Serial Killers Linked to Jack the Ripper

Ripper crimes have always inspired linkage analysis.

Posted Aug 10, 2017

K. Ramsland
Source: K. Ramsland

The History Channel has brought us weekly installments of American Ripper, an idea that the notorious serial killer, H. H. Holmes, was Jack the Ripper. This idea was floated about five years ago, based on handwriting analysis, by Holmes’ great-great-great grandson, Jeff Mudgett. But, of course, this depends heavily on the assumption that the Ripper wrote one or more of the letters during the10-week murder spree in 1888 (if it was indeed 10 weeks).

It also assumes that Jack the Ripper was a lone male operating within a restricted time-frame in a single location and that the man whom witnesses described was the killer. Some people have floated theories that the Ripper was a woman, a group, and a media invention. Then there’s Mudgett’s exhumation of his ancestor to learn if he was even in his designated grave, which I’ve written about here.

Back to the linkage analysis. The point of this blog is to look at a few of the other serial killers from that time period who’ve been linked to Jack the Ripper.

The first series linked to Red Jack actually occurred three years before the "Autumn of Terror" Whitechapel killings. In Austin, Texas, beginning on New Year's Eve, 1884, a bloody killing spree left the city breathless. The first victim was killed behind the home where she worked, five months before the second woman was slaughtered. Both were hacked to death, as was Irene Cross less than three weeks later. A fourth victim turned up in August, along with her daughter, and then in one night, four people were attacked by a man entering through a window and crushing the inhabitants’ skulls with an ax. He (or they) pulled one woman into some bushes, where her struggle was cut short with a brick. There were survivors, but the murder spree was brutal.

Prosecutor E. T. Moore speculated that a lone perpetrator who hated women had committed all the murders (although males were also attacked). The so-called “Servant Girl Annihilator” killings ended on Christmas Eve, 1885, when two white women were raped and slaughtered. This set of seven (or eight) axe murders was never solved. A journalist for the Austin American Statesman wrote about a possible link to Jack the Ripper at the time, citing the presence of a Malay cook in both cities at the right time. A more current version poses James Maybrick — also in recent news for his supposedly authenticated Ripper diary — as the man behind both sets of murders. Journalist Skip Hollandsworth tried but failed to clearly link the Austin killer to Jack the Ripper in The Midnight Assassin.

In 1892, a possible Ripper candidate emerged in Canada. A young chambermaid was found dead in a privy with a bottle of chloroform nearby. She was linked to Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, an abortionist. He fled to Chicago. When a girl died there, Cream was arrested, but he eluded prosecution due to lack of evidence. Next he poisoned the husband of a patient with whom he was having an affair. She spilled the beans. This time he went to prison but was eventually released. He ended up in England in 1891, far too late to have committed the Ripper murders. Yet he'd killed several young women and he did visit prostitutes. Arrested for a murder in 1892, he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. As the hangman drew the bolt for the drop, Cream allegedly announced, “I am Jack the—” before the noose broke his neck. (Most likely, this story was made up, as he was wearing a hood that muffled his words.)

Then, in 1894, six years after the Ripper murders had officially ceased, magistrates in France pieced together a linkage analysis. This series of rape/murders occurred in rural areas around the country, targeting young men or women who were walking alone or herding sheep. The story is well documented in The Killer of Little Shepherds, by Douglas Starr. Magistrate Émile Fourquet collected the records from cases he learned about. The series of hacking neck wounds common to most of the victims indicated that the killer approached them from behind, taking them by surprise. Some journalists offered a disturbing idea: Jack the Ripper had never been caught and since England was nearby, perhaps “Jack” had come to France.

Fourquet created a rudimentary profile based on various witness reports. This offender, he said, would watch a victim to ensure that he or she was alone, blitz-attack from behind, hack or stab them in the neck, and then drag the bodies to another area to mutilate and sodomize. He thought the offender would be thirtyish, with dark hair and eyes (based on witness reports) and a menacing manner.

When Joseph Vacher was caught in the act, he fit the description and profile. Eventually, he confessed. He admitted to the murders in France but not to any in London. Despite the journalists’ hope for further sensation, there was no link between Vacher and the Ripper crimes.

Some theories make sense, but others are far-fetched. So, will Holmes be unmasked as Saucy Jack by the end of the History Channel series? Even as we watch with bated breath, several other Ripper theories are being proposed as the definitive answer — and none features Holmes.