Thomas Neill Cream, the Glaswegian-born doctor who many believe was responsible for the Ripper murders, was unanimously ruled out as a suspect last night on the 125th anniversary of the most infamous unsolved serial killings in criminal history.
Two Ripperologists, Donald Rumbelow, who wrote The Complete Jack The Ripper, and Wallace Evans, author of A Biography Of Scotland's Most Notorious Serial Killer, both say Cream could not possibly have been Jack the Ripper.
Speculation has long revolved around Cream, who was convicted in 1892 of murdering four London prostitutes by poisoning them with strychnine.
Some considered he may also have committed the series of grisly Whitechapel murders, one of which, that of Mary Kelly, was so horrifying it led one police chief to note: "A photo was taken, without seeing which it is impossible to imagine the awful mutilation."
The words reputedly uttered by Cream to his hangman on the scaffold led people to believe he might be the Ripper. However, Rumbelow casts doubt on the idea these words were even spoken, since they were never mentioned by the then new Commissioner of the City of London Police, Henry Smith, who was also present.
Rumbelow also claims to have found evidence that Cream was in fact in Illinois State Penitentiary at the time of the murders.
Wallace Evans goes along with the notion that Cream actually uttered the words "I am Jack the ..." but says: "It was the poisoner's futile attempt at having a last laugh."
Evans notes: "All his last words proved were that Cream was an extremely troubled and deluded individual with an obsessive personality."
One thing that remains clear is that Thomas Neill Cream was a brutal serial killer. There is no doubt he was indeed the so-called Lambeth Mystery Poisoner, and guilty of the crimes for which he was executed. These cases caused hysteria in 19th-century London, as did the Jack the Ripper murders.
In 1892, when Cream was hanged, the largest crowd since executions began to take place away from the public view gathered outside the jail.
The mystery of Jack the Ripper continues to fascinate and obsess many and has spawned a whole culture of experts known as Ripperologists. It has also led to countless works of so-called "Ripperature", from Patricia Cornwell's Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper - Case Closed, which proposed that the artist Walter Sickert was responsible, to John Morris's Jack The Ripper: The Hand Of A Woman, which suggests "Jack" may have been female. There was even a film called Jill The Ripper.
Currently there is no frontrunner for prime suspect. Rumbelow's updated version of The Complete Jack The Ripper dismisses many, from the Duke of Clarence, son of King Edward VII and grandson of Queen Victoria, to Sickert, on the grounds of lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary. He notes too: "The suspects' list has grown to over 200 and more are almost certainly in the pipeline."
The true identity of the Ripper, he adds, will remain conjecture, and is quite likely not to be among any of the named suspects.
John Morris, author of Hand Of A Woman, observes: "There is no hard evidence in favour of any Ripper suspect ever proposed - all cases to date have been based on purely circumstantial evidence only, nothing more than that."
In every case where a Ripper suspect has been proposed, he adds: "A psychopathic-type individual from the Victorian era is identified and a case is built around them." In every single case, he notes, the facts never quite fitted. "That, believe it or not, is one of the attractions of the Ripper murders; it's like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't quite fit and we keep trying new pieces to see if they will."
Since most of the original police papers have not been kept, or have disappeared, perhaps taken by past Ripperologists, it seems unlikely we will ever learn the true identity of Jack the Ripper.
However, the theories continue to pile up, and new ways of examining evidence are explored. The case is far from closed.