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Who Was the Body in the Thames?

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  • #61

    Your guess is as good as mine as to where anyone would search for Druitt.
    The point, moot and possibly/probably irrelevant as it may be, I'm trying to get across is why there was no mention of him having been looked for since he was missing for 4 weeks, in his obituary. You would think that the firm he worked for would have been worried or interested about what happened to him...for four weeks. Oh well...if its not relevant, lets move on old bean.

    ...that his body was left in the water for a month with such a substantial amount of valuable items with it....

    I hear that AW. It is strange.
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    • #62
      Did Jack the Ripper Commit Suicide?

      Did Jack the Ripper Commit Suicide?
      As I said at the start of this thread, there is a long standing story that JtR committed suicide straight after the carnage of Millers Court. This is an attempt to trace the origin of the story. It is a story that won’t go away, yet at the same time, there is absolutely no evidence that it happened. What we do have is a spurious Druitt story, which even 120 years ago was pure speculation.
      Debra Arif found an item in response to a posting I made on the body in the Thames myth. Lloyds, 25th November 1888 – A BODY FOUND IN THE THAMES. Dramatic stuff. The problem is that at the time of the discovery, this unidentified body held no significance, as there is no evidence of a suicide story being current this early. The same can be said of the discovery of the body of Montague Druitt at the end of December. If anything, the idea of JtR still being alive held sway. This can be seen in the ‘Illustrate Police News’ 8th December 1888, where it reports of a vigilance committee meeting with Superintendent Arnold in early December. The opinion expressed was that JtR would be heard from soon and the Vigilance Committee proposed to provide two men per night to assist the police. Arnold was in favour, provided the vigilance men carried ID cards. So it is evident that at this point the police still considered JtR a viable threat.
      At the end of December 1888, an article appeared in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent quoting the Dublin Express, that Jack is still considered to be alive, but to have been incarcerated in an asylum by his family. This is a theory that will keep recurring, culminating in the 1894 ‘Sun’ exposé of the (un-named) Cutbush’s incarceration in Broadmoor, which triggered the notorious ‘Macnaghten Memoranda’. Over a hundred years later, the echoes of this unfortunate piece of writing still reverberate through ‘Ripperdom’.
      In fact, throughout 1889, newspapers kept reporting the belief that JtR was still alive. In response to the Gill murder in Bradford, ‘The York Herald’, on 01-01-1889 stated that authorities at Scotland Yard didn’t consider it to be JtR’s work as they didn't think the killer had left London! On 7th Jan 1889, the ‘Exeter Evening Post’ believed Jack was still alive. On the 16th Jan, the ‘Huddersfield Daily Chronicle’ stated that authorities in the East End believed Jack was still in Spittalfields, a story repeated in the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of the same date. On 18th July, the same newspaper reported that Jack was believed by the police to be living near to Commercial Street police station! The suspicion that Jack was a sailor also found favour again. By the end of the year, 'Dagonet', G R Sims, was still under the impression the Jack was still alive. Macnaghten couldn’t have passed on his drowned Jack theory at that point. As late as 1892, Scotland Yard were quoted as believing Jack was alive and serving 20 years in Portland prison! (Sheffield & Rotherham Independent 29 March 1892.)
      It wasn't until October 1890, that the idea of Jack being dead was first mooted. On October 4th, ‘The Yorkshire Herald’ stated that Scotland Yard was of the strong opinion that JtR was dead as opposed to being in prison (see above).
      1891 would seem to be the year that the suicide in the river story came into the public domain, with the revelation in February of that year, that a 'West country MP', only recently revealed to be Henry Farquharson, (actually named in an 1892 news article), believed that the killer had committed suicide straight after the Millers Court murder. The story was reported in several paper at the time, including Lloyds Weekly, the Pall Mall Gazette and several provincial papers. This would be a theme later revived by Melville Macnaghton in 1894in his memorandum to refute the Sun story of Jack being in Broadmoor! My question at this point is, did this statement inspire Macnaghten?
      However, on 29th April 1891, there was a frisson of excitement when the Hampshire Advertiser announced the SUPPOSED SUICIDE OF’JACK THE RIPPER’. Apparently Jack had shot himself shot himself on Wimbledon Common at the beginning of the month. The paper reported that ‘The suicide appears to have been committed in a most determined manner, and everything that could have led to the man’s identification seems to have been intentionally destroyed.’
      By 26th February 1892, Jack had miraculously resurrected. The Western Mail announced that the police had Jack under observation. He had been ‘…watched and shadowed night and day, awake and asleep, by Scotland Yard detectives.’ It further states that Mr Farquharson was wrong, ‘…if the police have been on the right track this theory is naturallt expoloded.’ All the police were waiting for was the final piece of evidence.
      1892 was a bumper year for dead Jacks. On the 11th June, the Australian Western Mail, quoting the Dublin Evening Press, published a story involving the death of a Norfolk vicar in Whitechapel who had been thrown out of a pub in November 1888, after the death of Kelly, and run down by a heavy goods van. One dead, dissolute vicar, no more murders, case solved, Q.E.D!
      1892 also saw the first ‘Vicar’s revelation’ stories.
