Jack the Ripper, Patricia Cornwall - Isn't this done?

So Patricia Cornwall has spent something like $6 million to “crack” the Jack the Ripper case, and hones in on an artist named Walter Sickert.

Any Ripperologist Dopers? Whaddya think of this?

Also - I remember watching a special on JtR that seemed very well done - maybe it was BBC-produced and broadcase on A&E but don’t quote me on that. They stated that the case was basically solved and that a Polish immigrant named…Kosminkski, IIRC, was the guy, based on a lot of evidence and the fact that he was committed right when the murders stopped happening. They concluded that the JtR “mystery” persisted because: a) there was money to be made from a tourism standpoint; and b) some Ripperologists just won’t let go.

So if the case is closed, then what the heck is Cornwall doing?

Context would be appreciated.

the Sickert theory has its appeals- the possible clues in his paintings being the most persuasive. I also go with the Kosminski
theory- Sir Robert Anderson’s personal notes nailed it in my book.
Of course, the Royal/Masonic scandal cover-up will always be the sexiest!

Cornwell’s theory seems particularly unconvincing. This discusses some of the more obvious reasons for scepticism.


As is alluded to in the above article, Michael Sturgis, who is about to publish the first full-scale biography of Sickert, responded to Cornwell in a recent article in The Sunday Times dismissing her arguments point-by-point. The Sickert theory is almost as implausible as the ever-popular Duke of Clarence theory.

My view: the murders themselves provide few firm clues (there is even some doubt as to which murders should be attributed to ‘Jack’), there can never be any certainty that any of the letters were from the killer and all that the combined efforts of the Ripperologists have done is to show that there were quite a few perverts wandering about London in the 1880s, any one of whom might have done it. In other words, your guess is as good as anyone else’s.

Every TV documentary on the subject confidently claims that it is the last word on the subject. They never are.

The major problem with modern folks trying to solve the Ripper case is that the evidence (what little there was in the first place) was often corrupted, lost, or ignored in the original invenstigation. Also, modern investigative techniques (fingerprinting, hair and fiber reconstruction and such) were almost non-existent 100 years ago. Trying to solve the case now makes for some compelling info and can even be fun, but there’s not too many new conclusions to be drawn unless real new evidence is uncovered.

As much as I admire Cornwell’s fiction (From Potter’s Field is very close to a suspense masterpiece), she should really stick to writing Kay Scarpetta. Real investigation might be a little beyond her reach, these days.

Of the modern “solutions” to the case, I think Kosminski is the most likely… but even that leaves large gaps of reasonable doubt to be overcome.

I was disturbed by Cornwell’s purchase of some of Sickert’s art and subsequent destruction of it looking for clues. That seems like an excessive act to try to prove a fairly difficult assertation.

I’m about halfway through the VF article, and I am hugely unimpressed. Here’s one of her stretches: some of the Jack the Ripper letters used the phrase “ha ha.” “Ha ha” is more American than British—one of Sickert’s enemies was American painter Whistler, who therefore probably used the phrase “ha ha” in Sickert’s hearing—so obviously Sickert must have written those letters.

Ummm. Yeah. I hope she got a good fee from VF for this excerpt . . .

I watched the “In Search Of…” episode on Jack. Basically, it points to the Duke of Clarence, aka Prince Albert Victor, “Eddy”, as he was known to the family.

As Eddy was borderline retarded and rather slow, I highly doubt he would have the brains to pull it off.

The problem with Cornwell is that she spent $4.5M investigating the murder. The entire premise of spending all that money is that she would “solve” the case in her book. If she came up with nothing, the money is all blown. So she had to come up with something. This is not a good way to assure that you will put forth a strong argument.

I kinda like the idea of reviving a dead thread that deals with Jack the Ripper. Now if I could only charge 24.95 a pop, ignore prior work in the field, and disguise my WAG as evidence then I too could be Patricia Cornwall.

I just finished reading the NY Times Book Review of her Ripper Book, which was written by Caleb Carr. I have a ton of respect for Carr, he is the author of two excellent historic fiction novels “The Alienist” and “The Angel of Darkness.” He’s an actual historian who writes extremely well, and is well respected.

He just lambastes Cornwall, and rightfully so. In the page and half review, he shows the huge flaws in her “logic” and methodology. It was beautiful. Needless to say, Patricia Cornwall is full of crap.

An online copy of the NYT article can be found here.

Originally posted by photopat
I was disturbed by Cornwell’s purchase of some of Sickert’s art and subsequent destruction of it looking for clues. That seems like an excessive act to try to prove a fairly difficult assertation.

Cornwell did not destroy any paintings. This was a false story that got reported for a while and then retracted. What happened was that she bought some paintings and had them shipped to her. One of the paintings was damaged in transit. She payed to have it restored. End of story.

She did remove a canvas from its frame to look for fingerprints, but did not damage the canvas itself.

I meant paid, not payed.