A Ripping Yarn, Pt. II
Believe it or not, there are eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence produced as late as 2002 that point to that very conclusion.
Due to the nature of 1880s press coverage, many misconceptions about the Whitechappel murders took place, and to this day have never been corrected. First of all, the Ripper victims were not wildly hacked to death, but rather have a distinctive MO--a fact that led Scotland Yard to uncover a number of copycat crimes (thirty-four in all).
A number of other things mark Kelly as unusual, in terms of the five acknowledged Ripper victims. The other women were about the same age, and in similar health condition. Such isn’t unusual for a serial killer. Usually, there is some ritualistic or strategic reason for choosing homogeneous victims. While the other women were in their late-thirties to late-forties, Kelly was a twenty-something. Furthermore, the autopsy photos reveal that the other victims showed signs of poverty--badly curved spinal columns, dental problems, calloused hands, and so forth. Kelly, however, was in very good shape, a woman of clear skin, soft hands, perfect posture, and she possessed a head full of healthy teeth. In short, she had lived a life of luxury, a fact totally consistent with the lot of a lady-in-waiting.
Although police believed that there were only five victims. there is good reason to think that there was a sixth, forty-five year-old Emma Smith, the very first to die by the Ripper’s hand. If you’re wondering why the cops didn’t count her in the official statistics, I would speculate that it is probably because on that first night, someone interrupted the “Ripper,” and this allowed this first decedent to live for about twenty hours, during which time she gave a statement to police. According to her, she had picked up a very handsome, wealthy (from his clothes and his watch), younger man, and had taken him back to her flat. When they got to the door, a large, muscular man stabbed her with what she alternately described as a “bayonet” and “a sharp spike.” She was then taken inside by the larger man and a third accomplice, an elderly, left-handed man who, with a scalpel, proceeded to disembowel her on the spot.
The mark of the official victims is that they bear two distinct wounds: one made with a heavy-gauge knife (or bayonet?), and a number of clean, surgical incisions. From their angle, it was plainly apparent that the heavy-gauge blows were from a right-hander, the scalpel cuts from a southpaw. Here, we have further corroboration of the Chicago story, for Howard claimed that the murderous surgeon was no other than Victoria’s trusted advisor and personal physician, Sir William Whiney Gull, an elderly “gentleman” who just happened to be left-handed. By refusing to link this first murder with the others, the physical descriptions given by the deceased would languish into obscurity.
So who would the other assailants be? We will probably never know the identity of the bayonet stabber, most likely a foot soldier or a palace guard. The physical description of the young man who lured her, however, was consistent with that of Walter Sickert. A writer, cartoonist and actor, Sickert was also the guardian of Prince Eddy’s illegitimate daughter, the one whom Kelly had nursed.
In 1895, Howard knew only that Sickert had played some role in the killings, but was unsure as to the nature of that role. A later examination of evidence, however, links Sickert to the murders, and clarifies what part he played in them.