When I was on the last day of filming for BBC4’s Dark Son back in August, the film’s presenter and top criminologist David Wilson was chatting about the Jack the Ripper documentary he had just made with Emilia Fox.
He was talking about how the programme shed new light on the case. Let’s face it, the Ripper industry of books, conventions and fansites can be tawdry. Many new publications are boring and often exploitative.
However, having read David’s A History of British Serial Killing, I knew this new take on the case would be more sober and have something new to say. David said one new aspect of the BBC1documentary was that they had been allowed to run the case files through the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES).
Five or six victims?
It is generally accepted that during the 1888 reign of horrible murders, someone killed five women in Whitechapel. Hallie Rubenhold’s excellent new book The Five is now challenging the orthodoxy that all the victims were prostitutes.
Along with the Silent Witness actor Emilia Fox, David has been able to use HOLMES as the police would do today, to find patterns in a complex series of crimes. In the film they argue there is strong evidence that there were actually six victims. Martha Tabram is cited here as the first one.
They then consult a geographic profiler with this news. Geo-profiling is another modern technique used to analyse a series of crimes to create a pattern. This pattern can then reveal where a perpetrator lives or works.
New pattern of crimes
This is a subject I became interested in when writing The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper and some of my research ended up in February’s documentary Dark Son.
For this new film, they use the fresh geographic pattern of six victims including Tabram to reveal a possible suspect.
Does this mean it’s case closed for David and Emilia? I doubt it. But when there is so much nonsense and prurience circulating about this sad and tragic series of deaths, it should be intriguing to see a more measured and forensic approach being taken to this elusive case.