Montague John Druitt was born in Dorset in 1857, the second son of a doctor. He attended Winchester College, receiving a scholarship when he was 13. He was an excellent athlete, being especially fond of cricket. He was a member of the debating team at the school. By the end of his time at school he was heavily involved in school life as Prefect of the Chapel and treasurer of the debating society, and in athletic life as opening bowler of the school cricket team. In 1876 he was given a scholarship to attend New College, Oxford.
His life at New College was much the same as at Winchester; he was popular with his peers and heavily involved in academic and athletic life, playing for the cricket and rugby teams, as well as winning at double and single fives. He graduated from Oxford in 1880. That same year he became assistant schoolmaster at a Blackheath boys' school, both to supplement his income and to help pay for the fees of legal training. Two years later he was accepted to the Inner Temple, an association of barristers, and paid the fees with a £500 legacy provided by his father. On April 29th, 1885 he was called to the bar. That same year his father passed away, leaving his son very little money and only a few possessions. His son was still able to get on with his practice, establishing himself as a barrister and, by 1886, as a special pleader. It is unclear if Druitt was able to support himself in the practice, as many barristers in the Victorian Era could not. In July of 1888 his mother was committed to an asylum due to depression.
On November 30th, 1888 he was dismissed from his position at the school for reasons that were unknown at the time and remain unknown. Speculation is that he was dismissed for homosexual tendencies that may have led him to molest some of the boys at the school, but there is no corroborating evidence for this. By the beginning of December he had vanished, with his cricket club believing he had perhaps gone abroad. On December 31st his decomposing body was found floating in the River Thames near Chiswick by a waterman named Henry Winslade. Four large stones that had weighed his body down were found in each of his pockets, along with checks worth quite a lot of money, an unused train ticket and several other personal accoutrements. The reason for his suicide is unknown, but was suggested to be because of the supposed pederasty that had gotten him fired from the school, or perhaps a simple genetic predisposition to psychological illness.
Druitt was the subject of speculation, and was considered by several contemporary sources to have been Jack the Ripper
, the notorious prostitute murderer who had stalked Whitechapel
since August, and has since been the subject of modern speculation. Proponents of the theory included George R. Sims and, most notably Melville Macnaghten
. In a memorandum written in 1894 Macnaghten identified Druitt as his top suspect for the murders. However, a number of points raised in the memorandum are false, and the rest have been argued to be based on unfounded and circumstantial evidence. For instance, Macnaghten identified Druitt as a 41-year-old doctor, while Druitt was 31 at the time of his death, and a barrister. As well, Druitt was away for a number of the murders, and he was not from Whitechapel, nor did he work there, though his office was near the East End. As well, the movements of the killer on the night of the double event suggest that he was heading northeast into Whitechapel, while Druitt, even if he was heading to his office, would have headed southwest.
Druitt was mostly suspected because of the coincidental timing of his suicide, which probably took place sometime between the 1st and 4th of December, a little under a month after the last of the murders, and the fact that rumors were circulating in London
that the Ripper had committed suicide or otherwise drowned in the Thames. There is no real evidence against Druitt.
In Other Media
Druitt appeared in Alan Moore's From Hell
, where he was presented as an innocent scapegoat of the Freemasons
, used to cast suspicion away from the real killer, Sir William Gull
. This interpretation held with the idea that he was dismissed from the school for homosexual molestation, however it presents the novel idea that these accusations were untrue and formulated by the Masonic plot. He also appeared in Blood of the Innocent
He was presented as the killer in the 1974 musical Jack the Ripper
, the television series Sanctuary
, and also in the Sherlock Holmes
novel The Revenge of Moriarty