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  • The Littlechild Letter....

    Thread for discussion of the 1913 letter written in reply to George Sims from Inspector John George Littlechild,head of the "Secret Dept", from 1883-1893.

    The final line in the letter is one of considerable debate..."He probably got his information from Anderson ( Sir Robert) who only thought he knew...

    Is this in reference to how Littlechild regarded Anderson's 1910 Blackwood article ?....his 1901 declaration that the Ripper's identity was known in a magazine article related to penology....or maybe his personal view of Anderson's general belief that the Ripper had been apprehended at all?
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  • #2
    The Littlechild Letter

    How, Littlechild was a Chief Inspector, not Inspector, and held that rank as head of the Special Branch at Scotland Yard from 1883-1893. Bearing in mind that this letter was written a mere three years after all the press publicity over Anderson claiming to know the identity of the Ripper in 1910. And, of course, Anderson was the only senior policeman ever to make such a claim.

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    • #3
      Bump up of GH's post in order to keep it prominent.
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      • #4
        My hesitation with the Littlechild letter, and Littlechild's avowal that Tumblety was a prime candidate for the Whitechapel Murderer, is based on Littlechild's reactions in 1880 in the case of Tapson 'The English Fraudster' who got away from London with a massive fortune.
        Littlechild pursued him to the ends of the Earth, using every means at his disposal to catch this man.
        Now if Littlechild honestly believed that Tumblety was the Whitechapel Murderer in 1888 then surely we would have seen the slick type of British police operation that we see in the case of Tapson, rather than the farcical pursuit of Tumblety that we know of?
        Perhaps in the course of time, Littlechild may have felt - many years later - that Tumblety was a good candidate for the Whitechapel Murders, but because of his complete and utter lack of interest at the time, I feel that he did not view Tumblety with the seriousness that this letter suggests.
        This report on the slick British police operation to nab Tapson is from 'The North American', September 15th 1880:

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        • #5
          Littlechild does seem to have held some very strong points of view, especially when it came to religion, and I was interested to find him expounding in this fashion in 1893 in the American Press.
          Shades of Charles Henry I thought?
          The 'Boston Investigator' July 12th 1893:

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          • #6
            AP - I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you seem to be grasping at straws lately. Why all the sudden nervousness about this eccentric Irishman? I do hope you are not going to argue the Cutbush theory by means of the default of other suspects...
            In the above, you are confoundig two entirely different cases, as well as confounding the difference between legal evidence and mere suspicion; you then imply that this is somehow is illustrative of something. It isn't. In the Tapsan case there was legal evidence, and he was nabbed accordingly; in regards to Tumblety, the only evidence against him was presumably for gross indecency, and he managed to jump bail and flee the country. England, believe it or not, was run by the rule of law, and no one (let alone an Irishman in New York!) could be extradited for gross indecency--it's really that simple. In other words, you're setting up a staw man and then knocking it down with a stick. You might wish to refer to Dr. Robert Anderson's writings on the subject. He called it the difference between moral and legal proof. And Sir Bob was, afterall, a lawyer. Cheers, RP

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            • #7
              Originally posted by R.J.Palmer
              in regards to Tumblety, the only evidence against him was presumably for gross indecency, and he managed to jump bail and flee the country.
              R.J - do we know who posted Tumblety's bail ? Was there a bail bonds company involved ?

              I ask because those folks don't take kindly to bail jumping, and I doubt they'd observe the legal niceties for such a large sum of money.

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              • #8
                RP, when you drink as much as me you never suffer from what you call a 'nervousness of Irishmen'.
                I'm merely concerned here that the Littlechild letter is being read out of context here with the rest of his jottings from that period.
                The Tapson case was perhaps the ultimate conclusion of transatlantic policing; and the Tumblety case was but just a jest.
                A retired London policeman, tramping up and down outside Tumblety's lodgings in New York, scowling at servants, and seeking information in local bars?
                Look at the Tapson case.
                LVP policing at its best.
                Actually I like Tumblety as a suspect, and I've done my level best to make him one.

