THE HOLMES/RIPPER FILE PART I:

"MURDER BY DECREE" BY ROBERT WEVERKA

 

SOURCE AND DATE

EVENTS

COMMENTS

August 31, 1888 -- Polly Nicholls murder. DECREE 5

Holmes more interested in blackmail letter to Lord Starkweather. Turns out a Brazilian gentleman is the culprit; he intends to run off with Lady Starkweather, though he already has a wife in Rio de Janiero.

Connection to SAMBA FOR SHERLOCK?

September 8 -- Annie Chapman murder DECREE 8

Second canonical murder more interesting to Holmes. "It was the first inkling I'd had that Holmes was giving the murders any thought whatsoever."

Holmes doesn't understand why the Yard hasn't consulted him.

September 22 (two weeks since Chapman murder) DECREE 9

Holmes working in Amsterdam, looking for a stolen diamond, for most of this period.

Holmes amazed that he still hasn't been called in. "Inspector Foxborough," with whom Holmes is unfamiliar, in charge of the case.

September 30 -- Elizabeth Stride murder DECREE 11

Holmes and Watson are watching Donizetti's "Lucrezia Borgia" at the Covent Garden Opera House.

There seems to be a lot of time between Stride and Eddowes murders in DECREE.

September 30 DECREE 18

Citizens' Committee asks Holmes to look into the case.

They are not laborers but members of an anarchist group who want Holmes to embarrass the government.

Same night DECREE 30

H&W examine Eddowes' corpse; meet Foxborough and Lestrade.

Ugly confrontation with Sir Charles Warren.

Same night DECREE 38

Down by the river, a mysterious man wishes to speak to Holmes -- up in a tree. Holmes climbs out of sight. A "gentleman" sees Watson speaking to the tree.

Wonder how many big trees there were in the East End? The unnamed passing gentleman might be used as some other famous character on the case.

October 1, early DECREE 49

Holmes paints brick wall with chemicals, briefly bringing the "Juwes" message into view.

"Thirty minutes later" they return to Baker Street and discuss the message. Telegram then arrives.

October 1, morning DECREE 51

Telegram sends the pair to the docks. Man in rowboat says to see Robert James Lees.

On page 67 we learn that the man in the rowboat, Charles Makins, one of the anarchists, was killed by a single sword stab.

October 1? DECREE 77

Robert Lees leads police to "Sir Thomas Spivey" house from Eddowes' murder spot.

Hope they had time to remove the body! "Spivey" is obviously meant to be Sir William Gull.

October 2 DECREE 61

H&W visit Lees. (I add a day simply so that the events mentioned have time to happen.) Foxborough appears before Lees can talk and escorts H&W to Sir Charles Warren.

Holmes tells Watson what went on during his private meeting with Warren (where the Freemasons are mentioned). Was this just a story cooked up by Holmes?

October 2 DECREE 74 - 93

Watson sent to interview prostitutes in Whitechapel. He gets arrested after causing a ruckus. Holmes, disguised as chimneysweep, reaches R. J. Lees and hears his story.

Watson arrested during East End riot. Remarks are made that he is an "old codger", "Granddad", and "Father Time." Is this an old "Watson" working with a quasi "Holmes"?

October 3, early DECREE 104

After midnight, a telegram sends Holmes out. He meets Mary Jane Kelly, who mentions Annie Crook. A hansom almost runs them down.

After Watson treats Holmes, the detective wants to hail a cab immediately and travel to St. Christopher's Hospital.

October 3, day DECREE 114

H&W learn that Annie Crook, run down by a cab six weeks earlier, is now in Wickshire Hospital, Reading, a lunatic asylum.

Holmes insists on catching the 12:30 train to Reading. Matters move fast in DECREE!

October 3 DECREE 124-130

Holmes interviews Annie Crook, learns of her baby by Edward, Duke of Clarence.

This is the Mason/Royalist theory.

