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Old May 21st, 2017, 11:29 PM   #1
Danni
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Red face Introduction and my musings on JTR and the Torso mysteries

Hi All,

I'm a newbie to the forum and just trying to wrap my head around the era, the area, the mindset and society of the people in the East End and try to blend this with the investigative methodology of the police , their own prejudices and interactions with those people in the East End and lastly the medical knowledge and practises at time time coupled with the interactions with the police and the legalities and practises of the courts of the era. What a mouthful! And it certainly is a brain-ful as well particularly when I add in the relationship/interplay between the police, government, and the press! It's enough to confuse a newbie and make me tremble in my boots! At least I approach the situation as a blank canvas with no actual opinions or convictions when it comes to suspects! I'm just eager to learn more and perhaps chase the white rabbit down a hole every now and then!

I am interested in the potential linkages between JTR and the Torso mysteries and in the possibility that two or more killers were at work in the same geographical area at the same time. I do not think this would be surprising given the melting pot metropolis that London represented in the 1880s.

I believe (and think that this is a popular opinion) that this would attract persons with many oddities (including serial killers, occultists, fetishists and the like) as a superior place to indulge themselves with anonymity and get away with it without the scrutiny that would occur in say a small village or town. In particular, the desperation and high density of people in the East End would have proven a ripe hunting ground for victims - either for mischief, robbery, exploitation, murder etc - with what appears to be a high number of 'black holes' which represent truly bad neighbourhoods for crime and the destitute.

So in saying that, I am intrigued by the timing of the JtR murders and the Torso mysteries. There is strong debate over who were actually JTR victims so I'm not going to kick that beehive until I form a more educated opinion. And there is strong debate over whether the torso mysteries were in fact murders or not.

However, I feel it is safe to assume that a certain level of nefarious activities were afoot with the Torso mysteries given that on an ordinary day I don't feel the urge to dismember dead bodies (whether death occurred by natural causes, my own hand, or the hand of someone else) and dump the pieces just for jolly. A crime was occurring and whoever committed the dismemberment and dumping appeared to be careful, organised, and not wanting not to be caught for it (ie. drawing limited attention and no leads).

When reading up on the threads here about JTR and the Torso mysteries I was struck by the time line and it put me in mind of Sean Gillis and Derrick Todd Lea in Baton Rouge. Gillis was a random killer who appeared to carefully plan and wait for the opportunity to present itself. He defied serial killer profiles. But one thing I found particularly interesting was that due to media coverage, he was very aware that he had a competitor in the area - Derrick Todd Lea- and didn't want to be outdone by this other 'unknown at the time' serial killer. He also apparently (I couldn't find a truly reliable source at this early stage) to want to 'up' his crimes according to how the media reported them.

Given how saturated the press was with JTR stories and the fear it whipped up in the East End, if there was another criminal around who was dumping bodies, then there is the possibility that person viewed JTR as a competitor for the public interest or dangerous for business given the increase in police presence. While this is just a musing from drawing a vague parallel between a situation involving two serial killers and the potential of two serial killers in 1888, I am struck with the timing of placing a torso in the construction site for the New Scotland Yard building. This seems a particularly daring and pointed deed rather than a random dumping. And given that this was done during the considerable press feeding frenzy over JTR, I could be tempted to suggest that another criminal was trying to make a point to the police and public like a 'Look at me! I've over here!' attention grab. It's romantic theorising at its very best since I've no evidence to back up any of it!

In any event, the 1888 police investigation into these crimes occurring simultaneously when there was such political and social pressure to solve the crimes would have caused a lot of consternation and like humans can be inclined to do; corners were cut, assumptions were made, more promising leads were followed up and connections were made or overlooked. I just hope to learn more, research the old files and maybe dig up some information that may help shed a tiny light on the overall situation. Would anyone be able to point me in the right direction for more information on the Torso mysteries? I have read the threads on here and on casebook so I am wondering if there is are different and reputable resources that people could point me to? I am happy and eager to start chasing some rabbits
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Old May 21st, 2017, 11:51 PM   #2
Jerry Dunlop
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Hi Danni and Welcome to the forum!

First and foremost, in my opinion the best source for all things "torso" is Debra Arif. There are at least two books written on the subject by Michael Gordon and Mei Trow, but again, in my opinion, they don't compare to the research Debs has put forth on the matter. I think most if not all on this forum would agree with me on that subject. I must also mention that Rob Clack has an excellent article here, http://www.ripperologist.biz/pdf/ripperologist133.pdf, regarding the Whitehall torso.

