For just over 125 years, the mystery of the Jack the Ripper serial murders has been fodder for books, movies and periodic re-openings of the unsolved cases. But after years of investigation, a retired detective is confident he has finally found the culprit behind some, if not all, of the killings attributed to the infamous "Jack."
Past attempts to identify the man who supposedly terrorized London in the late 19th century have implicated artist Vincent Van Gogh, Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll and even relatives of Queen Victoria. But retired homicide detective Trevor Marriott says that after 11 years of investigation, he believes German merchant sailor Carl Feigenbaum committed an unknown number of the murders.
Marriott, who hails from Bedfordshire, England, told British site Express that he came to his conclusion via old-school document analysis and high-tech forensic science. He also said he found that Hollywood and myth have "distorted" many facts of the case over the years.
What does appear to be true is that between Aug. 31, 1888, and Nov. 9, 1888, five women -- Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly -- were stabbed to death within one-fourth of a mile from each other in the Whitechapel neighborhood of London, reports CBS News. Some accounts claim the victims were disemboweled post-mortem; most assume a number of the victims were prostitutes and were all killed by the same man.
The former policeman's quest to uncover the truth has not always been an easy one. He took Scotland Yard to court in 2011 in a costly effort to force the agency to hand over thousands of pages of notes and tips from informants, reports The Telegraph.
By that time, Marriott had begun to zero in on Feigenbaum, a sailor whose ships often docked near the neighborhood where many of the unsolved murders occurred, according to Express.
New documents seem to disprove the theory that the victims had their organs cut out by their killer, a key aspect of the murders that had steered previous investigations toward suspects with medical knowledge, reported the BBC. Gaps of time between the murders suggested to Marriott that the killer might have been a traveler, and sailors were known to seek out prostitutes in the Whitechapel district.
Perhaps most compelling was the fact that Feigenbaum's own lawyer, William Lawton, had once told reporters he believed his client had confessed to the crimes by claiming a disease made him kill and mutilate women. Indeed, Feigenbaum was eventually convicted and executed for an unrelated murder in New York City in 1894, the BBC notes.
"Jack is supposed to be responsible for five victims, but there were other similar murders before and after the ones attributed to him, both in this country and abroad in America and Germany," Marriott told Express, adding that the widely appropriated image of Jack as a well-dressed gentleman is probably nothing but an "urban myth."
But critics point out that Marriott's theory isn't exactly bulletproof. In a review of Marriott's 2007 book on the topic, The Guardian reports that Marriott shares a problem common to all "Ripperologists": a lack of hard evidence.
"[Marriott] turns initial speculation into assumed fact and presents a wodge of information that leads nowhere," the reviewer complained.
Marriott has launched a one-man show detailing his investigation. The production is currently touring the UK and Ireland.