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ALEX CHISHOLM Reviews Andrew Cook

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  • ALEX CHISHOLM Reviews Andrew Cook

    Starring Jack the Ripper

    Some Initial Thoughts
    Andrew Cook’s
    "Jack the Ripper"
    Alex Chisholm

    Jack the Ripper by Andrew Cook (Amberley Publishing 2009) has attracted a good deal of media attention in recent weeks. Despite claiming to explore a previously unconsidered notion that ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a press creation, such theorising has long been well known to students of Whitechapel murder and, as a result, the publication of Dr Cook’s work has been eagerly anticipated. In Dr Cook’s work any single Whitechapel murderer is dislodged from centre stage, to be replaced by characters such as T. P. O’Connor, managing director and editor of The Star, Ernest Parke, chief sub-editor, and Frederick Best, freelance jobbing reporter who sold his stories to The Star. For Dr Cook these three unscrupulous scoundrels were primarily responsible for the invention of the single killer theory, the sensationalising of Whitechapel murder and, ultimately, the authorship of ‘Dear Boss’ missives and the creation of Jack the Ripper, solely for the purpose of boosting newspaper sales. All of this, it is claimed, obscured the reality of multiple murderers abroad in Whitechapel, thereby hampering the investigation of these murders at the time and since.

    The number of murders actually attributable to a single Whitechapel murderer has been the subject of intense debate within the field of ‘Ripper’ studies for many years, without any definitive conclusions being attained. With the absence of any new or conclusive evidence on this issue being presented by Dr Cook the debate seems destined to continue for many more years to come. This leaves Dr Cook’s claim that the management and staff of the Star colluded in the manipulation of news to deliberately create the lone killer ‘Jack the Ripper,’ as the only major premise of the book to be addressed. However, in view of the controversy already generated, particularly on Internet forums, a word or two on the book’s front cover might be fitting before addressing what lies within.

    It is perhaps regrettable that dedicated researchers and students of Whitechapel murder are only too familiar with the ghastly images pertaining to this subject. The public at large, however, the claimed target audience of Dr Cook’s book, are likely to be far more sensitive to the open display of such horrors. Accepting that no offence was intended by the author or publisher, and that the cover image was deliberately chosen to impart the true, real-life horror of these crimes, does little to allay genuine concerns about the merits of openly displaying to the general public the butchered, brutalised body of a once living, breathing young woman. Perhaps a montage of Star reports and posters may have been a more tasteful cover image for public display, while remaining particularly pertinent to the subject of the book. The author and publisher, however, took a different view, as is their right, so it is now time to move beyond the cover story and delve into the content within.

    As might be expected, Principal Characters lists the main players in Dr Cook’s drama, while the Preface introduces the stereotypical image of Jack with a brief background of conditions in the East End and the central theory that Star journalists and management were instrumental in the creation of Jack the Ripper. This is followed by a summary of Dr Cook’s past research before T. P. O’Connor, future editor and manager of the Star, is introduced and his early career explored.
    Chapter 1 – With Thanks to Jack the Ripper, continues with O’Connor’s early political career and his machinations with potential Liberal backers that led to the birth of The Star. The process of recruiting principal members of staff then precedes brief discussion of the early coverage of Whitechapel murder, which fostered the notion of a single killer.

    Chapter 2 – Murder in Retrospect
    ,opens with Dr Cook acknowledging the deficit of ‘real evidence’ and bemoaning the ‘reverse research’ of ‘conspiracy buffs, pseudo historians and armchair detectives.’ The history of official records in this case is then briefly explained before extracts from these ‘unimpeachable contemporary sources’ are presented, covering the murders from Emma Elizabeth Smith through to Frances Coles.

    Chapter 3 – Hang Leather Apron
    ,is taken up with Dr Cook’s presentation of early Star reports on the murders, interwoven with the good doctor’s opinion as to the motivation behind these reports.

    Chapter 4 – Dear Boss
    , continues in similar vein, claiming that declining Star sales figures after the release of Leather Apron prompted the writing of the initial ‘Dear Boss’ letter and postcard, before examining the receipt, distribution and reporting of these ‘Jack the Ripper’ missives.

    Chapter 5 – The Hidden Hand
    , attempts to identify Frederick Best as the author of ‘Dear Boss,’ through the medium of handwriting analysis and Dr Cook’s own particular interpretation of the motives of Star management and staff. The chapter concludes with an account of latter-day hoaxer ‘Wearside Jack.’

