Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jack the Ripper: The Leicester connection

Last week Love and Liberty had a post pouring gentle scorn on the 1979 film Murder by Decree, in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson investigate the Jack the Ripper murders.

It happens that I saw this film on television shortly after it was released and was immensely impressed by it. I can still recall the sinister closed coach thundering over the cobbles. It also happens that I have had a DVD of the film for some time but never got round to watching it.

Piqued by Love and Liberty I sat down to watch it... and I have to report that Alex is right. It is not a very good film.

But there was another reason I watched Murder by Decree on Saturday. Earlier that day, at The Bookshop in Kibworth, I bought a copy of Paranormal Leicester by Stephen Butt, which contains a chapter on the Leicester medium Robert James Lees. And Lees appears as a character in Murder by Decree, played by Donald Sutherland.

The film is based on the theories put forward in Stephen Knight's 1978 book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, which fingered "Eddy" - Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the future Edward VII - as the perpetrator of the murders.

It also made much of the role of Lees, who really did go to the police offering his assistance in the investigation. This much appears to be fact - Lees reported his unsuccessful attempt to get the police to take him seriously in his diary - but there is no evidence for the idea that he had a vision telling him who the murderer was.

Lees seems to have become caught up in the more fanciful theories around the Ripper murders because one of the murderer's letters was thought to read:
"You have not caught me yet you see, with all your cunning, with all your 'Lees', with all your 'Blue Bottles'."
But it seems that the letter really reads, not 'Lees', but 'Tecs' - short for detectives. Robert James Lees was not involved with the police investigation at all.

Still, the chapter in Paranormal Leicester is fascinating, and back in the 1980s Butt interviewed an old man who had been cured by Lees as a little boy:
There was no doubt that he was an holy man, but I was always in terror of him. As far as I remember he had grey eyes that penetrated through you."
Butt also recalls a vanished Leicester shop called Curiotique where many of Lees's papers could be bought as recently as the 1980s.

For those who wish to know more, there is a website devoted to the life and work of Robert James Lees.

1 comment:

Dorothy A. said...

Ah this would interest me so much! I enjoy reading about Jack the Ripper so would love this article. Hope you post more article