Posted on: July 20, 2015

The sadistic murder of a child in Bradford in December 1888 has led to some speculation that the notorious Whitechapel killer headed north after the shocking dismemberment of his last (official) victim, Mary Jane Kelly.  From August to November that year the East End of London had been held in the grip of terror by the horrific slayings of female prostitutes.  The murders still fascinate us to this day, not just because the killer was never unmasked, but for their strangely ritualistic nature.  This has given birth to no end of conspiracy theories that the killings had an Occult or Masonic element to them.

At the beginning of November a young prostitute called Mary Jane Kelly was butchered in her room.  Unlike the other victims, who had all been attacked in the streets, the Ripper had had time to get to work on poor Mary.  He seemed to indulge himself in a frenzy of blood lust, skinning her and leaving parts of her left placed around the room.  And then the killings seemed to stop.  Some believe that Mary’s death finally tipped him over the edge, and he killed himself.  The body of one suspect, Montague Druitt, was in fact found in the Thames on New Year’s Eve. Others believe that he was quietly incarcerated in a lunatic asylum.  And more speculation has it that he simply absconded, and continued his depraved ways elsewhere in the world.

Could he simply have headed to the north of England?

John Gill was only 8-years-old.  On the evening of 27 December 1888 John had gone out to help a local milkman, William Barrett, do his round.  This wasn’t unusual, as John often did this (a bit like the modern equivalent of doing a paper round).  When he had finished helping, he had jumped down from the cart, and Barrett watched him fooling about with some friends, doing a playful skid along a frozen puddle.  That was the last time he was seen alive.

At first it seemed as though John had vanished off the face of the earth.  No trace of him could be found.  In the early hours of the following day, 28 December, his little body was found in an outhouse at Manningham Lane.  His body had been dismembered, including having his limbs cut off, with his arms strapped to his body.  His ears had been removed, and his heart was tucked under his chin.  The nature of his death led to much speculation that it had been the work of the Ripper, who had also tried to remove the ears of one of his victims, Catherine Eddowes.  John’s entrails had also been pulled out, which was another Ripper “speciality”.

William Barrett was arrested on suspicion of the murder, but the public weren’t having it.  Barrett was a mild-mannered man, who had never exhibited even the slightest hint of having such vicious, homicidal tendencies (although the police had accused him of being “evasive” when being questioned).  Considering how a lynch-mob mentality often overtakes the public at a time like this, their support of Barrett was very unusual.   Barrett was kept in prison for a month, but later acquitted through lack of evidence.

On 2 January 1889 a Mr Phillips, a police surgeon for the Whitechapel area of London, was sent up to Bradford, to examine the body.  He concluded there was nothing to link the death of the boy with the murders of the women in London.

Once the furore over Barrett had died down, the police were more inclined to believe that it had been a copycat killing, done by local lads aping the Whitechapel murderer.  A couple of years later though, in May 1891, the dismembered remains of a boy were found in Liverpool, to be followed only the following month by the same awful fate meeting a five-year-old girl in Leeds.

I find it odd that the Ripper would alter his modus operandi, going from murdering prostitutes to small children.  Could it simply be that in the late 1880s/early 1890s there were in fact TWO brutal serial-killers at large?  One in London, and one in the North of England?  Some argue there is no ritualistic element to John’s death, that the killer simply wanted the boy cut up into a size reasonable enough to fit into a paper parcel.  And one witness did claim to have seen a man carrying a parcel through the streets at that time.  Whatever the truth of the matter, the killer(s) of the three children in the North of England evaded justice just as much as the Ripper did.



Fascinating! And well written!

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