3. Hyam Hyams

Hyam Hyams was born in Aldgate on the 8th of February, 1855, and by the time of the 1881 census, he was living at 29 Mitre Street (very close to where Catherine Eddowes would be murdered some seven years later in Mitre Square), with his mother and siblings.  He was listed as a fruiterer.

By 1888 he was married with two young children.

Around seven weeks after the murder of Mary Kelly, Hyam was picked up by Metropolitan police and taken to the Whitechapel workhouse infirmary, suffering from delirium tremens.  For the next two years, Hyam was in and out of asylums (usually having to be brought in under restraint, and described at one time as “violent and dangerous [especially to wife]. Injured mother’s head with chopper when attacking his wife. Epileptic and irritable after fits. Addicted to drink.”), finally ending up for good at Colney Hatch in early 1890, as an insane person, after attacking his wife with a knife.

During his time at Colney Hatch, he was described as “Violent, threatening, noisy and destructive”, frequently threatening staff and other patients, once stabbing a medical officer in the neck with a makeshift knife.  At one time he was even described as the “terror of the City of London Police”.

According to the case notes, Hyam’s wife claimed she had had four miscarriages due to her husband’s increasingly deranged and violent behaviour.  He also believed she was being unfaithful to him, a claim that is backed up by his cases notes at Colney Hatch, which state: “very frequent epileptic fits and then very violent and filthy. Otherwise quiet, but bitter against wife.”  He was also described as a “crafty and dangerous maniac”.

Hyam Hyams died in Colney Hatch in March 1913, due to epilepsy and cardiovascular degeneration.

Hyams is an interesting Ripper candidate for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it’s interesting to note just how similar in many ways his story is to some of the other suspects (which could help to explain why Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson were muddled in their various recollections – there were at least four known insane Jews who were picked up and delivered to Colney Hatch or City of London asylums around the same time, or at least in the space of a couple of years).  Hyam’s initial delivery to the Whitechapel infirmary was only a few weeks after David Cohen’s.  Both Cohen and Hyams had to be delivered to their respective asylums under restraint.  Hyams was a similar age to another insane Jewish suspect, Jacob Levy, at the time of the murders (33 and 32 respectively; whereas Cohen and another popular suspect Aaron Kosminski were both around 23).  And both Hyams and Cohen finished out their days at Colney Hatch (although Cohen died late 1889, whereas Hyams died almost twenty-five years later).  I mention all this simply to illustrate the potential for confusion among the suspects, particularly with regards to insane Jews, and why the three policemen may have gotten some of their facts mixed up when writing sometimes decades after the murders (although who the three officers meant to implicate in their writings is anyone’s guess – it could’ve been any of the four suspects mentioned, or none).

However, it is worth noting just how similar Hyams tallies with what Macnaghten wrote about the suspect Kosminski – really, the only point that doesn’t fit is the name itself, Kosminski, and the fact that Macnaghten mentions the suspect being a Polish Jew.  Otherwise, everything fits with what we know of Hyams.  In his memoranda, Macnaghten wrote of Kosminski:  “Kosminski – a Polish Jew – & resident in Whitechapel. This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, specially of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies: he was removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889. There were many circumstances connected with this man which made him a strong ‘suspect’.”

Take away the name Kosminski and the fact that Macnaghten mentions him being a Polish Jew (both of which can be attributed to Aaron Kosminski), and we have: “resident of Whitechapel” (Hyams was a resident of Whitechapel); “became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices” (Hyams was said to practice self-abuse – masturbation – otherwise referred to as ‘solitary vices’.); “He had a great hatred of women, specially of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies” (Hyams was violent and spiteful towards his wife, even attacking her with a knife, and due to his general violence could be said to have had homicidal tendencies.  Kosminski, on the other hand, wasn’t known to be violent); and lastly “He was removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889” (Hyams was first placed in Colney Hatch mid-April of 1889 – the only one of the four insane Jewish suspects to be placed into an asylum in the spring of 1889: David Cohen went in 21st December 1888; Jacob Levy August 1890; and Kosminski not until February 1891).

