Frederick Bailey Deeming (1853-1892) was an English murderer, conman, thief, and bigamist who was executed in Australia in 1892. Deeming was convicted of murdering his first wife Marie, and his four children, in England in July of 1891, as well has his second wife, Emily Mather, in Melbourne, Australia in 24 December 1891. It was speculated that he may have been Jack the Ripper after he told fellow prisoners he was the Ripper, though he never confessed to authorities.
After his execution Deeming was buried in a mass grave near the prison at the Melbourne Gaol, where infamous outlaw Ned Kelly was also buried. But the whereabouts of Deeming’s skull today remains a mystery.
In 1929, when the Melbourne Gaol was dug up for development, the bones in the mass grave were to be transferred to another site. But chaos ensued during the excavation and a gathering crowd stole some of the bones, including the skulls of Deeming and Kelly, which were recovered soon after being stolen.
In the 1970s, one skull, thought to belong to Ned Kelly, was put on display at the jail museum, the Old Melbourne Gaol, alongside the death masks of Deeming and Kelly. In 1978, the “Kelly” skull was stolen again from a glass display case at the jail. Soon after, a man named Tom Baxter told journalists that he had the skull, and would only return it if the government gave Kelly a Christian burial. The government did not respond and Baxter had the skull until 2008, when yet another excavation uncovered more prisoners’ remains. Shortly after that, Mr. Baxter returned the sun-bleached skull.
Seeking to positively identify the remains, scientists at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine had the “Kelly” skull examined using CT scans and photo superimposition. They soon found that the skull was a close match to the death masks of both Ned Kelly and Frederick Deeming. Here is a photo of the Frederick Deeming’s death mask and here is a photo of Ned Kelly’s death mask from the same angles, the similarities are striking.
So forensic investigators then moved on to DNA testing. They obtained DNA samples from a maternal relative of Ned Kelly, who was not a match to the skull. As of 2011, researchers were looking for a maternal relative of Deeming to see if they are a match to the skull.
For many years the death mask of Deeming was shown to visitors of New Scotland Yard as that of Jack the Ripper. Today, it is displayed in the famous Black Museum at Scotland Yard.