October 3, evening DECREE 137

A fake ad in the Times asks Mary Kelly to meet Holmes at a certain place and time. Holmes did not place it . . .

"It was dark when we reached London." Still the same day.

October 3, evening DECREE 140

H&W visit Spivey/Gull's House. The doctor has left. Sir Charles Warren arrives and says that he has resigned.

In the real world Warren tendered his resignation on November 8.

October 4? DECREE 147

"Late at night" H&W enter Whitechapel to search for Mary Kelly. They encounter Foxborough.

Foxborough, an anarchist, wants Holmes to succeed, for the Duke of Clarence/Mason story would bring down the government. He "guided" R. J. Lees to Spivey/Gull's house.

October 4 DECREE 155+

H&W find Miller's Court address of Kelly. They arrive too late; Mary has been killed by two men. Watson is wounded as "Slade" (second killer; obviously John Netley) and "Spivey" flee. "Slade" kills Foxborough soon after fleeing the court. Holmes kills Slade in self-defense.

This has to be November 9, the Kelly murder. Or is it? Watson is out of it for some time. "Several days later, Holmes gave me a full account of what transpired on that bloody night in Whitechapel." Perhaps he did not tell Watson the true story. In the movie "Slade" strangles in a fishing net.

October 4 DECREE 159

The demented Spivey/Gull returns to Number 13 and carries out the mutilations while Watson lies helpless on the pavement outside!

An attempt to make this murder scene match the real murder of Kelly. With Watson there all along?

Some days later DECREE 168+

Cabinet meeting, with Warren, the PM, and even "Spivey" present. Holmes accuses them all, but concedes the government would fall if the facts were released.

As Annie Crook has committed suicide, Holmes' price for silence is that her child will be allowed to grow up untouched and unharmed.

"Two weeks" after Kelly's murder DECREE 185+

Watson is still recovering from his sword-wound. The newspapers all call "William Slade" the Ripper and declare the case solved!

Obviously a concocted ending that doesn't reflect reality (or even the movie).

1979 -- "the following narrative shall remained sealed and unread for a period of ninety years plus one." DECREE 4

"Murder By Decree" movie and novel (edited by Robert Weverka) released.

Freemason connections are surprisingly downplayed in the novel, but necessary to explain failure of police.

 

COMMENTS

The credibility of Murder By Decree depends on how much currency one gives to the Freemason or Royalist theory of the Ripper murders. Holmes and Watson fit in fairly well with the main story. For dramatic purposes the events were telescoped into a few days -- I added a day just so Robert James Lees the medium would actually have time after the double murder to be dragged to the murder site and then lead the police to "Spivey"'s house.

As in a classic Holmes story, Watson narrates, but he depends on Holmes for all his information at several key points. Most of Holmes' accusations concerning the Freemasons comes in his "closed door" meeting with Sir Charles Warren. Was that what they really discussed? Watson never sees the inside of Kelly's murder room and never sees what goes on there.

In perhaps the most interesting possibility, Watson is described as "Granddad", "Father Time," and the like. We know Watson is only two years older than Holmes. Was this an entirely separate detective/assistant pair? A sufferer of the "Great Detective Syndrome" with a very old partner, the two changed to Holmes and Watson to better sell the movie and book? Perhaps this is how we can paste it into the same universe with other Holmes/Ripper stories. Perhaps the exploits of this "quasi-Holmes" and his elderly assistant inspired the later image of an old, bumbling Dr. Watson. Who could they have been?

Oddly enough, in our reality, the plot of Murder By Decree actually was taken away from another pair of fictional detectives, who truly were replaced by the more famous Holmes and Watson! Murder was based on a 1973 British miniseries, Jack the Ripper, and the investigators, fictional policemen Inspector Barlow and Sergeant Watt, came from a popular BBC TV series. They were, however, contemporary heroes who merely took a new look at the near-century-old evidence. So the question remains: Was Murder By Decree an adventure of a duo other than Holmes and Watson?


Fiction and Reality · Article Nexus

 

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