Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unidentified serial killer who operated in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Attacks ascribed to him typically involved female prostitutes who lived in the slums in the area. The large number of murders in the East End during this period adds uncertainty to how many victims were killed by the same person.
Five of the eleven Whitechapel murders, called the Canonical Five, are widely attributed to this notorious serial killer, because of the similarity of injuries of the victims and apparent lack of motive in the crime. All the five victims had their throats cut from left to right, and their abdomen mutilated after death.
Despite police investigations and many studies afterwards, Jack the Ripper was never identified. He remains one of the most intriguing characters in the criminal history of England. In this article, Sports-nova explores the life of one of the key suspects in the Jack the Ripper murders, a fine cricketer of the time whose mysterious evanescence towards the end of 1988 marked the end of the Ripper murders.
Montague John Druitt (15th August 1857 – December 1888) was noted for his skills as a bowler. He played for the Kingston Park Cricket Club, and the Dorset County Cricket Club during the start of his cricket career. In 1882-83 he toured the West Country with Incogniti, which is said to be the third oldest wandering cricket club. In 1883 he played for another wandering team, the Butterflies.
At Blackheath Morden:
While working at Blackheath, Druitt joined the local cricket club, Blackheath Morden, and became the club’s treasurer. It was a well-connected club, the President being politician Sir Charles Mills and Stanley Christopherson, who later became President of the Marylebone Cricket Club, was one of the players. As the club grew, it merged with other local sports association and came to be known as Blackheath Cricket, Football and Lawn Tennis Company. Druitt soon took over as the company’s secretary and director.
Druitt’s prowess at the game came to public notice while playing for Blackheath. On 5 June 1886, in a match between Blackheath and a touring team called the Band of Brothers, led by Lord Harris, Druitt bowled Harris for 14 and took three other wickets. Blackheath won by 178 runs. A few weeks later, he dismissed England batsman John Shuter, who was playing for Bexley Cricket Club, for a duck, and Blackheath won the game by 114 runs.
The following year, Shuter returned to Blackheath with a Surrey County side that included Walter Read, William Lockwood, and Bobby Abel, whom Druitt bowled out for 56, but Blackheath lost to Surrey.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC):
On 26 May 1884, Druitt was elected to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) on the recommendation of his fellow Butterflies player Charles Seymour, who proposed him, and noted fielder Vernon Royle, who seconded his nomination. One of the minor matches he played for MCC was with England bowler William Attewell against Harrow School on 10 June 1886 where MCC won by 57 runs.
Early life and career:
Druitt was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England. He was the second son and third child of prominent local surgeon William Druitt. He was educated at Winchester College, where he excelled at many sports, especially cricket. On 17 May 1882, two years after graduation, Druitt was admitted to the Inner Temple, one of the qualifying bodies for English barristers. In 1885 he set up a practice as a barrister and special pleader. He is listed in the Law List of 1886 and 1887 as active in the Western Circuit and few other places.
Apart form this, to supplement his income and help pay for his legal training, Druitt also worked as an assistant schoolmaster at George Valentine’s boarding school at Blackheath, London from 1880.
Disappearance and death:
On 30 November 1888, Druitt was dismissed from his post at the Blackheath boys’ school. Quoting his brother William’s testimony to a local newspaper, he was dismissed because he “had got into serious trouble”. But records fail to provide further clarity on that. He then disappeared mysteriously.
The next records of him were found in the Blackheath Cricket Club’s minute book, that recorded on 21 December 1888 that he was removed as treasurer and secretary in the belief that he had “gone abroad”.
On 31 December 1888, his body was found floating in the River Thames, off Thornycroft’s torpedo works. His body was in possession with large amount of money in cheque and in gold. It was believed that he had committed suicide but the reason behind that remained unearthed.
Druitt and Jack the Ripper:
Removal of organs after mutilation of the abdomen of the Canonical Five victims gave rise to the speculation that the murderer had some surgical knowledge. In February 1891, the MP for West Dorset, Henry Richard Farquharson, announced that Jack the Ripper was “the son of a surgeon”. The description of the man as was announced resembled Druitt to a large extent.
George R. Sims, a Victorian journalist noted in his memoirs, The Mysteries of Modern London (1906) about the Ripper: “body was found in the Thames after it had been in the river for about a month”. There were many other similar comments that strangely matched Druitt.
While the murders were apparently motiveless and the mutilation of the bodies appallingly screamed of mental illness of the mysterious Jack the Ripper, there are evidences that Montague John Druitt also suffered from an hereditary psychiatric illness. His mother suffered from depression and was institutionalised from July 1888. She died in an asylum in Chiswick in 1890. His maternal grandmother committed suicide while insane. A note written by Druitt and addressed to his brother William, who was a solicitor in Bournemouth, was found in Druitt’s room in Blackheath. It read, “Since Friday I felt that I was going to be like mother, and the best thing for me was to die.”
Druitt’s story also matches the descriptions of one of the three unnamed suspects in Major Arthur Griffiths’ Mysteries of Police and Crime (1898); Griffiths was Inspector of Prisons at the time of the Ripper murders.
Griffiths’ memorandum, the near coincidence between Druitt’s death and the end of the murders, the closeness of Whitechapel to Druitt’s apartments in the Inner Temple, the insanity that was acknowledged by the inquest verdict of “unsound mind”, and the possibility that Druitt had absorbed the rudimentary anatomical skill through observing his father at work , led many experts to believe that he might well have been Jack the Ripper.
However, some experts hold the Ripper as the culprit of two more murders outside the Canonical Five. Though such an inclusion is heavily debated, they would certainly remove any possibility of Druitt being the Ripper: one of the murders occurring after his death and the other at a time when he was playing a cricket match far away. But as most believe that the Ripper was responsible only for the Canonical Five murders, Druitt continues to be remembered as one of the key suspects.