    Chapter 6 – Cannibal Ripper
    , discusses reports surrounding the ‘Double Event’ and the opportunity taken by some papers (including the Star) to focus on moral and social issues, before the Goulston Street graffiti and the ‘Lusk Kidney’ are addressed.

    Chapter 7 – Copycat Killer
    , rehearses the establishment of the ‘Canonical Five’ and the limited evidence questioning the viability of this grouping.

    Chapter 8 – A Process of Elimination
    , continues by explaining differences in witness statement descriptions of possible murderers, with testimony from the likes of Mrs Long, Best, Lawende, and P. C. Smith being cited in order to question the likelihood of a single murderer being responsible for all five murders.

    Chapter 9 – Mask of Sanity
    , relates the career of Dr Percy Clark, recounting his opinion, alongside the views of others such as Dr. Phillips and Sir James Risdon Bennett, that the "so-called ‘canonical’ murders were not all committed by the same killer." (p. 193)

    Chapter 10 – Journey’s End
    , draws the work to a close with O’Connor’s departure from the Star and his launching of The Sun in 1894 with a five-day story on Jack the Ripper, in which Thomas Cutbush was implicated as the murderer. The chapter ends with Dr Clark’s belief that in relation to the identity of a Whitechapel murderer, "there was never the slightest clue to anybody … and it will remain so." (p. 200)

    Appendix 1 – Star Man Interviews
    presents a short selection of interviews from The Star 1888. Appendix 2 – Autopsies gives brief accounts of post-mortems from Emma Smith through to Francis Coles, followed by the usual pages of Sources, Bibliography, Acknowledgements, List of Illustrations and Index.

    Notwithstanding a few errors that appear to have eluded the proofreading, Dr Cook’s natural writing style presents an easy to follow narrative, readily accessible to the reading public at large. No trudge here through the interminably complex, conflicting evidence, argument and counter-argument that is the familiar fare of ‘Ripper’ veterans. All we have is a clear, concise presentation of Dr. Cook’s view of events. But therein, perhaps, lies the problem.

    Dr Cook has conducted some excellent research in identifying Frederick Best and his descendants; and has succeeded in returning this particular enterprising journalist into contention as a possible author of early Jack the Ripper missives. His work on Dr Percy Clark, and in bringing to light details from the Star company records is also highly commendable. Nevertheless, while Dr. Cook makes much of his use of original source material and records in formulating his views, the absence of adequate notes makes it difficult to evaluate the strength of support offered to his theorising by such sources. Indeed, in presenting his case, speculation and the apparent misinterpretation of certain evidence appears to take precedence over any substantive support afforded by the fruits of his research. As, from the outset, Dr Cook appears intent on ascribing the darkest possible motives to the actions of Star journalists and management, with little more than his own opinion and questionable claims presented in support of such a view.

    In Chapter 1 he claims: "O’Connor effectively launched the ‘Ripper industry’ on an enthralled public when he fashioned the story of the Whitechapel serial killer from the deaths of Emma Smith, Martha Tabram and Mary Ann Nichols. … The lone murderer theory provided him with the perfect vehicle for his beliefs and arguably for the greatest news headline of all time." (pp. 28 – 29). Now, the Star was the first to favour the single murderer option on 31st August. However, the Daily Telegraph, 1st September reported: "The theory that the murder is the work of a lunatic, who is also the perpetrator of the other two murders of women which have occurred in Whitechapel during the last six months, meets with very general acceptance amongst the inhabitants of the district." Dr Cook acknowledges that the Star was one of the few papers to gather news directly from the streets, utilising the local knowledge and connections of ‘hacks’ such as Frederick Best to "seek out human interest angles and to pick up quotes and comments from anyone with a story to tell." (p. 58). In view of this, perhaps the single killer theory was not a mere mercenary invention of O’Connor or his staff but was actually an accurate representation of fears on the street.

