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

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Richard Walter 

Richard Walter of the Vidocq Society


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,
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!

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

  1. Jeff Bloomfield Says:

    Fascinating how we have to waste time to run down the lies as well as actually digging out the truth. The analysis of the story is perfectly good. It is just that - a story.

  2. Jonathan Hainsworth Says:

    Of course Druitt was the Ripper, and of course this ‘letter’ is an hoax — either done to Walter or by him.

  3. admin Says:

    Hi Jeff and Jonathan

    Thank you both for your thoughts on this matter. I am inclined to agree that it is just a story but not, I think, one that originated with Richard Walter. I am prepared to believe his account that the information was told to him by someone in authority at Scotland Yard now retired. After all what does a modern-day British police official at the Met have to offer about the Whitechapel murders but speculation, hopefully alleviated by some informed opinion? Perhaps the police official had been told by someone else at the Yard at one time that there is such a letter kept secured at the Met and that it concerns Druitt and the Prince. The tale about the letter and the overall packaged story about Druitt and PAV might be some twisted version of Macnaghten’s private family information spiced up with a bit of the Royal conspiracy fairy tale. The person who told Walter might himself have misunderstood or misconstrued the information or been fed a line by a colleague at some point. At any rate, we might conclude that this is likely to be more myth and fantasy to add to all the other myth and fantasy that swirls around the case. Carry on, brave Ripperologists, through the inevitable insidious fog.

  4. andy parlour Says:

    hello chris,
    very interesting story re richard walter and pav plus druitt. as you rightly say pav was a member of the cambridge apostles as was j.k. stephen his tutor at cambridge. j.k. stephen being a barrister would most likely have known druitt anyway as they were both members at the inns of court. but more interestingly all barristers at the inns of court were encouraged to join various sporting societies at the inns of court. when we were researching for our book we met an elderly barrister who had himself been in the inns of court archery club which he said was the most popular sporting society there - especially in the late 19th century. most likely druitt and stephen were members - could it have been stephen who introduced druitt to pav - it is possible with or without a ripper connection. in the late 1990’s were approached by a well educated man who told us another story about druitt - that druitt and pav were lovers and when queen victoria discovered the affair went ballistic! we asked him how he knew and he said his gt grandmother was in fact a lady in waiting at the palace who’s husband was a major and equerry to the prince of wales. we have the lady in waiting and the major’s name.
    food for thought?
    andy & sue parlour

  5. admin Says:

    Hi Andy & Sue

    Good to hear from you! Actually I am not saying that PAV was a member of the Cambridge Apostles. It’s what Richard Walter said, according to the story he was told by someone nameless, evidently a well-placed Scotland Yard official. I rather think Martin Fido was right that neither PAV nor Druitt could have been members and that it’s highly unlikely that they could have met at a meeting of the Apostles, and unlikely too that PAV took Druitt took meet the Queen, as runs the story that Walter told us at the Drexel event. Interesting nonetheless that you were told a story about PAV and Druitt being lovers by a man whose “gt grandmother was. . . a lady in waiting at the palace who’s husband was a major and equerry to the prince of wales.”

    Best regards


  6. andy parlour Says:

    hello chris - first of all compliments of the season to you and yours.

    pav was a member of the apostles at cambridge as we were shown a members list and he was on it it. plus he was a member of the taf club at cambridge. the was a private club that jk stephen formed for his closest friends including pav - called the taf because it met twice a fortnight! re the info about the equerry and the lady in waiting - it is nigh on impossible to get the names of the people working at the palace. we have managed to get some listings but they are very vague - they are there somewhere - perhaps these were ‘lifted’ by persons ‘unknown’ as are many papers and documents up to this day covering all royal and government papers as in the paul burrell trial.
    have a great new year and best of everything’
    andy & sue

  7. Neil Bell Says:

    Has there been any progression on this Chris?

  8. admin Says:

    Hi Neil:

    Not from Richard Walter himself. However, Ken Whiteway (The Grave Maurice) reported at JtR Forums, “I’m nearly halfway through Michael Capuzzo’s The Murder Room which is about the Vidocq Society. Richard Walter was a founding member of that group and Capuzzo quotes Richard as saying that JtR’s identity was quite obvious. I’ll let you know if the statement is enlarged upon later in the book. If it is, I imagine that it’s probably the same theory he put forward at Drexel.”

    I note that Capuzzo’s The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases was published in 2010 and had probably been in the works for a few years, so that pushes back the story Walter was told by someone at Scotland Yard at least a number of years.



  9. Mike Rodelli Says:

    I’ve known Richard since 2004 when he did a profile on the Zodiac killer and shared it with me. His profile was of a killer who was the exact opposite of what people had believed about Zodiac for years. He also endorsed my research on that case in “The Murder Room.” I still speak to him regularly.

    I can’t recall what year it was but I am going to guess it was in 2007 or 2008 that Richard told me a story about the JTR case. I remember exactly where I was when I spoke to him but for some odd reason I can’t recall the details of what he told me. I believe it had to do with Druitt’s uncle or brother and his role in Druitt making the decision to drown himself. I think the letter comes from this relative, as I recall.

    At any rate, the point I’d like to make is that it would shock the hell out of me to learn that Richard had forged this letter or that he was making anything up. Like me, he is way too straight a shooter to do that. I just don’t see him having to make himself anymore interesting than he already is. ;) His reputation is everything in his field, so I can’t imagine why he’d make something like this up.

    Just my two cents.


  10. admin Says:

    Hi Mike

    I am not in the least saying that Richard Walter made up this story. Rather I believe he told us the story in good faith just as it was told to him. It’s just that the narrative comes across as being somewhat wild and unbelievable.

    Best regards


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