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The Listowel Ripper

: Jack the Ripper in Canada

In May of 1895, in the yard of the Stratford Jailhouse, 63 year old Aleme Chattelle was "hung by the neck until dead" as proclaimed in the sentencing given by the court that had found him guilty. Thus fulfilling the wishes of the court and most of the citizens of the little town of Listowel.

Chattelle had been accused, tried and convicted of a horrendous crime, one that had shocked the entire community and Province. The murder and mutilation of a thirteen-year-old girl named Jessie Keith.

Just after noon on October 19 1894, Jessie’s father William and a railroad worker named Stanton found her nude mutilated body in the woods near her home.

She had been sent into town earlier that morning to retrieve the mail and to pick up groceries for her parents. She had been seen walking into town by Stanton and two boys who had gone hunting.

Later Stanton had returned along the tracks and found the mail and groceries scattered about. It looked like a struggle of some kind had taken place.

Stanton had picked up the mail and immediately went to the Keith farm to see if Jessie had returned home.

When her father William replied that she had not, Stanton volunteered to take Keith to the spot he had found the mail and to help search for her.

At the place on the tracks where Stanton had found the mail and groceries, they noticed blood and tracks leading away from the railroad. They followed the tracks across a plowed field and into the woods and there found the body of Jessie hidden under a hastily arranged pile of leaves and moss.

Her throat had been cut and she had been cut in the abdomen from top to bottom and from side to side. Later examination by a physician found that her sex organs and part of her bladder were missing. Around her neck was a white petticoat that was not part of her clothing. The size appeared to be much too big for the little girl.

Police were called and an intensive search was conducted. The investigating police officer determined from the blood at the railroad tracks that this was where the attack had first taken place.

They also found an area just inside the woods where it was determined that the actually killing took place and that later the body was moved further into the woods and buried.

The search of the area found a necktie owned by the victim and a sapling whose leaves appeared to have been used to wipe the blood from the hands of the attacker.

The searchers also found a place in the woods where it appeared the attacker had washed his hands in a small pool of water, as there was blood in the water and also some fatty tissue. In this immediate area they found the girls clothing less her hat, boots and garters. The items looked as though the offender had removed them after death as they were soiled with blood but not ripped or torn. There was also a piece of human flesh found at this site.

The police eventually located the two boys and took their statements and a description of a stranger that they had seen earlier that day just before the crime.

The two boys named Laird and Attwood claimed that while they were walking alongside the tracks they came across a stranger whom they talked to. They described the man as being stout, stooped over in posture and over 5’ 6" in height. He sported a couple of day’s growth of beard and carried a black valise approximately 18" long. He also wore a Tam’o’Shanter hat.

They claimed that he was gruff in nature and was "a hard looking case".

While questioning the owners of the local farms the police came across one of the Keith’s neighbors who said they gave a hand out of food to a man fitting the same description that boys had given, around the time of the murder. The witness stated that he appeared to be French and was not carrying a black valise when they saw him.

The police deduced from the information on hand that they were looking for a tramp or transient person and issued a plea to all local officials to be on the look out for such.

The Listowel police shortly arrested two vagrant men and took them in for questioning.

The first a man of Irish descent claimed to have been working on a farm at the time of the murder and after checking with the farmer and finding that his alibi was sound they released this man.

The other man named George McKay also claimed to have been working on a farm but could not remember where it was. He was described by police as being dull and slow and appeared to be stupid. Not being able to confirm his alibi he was held in the Listowel jail for further investigation.

It was shortly after the detention of these two men that the black valise was found. It contained the victim’s shoes covered in blood and a pair of men’s blood caked coveralls.

On Tuesday the 23 of October, forty-five miles from Listowel just outside the town of Erin. A man was seen walking towards the village of Cataract by Erin Constable William H. Travis.

Constable Travis noticed the man throwing a package to the side of the road as he approached to question him.

Not being sure of his legal position as to jurisdiction and authority, Constable Travis asked the man to accompany him to Erin for questioning. The man complained but did so reluctantly.

During the journey Constable Travis noticed that the man continuously handled a pocketknife and tried several times to place himself in a position of advantage behind or to the side the constable. He kept careful vigil and eventual delivered his prisoner to the police office in Erin.

