I guess you could say this time around you get a twofer.
I'll come clean, here. I have something of an unusual mind. The things that interest and fascinate me are not necessarily the things one would either expect nor are things one should discuss in polite society. I like old stuff, and dead stuff (I mean, come on, taxidermy is really freaking cool, right?!) and have a strange fascination with the macabre. Crime TV shows and movies are always my first choice.
Given this 'admission', I will announce my next guests.
Edmund Reid and Frederick George Abberline
These names might sound familiar to some of you, and be utterly alien to others. But, the name that connects these two men, and a name you will definitely all know is Jack the Ripper.
Frederick Abberline was Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Police in 1888. A clockmaker before joining the Met, he was seconded to Whitechapel from Scotland Yard after the murder of Mary Ann Nichols. Despite being described as looking like 'a bank manager', his knowledge of the east end made him an integral part of the Ripper investigation.
Before his retirement from the Met in 1892, he received 84 commendations and awards. He subsequently worked as a private investigator and was part of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency of the United States for 12 years.
Inspector Abberline had some forward-thinking ideas when it came to the Ripper case, even considering that the murders could have been committed by a woman. This is certainly something that would rarely have been considered in the 1800s, and whilst there are many instances of female serial killers, it is usually less likely that serial murders are committed by women. His prime suspect was George Chapman (whose real name was Severin Antoniovich Klosowski), who was convicted of poisoning several women in the the late 1890s early 1900s. Although known as the Borough Poisoner, he was amongst the suspects in the Whitechapel murders. Not my prime suspect, however.
Frederick died in 1929 at the age of 86, followed a few months later by his wife, Emma. They never had children, but by all accounts had a happy life together.
Edmund Reid was a Detective Inspector based in Scotland Yard. He was tasked with organising J Division's CID Department in Bethnal Green in 1886, which led him to becoming the Local Inspector and head of CID's H Division in Whitechapel in 1888. He was in charge of the investigations of the murders of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram before Inspector Abberline was seconded back to Whitechapel to co-ordinate the hunt for The Ripper.
D.I. Reid also had some interesting theories regarding who Jack the Ripper was. He postulated that the murders were committed by a local drunk who had no recollection of his crimes.
In an interview in 1912 for Lloyd's Weekly News he said: "The whole of the murders were done after the public-houses were closed; the victims were all of the same class, the lowest of the low, and living within a quarter of a mile of each other; all were murdered within half a mile area; all were killed in the same manner. That is all we know for certain. My opinion is that the perpetrator of the crimes was a man who was in the habit of using a certain public-house, and of remaining there until closing time. Leaving with the rest of the customers, with what soldiers call 'a touch of delirium triangle,' he would leave with one of the women. My belief is that he would in some dark corner attack her with the knife and cut her up. Having satisfied his maniacal blood-lust he would go away home, and the next day know nothing about it."
He believed that the Ripper had no surgical skill, and that the knife used was blunt. He didn't think that body parts were missing either (which we know was not true as Mary Ann Nichols' uterus was removed during/after her murder).
After retiring from the police, he became a publican and then a private investigator. Reid died in 1917 at the age of 71, having only remarried earlier that year.
The more I researched both Abberline and Reid, the more I found myself thinking about their characters in the amazing series Ripper Street. Reid being played by Matthew MacFadyen and Abberline by Clive Russell. In the show, Reid is intelligent and forward thinking, compassionate and dogged; whilst Abberline seems hard and battle weary. They don't seem to like each other, and it feels as though Abberline is maliciously trying to drag Reid down and make him fail. Looking at the theories they actually had in reality about the Ripper, it would seem that it was Abberline who was the compassionate forward-thinking man and Reid the more angry and battle-scarred.
I would love to have them both at the table to discuss their theories and gauge their relationship with each other. Did they get on? Was there a mutual respect or some sort of jealousy? Did Reid resent having Abberline be seconded in whilst he was heading up the department and murder investigations? Did Abberline resent being dragged back into the East End? I would love to ask them about the more recent theories about who the Ripper was, and whether they think with the investigative techniques we have now they could have actually caught Jack. I would love to discuss my favourite Ripper-related book with them (Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer) and find out if they think that the evidence contained within is as compelling as I do.
Whilst the gruesome deaths of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly are not strictly dinner party conversation, the Whitechapel murders are infamous and such a huge part of London history that I think one could be forgiven for discussing the more taboo whilst dining.
What are your thoughts? Would you come to dinner if Frederick and Edmund were invited?
Stay Hep, Cats