By Luis Feliu
Always look for a motive, aspiring sleuths are told. And that’s exactly what Tweed Coast author Stephen Senise did when he looked once again into that most infamous crime which occurred in the London slums and gripped the world 130 years ago.
In research for his new book, the journalist and political researcher from Cabarita wasn’t as much interested in trying to unmask the identity of Jack the Ripper, but what drove the notorious serial killer to commit the crimes.
After all, the perennial question of who was behind the murders of at least five prostitutes in the slums of East London in the 1880s has been written about ad nauseam, it’s been a whodunnit ever since.
But Mr Senise had a hunch…
In the recently-published and widely acclaimed first edition of his book: Jewbaiter Jack the Ripper – New Evidence & Theory, he puts forward his bold new theory that the killing spree was a plot to blame Jewish immigrants residing in Whitechapel, a Jewish ghetto.
As a result of a recent feature article in a popular Ripper magazine, Mr Senise was invited to address the Jack the Ripper conference in the United Kingdom.
It was during a trip to Sydney three years ago that Mr Senise discovered that a suspect/witness in the case, George Hutchinson, had fled to the colony of New South Wales at the height of the murders then committed a grisly sexual assaults on two young boys in Forbes, central New South Wales.
He was onto a possible culprit, which of course many other Ripper sleuths had also postulated, but then looked closer into what the man in his late 20s had told police shortly after the inquest into the fifth victim in 1888 ended.
And what was the killer’s motive?
Hutchinson had told police the man he had seen the murdered young woman Mary Jane Kelly cavorting with before her death was a man ‘of Jewish appearance’.
Mr Senise says that early on during the investigation, ‘police did countenance that someone was trying to frame the Jewish community’, especially given the hotbed of anti-Semitism that was East London at the time, exacerbated by woeful economic conditions and a rapid influx of Jewish refugees into the area.
A promotional blurb for the book (available on Amazon) asks why Jack the Ripper fled London for NSW ‘at the height of the world’s most notorious serial-murder rampage?’ and whether ‘the deadly attack on Alice McKenzie in 1889, was his last thrown of the dice in pursuit of a macabre, politically motivated publicity stunt?’
Mr Senise believes that Hutchinson orchestrated the killings to blame the Jewish community.
‘Jack The Ripper sought to make use of a racist slander every bit as dangerous as a weapon, by appropriating an old, anti-Semitic fable known as the ‘blood libel’,’ he said.
‘We need to come to terms with the fact it happened in a Jewish ghetto and the fact there were two select parliamentary committees of inquiry looking into the East End at that time, and we have to ask why did these murders happen.’
Mr Senise admits he was fascinated with the infamous murder case since a young boy, but several years ago that interest was re-sparked when his daughter asked him about the case when she faced a Year 9 history assignment on it.
They together set on a quest to research the case, an adventure which took them from the Tweed to the state archives in Sydney and eventually the murder sites in London’s East End.
Mr Senise told media soon after publication of the first edition of his book that what hooked him was the context and background of the murders (the ‘culture’).
‘We need to understand why did it happen, it didn’t happen in a vacuum, Ripperology is so caught up in who did it, it’s just naming names. It’s like playing Cluedo.’
He established that Hutchinson came to Sydney on board RMS Ormuz in October 1889 but was later imprisoned for two years for the indecent assault of two boys.
The former unemployed labourer served his time in Bathurst jail before his release from Darlinghurst prison in August 1898.
Mr Senise discovered through his thorough research that in 1880s London there was growing tension and racist feelings towards Jewish migrants, who were seen as a major threat to local Londoners.
There were even riots against them as a direct result of the murders.
Mr Senise says it was in this cauldron of anti-Semitism that Jack the Ripper chose to strike, intent on framing the Jews for the murders, only too aware that parliament had established two widely publicised special parliamentary inquiries looking into social problems in the East End at that very moment.
Hutchinson lived in the middle of the crime scene and his description to police that the main suspect was a Jew was most likely aimed at influencing the outcome of the investigation.
Mr Senise has found evidence in the New South Wales State Archives that Hutchinson arrived in Sydney, from the port of London, at the same time that the killings stopped.
Shocking sex crimes
Hutchinson was later arrested in Forbes for the shocking sex crime against the two young boys.
Mr Senise says that at Hutchinson’s trial, the presiding judge was forced to clear the courtroom and hold part of the proceedings behind locked doors ‘because of the confronting nature of the evidence’.
‘His Honour later expressed frustration at not being able to have Hutchinson whipped, sentencing him instead to years of hard labour in Bathurst gaol. He was later transferred to Darlinghurst prison in Sydney.’
Mr Senise’s research includes two never-before published photos of the man he believes to be Jack The Ripper, which appear in the book.
The images tally with eyewitness descriptions of the notorious London serial killer, and an illustrator’s sketch of Hutchinson which appeared in the London newspaper, the Illustrated Police News in November 1888 after the murder of canonical fifth victim, Mary Kelly.
As part of his investigation in London, Mr Senise was able to study a ‘peripherally significant archive covering the administration of the Victoria Home For Working Men in Whitechapel, where George Hutchinson lodged during the killing spree’.
‘The file was previously unknown to students of the case.
‘What I have found interesting in researching this story is how much potentially untapped information may still exist in archives and buried away in period journals, Victorian-era newspaper reports and a variety of old records,’ he told Echonetdaily this week.
‘That reality hit me as I pulled back the ribbons on one half-forgotten old file, and here I was about to view its contents for the first time since who-knows-when?’
The author’s preliminary research was featured in a rush-to-publication cover story for an edition of Ripperologist: The Journal of Jack The Ripper, East End & Victorian Studies.
Almost immediately, he said, students of the case worldwide greeted this Australian twist to the saga by christening an old suspect, with a new name: George Hutchinson became, ‘Aussie George’.
London’s Jewish Chronicle newspaper, which covered the murder rampage in 1888 and 1889, praised the ‘painstaking research’ involved in bringing much new information to light.
The expanded edition of the book, ‘False Flag Jack The Ripper’ is an official entry in the 2018 Ned Kelly true crime awards, hosted by the Australian Crime Writers Association.