Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation
Blake Publishing (hardcover) Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation Trevor Marriott ISBN: 1844541037 Blake Publishing Hardcover, illus., 310pp.
Casebook Review: 3/5
Trevor Marriott is a described on the book jacket as a retired "Murder Squad" detective, with experience in both the Criminal Investigation Department and Special Branch over his long and varied career. Though until recently he was not particularly well-known among Ripper circles, Marriott explains that he's been interested in the Whitechapel Murders since he attended a Screaming Lord Sutch concert in the 1960s. One of their songs at the time was a moderately successful tune titled "Jack the Ripper." This subject of that song immediately piqued Marriott's curiosity, and for years afterwards he devoured whatever books and articles he could find on the case. Once he retired and found himself with some time on his hands, the ex-detective decided to apply his own skills and experience to the century-old mystery. The result was Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation.
Marriott offers some new (and perhaps startling) theories and insights on several aspects of the crimes, such as the "missing" organs allegedly taken away by the killer and the piece of apron discovered in Goulston Street. Although Marriott agrees that organs were in fact removed from Annie Chapman and Catherine Eddowes, but he feels there is no proof that they were taken away by their killer. Instead, he suggests they were removed sometime after the murder and before the medical examination - probably by a mortuary attendant who intended to sell them to medical students or anatomists. Marriott cites Coroner Wynne Baxter's comments about the American anatomist who offered outrageous sums for uterine specimens as proof that there was a burgeoning trade in such ill-gotten organs.
Even more startling is Marriott's conclusion that the piece of blood-stained apron was not left there by Eddowes' killer, but rather Eddowes' herself. According to Marriott, it is much more likely that the apron piece was torn off by Eddowes and used as a makeshift "feminine device" during a recent menstruation. How to explain the fecal matter also found on the apron? Marriott seems to suggest that Eddowes could have used the Goulston Street archway as a toilet soon after she disposed of the blood-soaked rag.
Intriguingly, there is one bit of new evidence discussed in this book which Marriott claims (and he seems to be right) has never been published before. Sometime in 2004 he discovered "several official documents, including a statement taken by Sir Charles Warren from a person who claimed to have information on the murders." Unfortunately Marriott refuses to reveal where he found them, or who currently owns the documents - "to avoid unwelcome intrusion from Ripper enthusiasts" - but he does offer a brief description of the contents of the statement given to Sir Charles Warren. According to Marriott the statement was dated 3 November 1888 and was given by a man named Charles De La Ree Bott. He stated: "Regarding the Whitechapel outrages they may have been committed by perhaps 20 persons with some connivance. There is no necessity for immediate action, they are stopped for the present unless they occur again for mere bravado." Warren himself described Bott as "an educated man who has studied hard, and appears to have eccentric ideas, though he is probably not a lunatic."
Certainly this is not an "earth-shattering" document, but its revelation here is both encouraging and upsetting at the same time. Its always a thrill to see proof that there are indeed more documents out there waiting to be discovered, but at the same time this seems to be just more proof of the rampant theft and souvenir-collecting performed on the official records in the days before proper cataloging and archiving were achieved by the PRO. One can only hope that the other pilfered and "misplaced" documents have been as well-preserved as this one, and that someday they will be returned to their rightful place in the archives.
Finally, in the last seventeen pages of the book, Marriott arrives at his theory as to the identity of the Ripper, but for seasoned students of the case this will be a bit of a let-down. Marriott says he has long suspected that the killer was a merchant seaman named Carl Feigenbaum, but he errs significantly when he says that this is a "new" theory. In fact, the "merchant seaman" theory is one of the oldest theories, put forth first in November 1888 by a clerk in Her Majesty's Customs Statistical Department named Edward Larkins. Larkins himself believed there was more than one Ripper, and that they all worked on Portuguese cattleboats which regularly traveled between Oporto and London. (Queen Victoria herself shared similar suspicion, asking in one of her letters to the Home Secretary, "Have the cattle boats & passenger boats been examined?")
Nevertheless, Marriott lists several ships which were in London at the right time, noting that many of them were German in origin. Unfortunately he was unable to pin-down a specific person, let alone a particular ship, as the surviving records were few and far between.
On the whole, Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation is a good read and obviously well-researched, though a few slips have been made here and there. For some reason Marriott repeatedly states that "eight months" elapsed between the murders of Alice McKenzie (August 1889) and Francis Coles (February 1891), and he mistakenly suggests (p. 203) that the doctors who examined the Ripper's victims did not look for the presence of semen (they did, though in Victorian parlance they referred to it as "evidence of connexion"). Scotland Yard also did not "officially close" (p. 303) the case within two months after the Kelly murders.
In terms of the book itself, it should be noted that while the text totals some 310 pages, nearly half of those pages are filled only with contemporary inquest testimony and coroner's reports, reprinted verbatim and often in their entirety. While interesting in themselves, particularly to new students of the case, these reports have been published numerous times elsewhere and the reader gets the impression that these were used here more as filler material than to illustrate any specific point the author wished to make. Without these reprinted documents, the book would probably weigh in at only 150-160 pages of original text. (There is also no index or bibliography - both serious drawbacks in a work of non-fiction).
Marriott's most interesting insights are made in his discussions of modern police methods of investigation, including DNA, fingerprinting and crime scene analysis. He goes into some detail on how these methods would have been used today, had the Ripper crimes occurred in modern times. Had that been the case, Marriott is sure the killer would have been apprehended.
In sum, Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation provides a good overview of the victims and suspects, as well as a few interesting new theories in relation to the missing organs and the Goulston street apron. The discovery of the "De La Ree Bott" statement is particularly intriguing - not so much for the content of the documents, but rather for the mystery surrounding their discovery and current owner(s). Those who are new to the case would likely find the extensive reprints of inquest testimony and coroner's reports enlightening, but those drawn in by the dust-jacket's promise - "A Top Murder Squade Detective Finally Uncovers the Truth" - will probably be more than a little disappointed.