    Again, with regard to ‘Leather Apron,’ Dr Cook claims: "Under the headline, ‘Leather Apron – The Only Name Linked with Whitechapel Murders’, Parke devoted the best part of a page to, ‘The Noiseless Midnight Terror’" (p. 59). In fact, this report, Star 5th Sept. 1888, amounted to no more than 0.75 of 1 column on a page of six columns. Indeed, on this day Whitechapel murder accounted for 5.02% of the Star’s news coverage. The largest single story related to Gladstone, with 8.23%, followed by Trade Union and Labour affairs, accounting for 7.36% of news coverage. The same amount of space occupied by Whitechapel murder, 5.02%, was given over to a report on "Mr Isaac Holden’s Home." The next day, 6th Sept., when Dr Cook claims: "Parke decided to go even bigger with the Leather Apron story," (p. 59) only 0.5 of 1 column, amounting to 2.96% of news coverage was given over to Whitechapel murder on a day when a review of "Books and Bookmen" accounted for 5.93% of the paper’s news coverage. This hardly seems to evince the unbridled exploitation of Whitechapel murder by the Star that Dr Cook appears to be at pains to portray.

    Chapter 4 has Dr Cook claiming that the Star’s "emphasis on the single killer pitch had seen its circulation rocket from an average of 143,000 copies sold per day before the murders began, to an average daily sale of 232,000 by the time of the Annie Chapman murder on 8 September. … Sales were further accelerated by Ernest Parke’s intuitive instinct to demonise Leather Apron and run with the story for all it was worth. By the time of Leather Apron’s arrest on the morning of 10 September, the Star’s average daily circulation had leapt a further 13 per cent to reach the giddy heights of 261,100! When, much to Parke’s shock and surprise, Piser was released at 9.30 p.m. the following day, the circulation balloon burst and sales fell back to 190,033" (p. 71). The need to again boost sales is presented by Dr Cook as the principal motivating factor in the penning of the Dear Boss missives bearing the sobriquet ‘Jack the Ripper.’ Unfortunately, however, Dr Cook appears to have misunderstood the figures quoted to validate his opinion. Average daily circulation had not reached 232,000 by 8th September, nor had average daily circulation leapt to 261,100 by the time of Leather Apron’s arrest on 10th September. These figures do not represent average daily circulation but actual single day sales. The Star, Tuesday 11th September, makes it quite clear by reporting:

    "PHENOMENAL SUCCESS. - The Circulation of THE STAR Yesterday reached 261,100. - This is more by 55,000 Than the highest ever reached by any other Evening Paper in London. - The circulation of THE STAR on Saturday last was 232,500."

    The Star, Saturday 15th September further clarifies:

    "PHENOMENAL SUCCESS. - The Average Daily Circulation of THE STAR For the Week ending 14 Sept. was 190,033. - The Number of Copies Circulated during the Six Days was 1,140,200. - This Number is Greater by 412,000 Than the Number Ever Circulated in any week by any other EVENING PAPER IN LONDON."

    So the main peak in actual daily sales, 232,500 copies on the 8th and 261,100 copies on 10th September, appear to relate to public interest in the first two Star reports of Chapman’s murder. If these are subtracted from the 1,140,200, (the total amount of copies sold between 8th and 14th September) the average daily circulation for the four days between 11th and 14th September amounts to 161,650 copies. As two of these days’ reports on 11th and 12th September featured stories on Piser it seems that Parke’s demonising of ‘Leather Apron’ had less impact on increased sales than the occurrence of a new murder. This appears to be further borne out by the average daily circulation for the six days between 1st and 6th October reaching 217,158 copies and the actual single day’s sales of 298,800 copies on 9th November. (Star 10th October and 10th November1888)

    Some sensational reporting in the Star is probably undeniable. However, throughout the autumn of 1888 on the whole, other newspapers, such as the Times and the Daily Telegraph devoted far more column inches to Whitechapel murder than the Star ever did. The Daily Telegraph in particular published full and detailed accounts of each Whitechapel murder Inquest session, from September to November – something that is credited with keeping the murders at the forefront of public attention in periods between murders – the Star did not. On the 4th September, for example, the Star contained 108 words on Whitechapel murder in contrast to the Daily Telegraph’s 2,515 words on the subject. The day news of the ‘Lusk Kidney’ broke, 19th October, 907 words, 3.61% of news coverage was given over to Whitechapel murder in the Star. This was far outweighed by the 20.44% of news coverage given over to Irish affairs in the same edition of the Star. The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand published 2,423 words on Whitechapel murder on the same day. Star reports on Whitechapel on 27th September amounted to 1,545 words, less than half the 3,240 words devoted to the subject in the Daily Telegraph that day. And, on 13th November 1,744 words on Whitechapel murder appeared in the Star, while the subject accounted for 7,456 words in the Daily Telegraph. All of which should at least cast doubt on claims that the Star exploited every aspect of Whitechapel murder to the full, in order to boost sales.

