Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll may have been Jack the Ripper.

That's the astonishing claim made in a new book on the unsolved Victorian murders of five prostitutes in London's East End.

Carroll - in real life Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a maths don at Christ Church, Oxford - emerges as the prime suspect in the book Jack the Ripper: Lighthearted Friend, by Richard Wallace.

Dr Wallace claims Carroll had a psychotic breakdown after being assaulted by a homosexual when he was 12 and became an angry man.

"He retreated into a world consumed by one goal - revenge on society."

He claims Carroll wrote a diary every day in purple ink, but on the days of the Whitechapel killings, he switched to black.

"Quite simply, Carroll was a psychopathic killer." Dr Wallace argues that Carroll gave a clue to his crimes in the poem Jabberwocky, written in 1872 - 16 years before the murders. One verse reads: "The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head; He went galumphing back."

Dr Wallace says this could refer to Anne Chapman, the Ripper's third victim, whose head was almost severed.

In another poem, The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll wrote: "They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care; They pursued it with forks and with hope; They threatened its life with a railway share; They charmed it with smiles and soap."

Dr Wallace says all the dead girls had thimbles, forks and soap in their pockets when they died and there were no alibis for Carroll on the nights the Ripper struck.

Other Ripper suspects have included Royal physician Sir William Gull, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick, escaped Broadmoor prisoner James Kelly, East End wife killer William Bury, quack doctor Francis Tumblety and Russian emigre Alex Pedachenko.

Charles Dodgson became a student at Christ Church in 1850 at the age of 18 and stayed until he died in 1898. He became a maths lecturer in 1855 but it was as Lewis Carroll that he achieved lasting fame. The Alice stories were based on Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church.

He began to tell the Alice stories on a hot summer day in 1862, when he and a friend took Alice and her sisters on a trip down the river to Godstow. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were published in 1865 and Through the Looking Glass in 1871.

Queen Victoria once told the author she enjoyed Alice in Wonderland and was looking forward to his next work. She was less than amused when he sent her a book on algebra.

Story date: Wednesday 24 February

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