Beadle, William. Jack the Ripper: Anatomy of a Myth. Dagenham: Wat Tyler, 1995.
This is the first of William Beadle’s two books dealing with William Bury. Beadle seeks to dispel various myths that have arisen around the case, and argues that an ordinary man was Jack the Ripper. He begins by describing the poor social and economic conditions in the East End of London in 1888 and then provides a lively overview of the Jack the Ripper murder series. He believes that the Ripper murdered Tabram, Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly and possibly Mylett. He claims that the police erred early in their investigation by concluding that the Ripper was a foreigner, and that this hampered their later efforts to solve the case. Beadle accepts Israel Schwartz’s account. Pointing to abrasions on Eddowes’ left cheek, Beadle suggests that Eddowes could have been initially subdued by a punch to the face. He attributes the Ripper’s nonactivity in October to foggy conditions in the city. He accepts Caroline Maxwell’s morning sighting of Mary Jane Kelly, and thinks that the medical estimates of the time of death, which indicated an earlier murder, were unreliable and failed to account for the cold in Kelly’s room, which would have affected the temperature of her open and excavated body. Beadle then chronicles the history of ripperology, describing important authors, theories and suspects. He spends the most time on the royal conspiracy theory, Montague Druitt and Aaron Kosminski, devoting a chapter to each.
After providing some background information about serial killers, Beadle concludes the book with a single chapter outlining his case against William Bury, who he believes to have been Jack the Ripper. He points out that Bury is a good fit with the FBI profile of the Ripper. Bury first strangled and then mutilated his wife Ellen, which was a pattern typical of the Ripper. He argues that Bury matches well the various eyewitness descriptions in the case. He notes that Tabram was attacked with a pen-knife, and that Bury slept with a pen-knife under his pillow. Beadle speculates that Tabram could have been attacked just after Bury finished treatment for a case of venereal disease he obtained in May. Beadle claims that Bury was often out late at night in 1888, and would have had a good working knowledge of the streets of Whitechapel due to his work as a sawdust merchant. He considers it extremely unlikely that two Rippers would have been living in the East End at the same time. Beadle thinks Ellen Bury’s body could have been packed into the trunk in which it was found in anticipation of a sea voyage away from Dundee. He doesn’t think Bury chalked either the Goulston Street Graffito or the messages at the back of his residence in Dundee, but admits, “Both were reported as being in a schoolboyish hand.” William Beadle’s book provides an excellent if short overview of the Jack the Ripper case and a reasonable argument that Bury was the murderer.
Macpherson, Euan. The Trial of Jack the Ripper. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2005.
Euan Macpherson’s The Trial of Jack the Ripper is the first book-length study of William Bury. Macpherson’s account is thorough and gracefully written, and the book includes some excellent illustrations. Macpherson begins by describing Bury’s visit to the Dundee police station where he reported his wife Ellen’s death and the subsequent police investigation of the crime scene. Macpherson believes that Bury chalked the messages at the back of his residence as a sort of confession that he was Jack the Ripper, but he does not explain why Bury wouldn’t then have confessed at the police station. Bury was taken by surprise when the police arrested him for Ellen’s murder, and Macpherson thinks the police lost an opportunity when they failed to question him in detail about the Ripper murders at that time. Macpherson then provides an account of Bury’s earlier life, making good use of the small number of sources that are available. Bury couldn’t hold a steady job, was dismissed by an employer, James Martin, for theft, and was a violent alcoholic who frequently abused his wife. Only five days after William and Ellen Bury’s wedding he pinned her to a bed and threatened her with a knife. Macpherson argues that Bury had all the hallmarks of a psychopathic personality, showing no signs of a conscience or feelings of remorse. Macpherson also provides some interesting information about Ellen Bury’s life prior to the marriage, including evidence that she had been a prostitute.
Macpherson thinks that William Bury carefully planned Ellen’s murder, and that he took her to Dundee for the express purpose of murdering her there. He suggests that the larger trunk that Bury had made prior to the voyage to Dundee was intended to serve as Ellen’s coffin or a trunk to transport her body. He believes that Bury went out of his way to give the appearance of a happy and loving marriage when the couple was in Dundee in order to reduce the odds that he would be suspected of her murder. Macpherson thinks that William Bury relocated from the Union Street address to the Princes Street address in Dundee in order to provide a more secluded location for the murder, but notes that the walls were thin at the new address and that sound could travel easily through them. An exceptional feature of Macpherson’s book is that it provides a detailed account of Bury’s trial, especially concerning the medical evidence that the two sides presented in support of their arguments.
The second half of the book contains an extended overview of the Jack the Ripper murders. Macpherson has been criticized for relying too heavily on the London newspaper The Times in this section of the book. Macpherson speculates that when Elizabeth Long described a man who appeared to be a foreigner, she could have been referring to Bury’s Midlands accent. He thinks that the murder of Stride was interrupted, that the Ripper lacked surgical skill and was cutting away at organs haphazardly, and he accepts Caroline Maxwell’s sighting of Mary Jane Kelly. There is a chapter about how the performances of the play, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could have affected popular conceptions of the Ripper. Turning to Ellen Bury’s murder, Macpherson claims that the combination of strangulation and abdominal mutilation points toward the Ripper being the perpetrator of her murder. He thinks that Bury didn’t cut Ellen’s throat because he didn’t need to. Since the murder took place in his residence, where he was not under the pressure of time, he could have resumed strangling her if his initial effort did not succeed in terminating her life. He points out that Ellen Bury and Mary Jane Kelly were both murdered indoors and were both found wearing only a chemise. Macpherson argues that Bury was a man who was clearly capable of committing the Ripper murders, that he had the time and opportunity to do so, and that he displayed a psychopathic personality characteristic of serial killers. This is a terrific book about Bury and is highly recommended.
