Sir Robert Anderson

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

37 CHARLES STEWART PARNELL

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In 1911, twenty years after Charles Stewart Parnell MP died, they built an obelisk in Dublin. A statue of Parnell stands at the foot of the obelisk. Today the Parnell Society meets once a year in Parnell Memorial Park. And if that does not impress, his gravestone is marked with just one word, PARNELL. There are a few dead rock stars that have missed that trick. The admirers of Parnell described him as being ‘sparse with words’ but lethal in debate.   The British Tory Government of Lord Salisbury admired skilled debate but not when it came from its opponents. Lord Salisbury hated Parnell. He claimed that Irish Home Rule was the greatest threat to the British Empire since Napoleon.  Gladstone was different. He was sympathetic to the 57 Irish Nationalist MPs and their cause. He said, ‘There is no crime recorded in history which will compare for a moment with the means by which the Union was brought about.’

Sir Robert Anderson became Assistant Commissioner Metropolitan Police in 1888. He was an Irishman but there is no statue of him in Dublin. He was not sympathetic to Home Rule for his fellow countrymen and women. Anderson said that, ‘no one could suppose the United Kingdom will tamely consent to be swamped by a horde of paupers and agitators’.  He was concerned about threats to the income of the English landlords and their Irish descendants, the people that had created the paupers who were obliged to work as agricultural labourers.   In their first meeting the Home Secretary Henry Matthews told Anderson that it was his responsibility to find Jack the Ripper. In his memoir Anderson remembered his answer. ‘My answer was to decline the responsibility. I said, ‘I hold myself responsible to take all legitimate means to find him.’ Anderson was being a smart aleck and sidestepping responsibility.   His experience of law enforcement was shaped by his previous role in the Special Irish Department within CID and not always legitimate.

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Charles Stewart Parnell set up an organisation called the Land League, which later evolved into something called a Plan for Campaign. Its purpose was to resist punitive rents and summary evictions. The landlords in Ireland, many of them absent landlords, felt unappreciated.   Arthur Balfour had become Secretary of State for Ireland in 1887. Although Parnell advocated non-violent protest throughout his career, Balfour declared the Plan of Campaign a criminal conspiracy. On the 18th of March The Times printed the first of eight articles titled ‘Parnellism And Crime’.   In the first article it was claimed that Parnell had ‘marched with murderers’.  Subsequent articles continued the accusation during the following weeks.   The final three articles alleged that Parnell had links with terrorists in the USA.  To accompany the articles The Times published a facsimile of a letter that Parnell had supposedly written. Five years previously Thomas Burke and Lord Cavendish had been murdered in Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Times used the facsimile as evidence that Parnell had excused his previous condemnation of the killings and also that he condoned the murder of Thomas Burke.

The facsimile was a forgery.   Anderson had a friend, a young Dublin journalist called Edward Caulfield Houston. This journalist did appreciate the landlords in Ireland, whether absent or not. Houston had hired fellow Irish journalist and muckraker Richard Piggott to investigate Parnell and to find anything incriminating against the Irish politician. Piggott, Houston and an academic called Sir Thomas Maguire met in Paris and plotted.

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The accusations, which had begun in 1887, continued into 1888. Parnell avoided taking his accusers to Court but he denounced them in Parliament.   The Leader of the House, W H Smith, responded by setting up a Parliamentary Commission. Rather than it being an impartial enquiry it became a trial of Parnell. Lord Herschell objected to a Parliamentary Commission being used in this way. This did not help. Parnell was charged with conspiracy.

Anderson and his CID unit the Special Irish Department had the responsibility of collecting evidence that would support what had been alleged in the articles in The Times.  After he retired Anderson admitted that he had written some of the articles. Piggott had been required to make journeys between London and Paris.  He had been in the French Capital when Anderson was supposedly there on holiday and not worrying himself about the recent murder of the Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly.  Holiday or not, something had given Anderson the necessary confidence to qualify his responsibility for catching Jack the Ripper. In retirement Anderson admitted that ‘we did a lot of illegal things’.

