– Francis Tumblety

Tumblety is a particularly fascinating character.  I won’t go into the details of his colourful life here (go here for a more detail), but suffice to say he lived a life full of deceit, adventure and mystery.  A self-proclaimed doctor, Tumblety first came to prominence as a Ripper suspect in the early ‘90s, when noted Ripper historian Stewart Evans came into possession of a letter written by Chief Inspector John Littlechild, in which he states that Tumblety was ‘amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one’.

While a lot of weight has been given to Tumblety as being a strong candidate for Jack the Ripper (his supposed violence towards women, his collection of uteri, and his fleeing London just a few weeks after the Kelly murder), I personally think otherwise.  By all accounts Tumblety was a larger than life character, a flamboyant charlatan who liked to dress up in elaborate uniforms (often a military outfit complete with medals) and pass himself off as a doctor.  This type of character is at complete odds with the quiet, unassuming man I see Jack the Ripper as being.  If Tumblety had been a serial killer, his arrogant, boastful and shrewd demeanour would be more fitting with an organised serial killer of the Ted Bundy variety.

It’s been said that Tumblety had a great hatred of women and displayed violence towards them; there is no evidence to support this, nor that he indeed had a collection of female uteri (only hearsay).

Also, Tumblety was completely unlike any of the witness descriptions: he was considerably taller than any of the men seen around the time of the murders (he was almost 6ft); a lot older (at fifty-five, he was around twenty years older than the average age of the various witness descriptions), and coupled with his large, distinctive moustache, he would have been a person who stood out from the crowd.

But probably the most compelling argument against Tumblety being the Ripper is that he was a known homosexual, and serial killers almost always target victims they are sexually attracted to – it is rare (if at all) that a homosexual killer will kill members of the opposite sex (for example, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Gacy, both homosexuals, killed only males; whereas heterosexual serial murderers such a Ted Bundy kill solely females).  And since the murders committed by Jack the Ripper were lust-murders, the killer would almost certainly have been a heterosexual male.

So, while a strange and colourful character, I can’t see the flamboyant fifty-year-old homosexual Tumblety being the Ripper.

Candidacy for Francis Tumblety: *½ (out of 5)

Published on November 7, 2010 at 11:15 am  Comments (5)  

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I agree with most of your summation re. Tumblety. For mine, the killer was someone both known and trusted by the victims- an “everyman”. Paul Harrison (ex-police) cleverly posited Joseph Barnett and then completely lost me with his ridiculous motive for the killings- ummhh. I can’t agree necessarily with the term “lust-murders”. Was he really desperate or deeply desiring in his (apart from Kelly) blitz attacks. It’s up for debate. With respect, Dave.

  2. Tumblety admitted of being a suspect in the case. He was there @ the time. He knew the area and had money. He might have been the lodger as well. The homosexual bit is not a piccle. Check the link at the end. But i think it was strange that the Detectives were not more In unison of suspects. Littlechild and Swanson and Abberline did not see it the same way.
    Have a Good one

    • Hi Jan,

      I simply don’t buy Tumblety as being the Ripper. All your link proved was that the vast majority (there was only one in that whole list I could see that went against type – and even then he was classed as ‘unusual’) of homosexual killers kill males. More so when they are lust-murders, which the Ripper crimes seem to be.


  3. I totally agree with what you said. The only ‘factual’ source which does not become a piece of evidence, even less legal proof, il the Littlechild letter. However, I thought he would make a fine suspect in the novel I wrote, ‘My Ripper Hunting Days’, which is now on Amazon.

    • Appreciate the sentiments, Bernard. And best of luck with your novel!

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