Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Annie Crook Needs a Banner!
In 1973 the BBC launched a television series, Jack the Ripper, which investigated the Whitechapel murders. he series was made into a book, The Ripper File, by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd in 1975. The sixth and final programme included a testimony by Joseph Gorman, who called himself Joseph Sickert and claimed to be the illegitimate son of noted painter Walter Sickert. Gorman claimed that Sickert had told him a story that implicated not only the royal family but also a host of other famous people in the murders. According to Gorman, Gull committed the murders with the help of accomplices.
Gorman said that his Catholic grandmother had secretly married Albert Victor, and that his mother, as the legitimate daughter of Albert Victor, was the rightful heir to the throne. He claimed that the Ripper murders were staged as part of a conspiracy to hush up any potential scandal by murdering anyone who knew of the birth. In the original television series, the story is depicted as the belief of Gorman but not of the detectives. Captivated by Gorman's story, journalist Stephen Knight decided to investigate the claims further, and eventually published his research as the book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution in 1976.
Gorman says that Albert Victor's mother, Princess Alexandra, introduced Walter Sickert to her son in the hope that Sickert would teach Albert Victor about art. Gorman claims that Albert Victor met one of Sickert's models, Annie Elizabeth Crook, a Catholic shop girl, at Sickert's studio at 15 Cleveland Street. They had an affair, he says, and married in a secret ceremony with Sickert and Annie's friend, Mary Jane Kelly, acting as witnesses. Gorman alleges that Albert Victor and Annie's daughter, Alice Margaret Crook, was born on 18 April 1885, and that Albert Victor settled Annie and Alice into an apartment in Cleveland Street. In April 1888, Gorman continues, Queen Victoria and the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury discovered Albert Victor's secret. Gorman accuses Salisbury of ordering a raid on the apartment because he was afraid that public knowledge of a potential Catholic heir to the throne would result in a revolution. Gorman claims that Albert Victor was placed in the custody of his family, while Annie was placed in the custody of Sir William Gull, who certified her insane; she spent the next 30 years drifting in and out of institutions before dying in 1920.
Meanwhile, Gorman alleges, Kelly was looking after the daughter, Alice, both during and after the raid. Gorman asserts that at first Kelly was content to hide the child, but then she, along with her friends Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride, decided to blackmail the government. Gorman accuses Salisbury of conspiring with his fellow freemasons, including senior policemen in the London Metropolitan Police, to stop the scandal by staging the murders of the women. Gorman says Salisbury assigned the task to Gull, who lured the four women into a carriage individually where Gull murdered them with the assistance of coachman John Netley and Sir Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard. Gorman claims a fifth victim, Catherine Eddowes, was killed accidentally in a case of mistaken identity because she used the alias Mary Ann Kelly and was confused with Mary Jane Kelly. Gorman alleges that Netley tried to kill the young Alice twice but after the second unsuccessful attempt several witnesses chased Netley, who threw himself into the Thames and drowned. Gorman completes the story by saying that Alice lived well into old age, later becoming Walter Sickert's mistress, and that Alice and Walter Sickert are his parents.
Knight explains that at first he did not believe Gorman's sensational story, which seemed "arrant, if entertaining, nonsense", but was so entranced by it that he had to investigate further. In describing the progress of his investigation, Knight reveals a series of coincidences: the murders ended with the death of Mary Kelly; a woman named "Elizabeth Cook", who Knight claims could be Annie Elizabeth Crook misspelt, did live at 6 Cleveland Street; Annie Crook was institutionalised; rumours of the time link Prince Albert Victor to a scandal in Cleveland Street; Gull was fond of gr*pes, and one of the victims may have been eating some at the time of her death; Gull matches the description of an unnamed physician accused by clairvoyant Robert James Lees, who claimed to have identified the Ripper by using psychic powers.
Eventually, as the circumstantial coincidences build up, Knight becomes convinced that Gorman's story is true. The lack of tangible evidence, he claims, is due to a government cover-up and deliberate misdirection of the police investigation.
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