Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Do Scotland Yard know the identity of Jack the Ripper?
The Met Police is fighting the legal battle to keep files detailing the investigation into the notorious Jack the Ripper case secret because and in their words, 'To maintain confidentiality for Victorian 'supergrasses'. The documents are said to include four new suspects for the serial killings which terrorized Whitechapel in 1888 and have become one of the world's most infamous unsolved cases.
The historic ledgers have 36,000 entries detailing police interaction with informants between 1888 to 1912.
However, Scotland Yard reportedly believes disclosing the names could hinder recruiting and gathering information from modern informants, affecting terrorism investigations - and even lead to the Victorians' relatives being attacked.
Trevor Marriott, a Ripper investigator and former murder squad detective, has spent three years attempting to obtain uncensored versions of the documents.The ledgers provide details of the police’s dealings with thousands of informants from 1888 to 1912, including some who provided information during the original Ripper investigation.
A sample of about 40 pages from the Scotland Yard ledgers was released to last week’s tribunal, but with the names of informants and other key details blacked out.
According to Mr Marriott, the files contain the names of at least four new suspects, as well as other pieces of evidence.He said: “I believe this to be the very last chance that we may have to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper.
“To have any possibility of getting near the truth about those horrific crimes we must see what these ledgers contain.“It may be that within them we find the final piece of the jigsaw that would unlock this mystery and lead to the identity of the killer, or killers, albeit 123 years too late.”
Jack the Ripper slaughtered at least five women between August and November 1888 in the slums of Whitechapel, east London, but various experts have claimed other murders may have been committed by the killer on earlier and later dates.
The police made several mistakes in the inquiry and detection techniques of the time were basic – with no fingerprinting and science unable even to distinguish between animal and human blood.
As a result, there is no conclusive evidence to point to the true identity of Jack the Ripper and the case remains one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries. Among a long list of possible suspects are Queen Victoria’s grandson the Duke of Clarence, who died in an asylum in 1892, and the painter Walter Sickert.
Mr Marriott, who joined Bedfordshire Police in 1970 and worked as a detective constable until the mid-1980s, began researching the Jack the Ripper case in 2003. He has previously published one book on the subject which put forward the name of Carl Feigenbaum, a German merchant executed for the murder of a woman in New York, as a new suspect.
On uncovering references to the ledgers in 2008, Mr Marriott applied to see the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The Met refused and he appealed to the Information Commissioner who also decided the books should not be revealed.Now Mr Marriott has undergone the final appeal stage to the Information Tribunal, in which the case is heard by a panel of three judges.
The three-day hearing involved a detective inspector, identified only as ‘D’, speaking to the court from behind a screen because of his sensitive role running the force’s intelligence-gathering operation from informants.Detective Inspector ‘D’ told the tribunal that unveiling the files could deter informants from coming forward in future, and could even put off members of the public from phoning Crimestoppers or the antiterrorist hotline.
“The interpretation on the street will be that the police have revealed the identity of informants,” said ‘D’.“Confidence in the system is maintaining the safety of informants, regardless of age.”
Det Insp ‘D’ said the passage of time did not make publication of informants’ identities less sensitive because their descendants could be targeted by criminals with a grudge.
“Look at one of the world’s best-known informants, Judas Iscariot. If someone could draw a bloodline from Judas Iscariot to a present day person then that person would face a risk, although I know that seems an extreme example,” the officer said.Another senior officer, Detective Superintendent Julian McKinney, told the tribunal that releasing names would make police officers less capable of preventing terrorist attacks and organised crime, and make informants vulnerable to attack.
Det Supt McKinney said: “Regardless of the time, regardless of whether they are dead, they should never be disclosed.
“They come to us only when they have the confidence in our system that their identity will not be disclosed.”
But Mr Marriott said a number of historical files have previously been released which contained details of informants.He argued there was no evidence to show descendants of informants who have been named had come to harm.
The tribunal decision is expected later this year.