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Was the Ripper Identified?

In 1888, the most infamous murders of all time took place in London’s East End. Five prostitutes, destitute women who knew of no other way to survive, were killed and slaughtered by a supposedly unknown killer who bears the nickname Jack the Ripper.

The victims are listed below:

Mary Ann Nicholls, Friday 31st August
Annie Chapman, Saturday 8th September
Elizabeth Stride, Sunday 30 September
Catherine Eddowes, Sunday 30 September
Mary Jane Kelly, Friday 9th November


This is the accepted list and we will go with it for this article.


We feel that the Ripper was Jacob Levy a mad butcher of Middlesex Street who died in 1891 of syphilis.  His candidacy explains a lot of things.




Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, head of the Ripper investigation, wrote in 1910 that the Ripper was identified at the Seaside Home and was returned to Whitechapel and later he went to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch, Lunatic Asylum. He wrote that Kosminski was this man and he died soon after.
"After the suspect had been identified at the Seaside Home where he had been sent by us with difficulty in order to subject him to identification, and he knew he was identified. On suspect’s return to his brother’s house in Whitechapel he was watched by police (City CID) by day & night. In a very short time the suspect with his hands tied behind his back, he was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards – Kosminski was the suspect – DSS".


The killer if committed to an asylum could not be identified.  So it is certain that the identification happened before he was committed. 
He wrote that the suspect had been identified by a witness at the Seaside Home. And that the killer had been identified by a witness who wouldn’t testify against him because both suspect and witness were Jewish. He said the witness did this "because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind. And after this identification which suspect knew no other murder of this kind took place in London."


Macnaghten: The Kosminski Suspect


Kosminksi, a Polish Jew, and resident in Whitechapel. This man became insane owing to many year’s indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, especially of the prostitute class, and had strong homicidal tendencies; he was removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889. There were many circs connected with this man which made him a strong ‘suspect’.”


The error in this is that the date of the admission to the asylum is wrong and he uses "about" possibly indicating that it may be misremembered so it may not be a real error.




"I will only add that when the individual whom we suspected was caged in an asylum, the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer at once identified him, but when he learned that the suspect was a fellow-Jew he declined to swear to him."  Anderson tells us nothing but that the man was a low class Jew.  It is odd that Anderson makes the error of forgetting that an asylum inmate cannot be identified.


He had also written, "One did not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to discover that the criminal was a sexual maniac of a virulent type; that he was living in the immediate vicinity of the scenes of the murders; and that, if he was not living absolutely alone, his people knew of his guilt, and refused to give him up to justice".  He gives a hint here that he knew the man was family man.  He knows the killer was living with "people" and not just a mother or wife or something.  That was why he didn't write, "and that he was either living alone and if he was not then somebody at least knew of his guilt".


The eyewitness

Daily Telegraph 18 February 1891 -

'Further it is certain that the police are not neglecting the facts which came to light in connection with the previous murders. Probably the only trustworthy description of the assassin was that given by a gentleman who, on the night of the Mitre-square murder, noticed in Duke-street, Aldgate, a couple standing under the lamp at the corner of the passage leading to Mitre-square. The woman was identified as one victim of that night, Sept. 30, the other having been killed half an hour previously in Berner-street. The man was described as "aged from thirty to thirty-five; height 5ft 7in, with brown hair and big moustache; dressed respectably. Wore a pea jacket, muffler, and a cloth cap with a peak of the same material." The witness has confronted Sadler and has failed to identify him.'

Sadler was the man accused of killing Frances Coles and it is not surprising that the witness failed to identify him as Sadler may not have killed Coles and definitely was not the Ripper.  Her killing was very different.


The gentlemanly witness is not named which is odd.  It is usually thought to refer to Joseph Lawende but it is more likely to be Joseph Levy.  The third man paid so little attention that he definitely was not a witness. 

