6 JANUARY 2018

Steve Rattey

The idea of including an afternoon event evolved from a group visit to the graves of the ‘canonical five’ last year. I am very keen to raise the profile of the interim meetings, and  have taken it upon myself to organise these afternoon events. But the decision about where we go rests with the group as whole. Please feel free to contact me via Facebook or by email: if you would like to know more or have any ideas about places we can visit.

After today’s trip to the City of London Police Museum, and food at the Crosse Keys, we made our way to the Chamberlain Hotel.

We were unable to take our usual spot in the restaurant, so we had to create an area via a game of musical chairs and tables, which in future we will keep. (It’s now to be known as ‘Rippers Corner’.) The subject for discussion, proposed by Samantha back in November was “Did the press create Jack the Ripper”? But before the discussion started, we allowed plenty of time for the arrival of those who were unable to take part in the afternoon’s event.

Topics at this juncture included the Titanic Exhibition Belfast, and global warming, which led us to the destruction of Dulwich on the Suffolk coast. With the death of Charles Manson in December, someone suggested a two second silence, but it was concluded that he didn’t deserve it. We moved on to the Vikings and Saxons, and then the Normans, and how things might have been different if the Saxons had continued to hold Senlac Hill in 1066, instead of breaking ranks to chase after the invaders. The next question: where was Senlac Hill? And more importantly, where did King Harold fall? The thinking behind these questions was of course the findings of the BBC’s Time Team and the thoughts of Sir Tony Robinson AKA Baldrick. Anyway, moving on, after a quick excursion through religion, the meeting was called to order.

I suppose the best starting point when asking if the press created JtR, is the Dear Boss letter that was delivered on 27 September 1888 to the Central News Agency. Could it have been created by journalists such as Tom Bullen or Fred Best? As Bill pointed out, whilst JtR was not the first serial killer, he was possibly the first media serial killer. Both the industrial revolution and the British Empire required a more literate and educated public, which was bolstered by the development of the rota press, and the reduction of some taxes which made newspapers cheaper. In short, there were more newspapers available to a larger readership than ever before in England’s history. Judging by the success of the Penny Dreadfuls, murders and dark deeds were popular subjects, and on the tail of stories like that of Spring-Heeled Jack, Jack the Ripper became a compulsive read. Not only that, but a serial killer makes for a serial read. Further points relating to the police, came up for debate so please consider these questions yourself. Was there less contempt for the Police at the time? Or were they still held at arms-length, as they had been at the time of the Met’s creation in 1829? Could the public have helped more if they were less afraid of the Police? Could the press have helped resolve these issues? The question was raised as to why the press did not continue with the name Leather Apron.

Some time was spent on the subject of ‘trial by media’. For those that think it doesn’t really exist please recall the case of Christopher Jefferies, the Bristol landlord accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates. In 2014, his life was torn asunder by the media, because he looked and behaved in a way that they did not see as ‘normal’. In the eyes of the media that deemed him guilty, and the public were influenced by that philosophy. (Please see the Netflix film, ‘The Lost Honor of Christopher Jefferies’. Jason Watkins stars.) Was this a unique situation? Of course not. Amanda Knox would vouch for that. One of the UK’s national newspapers displayed a front page headline that described her as a monster, and the prosecutor in Italy held the publication aloft shouting, “see what we are dealing with here”. I’d like to think that wouldn’t happen here. In saying that, what of Colin Stagg?

It’s intriguing that at a certain point in every meeting, our chosen subject reaches its zenith only to be suddenly switch off like a light switch. At the January meeting this happened when the subject abruptly switched to the Ipswich murders, Waco, David Koresh, Brexit, the origins of the Pearly Kings and Queens. Bow bells. Where does the name Cockney comes from and how you become one?

Attendees in the house were: Mark Galloway, Bill Beadle, Mellissa and Paul, Tony Power, Samantha Hulass, Steve Blomer, Elaine Vietro, Ed Stow, Delianne Forget, and of course, yours truly Steve Rattey.