Rod Beattie, Jack the Ripper – The Policeman (Pen & Sword, 2022)
London, 1888, a city gripped by the fear of a serial killer in its midst. A man who preyed on women in the poorest part of the city, Jack the Ripper. In over 130 years since, many suspects have been identified and mostly discarded. But Rod Beattie thinks he knows the answer to crime’s biggest mystery, a man completely overlooked but hiding in plain sight.
Beattie immediately launches into his argument, which assumes that only a police officer could have committed these crimes. And he has one in mind: Bowden Endacott, a name familiar to those who have studied these murders. Beattie outlines Endacott’s troubled upbringing and his service in the Devon police before he joined the Metropolitan Police in London. Along with a modern FBI profile, the Cass case of 1887 provides the gallows for Beattie on which to hang Endacott. This was his arrest of an innocent Elizabeth Cass for prostitution and his subsequent trial for perjury that effectively ruined Endacott’s career despite his acquittal. His superiors assigned Endacott to guard duty at the British Museum where he remained for the rest of his career. But, argues Beattie, Endacott raged against prostitutes in his career stagnation, and he would have his revenge.
Martha Tabram, murdered in August 1888, was the Ripper’s first victim, according to Beattie, though it is not quite clear why he argues this. The first accepted victim of Jack the Ripper was Mary Ann Nichols, a friend of Tabram. Beattie narrates this crime, but without any evidence at all, places Endacott at the scene. After a brief discussion of ‘Leather Apron’, which seems to have no obvious bearing on Beattie’s thesis, he turns to the murder of Annie Chapman. As with the other murder descriptions, this is a routine retelling of a well-known story, but Beattie makes no attempt to place Endacott at this scene, though he does add a postscript of The Illustrated Police News story of a man seen changing his clothes that Beattie takes as evidence the police knew who the killer was, and Endacott fitted the description.
Elizabeth Stride was the next victim, but not of the Ripper, according to Beattie; Stride’s boyfriend ‘undoubtedly’ killed her. That does not prevent him from describing the details of this murder, though again, it has nothing to do with his thesis. Moving on to Catherine Eddowes, Beattie argues that she knew who the killer was, tried to blackmail him, and paid a terrible price. Endacott was the ‘strange man’ seen talking to Eddowes, Beattie argues, but the evidence, he suggests, shows that the policeman was not acting alone but with a doctor he knew. Finally, we come to Mary Jane Kelly so brutally savaged in her home. Beattie highlights a question at the inquest that apparently revealed the police had suspicions that the killer ‘was one of their own’, though he does not try to square that with his previous argument that the police already knew who it was. Beattie adds other victims to his list; two ‘trial runs’ before Martha Tabram, the second attributed to Endacott by Beattie; and two after Kelly, though Beattie makes no attempt to implicate Endacott in those crimes.
This is a somewhat baffling theory on the identity of Jack the Ripper. Beattie presents almost no evidence beyond the tangential that Endacott had anything to do with these murders. There is also too much supposition in establishing Endacott’s character as a potential Ripper. Added to that are some glaring contradictions, e.g., that only a policeman could be trusted (p2), yet in 1887, ‘the police were disliked and mistrusted by the populace’ (p13), and that the police knew who did the killings, but then they didn’t just a few pages later. If Beattie had provided some footnotes, that might have helped, but then again, with almost no concrete evidence submitted against Endacott, perhaps not. Unfortunately for Beattie, it will take more than 126 pages based on five books and some newspaper articles to convince the average Ripperologist to take this line of inquiry seriously, and I suspect that harsher critics than me will gleefully rip Beattie’s thesis to pieces.