The man was questioned and said his name was Aleme Chattelle of St. Hyacinthe Quebec.

He claimed to have traveled extensively, circumventing the world several times. He said that he had been a lumberman, a gold miner in British Columbia and had met Jessie James while in Texas.

He claimed to know nothing of the murder in Listowel but admitted to having traveled through there recently.

While Chattelle was being questioned Constable Travis had returned to the place that he had seen him throw something onto the side of the road and retrieved a package that contained several items of female underwear.

The police officers felt that they had enough evidence and he was transported to the jail in Stratford to be charged

While en-route to Stratford the police officers stopped in Listowel and showed the suspect to their witnesses. All the witnesses said they did not know him save one, and he hesitantly said he recognized him.

At the jailhouse Chattelle was stripped and searched. Here it was found that Chattelle was wearing women’s underwear, a rather unusual thing in 1894. Also found on his person was a receipt for a pair of men’s overalls bought in the village of St. Mary’s.

He was officially charged at this time with the murder of Jessie Keith.

Police had found during their investigation that the black valise carried by the stranger seen by the witnesses, had been stolen from a house in a small village by the name of Alisa Craig.

The owner of the house had recognized the clothing as hers and the petticoat that had been found around the neck of Jessie Keith. She said that she knew the petticoat because she had made it herself. The Tam’O’Shanter hat was also one the stolen items.

When questioned about the valise, Chattelle admitted to having broken into the house and stolen the bag and the clothes. He still maintained that he had no knowledge of the murder what so ever.

With Chattelle officially charged, McKay was released but only after he demanded and received his breakfast and a note stating that he was not wanted by the police in connection with the death of Jessie Keith. It was later found that McKay was an escapee from a lunatic asylum, he was though eventually recaptured and returned to it.

At the Coroners Inquest into the death of Jessie Keith the police brought forward all the witnesses that had at first said they did not know Chattelle. They had now changed their stories and all recognized him as the man they saw.

The police also entered into evidence that they had found dried blood on the pocketknife carried by Chattelle.

The doctor who performed the autopsy claimed that the killer had been a left-handed male and it was shown that Chattelle was left-handed.

After hearing all the evidence presented the Coroner asked Chattelle if he was guilty or not guilty of the murder. Chattelle responded by saying guilty.

While returning from the Inquest held in Listowel a reporter was allowed to sit beside Chattelle and question him.

When asked if he killed Jessie Keith Chattelle said yes.

When asked what he had done with the parts that were removed he said he buried them in a field near by.

When asked why he had removed the clothing of the little girl he answered he did not know why.

The trial began on March 27 1895 and was held in the courthouse in Listowel.

Chattelle represented himself, even though his brother had supplied a lawyer. He pled "Not Guilty".

The police presented the same evidence and witnesses as they did during the Inquest and Chattelle did not do a very competent job of cross-examining them.

The jury took only ten minutes to decide his fate and the judge pronounced the sentence of death on him.

Aleme Chattelle went to the gallows vehemently denying any involvement in the murder.

What is the evidence against Aleme Chattelle?

  • He was seen near the village of Listowel in the area around the Keith farm and openly admits this.
  • He admits to having been in the village of Alisa Craig and having stolen a valise and clothing from a house in that village.
  • Chattelle is seen disposing of a package containing clothing stolen from Alisa Craig.
  • A petticoat from the stolen items was found around the neck of the victim.
  • A receipt for a pair of coveralls bought in St. Mary’s is found upon his person and he admits to buying them but not from the witness at the trial who identified him.
  • Two boys walking along the railroad tracks near the Keith farm see him and he admits this as well.
  • A black valise is found containing the shoes of the victim and a pair of bloody coveralls.

Besides his plea of Guilty at the coroners Inquest this is the some total of the evidence.

No one saw him with the girl. No one saw him wearing bloody coveralls. No one saw him running from the scene.

There is only circumstantial evidence that he is connected with this case.

Why would he dispose of the valise and still carry a package of women’s clothing that connected him to a crime?