    Again in chapter 4 (pp. 80 – 83) Dr Cook details why the Star’s editions appeared on the street before editions of its rival the Evening News, in order to support his assertion that, despite long-standing antagonism towards Central News the Star, mysteriously, was the first to break the news of ‘Dear Boss’ missives and introduce the public to ‘Jack the Ripper’. Unfortunately, however, it appears that Dr Cook is unaware of the fact that the Daily Telegraph, 1st October, published the full transcript of the first ‘Ripper’ letter in the morning, hours before any edition of the Star or Evening News appeared on the street. The fact that the Star insisted from the start that ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a practical joker; while using the name on their billboards to capture public attention is seen as suspicious by Dr Cook. He further asserts that the Star’s claim on 4th October that they had been offered facsimiles of ‘the very silly letters’ should be treated with "extreme suspicion if not downright disbelief." (p 86) He questions why such an offer should be made when facsimiles were freely available from the police. However, there is nothing in the Star report to suggest that this offer was made after the Metropolitan Police had issued their poster of the letter and postcard on 3rd October. Dr. Cook then questions whether the Star’s criticism of the Daily Telegraph for publishing the facsimile was borne out of a guilty reluctance to see the handwriting reproduced to be seen by hundreds of thousands throughout the country. (p. 86) The so-called American phrases in the letter and postcard are then highlighted, in order to further implicate Frederick Best, "the only ‘Dear Boss’ suspect who had visited America prior to 1888." (p. 107); alongside the handwriting analysis of Elaine Quigley, and a letter from John Brunner (proprietor of the Star) to Henry Massingham (assistant editor) in 1890, which included: "Mr Best’s attempt to mislead Central News during the Whitechapel Murders should have led to an earlier termination of his association with the newspaper." (p. 197)

    Leaving aside graphology, Brunner’s letter is certainly intriguing and worthy of further investigation. But, if it does actually refer to the hoaxing of Jack the Ripper letters, which is open to question, why does it refer to merely attempting to mislead Central News? Furthermore if, as Dr Cook would have us believe, Best was prompted to undertake the hoax by O’Connor and Parke, why do these not receive Brunner’s criticism in this respect? The American connection is interesting in itself but does raise a question about Dr Cook’s presentation of original source material. Inclusions such as ‘Boss,’ ‘real fits,’ and ‘shan’t quit’ may well indicate an American influence, yet similar turns of phrase can be found in Punch prior to mid-September 1888. It is also worth noting that Star reports of Whitechapel murders and other topics throughout 1888 contained American spelling of words such as ‘rumor’ and ‘neighborhood.’ Curiously enough, for whatever reason, Dr Cook appears to have chosen to replace these American forms with English spellings in his reproduction of Star reports. (e.g. pp. 60 & 61)

    In highlighting possible differences between murder victims Dr Cook appears to have misunderstood Dr Phillips’ comments at the Stride Inquest on 5th October, by stating: "The knife was also of a different kind to that used on Annie Chapman and Nichols. It was, according to Phillips, a rounded-end knife not a pointed one and could have been wielded by a right handed killer as opposed to the left handed individual who cut the throats of Nichols and Chapman." (p. 157)

    The knife in question was one found on a doorstep opposite a laundry at 253 Whitechapel Road on Monday 1st October by Thomas Coram and produced at the Inquest on Wednesday 3rd October. It was described as: "a knife such as would be used by a baker in his trade, it being flat at the top instead of pointed, as a butcher's knife would be. The blade, which was discoloured with something resembling blood, was quite a foot long and an inch broad, whilst the black handle was six inches in length, and strongly rivetted in three places." (Daily Telegraph 4 Oct.)

