Row over secret files on 'Ripper'
Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00
Scotland Yard is fighting an extraordinary legal battle to withhold 123-year-old secret files which experts believe could finally provide the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Four thick ledgers compiled by Special Branch officers have been kept under lock and key since the Whitechapel murders in 1888.
Trevor Marriott, a Ripper investigator and former murder squad detective, has spent three years attempting to obtain uncensored versions of the documents.
But he has been repeatedly refused because the ledgers contain the identities of police informants -- and the Metropolitan Police insists that revealing the information could compromise the gathering of information from "supergrasses" and other modern-day informants.
Last week, Mr Marriott took Scotland Yard to a tribunal in a last-ditch attempt to see the journals -- containing 36,000 entries -- which he believes contain evidence that could finally unmask the world's most famous serial killer.
The legal case has cost the British taxpayer thousands of pounds and has even involved a senior Scotland Yard officer giving evidence anonymously from behind a screen.
The ledgers provide details of the police's dealings with thousands of informants from 1888 to 1912, including some who provided information during the original Ripper investigation.
A sample of about 40 pages from the Scotland Yard ledgers was released to last week's tribunal, but with the names of informants and other key details blacked out.
Mr Marriott says the files contain the names of at least four new suspects, as well as other pieces of evidence.
"I believe this to be the very last chance that we may have to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper. To have any possibility of getting near the truth about those horrific crimes we must see what these ledgers contain," he said.
"It may be that within them we will find the final piece of the jigsaw that would unlock this mystery and lead to the identity of the killer, or killers, albeit 123 years too late."
Jack the Ripper slaughtered at least five women between August and November 1888 in the slums of Whitechapel, east London, but experts have claimed other murders may have been committed by the killer.
The police made several mistakes in the inquiry and detection techniques were basic, with science unable even to distinguish between animal and human blood and no fingerprinting.
As a result, there is no conclusive evidence to point to the true identity of Jack the Ripper and the case remains one of the world's great unsolved mysteries.
Among a long list of possible suspects are Queen Victoria's grandson the Duke of Clarence, who died in an asylum in 1892, and the painter Walter Sickert.
Mr Marriott, who joined Bedfordshire Police in 1970 and worked as a detective constable until the mid-1980s, began researching the Jack the Ripper case in 2003. He has published a book on the subject that put forward the name of Carl Feigenbaum, a German merchant executed for the murder of a woman in New York, as a new suspect.
On uncovering references to the ledgers in 2008, Mr Marriott applied to see the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The Metropolitan Police refused and he appealed to the Information Commissioner, who also decided the books should not be revealed.
Now Mr Marriott has undergone the final appeal stage to the Information Tribunal, in which the case is heard by three judges.