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The Parliamentary Commission investigating Parnell had begun on 17th September 1888, the day after Annie Chapman was murdered in Whitechapel. The Commission charged Parnell and members of his Land League and Plan for Campaign with ‘a conspiracy seeking absolute independence from England, that they had promoted agrarian agitation against the payment of rent and they incited persons to sedition and the commission of crimes including murder.’ The first half of that does not sound so bad but the judges sat for 138 sessions and put 150,000 questions to 445 witnesses.  Those in authority wanted a conviction and they were serious enough to bend a few rules.

Not every English policeman was content with the action taken against Irish agitators. Undercover men had joined the Land League with the intention of persuading others to commit crimes. Patrick McIntyre described himself as ’late of the Political Department of Scotland Yard’. He said, ‘Not a single plot in England had not been incited by the Police’. John Daly had been imprisoned in 1883 for carrying bombs.   It may not have persuaded St Peter at the gates of Heaven but on his deathbed the Birmingham Chief of Police revealed that John Daly was innocent. In 1887, Richard Piggott visited Daly in prison. Daly was offered his freedom but not because he was innocent and the authorities were embarrassed by contrite police chiefs. If he wanted to leave prison, Daly had to accuse Parnell of supporting violent sedition. Daly refused the offer and walked back to his cell. Through unofficial channels Liberal MPs heard about the visit to Daly by Piggott.   The MPs demanded to know who had authorised the visit. Home Secretary Henry Matthews said not me, boss. The Secretary of the Prison Board said that somehow he had no idea what was happening inside one of his prisons. The Secretary was Sir Robert ‘I decline the responsibility’ Anderson.

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There was a further visit to Daly but the prisoner again refused to accuse Parnell.  He stayed in prison for another ten years and fourteen years after the Birmingham Chief of Police had declared him innocent. Meanwhile the Commission was doing its competitive best to be just as sordid. Hungry and desperate Irish agricultural workers were paid to appear in front of the Commission and testify against Parnell.  Liberal MP John Morley said the Commission ‘was designed for the Public outside the Court, and not a touch could be spared that might deepen the odium.’  On 21st February 1889, Richard Piggott testified before the Commission. His two days cross-examination exposed the journalist as a fraud. On the third day Piggott disappeared.  On 1st March 1889 he was shot dead in a hotel room in Madrid. The killing was reported as a suicide but on the 28th February The Times had reported that the Police had located Piggott.  People have argued about what may or may not have happened in the hotel in Spain but in terms of establishment guilt the argument is without consequence. Whether Piggott killed himself or was executed by his employers the motive for the killing was the same, to hide the truth about the crimes Piggott had committed against Parnell.  Dr Maguire, the academic who had plotted in Paris with Piggott and Edward Caulfield Houston, was reported in Reynold’s News as dying ‘suddenly and mysteriously’ on 2nd March 1889. Irish MP Thomas O’Hanlon in Parliament asked for a post-mortem to see if the previously healthy academic was poisoned.  The question was unanswered.

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Meanwhile the Commission continued asking 150,000 questions. Parnell demanded that the accounts of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union be presented as evidence. The judges who somehow had approved almost 500 witnesses refused the request.  The Commission put on a stubborn show but closed without making accusations. Sir Robert Anderson did not appear as a witness before the Commission. There is no evidence to indicate that while he was in post as Assistant Commissioner he did anything to establish who had written the forged letter to The Times or fabricated the evidence contained in the articles in The Times newspaper. But, despite being attributed to a Times journalist, three of the eight articles had been written by Anderson. These three articles were titled ‘Behind The Scenes In America’. No doubt Sir Robert Anderson felt in this instance that he had more than acquitted his responsibility. In the investigation to the crimes of Jack the Ripper there was less enthusiasm from the man who was loyal to his Irish homeland, or at least the parts of it owned by his landlord friends.

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.

