Ripperology– that pursuit of Jack the Ripper– is largely responsible for setting the tenor of how Cold Case is presented and marketed today. Tom Cullen became the father of modern Ripperology with his 1965 book Autumn of Terror. It ended with his view that Montague Druitt was the Ripper. Ever since then, book after book on Jack the Ripper has presented a suspect or, rather, been based around a suspect. All were dead, of course, by then, long dead in fact so it seemed all right. No one was hurt and some shirt-tail relative even got a little intrigued by the whole idea their great, great uncle or whatever was the notorious slasher of Whitechapel. It got more exotic with Freemason conspiracies and royal family intrigue, etc. Red Jack has become the most Romanticized villain in history.
Every unsolved serial murder mystery since then has had as its cornerstone a number of books in which a dead suspect is the center– A noteworthy example was Robert Graysmith’s first book on Zodiac. He had to use an alias because Leigh Allen, his suspect, was quite alive.
The web has changed things, putting blogs, social media, and persons of interest as close as the keyboard. The case of EAR/ONS– the East Area Rapist– is so intriguing to the armchair crowd that many have lost sight of the fact it is a mixture– it is an old cold case but it is also hot, hotter than any case. Though over 40 years old as a case, its villain is within reach of the living today, unlike the case of the Ripper.
For a dead POI, I resorted to initials in order to present and to potentially glean more information. I suppose I could have used his name. He was dead. But Cold Case, especially this case, is quite different. There is DNA. The circumstances make it certain it is the villain’s DNA.
In short, EAR can be solved, unequivocally solved. Topics such as the Ripper, Zodiac, Black Dahlia, may be replete with named and quite dead persons of interest, but EAR/ONS cannot be. The simple fact is, it is still in reach of solution, and the pathway is easier than the bar that must be surpassed in the other cases. Naming living or dead POIs is pointless– the latter is good only for gathering some information, and that is a thin chance. No book or website can be built around a “name” or list of names because the case is ardently pursued by the official task force, and they will test most any possible suspect.
In essence, the case of the EAR/ONS is a revolving door. POIs come and they go and there is little reason to build up too much of a public thesis around any individual. Crime buffs are seeing an investigation in real time unfold before them. This is good. No book can do this. What is happening now is a virtual walk-through in investigating a cold case. It is one that cannot take form like the others and become an archived narrative. . . unless we fail. Unless EAR slips through this dragnet as well and obtains another 40 years in obscurity.
Then a narrative will arise. Just like the other cases it will become embellished and warped. But not yet. Right now the case remains a revolving door, and it is disturbing to see some buffs insert themselves into the case in real time and try and make it into a suspect driven genre rather than one of accurate chronicling and real time investigation.
It is wholly inane to drumbeat a named person, whether living or dead, and there must be something wrong with someone who will not accept their suspect has been eliminated. A retired colonel has been repeatedly accused and cleared. Another POI was named merely because he resembled a couple of the old sketches, and he was easily cleared by DNA. The champions of the “suspects” still insist they were right. They must be so tempered by the book incarnation of cold case– where all books end on suspicion (though they tout solution) that they don’t realize forensics today can completely eliminate a suspect. This case’s narrative cannot end on the last page with suspicion.
It is more than probable that soon enough children, and close family, will be revealed in a couple of these famous and hitherto unsolved cold cases. The attitude of some buffs regarding their eliminated suspect makes you wonder just what that kind of character will do on the web when a notorious serial predator is revealed to have children. The children of EAR/ONS, or Zodiac, or any such villain, are innocent of all their father did. This must be kept in mind, and the progeny must be allowed to devolve into the background and disappear (unless they wish it otherwise).
Everybody must prepare for a solution, especially to EAR/ONS. A very public solution to a newly famous case, one that is still mounting in recognition, has no precedence. So I think we should all act with restraint and remain focused on what is relevant.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.