Pollaky, Tumblety and Jack the Ripper

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Jul 1, 2013

My quiet adviser on Ignatius “Paddington” Pollaky has provided another curious little footnote to his history, and that of London’s most notorious unsolved crimes, i.e. the Whitechapel murders.

Research has apparently placed Pollaky at 10 Devonshire Place in 1861 (some years before he relocated to the Paddington Green address thereafter associated so closely with him). One of his next-door neighbors at 8 Devonshire Place was a very young Henry Carr

And this is where I had to do some research, myself, because my informant pointed out that Carr was later an associate of Francis Tumblety… which name I may have come across before, but apparently forgot. Perhaps not entirely unreasonably, though, given the enormous number of names associated with the mystery of Jack the Ripper… <dramatic piano chords>

Still, it seems that the grounds for suspicion of Mr. Tumblety are actually rather interesting, and probably more solid than is the case for a number of other suspects. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia notes that Tumblety was actually subject of considerable police interest in 1888, which, considering the numberless leads offered Scotland Yard, may say something.

Tumblety, also named as “Kumblety” or “Twomblety” in various newspaper reports, was apparently an American “quack” doctor. He was also apparently markedly misogynistic, even for the 1880s, and accused more than once of other forms of “sexual deviancy” (including homosexual relationships, of which Victorian society could of course be less than tolerant).

Allegedly, though (according to the head of Special Branch during the 1880s in fact), Scotland Yard assembled “a large dossier” on Tumblety. Certainly, they expended considerable effort pursuing him.

In the midst of the Whitechapel murders, police arrested Tumblety for “gross indecency,” though rumor soon went round that they really had more serious crimes in mind, and subsequent events tend to support that possibility. Tumblety was released on bail, and promptly fled to France, then made arrangements to return to his native United States. He did not return alone. Multiple Scotland Yard detectives pursued him to New York, where their interest in Tumblety spread to both fascinated newspapers and American police forces, and this is where it gets even more interesting, especially from our perspective…

In New York, Inspector Byrnes assured the excited public that “The doctor will be kept under strict surveillance,” though in the event that surveillance was not strict enough to prevent Tumblety from foiling the watchers and vanishing from the public eye until 1893. Meanwhile, American papers lavished column-inches on the prospect of Jack the Ripper turning up (indeed, being a native of) these shores, including papers on the distant shores of the Pacific. In the San Francisco Chronicle for November 23, 1888, Police Chief Pat Crowley noted that Tumblety had spent a few months in San Francisco, in 1870, before suddenly leaving town; according to Crowley, Tumblety left a considerable sum of money in a local bank, where the account was still open. For those who’ve not yet read Brilliant Deduction, the figure of Chief Crowley will become familiar after reading the adventures of his then-subordinate, Captain Isaiah Lees

Lees of course has his own strange connections to Jack the Ripper, but that’s another story. Returning to his contemporary “Paddington” Pollaky, the connections to Tumblety are interesting, if entirely dependent on Pollaky’s one-time neighbor Henry Carr who later had a relationship with Tumblety (and went to court for taking a gold chain from him). Still, my correspondent also points out that at some point after the neighbors of 1861 left Devonshire Place, both resettled in Paddington.

All of which is, still, ultimately interesting mainly because of Tumblety’s candidacy as Jack the Ripper. This web site offers an interesting list of reasons why Tumblety should be regarded as a major suspect. Though according to The Ultimate JTR Companion, “Research has revealed that he was arrested for the offense(s) of gross indecency on 7 November 1888, two days before the [Mary] Kelly murder,” which is mildly important to the whole concept of Jack the Ripper…

But, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

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