    Dr Phillips’ comments on the knife appeared in the Daily Telegraph, 6th October:

    "The knife produced on the last occasion was delivered to me, properly secured, by a constable, and on examination I found it to be such a knife as is used in a chandler's shop, and is called a slicing knife. It has blood upon it, which has characteristics similar to the blood of a human being. It has been recently blunted, and its edge apparently turned by rubbing on a stone such as a kerbstone. It evidently was before a very sharp knife.
    The Coroner: Is it such as knife as could have caused the injuries which were inflicted upon the deceased? - Such a knife could have produced the incision and injuries to the neck, but it is not such a weapon as I should have fixed upon as having caused the injuries in this case; and if my opinion as regards the position of the body is correct, the knife in question would become an improbable instrument as having caused the incision. … the murderer was on her right side when he inflicted the cut. I am of opinion that the cut was made from the left to the right side of the deceased, and taking into account the position of the incision it is unlikely that such a long knife inflicted the wound in the neck.
    The knife produced on the last occasion was not sharp pointed, was it? - No, it was rounded at the tip, which was about an inch across. The blade was wider at the base.
    Was there anything to indicate that the cut on the neck of the deceased was made with a pointed knife? - Nothing.

    Dr Backwell added:

    "With respect to the knife which was found, I should like to say that I concur with Dr. Phillips in his opinion that, although it might possibly have inflicted the injury, it is an extremely unlikely instrument to have been used. It appears to me that a murderer, in using a round-pointed instrument, would seriously handicap himself, as he would be only able to use it in one particular way. I am told that slaughterers always use a sharp-pointed instrument.
    The Coroner: No one has suggested that this crime was committed by a slaughterer. - Witness: I simply intended to point out the inconvenience that might arise from using a blunt-pointed weapon.

    Nowhere here is there any suggestion that the weapon used on Elizabeth Stride was a "rounded-end knife not a pointed one." All that Phillips, and Blackwell concede is that the rounded tipped knife found by Coram could have inflicted the injuries to Stride although, given the position of the body and direction of the cut, it was unlikely that such a knife was used. Not exactly the impression Dr Cook tries to impart.

    All in all then, although Dr Cook certainly touches upon some interesting sources, worthy of further investigation, little substantive evidence is presented in support of his central claim that ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a media creation, and that the Star management and journalists deliberately engineered his invention. Add to this some historiographically questionable pronouncements such as: "unimpeachable contemporary sources," (p 33) or "Certainly it is impossible to conceive," (p. 107) coupled with an absence of adequate notes, and this book appears to fall some way short of the standards expected of conventional works of history; not to mention some of the excellent contributions to ‘Ripper’ studies through the years. It seems particularly regrettable that the opportunity to more rigorously explore the potential media and cultural influences on the initial creation and development of ‘Ripper’ myth has been missed. In view of this, while well worth reading as an interesting addition to ‘the ever growing library of ‘Ripper’ books, with their cast of a thousand implausible suspects and frequently erroneous claims,’ (p.29) Andrew Cook’s Jack the Ripper was never likely to be seen as ‘Case Closed.’
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  • #2
    Thanks on behalf of all the membership for yet another valuable contribution,Alex.

    PS...And I don't care what he claims not to be...Alex is indeed one of the true scholars of Ripperology along with SPE and Paul ( Henny) Begg.
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    • #3
      Hi Alex

      Yes many thanks for this thorough review. Andrew Cook's evident mistake over the knife found by Thomas Coram on the doorstep opposite a laundry at 253 Whitechapel Road on Monday 1st October, and taking it to be the knife that killed Stride appears of a piece with some of the claims in his book, as we discussed in the review of his book that appears in the June issue of Ripperologist, no. 103.

      That is, the author makes a lot of claims about The Star and so on but doesn't fully back them up. Nor, as we showed does he show full knowledge of the cast of characters at The Star , singling out Frederick Best as the author of "Dear Boss" and seemingly ignoring or being unaware of the long-known allegation by Lincoln Springfield that American Star reporter Harry Dam was the person responsible for working up the story about Leather Apron. By extension, therefore, if the The Star was responsible for both Leather Apron and "Dear Boss", Harry Dam could have been the culprit not Best.

      All the best

      Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical" Hear sample song at

      Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
      Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at


      • #4
        An excellent review which basically kills Cook's argument stone dead. Not that it really had legs to start with.


