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5 Questions With: Trevor Bond

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  • 5 Questions With: Trevor Bond

    The Forums thanks Trevor Bond for his time and his effort in elaborating on a few questions put to him.

    Very nicely done Trevor. This is most appreciated.
    The Questions:

    1. At what point did you become as interested or serious in the Whitechapel Murders
    so much so that you became part of what appears to be a pretty cool cadre, the London Jobbers?
    Was it originally an interest in the WM or more to do with your interest in photography ?

    2. In your opinion,from what you have observed so far...are there areas of Case discussion that you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole or is one area just as good as the next ?

    3. Would you care to elaborate a little on your interest in Frances Coles ?

    Do you feel her murder is excluded from consideration into the so-called canon due to any one specific thing ? Please give ( briefly ) your views on this 1891 murder.

    4. Since its apparently easy getting the London Job crew out to do some Ripper related work...has anyone ( I know Neil Bell wouldn't think of this in a million years ) suggested all 9 of the group spend a day at the PRO and focus on one aspect or one collection within the archive and try to unearth some things of relevance ?

    5. Please tell us the one area of the Whitechapel Murders that you intend to pursue, if any, in the future....or are you primarily interested in acquiring as much general knowledge at the present time ?

    ...and Trevor's responses:

    I first became interested in the Whitechapel Murders – well, the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders, to be exact – a few years after the centenary; my mother used to be a librarian, and in the UK the public libraries have a clear-out every few years, where they identify the books that are hardly ever taken out and sell them off to make space for new stock. One day, I was about eleven, my mother points to this black bag and says ‘there’s some books in there, see if there’s any you want before I put them out’; I don’t know what she expected me to pull out – but probably not Terence Sharkey’s Jack the Ripper: 100 Years of Investigation! No offence to Mr Sharkey, but it hadn’t been taken out for quite a while by then – probably since 1988

    My interest remained latent for many years, until a university lecturer– an American, Kelly Grovier, who has written an outstanding book on Newgate prison since - showed me Tony Williams’ Uncle Jack, which linked a ‘suspect’ to the very town I was studying in. And that – as bad a book as it was – led me to Casebook. Suddenly I realised that there was a whole field of information out there. I also realised I knew absolutely nothing; that was when it got serious.

    I just listened to John and Phil on an old podcast talking about the Museum of London exhibition and I remember hearing about that and planning to go, but things got in the way. I wouldn’t let them now! I kind of feel like I was living a parallel existence for 15 years or so completely ignorant of what was going on, and every now and then these little touchstones keep popping up. By the time I came to the case seriously so much incredible work had been done, a lot of it kicked off by the centenary, that I was having to run just to catch up. I managed to miss the whole Diary furore, too which may be no bad thing – I’ve only just caught up with that!

    Photography is simply an expression of my interest. Any illusions that it was anything more were pretty quickly dispelled when I saw not only Andrew’s photos from the London Job weekend but also John’s, Rob’s - for people like them, photography is art – and it really is – for me it’s simply a way of preserving a historical record. If photography hadn’t been invented, I’d probably be writing lyrical ballads about this stuff!


    The Diary! As I said, I missed out on the whole initial furore, with the discovery and all the different teams of experts, and to try and catch up if you weren’t going with it from day 1 is a bit like a case itself. If you haven’t got time to devote to getting into cross-referencing half a dozen reports into Nigrosine inks and the like, I think it’s best to leave the discussion to those who know all the ins and outs. More than any other area of the case, every single thing you could say about the Diary comes with baggage. In those circumstances, I think it’s simplest to just stay on the sidelines and go with your gut feeling; and my gut feeling is that it’s all a bit too convenient, and the provenance is very dodgy. It’s a bit like my view on God; if something comes out to prove its authenticity 100% then I will be the first to hold my hands up and say ‘I was wrong’, but there’s been nothing thus far. I think it’s a fascinating story though. From a distance!

    Anything else is fair game though. I’m hardly the first person to say this, but you never know where this case will take you, and that’s a great thing. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as useless information, either – was Tumblety the ‘Ripper’ for example? Probably not. But if something new turned up about him tomorrow I’d be among the first to read it, and say ‘well done’ to whoever turned it up.

    I have found my interest straying more and more into the ‘non canonical’ murders, not to try to somehow shoehorn them into the canon, but as areas of study irrelevant of that debate. I’m a bit contrary like that! Nevertheless, studying these murders can be invaluable to a better understanding the period and the context of the whole case, ‘Ripper’ or ‘no Ripper’.

    As for the JTR ‘canon’, then, I would say no, Coles probably doesn’t belong in there. The tragedy is that she almost needs to be included for people to take her story seriously, in terms of warranting study. And I believe that was the attitude of the police at the time, too; they certainly seem to have lost a certain amount of interest in convicting Sadler for Coles’ death when they realised they couldn’t paint him as ‘Jack’. As for my views on ‘whodunnit’, I think Sadler remains suspect number 1 – his alibi reads like an Ealing comedy, and has to be seen as less than perfect. Otherwise, it is an often forgotten element of the context of the Murders that Whitechapel was a pretty dangerous place in the LVP – and there were dangerous people out there apart from ‘the Ripper’. There was an attempted assault with a knife the night after Nicholls was killed – so there are obviously other ‘unknown local’ candidates out there for the non-‘Ripper’ murders as much as there are for the canonicals. Then again, I am one of those unpopular people who don’t believe Stride necessarily belongs in the ‘canon’!

