Patricia Cornwell (born June 9, 1956) is the author of a series of crime novels featuring the fictional heroine Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner. She has worked at a crime lab (though not as a criminal investigator, as some have assumed from her ambiguous statements), and procedural details are part of the allure of her novels.
She has been involved in a continuing, self-financed search for evidence to support her theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. She published Jack the Ripper: Case Closed in 2002 to much controversy, especially within the British art world, where Sickert's work is admired, and also among ripperologists, whom she criticizes as sick and disgusting for their interest in the killings.
She contends Sickert had the psychological profile of a killer. She asserts that he was unable to have intercourse because his penis was disfigured at birth or through some accident. The killings coincide with the marriage of Sickert's close friend, which she claims provided the spark which exacerbated his awareness of his purported disabilities and ignited a latent anger.
Cornwell cites Sickert's artistic genius as useful for crafting the Ripper's letters, disguising handwriting and varying sketching styles. She also feels that the letters contain specific information related to crimes, and as such are unlikely to be from any other than the Ripper. She also points to Sickert paintings, some of which show women in prostrate poses similar to victims at their crime scenes.
In recent speeches, Cornwell claims new evidence has come to light since her book. Paper manufacture experts now assert that reams of paper supposedly used by Jack the Ripper to write several letters to Scotland yard and paper purchased by Sickert's mother bear the same small-press watermark. There are also matches in the cutter's marks, which are a result of the rough cutting of each quire (or small package) for packaging. A 'quire' was usually of 24 sheets.
All in all, Cornwell claims that the Ripper wrote hundreds of letters and killed almost that many people over the years. She blames almost every unsolved murder that happened in the London area from 1885 until his death on the Ripper, whom she claims must be Sickert.
Ripperologists and other critics of her theory point out that most, if not all, of the Ripper letters are considered hoaxes by all other authorities, so trying to prove that Sickert wrote one or more of them doesn't prove that he killed anyone. The evidence she claims supports the idea that Sickert had a disfigured penis also supports the more accepted theory that he had a fistula in his anus. Details in the letters and supposedly seen in the paintings she claims only the killer would know were published in newspapers and a book released in France. Sickert could have easily gotten ahold of the book in question, as he also lived in France off and on. In fact, evidence shows that he was probably in France on the nights of several of the Ripper murders.
Critics also note that Cornwell admits that she did not have a theory about the murders until about a year before her book came out and is convinced that the first name mentioned to her as a possible suspect must be the one who really did it. They note that, unlike authors of popular crime fiction, criminal investigators generally don't get to pick the person whodunnit before they do the research.
- Scarpetta's Winter Table
- Cruel and Unusual
- The Body Farm
- Food to Die For
- A Time for Remembering
- The Last Precinct
- Point of Origin
- Unnatural Exposure
- Cause of Death
- From Potter's Field
- All That Remains
- Body of Evidence
- Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper • Case Closed
- Blow Fly