, though, become excited. This George Hutchinson spent most of his life as a barman and, thanks to his close connections to his family, avoided unemployment. Hutchinson is an affectation rooted in too smart millennial revisionism. The actual Ripper remains unknown.
Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism. If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.