Francis J Tumblety

Frank Tumblety was born around 1833, possibly in Canada, but the first documented information appears in the 1840s in Rochester (then the family is called Tumilty?).

In autumn 1857 Tumblety moved to Montreal. He was later charged with attempting to procure an abortion (for a prostitute). He escaped a trial after a grand jury verdict of   'no true bill' and returned to Toronto. Earlier, papers (in both Toronto and Montreal) had reported rumours of Tumblety being an abortionist. Further brushes with the law were common: in St John in 1860 he had to flee after one of his patients - James Portmore - died and an inquest returned a 'manslaughter' verdict; in Carondelet, Missouri he was arrested, but released after a couple of days; Tumblety was arrested in 1865 in St Louis for complicity in the Lincoln assassination, though released, again after two days. He was known as an 'Indian' or 'Herb' doctor.

In 1874 Tumblety began a relationship with author Henry Hall Caine, after having arrived in Liverpool. By 1875, in financial trouble, he left Liverpool for London, staying in the West End. Caine visited often, though ultimately settled in the Isle of Wight. By 1876, Tumblety was back in St Louis, USA (Caine stayed in England).

Around June 1888 he arrived in Liverpool (connections with Liverpool and America continuously drop in and out of Ripper stories) from the USA. He had been to England previously, staying in London hotels; around this time he took lodgings at 22 Batty Street. He is thought to have had genuine Irish sympathies, and to be involved in unusual sexual activities.

In December 1888 a St John/Ottawa man H.M. Smith, visiting London, wrote to a friend back in Canada "Do you recollect Dr Tumblety who came to St John about 1860... do you recollect that it was asserted that he killed Old Podmore, the carpenter... He is the man who was arrested in London 3 weeks ago as the Whitechapel Murderer. He had been living in Birmingham and used to come up to London on Saturday nights... He now spells his name 'Twomblety'. I believe his original name was Mike Sullivan."

Upon his death in 1903 (aged 70?) the New York Herald of 26 June in his obituary printed "After a life which included in its multitude of exciting incidents an arrest on suspician that he was London's Jack the Ripper and another arrest on a charge that he was implicated in a plot to infect the north with yellow fever during the Civil War, Dr Tumblety died several months ago in St John's Hospital, St Louis. ... In 1888 he went to England. This was the period of the Whitechapel murders, and for some reason, probably because of his outspoken hatred of women, he was arrested. He was admitted to bail and later came to this country, followed by Scotland Yard men."

Among his possessions, at his death, were a pair of cheap imitation rings. Tumblety left money to a number of relatives in various places - including Liverpool (to the daughter of his sister). The St Louis Post Despatch reported his death under the name "Dr Francis Tumbleton" and his cemetery memorial has yet another name spelling - "Tumuelty".

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Last updated 24/12/99