      Rocky Mountain News [Colorado]
      17 January 1892
      Possible Discovery of the Identity of Jack the Ripper - Curious Legacy of a Priest
      London, Jan. 2.
      "…It is understood that the death of a Catholic priest in the East End of London has placed some important revelations in the hands of the police. There can be no doubt that the priest, under the seal of confession, died possessed of information that might have led to the arrest of the murderer or murderers of the wretched women known as "Jack the Ripper's" victims. That the priest had qualms of conscience regarding the sanctity of confession, even in connection with such atrocities, is evinced by the sealed packet he left behind him addressed to Sir Edward Bradford, chief of London's police department. On the package was inscribed, in the dead priest's handwriting, 'This is to be opened after my death - my lips must never reveal it.'
      "Beyond the above, carelessly mentioned by a garrulous official who has since been severely reprimanded for his indiscretion, no further information can be obtained from the police. Whether it will lead to the detection of the Whitechapel fiend is a problem difficult to solve..."
      This is a story that would raise its head again in 1899, wit the North County vicar story. A question at this point, were the stories linked in some way?
      From 1894 onwards, newspapers regularly carried stories claiming JtR was dead. In fact, so far, I haven’t found a story from that year on that claimed he was still alive, apart from the ‘Sun’ Cutbush (who was never named) scoop. I’ve read and re-read the Sun story, and I’m left wondering if it was actually pointing a finger at Cutbush, or whether it was a conflation of various ‘Jack is mad and in an asylum’ stories. I’m also unsure of what Macnaghten’s motivation was in producing his memorandum. The Cutbush case had been in 1891, the Sun story in 1894. The Sun named no names, so whilst the average reader was probably interested in the revelations, how many would actually have associated it with Cutbush, after all that time? To quote the New Zealand Star of 6th April 1894, ‘The Sun’s alleged discovery of Jack the Ripper in a criminal lunatic now detained in Broadmoor, [Sic] has excited but tepid interest. The same sort of find has been made before, and never stood the test of examination.’ It goes on to disparage the Sun story, quoting the MP Mr Labouchere’s interview with a Sun reporter extensively, including this memorable quote, ‘The Broadmoor lunatic may have been Jack, so may I for all that you know.’
      In 1896, Inspector Reid, on his retirement stated that Jack was dead, most likely having died in an asylum. (North Eastern Daily Gazette, 15th April 1896 as one example).
      At last in 1898, the ‘drowned Jack’ surfaced – if you will excuse the pun! The Belfast News Letter of 27th December carried a review of Major Griffiths book in which the Ripper is described as a mad doctor, whose body was found in the Thames. Does this seem familiar? It is however, the first airing of the ‘drowned Jack’ story that I’ve found. Griffiths may have seen MM’s memo and even discussed the theory with him. Interestingly, the book review, which first appeared in the Daily Mail, was written by Basil Thompson, who was later to say ‘…the Jack the Ripper outrages are now believed by the police to have been the work of an insane Russian medical student whose body was found floating in the Thames immediately after the last of the outrages.’ Please note that Griffiths was the first to go public with the drowned killer story.
      It wasn’t until January 22, 1899 that G R Sims jumped on the bandwagon with this ‘Dagonet’ piece, written in response to the North Country Vicar story. ‘There are bound to be various revelations concerning Jack the Ripper as the years go on. This time it is a vicar who heard his dying confession. I have no doubt a great many lunatics have said they were Jack the Ripper on their death-beds. It is a good exit, and when the dramatic instinct is strong in a man he always wants an exit line, especially when he isn't coming on in the little play of “Life” any more.
      I don't want to interfere with this mild little Jack the Ripper boom which the newspapers are playing up in the absence of strawberries and butterflies and good exciting murders, but I don't quite see how the real Jack could have confessed, seeing that he committed suicide after the horrible mutilation of the woman in the house in Dorset-street, Spitalfields. The full details of that crime have never been published - they never could be. Jack, when he committed that crime, was in the last stage of the peculiar mania from which he suffered. He had become grotesque in his ideas as well as bloodthirsty. Almost immediately after this murder he drowned himself in the Thames. his name is perfectly well known to the police. If he hadn't committed suicide he would have been arrested.’
      His previous pieces regarding Jack all gave the impression that he thought Jack was still alive. Much has been speculated on Sims having got the story from MM, but it seems more than coincidental that his first mention of the drowned Jack was after the publication of Griffiths’ book. He may have had foreknowledge from MM, but if he did, …?
      I think it is fair to conclude, at least as far as the public was concerned, that the drowned Ripper was a very late entry into the fate of the killer cannon. As far as can be seen Macnaghten’s theory, and that is all that it was, had little or no support from anyone else in the know, most actually leaning to the death in an asylum story.
      However, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? If JtR was this simple, we’d all have to find new hobbies, or pine away reminiscing about the ‘Good old days’. I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of putting the first post of this thread together, and enjoying the responses that it has elicited. Nor would I have been inspired to write this piece.
      "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


