Here at Old College there is little we love more than a bit of grisly murder. Being educated types, we are partial to a bit of history, too, not to mention legend and mystery. With that in mind, there can surely be no finer narrative than that of Jack the Ripper, a much-debated riddle and quite possibly the most famous whodunnit of all time. Over the years I have read numerous books and articles about this most enigmatic of murderers, all of which present compelling evidence as to Jack’s identity, but this one by David Bullock has me finally convinced…
This is an updated edition of the 2012 book The Man Who Would Be Jack and is the culmination of 25 years of research and shines a new light on one of history’s most infamous cases.
Although it treads the well-trodden ground of the Ripper case it is in fact a unique story which focuses on an incredible search for truth, led by an Inspector and two journalists, who in 1893 set about unmasking the Ripper once and for all.
Bullock’s research into this story led to many brand-new discoveries which not only change what we know about the Ripper case but also provides the identity of the number one suspect, Thomas Hayne Cutbush.
Cutbush was from a middle-class family in Kennington and lived in the attic room of a house occupied by his mother and aunt. He was a strange young man who held a fascination with medicine and surgery and associated with prostitutes. Prior to the Ripper killings, Cutbush believed that he had contracted syphilis from a prostitute who he brutally assaulted. He sought help from a doctor who offered treatment, although he diagnosed that Cutbush was not in fact suffering from the ‘constitutional disease’. Cutbush, though, ignored the doctor’s advice and over-medicated which led to disfigurement.
His family later confirmed that from this period onwards Cutbush’s personality changed. He gave up work and began spending his days reading medical books and his nights walking the streets of London, returning in the early hours with his ‘face twisted’ and covered in mud and blood. When his attic room was later searched by police officers, bloodstained clothing was found hidden in his chimney and covered in turpentine in preparation to be burnt. On the bare floor boards were found crude drawings, made by Cutbush, of mutilated women resembling how the Ripper’s victims were discovered.
By 1891 Cutbush had attacked a servant in the family home and had attempted to kill his mother. He had also threatened to murder his doctor and had attacked a work colleague. Such were the concerns for the safety of his mother and aunt that they decided to turn him over to the local authorities, with Cutbush being sent to Lambeth Infirmary. Within hours he escaped and while on the run he committed knife attacks on two young females.
While at large Cutbush admitted to two strangers that the police were after him because they believed he was the Ripper. Cutbush claimed that he was a doctor (he was actually a clerk in a tea trade and a canvasser for a business directory) and in his own twisted words he stated that he had been “cutting up girls and laying them out”. He was eventually arrested on 9 March 1891 and would be sent to Broadmoor Asylum until his death in 1903. Interestingly after his arrest the Ripper murders immediately stopped.
What is remarkable about the Cutbush story is that the investigation into his involvement in the Ripper case only began after his removal to Broadmoor. His arresting officer, Inspector William Race, believed that there was more to Cutbush than originally thought and when his superiors wouldn’t take up the investigation into Cutbush being a Ripper suspect, Race turned over his evidence to The Sun newspaper.
The press investigation that followed proved to be one of the biggest scoops of the time and found that Cutbush was a man who not only physically resembled eye witness descriptions of the Ripper but who had both the opportunity and motivation to commit the crimes. The evidence that came out of the investigation was overwhelming but it did little to change the mind of the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police who believed that the Ripper case was closed.
The Chief Constable, in his defiance against the probing of the press as well as that of one of his own Inspectors, made a sensational admission, that Thomas Cutbush was in fact the nephew of an Executive Superintendent at Scotland Yard and a man who had actively worked on the Ripper case himself.
The Thomas Cutbush story is simply astonishing and through this research Bullock has managed to gain a unique insight into his life and crimes as well as the damming evidence against him.
Since publishing his first book Bullock has collaborated on The Little Book of Jack the Ripper published in 2014 and has become a contributor to a historical journal. He is also a regular speaker on the subject of the Ripper and historical crime and in 2013 appeared on the Channel 5 documentary Inside Broadmoor. Bullock is currently writing a new book which tells the incredible true story of an Edwardian murder mystery which was considered the greatest of its time, with twists a plenty and the most shocking of endings.
Follow David on Twitter – @davidnbullock
Published by @thistlebooks