The blessed life, and unfortunate death, of Montague J Druitt
Montague John Druitt lived a blessed life.
The son of a surgeon he came from an upper middle class background and studied at Oxford.
From 1880, aged 23, as he looked to establish himself as a barrister, he worked as an assistant schoolmaster at George Valentine’s boarding school at Eliot Place, Blackheath. It was a prestigious establishment having taught the young Benjamin Disraeli.
The long holidays allowed Druitt to pursue another passion at which he excelled – cricket, playing for Blackheath, a club with society connections.
On November 30, 1888, Druitt’s luck ran out. The 31-year-old was dismissed from Eliot Place. Historians have suggested he may have been a homosexual although the exact reasons are not clear.
A month later his body was found in the Thames near Chiswick, his pockets full of stones and an unexpectedly large amount of cash. Within three years he had lost both parents; his mother Ann had succumbed to mental illness and was confined in Brook Asylum in Clapton.
It appears that Druitt feared he, too, would end up in an asylum. According to an inquest report in the Acton, Chiswick and Turnham Green Gazette of Janury 5, 1889 “the Coroner read the letter, which was to this effect: – ‘Since Friday I felt I was going to be like mother, and the best thing for me was to die’.”
This tragedy may have gone unnoticed had his death not coincided with rumours that Jack The Ripper had committed suicide in the Thames at exactly the same time. The killer was described as the “the son of surgeon” by MP Henry Richard Farquharson and soon the picture of the Ripper and the Blackheath schoolmaster began to coincide. He remained the No.1 suspect for many people for a long time.
The evidence was flimsy and circumstantial but it was nearly a century before Druitt dropped down the list of potential suspects.