Now, to your post from my point of view. You have made some very good observations in your first post on the forum. Nice job! I tend to agree with you that whoever this person dumping these torsos was, he was trying to grab some attention. Or divert some attention. I say that because as you mentioned there were some land dumps in addition to the water dumps. Why not just throw all the parts into the river from one location and be done with it? My personal view is that the torsos and ripper crimes were related. In saying that, I tend to believe there were more than one person acting for a common goal in both crime series.

Good luck with your research into this intriguing subject. I have learned a lot in a short time from reading up on the research from Debs, Christer, Rob Clack, Paul Begg and others that have contributed to this part of the case. I also read a lot of newspaper accounts to try to find additional information that may be lurking, somewhere.

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Old May 22nd, 2017, 02:40 AM   #3
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Hi Jerry! Thanks for the welcome and thank you for that link and the information! It is very appreciated!

I confess that I have read Debra Arif's posts with great interest! She really does appear to be the authority on the Torso Mystery! However, you're being modest! Your posts have also been of great interest!

I am intrigued with Debra's research into 'plugging' because it oddly fell into place with a random thought I had based upon an old conversation I had in the mists of time with a surgeon-in-training. He had quite a lot of practical and lamented experience regarding the translation of book knowledge into practical application and the results of his beginning work based on the opinion (and grading of his professor). So, I am intrigued with the idea that someone with book knowledge but little to no practical application could both come across as 'skilled' (when they get lucky and their book study and hypothetical knowledge works for them) and a 'butcher' when their inexperience weighs against study and book education.

My guess is my idea will not pan out but I have still managed to source some of the original texts printed in the 1880s (and yikes can 100 year old books be expensive! ). It is likely this exercise will amount to nothing more than an interesting and "outdated" read but hopefully it will expand my understanding of medical practise at the time! And at least I may be able to answer random trivia questions on 1880s medical journals and the "cutting" edge practises at the time!

I hope to talk and share ideas with you on the forum a lot more Jerry!
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Old May 22nd, 2017, 09:08 AM   #4
Debra Arif
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Hi Danni and welcome to the forums.
Great first post. I'll look forward to your future posts with interest.
I've been scouring primary and secondary source historical material on the four torso cases 87 to 89 for about ten years now and although Jerry said some pretty flattering things in his post (thanks Jerry! ) I don't consider myself an authority, just someone with an interest and passion for digging out material on this subject. Jerry himself has come up with some pretty interesting torso-related finds too and always seems to come at the case from angles I'd never usually think about. I'd also recommend Rob Clack's articles on the Pinchin Street and Whitehall cases.
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Old May 22nd, 2017, 11:58 AM   #5
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I have a small thought about JtR & the Torso Killer, just something to consider about methods.

A relative of mine worked on the "CSI" television series and they worked with experts in the field of forensics. One of these experts said that most people who plan to kill someone(s) plan for a long time, maybe years. They focus on murder for whatever reason they have. Where they mess up is they never think about what to do after the murder is accomplished and that is how they get caught.

Perhaps JtR fits this category. His only needs after killing were to get away and evade capture. Knowledge of the East End, dark clothing and absolute emotional control may have been all he needed. He was lucky and there were no modern forensics.

Perhaps the Torso Killer was an exception. He had plans for what was left of the bodies. He got the most possible value, according to his sick mind, from his victims after the killings.

Maybe Jack just decided to kill one night. Maybe the Torso Killer planned not only killing but how to use the aftermath to best advantage while not getting caught.
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Old May 22nd, 2017, 08:50 PM   #6
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Hi Debra and Anna! Thank you so much for making me feel welcome and for the information.

I tend to agree with you Anna about the Torso Murderer. I do believe that this person or persons was methodical, calculated and smart. The person went to great pains to dismember, transport and dump the bodies of women in such a way that not only were they incredibly hard to identify, the torsos in the water had evidence washed away, acquired new 'injuries' from the barges etc. and time/cause of death was even harder to determine. This strikes me as someone that was meticulous, careful and thoughtful - they appeared to have calmly thought things through and then proceeded with a methodology that worked.