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                • #9
                  Robert - No, we don't. My assumption has always been that the two bondsmen were rent boys. The New York World claimed that they had only known Tumblety for a few days, and it was undoubtedly his own money. It could mean that he already knew his arrest was impending.

                  I didn't mean to sound quarrelsome in my last post, but AP's comments really brings up (for me, anyway) an interesting point about 'focus.' It is entirely justifiable to argue against any of the police suspects--Kosminski, Druitt, Sadler, Cutbush, Tumblety, etc. Indeed, the historian needs to look at the counter arguments, and, in a fair-minded way, argue against his own theory. On the otherhand, if one is deluded enough to believe that the case can be solved, is it really productive to keep placing non sequitors and false arguments in one's path? I think at some point we have to give Scotland Yard a certain benefit of the doubt--not blind faith, mind you--but at least accept that Macnaghten, Littlechild, Anderson, Race, or whoever, had legtimate reasons for their opinons. The 'focus', therefore, should be to come up with a credible explanation for why these men believe what they believed; alas, I'm seldom seeing it. When I see various arguments set-up in opposition to Kosminski, Druitt, Tumblety, etc., I often find them weak, and further, skirting the central question. Let's not play from the sidelines, but rather in the scrimmage. It's a matter of one's tastes, I suppose, but I've always preferred the theorists who were attempting to solve the case by addressing the enigma at the center of it, be it Fido, Evans & Gainey, AP's Jack the Myth, Farson, etc.

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                  • #10
                    I'm sorry RP, but surely a few posts ago you were reminding me that Tumblety had been arrested as a suspect in the Whitechapel Murders?
                    I would have thought that would have been grounds for a senior police officer of Scotland yard to have pursued him to the US with the full majesty of the law in his possession.
                    As in the Tapson case.
                    I am not confusing the Tapson case with that of Tumblety.
                    I am using it to illustrate the fact that when Littlechild wanted to arrest a suspect in a serious crime in London then he was prepared to take ship to America and see that through.
                    He didn't do that with Tumblety.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by R.J.Palmer
                      Robert - No, we don't. My assumption has always been that the two bondsmen were rent boys. The New York World claimed that they had only known Tumblety for a few days, and it was undoubtedly his own money. It could mean that he already knew his arrest was impending.
                      That itself raises an interesting issue, because I don't see Dr. T walking around London Town with that sort of cabbage. How long would it have taken to get it wired from the States ?

                      I will hazard a guess that we are talking a minimum of a week for a request for funds to be wired, the funds sent, and a certified check cut and delivered to the court. And I suspect that I'm being very very optimistic with my estimate, R.J. I could see it taking 2-3 days even today in New York City.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by A.P. Wolf
                        I'm sorry RP, but surely a few posts ago you were reminding me that Tumblety had been arrested as a suspect in the Whitechapel Murders?
                        AP - I'm not here to give you grief, but now you're confusing being arrested with being charged. At least 80 men had been arrested on suspicion, but as far as I know, only one of them was ever charged (Sadler), so it's still a non sequitor. The police can't (and won't) extradite a man unless the Crown Prosecution is willing to charge him. They can't. There are hoops to leap through, papers to be signed, lawyers to contend with. And it is not a coincidence that the Assistant Commissioner of the Met was a lawyer; he was chosen for that reason.

                        As for the Tapran case, it's a deal, my friend. I'll study it at length, meanwhile you study the details of the flight of the Phoenix Park conspirators. By which I mean the head honchos, not the knife wielders. Once an Irishman made it to Bologne, it was all over. Due to their involvement in the Franco-Prussian war, the French didn't allow Scotland Yard to kidnap Irishmen--even if they could do so. Period. Instead, they watched with delight as their steamships sailed blissfully over the Atlantic to the safety of New York City.

                        P.S. Another problem you face is that the Tapran case was in 1880. Littlechiled was an Inspector. By 1882 he was Chief Inspector and left those tasks to other blokes.

