It is a murder mystery which has gone unsolved for exactly 125 years: just who was Jack The Ripper?
The identity of the Victorian serial killer – renowned for both his unhealthy attitude towards women and apparent aptitude for major organ removal – has gone unknown since he slayed five (maybe more) sex workers and mutilated their corpses in 1888 London.
Until now, perhaps. A retired Sheffield copper reckons he has the answer.
Alan Hancock has spent five years reading 60 books, analysing hundreds of contemporary reports and viewing more pictures of mutilated bodies than he ever saw on the Crosspool beat. And now he reckons he’s got one man so bang to rights that if he put the evidence before the Crown Prosecution Service, they’d charge quicker than it takes a peasouper to descend on Whitechapel.
Who done the deed, Guv’nor? Er...he won’t actually say. Not unless you go to his talk next week, anyway.
“All I’ll confirm is it was one of the 2-300 suspects the police looked at,” he says. “Everyone I’ve discussed this with is convinced I’m right. In the end, a picture gives the game away. Then it came down to a simple case of maths. I showed the evidence to a statistician and he said the odds of me being wrong were almost incalculable..”
But before you say this might just make Alan the most famous super sleuth this side of Sherlock Holmes, the retired South Yorkshire Police bobby isn’t convinced everyone will want to hear him out.
“I’ve thought about writing a book,” says the 59-year-old. “But there’s a multimillion pound industry built around not knowing who the Ripper is. It’s the mystery that fascinates. I don’t think the people want it to be solved.”
It’s not, he will confirm, any of the more famous suspects. “It would be a nice story if it was Prince Albert or Lewis Carroll,” he notes. “But it’s more mundane.”
Alan, who retired to Chesterfield but previously lived in Hemsworth, started researching the subject after watching a TV documentary.
“I became obsessed for a while,” he admits. “I cried while reading one inquest report. I definitely became a Ripper bore. Maybe I still am but it’s fascinating. It’s just the classic whodunit.”
Or, perhaps, that should be: was the classic whodunnit.
DO VAN GOGH’S PAINTINGS SOLVE MYSTERY? NO
Everyone from Vincent Van Gogh to Queen Victoria’s husband have been said to be Jack The Ripper at some point.
The serial killings – which took place in Whitechapel between August 31 and November 9, 1888 – have long fascinated historians, Hollywood and amateur detectives. They carry just the right mix of mystery, intrigue and facial mutilations, it seems.
Van Gogh came under the spotlight after author Dale Larner said images of the victims were hidden in his paintings. If that seems farfetched, poor Prince Albert has been blamed for no discernible reason other than he was said to have had syphilis and been pretty handy with a hunting knife. His culpability seems unlikely, however, when one considers official records show he was in New York at the time.
Philanthropist Dr Thomas Barnardo – who regularly walked London’s most impoverished streets – and Lewis Carroll have also had their names linked.
“Fanciful,” is Alan Hancock’s view.
Alan’s talk, in aid of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, is on September 6, 7pm, at Aizlewoods Mill, Nursery Street. Tickets £15 – 0114 2798236.