The true identity of Jack the Ripper, the cold-blooded killer who mutilated five women in 1888, has never been proven. Despite this, names are continually tossed around, debated, explored and investigated. Accusations that the killer was an immigrant, a member of the royal family, or a wealthy merchant using his position to exploit the poor have run rampant for more than 120 years. One well-known suspect, who was accused of the crimes more than 100 years after his death, was known as James Maybrick.
James was from Liverpool, but travelled extensively to America throughout the 1870's and 1880's. During one of his trips from America to England, he met his future wife, Florence (Florie) Elizabeth Chandler. She was only 18, much younger than his 42 years. James Maybrick died suddenly in 1889, and his name was thrust into the media spotlight when his wife was accused of his murder. Believing that James had been poisoned, his brothers encouraged an investigation and Florence was arrested, tried and convicted.
James' name might have disappeared into obscurity had it not been for the Jack the Ripper diaries, which were released in the 1990's. Michael Barrett, a resident of Liverpool, gave different accounts on how he came to possess the supposed "diaries", and their authenticity has been a subject of heated debate on both sides. Most experts agree that the diary was an excellent, old forgery, but there are still those who disagree. The diary was written in a way that would lead the reader to the obvious conclusion that the author was James Maybrick.
In addition to details from the diaries, there are two other discoveries that call James out as Jack the Ripper. First, in a crime scene photograph, written in blood were the initials "F.M". Supporters of the theory that James is the killer posit that James could have written his wife's initials at the crime scene. Second, there was a watch presented to the public in the 1990's that had the inscriptions, "I am Jack", "J. Maybrick", and the names of the five victims.
We would likely not know very much about James had his wife not been accused of causing his sudden death. There is much speculation about what sort of motive Florence had to murder her husband. Had she discovered that he was Jack the Ripper? During James' many trips to America, he maintained relationships with several mistresses, and even had a common-law wife. Were these infidelities enough motive for murder? It is known that Florence had her own affair with a local businessman â€“ perhaps she just wanted to remove James from her life.
The only fact that we can be sure about is that our modern technologies aren't sufficient to either eliminate or confirm James Maybrick as the man behind the Jack the Ripper legacy. Perhaps new information will be discovered that will lead us down the path to the truth. Until then, we will continue to examine additional witnesses in our own quest to discover the true killer.