The facts make it plain that Joseph Levy must have identified Jacob Levy as the Ripper at the Seaside Home!  There is no evidence that Kosminksi was the real name of the suspect.
Jacob Levy, who we think was Kosminski, could have been brought to it. Swanson wrote that there was difficulty with getting the suspect there. Evidently the difficulties were not in restraining him if insane or transporting him there. If he had been that awkward he would have been committed in which case there would have been no point in trying to get him identified. It must have had to do with different police jurisdictions and the red tape. It has been pointed out that Joseph Hyam Levy lived at a point near Middlesex Street (our suspect's home street!)probably on the boundary between the City Police and the Metropolitan jurisdictions. Jurisdiction problems could have come up if he was the identification witness. But Swanson says the difficulties were to do with the suspect. It was not that the suspect didn’t want to go for he wouldn’t have known who the witness was going to be. The answer is simple. The killer lived in Middlesex Street. One half of the street was City Police jurisdiction and the other was Metropolitan. Jacob Levy is the only possible Ripper suspect to have lived there. Sion Square where Aaron Kosminksi lived couldn’t have had this problem. Jacob Levy was Jack the Ripper.
We need a positive identification to prove who the Ripper was. And the men investigating the murders said there had been one. There is much confusion about who the witness who made the identification was. But it can be cleared up. Joseph Hyam Levy saw the killer with Catherine Eddowes and it is most likely that the man he saw was his close neighbour Jacob Levy. Joseph Hyam Levy didn’t want to say anything about the killer but he may have changed his mind later when he identified him.
Griffiths who must have consulted Macnaghten and others wrote in 1898 that there was some evidence that the killer was a Polish Jew who was known as a lunatic who was roaming around Whitechapel at the times of the murders and who was put into an asylum afterwards for his urge to kill. It says the policeman at Mitre Court meaning Mitre square where Eddowes was found murdered got a glimpse of him and agreed that the person was the murderer. Anderson wrote in 1910 that the only person who got a good look at the killer identified the suspect without hesitation but wouldn’t give evidence against him. It is thought that this was the policeman. But we read the policeman got a glimpse while somebody else got a good look. And a policeman would have to give evidence.
We know a Jew identified a fellow Jew as the Ripper but refused to testify against him in court.
Who was this witness? It was not Israel Schwartz who probably seen the Ripper virtually along with Elizabeth Stride for he didn’t see the killer dispatching her. He saw a man with a knife who scared him away. When Schwartz said so much about this man he would have identified him and had him hanged. He even talked to the papers.
It was not Joseph Lawende the Jew who saw the man with Catherine Eddowes that same night minutes before her murder. He said he couldn’t identify the man. The witness had to have been the Jew, Joseph Hyam Levy, who was in his company. This man acted so strangely that undoubtedly he knew more than he let on.
The Assistant City Police Commissioner in 1888 was a Major Henry Smith. He wrote that he interviewed one of the Mitre Square witnesses who he described as a sort of hybrid German. Lawende was a Polish Jew so he was not the interviewee. It had to have been Joseph Levy who was a Dutch Jew. The three witnesses spoke German. But that doesn’t make them hybrid Germans. Joseph Levy was the best candidate for being the hybrid German or mistaken as one.
Lawende was more loquacious and prominent at Eddowes Inquest than Joseph Levy so when the name wasn’t given we can assume the witness didn’t want it to be given and so it was Joseph Levy who didn’t want the attention at all. When Joseph Levy was interviewed he must really have known a lot more than he wanted people to think. He must have known the killer.
Joseph Hyam Levy and two friends, Joseph Lawende and Harry Harris, saw a man and woman standing talking to one another near Mitre Square. Minutes later Catherine Eddowes was found dead and mutilated in the a corner of the Square. Joseph Levy said to Harris: “I don't like going home by myself when I see these sort of characters about. I'm off!”. He stated that somebody should keep a close eye on Mitre Square.
What a strange reaction! He should have been used to seeing characters like that all the time. Why would he feel he would have been in danger from them? Why would he feel the need to get away so fast? There could have been nothing upsetting about seeing Eddowes and the Ripper talking because neither of them looked out of the ordinary. Why would he say that Mitre Square especially would have to be watched? Prostitutes had their haunts everywhere.
Joseph Levy admitted to being afraid yet he didn’t take with his friends the quickest way back to his house in Hutchinson Street that night which was through the smaller streets. This street juts off Middlesex Street. He took the longest way back because it was better lit. He must have been afraid. Was he afraid he might see Jacob Levy ripping up a woman in one of the darker streets? Probably he was afraid of seeing an undiscovered victim slain earlier that night lying somewhere. Or was he afraid because the Ripper lived on Middlesex Street and the Ripper had seen him and he had seen the Ripper with Eddowes? He knew the Ripper would take the back streets to return to his lair. The Ripper knew he had been seen. He went to the trouble of putting Catherine Eddowes on her side as if he would not mutilate her and then he changed his mind and put her on her back to butcher her. Like with Stride, he wasn’t going to go any further and the desire to mutilate Eddowes took over and he gave in to his frenzy.
Joseph Hyam Levy was fearful not just because of what he seen but because the man he saw was the man he already suspected of being the killer. That was why he wanted to get away. He knew the man who was with Eddowes. He was the one who in the later reports written by police was the Jew who was able to identify the suspect without hesitation as being with Eddowes and being her murderer. Instead of wanting to help the woman, he wanted to get away. He didn’t want to be involved. He worried that he might have to identify the killer. He wanted to be off the scene to avoid that. However he did identify the killer later.
Joseph Levy was indeed the witness for he behaved so strangely from the start that he would have been the type of man to identify the killer and then refuse to testify in court against the man. The witness told a strange lie in saying he didn’t want the man put to death over his testimony. If so then why didn’t he just say that the man was not the Ripper? The witness then acted like Joseph Levy – true to form! And even more so when he lied that he wouldn’t testify in court against the killer for it would lead to the killer being hanged. But surely he knew that a man suffering from mental illness couldn’t be hanged – even if he wasn’t committed yet! True to form again!
Was the real reason Joseph Levy didn’t want to testify in court concerning who the murderer was because he didn’t want to bring shame on his own family? His reasons for not testifying don’t hold water.
