The identity of the most infamous serial killer of all time has remained a mystery to the world for nigh on 128 years. With hundreds of Jack the Ripper suspects taken in for questioning and the search remaining fruitless, it appears that this is one mystery that might never be solved… until now.
A former criminology student who has spent over a decade researching the Jack the Ripper suspects and murders has written a book with his own theory: that the infamous killer was, in fact, Victorian poet Francis Thompson.
Francis Thompson was born in 1859 to a Catholic family in Lancashire but spent much of his childhood in Ashton-under-Lyne, just outside of Manchester. When he was nine years old, he was witness to an anti-Catholic riot which resulted in a church being destroyed and innocent lives lost. These riots would shape the way he grew up – with paranoia and distrust on non-Catholics.
Moving to London aged 26; Thompson pursued a writing career, but lived on the streets for some time, unable to find real work. He was taken in by a prostitute, whom he fell for shortly before meeting with editors. It is believed that she shunned him for fear of ruining his career.
He had a handful of poetry books published but lived in relative poverty for much of his short life. He was also addicted to opium which is believed to have contributed to his declining health before dying of Tuberculosis in 1907, aged 47.
So, what makes him primed as a Jack the Ripper suspect?
Richard Patterson believes that there was a cover-up surrounding certain aspects of Thompson’s life that could have led police to realising he had a motive, the opportunity, ability and even a weapon.
The Motive – He was jilted by his prostitute lover, and took it badly.
The Opportunity – He lived just yards away from the murder site of Mary Kelly and close by the other murder sites. His time on the streets meant he had first-hand knowledge of the area, passers-by and all the alleyways.
The Ability – Before moving to London, he trained as a doctor at Owens Medical College (now the University of Manchester). He learnt cutting edge techniques and even paid extra to practice these skills on hundreds of corpses.
The Weapon – It is believed that he carried a dissecting knife in his coat pocket at all times.
Patterson also made a connection between Thompson’s poetry and the killings, before lauding him as a Jack the Ripper suspect. Thompson wrote gruesome poetry about hunting prostitutes and ripping out their stomachs with a knife shortly before the murders began. He also wrote a poem entitled Finit Coronat Opus (The End Crowning Work) depicting a story of a poet who killed with a knife to find fortune and fame – shortly after the killings stopped.
Patterson believed that Thompson’s editors covered up these facts as his work gained recognition. While the evidence certainly does work in Patterson’s favour, the lack of irrefutable evidence means this is all merely speculation and conjecture – another theory for the pile.
What do you think? The only thing we can say for certain is that this is one case that will likely remain a mystery.
To look at the evidence and make your own mind up, join us on our daily Jack the Ripper tour – we look forward to seeing you.