Jenolan Caves

Did Jack the Ripper Visit Jenolan Caves?

September 17, 2021

It is 133 years since the horrific Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 – cases that have never been solved. We believe that ‘Jack the Ripper’ visited Jenolan Caves in 1892. Let’s examine this mystery.

Everyone has heard of ‘Jack the Ripper’. He was an unidentified serial killer, active in the Whitechapel district of London from 1888 to 1891. Eleven murders involved female prostitutes, whose throats were cut from left to right, and bodies mutilated. Police were unable to solve any of the murders or connect them all to one person. Five victims—Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly— killed mostly in September 1888 are considered the most likely to be linked to one killer. In the investigation, more than 2,000 people were interviewed, around 300 people were investigated, and 80 were detained. There were more than 100 suspects.[i]

Photograph of Frederick DeemingYoung Frederick Bailey Deeming

Frederick Bailey Deeming was briefly suspected.  But it wasn’t until 1892, after he was arrested in Australia, that anyone seriously thought he could be ‘Jack the Ripper’.  Deeming’s story is extremely confusing, because he frequently used aliases, and he travelled the world, never staying in one place for long.

Deeming was born in 1853 in England. He was a difficult child, savagely beaten by his father who ended up dying insane in a workhouse, after 4 attempts to cut his own throat.

When Deeming was a teenager, he found a woman, Min Cooper, dead on the front doorstep of his home. Her throat was cut.  Detective Inspector Charles Marshall, who investigated the murder, observed Deeming was "excited by his grisly find". Deeming was a suspect in the murder and the case was never solved.[ii]

Deeming’s Life of Crime

Soon after, at age 16, he ran away to sea and started a long life of stealing, swindling and murdering. According to an article by Duncan McNab, “Deeming bragged ‘by 18, I had seen more of life than most men ever see. I had killed a man too! It was partly an accident, but it changed my life’.”[iii]

Deeming contracted syphilis from a prostitute, on his travels and had a mental breakdown after his mother died in 1875.[iv]

In England, in 1881, Deeming married Marie James, his childhood sweetheart. They moved to Australia in 1882, where he worked as a gas fitter, seducing housewives and stealing their jewellery. Deeming had an accomplice at this time – Eva Grant – who died after falling from her bedroom window after an altercation with Deeming.  By 1886, Deeming and Marie had 3 daughters.

Deeming spent time in gaol for stealing gas fittings from his employer. In 1887, he was committed for trial, for ‘fraudulent insolvency’, but he skipped bail.

5 ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders

In 1888, Deeming moved to South Africa, sending Marie and the children to England. 

And here is the connection to ‘Jack the Ripper’. It was previously thought that Deeming was in South Africa when the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders were committed.  But Deeming must have made a brief return to England in August/September, to visit his wife and children, because 9 months later, Marie gave birth to Deeming’s 4th child.

So, on this visit, he could have killed some or all of the first 5 ‘Jack the Ripper’ victims. Motive? Deeming had contracted syphilis from a prostitute. There was no cure, and he probably knew what his future held - sickness, shocking sores, repulsive facial disfigurement, eventual blindness and insanity – the worst fate.

A London dressmaker acquaintance of Deeming actually came forward to claim that Deeming was ‘The Ripper’, but Scotland Yard dismissed Deeming as a suspect in 1888.[v]

Deeming the Bigamist

Back in South Africa in 1889, using the alias Harry Lawson, Deeming was involved in a diamond mine swindle. So, in November, he moved back to England.

In Feb 1890, as Lawson, and posing as a wealthy retired Queensland sheep farmer, Deeming married 21-year-old Helen Matheson, bigamously.

But then, Deeming conned a jeweller in Hull, dumped his new bride and quickly left for South America. But he was arrested in Uruguay and returned to an English gaol.

Murder of 2 Wives and 4 Children

drawing of Deeming's 4 childrenIn Aug 1891, after his release, he starting calling himself Albert Williams, and lured his first wife, Marie, to a house he was renting.  He killed her and all 4 of his children, by cutting their throats, from left to right. He buried their bodies under the floor.

Still using the name of Williams, only 5 weeks later, he married Emily Mathers and took her to Australia. But on Christmas eve, he murdered her also, by cutting her throat, from left to right, and burying her beneath the hearthstone of one of the bedrooms of their rental house in Windsor, Victoria.