      • #63
        More excellent research and writing there, Dave, and I think we're pretty much on the same page overall in regards to the origins of the "drowned doctor" story and the muddled interpretations of Macnaghten. It really is quite a complex web.


        It's plausible that Druitt had even gone missing for periods of time in the past, and so no particular notice was taken when he did the same thing again at the start of December until he started missing appointments and duties - again, just guesswork.

        The research and theorising will go on - i've got more info which will be on the way over here shortly and hopefully even that might be able to shed some light.



        • #64
          Originally posted by Adam Went View Post

          I am no expert on boarding schools, but I believe they are (and were) organised so that the students share chambers - i.e. bunk beds, several to each chamber. So if we presume that Druitt's dismissal was in some way linked to inappropriate behaviour with a student, how would he have had access to one particular student? Or do we mean to believe that he had Cleveland Street style romps with entire groups of them at once, and any other staff were oblivious to it, and no students made mention of it?

          Sounds just a bit far fetched to me. As for this "serious trouble" being a euphenism of some sort, I don't believe that, especially when we've been told before that "sexual insanity" was the euphenism for "homosexuality" - how many euphenisms for the same thing was there?
          Hi Adam,

          Once again, there is no evidence that Druitt was dismissed for inappropriate behaviour 'with a student', but Farquhy and chums could well have added the last three words in their own small minds and leapt to the conclusion that the man was a kiddy diddler and therefore a likely murderer and mutilator of women, and had taken his own life as a direct result. Tough to imagine this kind of thinking in 2010, but we do have evidence of it back in the day.

          Having said that, I must say you are quite naïve if you think Victorian school masters in boys' boarding schools could not find ways and means to get round the minor problem of the 'shared dorm' if they were of a certain persuasion. The lack of evidence in the newspapers means very little, unless you think such behaviour didn't exist before the papers started reporting cases openly in much more recent times.

          Ask yourself how Farquhy and co could even imagine such things going on back then, if they very rarely did and very rarely could go on, because of the boys' sleeping arrangements. If the masters who got found out had not in general been quietly dismissed without any public fuss, we would surely have had many more press reports from the time and many more investigations, and we might not now have quite so many cases of boys who grew into old men before they could bear to talk openly about the abuse they suffered, in an era when it was all so expertly swept under the rug and forgotten - by everyone who knew about it.

          How many euphemisms for the same thing? My goodness, you need to pay a visit to today's England and you will learn hundreds of 'em being used for all manner of sexual, bodily or lavatorial terms. In the LVP many of the euphemisms themselves would rarely have appeared in print, or been heard in polite society, above the sound of a whisper.

          There seems to have been no indication that Druitt was even suicidal...
          Are you kidding? What about the two suicide notes, one addressed to his brother and one to Valentine? Both forged and planted? What about the family history of suicide and mental instability? Does that count for nothing? And he had just lost his job at the school! If he didn't need that job financially, he was presumably there because he wanted to be there.

          Why would anyone take a suicide note with them when drowning? Is that a serious question? Why would they take a train ticket and 66 pounds in cheques to the grave with them as a preference to a suicide note, Caz?
          Well it seems you can't actually answer it, and I can't say I'm surprised. So I'll put it more strongly. What possible point would there be in taking one's own suicide note to a watery grave, out of which it might never emerge, let alone intact and readable?

          Suicide notes are written to be found intact and read, Adam. I imagine that when Druitt put those stones in his pockets and plunged himself into that icy water, he no longer cared what became of his train tickets or uncashed cheques (he wasn't going anywhere and once again, a cheque made out to Druitt for a million pounds would have been worthless with the payee dead) but I'd wager he would not have wanted his suicide notes to get soggy or illegible, or to sink without trace, or be otherwise unrecoverable. If you want a letter to get to someone, do you put it in a post box, deliver it personally, address it but leave it among your stuff so it will be found if you go missing, or do you chuck it in the river and hope for the best?