        • #5
          Regarding Andrew Cook’s idea that Frederick Best picked up the Leather Apron story in Whitechapel, Lincoln Springfield, as already discussed, attributed the Leather Apron story to an American journalist named Harry Dam. Unfortunately, what Lincoln Springfield wrote is ambiguous: he wrote that Dam ‘created a sensation by developing a theory of the authorship of those ghastly crimes. They were, he decided to demonstrate, the work of a miscreant known as “Leather Apron”…’ Does Springfield mean that Harry Dam took a theory circulating in the East End and worked it up, or does he mean that Dam invented Leather Apron from scratch?

          Springfield goes on to say, ‘But unfortunately there actually was in existence a man known to the nobility and gentry of the Mile End Road as “Leather Apron”, and he was an honest, hard-working fellow, as innocent of the series of Whitechapel murders, or any one of them, as you or I.’ Springfield may here be indicating the latter because If there really were stories circulating in the East End about someone called Leather Apron then it would have been unfortunate but hardly libellous if John Pizer shared the nickname, but if Dam invented this character then it certainly would have been potentially libellous and also embarrassing and perhaps damaging to the Star if the newspaper had to acknowledge that the whole Leather Apron story was a figment of Harry Dam’s imagination.

          Some clarification may be offered by the Echo (5 September 1888, the day after the Star first referred to Leather Apron)which reported: ‘A very funny incident occurred in connection with the latest Whitechapel murder yesterday. An American journalist, anxious to distinguish himself in his paper, sent another scribe hailing from the other side of the Atlantic down into Whitechapel to interview the natives on the subject of the murder, and get their ideas. They gave him them, which were to the effect that they believed the murder had been committed by a "wild looking man, wearing a leather apron," who had been seen about in Whitechapel lately, and was believed to be an escaped lunatic.

          Filled with this splendid idea, the young man made some "beautiful copy," which his chief telegraphed off to New York forthwith, only to learn, a very little while afterwards, that his assistant had been thoroughly well hoaxed..’

          Who could this American journalist hoaxed down in Whitechapel have been? Was it Frederick Best, who according to Andrew Cook had just returned from America? In which case, the American journalist who sent him would probably have been Harry Dam. Or, of course, the hoaxed journalist could have been Dam and the man who sent him another American on the staff of the newspaper.

          Either way, the Echo indicates that the story picked up in the East End was about a leather apron-wearing man, not a man nicknamed or called Leather Apron, and that he hadn't extorted money from the prostitutes or otherwise threatened them, but was simply assumed (form his wild looking appearance?) to be an escaped lunatic. The Echo's story could therefore accord well enough with Lincoln Springfield's account.

          One could suppose from these accounts that Leather Apron never really existed and that even the story of the wild-looking leather apron-wearing escaped lunatic was a hoax, but there are some curious stories which recommend caution before drawing any hard and fast conclusions. What does seem to be the case, however, is that whilst Best could have been the journalist who was hoaxed, there appears to be no reason to suppose that the Leather Apron story was created by Ernest Parke and T.P. O'Connor as part of an intentional circulation-boosting presentation of the lone killer.


          • #6
            Thanks, Alex!

            Alex, what a thorough and informative piece of work!
            Thank you for sharing it with us.

            I have always wondered if the various claims for the Star's massive increase in circulation would stand up to careful scrutiny. Your breakdown of the figures involved made meaningful comparisons much simpler.

            In short, whatever one's verdict on Mr. Cook's book, your review of it certainly deserves 5 STARS!

            Best regards from your ''pseudo-historian'' friend, Archaic


            • #7
              Thanks very much, Mr. B, for the follow-up on Best,Dam & Leather Apron. Very interesting reading to go along with Alex's review.
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              • #8
                Alex's review contains an eye opener in one respect that veterans such as Messrs. Evans and Begg and Alex himself probably knew long ago....and that is the word count attributable to the Star's coverage on the the examples Alex kindly and thankfully provided...seem at odds with the general perception some may have had about how extensively the Star covered the WM skein. To me,it seems somewhat less pronounced gauging by the word counts Mr. Chisholm provided.

                Would any of the three gentlemen named above care to elaborate on how this perception of an exceptional exploitation of the WM by the Star, specifically, seems to be an accepted article of faith or perhaps someone else instead ?

                Thank you...and thanks again for the ideas provided in the review,Alex. I'll see if I can muster up some threads relative to the review.
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                • #9
                  Bravo Alex!

                  Andrew Cook should have come to you first - and then read his Punch, before putting his own pen to paper.

