This is going to be the longest post ever! I’ve tried to keep it short but as you might imagine there’s always a lot to say about the most famous serial killer: Jack the Ripper. So, sit tight, grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Five murders are known to have been committed by the Ripper, but two others were once thought to have been his work as well. Emma Smith, who lived in Spitalfields, was attacked in the early hours of 3 April 1888. She said she had been assaulted by four men, but could or would not identify them. She died the next day.
Four months later, the body of Martha Tabram was found on a staircase, her throat and stomach had been stabbed with something sharp like a bayonet. Earlier that night, she and another prostitute had been seen in the company of two soldiers, they were then arrested but the second prostitute failed (or refused) to identify either her own or the other woman’s partner.
In 1888 the East End of London was inhabitated by about 900,000 people, consequently women were assaulted and injured every night. Twenty-four days after the death of Martha Tabram there occured the first of the accepted Ripper killings – on Friday, 31 August, Mary Ann Nichols, a forty-two-year-old prostitute, was murdered. She was found in Buck’s Row, lying on her back, her throat had been slashed twice, the second cut almost severing the head. Her face was bruised and it was not until her body was removed to the mortuary by the old Montague Street workhouse that other injuries were revealed. Her stomach had been hacked open and slashed several times.
Because she, Tabram and Smith were all murdered within 300 yards of each other and were prostitutes, a connection was made between them. A man known to have ill-treated prostitutes and to have been seen with Nichols became the prime suspect: John Pizer, known as Leather Apron, was a Jewish bootmaker.
The next murder was eight days later. The body of Annie Chapman was found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street at 6 am on Saturday, 8 September. Two deep and savage cuts had pratically separated her head from the body, her stomach had been torn open and pulled apart. It was later established that she had been disembowelled (her uterus, part of the vagina and the bladder had been carved out and taken away). Annie Chapman had lodged at 35 Dorset Street, from where she had been evicted at 2 am because she lacked the few pennies for a bed.
Several suspects were taken to Commercial Street police station for questioning on Sunday, 9 September, and in the early hours of Monday the 10th, John Pizer (Leather Apron) was found at 22 Mulberry Street and arrested. Witnesses said that two months earlier he had been evicted from 35 Dorset Street. The police found five long-bladed knives in his lodgings, of a sort thought to have been used by the murderer. Pizer said that he used them in his boot-making trade. He also had an alibi for the night Mary Ann Nichols was murdered.
Another yard was the scene of the murder of Elizabeth Stride, a Swedish prostitute also known as Long Liz. She was killed at about 1 am on Sunday, 30 September. Her body was discovered by a hawker, Louis Diemschutz. Her throat slit from left to right, severing the windpipe. Her body was still warm, evidently the murderer had been frightened off. Stride had lived in Fashion Street with a labourer called Michael Kidney, who had then moved to 35 Dorset Street. On Saturday night she had been seen talking to a mild-vocied, middle-aged, stout and decently dressed man, wearing a cutaway coat and on his head was a round cap with a small peak to it like a sailor’s hat. She was seen again at about 12.30 am by a policeman, PC Smith. He described Stride’s companion “of respectable appearance”, the man was about 5 ft 7 in tall, wore an overcoat and dark trousers and had a dark, hard felt deerstalker on his head. Smith gave the man’s age as ‘about twenty-eight’. The Police Gazette later expanded this description to ‘complexion dark, small dark moustache, dress black diagonal coat, hard felt hat, collar and tie’.
Just after 1.30 am and half a mile to the west three Jews, one of whom was Mr. Lawende, saw a man talking to a woman in Church Passage, which led into Mitre Square. The woman was Catherine Eddowes and less than ten minutes later she was found dead. That Saturday night she had been arrested in Aldgate about 8.30 pm: she was drunk and disorderly. Taken to Bishopsgate police station, she had been left to sober up in a cell and was discharger at 1 am – at the same time as Elizabeth Stride’s throat was cut in the yard off Berner Street. Eddowes walked off southwards, towards Aldgate High Street and Mitre Square, as Stride’s murderer hurried westwards towards her. At 1.45 am, her body was discovered by the bull’s-eye lamp of PC Watkins as he walked on his beat through the square. The body had been ripped open, said Watkins, like a pig in the market. The throat had been deeply slit and the face had been slashed and cut. Both sets of eyelids had been nicked and part of the nose and the right ear had been sliced off. The woman had been also disembowelled, entrails had been thrown across her right shoulder, the uterus and left kidney had been cut away and removed. Police sketches and photographs of Catherine Eddowes’s body greatly minimise the view that the murderer had some anatomical knowledge, or ‘took at leat five minutes’ over his work. He clearly worked in a frenzy, cutting throats, ripping bodies and pulling out organs with neither care nor skill, and all in a couple of minutes at the most. He may have had a very rough knowledge of anatomy, sufficient for him to knowingly silence each victim by severing the windpipe, and he might have known what a womb looked like. But this does not mean that he had had any actual medical experience or had been a butcher, slaughterman, farmer or hunter of any sort.
The “Double Event” of the murders of Eddowes and Stride provided the press with even more sensational and lurid headlines and reports. It was felt that not enough was being done to identify and apprehend the murderer, and the police were strongly criticised.
Then a letter and a postcard, received by the Central News Agency, were published with the permission of the police on 3 September. From now on the murderer had a name: Jack the Ripper.
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal… I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with it but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldnt you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good luck.
Jack the Ripper.
Dont mind me giving the trade name
wasnt good enough to post this before I got all
the red ink off my hands curse it. No luck yet.
They say I’m a doctor now ha ha.