So, what of Hyam Hyams specifically?  What makes him, for me, a plausible Ripper suspect?  Well, he was a violent lunatic who attacked at least two people with a knife.  He had to be delivered to the various asylums under restraint, and was described at various times as both dangerous and crafty.  He apparently harboured spiteful feelings towards his wife, thinking she was cheating on him – which could explain a reason (or at least an impetuous) for Hyams to go and take those feelings out on faceless women on the streets of Whitechapel.  He was first picked up by the police seven weeks after Kelly’s murder, which would explain why the murders stopped.  At one time he lived very close to where Eddowes was murdered (if you accept the idea that the Ripper killed Stride, and that when he fled Berner Street headed towards home, back to his safe zone, then the Ripper lived westward, heading towards the city boundary, which was where Eddowes was killed less than an hour later in Mitre Square).  And lastly, he fit many of the eye-witness descriptions of the Ripper: Hyams was 5ft 7in tall, medium build with brown hair and a large brown moustache.  Also, some of the reports regarding the man Lawende saw with the woman believed to be Eddowes fitted with Hyams’s general description (although initial reports stated that the suspect had a small fair moustache).

Interestingly, one of the other men with Lawende that night, Joseph Levy, may have known Hyam Hyams.  It’s merely speculation, but apparently the two families may very well have known one other (at one time Hyam’s mother, Fanny, lived at number 24 Mitre Street, a residence once owned by Henry Lyons, who was Joseph Levy’s wife’s Uncle; also, apparently Amelia Lewis – Levy’s wife – had lived there years before.  And according to the 1861 census, Hyam’s uncle, Samuel, lived next door to the Lewis family).  Now, none of this proves that Levy and Hyams knew one another, but it’s not out of the question that the two families, who had lived on the same street for many years, were at least familiar to each other.

Why this is interesting is because there’s a distinct possibility that Joseph Levy recognised the man he saw with Eddowes that night.  On the night of the murder, Levy apparently said to his companion Harry Harris: “I don’t like going home by myself when I see these sort of characters about.  I’m off!”  He further added that the Court ought to be watched.  When this was brought up at the inquest, and the Coroner asked Joseph: “Your fear was rather about yourself?” Levy answered: “Not exactly”.

Did Joseph Levy know more than he was letting on?

The Evening News on the 9th of October reported that: “Mr Levy is absolutely obstinate and refuses to give the slightest information and he leaves one to infer that he knows something but that he is afraid to be called on the inquest”.

Could it be that Joseph Levy recognised the man he and his companions saw with Catherine Eddowes just ten minutes before she was found murdered?  Could it be he recognised Hyam Hyams, a man he knew from Mitre Street?

Again, all of this is pure speculation, but it does bring up some interesting questions about not only Levy’s demeanour on the night of the murder and at the inquest, but about whether or not he was the witness called to the Seaside home to identify the suspect.

However, it should be pointed out that while Lawende’s description on the suspect roughly tallies with that of Hyams, the description Levy gave at the inquest was markedly different and, if believed, couldn’t have been Hyams (Levy said the man he saw was only around 5ft 3in, whereas Hyams was around 5ft 7in).

A small point against Hyams is the fact that he was married with two children.  Going by the FBI’s profile of disorganised serial killers (as well as John Douglas’s profile on the Ripper in his book The Cases That Haunt Us), the Ripper was most likely unmarried, and sexually inadequate: Hyams was both married and had fathered two children.  While this doesn’t mean Hyams couldn’t have been the Ripper, it does slightly weaken the case for him (if you put any stock in criminal profiling, that is).

Still, Hyams was a violent lunatic who attacked his wife with a knife.  Details of his life and personality tallies with a lot of what Macnaghten wrote about the suspect Kosminski.  And he was detained in numerous asylums, where he was known to be violent and disruptive.

Hyam Hyams may not have been the Ripper, but he is still a strong candidate, and in my mind, a lot more likely than the vast majority of suspects that have been put forward over the years.


Candidacy of Hyam Hyams: **** (out of 5)


Published on November 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A pointed chaveta with a handle would make a very suitable tool for some thrill kill mutilation biz in the dark.

    • An interesting observation. Never heard of a chaveta before.

      Thanks for the comment, Irina,


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