                  In my view, a quick rub down with Robert Napper's 1990s equivalent of Tabram and Kelly could not have hurt Cook either. And the timing of Dear Boss in relation to the Whitechapel series could hardly be more different from that of Wearside Jack to the Yorkshire Ripper murders.

                  I realise that the rest of my post won't win me any friends, and I'm not expecting any agreement either, but I have to wonder if Cook's next book will take him six months to write instead of three, and be a study of serial murder since 1888, whereby he concludes that the victims of Zodiac, Ireland, Napper et al died from Jack Syndrome - where misinformed killers set out to copy elements of JtR's work, not imagining that they are merely doing Best impressions.

                  If Best and co conceived Dear Boss, I'm surprised they didn't expire on the spot from shock when they learned that Kate Eddowes had been found, ripped up like a pig in the market, and with the first above-the-neck mutilations of the series, just hours after their funny little missive landed on a policeman's desk, promising mayhem and jollies.

                  I wonder what Cook thinks the hoaxers - not to mention Kate's killer - would have made of it: different 'authors', acting independently and in total ignorance of each other's work, in the space of five days.

                  You couldn't make it up.

                  Oh wait, Cook says that's exactly what they did.


                  I wish I were two puppies then I could play together - Storm Petersen


                  • #10
                    Hi All,

                    First off—terrific work, Alex.

                    Secondly, here's an alternative take on the origins of the Leather Apron story. It's from "The Police Reporter", an article in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, autumn 1898. It was written by American author and journalist Vance Thompson. Make of it what you will.




                    • #11
                      Not to derail Alex's thread, but this is Vance Thompson with an accompanying link to some of his work, one being 'A London Cabby'....1904.


                      Thanks as always Simon.
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                      • #12
                        Nice find, Simon.

                        Although the date is wrong, Leather Apron having been ‘created’ before the murder in Mitre Square, the ‘Irish member of Parliament who edited the newspaper in question is obviously T.P. O’Connor, so the finger is again being pointed at the Star. The man the ‘idiot’ journalist met in The Mitre pub was presumably Henry Pottinger Stevens, who wrote the libretto of Billee Taylor, and was a one-time journalist for the Daily Telegraph. It may be that the ‘idiot’ journalist was Harry Dam. This is purely speculative and based wholly on Stevens and Dam sharing a common interest in the theatre, Dam later writing comic plays, being particularly famous for The Shop Girl.


                        • #13
                          Hi Folks

                          Thank you all for your comments on my ramblings, with particular thanks to Paul for elaborating on Dam. To be perfectly honest, while aware of his candidature, I didn’t feel I knew enough to comment on it, so I’m glad others have.

                          Great find, Simon! It seems to be an intriguing article, especially when it’s remembered that De Quincey is referred to in the Star 1st September 1888. I’m trawling through some of De Quincey’s works in search of the ‘leathern-aproned Jew,’ but no luck yet. Anyone else know where this character might be found?

                          Wikipedia has a good account of “Billee Taylor” for anyone interested.


                          Anyhoo, thanks again to all.

                          Best wishes
                          But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete. Think of it – I did not even exist!
                          (HJFSotC – SCoDJaMH – RLS, 1886)


                          • #14
                            Hi All,

                            This is the only Leathern Apron reference I have found so far—

                            LA CLUB.jpg




                            • #15
                              Hi Simon and Alex

                              Simon, thanks for posting these references to Leathern Apron, and particularly the Lippincott's Monthly story from autumn 1898 by Vance Thompson that appears to tie The Star to the invention of Leather Apron as a suspect. As you know, the Lippincott story surfaced some months ago and was briefly discussed on Casebook.

                              I have done some digging on the Internet as well as among some of Thomas De Quincey's more obscure writings shelved in the Johns Hopkins University's Sheridan Library but I have so far not located any piece of writing by him that involves Leathern-Apron.

                              I have also been in touch with Dr. Julian North of the University of Leicester, an expert on the writings of De Quincey, but she did not know of any work by De Quincey that might reference Leathern-Apron, a Jew with a knife at his belt, as described by Thompson. In one lesser known piece by De Quincey, he did write about the Ratcliffe Highway murders in the East End but that piece of writing does not seem to mention the character Thompson cites. Very odd. I'll keep looking.

                              All the best

                              Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
                     Hear sample song at

                              Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
                              Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at