Chief Inspector Abberline Implicates Klosowski

Chief Inspector Detective Frederick Abberline
Illustration of Frederick Abberline, Chief Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars
Hunting the Ripper

The Chief Detective Inspector’s Case

The following Pall Mall Gazette articles from March of 1903 lay out Inspector Abberline’s theory that Seweryn Klosowski/George Chapman was the murderer known as Jack the Ripper. Not only did Klosowski have the opportunity to commit the crimes but Abberline also provides possible motives along with a psychological profile of the man that fits the crimes in question. Klosowski was a narcissistic sociopath. Even though that particular diagnosis was not as commonly defined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as it is today, the man Abberline describes clearly fits that diagnosis. Abberline’s observations are also supported by witness testimony at his 1903 murder trial, which ends with his conviction and subsequent hanging for the poisoning murders of three of his female companions.

In the March 31 article (in the gray box pullout), Inspector Abberline also provides his theory about Klosowski’s changed M.O. for his later crimes. I would add to his cogent assessment that Klosowski A) left London for America for a reason and B) changed his identity when he returned to London for a reason.

Modern serial killers with access to cars can more easily spread out their crimes and where they place the bodies of their victims. This means that they have less geographical pressure to change their signatures and that, in fact, the signatures become part of the allure of the killings. Serial killers in Victorian times would have a harder time spreading out their murders or transporting bodies great distances. Instead, they would have to move to new locations themselves.

Excerpted from London’s Pall Mall Gazette
March 31, 1903

“As to the question of the dissimilarity of character in the crimes which one hears so much about,” continued the expert, “I cannot see why one man should not have done both, provided he had the professional knowledge, and this is admitted in Chapman’s case. A man who could watch his wives being slowly tortured to death by poison, as he did, was capable of anything; and the fact that he should have attempted, in such a cold-blooded manner to murder his first wife with a knife in New Jersey, makes one more inclined to believe in the theory that he was mixed up in the two series of crimes. What, indeed, is more likely than that a man to some extent skilled in medicine and surgery should discontinue the use of a knife when his commission – and I still believe Chapman had a commission from America – came to an end, and then for the remainder of his ghastly deeds put into practice his knowledge of poisons? Indeed, if the theory be accepted that a man who takes life on a wholesale scale never ceases his accursed habit until he is either arrested or dies, there is much to be said for Chapman’s consistency. You see, incentive changes; but the fiendishness is not eradicated. The victims, too, you will notice, continue to be women; but they are of different classes, and obviously call for different methods of dispatch.”

Klosowski did this (as did H.H. Holmes). He was generally on the move every six months to a year. Moreover, once the basic M.O. of the Ripper was widely known, it would have become more and more difficult to kill in the same manner in the same location. There were both police and vigilante groups scouring the streets of Whitechapel for the killer, who came close to being caught in the act more than once. We already know that the Ripper changed his M.O. more than the typical modern serial killer based on his moving the final canonical victim, Mary Jane Kelly, indoors to take more time with his dissections. Clearly, the pressures of nearly being caught during the Stride and Eddowes murders were already changing the manner of the Ripper’s killings. He needed privacy and time to remove organs and killings in the busy streets and alleys of Whitechapel were not going to suffice when people were searching high and low for him.

Klosowski was a grifter, a social climber and a killer. He was a public man and not a lone psychopath. His profile matches more closely with H.H. Holmes than many other known serial killers. He was a man of extreme arrogance and energy. He was a misogynist but he wasn’t a lunatic. He also wasn’t as careful as he might seem, though he exhibited patience at times to achieve his ends. Like H.H. Holmes he was charismatic and gifted at boldly lying such that he easily put people off their guard, believing in his various schemes and subterfuges. In that, he was highly intelligent and talented in his own way.

Klosowski may well have left London due to pressure he felt from ongoing investigations – quite possibly into the recent murder of Frances Coles, which once again had raised the specter of Jack the Ripper. He was not unknown to Inspector Abberline and Scotland Yard even in 1888 and 1889. He was always a man on the move and kept himself one step ahead of being caught. Shortly after he returns to London, he relocates to more affluent areas of London, moves in with a woman named Annie Chapman (same name as a Ripper victim) and then takes on her surname to cover up his prior identity.

He also declares upon reentry to London that he has never lived in London prior to 1892 – after the last of the possible Ripper murders had occurred. In fact, he claims that he was originally from South America and had been living in the United States. He is clearly attempting to distance himself from the Whitechapel murders, knowing that he has been suspected of the crimes. The change in the nature of his crimes and the nature of his victims matches the change he has made to his identity. He is no longer a slum-dwelling immigrant from Russian Poland, but a respectable middle-class Londoner – and his killings ought to match. What we know for sure is that he is an unrepentant killer and a narcissistic sociopath. It is unlikely that he wasn’t this same person prior to his change of identity – just as it is unlikely that he would have ever stopped killing if he hadn’t been caught.

In the end, his arrogance was ultimately his undoing.

