Jack the Ripper was a meat cart driver in Whitechapel, whose legitimately blood-spattered appearance helped him evade justice, a criminologist has claimed. Dr Gareth Norris from Aberystwyth University believes 'carman' Charles Allen Lechmere, whose early route to work coincided with locations of Ripper killings, should be considered a suspect.
Lechmere was found leaning over victim Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols' body on Buck's Row in Whitechapel on August 31, 1888 and told police he had only been there a few minutes. But research has revealed that he lied to police about his name, calling himself Cross, and it was likely that he was with her body for about nine minutes.
He also passed Hanbury Street, Dorset Street and Mitre Square at roughly the same times as the Ripper killings — while another happened in Berners Street, where his mother lived.
It is a theory that joins many others in relation to the string of murders during a three-month period in 1888 when six women were killed on the streets of London's Whitechapel. Their throats were slashed and bodies mutilated but no one was ever caught and 'the Ripper's' identity remains one of the world's greatest crime mysteries. In the years that have passed since the killing spree, many high-profile suspects have been suggested including Prince Albert Victor, the grandson of Queen Victoria and Sir William Gull, the Queen's doctor.
Dr Norris, who worked with TV producer David McNab and Swedish journalist Christer Holmgren in a new Channel 5 documentary about the killer, drew up a profile of the likely murderer. He predicted that Jack the Ripperwould have been local and able to walk the streets in the early hours without being suspected.
Dr Norris said:
'He [Lechmere] would certainly be a person of interest and, while the evidence against him is circumstantial, he would have a case to answer. There couldn't feasibly be a re-opening of the case as the Ripper is most certainly deceased by now, but periodically reviews of historical cases can be sanctioned.
'Again, there are no living witnesses or forensics of any sort so the basis of any investigation would be slightly flawed. Lechmere could be a match for the profile — along with many others — but whether he fits the conspiracy element that fascinates the public is another matter.'
He added that because of his job as a meat cart driver, Lechmere would have been 'routinely covered in blood'.
David McNab added:
'Lechmere was discovered standing over the body but bizarrely no-one seemed to think that was important.'
Dr Norris said investigations in Lechmere's life showed his mother was 'a pivotal figure' for him and he lived very close to her. But two months before the Ripper killings he moved further away to a new address while his daughter remained living with his mother.
Dr Norris said that could have been due to some trauma and added:
'A big upheaval in the family just months before the killings could be of some significance.'
Barrister James Scobie QC believes Lechmere's early lies and his passing by the murder scenes could have warranted a court case. He said:
'He is somebody who seems to be acting in a way that is suspicious, which a jury would not like. When the coincidences mount up against a defendant, it becomes one coincidence too many.
Lechmere died in 1920 and was survived by his wife who eventually passed away on September 12, 1940 in Stratford, east London.