          Furthermore, are you suggesting that people would have started wide spread gossip about a fairly reclusive barrister that would have spread like wild fire? Really? It's not Prince Eddy we're talking about here - at the height of the Ripper scare the dismissal of Druitt from a school for misconduct would hardly have been front page news, one has to say.
          Well that's my point. Minor or major misconduct, his dismissal did not make front page news. But Valentine might have worried about local gossip, unfounded or otherwise, explaining why he took the subtle approach and kept him on and paid him to the end of term. If he had dismissed Druitt instantly without any severance pay, before the school broke up, but kept quiet about the nature of the misconduct, its seriousness would have been presumed, and imagined to be worse that it really was.

          As it is, the gossip may have been in whispers to begin with, and a long time in the spreading, but I don't need to suggest anything here. How much wilder do you think the actual gossip could have got, than accusing the poor sod of being Jack the Ripper?


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


          • #65
            Apart from the fact that mutilating women and abusing children are both evil, I don't see any particular connection between the two. In fact, they seem to work against each other (but my knowledge of non-JTR crime is virtually zero).

            I don't think it's a certainty that Druitt was dismissed for inappropriate behaviour with his pupils. It could have been anything - losing his temper in class, publicly bursting into tears, getting the school parlourmaid into trouble...

            Monty had a lot of pressure. He had to do two jobs, his mother was very ill, and on top of all that, his cricket form was in decline.


            • #66
              Hi Adam and Caz

              Don't forget the scandalous "fagging system" whereby older boys were able to prey on and physically abuse other, younger boys, and virtually use them as slaves. Winchester College, Druitt's prep school, and Eton were both notorious for the system. Is it possible that Druitt used the system at Winchester and carried it on, as a master, with one or more of the pupils at Mr. Valentine's school? I'm not saying that's what happened, just that it's a possible scenario.

              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


              • #67
                Hi Caz, Chris,

                Merry Christmas,


                There is no evidence that Monty had any kind of sexual deviance. Equally, there is no evidence that Monty showed any symptoms of inherent sociopathy.

                There is absolutely no reason for Monty to be a suspect, apart from being the right body at the wrong time, and how many years too late?
                "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


                • #68
                  Originally posted by Dave James View Post
                  Hi Caz, Chris,

                  Merry Christmas,


                  There is no evidence that Monty had any kind of sexual deviance. Equally, there is no evidence that Monty showed any symptoms of inherent sociopathy.

                  There is absolutely no reason for Monty to be a suspect, apart from being the right body at the wrong time, and how many years too late?
                  Hi Dave

                  As we have been indicating, Farquharson and by extension Macnaghten could have put two and two together and made five. I should think that is as viable a scenario as that Montague John Druitt was a credible suspect.

                  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


                  • #69
                    Hi all

                    I thought it might be worthwhile reviving this thread given Jonathan Hainsworth's upcoming book on Druitt and the whole concept of a drowned suspect as it has been discussed down the years, whether that suspect was Druitt or not.

                    Best regards

                    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


                    • #70
                      Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
                      Leave it to you to find something encouraging Debs ! Nice find.
                      The tattoo ( despite the initial "D" ! ) gives me the impression that this fellow wasn't a doctor.
                      In any event, that's a very nice find Debs...and thanks for putting it on the boards.

                      The 'D' was for deserter. Bowyer also had this tattoo I think.


                      • #71
                        The body in the Thames was Montague John Druitt.

                        This was concealed from the public until 1959 (and the actual name of the man until 1965).

                        In my opinion, Macnaghten and Sims concealed Druitt is discreet fiction.

                        That's a fact. He was disguised. He could not be found by reporters (who were not looking) nor could he be reognized by people who knew the Druitt family, or by grown-up graduates of the Valentine School.

                        The question is: was this deliebrate or a fortuitious accident due to being under-informed. I side with the former and nearly everybody here sides with the latter.

                        In my book I focus on Leonard Matters, my fellow south Australian, who was the first person --in the mid 1920's--to actually try and identify the Drowned Doctor. He knew about Griffithsm, but nothing at all about Sims and Mac. He checked out newspapers on the pefectly resonable wiorking hyothesis that an English surgeon's death in the Thames must have appeared in a newspaper, if not more than one. Unable to find such a story (he looked only at city papers, but regional ones would not have helped) he concluded that the story was entirely made up.

                        Matters was half-right, but in conjuring up his own "mad doctor" he had hold of the wrong half.

