A mental patient, a butcher, the artist Walter Sickert, a serial wife poisoner and even Queen Victoria's grandson have all been touted as Jack the Ripper suspects in one of the greatest whodunits in history.

But what if Jack the Ripper was not a Londoner, not even British? What if he was a merchant seaman, who pursued his blood lust as far afield as Nicaragua and Germany?

Ripperologists -- self-appointed sleuths on the Ripper's trail who number in the thousands -- are in a spin over a new book proposing that Britain's most famous serial killer was a merchant sailor who murdered when his ship was docked.

In London's grimy East End the Ripper slew five prostitutes over 10 weeks in 1888, leaving their throats slashed from ear to ear and lacerations up and down the bodies of all but one of the victims. Some of their organs were also removed.

Trevor Marriott, a former detective and author of the controversial new book "Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation," says police on the case wrongly assumed that the killer lived and worked in London's East End and failed to see a pattern between the dates of the crimes.

"I believe the police were blinkered and didn't choose to look at the possibility the killer could be a merchant seaman," he told Reuters.

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