Paul Welsh goes on the trail of a serial killer and questions whether the real Jack the Ripper has taken revenge on the cast and others connected with the film.

I once found myself wandering around a shabby street in Whitechapel in the company of a world-famous detective on the trail of a serial killer. You may be thinking I could have been hitting the shandy a bit too hard, but would I tell you a lie?

The street was actually a realistic set constructed on a now-demolished sound stage at Elstree Film Studios. I was in the company of actor Christopher Plummer, who was portraying Sherlock Holmes in a film called Murder by Decree.

I guess he is best remembered nowadays for his role in the classic The Sound of Music, but Christopher was enjoying playing the great sleuth.

"The challenge of this role is to avoid simply doing a Basil Rathbone impression, as his Forties' movie portrayal of Holmes is so well-remembered," said Christopher.

"The character is complex and he can come across as very cold and superior. The challenge is also to show he does not treat Doctor Watson as a fool, but more of a companion, as he would never have tolerated an idiot sharing his investigations."

In Murder By Decree, the legendary detective sets out to track down Jack the Ripper and uncovers a freemason conspiracy in the process. The cast was excellent, including James Mason as Watson, with David Hemmings, John Gielgud and Anthony Quayle also appearing. Only Christopher is still alive.

Director Bob Clark, who went on to have a blockbuster hit with Porky's in 1982, was killed in a car crash last year. Has the Ripper returned from hell to take his revenge on all those connected with the film?

When the film was in production in 1978, a group of us visited Whitechapel and the murder sites. I still recall the seedy, almost sinister, feel of the alleyway which led into Mitre Square, surrounded by derelict Victorian warehouses and cobbled stones underfoot. We literally walked in the Ripper's footsteps and stood where one of his victims met a gruesome end. Today the cobbles are still there but an office block occupies the site.

About three years ago, I was invited to join a campaign to have a headstone erected on the unmarked grave of Inspector Fred Abberline in a Bournemouth cemetery.

He had been one of the main police investigators of the crimes in 1888, but retired to the seaside and died in 1929. On screen he has been portrayed by Michael Caine and Johnny Depp.

Late in his life, the real Fred admitted they never did have any secret file revealing the identity of the Ripper, and he would have known.

Today, a whole publishing industry revolves around the "guess who dunnit" game.

I was glad to hear that last year the local council finally allowed a headstone to be erected on Fred's grave, even though they worry it might become a tourist draw. The good guys deserve to be recognised.