The answer to this comes in the fact that he was found wearing women’s underwear when he was stripped at the jailhouse. He did in fact have a fetish for wearing these items.

This is not a totally unheard of thing now days but in the late 1800’s this would have been considered to be not only offensive but also devious in nature. People who cross-dressed would have been considered mentally ill, as were homosexuals until the late 1950’s.

Having a penchant for wearing lingerie is not usually a criterion for violent crime. It at best shows either a confusion of gender identity or a simple liking for the feel of the fabric type, which was not available to men at this time. Chattelle may also have felt some sexual pleasure by wearing this type of apparel.

The reason he abandoned the valise is unknown but we do know that he could bear to part with the valise but not the women’s clothing.

The fact that the shoes and the bloody coveralls were found in the valise shows that the killer had wished to take a trophy (the shoes) and to hide the evidence (the bloody coveralls).

The shoes would have great meaning to the killer that is why he took them in the first place. If Chattelle had been the killer and had taken the shoes as a trophy then why would he abandon them? Why not take them along with the women’s clothing?

Information is not available as to where and how the valise was found; this would have been very useful data to formulate a direction that the suspect had traveled from the scene of the crime.

So we know that Chattelle was a cross-dresser, a thief and from his fantastic tales of his travels a liar, but was he a murderer?

His own description of how the murder went down is over simplified, as told in his newspaper confessions.

"She resisted me on the track, and was too strong for me, and after a struggle I hit her on the head with a stone rendering her insensible. I then half carried, half supported her across the field to the bush, where I cut her throat and then inflicted the other wounds."

And in another statement to Detective Murray;

"I grabbed her around the waist and carried her to the woods...She screamed and dug her heels into the ground, so I tied a white skirt around her neck. She still struggled, so I took out my knife and I cut her across this way and then down this way, and I threw away the parts of her I did not wish, and the parts I liked I treated considerately, and later buried them under a tree. I was not unkind to the parts I liked ... I do not think I was right just then, although I was all right before it, and I am all right now, and I remember all that I did ... I am very sorry".

These statements are contradictory and contain elements that are quite unlikely to have happened.

In one statement he says that he, "half carried, half supported her across the field". In the other he states, "I grabbed her around the waist and carried her to the woods."

He then says, "She screamed and dug her heels into the ground, so I tied a white skirt around her neck." If she was putting up such a fight when did he have time to get the petticoat out of the valise? Wouldn’t she have tried to run away as soon as he let her go?

It is this writers opinion that the petticoat was not meant to strangle the girl. It is my feeling that the petticoat was placed either over the mouth to stifle the screams or cover the eyes so she would not be able to recognize her assailant. Some time during the course of events the skirt fell down around her neck and remained there.

Next Chattelle states, "She still struggled, so I took out my knife and I cut her across this way and then down this way." Now this is very strange for the girls clothing had been found in soiled but good condition showing no signs of having been cut or torn. This means she was already dead when the clothes were removed before the cuts to the abdomen were made.

These newspaper confessions bear all the earmarks of a man who had been fed only the basic information and left to fill in the blanks on his own.

If Chattelle was the killer he would have known in which order the crime had occurred. I have read and heard enough confessions in my time to know that a man can either admit to the crime telling every little detail he can remember or fully deny it and never gives any details. The only people I have seen confess to the crime and not be able to get the details straight were innocent men trying to get credit for the crime or innocent men who had been forced to confess.

Any good detective will tell you that obtaining a confession is an art. You use hunger, exhaustion and mental confusion to your advantage and break the man down bit by bit. You add in the element of the occasional beating to bring fear into play and you can make any one confess to anything. I only have to cite the Holy Inquesion as my example for this fact.

This was 1895 and there were no civil rights acts or advocate parties to protect the innocent, the legal system had full jurisdiction to obtain a confession under any means.

Chattelle may have been questioned, threatened and maybe even beaten until he confessed. He either learned the basic details from the questions he was being asked or was told the basic story and then left to his own devices.

At the trial Chattelle represented himself even though a lawyer had been provided for him. He may never have been aware that he could use this man in his defense, as the lawyer never spoke to him prior to the trial.

