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Jack The Ripper: Poet Francis Thompson Named As A Suspect

05/11/2015 11:20 | Updated 05 November 2015

An English teacher believes he has uncovered evidence pointing to the true identity of legendary killer Jack the Ripper.

Mystery has long cloaked the shadowy figure who stalked the foggy alleyways of Whitechapel in 1888 and murdered five prostitutes during his reign of terror.

His identity continues to be one of the most enduring puzzles of our time, with suspects ranging from the painter Walter Sickert, Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, to the wife of an eminent Victorian surgeon.

francis thompson

Francis Thompson died in 1907 at the age of 47

Now renowned poet Francis Thompson is under the spotlight, following two decades of research by author and teacher Richard Patterson.

Patterson believes Thompson had surgical expertise and close links to at least one prostitute in the area, that he 'snapped' after his romantic relationship with her ended and began taking out his fury on other sex workers.

The 45-year-old, who teaches in Byron Bay, Australia, became convinced Thompson was the Ripper when he read a book of his poetry as a student in 1997 and then discovered he had trained as a doctor too.

Now he believes he has enough evidence to place Thompson, originally from Lancashire and who moved to London in 1885 in the hope of becoming a successful writer, squarely in the frame.

richard patterson

Richard Patterson has been researching his theory for two decades

Already addicted to opium, the young poet slept rough in Whitechapel until a local prostitute is believed to have offered him a place to stay.

Their friendship is thought to have quickly turned into what was Thompson's only romantic relationship.

Patterson believes that the mentally unstable poet had a breakdown after she left him.

jack the ripper

A contemporary illustration of the discovery of one of Jack the Ripper's victims


Patterson told the Mercury Press: "The moment he told her he was finally published, she said she was leaving him because the public would not understand their relationship. This was after Thompson's year-long romance with the woman.

"Soon before and soon after the murders, he wrote about killing female prostitutes with knives.

"Thompson kept a dissecting knife under his coat, and he was taught a rare surgical procedure that was found in the mutilations of more than one of the Ripper victims.

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"He helped with surgery and is known to have cut up heaps and heaps of cadavers while a student."

Patterson will publish his findings in his forthcoming book Francis Thompson – A Ripper Suspect.

In 1998 he published Paradox – a short book which also suggested the poet could be a suspect.

The author's investigation has seen him visit Thompson's home town of Preston, and travel to the United States to view a collection of hand-written letters in Boston.

Thompson died in 1907 at the age of 47 having cemented his reputation with the best-selling poem The Hound of Heaven.

There is no record of him being questioned by police over the Ripper murders.

Patterson added: "I'm grateful to have played some part in helping people understand Thompson, and why he might have been the Ripper.

"I'm excited that people are beginning to take the theory seriously, seeing Thompson and the crimes in a different light creates interesting possibilities."

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