Montague John Druitt: The full account of the Marylebone Cricket Club Cricketer who was once believed to be the infamous ‘Jack the Ripper’.
In the year 1888, several murders took place in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London. The attacks largely involved female prostitutes whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations.
It was believed that the murders were committed by a singular person who was given the title Jack the Ripper. The killer has never been identified and it is likely that he will never be found now. However, there have been some interesting suspects put forward; one of whom was a man who once played cricket for the Marylebone Cricket Club.
The Canonical five
11 separate murders took place between 1888 and 1891 and are known as the ‘Whitechapel murders.’
Opinions are split on whether all the murders were committed by the same person. However, five of the eleven Whitechapel murders, known as the “canonical five”, are widely believed to be the work of Jack the Ripper.
The canonical five Ripper victims are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.
The thread that ties all the victims together is the fact that in each case, the death was caused by a sharp cut inflicted on the throat. In all but one occasion, the stomach was mutilated — presumably after death. On three occasions the murderer walked away with one or more internal organs of the victim’s body.
This also led to the speculation that the killer had some anatomical or surgical knowledge.
Montague John Druitt: The Cricketer believed to be Jack the Ripper
Montague John Druitt, son of prominent local surgeon William Druitt, was a Dorset-born barrister. He also worked as an assistant schoolmaster in Blackheath, London to supplement his income. Outside of work, his primary interest was cricket.
He played alongside the likes of Francis Lacey, the first man knighted for services to cricket. His numerous accolades in the game include dismissing John Shuter for a duck. The England batsman was playing for Bexley Cricket Club at the time.
On the recommendation of Charles Seymour and noted fielder Vernon Royle, Druitt was elected to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) on 26 May 1884. One of the minor matches he played for MCC was with England bowler William Attewell against Harrow School on 10 June 1886. The MCC won by 57 runs.
Montague John Druitt’s death
Montague John Druitt’s decomposed body was found floating in the Thames near Chiswick on 31 December 1888. He was in possession of a return train ticket to Hammersmith dated 1 December, a silver watch, a cheque for £50 and £16 in gold (equivalent to £5,600 and £1,800 today).
He is believed to have committed suicide; a line of thought substantiated by the fact there were stones in his pockets. Possibly to keep his body submerged in the river.
The cause for his suicide is said to be his dismissal from his post at the Blackheath boys’ school. The reason for his dismissal is unclear. However, one newspaper, quoting his brother William’s inquest testimony, reported that he was dismissed because he “had got into serious trouble”. Although, it did not specify any further.
Several authors have since suggested that Druitt may have been dismissed because he was a homosexual or a pederast. Another speculation is that the money found on his body was going to be used for payment to a blackmailer; or it could have simply been a final payment from the school.
Another possibility involving his dismissal and eventual death is an underlying hereditary psychiatric illness. His mother had already attempted suicide once by taking an overdose of laudanum. She died in an asylum in Chiswick in 1890. Both his Grandmother and eldest sister committed suicides while his aunt also attempted suicide.
A note written by Druitt and addressed to his brother William was found in Druitt’s room in Blackheath. It read,
“Since Friday I felt that I was going to be like mother, and the best thing for me was to die.”
Why is he a suspect?
The last of the canonical five murders had taken place shortly before Druitt’s suicide. Following his death, there were no more ripper murders.
Three years later, in 1891, a member of parliament from West Dorchester, England began saying that the Ripper was “the son of a surgeon” who had committed suicide on the night of the last murder.
Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten named Druitt as a suspect in the case.
He did so in a private handwritten memorandum on February 23, 1894. Macnaghten highlighted the coincidence between Druitt’s disappearance and death shortly after the last of the five murders.
He also claimed to have unspecified “private information”. One that left “little doubt” Druitt’s own family believed him to have been the murderer.
The memorandum read:
“I have always held strong opinions regarding him, and the more I think the matter over, the stronger do these opinions become. The truth, however, will never be known, and did indeed, at one time lie at the bottom of the Thames, if my conjections be correct!”
Was Montague John Druitt ‘Jack the Ripper’?
Macnaghten was convinced that Montague John Druitt was indeed the serial killer they had long been looking for. However, he incorrectly described the 31-year old barrister as a 41-year-old doctor and cited allegations that he “was sexually insane” without specifying the source or details of the allegations.
Macnaghten did not join the force until 1889, after the murder of Kelly and the death of Druitt. He was also not involved in the investigation directly and is likely to have been misinformed.
There is also the case of Druitt playing Cricket games far away from London at the time of many of the murders.
On 1 September, the day after the murder of Nichols, Druitt was in Dorset playing cricket. On the day of Chapman’s murder, he played cricket in Blackheath. The day after the murders of Stride and Eddowes, he was in the West Country defending a client in a court case.
Some writers such as Andrew Spallek and Tom Cullen have argued that Druitt had the time and opportunity to travel by train between London and his cricket and legal engagements. He could have even used his city chambers as a base from which to commit the murders. However, several others have dismissed the claim as “improbable”.
For instance, Druitt took 3 wickets in the match against the Christopherson brothers at Blackheath on September 8; the day of the Chapman murder. He was on the field at 11.30 AM for the match and performed out of his skin. An event unlikely if he were walking the streets of London committing a murder at 5:30 AM.
Most experts now believe that the killer was local to Whitechapel. Druitt on the other hand, lived miles away on the other side of the Thames in Kent. Even Inspector Frederick Abberline appeared to dismiss Druitt as a serious suspect on the basis that the only evidence against him was the coincidental timing of his suicide shortly after the last canonical murder.
To this day there is no word on who the murderer was. Many writers from the 1970 onwards have since rejected the idea of him being the infamous serial killer. However, Montague John Druitt will forever be known as the cricketer who was once believed to be Jack the Ripper.
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