Who was ‘Jack the Ripper’? Have a duo from UON discovered the man behind the murders?

News Page 10th June 2019

Despite the best efforts of detectives of the day, and many super sleuths since, ‘Jack the Ripper’ remains a nameless villain, long since perished. That all changes in a new book, Jack and the Thames Torso Murders: A New Ripper?, authored by a duo from the University of Northampton. With the book set to hit shelves on 15 June, the duo believes they can finally unmask ‘Jack’ and give his victims peace.

Between 1887 and 1891, a series of horrific murders shook Victorian London, with female Londoners living in fear of meeting an untimely end.  At the time the police believed two killers were at work; the relatively unpublicised ‘Thames Torso’ murderer, as well as the world renowned, ‘Jack the Ripper’ who preyed on women in Whitechapel. The means, motive and opportunity for these Victorian murders have now been scrutinised afresh by Andrew Wise, an alumnus of the University of Northampton, along with Dr Drew Gray, the University’s Subject Leader for History.

Andrew, a former police officer, brought his investigative skills to the forefront while studying the Victorian Crime and Punishment module, taught as part of the History degree at the University of Northampton. It was during this time that he developed a close working relationship with course tutor, Drew Gray.

Together, they have spent several years, combining their skills in investigation and research to comb over the historical artefacts, police reports, witness accounts, and social history records to present a credible suspect for upwards of thirteen horrific murders committed in the capital.

Drew Gray said: “The common understanding of the Ripper murders has been largely driven by the creative industries’ interpretation of the facts of the case. In the wake of the killings, sensationalist newspaper coverage led ‘Jack’ to become a celebrated villain, evading, almost through super powers, the leading law enforcement of the day.

“I feel differently, looking at the social history and context for these horrific murders, I see ‘Jack’ as a deeply disturbed individual who chose to blame innocent local women for the tragic turn that his life took, rejecting his own responsibility and choosing instead those least able to defend themselves. Driven by a deep-seated misogyny he reflected and extended widely felt antagonism towards the sort of women who felt compelled to walk the streets of the Victorian East End despite the risks involved.”

“We have a wealth of historical information, which when overlaid with the facts of these murder cases, was enlightening and allowed us to see the evidence with fresh eyes and present our suspect.”

Andrew, who graduated from the University of Northampton in 2012 said; “There’s been over one hundred years of conjecture about ‘Jack’s identity. Using modern investigative techniques, and psychological theories along with contemporary records and Drew’s expert historical knowledge we can now present an eminently credible suspect.

“This individual was a local resident and working man with connections to several murder sites whose occupations afforded him both the skills and cover necessary for the commission of his crimes. Probably a mainstream suspect at the time, we believe he was questioned by police on more than one occasion and is likely to have been under close surveillance at the time of the murders.”

With several ‘Thames Torso’ murders now attributable to his hand, ‘Jack’ it seems was culpable in upwards of sixteen assaults – at least thirteen of them fatal. This University of Northampton duo urge you to read their book, hear their evidence and see if you agree with their conclusions.

Join Dr Drew Gray, Subject Leader for History, on 28 June, as he discusses how he and graduate Andy Wise unearthed this new suspect. 

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