Robert James Lees - His Death

Robert James Lees


The Obituary of Robert James Lees
Monday 11th January 1931, Leicester, England

Robert James Lees died at 200 Fosse Road South in Leicester on Monday 11 January 1931.  He was 81 years old.  He was cremated at Gilroes Cemetery in Leicester on Thursday 14 January, and prior to the ceremony a short spiritualist service was held in his study, which was led by the Revd Bernard Uffen.

His ashes were interred in Ilfracombe cemetery, in the same grave as his late wife, on Saturday 16 January 1931. His death was recorded in the local press in Leicester, and in Devon and Cornwall.

A noted spiritualist, Mr Robert James Lees, who claimed to be the only surviving person who knew the identity of Jack the Ripper, the notorious murderer, has died at his home in Leicester.

Born at Hinckley in 1849, Mr Lees discovered his psychic powers when a youth, through living in a haunted house.

He was a journalist in Fleet Street at the time of the first `Ripper' atrocities. Some months ago, he told a Leicester Mercury man that he offered his services to Scotland Yard, with a view to tracing the criminal.

His visits to the yard became so persistent, that at length, the authorities agreed to his co-operation.

Mr Lees made the astounding statement to the Leicester Mercury that he actually enabled the Yard to associate with the crime, a man who died in a lunatic asylum.

This story has never been revealed by any police authority, and it is commonly supposed that the mystery has never been cleared up.

While living in London, Mr Lees was a social worker among the outcasts. On one occasion, he conducted King Edward and the Prince of Wales incognito, through a newly-formed mission. King Edward was recognised however, by one of the waitresses, who touched him under the chin.

His health, having broken down, Mr Lees went to Cornwall, and later became honorary pastor at a chapel in Plymouth - the only non-conformist chapel it is said, to be endowed by Queen Victoria.

Later, he removed himself to Ilfracombe, and devoted himself to literary work.

Mr Lees has the privilege of assisting the late Mr W.E.Gladstone in the production of "The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture". He was a close friend of the late Mr W.T.Stead, the famous journalist who perished in the Titanic disaster.

Mr Lees had sixteen children, ten of whom are living. Two are living in Leicester, Mr Claude Lees of Green Hill Road, and Miss Eva Lees who lived with her father.

Miss Eva Lees told the Leicester Mercury that the responsibility of his knowledge of the `Ripper' had weighed more heavily on her father of late years. `I hope to receive a message from my father in the dream-state,' she said.

Leicester Mercury - Tuesday 12 January 1931    


Death Bed

A remarkable photograph taken, presumably by Claude Lees, in Lees' study in Leicester. A distraught Eva looks on

His many Ilfracombe friends will hear with deep regret of the death of Mr Robert James Lees, which took place at Hazelhurst, Fosse Road South, Leicester on Monday, at the age of 81 years. When residing at Ilfracombe, Mr Lees took a deep interest in charitable movements, and always willingly gave his help to raise the necessary funds to carry them on. In this respect, his work for the Sailor's Institute and the Hospital Sunday Movement is remembered with gratitude.

His body was cremated yesterday at Gilroes Cemetery, and the ashes will be interred in the Ilfracombe cemetery tomorrow (Saturday) at 12 o'clock.

The Ilfracombe Chronicle - Friday 15 January 1931


Bookcase and cabinet

A bookcase and cabinet owned by Lees, and from the above study, awaiting sale by auction in Leicester in March 2002


Funeral picture

The exact context of this photograph is not known. It is in the same series of prints as the picture of Lees' headstone at Ilfracombe Cemetery


Lees' coffin

Fosse Road, Leicester, 1931. This is probably the upper room that served as Lees' study, as in the above photograph, during his final years in Leicester


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2003 Stephen Butt