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                        • #13
                          I think it important to stress, RJP, that I don’t believe Tumblety to have ever either been arrested or charged in connection with the Whitechapel Murders.
                          I believe the correct phrase you seek is ‘detained under suspicion of involvement’.
                          It is equally important to observe that in 1880 Tapson had never been detained in police custody or appeared before a magistrate in the UK prior to his appearance in court in the USA.
                          Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think there was a ‘Crown Prosecution Service’ in 1888, such matters were handled by the ‘Treasury’… surely?
                          One should also observe that Littlechild undertook his adventure to the US with several other Metropolitan Police officers; a senior legal advisor from the Yard; and an inspector of the Railway Company involved in the swindle.
                          My question stands.
                          ‘If Tumblety was considered as a serious suspect for the Whitechapel Murders in 1888, then why was there not a similar
                          series of events as in the Tapson case?’
                          It is interesting to note that many American press commentators of the time expressed the idea that Tumblety actually involved himself in the Whitechapel Murders as a suspect to make himself more ‘interesting’.
                          Well, I think he was cleverer than that, and by the judicious employment of smoke and mirrors was able to escape prosecution for the crimes he had really committed… and was bailed for, and could have been easily extradited for.
                          It worked, for some are still even today easily seduced by the smoke and mirrors of yesterday.

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                          • #14
                            AP - quite right; of course it was the Treasury and not the Crown Prosecution service in those days (I’ll blame mental fatigue) but the point remains the same, and I dare say that you’re merely ‘funning me’ now; if a bloke makes it past Dover Beach, you can't extradite him unless you're willing to roll out the lawyers and the periwigs. Anderson stressed time and again that there was no legal evidence against anyone. So, as with Druitt, Kosminski, or even Tommy Cutbush, I’m happy to settle for ‘suspicion.’ What makes these complaints lacking in credibility (to me, anyway) is that at the end of the day you’re still stuck with the uncomfortable fact that a Chief Inspector (and one running the show in Section D, no less) is still stating that FT was ‘among the suspects’ and a ‘very likely’ one. For that, you seemingly have no explanation. Or, rather, you do:

                            "by the judicious employment of smoke and mirrors was able to escape prosecution for the crimes he had really committed… and was bailed for, and could have been easily extradited for."

                            Sounds like using a sledge-hammer to fix a watch. Easily extradited? This is internally inconsistent. How did he ‘escape prosecution’ if he could be ‘easily extradited?’ More problems: under the rules of the extradition treaty between England and the United States, a man couldn’t be hauled back for gross indecency. You’re trying to palm off a polished farthing, but I aint going up that alley! Cheers.

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                            • #15
                              Thanks RJP.
                              I'll warn you in advance... I'm taking no prisoners here.
                              First off, I'm going to spend the next few nights studying cases of a similar nature to Tumblety's, as I don't believe it to be absolutely correct to claim that charges of gross indecency could not be subject to the normal international rules of extradition.
                              Yes, I do know that an American police officer claimed such in the press of the time, but I'm afraid that ain't half good enough for me.
                              I'm also aware of a subtle attempt over the years, by various writers, to dilute the seriousness of the indecency offences that Tumblety had to answer to in 1888, labelling them as 'misdemeanours' and of a 'relatively minor nature'.
                              I would remind you that in the LVP at that time we are very much in the world of Oscar Wilde, and the Cleveland Street Scandal, and that offences of a homosexual nature were considered to be very serious offences indeed.
                              And I would also remind you that two men were indeed arrested in Amsterdam, and then extradited to the UK in connection with the Cleveland Street Scandal.
                              It happened; and it could have happened.
                              The court calender of the Central Criminal Court, December 10th 1888, makes it absolutely clear that Tumblety was taken into custody on the 7th November 1888, was still under arrest on the 14th November and was then finally released on bail on the 16th November 1888.
                              Attempts have been made to 'indicate' that Tumblety was actually bailed on the same day of his arrest.
                              Errr...
                              Smoke and mirrors, RJP.
                              Tumblety the sodomist never existed in the American press, it was Tumblety the Whitechapel Murderer.
                              Neat trick.

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