Despite all the recent blather about a newcomer to the long list of Jack the Ripper suspects, one name remains above all others when it comes to Ripper candidates.
I’m referring to Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, and heir to the British throne.
Some conspiracy theorists are certain the world’s most mysterious and infamous serial killer was the young Prince Eddy, who was driven mad when advanced syphilis attacked his brain, leading him to ruthlessly butcher five prostitutes – perhaps six – in the narrow, mist-shrouded cobblestone streets of Whitechapel, London’s most desperate and miserable slum, then forever fade into the shadows of criminal history.
Prince Albert Victor was the grandson of Queen Victoria and next in line for the throne after his father, Albert Edward.
Eddy wasn’t very bright and was known to love slumming in London’s miserable, garbage-littered East End, where he roamed quietly through the streets at night, or stopped in at the Cleveland Street male brothel for company.
Eddy probably adopted some kind of poor disguise, because his identity was known to many of the wretches trapped there by the bleak circumstances of birth and gin when the horror began.
It was August 31, 1888, when police were called to the scene of a murder and were faced with the hideously eviscerated corpse of Mary Ann Nichols. A miserable alcoholic and prostitute, she was the mother of five children. Her husband had thrown her out years before because of her habitual drunkenness.
In rapid succession, four more Whitechapel prostitutes fell prey to the silent and swift-working killer. Jack took special pleasure in setting a grisly scene for police, as serial killers often do, by deliberate placement of organs and other body parts around the corpse for greatest effect.
He selected his own nickname in letters to police, where he boasted: “I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled. … The next job I do I shall clip the lady’s ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly. My knife is nice and sharp … Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.”
He didn’t mail the ears of his next victim, Catherine Eddowes. He sent one of her kidneys. As the return address he wrote: “From Hell.”
Five women were confirmed as victims of the bloodthirsty madman when the slayings suddenly stopped. Some investigators believed that a gin-soaked streetwalker named Frances Coles became the Ripper’s final victim almost two years later. Her disemboweled remains were found on February 13, 1891.
Over the years Scotland Yard and researchers speculated that one or more of several other prostitutes murdered in the East End between late 1887 and 1891 may have fallen victim to the same grisly killer.
But more interest centered on the suspicion that Prince Eddy was the monster who terrorized Whitechapel, and the gloomy speculation that the queen knew he was Jack the Ripper but covered up the truth to protect the throne.
Londoners were whispering that during Eddy’s periods of madness while he suffered from the advanced stages of venereal disease, he armed himself with scalpels or razor-sharp knives and stalked the streets of Whitechapel as an avenging angel of death. And it wasn’t accidental, they believed, that Jack the Ripper was never brought to justice.
Prince Eddy was put away in a madhouse for several months then released for a short time early in 1891 before his early death at 28 on January 14, 1892. It was during the brief period of freedom just before his death that Frances Coles was slaughtered.