Jack the Ripper
At around 3.40am on August 31st 1888, a carter named Charles Cross was making his way along Bucks Row Whitechapel, when he noticed a bundle lying in a gateway. Presuming it to be a tarpaulin, and thinking that it might prove useful, he went to examine it and discovered, instead, that it was the body of a woman. Within moments another carter, Robert Paul, had arrived on the scene and the two decided that the wisest course of action would be to find a policeman. Following a brief search of the neighbourhood, they managed to find three officers and brought them to the site, where one officer, Constable Neil, shone his lantern onto the body and the five men saw, to their horror and disgust, that the woman's throat had been cut back to her spine.
The woman was Mary Ann Nicholls, a forty - three - year - old prostitute, who had been ejected from her lodging house just two hours earlier, because she didn't have the money to pay her rent. "I'll soon get my doss money" , she had confidently predicted, "See what a jolly bonnet I've got.." That bonnet now lay trampled and bloodstained in a Whitechapel gateway. It was observed also that her skirt had been pulled up around her waist. But what no- one noticed, until later that day, was that beneath her blood soaked clothing, a deep gash ran along her stomach- she had been disembowelled. Jack the Ripper's reign of terror had begun.
In the week that followed the murder, the press began to publish lurid and sensational stories. They had wrongly blamed two earlier killings, that of Emma Smith on 3rd April 1888 and of Martha Tabram (or Turner as she was also known) on the 6th August 1888 on the murderer of Mary Nicholls. They had even come up with a possible suspect in the form of a man whom the local prostitutes had nicknamed "Leather Apron" and whom, they were claiming, had been making violent threats toward them, including that he was going to "rip them up". Unfortunately they didn't know his name, couldn't provide an address and the only description they could give was that he habitually wore a leather apron and that he sometimes wore a deerstalker cap.
Just such a man was seen at 5.30am on 8th September 1888, talking to prostitute Annie Chapman, in Hanbury Street. At around 6am market porter, John Davis, went into his backyard at 29 Hanbury Street and discovered "dark Annie's" mutilated body. Her dress had been pulled up around her knees, exposing her striped stockings. A deep cut had slashed across her throat; her intestines had been tugged out and laid across her shoulder. Missing from the body were the uterus and part of the bladder. The contents of her pocket were found lying in a neat pile near to the body. The brass rings that she had been wearing at the time of her murder, had evidently been torn from her fingers and were never discovered. And, just a few feet away from the body, there lay a folded and wet leather apron.
Since the leather apron was the standard garment worn by a wide range of Jewish workers from butchers to tailors, the finding of just such a garment in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, coupled with the frenzy that was being created by the press, caused the neighbourhood to erupt into anti - Semitism. Innocent Jews were attacked by angry mobs claiming that no Englishman was capable of committing such murders. The media frenzy would come to an end on the 10th September, when Sergeant William Thick went round to 22 Mulberry Street, and arrested thirty - six - year old John Pizer maintaining that he was "Leather Apron". Pizer, however had cast iron alibi's for the nights of both murders and was quickly eliminated from the enquiry.
In the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, the intensification of police activity had seen a dramatic downturn in the crime rate. There were newspaper reports that " a dreadful quiet has descended onto the East End of London", and by the end of September people began to wonder if the murders had come to an end. With the last day of September just two hours old the "beast of Whitechapel" had proved them horrifyingly wrong by murdering twice in less than an hour.
At around 1am on 30th September 1888, hawker Louis Diemshutz, returned to Berners Street, having spent the day hawking cheap jewellery at Crystal Palace. As he turned his pony and cart into the yard of the Jewish Socialist Club at number 30 Berners Street, the pony suddenly reared in alarm and pulled to the left. Looking around to find what had distressed the animal, he saw what appeared to be a pile of clothes lying on the ground. He poked at them with his whip and then lit a match. The flame flickered for a brief moment before being extinguished by the breeze. But in that brief seconds light Diemshutz saw it was the body of a woman, and he ran for the police.
The woman's name was Elizabeth Stride (sometimes known as "Long Liz Stride") and her throat had been slashed. But the fact there were no mutilations to the body led the police to conclude that the murderer had been interrupted as he went about his bloody business. Is it possible that, as he stooped over his victim , the cart entering the yard had disturbed him, causing him to move back quickly into the shadows? Perhaps it was this sudden movement that had startled the pony? And, with Diemschutz distracted by his grisly find, the killer had slipped quickly and quietly away, as the news of another murder and the ensuing frenzied excitement, helped cover his escape.
At around 8.30pm the previous evening PC Louis Robinson of the City Police had arrested forty - six - year - old, Catharine Eddowes on Aldgate High Street and charged her with being drunk and disorderly. She was taken to Bishopsgate police station, placed in a cell and left to sober up. As Elizabeth Stride was meeting her murderer, Catharine was heard singing and was deemed sober enough for immediate release. Leaving the station at around 1am, she turned to the desk sergeant and spoke her last recorded words "Cheerio me old cock" she called, and stepped out into the early morning. At approximately 1.35pm three Jewish men were leaving the Imperial Club at 16 - 17 Duke Street. They noticed a man and a woman talking with one another at the corner of Church Passage. One of the three, Joseph Lawende, would later give the police a detailed description of this mystery man and maintain that the woman whom he saw was definitely Catharine Eddowes.
At 1.45am PC Watkins walked his usual beat into Mitre square and, by the light of his bull's - eye lamp, discovered her mutilated body. He would later state "I have been in the force for a long while but I never saw such a sight. The body had been ripped open, like a pig in the market." If the killer had been denied his satisfaction of mutilating the body of Elizabeth Stride, his appetite had been more than sated on the unfortunate Catharine Eddowes.
