One fine day, about three years ago, I was photographing a Morris Minor car parked in front of a splendid house in Elder Street, London, E1, when I met a fellow Spitalfields fan taking a picture of the same thing. We struck up a conversation and I explained that I am an artist who loves to paint old houses, especially in the Spitalfields area. The picture I painted below is the car that we both admired parked in front of its charming East London home.
My new chum introduced himself as Russell Edwards and said that he had discovered the identity of Jack the Ripper and written a book about it. Russell is an author, entrepreneur, psychotherapist, historian and property developer based in North London and I recently caught up with him to find out more about his story.
In 2001 Russell watched the film, ‘From Hell’ which piqued his interest in the Jack the Ripper mystery and he has been researching it ever since. He watched the movie on a Friday night, booked a Ripper tour the following day and then contacted Scotland Yard’s Crime museum on the Monday! Russell said, “I'd been in and around the immediate area for over a decade previous to this and was gripped straight away.”
Approximately twelve years ago Russell’s Mum telephoned him to let him know that a shawl owned by the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, was being sold by a great great grand-nephew of an under-cover acting sergeant who had been at the murder scene. At that time a lot of evidence was burnt or disposed of and the then sergeant asked if he could have the shawl for his wife, however she did not want it so he gave it to their niece Eliza who in later life bequeathed it to her family and it has been passed on to their relatives ever since.
Russell purchased the shawl at auction and then worked with scientist Jari Louhelainen who compared DNA found on the shawl with DNA from Catherine Eddowes’ descendants and one of the suspects called Aaron Kosminski. In an excerpt from his book, “Naming Jack the Ripper”, Russell writes, “…he is no longer just a suspect. We can hold him, finally, to account for his terrible deeds. My search is over: Aaron Kosminski is Jack the Ripper”. A photo of the shawl is below (credit Lacy Scott & Knight Auction Centre).
Russell stressed that his findings are based on scientific and historic facts, he said “I was told the identity and the story of who Jack the Ripper was by Scotland Yard. I was told this as I discovered the link between the shawl and three of the dates of the murders and relayed this to them. They were amazed that I unraveled the reason for why he murdered on the dates that he did. The full story is set out in my book, Naming Jack the Ripper.” I asked him what made him write the book and he explained, “I approached a literary agent who suggested that I diarise everything I do. By the time I finished and solved the mystery, we collated the work and we had the material for a book.” Russell wanted to tell a truthful story and to bring justice for the victims of these heinous crimes.
The Ten Bells pub is in Commercial Road where it meets the corner or Fournier Street and I painted it because I love the front door so much! The door has fancy gold columns either side of it, delicate wrought iron filigree work over the top and what look like (to me!) small ship figureheads on top of each column, it is very detailed. I also love the worn wooden signs over the top of the doors and windows and of course the creaking wooden sign that advertises the pub's name proudly by the entrance.
I have since learnt from Russell that the Ten Bells is connected to the Jack the Ripper story as two of the victims, prostitutes Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly, were known to frequent the pub looking for clients. The pub used to be called ‘The Jack the Ripper’ but the brewery ordered the name to be changed back to ‘The Ten Bells’ after a ‘Reclaim the Night’ campaign demanded that murders of women should not be commemorated in such a way.
If you are interested in the Jack the Ripper story and want to find out more you can take part in one of Russell’s guided walks around the Whitechapel and Spitalfields areas of London by clicking here.