Who Was Jack The Ripper? The 5 Most Likely Jack The Ripper Suspects

Published December 4, 2017
Updated August 4, 2020

Though all witnesses have been dead for decades, historians and sleuths have put these Jack The Ripper suspects at the top of their list for the infamous murders.

Illustration of Jack The Ripper

Wikimedia CommonsAn illustration of the discovery of the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, as depicted in The Illustrated Police News circa 1888.

Since the terrible Whitechapel Murders of 1888, speculation as to who was Jack The Ripper have run rampant, with dozens of names being thrown in the ring.

When police failed to find the identity of the murderer of several women in the Whitechapel neighborhood of London in 1888, the newspaper dubbed the anonymous killer “Jack The Ripper.” This now legendary figure was the first urban serial killer to capture the imagination of the public, and now, over 100 years later, the Ripper still has a grip on the public consciousness.

Though all involved in the case have been dead for decades, historians and sleuths have attempted to glean the identity of the murderer to this day. While some of these theories have been outlandish speculation, there are a few Jack The Ripper suspects that legitimately have a case against them.

Many of these Jack The Ripper suspects were at one point suspected by the police but were ultimately never charged with the murders. Others have been speculated on in hindsight, and have some historical evidence for their involvement later uncovered.

Here are five of the most likely Jack The Ripper suspects:

Jack The Ripper Suspects: Montague John Druitt

Jack The Ripper Suspects Montague John Druitt

Wikimedia CommonsMontague John Druitt

Who was he?

Montague Druitt was born in 1857 as the son of a prominent local surgeon and officer of the law. Druitt was a bright child and obtained a scholarship to attend Winchester College at the age of 13.

In school, he participated on the debate team and was an opening bowler for the school’s cricket team. After leaving school in 1880, he joined the Inner Temple, one of the qualifying bodies to become a lawyer in England at the time, located in London.

To pay for his legal training, he took a job as an assistant schoolmaster at George Valentine’s boarding school in 1885. During this time he also played cricket with a prominent clubs across England.

He was dismissed from his position at the school in 1888 for an unknown reason. Newspapers at the time said it was because Druitt “had got into serious trouble.”

A month later his body was found in the River Thames, presumably dead from suicide.

Why is he one of the Jack The Ripper Suspects?

Shortly before Druitt’s death in 1888, the Ripper claimed his final victim, Mary Jane Kelly. Shortly after rumors began to spread that the Ripper had drowned in the Thames.

Three years later, in 1891, a member of parliament from West Dorchester, England began saying that the Ripper was “the son of a surgeon” who had committed suicide on the night of the last murder.

Journalists and law enforcement officers of the time also corroborated this story of the Ripper dying in the Thames after his final murder.

This description led contemporary law enforcement and later investigators to suspect Druitt, who had committed suicide in the manner described by these rumors directly following the last murder.

Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten of the London Metropolitan Police even named Druitt as a suspect in the Whitechapel murders in private memorandum written in 1894

Does the case against him hold up?

Not really.

Even though many people of the time seemed to have genuinely suspected Druitt, there is little more than vague circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders.

Beyond that, Druitt himself was not trained in any medical techniques, something many people suspect the true Ripper was.

Furthermore, his suicide can be more reasonably explained by a note he left to his brother, “Since Friday I felt that I was going to be like mother, and the best thing for me was to die.”

His mother suffered from depression and insanity and died in an asylum in 1890. She had attempted suicide in the past, as had his grandmother and many members of his family.

Also, Druitt has solid alibis from the cricket games he played showing him far away from London at the time of many of the murders.

Realistically the only things tying him to the murders were his place and time of death, as well as the hearsay of some law enforcement officers, none of whom were directly involved in the Whitechapel murder cases.

George Chapman

Drawing of George Chapman

Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Chapman is one of the most likely Jack The Ripper suspects.

Who was he?

George Chapman was born Seweryn Kłosowski in Nagórna, poland in 1865.

Little is known about his life previous back in Poland, other than that at the age of fourteen he apprenticed for a surgeon and attended a course in practical surgery at the Warsaw Praga Hospital.

It is believed that he worked as a nurse, or doctor’s assistant in Warsaw until December 1886, and it is believed he moved to London in 1888.

It is also known that he had a wife in Poland, who raised objections when he married a young Polish girl while in London. Nevertheless, Kłosowski continued his relationship with his second wife and moved with her to the United States in 1891.

There the two of them lived in New Jersey, where once, in an argument over Kłosowski’s cheating, he threatened her with a knife and calmly explained how he would kill her and dispose of her body.