The fact that (as Jerry pointed out) there were both land dumps and those in the Thames suggests to me that this person not only was clever...but did want people to know that something was happening. This person DID want people to know he was out there and that he was 'good' at his work - he just didn't want to get caught. Otherwise, why spread the bodies around and leave parts on land in places where they were likely to be found? Why risk putting a torso into the construction of the New Scotland Yard building unless you can't resist thumbing your nose at the establishment. I really do feel that ego played a small part in that decision and I suspect that whoever was dumping bodies felt very confident since they were actually getting away with it.

I recall a thread where Debra got into a discussion on the suggestion that one of the Torsos could have been the result of a botched backyard abortion. I'm not too sure how I feel about this except to mention (in a back handed way) that a back yard abortionist would actually make a great serial killer for the simple fact that desperate women willingly sought them out and then agreed to meet them at a certain time at an undisclosed and private location (often not telling people where they were going and what they were doing) and then expecting to be drugged and/or interfered with with sharp implements. I would wager that these woman would also ignore strange smells and suspicious bloodstains because they would either expect it of an abortionist's 'clinic' or not be too sure what to expect but take it as what an abortionist's clinic looked like. It takes a lot of the guess work out of where and when prey will present itself and allows for a killer to completely control the environment.

Seems to me to actually be an occupation that could attract a methodical and careful serial killer. They would just need to perform a number of 'legitimate' (and I use that word loosely) abortions to get a reputation as an abortionist and then they could indulge their sickness at whim.

However, in saying all that I don't actually believe this idea of a serial killing abortionist (although abortionists at the time most likely killed numerous patients through their dangerous practises) but it does illustrate a point about the Torso Dumper in that he was careful and I feel, very planned and controlled in how he executed his 'clean up'.
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Old May 23rd, 2017, 02:12 AM   #7
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To the best of my knowledge abortions were illegal in 1888 England. If so I doubt an abortionist would have been running around with acceptable bloodstains. The argument has been made that midwives could get away with bloodstains. I don't know. It seems to me that matters of childbirth are cleaned up nicely afterward, probably especially in an age when the word pregnant was a dirty word and so they used euphemisms or the French enciente instead.

I would suppose most women seeking abortions then or now probably talked to a few close friends before the act. Women talk. So if an abortionist determined to be a SK I think pretty soon a number of women would be pointing fingers demanding to know how this or that friend disappeared. It would also be possible, perhaps likely, that a woman planning an illegal abortion would have a female friend lined up to take care of her afterward.

I was going to make a comment earlier that the Torso Killer knew to remove abdominal contents before disposing of body parts. Abdominal contents hasten decomposition and if the body or parts are dumped in water, gasses from abdominal contents cause embarrassing floating upwards of body parts.

But I didn't write anything like this because I remembered how the parts were left here and there for view, not like the killer was hiding his work. On the other hand, a cleaned out torso ought to be easier to keep for awhile before the proper night for dumping arrives. I hear it is English custom to hang meat to cure for much longer periods of time than we do in the US. Is there anything in the torsos that would indicate British meat handling experience? Would a sheep's torso be hung a certain period of time before being butchered and eaten? It would be humourous if we ever learned a mad butcher was the torso killer and that he had a room full of sheep torsos with a few human torsos also left to cure.

OHHHH....The ban me please smiley is available. After what I just wrote I deserve it. I'm only back a week and have already disgusted myself.
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Old May 23rd, 2017, 02:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Debra Arif View Post
Hi Danni and welcome to the forums.
Great first post. I'll look forward to your future posts with interest.
I've been scouring primary and secondary source historical material on the four torso cases 87 to 89 for about ten years now and although Jerry said some pretty flattering things in his post (thanks Jerry! ) I don't consider myself an authority, just someone with an interest and passion for digging out material on this subject. Jerry himself has come up with some pretty interesting torso-related finds too and always seems to come at the case from angles I'd never usually think about. I'd also recommend Rob Clack's articles on the Pinchin Street and Whitehall cases.
Thanks Debs! That was very kind of you to say.

Anna and Danni,

I recall a case I found of Thomas Titley (a chemist) that was procuring abortions for women by the use of a "noxious drug". He was caught in a sting by the police. Interestingly, Titley lived in Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square and coincidentally a man named Titley was mentioned in one of Legrand's trials. This Charlotte Street address was blocks away from Legrand's address in Charlotte Street, Portland Place. In addition, it was found that Titley had a dead baby in his cellar covered in Chloride of Lime!

The point though, and I believe Debs has brought this up before, is a good number of abortions in that era were procured by swallowing a pill. Makes one wonder why the need for mutilation of the lower extremities in the torso cases if a pill was used.

