Michael Maybrick photographed in 1907 Photo: Courtesy of Fourth Estate
After 15 years of research, the director of Withnail and I believes he has cracked the most enduring mystery in British criminal history
“…the man in charge of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren.
Jack the Ripper was not, as popular mythology would have it, a fiend or a criminal genius. ‘He was a psychopath shielded by servants of the Victorian state.’ More specifically, shielded by the fraternal bonds of Freemasonry. As much as it is about uncovering the identity of the Ripper, They All Love Jack is a scalding critique of the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment in Victorian England, and the role played in it by Freemasonry. ‘It was endemic in the way England ran itself,’ Robinson says. ‘At the time of Jack the Ripper, there were something like 360 Tory MPs, 330 of which I can identify as Masons. The whole of the ruling class was Masonic, from the heir to the throne [Edward, Prince of Wales] down. It was part of being in the club.’
Warren was an important cog in the Masonic wheel. He was a founder member of the Quatuor Coronati lodge, and an authority on Freemasonic history and ritual. As a young man he led an expedition to the Holy Land in 1867, where he excavated under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But not only was Warren a Freemason. So too was Jack the Ripper.
Robinson’s theory, argued with a forensic attention to detail, is that all of the killings bore the unmistakable stamp of being perversions of Freemasonic ritual: the symbol of a pair of compasses, ‘the trademark of Freemasonry’, carved into the face of Catherine Eddowes; removal of meal buttons and coins from the bodies of Eddowes and Annie Chapman – ‘The removal of metal is axiomatic in Masonic ritual,’ Robinson writes, money being ‘an emblem of vice’… all of these things and more were not feverish acts of madness but carefully laid clues, the Ripper’s calling card, in what he called his ‘funny little game’ – a gruesome paperchase designed to taunt the authorities, and Charles Warren in particular. The cryptic graffiti in Goulston Street was ‘the most flagrant clue of all.’
As a Masonic scholar, Warren would have been ‘better acquainted with the story of the Three Ruffians than any other man on earth’; he would certainly have recognised that the word ‘Juwes’ was not a misspelling of ‘Jews’, but a pun on Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum. The graffiti was not anti-Semitic, but a message from the killer to Charles Warren that the Ripper was a brother Freemason.
Warren knew what Jack the Ripper was – ‘I’m 1,000 per cent certain of that,’ Robinson says – if not who he was. And others knew it too – the information shared on a ‘need-to-know basis’. The man that Warren appointed to be his ‘eyes and ears’ on the case, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, was also a Freemason. So were at least two of the coroners, Wynne Baxter and Henry Crawford, who ruled on the murders; and at least three of the police doctors who examined the bodies.
Robinson is not the first person to go down the Freemasonry road. In 1976, in his book Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution, Stephen Knight advanced the theory that Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence, an eminent Freemason, was the Ripper. Masonic historians were among the first to shoot the theory down. And Robinson agrees. Albert was a buffoon and a degenerate but he was not the Ripper. But in throwing out Albert, Robinson maintains, what he calls ‘Freemasology’ was also attempting to ‘inoculate’ against any further attempt to propose a Freemason as the Ripper – ‘the Masonic baby duly disappearing with the royal bathwater’. But the fact that the Duke of Clarence wasn’t the Ripper, doesn’t mean the Ripper wasn’t a Freemason. ‘He was,’ Robinson says.
Michael Maybrick, Robinson’s ‘candidate’ Photo: Courtesy of Fourth Estate
Michael Maybrick was a hugely popular singer and composer in the Victorian era, who is virtually forgotten today – for reasons that Robinson believes are no accident. He was particularly well known for his sentimental seafaring songs, written under the pen name Stephen Adams, among them Nancy Lee, the sheet music of which sold more than 100,000 copies in two years, and – ironically – They All Love Jack, which was written in 1887, the year before the Ripper killings began. His composition The Holy City sold more than one million copies, making it the best-selling song of the 19th century. Both Vera Lynn and Charlotte Church have recorded versions of the song.
Maybrick was close friends with Sir Arthur Sullivan and the painter Frederick Leighton, among many other prominent public figures. Both Sullivan and Leighton were Freemasons, as was Michael Maybrick. He was a member of no fewer than six Masonic lodges or chapters, and was on the Supreme Grand Council of Freemasons, whose members also included the Prince of Wales. He and Charles Warren were in different lodges, but both were members of the Savage Club. Robinson is ‘100 per cent sure’ they would have met.