    As some people may be aware, I am currently in the early stages of setting up a project to get a memorial to Frances Coles erected. I will be placing a thread in the Frances Coles forum on this, and there is also an introduction to the project on my website which is too lengthy to repeat here. Coles’ grave is currently unmarked – and I mean, truly unmarked, not just that there is no headstone – one of the many complications I have already run into is that no-one can quite agree on where she is buried! She’s in the East London Cemetery, along with Liz Stride and the Pinchin Street Torso, we know that much. Again, there will be a discussion of the various sites people have suggested on the forum. I really am looking for as much feedback as possible here at the minute – I haven’t even settled on exactly what form the memorial will take yet; I have concerns about the slightly mawkish tone that some ‘tributes’ have taken in the past, although I have had some really positive opinions thus far. But it’s a discussion that needs to be had.

    It’s an interesting time around Coles at the minute; there has just been a book, Carroty Nell: the Last Victim of Jack the Ripper, published, although not in the UK for some reason. I don’t like the title, but I’m awaiting delivery with an open mind.


    No one’s suggested that – but it’s a great idea! I’ve been meaning to get back to the National Archives (formerly the PRO) for ages, since I did some research into Swanson there a while back which ended up finding its way into Chris Phillips’ Wiki article (in a good way), and really I have no excuse as when my wife and I travel to London every few months or so, we stay at my parent’s flat which is literally two minutes away.

    The idea of a ‘team’ of us perhaps all taking a specific topic or folder and spreading out across the reading room, then coming back together to see where we’ve got, plus obviously using each other’s expertise in between to keep ‘on track’’s quite exciting really. I don’t know whether Laura would be able to fly in just for that, or whether both the northern lads (Andrew and Peter) would make it down, but I dare say we could get a few of the more London based people together. And I know a very good pub in Kew for a debrief!

    Over the last few months, I feel for the first time that I have enough of a basic knowledge to start looking into specific areas of the case. I have given myself a quite intense apprenticeship since first coming across Casebook. There’s still more to do, of course – but I think 99% of people would say that. It’s a bit like painting the Forth bridge – does that translate? I couldn’t have possibly got to this level without the help of many, many people – or by simply reading the books. The downside is that there are now an awful lot of books I’ve still missed out on. There are probably people on here who wouldn’t speak to me if they knew some of the books I don’t own – and not only because they’ve written them!

    As for which specific areas, Ive already mentioned Coles so can I have another? My other current project is a documentary – provisionally titled Murder and Suspicion in E1 – and which will be filmed in June. It’s a non-commercial project, and will be available for free on my website. The idea is to give those who are interested in the case but unable to visit the area an idea of how these sites they read about and have seen photographs of fit together, along with a taste of the area’s other histories. With most documentaries you will get the presenter walking along Buck’s Row, for example, and they’ll say a little about Nicholls’ murder, then you’ll get a few generic shots of East-End rooftops and suddenly they’re standing in Hanbury Street. That may make sense to those of us who know the area but how much does it tell someone in Kansas, or Sydney?

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  • #2
    Fine interview Howard, Trevor.

    Having communicated with Trevor on the other boards I can say he will be a welcome addition to these forums.

    He has a well put together website too.
    Best Wishes,
    Cris Malone
    "Objectivity comes from how the evidence is treated, not the nature of the evidence itself. Historians can be just as objective as any scientist."


    • #3
      A job to view archieves has been discussed many years ago however the feasibility of it happening is not good.

      Firstly the Job is open to all and we can never know the exact number of those who would attend.

      Secondly piling up to, for example, Kew with 10 to 20 odd people wouldnt not be welcome however I suppose if we knew the numbers before hand we could book (which is what is normally done anyway) and attack it that way.

      The next job is pencilled in for next year, Im thinking summer when the weather is fine.....or should be.

      Thinking on, a archive job could be done if, as I say, we have a set amount of people.

      Let me work on it.


      PS Trevor, apologies. I got your message. I sent the you know what from my work addy to my personal one. However due to the size of it work held it back until the servers are less busy. This was 2pm Thursday. As yet Ive not received it and cant check till Im back at work on Tuesday.

      Sorry mate.


      • #4

        Thanks Cris and Neil for the feedback - very kind it was too!- and also obviously to How for the opportunity to get my tuppence worth across.

        Unfortunately, I have had a bit of a slower start than I envisioned to life 'over here', but over the next few days now I should be getting involved a lot more; I am halfway through what I hope will be an interesting reply to Cris and How's thoughts on the Coles 'canon' question, and as I mentioned I will also be putting up discussion/suggestion threads for both the memorial project (Coles forum) and my documentary script (Individal forum). I have also received my copy of 'Carroty Nell' today for which I think a thread on the Coles forum is deserved. If anyone else has read it yet I'd be very interested in their opinions.

        As for the 'you know what' Neil, no worries - sounds like there's quite a lot! I wonder how many people this is confusing...anyway, as I said in the message no rush, I'm really grateful for anything - just thought I'd check in as we hadn't been in touch for a while; apart from both (somehow) ending up in the midst of a bit of a domestic on those 'other' boards Chris referred to...

        See you all around soon - thanks again, I wouldn't be able to even imagine doing half the stuff I am now if it wasn't for the support of some pretty special people, three of whom are to be found right here.