Frederick Abberline

Our latest novel, Cold Stone and Ivy, by H. Leighton Dickson, is a Gothic steampunk mystery. Set in England, (Lancashire and London, mostly) during 1888, the book features several real people as characters. Tyche and author H. Leighton Dickson will be showcasing some of these historical figures in the next few weeks.

Frederick Abberline has the most familiarity with the Ripper case in Cold Stone and Ivy. Meeting him is not an eagerly anticipated occurrence for the characters within the book. Being questioned by him is to be suspected of grisly murders . . .

Inspector Frederick George Abberline

Inspector Frederick George Abberline

The lead investigator on the Ripper case was Frederick Abberline. Although an Inspector at Scotland Yard, Abberline was transferred back to Division H, Whitechapel, due to his familiarity with the area (he had been the Local Inspector at Division H for several years), after the death of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols.

In popular culture, Abberline has been depicted as an alcoholic (Michael Caine in the mini-series Jack the Ripper) and as a psychic opium addict (Johnny Depp in From Hell). In actuality, the portly Abberline resembled, according to then Detective Constable Walter Drew, a “bank manager or a solicitor”.

Despite investigating several butchers, organizing a door-to-door inquiry, and conducting a few “identification parades”, Abberline, as we all know, never caught Jack the Ripper, and he was reassigned to Scotland Yard’s Central Office in 1889. He would go on to investigate the Cleveland Street Scandal. Eventually, he retired from Scotland Yard in 1892 and worked for twelve years at the European agency of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. He retired in 1904 and died in 1929.

Abberline’s preferred Ripper suspect was Severyn Klosowski (also known as George Chapman), although later Ripper scholars (Ripperologists), disagree with Abberline on this, as Chapman was a poisoner.

In 2011, Spanish writer Jose Luis Abad put forth the theory that Abberline himself was the Ripper! What would have the “gently” spoken, banker-like inspector thought about that?

For further reading, please visit Casebook: Jack the Ripper, The Jack the Ripper Tour, and Jack the Ripper 1888.

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