In November 2008 the files of Thomas Cutbush were made public at the Reading Records Office.
Whereas these files don't contain any earth shattering revelations that directly linked Thomas Cutbush with the Jack the Ripper killings, they certainly provide an intriguing insight into a man who was evidently a favoured media suspect in the mid 1890's.
Cutbush was named as Jack the Ripper in a series of articles that appeared in The Sun newspaper in February 1894. The articles went in to a great deal of detail about the Whitechapel Murderer, although they didn't actually name Cutbush in those articles.
As a result of those articles Melville Macnaghten composed his Memorandum, which for many years formed the basis for Jack the Ripper research.
In the Memoranda, Macnaghten states emphatically that the Whitechapel Murderer had five victims and five victims only. It is as a result of this statement that we have our so-called canonical five victims - Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly.
Macnaghten also provides a great deal of argument to support the fact that The Sun article was wrong and that Thomas Cutbush was not Jack the Ripper. As a result Cutbush has long been dismissed as a serious contender for the mantle of the Whitechapel Murderer.
Macnaghten does mention the names of three other suspects of which he says that anyone of them was more likely than Cutbush to have been the murderer. These three suspects were:-
Interestingly he is wrong about many things he says about every one of these three men. But as a result of his musings more attention has been paid over the years to these three suspects than has been paid to Thomas Cutbush.
Having faithfully transcribed the Thomas Cutbush files at the record office I would like to present below the information that those files contain. The intention here is not to accuse Thomas Cutbush of being Jack the Ripper, but rather to put on record the known information about him.
The files most certainly disprove one thing that both The Sun article and Macnaghten wrote about Cutbush in the Memoranda.
The Sun article claimed that Cutbush had caught venereal disease from a prostitute and that the resulting delusions were what led him to kill prostitutes. Macnaghten conceded that Cutbush had "...apparently contracted syphilis about 1888 and since at that time he led an idle and useless life. His brain seems to have become affected, and he believed that people were trying to poison him."
However, Cutbush's admission documents and his asylum records make no mention of syphilis or venereal disease. Indeed the records of Criminal Lunatic number X32007, Thomas Cutbush, state that the cause of his insanity was hereditary whilst also mentioning that, according to his aunt, Clara Hayne, the cause was over study.
According to the records he was not suicidal but he was a danger to others.
In his Notes After Admission there is a report dated April 24th 1891 which states that Cutbush was:-
A man of average height and slight build; expression vacant, eye balls protruding. Is restless, and incoherent in conversation. Stated this morning that he had often been drunk though not a "drinker", afterwards that he had never been drunk through drink as he had been a total abstainer for years. That the charges brought against him were absolutely false and that he had no recollection of doing anything to cause such charges to be brought against him. He has more the appearance of an imbecile than any other kind of insane person. States that he feels sulphur rise into his throat from a cavity in the left lung, that he does not taste it or smell it or feel it but "know" that it is so and that in consequence he has tuberculosis. That he suffered from palpitation of the heart some time ago but not lately. States he was at Peckham House Asylum "on a visit" for a few days after he was charged with his crime. He states that there is no insanity in his family although he thinks both his mother and aunt are "bad enough" to want care in the way of being eccentric. Says he has often suffered from fits of uncontrollable temper. His tongue is tremulous...Complains of slight headache this morning which he states is unusual. ”
Another report dated 20th May 1891 told how Cutbush:-
Struck another patient (Gilbert Cooper) suddenly and without cause whilst in the gallery. He states that Cooper caught hold of him at the back of the neck with his fingers. This the attendant. in charge states is quite untrue as he (the attendant.) was talking to Cooper at the time. Will not speak to me or explain the reason for doing so in any way; stated at first that Cooper annoyed him. Is very dull, excitable, uncontrollable and has the appearance of an imbecile.”
On August 24th 1891 it was reported that Cutbush had been:-
...well conducted lately but requires careful supervision. No improvement mentally.”
But by 16th March 1892 Cutbush was said to be:-
Violent and very destructive at times – is generally dull and apathetic and makes no attempt to answer when spoken to. Appears to be an imbecile.”
According to the next report on April 15th 1893 Cutbush was:-
Becoming more and more demented – scarcely ever speaks to anyone with the exception of the principal attendant. Refuses to see any of his relations when visited by them. Bodily health somewhat better – has been taking cod-liver oil for some time.”
By April 22nd 1894 it was reported that he was becoming:-:
Demented, dirty and degraded in habits – Stubborn, unoccupied, and silent. Makes grimaces and attitudinises when addressed – Physical health satisfactory.”
And on 21st March 1895 he was said to be:-
Dirty, destructive, degraded and demented. Health very good.”
However, on 25th July 1896 he was reported as being:-
Rather cleaner in habits”
...Otherwise there is no change in his mental state. Physical health good.”
By 20th March 1898 he had become:
Demented, absurd, and incoherent...”
On August 1st 1902 it was reported that Cutbush:-
Very dirty and gives much trouble. Constantly noisy at night. Demented [and] incoherent.”
He died on 15th July 1903.