Beadle, William. Jack the Ripper Unmasked. London: John Blake, 2009.
Jack the Ripper Unmasked is William Beadle’s magnum opus about William Bury. Beadle is well-informed about serial killers and he frequently shows how Bury’s behavior closely aligns with that of the other serial killers he describes. He devotes a chapter to developing links between Bury and the F.B.I. profile of Jack the Ripper, a topic that he first raised in Jack the Ripper: Anatomy of a Myth. In providing biographical information about Bury, Beadle describes Bury’s awful early childhood, marked by the accidental death of his father and institutionalization of his mother, and points out how other serial killers have had similarly dysfunctional childhoods. Beadle speculates that a bad case of venereal disease could have caused Bury to hate prostitutes, and he advances a theory that Bury could have been triggered to select specific Whitechapel victims because of associations between their names and the names of his late mother and sister. He notes how the Whitechapel murder dates correspond well with the death dates of his mother and sister. Macpherson had suggested that Bury’s former employer, James Martin, had fired him for theft, but Beadle argues that a subsequent statement by Martin indicates that he fired Bury for failing to earn enough money for him.
Beadle thinks that Annie Millwood could have been attacked by Bury, and he thinks that Ada Wilson was likely one of Bury’s victims. He believes that Bury switched to throat-cutting after the Tabram murder in order to keep the blood of his victims from splashing onto him, and that Bury’s trip to Wolverhampton shortly after Tabram’s murder showed signs of having been hastily arranged, perhaps indicating that Bury had become apprehensive following that murder. Beadle notes that none of the Whitechapel victims were murdered on a Sunday evening or a Monday morning, and that, according to one of Bury’s landlords, William Smith, Sunday was the only day of the week when Bury did not drink. Serial killers often have substance abuse issues and murder when intoxicated, so Beadle’s observation is of interest. Beadle thinks that Bury murdered Stride in anger after she rejected him, and that he didn’t mutilate her out of fear that the police would soon be on the scene. He thinks that Bury grew his beard after the night of the double event in order to better disguise himself, as the Stride eyewitnesses had described a man with only a moustache. He sets Mary Jane Kelly’s time of death as being between 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Beadle challenges Bond’s estimate of the time of death by casting doubt on the criteria Bond used. He argues that modern estimates of time of death generally pay little heed to digestion rates, and are based on a better understanding of rigor mortis than Bond would have possessed. Beadle repeats his view that Caroline Maxwell was a credible witness. Beadle thinks that Mylett could well have been one of Bury’s victims. He notes that her pockets were not emptied, which, like the absence of mutilations, could suggest that Bury was interrupted and had to prematurely leave the crime scene.
Beadle thinks Bury left London for Dundee out of fear that he could be apprehended as the Ripper. He argues against the view that Ellen’s murder was carefully planned in advance by noting that Bury did not disguise his address in Dundee when he wrote on behalf of Ellen to her sister, Margaret Corney. He thinks that Bury’s curious visits to the Dundee court during the week of Ellen’s murder can be explained as Bury’s attempt to learn more about the criminal elements in the city. Beadle then enters into a compelling presentation of how Ellen Bury’s mutilations correspond in some very specific ways to those of some of the Whitechapel victims. For example, he observes that in the cases of both Mary Ann Nichols and Ellen Bury, there was “One deep wound and several incisions surrounding it running obliquely downwards.” Beadle suggests that the significant step down in the severity of Ellen’s mutilations when compared to that of the later Ripper victims could have been due to Bury having burned himself out or having become concerned about arousing suspicion in the police. He dismisses the notion that Bury could have been a copycat or Ripper-inspired murderer by pointing out that “the only man who was then definitely aware that he [the Ripper] first throttled his victims was the murderer himself.”
Beadle sharply observes how the women’s trinkets “of very inferior metal” in Bury’s trunk can be related to Annie Chapman. Two rings and a single thimble were among the items found within this collection by the police. Two rings had been taken from Chapman by the Ripper, and no thimble was found with Chapman’s body, even though she would have been expected to own one. Beadle thinks that Bury either ate or fed to his horse the body parts that were taken from the victims. He believes that Ellen chalked the messages at the back of the Princes Street residence in connection with a domestic dispute in order to scare her husband into thinking she could report him to the police. Ellen, however, could barely write, so it’s hard to believe she would have chalked the messages in two different hands. Beadle cites medical evidence to support his view that Ellen was murdered two days before Bury went to the Dundee police station and not very early in the week, as Macpherson believes. Beadle concludes the book by criticizing the police investigation of Bury for the Ripper murders, arguing that it was unenthusiastic and deficient, and by briefly describing Bury’s trial and execution. This is a wonderful book, filled with many interesting ideas, and is an essential volume for anyone with a serious interest in Bury.