During the trial proceedings, a witness stated that the tramp she had seen "seemed" to have been heading toward Listowel, but then turned in another direction as though "the proximity of the town frightened the stranger". This statement should have been inadmissible, as the use of the word "seemed" implies that the witness is guessing as to the actions of the suspect. Also the statement, "as though "the proximity of the town frightened the stranger"" is hearsay and also inadmissible.


Aleme Chattelle should not have been convicted for this crime for he can not be placed with the victim at any time and his confession is wrong in the details of the crime and it was not given willingly.

The only thing that Aleme Chattelle can be convicted of is breaking into a house and stealing a valise and women’s clothing and wearing said clothing.

Originally none of the witnesses against him could identify him certainly. It was only after the newspapers had printed details of the crime and the evidence against Chattelle that they changed their stories and were certain of their identifications.

The fact that Chattelle have been seen at one time carrying the valise is true but one witness who saw him around the time of the crime did not see the bag with him.

The fact that there was dried blood on his pocketknife meant nothing. As a vagrant it was probably his own eating utensil and at some time or other he would have used it to cut raw meat before cooking it.

Chattelle was arrested 3 days after the crime only 45 miles away. If he had traveled the rail lines he could have been across the border into the United States or out of the Province of Ontario by the time they caught him. Why did he not jump onto a freight train and leave the area?

Chattelle was not acting like a man who was trying to run away. He was acting like a man who had nothing to hide except his women’s underwear.

If Chattelle did not kill Jessie Keith then who did?

There are other suspects that should have been looked into like Stanton and McKay.

Stanton saw the girl walk into town and later found the mail and the groceries. He then went to the Keith farm and inquired as to the whereabouts of Jessie. He then took William Keith back to the site and helps find the body.

History has shown that the killer often returns to the scene of the crime and actually helps in the search for the victim in an attempt to throw the police off from his actions. Was this the case with Stanton? I have no idea, as I have no information as to whether the police investigated him at all.

As for McKay, he had every reason in the world to lie to police. He was already running from them.

His alibi could not be confirmed and his action of demanding his breakfast before being released is unusual and suspicious. Some may say that this is proof of his insanity but I think he showed that he had his wits about him and was very sly. With his breakfast he also demanded a note from the police saying he was not involved with the murder. This shows a very keen knowledge and appreciation of what was going on around him. He had already anticipated the need for such a note to leave the area quickly. McKay was not as crazy as he looked or acted.

Many times during the proceedings and investigation there was suggestion that this crime resembled the works of the infamous Jack the Ripper. The police were right to make this comparison for the similarities in the crimes are alarming.

Like in London this crime took place in a secluded yet available location and included a single female victim.

The victim’s throat was slashed and then her body mutilated in a similar fashion as the Rippers, with parts removed from the body and the scene.

An attempt to subdue the victim before the actual murder was made in this case in the form of a blow to the head.

A man was seen prior to the murder carrying a black valise, which was suggested by the London papers of the time as the method of carrying the Rippers tools of trade.

No motive has been established except one of a sexual nature, which was also suggested, in the Ripper murders.

The glaring difference pointed out by officials is that the Ripper victims were prostitutes and this was a little girl. In this case the two are very similar.

Jack the Ripper chose victims that would offer him the least resistance and were easily available. He chose prostitutes that at the time were under the influence of drink making them more vulnerable. He then lured them into a location away from prying eyes to do his work.

In this case a little girl was approached in a rural location. She was only 13 years old, which makes her easier prey than a full-grown woman does. Given the time period and the youth of the victim it would have been easy for the killer to approach within striking distance with out causing her alarm.

Things were different in 1894; the fear of strangers committing a violent act was not as rampant as it is today. People were wary and distrustful of a stranger but did not have the ingrained caution that we build into our children in this day and age.

The most glaring difference in this case is that an attempt to hide the body was made. It may be that Jack had learned from his killing of Mary Kelly that a body hidden from view of the public takes longer to be discovered and therefore gives you more time to escape.

Given the remote location and small population of the area the killer needed all the time he could get to leave the scene.