Second, on the point Anna made regarding hanging the meat and spoiling. I found in some research awhile back that Condy's Fluid and Chloride of Lime were actually used by butchers to keep meat from spoiling, in addition to masking the smell; it was a preservative. Of all the dry land dumps I do recall a few mentions of both these items. Whitehall torso had possible traces of Condy's Fluid and I believe the Tottenham torso had traces of Chloride of Lime. IIRC, Deeming used CoL on some his dismembered victims and so did the Wainwrights.

With that in mind, if the killer were a butcher, he would know that CoL and Condy's Fluid would preserve meat and mask the smell. If his intention was for the land finds to not decompose quickly, he would know to use either of the two products. That would hold true with a chemist or medical person as well. They would know that Lime powder, on the other hand, would quickly decompose the body. But what fun would that be if he wanted the bodies to be found. The parts in the Thames could have had any one of these substances on them at one time but it washed away with the water.
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Old May 23rd, 2017, 04:02 AM   #9
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Interesting stuff and thanks for putting me straight guys!

I confess that what I know of abortion in the 1880s and in the UK in particular is very limited and I have only a little more knowledge of the practises in Australia. I thought that the pills (normally containing low doses, or not, of tansy oil, rue, ergot, penny royal and perhaps opium) could- if handled correctly-cause miscarriage but also had the potential serious side effects of causing internal damage, seizures and/or death and that success wasn't guaranteed. Didn't abortionists resort to other methods when the pills failed; such as douching with noxious substances or causing trauma to the abdomen either internally through the insertion of something sharp into the uterus or blows/rough massage to the outer abdomen?

Typically I also thought that abortionists were women! But then I read that the rise of the man-midwife and men taking over some of the more typical medical-related roles filled by females was taking place in the Victorian era. So that fits with Jerry's information on Thomas Titley procuring abortion pills (rather than what I typically imagined as a brothel madam) for desperate women. I shudder to think exactly how he obtained that dead baby and why he was keeping it in Chloride of lime -why preserve it rather than bury somewhere far away?

And that mad butcher theory is just as plausible, if not more plausible than many other theories or my random thoughts! The more I read and the more I try to inform myself the more I realise that I know nothing...perhaps even less than that! Particularly when I read the Ripperologist (thanks for the link Jerry!) and the statement of Dr Bond when he believed that the torso had been in the building site for many weeks based on the soaking of the fluids into the brick wall and that the testimonies of the workers that the body hadn't been there in the past week - were wrong.

Oddly, I am surprised that the workers who were storing their tools (for all intents and purposes) pretty much right on top of the torso wouldn't have noticed the stench of extreme decomposition taking place! I can smell when my dog brings something rank into the house within a matter of minutes...when the dog is downstairs! :O So I question the validity of the workmen's testimony about leaving tools there in the first place - or wonder if there was a way decomposition could have taken place elsewhere or have appeared sped up some how? My thoughts also turn to the (newly being introduced and tested out) bloodhounds and what training they may have had regarding hunting for bodies (if any). Indeed, it was such a new area that I don't think there would have been any real training of these dogs to find a body. Rather, i thought these bloodhounds were essentially man hunters and followed active scents? Is there any information that they were trained differently? Are there any further good articles on the topic in Ripperologist?
So many questions...and no real answers! Guess I'll just have to keep reading!

Last edited by Danni; May 24th, 2017 at 08:01 PM. Reason: Typo that I couldn't stand!
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Old May 23rd, 2017, 12:18 PM   #10
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Deeming made a mistake in using chloride of Lime when he should have used quick lime. You do bring up an interesting thought by mentioning the limes since one of the torsos (New Scotland Yard?) was thought to have been there for a while but not have an overwhelming smell.

To the best of my knowledge there has never been a safe and effective way to induce abortion and much has to do with how far along is the pregnancy. Some of the herbs and chemicals you mention interfere with blood supply. Until recent times, it is not an exaggeration to speak of back alley abortionists using "rusty coat hangers." Modern surgical methods are much safer and are effective but still carry risk.

One of the torso victims had been fairly well along with a pregnancy it seemed. I have never been sure if abortionists of the time actually did surgery in such cases. If they did I would rather think such procedures would have been used on upper class women because of the difficulty and involvement of the procedure which surely cost a lot of money. So far as I know plenty of poor women still died in childbirth when a C-section or other surgical intervention would have been useful.
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