                        In 1959 Donald McCormick made the same journey in the press, and went Matters one better by trawling the archive or registered doctors and how they died. No drowned medico. The story must be made-up. It is amusing to see a hustler like him being fooled, and from the grave.

                        McCormick also knew from Hargrave Adam that Macnaghten had jauntily told him he knew the Ripper's identity, but had allegedly destroyed this pertinent documentation. Mccormick knew nothing about Macnaghten having said this at a farwwell press conference in 1913, or that he had not destroyed two versions of an internal report naming this suspect, or that his memoirs have a chapter devoted to just the drowned doctor suspect (well, both drowned and doctor are dropped).

                        This writer saying that there was no drowned doctor inadvertentlt stpped on the toes of Lady Christabel Aberconway, Macnaghten's favourite child, who I think decided to employ the services of a popular media celebtity-reporter, Dan Farson, just as her father had used George Sims, to try and correct the historical record and protect her father's achievement of having likely solved the case.

                        Lady Aberconway seems not to have trusted her siblings to preserve her father's Ripper legancy and so she took steps after Matter's book--and her mother's death--to do so herself. Sure enough the original, held by her sister's family, vanished.

                        Unfortunately Lady Aberconway did not know that the copy she had made of her father's "notes", naming 'Dr.' Druitt as the best suspect, was utilized for public consumption, e.g. just as she made Farson in 1959 agree not to use Druitt's name to avoid bringing shame to the fiend's descendants, so had her father acted with the same sense of propriety to hide the drowned barrister.

                        Much of so-called Ripperology since 1965 has attempted, with much success, to deny Christabel's father his achievement. so it should be, if the historical chips fall that way. I argue they do not.


                        • #72
                          Hi Jonathan.

                          You say:
                          "The body in the Thames was Montague John Druitt.

                          This was concealed from the public until 1959 (and the actual name of the man until 1965)."

                          That of course is not true as his death was reported, including his name, in the Chiswick local press at the time.

                          Also the inquest verdict would have been a public record.

                          Just a small point, but I thought it worthy of correction.

                          John Savage


                          • #73
                            You're quite right, J1.

                            I was compressing in haste.

                            I meant, of course, that the identity of the drowned suspect referred to by Griffiths and Sims, and by an unidentified police worthy in 1905, and by Guy Logan in openly fictionalized form (in 1905 too), and by Sir Melville Macnaghten who refers to a suicide as the solution in 1913 and 1914 (and in his memoirs makes it clear that he does not mean a figure separate from Sims' Jack) was concealed from the public until 1959/1965.

                            The identity of the Drowned Doctor was impossible to find without the name, and even then Dan Farson, in trying to find him, nearly did not make his deadline.

                            Your J2


                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
                              Hi Dave, all

                              I did come acrss one death, at Wapping in Nov 88 but haven't much detail at present
                              Lloyd's November 25th 1888
                              I decided to follow up on my old find of an unknown man found drowned in November 1888 near Wapping Old Stairs (as per the location mentioned in the 1920's reports on the suicide of JTR) to see if there were any more details available on the unknown man tattooed with the letter 'D'.
                              Here is his death certificate:

                              Click image for larger version

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                              I was also able to locate an inquest report which gave the added information that the body, recovered on the 24th, had been in the water about two weeks. The suggestion that he was possibly the man seen throwing himself off Lambeth Bridge on the 3rd November doesn't fit with the body being in the water two weeks by the 24th. Perhaps it should read 13th. Although interestingly, 14 days before the 24th is the 10th November.

                              Lloyds List 27th November 1888
                              FOUND IN THE THAMES
                              Last evening Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South-east Middlesex held an inquest at the Shadwell Vestry-hall on the body of a man unknown, which was found floating in the Thames off Wapping, on Friday last. Alfred Chapman, a waterman , deposed that on Friday last, at 9.45 p.m., he was in his boat off Hermitage Wharf, when he found the body of the deceased floating in the water. He secured it and took it ashore at the Hermitage Stairs, and handed it over to the police. So far as he knew there were no marks of violence on the body but the deceased had evidently lost the sight of one eye. Stephen Brown, inspector of Thames police stationed at Wapping, deposed that he searched the body, but only found an old pipe and a brass wedding ring. The man was dressed in a shabby genteel manner, and was apparently between 40 and 45 years of age. On the left side of the body there was a "D" tattooed, which the witness supposed meant that the deceased was a deserter from the army, as it used to be the custom tp brand deserters in that way. The body had evidently been in the water about two weeks, and was probably that of a man who was seen to throw himself off Lambeth-bridge on Nov 3. The jury returned a verdict of "Found Drowned."
                              Attached Files


                              • #75
                                Nice work, Debs.
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