Serpent's Egg

The Eroticism of Fat Men

Did Francis Craig write the famous Jack the Ripper letters?

Part Three: The new suspect is the perfect candidate to have written a series of letters long thought to have been penned by the serial killer, dubbed the ‘Dear Boss’ letters

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The ‘Dear Boss Letter’ dated September 25, 1888 and signed ‘Jack the Ripper’ Photo: Rex Features

On 27th September, 19 days after the discovery of Annie Chapman’s body in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street and three days before the murders of two more unfortunates – Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes – on 30th September, a letter was received by the Central News agency.

Central News was one of three main press agencies operating in London at the time.

They did not themselves publish newspapers but gathered news via their own reporters or freelancers like Francis and then sold the stories on to other newspapers throughout Britain and around the world.

The letter had been posted the same day and bore a London EC postmark, which meant that it could have been posted within a few hundred yards of the Central News offices in Ludgate Circus and certainly no more than half a mile distant.


The ‘Dear Boss Letter’ and its envelope, dated September 25, 1888 (Rex)

The envelope was addressed in red ink to “The Boss, Central News Office” and contained a letter that has since become the most notorious in the history of crime. In the same handwriting as the envelope it read:

Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Yours truly Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name

PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha

The text of the letter was published in The Daily News on 1st October.

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On the morning of the same day a plain postcard written in the same hand was delivered to Central News.

It was postmarked 1st October and, like the letter, it too had been posted in London EC.

Now known as the ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard it read:

I was not kidding Dear Old Boss when I gave you the tip youll hear about saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. had not time to get ears for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again Jack the Ripper.

With its clear reference to the ‘double event’ that took place a day earlier, the writer was clearly seeking to establish that he was the author of both missives as well as the murderer of all four women.

There was a feature about the first ‘Dear Boss’ letter, the postcard and possibly two communications that followed it, one on 5th October and one eight years later, which may have been written by the same person, which was quickly noticed and commented upon.

A hoaxer who was not a professional pressman would almost certainly have chosen to send a letter to one of the national newspapers or to the police.
The Real Mary Kelly

They contained words and expressions that originated in America and were not in common usage in Britain at the time.

These included the words “boss”, “quit” and “fix me”, expressions that are much more familiar to today’s audience, used to films and television from across the Atlantic, than they were at the time.

Many people, including the police, concluded that the writer was either American or had spent enough time there to absorb the local journalese.

There is in fact a distinctly journalistic flavour to both messages.

The absence of sentence structure and apostrophes is typical of reporters at the time who tended to use this style when taking down speech verbatim in the interests of speed but would have restored the syntax when transcribing it later before submitting their copy to an editor.

Unlike most of the letters that followed, there are no spelling mistakes in them, suggesting that the writer was a reasonably educated man.

Very few of the general public even knew of the existence of press agencies at that time and a hoaxer who was not a professional pressman would almost certainly have chosen to send a letter to one of the national newspapers or to the police.

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There are other features of the letters that are worth noticing and which might tend to connect them to a particular type of man.

There is a quirky, almost eccentric, humour to them, black though it is.

The writer uses the expression ‘ha ha’ repeatedly to indicate that he has made a joke, even underlining it for further emphasis.

It is typical of a person with a particular sort of personality disorder who finds it difficult to pick up visual cues and to read other people’s reactions in face-to-face conversation.


Police breaking open a door at Miller’s Court where Mary Jane Kelly’s body was found (Alamy)

If Francis Craig did write them, the question is why?

Most probably he wanted to clearly establish a link between the murders that would distract attention from his real objective, the killing of a particular victim.

They enabled him to put forward an alternative motive, his dislike of prostitutes. Finally, they also provided him with an opportunity to trumpet his own prowess.

For a man whose life might until then have been dogged by failure, they were a means of demonstrating to the world that he could single-handedly outwit the Metropolitan police and the powers that be.

Read further exclusive extracts from the book here:

Part One: How the new Jack the Ripper theory came to light

Part Two: Is this the only surviving depiction of the most famous serial killer in history?

Part Four: How Jack the Ripper’s murders were motivated by love gone wrong

The Real Mary Kelly: Jack the Ripper’s Fifth Victim and the Identity of the Man that Killed Her by Wynne Weston-Davies is published by Blink priced £16.99. To order your copy for £14 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

Jack the Ripper: a timeline
August 31, 1888
The Ripper’s first victim
Mary Ann Nicholls, the Ripper’s first victim, is murdered in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel.
September 8, 1888
Second victim
Annie Chapman, the second victim, is murdered in the back yard of 29, Hanbury Street.
September 30, 1888
“Double event” murders
The so-called “double event” of two Ripper murders on one night. The body of Elizabeth Stride is found in the early hours in Dutfield’s Yard, Berners Street, now known as Henriques Street. Within an hour, the fourth victim Catherine Eddowes is slain in Mitre Square.
September 30, 1888
“Dear Boss” letter
On the same day a news agency received a message – known as the “Dear Boss” letter – which is thought by some to have been by the killer himself.
October 9, 1888
Ripper on the move?
The Liverpool Echo revealed it had received a letter claiming that the Ripper was about to strike in Dublin. The following day, it reported on a second letter which refuted the first claiming instead the “Whitechapel purger” was going to New York.
November 9, 1888
A fifth gruesome discovery
Mary Jane Kelly, which according to a new book was the pseudonym of Elizabeth Weston Davies, was found horribly mutilated in her room in a Whitechapel slum.
1913
Ripper fiction
Marie Belloc Lowndes publishes The Lodger, a novel based on the Ripper murders. Adapted for the screen five times – firstly as an early silent move by Alfred Hitchcock – it helps secure the Ripper’s enduring place in popular fiction.
1965
Chief suspect revealed
Author Tom Cullen reveals that Sir Melville Macnaghten of Scotland Yard regarded Montague John Druitt as the chief suspect.
1974
Another book, another suspect
Another book, by Donald Bell, sets out evidence for Neill Cream being the Ripper.
1975
Seminal Ripper research
Key text The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow is published.
1987
Detective notes revealed
The Daily Telegraph reveals for the first time contents of notes by Chief Insp Donald Swanson, a Ripper detective, naming Aaron Kosminski as the Ripper.
1990
Crime novelist wades in
Theory published by Jean Overton Fuller that renowned artist Walter Sickert was the killer. Patricia Cornwell, the crime novelist, later spends millions of pounds attempting to prove Sickert’s guilt.
1995
New suspect emerges
Authors Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey reveal Frances Tumblety as a major suspect after discovering a 1913 letter from a Special Branch officer in an antiquarian bookshop.
2011
Police informants are protected
Scotland Yard wins a legal battle to keep secret four thick ledgers containing details of police informants from the Victorian era, including some who provided tip-offs relating to the Ripper. Police argue informants’ names must remain secret forever.
2014
Forensic hopes are dashed
Russell Edwards claims to have solved the Ripper mystery – and proved Kosminski’s guilt – through DNA analysis of a shawl belonging to Catherine Eddowes, but the forensic techniques used are later undermined.
2015
A new theory emerges
Wynne Weston-Davies’ book The Real Mary Kelly says the Ripper’s final victim was his great aunt, Elizabeth, and Jack the Ripper was her estranged husband Francis Craig.
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