Joseph Levy and Jacob Levy may have been related. They were neighbours bearing the same surname living just about sixty yards apart and both were butchers by trade. Jacob Levy’s father’s name was Joseph. This may indicate a blood relationship because families tended to name new children after living or dead close relatives. We think that Jacob Levy used the nickname Kosminski or because the police wouldn’t name the Ripper they just called him Kosminski to hide his identity. Interestingly, Joseph Levy supported the Martin Kosminski application to be accepted as a British citizen in 1877. If Joseph Levy was related to the Ripper, did he want to cover up for the Ripper in case he would be suspected of being an accomplice? Who knows? Perhaps he knew the true story if at any time Jacob Levy tried to give him body parts to sell in the shop!
The crimes were so horrific and the men were afraid for their female relatives. The possibility that the killer hated women not just prostitutes was popularly accepted. They often thought he only went after prostitutes late at night because they were easy targets. Joseph Levy then would have identified the killer even if it meant telling on a fellow Jew but not if the killer were a relative. When he talked to the police at all it shows he was thinking about telling all but then his reluctance to bring shame on his family took over. Perhaps he knew Jacob was insane at times and hoped some other way to stop the killings could take place without having any police involvement. If he was related he might have thought of such a way. He must then have been in a position to talk to the family indicating a family relationship.
Why did Joseph Levy get away with not testifying? The police needed a solution to the Ripper murders case for they had put themselves before world ridicule over their mishandling. Did he get away with it because the man he identified was a relative? It seems so! Or more likely it was because he was afraid of repercussions from Jacob Levy’s family. He couldn’t betray a fellow Jew and the police understood that.
Did Joseph Levy confront the Ripper after he had seen him with Catherine Eddowes the night she was killed? Did he find the organs the Ripper took? Was that why the Ripper didn’t steal women’s uteri since Eddowes died? He didn’t take any parts of Kelly away with him. The organs might have been found by Joseph Levy on a butcher’s premises. Something put the Ripper off taking Kelly’s organs. If he took her heart that wasn’t characteristic of him.
The Evening News issue 9th October 1888 printed the following, “Mr Levy is absolutely obstinate and refuses to give the slightest information and he leaves one to infer that he knows something but that he is afraid to be called on the inquest. At the inquest Levy admitted observing a man and a woman at the entrance to Church Passage though he did not take any particular notice of them although he described the man as having been three inches taller than the woman and when pressed under cross examination he denied thinking her appearance as `terrible' and went on to add that he was not exactly afraid for himself".
Joseph Hyam Levy had forgotten what he said about the pair being a sinister looking pair which was why later he denied saying the woman looked terrible in appearance. Evidently, when he said the pair looked sinister what he really thought and meant was that it was the man he didn’t want to have to look at. The reason was not the man’s appearance but who he was. He knew him. From Lawende, we know that there was nothing sinister looking about the man. But if you know something bad about somebody you will think of their appearance as terrible. This explains why Joseph Levy thought the man looked sinister too and why he started to tell lies later on denying that he was shocked by the pair.
Joseph Hyam Levy lied about not paying much notice. He didn’t want to have to say too much about the man he saw for he had taken a lot of notice. He took so much notice because he recognised the man with Eddowes. That was why his memory was so clear that he was able to identify the suspect without any doubt with the police later.
His saying that the man was three inches taller than the woman gives us the height of Jacob Levy. Jacob Levy was five foot three making him three inches taller than Eddowes.
When you see a couple together especially at night you don’t think of what height they are. He was sure the man was three inches taller which may indicate that he already knew what height the man was. But not too much can be read into this for witnesses did often give varying heights.
What does Joseph’s behaviour throughout the affair tell us?
He knew the Ripper was at work. He knew the Ripper was a Jew which was why though he had two men with him he didn’t try to disturb him or scare him off. He didn’t want the Ripper to be caught and hanged. Jacob Levy was Joseph Levy’s neighbour or possible relative – they almost lived on the same street. Joseph Levy may have heard a confession from the man himself or seen proof before then that he was the killer. But, whatever, Joseph knew!
You don’t pay too much attention to unmarried men even ones you know who are going with prostitutes. But you do pay attention to married men you know doing it for they are hurting their wives and children. Joseph Levy’s behaviour suggests that the Ripper was a married man. Our suspect was married.
It was dark at the time. It was hard to recognise people in the poor street lighting unless they were family or neighbours. As stated, Jacob Levy was a neighbour of Joseph Levy’s. If the man with Eddowes showed a reaction to Joseph Levy observing him that would prove to Joseph that the man was indeed the man he knew.
He insisted to the police that he wasn’t exactly afraid of the man for himself. He talks like he knew the Ripper was only a danger to women. He knew the Ripper.
The killer was seen by Joseph Levy on 30th September. No murders took place until Friday 9th November the slaughter of Mary Kelly in her room. The entire month of October and over a week of November saw no Ripper murders. This was a long gap for the Ripper. Some think it was because the Ripper may have cut himself while slashing Eddowes and had to recover. It is unlikely that he would have cut himself that badly. And when he took bigger risks every time it shows that he wasn’t thinking of what could happen. He just wanted to kill and mutilate. If he had been seen at Mitre Square that would have shook him up. At that point he made up his mind to kill no more women until he got them indoors. He didn’t want Kelly found too quickly while the other victims were laid out in a gruesome display. Had he not been seen at Mitre Square he would have left Kelly’s door open or perhaps dragged her out of the room into the passage.
Another possibility is that the Jews tried to handle the Ripper their own way and managed to stop him killing for several weeks. One night he got away and cut up Mary Kelly. When they didn’t do a good job it looks like it was the Ripper’s family that tried to control the problem. Jacob had a wife and two children and relations living with him.
Either way, the killer had been seen and he knew it.
Joseph Lawende, one of the men with Joseph Levy made a statement about the appearance of the killer. He saw the woman facing the man chatting. She had put her hand on his chest. The man was medium build and looked like a sailor. He wore a pepper and salt coloured jacket which was loose and a grey cap and wore a red neckerchief. He was about 5 foot 7 about 30 with a fair complexion and a moustache. He said he wouldn’t be able to identify the man again. Thus he was not the man who identified the Ripper. William Marshall saw a man looking like a sailor talking to Elizabeth Stride not long before her murder. But this was a different man – not the killer.
Jacob Levy was born in 1856 so his age at the time of the murders was 32!

