Jack The Ripper Five killings. Numerous locations. Many suspects. A ton of theories. But only just one name. Jack the Ripper. Have you ever wondered what it must be like to follow in his footsteps? If so, please check out the following interview I did with my good mate Richard, who's one of the top boys over at the Jack The Ripper Tour. 

Richard Jones On Amazon

Jack The Ripper Tour
1) What are your own origins, Richard? Plus what path did you take in life prior to getting to where you are today?   I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands, and arrived in London during the late 70’s recession. My very first job was in the Civil Service, which I hated, so I left and became a -- and I kid you not -- punk folk singer performing in London at the Troubadour and at various venues around the country. I think I enjoyed it more than my audiences did! But after a year I came back to London and got a job as a post man where my round took in the area between St Paul’s and the Bank of England.

It was whilst doing this I started to realize what a great City London is for walking, and so, more as a hobby than anything else, I started exploring and studying. Then, in 1982, I decided to take the plunge and began operating walking tours. I’ve done them ever since, interspersed with writing books and appearing on various television programmes. 

2) What inspired you to form ‘The Jack The Ripper Tour’?   Although my first foray into the world of Walking tours was with Dickens walks, I had always had a fascination with the Jack the Ripper case. So, I began exploring the Jack the Ripper murder sites and suddenly realized what a cracking story it was, since it mingles a great mystery with social and criminal history. So I added a Jack the Ripper tour to my repertoire (or should that be rippertoire?) and by the end of 1982 it had become my most requested tour. Of all the tours I do it’s the one I never get tired off since there are always new and exciting developments to explore and I’ve seen the area change dramatically over the last 32 years.

Aaron Kosminski Is Jack The Ripper?3) Who do you think Jack The Ripper really is? And when, plus why, do you think this subject has interested so much?   My honest opinion about Jack the Ripper’s ID is that he was some local nobody who everybody though was odd but harmless. Out of the major suspects I would say that Aaron Kosminski is intriguing because he is the favored suspect of the two leading officers on the case, Anderson and Swanson, and they would certainly have known the evidence both for and against all the suspects. However, I think we have to take what Anderson stated with a pinch of salt, because he was a proven liar who wasn't above manipulating evidence and circumstances to suit his own particular ends.

I think there has always been an interest in the case, albeit other horrors were around in the early 20th century that pushed Jack to the back of peoples minds. I think you can see the rise of interest corresponding with the rise of Hollywood and major films, since Jack the Ripper, both as a name and an unsolved mystery, was / is a film director's dream. 

Likewise, the story holds the interest of international audiences both for the name. I mean, what images does the name Jack the Ripper conjure up! Plus there is the added aspect that it encompasses so many facets of history including social history, criminology, and even a very early use of offender profiling and crime scene photography.

Jack The Ripper In The Films
You've also got the fact that, for a twelve or so week period in 1888, the world’s media were all over the story, reporting on the district and the people of the district and taking the story of what, after all, are five sordid and unpleasant murders to an international audience. As a result we have a fantastic insight into the East End of London in late 1888, and I can’t think of any other period in history when you can look at a particular area of a particular city and actually see it through the eyes of those who visited it and those who lived in it.

4) What song would you say best represents your guide and why?   The Johnny Cash song 'I Walk the Line' because when it comes to guiding a Jack the Ripper tour its is necessary to tread that fine lines between tastefulness and tastelessness.

I think it often gets forgotten that, at the heart of the story, are five women whose names are only remembered today because they were murdered by someone whose name we will never know for sure. Yet they were also women who had families too. Who, due to alcohol abuse had fallen through the net of Victorian society, and as a result, had ended up leading transitory lives flitting between the Common Lodging Houses of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. So I think when describing their fates you really do walk that fine line and need to show their memories absolute respect.

William Peterson, aka Gil Grissom
5) If you could get a celebrity – apart from Jack – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   William Peterson, aka Gil Grissom, because he’d solve the mystery within an hour and we’d go down in history as the tour company that caught Jack the Ripper!

6) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour? And were their any unforeseen obstacles you had to contend with along the way?   I’ve learned that things change and you just have to go with the changes. When I wrote my first book, way back in 1992, if you’d mentioned the internet to me I’d thought it was something to do with fishing. In those days doing research was limited as you had to go out and acquire it. Nowadays you can just sit on the tube and browse your mobile phone and acquire more information about a subject -- particularly about Jack the Ripper -- in five minutes than you could have found in five months back then. I’ve learnt to really respect the work that people put in to research and have found that I can get quite overwhelmed by the sheer volume of research that is now out there.

As far as obstacles, I would say the major unforeseen one was the whole scale redevelopment of the area that has taken place over the last 10 years. Currently I'm editing all the different film footage myself and Mark Ubsdell (my co-producer on Unmasking Jack the Ripper) have shot in the area since 1997, and its amazing how the changes took place so gradually. For example, the Durward Street of today (what with the new Whitechapel Crossrail Station going up there) is totally unrecognisable from the Durward Street of 1997. Same goes for Mitre Square.

Jack The Ripper
But, on the plus side, that’s what makes London and the East End so great. They knock down and redevelop, but they always leave behind these little pockets of the past that then become even more elusive and mysterious.

One other unforeseen obstacle was that I would be accused by my own son of being Jack the Ripper! When my eldest son was seven I went to pick him up from school one afternoon and the teacher asked if she could have a word. She started laughing when she said that they’d had a 'what does my Dad do' day at school, and, having watched the other pupils saying things like “My Dad’s a banker”, “My Dad’s a lawyer”, my son stood up and very proudly announced to the class “My Dad’s Jack the Ripper.”

7) During your time in the is field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   My curiosity. I love to explore and research.

8) If ‘The Jack The Ripper Tour’ had a motto, what would it be?   They won’t fix me just yet.

So there you have it, my friends. My pal Richard Jones and the Jack The Ripper Tour. When you have the time please pay his site a visit, as well do the face-face / tweet-tweet / and gplus-gplus thing. Go on. What's a slash between friends. 

Jack The Ripper Street Map
Richard Jones On Amazon ]