Ever since he terrorized the streets of Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888, the mysterious specter of Jack the Ripper has captured the public imagination.
Yet for all the intrigue and speculation that has long swirled around Britain’s most notorious serial killer, little has ever been revealed about his real appearance.
Now, police researchers have rediscovered a walking stick they say bears the only known facial composition of the man who killed and maimed five women 133 years ago.
The baton had originally been presented to Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline “as a token of esteem” by his team of seven officers upon completion of their investigation into the killing spree.
Etched into its handle is the haggard face of a man, glaring menacingly from under a dark hood.
Police researchers believe the resemblance may have been inspired by the characteristics of a suspect allegedly ‘favorite’ of Mr Abberline: Dr Alexander Pedachenko.
Pedachenko was a Russian anarchist and “crazy” living in London at the time of the murders.
It was named on a placard next to the cane when it was on display at Bramshill Police Staff College until it closed in 2015, by which time the artifact was feared to have been lost.
But recently staff at the College of Policing – which trains officers across the country – discovered it buried in its archives in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire.
Describing the cane as bearing “the only reported facial composition” of Jack the Ripper, the college said it has now been put back on display alongside original news clippings about the murders.
However, the suggestion that the cane bears the killer’s face is controversial among other Ripper historians.
There has been speculation that the cane was actually one of many being sold by fearsome vendors to curious crowds near the murder scenes.
It has also been suggested that the face was based on a mad monk character in one of these sensationalist pamphlets, titled The Curse Upon Miter Square.
Another allegation is that each of the officers who worked on the case was presented with identical walking sticks and that they were purchased “by the peg” rather than specifically engraved by Mr Abberline.
Antony Cash, from the College of Policing, said: “Finding this cane was an exciting moment for us. Jack the Ripper is one of the greatest and most infamous murder cases in our history and his crimes were significant in paving the way for modern policing and forensics as it caused the police to start experimenting and developing new techniques as they attempted to try to solve these homicides, such as crime scene preservation, profiling, and photography.
“This walking stick is such a fascinating artefact representing such a historically significant moment in policing, and it is amazing that we can display it here in Ryton, alongside the original newspaper clippings, for our officers to see firsthand. as we have been very advanced in policing since then.
At least five women were massacred between August and November 1888 in the East End slums, but various experts have stated that other murders may have been committed by the killer at earlier and later dates.
The five women were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.
Mr. Abberline came to the Ripper investigation after spending many years working his way up the ranks of Scotland Yard. He would later become the highest ranking Chief Inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department.
The police made several mistakes in the initial investigation and the detection techniques of the time were basic, with no fingerprints and science unable even to distinguish between animal and human blood.
As a result, there is no conclusive evidence to point to Jack the Ripper’s true identity, and the case remains one of the world’s great unsolved mysteries.
Among a long list of possible suspects are Queen Victoria’s nephew, the Duke of Clarence, who died in an asylum in 1892, and the painter Walter Sickert.