A Mullumbimby local believes he has finally solved one of the most enduring murder mysteries of our time – the identity of London’s notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Richard Patterson, a Byron shire English teacher, has reignited interest in the 1888 murders of five prostitutes in London with his claim that the serial killer was in fact a respected English poet named Francis Thompson.
Mr Patterson, who has spent more than 20 years researching his theory, claims that Thompson, a failed medical student, had the surgical skills and motivation to be the killer.
Mr Patterson claims Thompson, from Preston, Lancashire, not only wrote about killing women, but also had close links to at least one prostitute in the area.
According to the theory, Thompson had moved to London and formed a relationship with the prostitute while he was destitute, but was dumped by her after his poems began to be published.
This sparked his hatred for the city’s sex workers, which led to the killings of at least five in various parts of the city.
Mr Patterson first developed the theory in 1997 when he was a student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University after reading a collection of Thompson’s poems.
It was not until two years later that he discovered that Thompson had been named as a possible suspect by another person –American pathologist Dr Joseph Rupp.
Rupp, who Patterson has since spoken to a number of times, had published an article in the Criminologist magazine, naming Francis Thompson as the likely killer.
But the theory failed to gain traction back then, and remained forgotten or disregarded for many years, with others, including members of the Royal family, being named as suspects.
Mr Patterson, however, was determined to investigate further.
He has traveled to the UK, where he visited Thompson’s hometown of Preston, and to America, to view a collection of the poet’s letters.
‘The big discovery came this year when I was able to establish that Thompson was there (in the areas the murders took place), and that he always carried a knife,’ Mr Patterson told Echonetdaily.
Mr Patterson’s theory has sparked interest across the United Kingdom this week.
Articles have appeared in some of the UK’s largest newspapers, including the UK Daily Mail, which has a readership of 7.5 million people, and the UK Express newspaper, which goes out to 6.8 million people.
His theory has also been the subject of a report on the BBC.
Now Mr Patterson is hoping to find an Australian publisher to help him finish his proposed book, Francis Thompson – Ripper Suspect.
‘I want an Australian publisher because I like the idea that through the Internet we can now have world-wide influence,’ he said.
‘I want an editor who can help me in the traditional way of preparing a book.’
Mr Patterson has been invited to a Jack the Ripper conference in London next year, and is hoping to have his book published.
He has created a website that details his theory, and provides a first chapter, but promises that there is much more to the story waiting to be told.