The letter was followed a few days later by a postcard. It was marked 1 October, the Monday after the double murder. I was addressed to: Central News Office, London City, EC:
I wasnt codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip. youll hear about saucy Jackys work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldnt finish straight off. had no time to get ears for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again. Jack the Ripper
It might have been written by someone in the locality who had heard of the ‘double event’, or indeed by a journalist, or by anyone connected with the police or medical investigations. Seventeen days after murders of Stride and Eddowes, on Tuesday, 16 October, a builder, Mr George Lusk, who was a chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and lived in Mile End, received a small brown paper parcel, within was a cardboard box that contained half a kidney. A brief letter came with the kidney, with an address at the top – ‘From hell’.
Sor I send you half the kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer. signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk.
The writer of this note is probably not the same man who penned the ‘Jack the Ripper’ eipstles. A curious feature of the note to Mr Lusk is the oddly illiterate spelling. Dr. Openshaw, at the Pathological Museum, after examining the organ, concluded that the kidney had come from a woman who drank, had Bright’s Disease, and that it was part of a left kidney. He thought it had been removed within the last three weeks, it had also been preserved in spirits after its removal. It has since been assumed that the kidney was the one missing from the body of drunken Catherin Eddowes, but there is no proof of this. It wuld have been impossible in 1888 to tell whether a kidney comes from a woman or a man, moreover Bright’s Disease, which infected the kidney, is not necessarily caused by alcoholism. On 29 October, another illiterate letter was sent to Dr Openshaw:
Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny i was going to hopperate agin clos to your ospitle just as i was goin to dror my nife along of er bloomin throte them cusses of coppers spoilt the game but i guess i wil be on the job soon and will send you another bit innerds. Jack the Ripper.
The fifth and final murder generally attributed to the Ripper happened forty days after the ‘double event’. The victim was killed indoors and more horribly and extensively mutilated than any female murder victim before. Mary Jane Kelly aged twenty-four, was murdered in the early hours of Friday, 9 November, in a back room of 26 Dorset Street. Kelly’s body was discovered about 10.45 am by her landlord’s assistant. She was lying on her back on a bed, where she had been placed after the murderer cut her throat. The body was stabbed, slashed, skinned, gutted and ripped apart. Her nose and breasts were cut off and dumped on a table, entrails were extracted, some were removed. Mary Kelly was three months pregnant.
The last person believed to have seen her alive was George Hutchinson. She walked off, and a man coming in the opposite direction accosted her. They walked towards Hutchinson and passed him, the man lowered his head and his hat as he passed. But Hutchinson was later able to describe him as being about thirty-four, 5ft 6 in tall, dark haired, with a small moustache curled up at the ends. He was dressed in a long dark coat, with dark jacket and trousers, he seemed quite respectable. Unlike the dark gentleman who chatted quite carelessly outside Miller’s Court, the murderer would have been very careful, one imagines, about not being seen with Mary Kelly and certainly not so near her room.
The rest is silence, apart from the clamour of speculation at the time, as well as generations later, about the identity of the Whitechapel murderer. Another heave-drinking prostitute, Alice McKenzie, was murdered in Whitechapel, on 17 July 1889. She was found in the street with her throat cut and there were cuts and scratches on her stomach. However, the death of Alice is not thought to have been the work of the Ripper, who is generally believed to have died or to have been imprisoned for other crimes soon after the murder of Mary Kelly. But, who was he? No one can say for certain.
Chief Detective Inspector Abberline, who was the senior Yard detective investigating the murders, thought George Chapman (his real name was Severin Klosowski) was the killer. Chapman, a hairdresser’s assistant in Whitechapel in 1888, when he was twenty-three, was ultimately hanged in 1903 for poisoning his three wives.
In February 1894, one man, Sir Melville Macnaghten, wrote what must be the most sensible account of the murders. Macnaghten states: ‘The Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims and 5 victims only’. They were: Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly. He also mentioned the cases of 3 men, any one of whom would have been more likely to have committed this series of murders:
- A Mr MJ Druitt, said to be a doctor and of a good family, who disappeared at the time of the Miller’s Court murder, and whose body was found in the Thames on 31st Dec – or about 7 weeks after that murder.He was sexually insane and his own family believed him to have been the murderer.
- Kosminski, a Polish Jew and reisdent in Whitechapel. This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, especially of the prostitute class, and had strong homicidal tendencies . He was removed to a luncatic asylum. There were many crimes connected with this man which mad him a strong “suspect”.
- Michael Ostrog, a Russian doctor, and a convict, who was frequently detained in a lunatic asylum as a homicidal maniac. This man’s antecedents were of the worst type, and his whereabouts at the time of the murders could never be ascertained.
Of all the suspects, Druitt and Kosminski seems to be the ones most likely, from what we know now, to have been the Whitechapel murderer. But as in every other case there is no definite, conclusive proof. Other theories, about doctors, butchers, Jews, freemasons, lodgers, other murderers and a member of the monarchy, may reasonably, if regretfully, be dismissed. It’s also possibile that all the five women were neighbours of the Ripper and were known to him, at least by sight. It seems highly probable that the Ripper was a local man, well acquainted with all the streets, alleys, yards, pubs and lodging houses in the area. With bloody clothes he can’t have ventured far from the scenes of the crimes, and a local man would have known the darkest, most poorly lit and less-populated routes back to where he lived. And if his victims knew him, at least by sight, they would not have felt unduly alarmed, especially if his manner and appearance were unexceptional, and not evidently those of a maniac or murderous psychopath, as fiction pictures him, but pleasant and persuasive, as actual murderers often are.
Moreover, I’m wondering why no one has ever thought of a woman being the murderer, whose husband used to “spend” his time with prostitutes and blinded by fury killed those women. Theories upon theories and we’re still here, after all these years, talking about Jack the Ripper.
Source: Murders of the Black Museum.