London’s The Daily Telegraph has exclusively serialized four chapters from The Real Mary Kelly: Jack the Ripper’s Fifth Victim and the Identity of the Man That Killed Her. The book by Wynne Weston-Davies, set for hardcover publication later this month, is the byproduct of the author’s extensive research into his family ancestry and on that front at least, has enough credence to have led to the apparent imminent granting of permission to exhume the titular woman’s body.
Weston-Davies’ broader theory, that Jack the Ripper slayed his first four victims in order to muddy the trail linking the killer to the fifth, his alleged estranged wife, is being greeted in the reader comments with overwhelming skepticism. Respondents to a Telegraph online poll are more evenly split.
From a journalism perspective, what’s fascinating is that the paper tipping this latest Ripper theory has a direct link to the 19th century individual at the center of it all. From Telegraph home affairs correspondent David Barrett’s framing of the serialized chapters:
Francis Craig was a down-on-his-luck journalist.
A few years earlier, Craig’s journalism career suffered an almost terminal blow when, as editor of the Bucks Advertiser, he was brutally exposed as a plagiarist by a rival newspaper after stealing reports word-for-word from The Daily Telegraph.
Barrett, in a sidebar headlined “Was Jack the Ripper a 51-Year-Old Reporter?,” outlines additional details about Craig’s journalism career. The author meanwhile tracked down a courtroom sketch, from the time period covered, that he suggests may show Craig attending the inquest into the murder of the Ripper’s second victim, Annie Chapman.
Below, a couple of sample comments from Telegraph readers:
Onesize: Plagiarizing The Daily Telegraph is clear evidence of insanity…
Gromit1704: Further evidence that The Daily Telegraph is morphing into the Daily Mail. This isn’t news.
Check out the serialized chapters here.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Blink Publishing]