From Whitechapel to Baker Street


It is late 1888, the Whitechapel District in the East End of London. 5 women were murdered within a 9-week span. They were mutilated in the most horrific, yet surgically precise way. They were all prostitutes and only their fellow members of the profession were likely to notice their absence on the streets and in the taverns. 

Nevertheless, these same acquaintances of the murdered women were in a state of constant panic and anxious fear, thinking that anyone of them could be victim number 6. Then, to everyone’s’ amazement, including the local police, just as suddenly as the murders began, they stopped. The last one being on November 9, 1888. She was Mary Jane Kelley, the most horrific killing of all. It was a scene of organized rage and contempt. The killers swan song as it were. His most savage, yet done with the skill and passion of a surgeon. A suggestion of, ‘you will remember me, and I could start all of this up again whenever I wish, if I wish.’ Jack the Ripper!

The theory of forensic medicine in a murder investigation was fairly new to the men at Scotland Yard, but over in Edinburgh, at the university, a man named Dr. Joseph Bell had been teaching it for some time. Dr. Bell was a proponent of details and more details. He was obsessed with it and could be diagnosed with a major form of OCD if anyone had the guts to call him on it. His respect garnered allowances of monumental proportions, and he was given the freedom to use his powers of detail-oriented deduction at any time. In fact, the authorities were known to call upon Dr. Bell for his expertise.

Dr. Bell was asked to give an analysis of the Ripper case before the fourth victim was discovered. He had assisted the police on other cases involving crimes that were not to the caliber of the Ripper. He was used to apprehending some pretty bad guys performing some pretty bad acts around the London area. Dr. Bell usually never missed an opportunity to hone his forensic skills while at the same time relishing the idea that the police needed his help in doing their jobs. So much so that it has been said that Dr. Bell at one time considered leaving the medical profession an starting a private detective agency from his house in Scotland. But those were only stories.

As for the Ripper case, shortly after Dr. Bell became involved and the press noted it in one of their columns, Mary Jane was the last. The Ripper was never apprehended, and the case remain open to this day. Okay, time for conspiracy theories. The Ripper was never clumsy. He never left anything behind. No bloody knife, no scalpel, no bloody glove, no finger, foot show or hand print. Nothing, other than the brutality of the crime scene to suggest he was even there.

Rumors and legends have it that Dr. Bell used his skills as a forensic scientist, a term he developed, a surgeon, and an educated man to deduce the identity of Jack the Ripper! Then Dr. Bell did something very odd. He wrote out his deductions and sealed them in an envelope and sent it from Scotland to London. Here’s the conspiracy theory. The envelope was addressed to, not Scotland Yard, but to Buckingham Palace. Why would the Royals need to know the man’s identity before the police? Why were they even involved in the first place. The Queen never usually had anything to do with a police investigation. In fact, no one other than the police were usually involved with the investigating unless, the family of either the victim or the perpetrator had to know. Well, there weren’t many prostitutes in the Royal Family in 1888, so that only left one side. We’ll never know what was in the envelope.  Speaking of the Royal Family, soon after the envelope incident, Dr. Bell was given the opportunity to become the Queen’s personal surgeon, or doctor whenever Her Majesty visited Scotland.

One-year earlier, while a student at the University of Edinburgh, a young man named Doyle became familiar with Dr. Bell and his research and his techniques. Doyle was studying to be a doctor, but on the side to earn a little extra money, med school was expensive then too, Doyle wrote stories. He was published in local magazines and developed a character after meeting Dr. Bell he would later use to get through more than med school. Doyle changed Dr. Bell to a private detective, and gave him a side kick who was a doctor. The three of them, Doyle, Holmes and Watson went down into literary history on the lab coat tails of Dr. Joseph Bell. We celebrate Sherlock Holmes today, May 22 with International Sherlock Holmes Day.