FRANCIS TUMBLETY - RIPPER SUSPECT

An American Suspect

One of the more talked about recent Jack the Ripper suspects is Dr Francis Tumblety whose name was suggested by Inspector Littlechild.

Prior to and during the Jack the Ripper Murders, Chief Inspector John Littlechild (1847-1923) was head of the Metropolitan Police's Special Irish Branch - a post he held from 1883 and 1893.

Although Littlechild (as far as is currently known) had very little to do with the Jack the Ripper investigation itself, as a high ranking police officer in the Metropolitan Police he most certainly would have had frequent contact with the likes of Dr. Robert Anderson and Chief Inspector Swanson.

In 1913 the journalist George Sims was sniffing around for information on a Jack the Ripper suspect. He duly wrote to John Littlechild to ask if he had any knowledge of a Dr. D. being suspected of having committed the Whitechapel Murders.

Sims was evidently referring to ripper suspect Montague John Druitt, whose name (or at least hints of it) had been circulating through police circles for the previous fifteen or so years.

Littlechild wrote back to say that he had never heard of a Dr D. ever having being mentioned as a suspect. But he then went on to suggest a suspect who, in England at least, had not been mentioned up to that point. Littlechild wrote:-

"...amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one, was a Dr T [who] was an American quack named Tumblety."

He then went on to inform Sims that Tumblety had been arrested for "unnatural offences," that he had been remanded on bail, that he had subsequently jumped bail and escaped to Boulogne, after which nothing was ever heard from him again. Indeed, according to Littlechild:-

"...It was believed he committed suicide but certain it is that from that time the ‘Ripper’ murders came to an end."

Dr Francis Tumblety had been arrested and charged with acts of gross indecency with a number of males on 7th November 1888. As Littlechild stated in his letter to Sims he had been remanded on bail, which he did indeed skip and then he had headed for Boulogne.

However, contrary to Littlechild's assertion that he disappeared and probably committed suicide, Tumblety was most certainly heard from again. Having made it to Boulogne, Tumblety sailed to New York and, on landing, soon had the American press hot on his trail in relation to his possible connection to the Whitechapel murders.

From the moment of his arrival in New York the New York Police Department also took an interest in him and Tumblety was kept under surveillance by Inspector Byrnes of the New York Police.

Questioned by journalists as he kept watch on Tumblety's lodging about whether or not Tumblety would be returning to London to be question about the Jack the Ripper murders, Byrnes responded that, "...there is no proof of his [Tumblety’s] complicity in the Whitechapel murders, and the crime for which he was under bond in London is not extraditable."

According to the New York Times, Inspector Byrnes:-

"...laughed at the suggestion that he was the Whitechapel murderer..."

A claim often made to back up Tumblety's possible involvement in the Jack the Ripper Murders is that he is known to have collected medical specimens, including uteri.

But there is scant evidence to suggest that he ever did. The allegation that he did was made by Col. C. S. Dunham to the Williamsport Sunday Grit in which he mentioned being a guest at a dinner at which he had witnessed Tumblety fiercely denounce "...all women and especially fallen women."Dunham went on to mention that Tumblety had then taken his guests to his office where he showed them a dozen or more jars containing the uteri of every class of women. 

But Dunham’s veracity is, to say the least, questionable. He himself was a known confidence trickster, who only made his claims after press allegations had linked Tumblety to the Whitechapel Murders. It is, therefore, highly possible, if not likely, that he made the story up in order to cash in on Tumblety’s sudden notoriety.

Another oft quoted piece of evidence against Tumblety is that people who knew him thought he was the killer. Again this is mere hearsay. Some of them might have thought so, but others were adamant that he wasn’t.

One woman who most certainly didn't think he was capable of his crimes was his New York landlady Mrs. McNamara, who was quoted in the New York Herald as saying that "Dr. Tumblety…is a perfect gentleman. He wouldn't hurt anybody."

The case for Tumblety’s involvement in the Jack the Ripper Murders is a fairly weak one. Moreover, there is no concrete evidence that he ever visited Whitechapel, and he most certainly bore no resemblance to descriptions given by those who may have seen the face of the killer.

There is no evidence that he was ever violent - a view with which even Littlechild concurred as, in his letter to Sims, he states that Tumblety was "not known as a "Sadist" (which the murderer unquestionably was)."

Furthermore, three years after receiving Littlechild's letter George Sims wrote his own autobiography and made no mention of Tumblety's having been Jack the Ripper but stuck to his original belief in his Dr. D. theory.

The final nail in the coffin of the case against Francis Tumblety is that the Metropolitan Police themselves don't appear to have considered him a viable suspect. Had they thought him responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders it is unlikely that they would have released him on bail. Even if they had, his whereabouts were known to their New York counterparts who could have arrested and extradited him at any moment.

The reason Francis Tumblety was not arrested in New York and extradited to England to face charges over the Jack the Ripper crimes can only be that he had been ruled out of any involvement in the Jack the Ripper murders.