Article excerpted from London’s Pall Mall Gazette
March 24, 1903

Should Klosowski, the wretched man now lying under sentence of death for wife-poisoning, go to the scaffold without a “last dying speech and confession,” a great mystery may for ever remain unsolved, but the conviction that “Chapman” and “Jack the Ripper” were one and the same person will not in the least be weakened in the mind of the man who is, perhaps, better qualified than anyone else in this country to express an opinion in this matter. We allude to Mr. F. G. Abberline, formerly Chief Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard, the official who had full charge of the criminal investigations at the time of the terrible murders in Whitechapel.

When a representative of the Pall Mall Gazette called on Mr. Abberline yesterday and asked for his views on the startling theory set up by one of the morning papers, the retired detective said: “What an extra-ordinary thing it is that you should just have called upon me now. I had just commenced, not knowing anything about the report in the newspaper, to write to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. Macnaghten, to say how strongly I was impressed with the opinion that ‘Chapman’ was also the author of the Whitechapel murders. Your appearance saves me the trouble. I intended to write on Friday, but a fall in the garden, injuring my hand and shoulder, prevented my doing so until today.”

Mr. Abberline had already covered a page and a half of foolscap, and was surrounded with a sheaf of documents and newspaper cuttings dealing with the ghastly outrages of 1888.

“I have been so struck with the remarkable coincidences in the two series of murders,” he continued, “that I have not been able to think of anything else for several days past–not, in fact, since the Attorney- General made his opening statement at the recent trial, and traced the antecedents of Chapman before he came to this country in 1888. Since then the idea has taken full possession of me, and everything fits in and dovetails so well that I cannot help feeling that this is the man we struggled so hard to capture fifteen years ago.

“My interest in the Ripper cases was especially deep. I had for fourteen years previously been an inspector of police in Whitechapel, but when the murders began I was at the Central Office at Scotland Yard. On the application of Superintendent Arnold I went back to the East End just before Annie Chapman was found mutilated, and as chief of the detective corps I gave myself up to the study of the cases. Many a time, even after we had carried our inquiries as far as we could– and we made out no fewer than 1,600 sets of papers respecting our investigations–instead of going home when I was off duty, I used to patrol the district until four or five o’clock in the morning, and, while keeping my eyes wide open for clues of any kind, have many and many a time given those wretched, homeless women, who were Jack the Ripper’s special prey, fourpence or sixpence for a shelter to get them away from the streets and out of harm’s way.”

“As I say,” went on the criminal expert, “there are a score of things which make one believe that Chapman is the man; and you must understand that we have never believed all those stories about Jack the Ripper being dead, or that he was a lunatic, or anything of that kind. For instance, the date of the arrival in England coincides with the beginning of the series of murders in Whitechapel; there is a coincidence also in the fact that the murders ceased in London when ‘Chapman’ went to America, while similar murders began to be perpetrated in America after he landed there. The fact that he studied medicine and surgery in Russia before he came here is well established, and it is curious to note that the first series of murders was the work of an expert surgeon, while the recent poisoning cases were proved to be done by a man with more than an elementary knowledge of medicine. The story told by ‘Chapman’s’ wife of the attempt to murder her with a long knife while in America is not to be ignored, but something else with regard to America is still more remarkable.

“While the coroner was investigating one of the Whitechapel murders he told the jury a very queer story. You will remember that Dr. Phillips, the divisional surgeon, who made the post-mortem examination, not only spoke of the skillfulness with which the knife had been used, but stated that there was overwhelming evidence to show that the criminal had so mutilated the body that he could possess himself of one of the organs. The coroner, in commenting on this, said that he had been told by the sub-curator of the pathological museum connected with one of the great medical schools that some few months before an American had called upon him and asked him to procure a number of specimens. He stated his willingness to give £20 for each. Although the strange visitor was told that his wish was impossible of fulfillment, he still urged his request. It was known that the request was repeated at another institution of a similar character in London. The coroner at the time said: ‘Is it not possible that a knowledge of this demand may have inspired some abandoned wretch to possess himself of the specimens? It seems beyond belief that such inhuman wickedness could enter into the mind of any man; but, unfortunately, our criminal annals prove that every crime is possible!’

‘It is a remarkable thing,” Mr. Abberline pointed out, “that after the Whitechapel horrors America should have been the place where a similar kind of murder began, as though the miscreant had not fully supplied the demand of the American agent.

“There are many other things extremely remarkable. The fact that Klosowski when he came to reside in this country occupied a lodging in George Yard, Whitechapel Road, where the first murder was committed, is very curious, and the height of the man and the peaked cap he is said to have worn quite tallies with the descriptions I got of him. All agree, too, that he was a foreign- looking man,–but that, of course, helped us little in a district so full of foreigners as Whitechapel. One discrepancy only have I noted, and this is that the people who alleged that they saw Jack the Ripper at one time or another, state that he was a man about thirty- five or forty years of age. They, however, state that they only saw his back, and it is easy to misjudge age from a back view.”

Altogether Mr. Abberline considers that the matter is quite beyond abstract speculation and coincidence, and believes the present situation affords an opportunity of unravelling a web of crime such as no man living can appreciate in its extent and hideousness.

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