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

32 AARON MORDKE KOSMINSKI

 

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This is how Aaron Mordke Kosminski became a known suspect to Ripperologists.   In a police report dated February 1894, Sir Melville Macnaghten, who subsequently retired as Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, identified three suspects that included Kosminski. Criminals And Crime was published by Sir Robert Anderson in 1907. He had retired as Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner in 1901. In Criminals And Crime, Anderson claimed that the Ripper ‘had been safely caged in an asylum home’. Criminals And Crime had a sequel by Anderson called The Lighter Side Of My Official Life. This was published in 1910. This time Anderson revealed that ‘the suspect had been identified at the Seaside Home’.   There is a sentence in the memoir that deserves to be reproduced in full. ‘I will merely add that the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him; but he refused to give evidence against him.’

There is more. In 1959 TV presenter and journalist Dan Farson discovered an alternative copy of the 1894 report by Macnaghten. This second copy was the property of Lady Aberconway and differed slightly from the copy held in Scotland Yard. In the first copy Macnaghten describes Kominsky as a ‘strong suspect’. In the Aberconway version Macnaghten states, ‘This man in appearance strongly resembled the individual seen by the City PC near Mitre Square’.  In both versions Macnaghten provides information about Kosminski.   He lived in Whitechapel, had a ‘great hatred of women’ and ‘strong homicidal tendencies’. Because of ‘many years indulgence in solitary vices’ Kosminski had become insane.

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There is still more.   In 1980 the daughter of Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson died and amongst what she left to her nephew and grandson was a copy of The Lighter Side Of My Official Life by Anderson. Swanson had made notes in the margins. At the bottom of page 138 he wrote that as well as the witness who saw the Ripper ‘the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left in his mind.’  Swanson added in the margin, ‘And after this identification which suspect knew, no other murder took place’. At the back of the book Swanson, like Anderson, referred to the suspect being identified at the Seaside Home. According to Swanson, the suspect Kosminski was watched by the police at the home of his brother-in-law before ‘in a very short time’ he was referred to Stepney Workhouse and then Colney Hatch asylum ‘where he died shortly afterwards’.

All this deserves a summary. A retired senior policeman states that the Ripper was Jewish and known to the police. One of his colleagues writes that the suspect was identified by another Jew who was reluctant to give evidence, and another confirms the name of the suspect as Kosminski and explains what happened to the suspect.   It is not, though, that simple.   The loose ends and blind alleys contained within the three records have led Ripperologists around in circles for the last twenty years.

Kosminski did not die shortly after he was identified as Jack the Ripper.  Swanson made an error. Kosminski was committed to Colney Hatch in 1891 and lived there for another 28 years. His keepers described him as excitable but not violent. The symptoms of his insanity included a refusal to work, wash and accept prepared food.  He preferred to eat what he found in gutters.  His weight in 1919, the last time Kosminski was weighed, was recorded as six stone twelve pounds.   It is possible that his symptoms and emaciation appeared after he stopped or was prevented from killing women. This explanation, though, feels convenient and glib. In 1891, Jacob Cohen certified the committal of his brother-in-law Kosminski to an asylum. Cohen stated that his brother-in-law had not done any work for years. It is difficult to imagine an unemployed and already strange Kosminski persuading prostitutes that he could pay for sex.

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There is doubt about whether Kosminski is the correct insane Jewish suspect. The unrelated David Cohen was also committed to an asylum for being generally unpleasant and excitable. Cohen died soon after his committal. There is not other evidence, though, against Cohen. He was identified as a possible suspect before the name Kosminski was located in asylum records.

Somewhat baffling, there has been debate about when the identification took place. The ‘Seaside Home’ phrase by Anderson is recognised as police vernacular for the Convalescent Police Seaside Home, 51 Clarendon Villas, Hove.   The Home opened in March 1890, and Kominski was committed to a workhouse on the 4th February 1891. Before the end of the month he was committed to Colney Hatch Asylum.  If he was observed for a few days after the identification, Kosminski was not interviewed before January 1891.

