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Johnny Depp first sparked Dr Lucy Andrew’s interest in serial killers.  

As a teen, she was drawn to the 2001 film about Jack the Ripper, From Hell, for Depp’s portrayal of Inspector Frederick Abberline. While Depp was enjoyable and the film a well-done gruesome murder mystery loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name, Dr Andrew was intrigued by the fact that the Ripper’s identity has never been revealed. Since that viewing, serial killers and criminal fiction have become a thread through Dr Andrew’s education and career. 

“It is remarkable that 132 years after the brutal murders of at least five women, we are still fascinated by the real man responsible for the deaths. Perhaps if his identity had been known he would have passed out of history and our collective conscience,” said Dr Andrew. 

As a Ripperologist -  someone who studies the crimes and stories of Jack the Ripper - Dr Andrew  appears on the first two episodes of the latest television series of Murder Maps, the first of which aired yesterday, Sunday, 12 January and the second this coming Sunday, 19 January. This season, the television show focuses on the Ripper – re-examining his crimes and how the sensationalist press of 1888 shaped the story we know today. Dr Andrew will be joined on the show with fellow Ripperologists, Hallie Rubenhold, who wrote the acclaimed biography of Ripper’s five canonical victims, The Five, and Donald Rumbelow, a former London Metropolitan policeman, who wrote the classic, The Complete Jack the Ripper, which is considered to be the definitive examination of Ripper’s crimes.

Dr Andrew combined her interest in crime with her love of literature, particularly children’s and young adult literature, in her academic studies.  Her Masters of Research dissertation was on “Representations of Child Criminals in Contemporary Children’s Literature”.  For her PhD, she moved from the depiction of criminals in literature to those investigating them in her book, The Boy Detective in Early British Children’s Literature (Palgrave, 2017).  Dr Andrew is also co-editor of Crime Fiction in the City: Capital Crimes (University of Wales Press, 2013) and co-organiser of the Short Story Network.    

Testament to the enduring allure of Ripper mythology, Dr Andrew presented a public lecture on the 130th anniversary of the Ripper killings to a full house, offering a whistle-stop tour of the Ripper in popular culture, exploring why and how we are still fascinated by the killer and questioning whether we should be. The popular lecture was made into a podcast which can be found on RipperCast: The Whitechapel Murders Podcast at https://casebook.org/podcast/listen.html?id=219

“From his earliest origins in print, Jack the Ripper has been a sensational figure – a Gothic monster to terrorise and titillate the masses in equal measure. In the absence of a flesh-and-blood killer, we have created an enduring myth,” said Dr Andrew.

As part of the BA (Hons) English degree programme at UCS, Dr Andrew offers a module on Criminal Fictions. The module traces the origins and development of crime fiction in Britain and America through the changing representation of criminal figures, as well as the evolving relationship between the construction of criminal figures in narratives and real-life social, cultural and political anxieties in society.  The module covers a broad swathe of crime narrative forms, including ballads, media reports, short stories, novels, film and television, board games and crime tourism. In addition to Jack the Ripper, the module covers a range of well-known criminal figures, from iconic literary and film figures such as Professor Moriarty, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter, to real-life murderers, including Aileen Wuornos and Ted Kaczynski.

“Crime fiction is an enduring and pervasive presence in popular culture. Today there is a Jack the Ripper Museum and Ripper walking tours in London and The Joker is a current Oscar and BAFTA contender”, said Dr Andrew. “Criminal fiction is more prevalent than ever and continues to reflect the fears and fascinations of a conflicted society.”

Dr Andrew recently visited the archives at Bishopsgate Library in London to research Jack the Ripper fiction, as well as factual accounts of the murders. She is currently writing up her findings.  

The fifth season of Murder Maps can be viewed Sunday at 7pm on the Yesterday channel, or you can catch up on UKTV play.  For more information on the series, visit:  https://yesterday.uktv.co.uk/tv-guide/Murder Maps can also be seen on Netflix.    

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