The Ripper murders took place in 1888 and London England; this was rural Ontario Canada and 1894. How was it possible that Jack the Ripper had disappeared for 6 years and then reappeared in Southern Ontario? The common feeling was that Jack was either dead or the police had caught him and did not know he was the Ripper.

For an answer to this question we have to look back at one single fact of the Whitechapel murders.

With all the people taken in for questioning and the numerous suspects the London Police had, only one person was ever actually charged with the Jack the Ripper murders. And his name was Francis Tumblety.

Francis Tumblety was born in either Ireland or Canada (which is not known) in 1833; he was the youngest of eleven children.


William Smith, the Deputy Minister of Marine for Canada, in a letter to his colleague James Barber of Saint John suggested that Tumblety’s real name might be "Mike Sullivan".

He first came to Rochester New York in 1844 where he lived with his brother. It is known that he peddled pornographic pictures on the canal boats that ran through the area, (c1845). Even at this young age he was known to the police and had been arrested several times.

Sometime around the same period he also began working at a small drug store run by a Dr. Lispenard who is said to have "carried on a medical business of a disreputable kind", as reported in the Rochester Democrat and Republican, December 03 1888.

He began his own business dealing in herbs and remedies and gave himself the title of "Indian Herb Doctor".

He left Rochester in 1851 and took to the road selling his concoctions in various cities.

In 1853 he is in Toronto Canada as shown by advertisements in local papers describing his products.

He spread out to Hamilton and the surrounding area and later also opened an office in Montreal.

He must have been popular in this community for he was asked to run in the provincial elections of 1857-8, but declined the offer in what would become typical Tumblety fashion, a newspaper advertisement.

Tumblety was arrested on September 23, 1857 on the charge of attempting to abort the pregnancy of a local prostitute named Philomene Dumas. It was alleged that he sold her a bottle of pills and a liquid for the purpose, Tumblety was released on bail on October 1.

A verdict of ‘no true bill’ was reached on the 24th and no trial was ever undertaken. The term "no true bill", means that in the eyes of the judge there was insufficient evidence to prove the charge and gain a conviction.

He left his businesses in Toronto and Montreal in 1859 and returned to Rochester, where several reliable witnesses saw him.

He next appears in St. John New Brunswick on the 28th of June 1860 and applies for a license to set up shop.

It didn’t take him long to stir things up. The local medical association brought charges against him for practicing medicine with out a license.

On July 30th 1860 he was brought to trial and found guilty. He was fined and admonished by the court but later appealed his conviction and won.

In September of 1860, he was again in trouble but this time with the police. When a patient named James Portmore died while taking medicine prescribed by Tumblety he was charged with "manslaughter".

Dr. William Bayard presided over the Coroners Inquest into the death of James Portmore and heard the evidence. He held the proceedings over to the next morning and before it was dark Tumblety was making his way for the American border.

He crossed into the United States at the town of Calais Maine.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Tumblety moved to the capital in Washington and put on the airs of a Union army surgeon, claiming to be friends with President Lincoln, General Grant, and a host of other well-known political figures.

He began wearing uniforms and medals that he was not entitled to and was arrested several times for it. I do not have the proof but it is suggested that he did spend some time in jail for these crimes.

It was during this period of time that Tumblety’s alleged hatred for women became quite apparent, as seen in the testimony of a Colonel Dunham, who was one night invited to dinner by Tumblety:

"Someone asked why he had not invited some women to his dinner. His face instantly became as black as a thundercloud. He had a pack of cards in his hand, but he laid them down and said, almost savagely, 'No, Colonel, I don’t know any such cattle, and if I did I would, as your friend, sooner give you a dose of quick poison than take you into such danger.' He then broke into a homily on the sin and folly of dissipation, fiercely denounced all women and especially fallen women.

He then invited us into his office where he illustrated his lecture so to speak. One side of this room was entirely occupied with cases, outwardly resembling wardrobes. When the doors were opened quite a museum was revealed -- tiers of shelves with glass jars and cases, some round and others square, filled with all sorts of anatomical specimens. The ‘doctor’ placed on a table dozen or more jars containing, as he said, the matrices (uteri) of every class of women. Nearly a half of one of these cases was occupied exclusively with these specimens.

