JULY 2018



Question: If Gareth Southgate did wonders for the England’s World Cup football team today, but in doing so decimated the turnout for today’s interim meeting, what should we think of him?

When I first persuaded the Thames River Police to open the doors of their museum to us many months ago, the response from members was brilliant. But since Eric Dier’s penalty hit the back of the net, I received loads of requests to postpone the trip, as it now clashed with the quarter final against Denmark. This, of course, was something I could not do, even though one member kindly sent me a World Cup Cock- Up certificate! But for those of us who walked from Wapping to the Minories to attend the interim meeting  on 7th July, the walk was far from gloomy.  We had spent quality time at a great museum. We had watched most of the quarter final courtesy of the Town of Ramsgate pub, and we had enjoyed a pint of beer by the River in blazing sunshine.

But on to the topic of the night: Was Alice McKenzie a Jack the Ripper victim? Why is it whenever I hear the name Alice McKenzie, I always then want to say, “picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been”? I have no idea—but in truth, poor Alice McKenzie (aka Clay Pipe Alice or Alice Bryant) was found murdered in Castle Alley on Wednesday 17 July 1889. And due to the nature of her injuries, Dr Thomas Bond, Sir Robert Anderson. and James Monro all  thought she was a victim of Jack the Ripper.

On the other hand, Dr George Bagster Philips and Frederick Abberline did not think she was a Ripper victim. But, what did the Whitechapel Society conclude? Well I could go into the debate blow-by-blow, but you had to be there. The outcome was the same as it was 1889—mixed. If anything, it veered away from JtR and placed her boyfriend, John McCormack, in the frame. In fact, the consensus was that it was a domestic incident.

The conversation then moved on to the differences between a serial killer’s modus operandi and signature, and we concluded  that however much we want to adhere to these differences, there are no hard and fast rules.

Serial killers in the past have changed their modus operandi. They have also been known to take very long breaks between killings which means it is conceivable that JtR did just that after 9 November 1888—if he was not incarcerated, did not pass away, or was not deported, of course. Famous serial killers were mentioned, such as Albert De Salvo, and a question was raised as to whether or not he really was the Boston Strangler.

What then followed was a really interesting discussion about JtR writers, after I mentioned that Steve Blomer and I had bumped into John Bennet outside Woods Buildings earlier in the day.

It was generally felt that the writers who were most skilled at putting pen to paper were Stephen Knight and Patricia Cornwell, despite their questionable ideas and theories. It was also acknowledged that Trevor Marriott writes well, regardless of his hypotheses, and that his speaking tours are often extensive with auditoriums rammed to the gills.

But when it came to who wrote the ‘must have books’ the legends in the field were thought to be; Don Rumbelow and Stewart Evans; the ever-suave Robin Odell; and Richard Whittington-Egan (whose book on ghost hunter Elliott O’Donnell I enjoyed, even though I don’t believe in ghosts). There was Philip Sugden, of course, and the A to Z Three—Martin Fido, Keith Skinner and, my favorite, Paul Begg.

Of the newer writers, Tom Wescott, and Mick Priestly were thought to be worth mentioning. My own personal favourite is the guy who writes the interim meeting reviews for the Whitechapel Society Journal. He makes Thomas Hardy look like a novelist.

But the closing debate proved to be the most animated. It was about the pros and cons of affirmative action and whether or not this policy was effective and fair. The conversation naturally moved on to political correctness which led to Trump, Brexit, Tony Benn and the film Zulu. Opinion tended to depend on whatever side of the political fence you occupied, but the debate was thoroughly stimulating.

By the way, – we took a vote on who we rated as the most reliable coroner at the time of JtR, and Wynne Baxter was an easy winner.

This leads me to my earlier question about another winner: what do we think of Gareth Southgate? Well, we only missed the first twenty minutes of the quarter final while we were in the museum. And as he’s only the third man to get us to a World Cup semi-final, he was voted Whitechapel Society ‘Man of the Day’—an honour that was not bestowed to Sir Alf Ramsey or Sir Bobby Robson.

Attendees in the house were: Mark Galloway, Bill Beadle, Samantha (I’m only staying for one drink, ding-ding last orders) Hulass, Steve Blomer, Tony Power and of course yours truly Steve the Rattey.