Lawende and Joseph Levy would have discussed what to say to the police and would have talked to each other about the man they had seen. Joseph knew the man so here Lawende must have been pretending to have known nothing about the man. Lawende said more than Joseph Levy would have had agreed with him saying. But out of respect for Levy he didn’t say too much. Lawende’s behaviour was also suspicious.
Mitre Square was called Mitre Court by both Joseph Levy and by Griffiths, a friend of both Anderson and Macnaghten, who wrote a book called Mysteries of Police and Crime, in 1898. Is it because of Joseph that Griffiths and those he consulted ended up calling a murder site the wrong name, Mitre Court rather than the correct Mitre Square? If so then it certainly looks like that what he told the police made a huge impression on them! Griffiths said that the killer was confined to an asylum and was identified by the police constable in Mitre Court who got a good look at him at Mitre Court. This was an important mistake. Joseph Lawende was not the witness for Griffiths could not have made the mistake of thinking such a well-known and prominent witness had been a policeman for he wasn’t. But he could have made the mistake that Joseph Levy was a policeman for Joseph was less known and indeed tried to keep a low profile.
The killer believed he had been seen. Was that why he left the message at Goulston Street: “The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing” blaming the Jews for the murders? Was his game then to take the Jews down with him if he went down? What supports this contention is that if he was seen by a Jew he could trust not to go to the law about him then what could be more true than that the Jews are to blame? Why write the Juwes and the men: plurals? Why not write, “The Juwes are not to blame for nothing”? It was easier to write. It was quicker. And there was little room on the area where he wrote. He wrote in the words “are the men who are not to be blamed for nothing” to emphasis the plural and that it was men.

