PETER and ANN FROST solve the mystery and track down Jack’s final resting place.
Essex is a place of surprises. In a quiet churchyard at Thorpe Le Soken near Harwich we met up with what must be East London’s most notorious inhabitant ever – no less a villain than Jack the Ripper.
The grave is actually marked William Withey Gull. Gull was an Essex boy, born on a barge on the marshes. But this local boy really did make good.He became a doctor. Indeed Gull was the first medical man to identify and name Anorexia Nervosa.
Eventually Gull reached the top of his profession, he was made physician to the king.
Unfortunately for Gull the royal family had a most delicate job for him to do. Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria – and always known as Eddy, got himself into a bit of trouble with a girl.
On one of Prince Eddy’s visits to the more sleazy corners of London he met and had a brief affair with a shop girl named Annie Crook. Annie got pregnant, some even say Eddy married her in a secret ceremony.
The Royal family realised something drastic had to be done. The prime minister turned to Gull. The Royal physician used his influence to have poor Annie Crook locked away in an asylum. She wasn’t insane, but life in an Edwardian mad-house soon made her that way.
That wasn’t the end of the scandal. Four of Annie’s friends knew about the romance with Prince Eddy, They also knew about the baby, and poor Annie’s fate.
They were Mary Kelly, Annie Chapman, Polly Nichols and Elizabeth Stride. And along with poor Annie Crook they needed to be silenced.
You may find those names familiar. They were all murdered by Jack the Ripper – a man all the evidence suggested had real medical knowledge.
It’s up to you whether you believe the widely held theory that Gull and his coachman Netley terrified Whitechapel as they silenced the witnesses and created for posterity the demented character of Jack the Ripper to cover their real motive.
Today it seems somebody does, and they still feel strongly enough about it to have methodically smashed the gravestone of William Withey Gull in the quiet Essex churchyard at Thorpe Le Soken.
This is part of an series of articles on graves that appeared in various Times Warner magazines.