The Jenolan Connection

A few days later, Deeming contacted a marriage agency, using the alias ‘Duncan’. Then, posing as ‘Baron Swanston’ he left for Sydney.

While in Sydney, in January, he travelled to Bathurst, where he became engaged to a young lady named Kate Rouncefell. In Bathurst, he stayed at the Royal Hotel and was introduced to Kate’s sister, also a Bathurst local, who approved the engagement.

And here is our mystery – the Jenolan connection!  We think it is extremely likely around this time that Deeming went to visit Jenolan Caves! (Even serial killers need to take a holiday sometimes.) And at Jenolan, he was recognised by another visitor!

Many years later, while reminiscing to a journalist, the Jenolan Caves Superintendent, James Wiburd, disclosed that he had showed Deeming through the caves.  The Blue Mountains Echo reported, “Mr. Wiburd tells cheerfully of the inspection of the cave he had with Deeming. He also recalls that it was because the Killer wooed a Bathurst girl that he finally was sent to the gallows. As Jim is a Bathurst native he is proud of the fact.”[vi]

photo of Kate Rounsefell

Kate’s Narrow Escape

photo of Cave Superintendent, James Wiburd

On 3 March, Emily’s body was found. There was massive publicity. The Age newspaper was the first to imply a connection with the Whitechapel murders, writing “From the outset a suspicion of insanity is almost suggested and a tinge of the Whitechapel murders is hinted. The body hacked and mangled, the cool manner in which the cementing was carried out, the taking a house etc, the laborious obliteration of all traces of the crime – all these things suggest the malevolence and craft which can scarcely accompany the sane murderer, no matter how callous and brutal.”[vii]

Next, Deeming left for Western Australia. On the ship he made advances to a young woman named Maude Beech. Fortunately, Deeming’s charms were unsuccessful.  Also, his fiancé’s sister found out about the Windsor murder, and notified Kate just as she was about to  follow Deeming to Perth to get married.

Deeming Caught

Deeming was arrested on 11 March, 1892 in Perth, and extradited to Melbourne. The Charleville Times reported, “So hot was public revulsion that a crowd stormed the Perth to Albany train trying to get hands on him so that they could lynch him before he stood trial. These angry demonstrators would have torn him limb from limb. Evidence at the trial showed that Deeming's fiancee, attractive Kate Rouncefell was indeed fortunate to survive this awful fiend whom she had promised to wed within two weeks.”[viii]

Meanwhile, back in England, investigators searched the house where the Deeming family had lived, discovering the bodies of Marie and the 4 children.

Deeming was tried in the Melbourne Supreme Court in April 1892, pleading insanity. He claimed that his syphilis gave him epileptic seizures and brain disease which caused him to kill.[ix]

The court sent doctors to assess Deeming’s sanity. Accounts of these conversations strengthened the belief that he was ‘Jack the Ripper’.[x]

Newspapers reported that Deeming had been sighted in Whitechapel in 1888, and that he was seen to have purchased knives in the area. While in prison, Deeming told his fellow inmates that he was indeed ‘Jack the Ripper’, but he never confessed to authorities.

Deeming was given a death sentence. He was hung on Monday May 23rd, 1892.

Mystery Solved?

Jenolan Caves has been an unforgettable holiday destination for generations of Aussies from every walk of life. Now we believe we can claim to have entertained a serial killer, although we hope that we don’t get any more of those.

Emily Mather's headstone

We don’t know which of our caves Deeming viewed. But in 1892, it could have been the Nettle, Arch, Lucas, Right Imperial or Left Imperial (now known as the Chifley) or the newly discovered Jersey.

Electric lighting had been set up in both left and right Imperial caves – a massive drawcard for visitors in those days.

Did Deeming stay overnight at Jenolan? Unfortunately, that is still a mystery. Certainly most visitors did back then. Although Bathurst is only 1 hour away by car, in 1892, it would have taken quite a bit longer, by horse or horse-drawn vehicle.  So, we will keep an eye out for clues in future research.

Finally, what else can we take away from this unfortunate tale? Perhaps we can look at the tombstone of Deeming’s murdered wife, Emily Mathers’, which provides the following advice for women:

“To those who hereafter come reflecting
upon this text of her sad ending:
To warn her sex of their intending,
for marrying in haste, is depending
on such a fate, too late for amending”

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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