Sherlock’s Solution to June's Mystery

Dear detectives,

Thank you for helping us solve June’s Sherlockian mystery. If you’d like to know how Holmes solved “The Return of the Ripper”, a letter from him is presented below. Stay tuned later this week to see who this month’s featured detective is, and be sure to submit your solution to the next mystery, so you can be next.

All the best,

The Dear Holmes Team


November 20, 1895

Dear Inspector Lestrade,

Thank you for contacting me regarding this latest murder in the Whitechapel District.  I had originally believed that I would be able to speak with you in person about the case and its solution. Alas, my time abroad must be extended, and so I send you this letter in hopes that you will share my deductions with the Metropolitan Police and bring about the swift conclusion you have wanted. If you all heed my advice, you can even get some positive press for both the Police and the Yard.

You were quite correct in your observations of Dr. Abbadon. The doctor does not seem to fit the profile of a murderous butcher.  Some obvious questions: Why did Abbadon change his behaviour in October? Why did he have a theatrical makeup kit stored under his bed?  Why did he flee London? The answers are quite simple, and you are correct that the police had twisted their facts to meet their theory of Abbadon being the prime suspect.

To review, Dr. Abbadon was a man who used to frequent brothels and gambling dens. In October, his behaviour swiftly changed. What causes a man to improve his behaviour and almost seemingly change his personality?  Why, a romance of course.

Then, you may ask, if Dr. Abaddon had fallen in love, why did he flee the city? That, my dear friend, is because the woman he became enamoured of needed their relationship to remain a secret.  Although there are some gaps in my narrative, a few inquiries should clear them up.

I believe the story to be that Dr. Abbadon met a woman and they became romantically involved. The problem is that the woman was married to another man. Abbadon may not have known this at first. No matter, the doctor, a lonely fellow, had finally found someone to share his life with, and he did not want to give her up.  Having to be careful of being seen in public with a married woman, the lover took on a disguise. At night she would take on the clothing of a man and meet Abbadon in his flat. No one questioned a gentleman going to see the doctor even at odd hours of the night. It was this mystery woman who was seen with Dr. Abbadon, though she was mistaken as a man to whom the good doctor owed a gambling debt.

The two fell deeply in love, and they decided to run away together.  The makeup kit and wigs were obtained to experiment with different disguises for their escape. The woman could not be granted a divorce without her husband's consent. More than likely her husband would beat her, possibly even kill her if he discovered that she had been unfaithful.  New identities would be an easy solution to this problem.

On the night of the fifth of November, the two lovers decided it was time to leave London. With the haste indicated by Abbadon's room, it is likely the lover's husband was suspicious. The lovers had to leave before it was too late. They used the makeup to change their identities. The woman, fair-haired, used dye to make herself a ginger. The two then shared a celebratory toast. Whether one glass was smashed on purpose as a symbol of the end of their old lives or if the glass were smashed in the excitement of gathering Abbadon's belongings is impossible to know without more information. Just know that they cleaned up the mess and disposed of both glasses to leave no trace behind. Once they had Abbadon's belongings, they disappeared into the night, never to be seen in their true identities again.

Since we have concluded that your main suspect is innocent of the crimes, we must get to the true culprit. For that, we look to Mr. Olson himself.  You asked how the killer could have escaped undetected with Olson's remains? The answer, of course, is because there was no body. For you see Lestrade, Olson was never murdered. Not only that, but you've actually met the man, and if you do not act with haste, he could get away with murder and insurance fraud.

Olson was a poor man who could barely hold down a job due to his excessive drinking. He had enough skills as a carpenter so that he could find work, but the man must have tired of this life and concocted an insurance scheme with his friend Mr. Midlothian.  Midlothian had also fallen from his status in life, and he joined Olson in formulating their plan.

They would fake the death of Olson, collect a large insurance settlement, and then split the profits.  It would give Midlothian the capital to move his funeral business to a better section of the city. Midlothian was obsessed with Jack the Ripper as was indicated from the paper clippings he displayed.  Most likely, it was Midlothian who came up with the idea of faking a Jack the Ripper killing, letting him live out his fantasy of actually being the killer. Perhaps, if given the opportunity, he would have taken up the mantle of the Ripper one day. 

The Chief Inspector did a fine job in having his men look into undertakers in the area. If he hadn't, the two men would have most likely gotten away with their crime.  The plan was simple, really. Olson and Midlothian faked the death of Olson to collect the insurance money. They created the gruesome murder scene using the blood taken from the corpses Midlothian embalmed. The man could easily remove body parts from some of the bodies, especially those who had burials without funerals.  Their caskets would be sealed and no one would know that the body was missing a hand or an ear.

Once the two men had faked Olson's murder, they went into the second part of the plan.  Olson went to Paddington and assumed the identity of his bogus brother.  He believed no one he knew would ever see him in the guise of his brother. To be safe, though, he grew out his hair and put his leg in a fake cast. Had all gone as they expected, he would have waited a few weeks, collected the insurance money, split it with Midlothian and the two would then go their separate ways.  Instead, the police interviewed Midlothian. He became nervous and wrote to Olson telling him he was afraid the police were onto them. Remember the crossed-out note you discovered, I'm sure that was a first draft that he scribbled out.

Olson, fearing that Midlothian would give everything away, went to visit the man that evening and killed him. Olson did not have the skill of the former surgeon which is why the murder looked so different from the previous body parts suspected to be Olson's. Olson added the second letter to keep the police on the scent of the Ripper and since he was supposedly dead, he had no fear of being caught. 

Now, Lestrade, here is what you need to do to catch Olson. You still have some time before Olson will collect his insurance payment. Take Mr. Smith, Olson's former landlord with you to Olson's room in Paddington. Smith will be able to identify his former tenant.  Once Olson is arrested, you can search his premises where you may find the letter Midlothian wrote to him. If that letter is destroyed, which is more than likely, then you can get a handwriting sample from Olson which can be matched to that of the Ripper letters. 

I am glad to be of service to the force in helping you catch this killer. My only regret is that I shall be absent when you arrest him.


Michael Sitver