Frederick Best

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Journalist and alleged author of the 'Dear Boss Letter'.

In their 20th-century memoirs, senior police officials had publicly aired their belief that the 'Dear Boss Letter' was the creation of a London journalist:

Robert Anderson: "I will only add here that the 'Jack-the-Ripper' letter which is preserved in the Police Museum at New Scotland Yard is the creation of an enterprising London journalist."[1]

Melville Macnaghten: "In this ghastly production I have always thought I could discern the stained forefinger of the journalist indeed, a year later, I had shrewd suspicions as to the actual author!"[2]

It was not until 1966 that a possible name for the author first came to light. It was published in an article in the August edition of Crime & Detection, in which the author claims to have used a 'very spry and clear-minded' 70 year-old ex-journalist named 'Best' as a contact in 1931:

Returning homewards with me, Best discussed murders, the Whitechapel Murders in particular. With much amplifying detail he talked of his days as a penny-a-liner on 'The Star' newspaper. As a freelance he had covered the Whitechapel murders from the discovery of Tabram. He claimed that he, and a provincial colleague, were responsible for all the Ripper letters, to 'keep the business alive'.

The possiblity that 'Best' and company were responsible for all the Ripper letters is ludicrous, considering how many were sent and the various locations they were posted from.

In 2009, Andrew Cook published the name Frederick Best as being the journalist in question[3]. Although not included in the book, an alleged photograph of Best was shown in the accompanying TV documentary[4].

On pages 102-106 of Cook's book, the findings of handwriting expert Elaine Quigley were shown; excerpts from the 'Dear Boss Letter' were compared with handwriting alleged to be that of Frederick Best, his example being written in the late 1890s. Quigley is quoted as saying that "after careful consideration, I am sure as I can be. I really do not think that it's anyone other than Best that wrote the 'Dear Boss' letter."

Cook also publishes a portion of a supposed letter from John Tomlinson Brunner to Henry Massingham (editor of The Star, 1890-1), dated 7th July 1890, stating:

Furthermore, Mr. Best's attempt to mislead Central News during the Whitechapel Murders should have led to an earlier termination of his association with the newspaper.[5].

As to the identity of Frederick Best, a 'journalist/author' of that name is recorded as living at 111 Stamford Street, Lambeth, with his wife Henrietta[6]; he was born in Westminster in 1858. He does not appear to show up on other records.

At present, none of the above information regarding Best's alleged authorship of any Ripper letters is conclusive.


  1. The Lighter Side of My Official Life; Sir Robert Anderson (Hodder & Stoughton 1910)
  2. Days of My Years; Sir Melville Macnaghten (Longman, Green & Co. 1914)
  3. Jack the Ripper; Andrew Cook (Amberley 2009)
  4. 'Jack the Ripper: Tabloid Killer Revealed'; Channel 5, UK Broadcast 24th June 2009
  5. Apparently courtesy of the 'Massingham family papers'
  6. Census report 1891 / Chris on Casebook forums, 22nd May 2009