Melville Macnaghten was born in 1853, the son of the last chairman of the British East India Company. He received his education at Eton, and left school in 1872 to travel to India
on behalf of his father to manage the tea business in Bengal. In 1878 he married Dora Emily Sanderson, with whom he had 4 children. In 1881 Indian land rioters assaulted him, which brought him into contact with a man with whom he would later become close friends, District Inspector General of the Police in Bengal James Monro
. In 1888 he returned to England
to stay, and was offered the post of Chief Constable (CID) by Monro, the Assisstant Commissioner (Crime) at the time. However, Charles Warren
, the Commissioner of Police, opposed the appointment, ostensibly because of Macnaghten's assault at the hands of the land rioters in India, but more likely because he didn't like Monro. On November 9th, however, Warren unexpectedly resigned, and Monro became Commissioner. In June of 1889 Macnaghten was appointed Assistant Chief Constable, and then promoted to Chief Constable in 1890 due to the sudden death of the previous Chief Constable.
In 1900 Macnaghten was involved in the Belpar Committee, which recommended fingerprints be used to aid in the hunt for criminals. In 1903 he was promoted to Assistant Commissioner (Crime). During this time he was involved in several well-known cases, including that of the infamous Dr. Hawley Crippen, who had murdered his wife, and the Stratton brothers, who were the first to be convicted largely on the basis of fingerprint evidence.
He was knighted in 1907, and in 1912 appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath. A year before, in 1911, he began to experience health problems. In 1913 he was awarded the King's Police Medal. That same year he was forced by his poor health to retire from policing. He published a memoir, Days of My Years
, the next year, and dedicated the next ten years of his life to translating Horace's Ars Poetica
from Latin into English verse.
He died on May 12th, 1921.
Major Story Arcs
Jack the Ripper
Macnaghten was not involved in the Jack the Ripper
case during the actual time of the killings, between August and November of 1888, but was very interested in the case. In 1894 he produced the Macnaghten memorandum, a secret memorandum in which he outlined the three suspects who he believed were most likely to have committed the murders. His favourite suspect was Montague John Druitt
, who he incorrectly identified in the memorandum as a 41-year-old doctor. There is no other contemporary police suspicion of Druitt, and many believe he was suggested only because he had committed suicide around the end of the murders. Macnaghten also made references in his memoir that suggested Druitt was the culprit.
He also suspected Aaron Kosminski, a Polish
Jew who was committed to an asylum in 1891. There was no contemporary evidence against Kosminski ever, and it has been suggested that Kosminski was suggested more because of anti-semitism than because he was likely the culprit. His final suspect was Michael Ostrog, a Russian
con-man and sneak thief. Again, there was little evidence, and indeed some evidence suggests that Ostrog may have been imprisoned in France
during the Ripper murders.
Macnaghten's statements in the memorandum, his memoir and in the contemporary press suggest that he believed that he knew the identity of the Ripper at the time, and also that the Ripper had committed suicide shortly after the November 9th murder of Mary Kelly