Fearsome in its own right, the name Jack the Ripper has haunted the streets of London and terrorised the imaginations of generations for over a century. The very mention of the name is enough to conjure a myriad of images and suppositions surrounding the atrocities the man committed. Yet, despite society’s fascination and fixation with the Ripper no incriminating evidence was ever found, no conviction ever made. There have been countless suspects speculated, including the Duke of Clarence, royal physician Sir John Williams and author Lewis Carroll but the most recent name to make the headlines – all the way on in October 2013 – is that of Whitechapel milkman, William Belcher.
The nation’s press are currently having a field day with the new accusation made by one of Belcher’s distant relatives, descendant Dianne Bainbridge. Bainbridge claims that she came across the suspicious family member whilst researching her family tree. Upon noticing a gap in the lineage she investigated further and found that in the autumn of 1888 Belcher had moved from Whitechapel to County Durham with his wife and four year old daughter, changing their surnames to Williams and fabricating a history of life in Devon instead of London. Intrigued by the apparent fugitive behaviour of the Williams family, Bainbridge dug further and discovered a timeline and characteristics eerily similar to the era’s infamous Jack the Ripper.
According to Bainbridge’s research Belcher had the perfect cover to walk around Whitechapel at odd hours because of his job as a milkman, not to mention his experience of butchery, his history of violence towards women and his timely departure from London coinciding with the end of Jack the Ripper’s murderous reign. These similarities, among many others discussed in Bainbridge’s book Jack the Ripper: In My Blood, add to the suspicion raised by the family’s strange relocation and secretive ways. Many argue that William Belcher is the most credible suspect to date but until the much-needed evidence presents itself, we will be left to decide the true identity of Jack the Ripper ourselves by speculating, investigating and going on Jack the Ripper walks to follow in the fearsome footsteps of the Ripper himself. Who do you think the Ripper was?