Not long after this the ‘doctor’ was in my room when my Lieutenant Colonel came in and commenced expatiating on the charms of a certain woman. In a moment, almost, the doctor was lecturing him and denouncing women. When he was asked why he hated women, he said that when quite a young man he fell desperately in love with a pretty girl, rather his senior, who promised to reciprocate his affection. After a brief courtship he married her. The honeymoon was not over when he noticed a disposition on the part of his wife to flirt with other men. He remonstrated, she kissed him, and called him a dear jealous fool -- and he believed her. Happening one day to pass in a cab through the worst part of the town he saw his wife and a man enter a gloomy-looking house. Then he learned that before her marriage his wife had been an inmate of that and many similar houses. Then he gave up all womankind."

Shortly after the assignation of President Lincoln, Tumblety was arrested as a suspect but later released.

This might have been the incentive for Tumblety to begin his many wanderings.

He traveled between Europe and the United States many times and stayed for several years in England.

What his business was or his method of financing himself is not known but we can assume that the proceeds from his earlier travels as a snake oil salesman had made him quite well to do.

He arrived in Liverpool England in June of 1888, and once again soon found himself at odds with the police.

He was arrested on November 7th, 1888 in London on charges of gross indecency and indecent assault with force and arms against four men between July 27th and November 2. These were charges of homosexual acts, which was illegal at the time. The including of the words "force" and "arms" in the charges implies that it was a little more than a sexual tryst. In either case it suggests that Tumblety could be violent.

Tumblety was then charged with the Whitechapel murders on the 12th of November 1888. What the evidence was for these charges has never been known.

Tumblety received bail on November 16th, and a hearing was held on November 20th at the Old Bailey. The trial was postponed until December 10th of the same year.

Upon receiving bail Tumblety immediately fled to France under the alias ‘Frank Townsend’ on the 24th of November, and from there took the steamer "La Bretagne" to New York City.

New York authorities were informed of his impending arrival in the city and had the ports watched, but to no avail. He some how managed to slip through and into the city.

Many American newspapers reported that Scotland Yard had followed him across the Atlantic, and it is known that Inspector Andrews of Scotland Yard did follow a suspect to New York City around this time.

The next time he is heard of, 1893, he is again residing in Rochester New York. He does not seem to fall afoul of the law from the time he arrives back in the United States.

Now this seems to me a strange thing. Here is a man who was in trouble with the law in one way or another his whole life and suddenly he turns over a new leave and becomes a model citizen.

Tumblety had always been flamboyant in his dress and outrageous in his behavior and actions. He must have learned to tone down his wardrobe and his personality to blend in with the crowd, for how else was he able to remain "underground" for 5 years?

Tumblety had always been flamboyant in his dress and outrageous in his behavior and actions. He must have learned to tone down his wardrobe and his personality to blend in with the crowd, for how else was he able to remain "underground" for 5 years?

The fact that he eluded detection at a time when most major American papers were carrying full coverage of his arrest and escape is a marvel.

One year after he resurfaces in Rochester New York this murder occurs with in easy access of his residence.

In the 1890’s there was regular travel by steamship between the cities of Rochester and Toronto.

It would have been a simple matter to board the ship in Rochester cross the lake and then hop onto the train in Union Station.

He might even have been on his way to visit some one in Montreal where he had posed as a doctor years before.

Why he chose Listowel to get off the train we might never know. There is the remote possibility that this might have been his place of birth or he had relatives once in the area. He may have even visited the village in his travels as an "Indian Herb Doctor", and was familiar with the area.

At any rate it was physically possible for Tumblety to have been there and committed the murder. He also could have continued his journey and returned to Rochester with out detection.

Tumblety died in 1903 and a collection of preserved uteri was found amongst his personal possessions.

The autopsy of Jessie Keith stated that the sex organs had been removed. It does not specifically mention the uterus but it is possible that it was part of the organs removed. If it was it might have found its way into the collection of Francis Tumblety and the final answer to the question of whether Tumblety murdered Jessie Keith may be a DNA test of the collection and relatives of the murder victim.

If we only knew where his morbid collection was now this could still be done and truth finally known of who Jack the Ripper was.