Richard Walter and an Alleged “Secret” Letter of 1888 at Scotland Yard

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Richard Walter 

Richard Walter of the Vidocq Society

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In the latest issue of Ripperologist (Dec 2011, no. 123) I report what Vidocq
Society member & profiler Richard Walter said at the recent Drexel University
Conference on Jack the Ripper about a supposed secret letter of 1888 kept, he
says, in the vault of Scotland Yard that he says concerns Montague John Druitt
and Prince Albert Victor (PAV).  Is there anything to his claim that such a letter
was received by the Yard in 1888 and that it implicates Druitt, who killed him-
self by drowning in the Thames in December 1888, some weeks after the murder
and mutilation of Mary Jane Kelly, the 5th canonical victim, in Miller’s Court,
Spitalfields?  From what we can gather, Walter was told the information about
the sealed letter, said to be from Druitt’s uncle,  along with a story about
an affair between the Prince and Druitt, by a highly placed source at Scotland
Yard but he refused to divulge the name of his source.

In the aftermath of the Drexel event, due to the revelation and in the face
of Walter’s refusal to name his source, I was part of a veritable blizzard of
emails that flew back and forth across the Atlantic between myself and the
three authors of the authoritative The Complete Jack the Ripper A to Z,
Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner, plus Ripperologist Executive
Editor Adam Wood, as I wrestled with how to report this information in the
“Rip.”  Fido was a fellow speaker at Drexel and he heard the claims made
by Walter in the opening session on Friday, October 28 and was also party
to discussions with Walter during the weekend, as was myself, JtRForums.com
site owner Howard Brown and Canadian Ken Whiteway (”The Grave Maurice”
on the message boards).  We heard a colorful and bizarre story in which we
that ran that PAV and Druitt met as members of the Cambridge Apostles,
the supposed secret society, and fell in love, but that later PAV broke off
the relationship and turned to prostitutes.  Druitt committed the murders
to revenge himself on the prostitutes that had given PAV syphilis.  Then,
depressed after the murders, he tried to drown himself but failed to do
so because of his athletic build.  As most will know, Montie Druitt was
an avid cricketer; according to Walter, it was Druitt’s strong build that
saved him from drowning.  However, later, by now in a weak condition,
according to Walter, he was persuaded to drown himself a second time
because of the stain of the murders on the Druitt family and the Royals.

It was the double drowning that made me think all this might be fantasy.
And Martin Fido told Walter at Drexel that the Cambridge Apostles story
could not be true.  The Apostles, according to Fido, are more of a debating
society than a true secret society.  Besides which, Druitt was an Oxford
student not a Cambridge man.  As such, he’d never have been admitted
to the Apostles.  And, Fido said, PAV was too dim to be in the Apostles. So
the whole story was a nonstarter.  Neither could the story be true that
Walter told that PAV took Druitt to meet Queen Victoria.  This also
sounds wrong to me, let alone the story of a letter sealed in the vaults
for one hundred years with instructions that it not be opened till 1988.
Of course, the Metropolitan Police has ostensibly handed over all of
the letters and other files to the British National Archives that it had
from the Whitechapel murders.  Moreover, it doesn’t sound right that a
letter from a relative of Druitt could say anything about an affair with
a Royal let alone an heir to the throne, and nor about PAV contracting
syphilis from prostitutes.  Druitt’s uncle may have been a physician, as
Walter said, but a commoner would not in that day have put that sort of
thing in writing.

And yet someone apparently told Richard Walter this story.  Walter spoke
at Drexel of having “privilege” with the Metropolitan Police, and he has
apparently done work for the Met as a profiler.  Somebody well placed at
the Met, it seems, told him this story.  It sounds all too fantastic,
and yet Walter told it as if he believed it, but then later in an email
to me backed off and said he had no interest in the case.  This after
telling the tittle tattle with evident relish both in the opening session
at Drexel and then to several of us in the opening day reception and in
conversation with Martin Fido.  One other thing, Walter spoke to Fido
about John Grieve, Deputy Asst. Commissioner at the Yard now retired.
He said that Grieve misled Patricia Cornwell about the painter Walter
Sickert re the possibility that Sickert could have been the Ripper.
This titbit was discussed in the blizzard of emails crossing the Atlantic
between myself, the A to Z authors and Adam Wood, because Skinner
has been working with Ms. Cornwell on a new edition of her book, or at
least helping continue her research into Sickert, whom she apparently
now believes was at least guilty of definitely writing “Ripper” letters.
Skinner’s view was that it was unlikely that Grieve intentionally tried
to mislead Cornwell, and it was just that Grieve’s mention of the painter
intrigued her and she picked up the ball and ran with it.  Skinner has
also tried to ascertain how far back Richard Walter might have heard
the story that he told.  Drexel conference organizer Prof Fred Abbate
was told the same story by Walter some months before the October
28-29, 2011 event, and when we asked Abbate how long Walter might
have held his views about Druitt and PAV he said “some months” though
it might seem as if it is more like years, and maybe many years since his
informant is apparently now retired.  When in conversation with myself,
Howard Brown and Ken Whiteway, Walter was asked if he would publish
what he knew about the case, he replied that he had no intention to do so,
and that the person from whom he had received the information had
retired, inferring that was a reason not to publish the story.

So we might say that if there is a secret letter in the vaults of
Scotland Yard – which might or might not be the “family info”
Sir Melville Macnaghten wrote that told about the culpability
of Druitt for the crimes – the information about the letter and the
story about Druitt and Prince Albert Victor was told by an
unknown source at Scotland Yard now believed to be retired
.  Wow.

We are inclined to think all this is a fable and that Richard Walter was
misled somehow… or else maybe somebody at Scotland Yard was telling
tales out of school????  Paul Begg remarked that it is the sort of thing
that “seriously muddies the waters.”  There has been more than enough
rubbish written over the years since 1888 about the Jack the Ripper case!

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