Her body lay on its back, head turned toward the left shoulder. The throat had been cut back to the spine; the lobe of the right ear was cut through; a V had been cut into her cheeks and eyelids; the tip of the nose was detached; her abdomen had been laid open; the intestines tugged out and laid over her shoulder, while missing from the body were the uterus and left kidney. The murderer had then left the scene and headed off into the Streets of Spitalfields. We know this because, on this one night, the beast of Whitechapel would leave behind him a tantalising clue.
Let us put his escape that morning into context. There had been an earlier murder in Berners Street. Word was spreading throughout the neighbourhood that the beast had struck again. All the police activity now centred on flushing him out and hunting him down. Yet, having murdered Catharine Eddowes, he did not escape to the relative safety that he might find West of the district, but instead, went straight into the area where the activity was directed toward his apprehension. He could have only escaped if, as he went through the neighbourhood, he fitted in. In other words he was not thought suspicious, or out of place, by those who may have seen him.
In Goulston Street there still stands a sturdy building that in 1888 provided accommodation for Jewish traders who dealt in second - hand clothes on Petticoat lane or traded shoes at the footwear market on Wentworth Street. Known as The "Wentworth Model Dwellings", it was here in a doorway, at 2.45am , that PC Alfred Long discovered a section of Catherine Eddowes apron. There were bloody finger marks on it and it was evident that the blade of a bloodied knife had been wiped clean upon it. This clue, tells us exactly where the murderer was heading, and confirms the theory that he was an East - Ender living in the area. But the doorway also contained a much more famous and, subsequently promoted, none clue. For, scrawled in chalk on the wall above the apron, was the message "The Juwes are the men That Will be blamed for nothing" (although several observers remembered slightly different wording to the Graffito). Sir Charles Warren, the metropolitan police commissioner, fearful of a resurgence of the anti - Semitism that had swept the neighbourhood in the wake of the "Leather Apron" scare, ordered that the message be rubbed out, and it was duly erased at 5.30am before a photograph could be taken of it.
On the 1st October 1888 the Daily News published a letter which had been received by the head of the Central News Agency on 27th September. It read:
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. How can they catch me now. 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 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 ladies 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 so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance.
Jack the Ripper
Don't 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.
With the publication of this letter, the murderer was given the name that would launch him into legend. A name that would become so well known the world over that the very mention of it, even to those who have little knowledge of the actual murders, could summon up vivid images of gaslit, foggy streets and of an unknown terror stalking the night shadows on a murderous and chilling quest. The legend of Jack the Ripper was born.
On the 16th October 1888 Mr George Lusk, president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee sat down to his dinner table. A small cardboard box about three inches square, was delivered in the evening mail. Opening the package he discovered a letter addressed "From Hell" and wrapped inside it, half a human kidney. The letter read:-
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 Mishster Lusk
But did either letter actually come from the murderer? The "Jack the Ripper" letter certainly did not. Indeed several of the senior Police officers maintained that the letter was the work of an "enterprising London journalist" with one adding that the journalists identity was "known to senior Scotland Yard detectives". And the Kidney, according to the City pathologist Dr Sedgewick Saunders was unlikely, as had, and has, been claimed, to be the one removed from Catharine Eddowes. Indeed he declared that the fact the Kidney was sodden in alcohol suggested that the Kidney had come from a hospital dissecting room, where it would obviously have been preserved in Spirits of alcohol.
In the aftermath of the "Double Event" police activity intensified throughout early October. The "Jack the Ripper" correspondence had led to great media speculation. The East End was in the grip of panic coupled with a grim curiosity that saw morbid crowds gathering at the murder sites to speculate on the killer's identity and motives. As the Star of the East informed its readers:
"The district of Whitechapel and Aldgate is.. in a state of ferment and panic. All night long there have been people in the streets, standing round coffee stalls and at other points.....talking of the .latest horrors, and even the men seemed to be in a state of terror. Extra police have patrolled the streets.. and the police authorities... have come to the conclusion that publicity is the greatest aid to the detection of the perpetrator.. and all information is cheerfully imparted to the Press."
Despite lurid rumours and several scares, the intensification of police activity appears to have deterred the "Ripper" and October passed with no further murders, although the atmosphere remained tense.
And thus, November 1888 was ushered in on a wave of panic and terror that held the Streets of the East End in a steely grip. At 2am on the 9th November George Hutchinson met twenty - five- year - old Mary Kelly on Commercial Street. She cheerfully asked him for sixpence, to which Hutchinson replied that even this amount was beyond his modest means.
She laughed, told him she'd "just have to find it some other way" and continued to the junction with Thrawl Street, where she met with another man. Hutchinson saw the two chat a little, then watched as Mary led the man into Dorset Street, where they entered her room in Miller's Court. Forty five minutes later neither had emerged from the room and Hutchinson left the scene. Shortly before 4am several of Mary's neighbours were woken by a cry of "Murder!" but all chose to ignore it. At 10.45am when Thomas Bowyer called to collect her overdue rent and discovered her body. She lay upon her bed, her head turned to the left. The whole of the surfaces of the abdomen and thighs had been removed and the abdominal cavity emptied. The breasts had been cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and the face hacked beyond recognition. The uterus and the kidneys, together with one breast, were found beneath her head. The other breast lay by her right foot. The liver had been placed between her legs, and the spleen by the left side of the body. The murderer had left the tiny room in Miller's Court and disappeared into the early morning. What no -one gazing upon the body of poor, unfortunate Mary Kelly could have realised was that, in the blood-bath of Millers Court, the Ripper's reign of terror would end as suddenly and mysteriously as it had begun. As he left the bloody scene in that tiny room that morning, the Whitechapel Murderer may have performed his swansong, but the legend of Jack the Ripper was only just beginning.
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