Joseph Levy identified the Ripper though that could have had dangerous consequences for the Ripper.  But he didn't testify against him.  He refused.  Is that the action of a man who didn't want to shame his family?  Yes.  The Ripper if insane could not be executed or imprisoned.  Levy had nothing to lose by testifying but he did not for he knew the man and called him family.

The errors

Stewart Evans thinks that the police errors concerning the suspect who was identified are understandable.  He thinks Kosminksi was identified as the Ripper.  Some Jews looked very alike so what if Kosminski and Jacob Levy looked similar?

Evans tries to work out the most commonsense scenario.  It appears that it is that the identification took place when Kosminksi was in the workhouse which was from 12 to 15 July 1890. Evans says he was not identified in the asylum for that was against the law. He thinks that the suspect was taken to Clarendon Villas in Brighton and sent back to his brother in Whitechapel. Then he went to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch Asylum where he died.

Evans thinks the errors are as follows:

Macnaghten getting it wrong about the suspect being locked up permanently in March 1889. Swanson getting the name of the workhouse wrong and thinking the suspect died. Anderson's only proven error was in saying the suspect was put in an asylum and identified after. But unless the suspect was found to be sane and released this would have been impossible. And we must remember that Kosminksi was thought to have recovered for he had been in an asylum and released.

The suspect was sent to the Seaside Home for identification with difficulty. Evans thinks the problem was getting the Workhouse staff to take him there.  But this does not fit the text "where he had been sent by us with difficulty in order to subject him to identification."  This implies some legal problem not a man power problem and the police had procedures for getting suspects taken from workhouses.  We know the police feared a backlash against the Jews should a Jew be accused of the murders - was confidentiality the difficulty?

"And after this identification which suspect knew no other murder of this kind took place in London" implies that the suspect did not kill just because he was identified and he knew it.  Interesting thought!  Was he released from the asylum after?  Why does he not say the reason for no more murdering was that the killer was incarcerated?