Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - NATHAN BE­VAN Re­porter nathan.be­van@waleson­line.co.uk

W AS Jack The Rip­per from Wales?

There have cer­tainly been plenty of the­o­ries in the past re­gard­ing pos­si­ble lo­cal links to that most no­to­ri­ous of se­rial killers.

There’s even a sug­ges­tion the killer – who mur­dered a num­ber of pros­ti­tutes in the Whitechapel area of East Lon­don in the late 1800s – may have been a for­mer Swansea GP who killed his vic­tims in a crazed at­tempt to cure in­fer­til­ity .

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to one ex­pert, the in­fa­mous fig­ure may have ended up amongst the ranks of a vi­cious gang that ruled the docks area of Barry back in the dy­ing days of the 19th cen­tury.

For­mer mayor turned town coun­cil­lor Nic Hodges spot­ted the pos­si­ble link when he and his wife Shirley were re­search­ing ma­te­rial for the free his­toric walk­ing tours he reg­u­larly holds around the sea­side town.

Span­ning the years 1890 to 1910, he dis­cov­ered, in amongst the tales of pros­ti­tu­tion, stab­bings, il­le­gal drink­ing dens and crim­i­nal groups, a dan­ger­ous crew called The High Rip Gang – so named be­cause of their predilec­tion for slic­ing ri­val vil­lains from ear to ear.

“They came from Liver­pool orig­i­nally, prob­a­bly be­cause the po­lice were start­ing to breathe down their necks,” says Nic.

“So they chose Barry to re­build their crim­i­nal em­pire - an ex­tremely vi­o­lent bunch who’d rip off vis­it­ing sailors, run broth­els and get up to all sorts of no good.”

But it was the lead­ers – George Baker and brother John – who drew Nic’s at­ten­tion.

“They’d grown up in var­i­ous borstals and jails around Mersey­side, but, prior to com­ing here, there were a num­ber of years where they seemed to dis­ap­pear al­to­gether.”

And it was dur­ing this point that a let­ter, dated Oc­to­ber 1888 and al­legedly penned in a mix of red ink and blood, was printed in a num­ber of na­tional news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing The Dundee Courier & Ar­gus in Scot­land.

In it George Baker talks of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a two man reign of ter­ror be­ing con­ducted across Lon­don.

“Two more and never a squeal,” it reads, boast­ing of the body count of dis­em­bow­elled vic­tims. “O, I am a mas­ter of the art.”

It con­tin­ues: “I am go­ing to be heavy on the gilded whores now. Some duchess will cut nicely.

“No ed­u­ca­tion like a butcher’s! No an­i­mal like a nice woman; the fat are the best.”

He goes on the write about mov­ing on from the bright lights of the West End to try ‘hol­i­day­ing’ in Brighton - “Splen­did high class women there - my mouth wa­ters” - be­fore adding that his “pal” will con­tinue ply­ing his own grisly trade “in the East.”

He fin­ishes: “When I get a no­bil­ity womb I will send it on as a keep­sake. Oh, it is jolly!”

Af­ter sign­ing the let­ter, Baker adds that it was writ­ten in “red ink, but with a drop of the real in it”, mean­ing blood.

Mean­while, un­der­neath the words is what the news­pa­per de­scribes as “a rude draw­ing of a sharp pointed knife”.

And, for Hodges, the sig­nif­i­cance of the ref­er­ence to “my pal in the East” is clear.

“George must have been talk­ing about the East End in that part of the let­ter, while the pub­li­ca­tion date – 1888 – is rel­e­vant be­cause that was when the Rip­per be­gan his killing spree,” he says, adding that the mur­ders would end a few years be­fore the Bak­ers ar­rived in South Wales.

“As for ‘my pal’, that prob­a­bly refers to his brother John – and what’s the gen­eral nick­name for John? That’s right, it’s Jack. “I know, spooky isn’t it?” “Ev­ery time we men­tion that bit to peo­ple on the tour they tend to go quiet,” he laughs.

The link is the lat­est con­nec­tion be­tween the Rip­per story and Wales. It’s also been spec­u­lated that his fi­nal vic­tim was from Car­marthen, which this video looks into.

Did Jack the Rip­per cast his shadow over Wales?

Thomp­son Street, Barry – prob­a­bly the first sight George and John Baker of the High Rip Gang saw when they ar­rived in town in 1894

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