After this incident, his second wife traveled back to London without Kłosowski. Kłosowski followed her to East London, where they briefly met up before ending their relationship.

Once again, Kłosowski took on a new mistress, who he married to take on her last name, Chapman, and all her money. Along with an Anglicized version of his first name, he gained his new moniker: George Chapman.

Soon after the marriage, Chapman continued with his brazen infidelities resulting in his newest wife leaving him.

In 1895, Chapman met Mary Isabella Spink, an alcoholic divorcee, who he married and had placed him in her will. Chapman beat Spink often, and in 1897 poisoned her with tartar-emetic, a toxic compound similar to arsenic, which he purchased from a local chemist.

After killing her, Chapman took her inheritance and repeated this method of murder on his next two mistresses Bessie Taylor and Maud Mars.

After the latter’s mother suspected Chapman of killing her daughter in 1902, he was arrested, and the bodies of his previous wives were exhumed to discover that they had all died from the same cause.

Chapman was found guilty and hanged on April 7, 1903.

Why is he one of the Jack The Ripper Suspects?

Chapman was first identified as a suspect in the Ripper killings when he was first arrested in 1902. Frederick Abberline, a detective at Scotland Yard involved in the Whitechapel murder cases reportedly said “You’ve got Jack the Ripper at last!” to the officers who brought in Chapman.

Abberline had interviewed Chapman’s second wife, who told the inspector that her husband would often go out during the night for hours on end while they were living in Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper murders.

Chapman was also a murderer in the area who picked women as targets of his violence.

However, despite Abberline’s convictions and the press’ speculation, Chapman was never an official police suspect in the killings.

Does the case against him hold up?

Maybe.

Though there is little evidence connecting Chapman to the murders, there is no solid evidence to eliminate him as a suspect. All of Chapman’s known murders have been of women who he personally knew and were committed through the use of poison.

For him to have killed and mutilated strange women with a knife seems outside of his usual methods.

It is also unsure if Chapman could speak English at the time of the murders, something the Ripper would have had to have done to lure some of his victims.

James Maybrick

James Maybrick

Wikimedia CommonsJames Maybrick

Who was he?

James Maybrick was a Liverpool cotton merchant who was born in 1838. Due to his profession, he was constantly traveling between the UK and the United States.

In 1871 he settled in Norfolk, Va., an important location in the cotton trade.

In 1880, he returned to Britain, and on his six-day-long voyage back across the pond, he met an American woman named Florence Elizabeth Chandler, the daughter of a banker from Mobile, Ala., who he began a romantic affair with.

Despite the fact that Florence was 24 years younger, they quickly got married at a ceremony held in London.

However, their marriage quickly soured, with Maybrick spending much time in America far from his young bride. The both of them began to conduct affairs with other people.

April 27, 1889, Maybrick’s health suddenly deteriorated and he died fifteen days later at his home in Aigburth.

Local police determined that he was poisoned with arsenic, and his wife was arrested for the crime. She was convicted and initially set to hang before her sentence was commuted to a lifetime in prison in light of how the judge conducted her first case.

She served this sentence until she was acquitted in 1904, after which she lived on, supporting herself, until her death in 1941.

Why is he one of the Jack The Ripper Suspects?

In 1992, a document presented as James Maybrick’s diary surfaced, which claimed that he was Jack the Ripper. Though the diary never mentioned Maybrick by name, it included enough details to conclude that readers were expected to believe it is by him.

In the diary, the author takes credit for five of the victims attributed to Jack The Ripper, consistent with Maybrick’s death in 1889 following the death of the final of the canonical five victims.

This diary was discovered by a Liverpudlian scrap metal dealer named Mike Barrett.

Furthermore, in 1993 a pocket watch made in 1847 was discovered with “J. Maybrick” scratched on the inside cover, along with the words “I am Jack,” as well as the initials of five of the Ripper victims.

Does the case against him hold up?

No.

Though the diary has undergone multiple examinations that have been inconclusive as to the authenticity of the materials involved in the diary, the story around its creation is flimsy at best.

Barett, the supposed discoverer of the diary, first claimed he received the book from Tony Devereux, despite Devereux dying in 1991, a year before he made known the existence of the diary. Barett’s wife also contradicted this claim when she said that the diary had been with her family for generations.

Also, in 1995, Barett signed two affidavits claiming that he and his wife fabricated the diary. His lawyer then repudiated this affidavit, before Barett withdrew the repudiation.

The pocket watch has been verified to be of the period, and the engraving is proven to be at least a couple of decades old. However, scrawling on a timepiece is not seen as solid evidence of a crime.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.