Newspaper front-page from during the Ripper's 'autumn of terror' in 1888.
Newspaper front-page from the Ripper\'s \'autumn of terror\' in 1888. Jack\'s original nickname was \'Leather Apron.\'

Queen Victoria's grandson the Duke of Clarence; Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland; a Native American called Black Elk who toured with a circus. These are just three of the hundreds of suspects identified as Jack the Ripper since the grisly murders in Whitechapel, east London, in 1888.

Yet for one investigator the cottage industry of amateur sleuths dedicated to unmasking the man (or in some cases woman) behind the notorious slayings is missing the point.

Jack the Ripper never existed, he was created by a drunken hack desperate for a stories, says Trevor Marriott, a former murder squad detective who has spent the last 11 years re-examining the evidence of the murders attributed to the Ripper.

"The facts of this case have been totally distorted over the years," Marriott told the Sunday Express.

"The general public have been completely misled by any number of authors and publishers."

Marriott has painstakingly uncovered every murder that shows similarities with the Ripper killings committed in London, and even a number committed in Germany and the USA, between 1863 and 1894. Marriott believes that some of these killings were committed by a German seaman called Carl Feigenbaum, who was a crew member on ships that regularly docked near Whitechapel.

Feigenbaum died in the electric chair in New York in 1894 having been caught by police fleeing a ripper-style slaying.

But many of the murders would have been forgotten, were it not for a journalist called Thomas Bulling who worked on the crime beat for the Central News Agency in London, and was eager to generate sensation around unsolved killings.

"The reality is there was just a series of unsolved murders and they would have sunk into oblivion many years ago, but for a reporter called Thomas Bulling," said Marriott.

"Police got a letter that Bulling had written about the murders, which he signed 'Jack the Ripper'.

"It was the most ingenious piece of journalism that has kept this mystery alive for 125 years. Even now any modern-day serial killer is called a 'Ripper'.

Marriott said that evidence suggested two of the Ripper's alleged victims may have been killed by someone else, and that Feigenbaum could have been responsible for the others.

He described how the Jack the Ripper story has distorted and taken on a life of its own.

"You have to ask yourself if 'Jack' is an urban myth. Around 80% of the books about him have a picture of a chap on the front stalking the streets of London in a long black cape and a top hat.

"They were the clothes of an upper class, wealthy man. But back in 1888 if someone dressed like that had actually walked around Whitechapel in the dead of night they wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

"It wasn't just one of the most crime-riddled areas of London, it was one of the worst areas in the country. It's a false image that has been created by the likes of Hollywood film-makers.

"New facts have come to light, we've now disproved the claim that the killer removed organs from the victims at the scenes of the murders, the organs were removed later once they were in a mortuary.

"There just isn't a Jack The Ripper."

On the 125th anniversary of the Ripper's 'autumn of terror' Marriott is midway through a 36-date theatre tour of the UK with his show "Jack The Ripper A 21st Century Investigation", in which he reveals how modern detection techniques and forensics have enabled him to shed new light on the killings.