Two names have been nominated as the witness who identified Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. They are the two witnesses known to be Jewish. Joseph Lawende saw a man in Mitre Square talking to Catherine Eddowes shortly before she was murdered. Israel Schwarz witnessed a man throwing Liz Stride to the ground the night she was killed. The favourite is Joseph Lawende because Swanson referred to Kosminski being observed day and night by City Police before he was committed to a workhouse. The murder of Eddowes occurred in the area covered by the City Police. Liz Stride was murdered in Whitechapel, which made it a matter for the Metropolitan Police. This reference to the City Police observing the house of the brother-in-law implies that the witness is Lawende. He was in the City area when he saw Catherine Eddowes talking to a man before her death. But the notes of Swanson are unreliable. Swanson alleged incorrectly that Kosminski died shortly after arriving in the asylum.

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Macnaghten mentions that a City PC saw the Ripper at Mitre Square. The PC who reported seeing a victim with a man was PC Smith. He, though, was not at Mitre Square. He was the witness at Berner Street where Liz Stride was murdered.  He was also a member of the Metropolitan Police.

So far we have unreliable and inconsistent accounts from three senior policemen that probably spent most of their careers avoiding confrontations with criminals. Constructing theories around assertions that may or may not be true is difficult. In The Complete History of Jack the Ripper author Philip Sugden makes a honourable and impressive attempt to piece the contradictory evidence together. But he is obliged to accept some of what Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson alleged and then use it to dismiss their other inconsistent assertions.   The main suspects the police identified are Montague Druitt, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog, George Chapman and Francis Tumblety.   Apart from Kosminski the list includes a calculating poisoner, a harmless depressive suicide, an American so old and large he defied any witness descriptions of the Ripper, and a con man and trickster.   There is nothing wrong in being curious about the possible clues left by Anderson, Swanson and Macnaghten but neither is there an obligation to have serious regard to the ramblings of retired administrators whose value consisted of their bureaucratic skills. None of the detectives who were closer to what was happening on the streets of Whitechapel confirmed the choice of Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. Inspector Abberline said this after he retired, ‘I know that it has been stated in several quarters that Jack the Ripper was a man who died in a lunatic asylum a few years ago, but there is nothing at all of a tangible nature to support such a theory.’ Or in other words all the analysis by Ripperologists of the thoughts left behind by Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson is supposition, as are indeed the remarks themselves.

What we have is that three senior policeman suspected a Polish Jew called Kosminski. The same policemen believe he was identified by a witness who refused to testify.   This is what may have happened. Both Anderson and Swanson mention the Seaside Home,  This means the identification took place around the end of 1890. Kosminski was not a physically powerful suspect that developed odd behaviour. He became a target for the police when he was a nuisance, very odd but vulnerable. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper author Philip Sugden asks why it took two years to arrange this identification.   It needed Kosminski to become a nuisance on the streets of Whitechapel, which happened around the time that Anderson was perhaps putting on pressure to have an arrest so that he could retire in glory. The word suspect is inaccurate. A better word was used by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Because the police are a threat to the protagonists, Spade argues ‘what we need is a patsy, a fall guy’. The man he chose was the popular choice, which is what Kosminski was in 1890. He stank, uttered vile threats and oaths to women, masturbated in public and was not even English.

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Philip Sugden writes ‘it is difficult to know why it was considered necessary to take Kosminski to the Seaside Home…’ The answer could be simple. The police were being secretive because they wanted to frame Kosminski and they wanted safe ground where they could transgress the law. The police collected their man and headed to the seaside for a discrete frame up.   Macnaghten refers to Kosminski being taken to the Seaside Home in secrecy and with difficulty. No other witnesses were called to identify Kosminski, perhaps because the police did not want anyone who could testify that Kosminski was not the Ripper.  The popular choice as witness, Joseph Lawende, did not even have a good view of the Ripper.  He saw him from behind.  Equally unforgiveable, Kosminski was identified without other participants in a line up. I suspect that Lawende refused to cooperate in what was corrupt police behaviour.  Desperate to justify himself, Anderson claimed, and possibly believed, that Lawende refused to testify because he would not betray another Jew. The evidence suggesting malpractice may be thin but if senior policemen write careless nonsense, they deserve what is thrown their way.

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.