The Nemesis of Neglect, Punch, September 29, 1888
The first thing to know about the Whitechapel Murders, committed by the man they called ‘the Jack The Ripper’, is that much of what we rely on as fact is little more than speculation. For a start, Ripperologists cannot even agree on simple Ripper facts, such as how many victims there were.
On September 13th, 1889, almost a year after the last usually accepted victim was found, the Times newspaper published a list of what it called ‘the East-end murders’. I quote verbatim:
1. December 1887 – Unknown woman found murdered near Osborn and Wentworth Streets, Whitechapel.
2. August 7th, 1888 Martha Turner found stabbed in 39 places on a landing of the model dwellings in George Yard Buildings, Whitechapel.
3. August 31st, 1888 – Mary Ann Nichols, murdered and mutilated in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel.
4. September 8th, 1888 – Mary Ann Chapman, murdered and mutilated in Hanbury Street, Whitechapel.
5. September 30th, 1888 – Elizabeth Stride, found with her throat cut in Berner Street, St George’s.
6. September 30th, 1888 – Mrs May (sic) Eddowes, murdered and mutilated in Mitre Square, Aldgate.
7. November 9th, 1888 – Mary Jane Kelly, murdered and mutilated in Dorset Street, Spitalfields.
8. July 17th, 1889 – Alice McKenzie, murdered and mutilated in Castle Alley, Whitechapel.
9. The woman whose mutilated body was found on Tuesday morning (10th) in Pinchin Street.
In the list above, most ‘experts’ do not connect victim numbers 1, 8 and 9 with Jack The Ripper and victim number 2 is usually referred to Martha Tabram, although she is known to have used both names.
The police files on the Whitechapel Murders officially began with the murder of Emma Smith on April 3rd, 1888, a murder that didn’t even make the Times list. The first on their list, ‘the murder of an unknown woman in Christmas week 1887′, foxed many historians, who could not match the details with any documented case. What is on record is that Margaret Hames, a friend and fellow lodger of Emma Smith, was attacked in the same area on December 8th, 1887, and spent two weeks in the Whitechapel infirmary with injuries to her face and chest.
Although the file went missing when paperwork was transferred from New Scotland Yard to the Public Record Office, what we do know about Emma Smith reinforces the view that she was not a victim of the one man referred to as ‘Jack The Ripper’.
Smith was attacked early in the morning of April 3rd, 1888. A report by Inspector Edmund Reid stated: ‘The offence had been committed on the pathway opposite No. 10 Brick Lane, about 300 yards from 18 George Street (her lodgings), and half a mile from the London Hospital to which the deceased walked. She would have passed a number of Pc’s en route but not was informed of the incident or asked to render assistance.
‘The peritoneum had been penetrated by a blunt instrument thrust up the woman’s passage, and peritonitis set in which caused death.’ At the hospital she described her killers as three men and the motice as robbery, so that tends to exclude her from the Ripper enquiries. Of course, at the time there was no idea that there would be a series of horific murders and the newspapers of the time headlined the event as ‘Horrible Murder in Whitechapel’.
The second case in the Metropolitan Police Whitechapel Murders file is usually (though by no means by everybody) regarded as the first true Ripper killing. Martha Tabram, also known as Turner, was discovered on the first floor landing of 37 George Yard Buildings, George Yard, by docks labourer John Saunders Reeves on his way to work at around 4:50am. He summoned Police Constable Thomas Barrett, who in turn roused Dr Killeen of 68 Brick Lane.
Her killer had stabbed her 39 times in the body and neck, including nine stab wounds in the throat, five penetrating the left lung, two the right lung, one the heart, five the liver, two the spleen, and six the stomach, also wounding her lower abdomen and genitals.
Earlier on the night of the murder, PC Barrett had seen a soldier loitering near the north end of George Yard. He went to the nearest barracks at the Tower of London to try and identify the soldier in question, but was unable to do so.
This murder is sometimes excluded from lists of Ripper victims on the grounds that the killer used a different modus operandi: stabbing, rather than slashing the throat and then cutting. Now most experts agree that a killer can vary his modus operandi quite dramatically.
Mary Anne (Polly) Nichols
The first of the murders all experts agree was committed by Jack the Ripper was that of Mary Ann Nichols, who was killed on Friday, August 31, 1888. The 43-year-old’s body was discovered at 3:40am on the ground in front of the locked gates of Brown’s Stable Yard in Buck’s Row (now called Durward Street). The gullet and windpipe had been completely severed, exposing the spinal cord. Her skirt was raised and her eyes were open.
Earlier that night she had staggered home to her lodging house at 18 Thrawl Street, from the Frying Pan public house in Brick Lane. She was turned away because she had no money but is said to have told them: ‘I’ll soon get my doss money. See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got now.’. Her body was found with her new bonnet – black trimmed with black velvet – beside it.
The police soon linked this murder with the previous two and the panic started.
Annie Chapman, nicknamed ‘Dark Annie’, was murdered on Saturday, September 8, 1888. Her body was discovered at about 6:00am, lying on the ground near a doorway in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. Summoned by police, Dr George Bagster Phillips arrived at 6:30am and later described what he saw: ‘The face was swollen and turned on the right side. The tongue protruded between the front teeth, but not beyond the lips. The tongue was evidently much swollen. The front teeth were perfect as far as the first molar, top and bottom and very fine teeth they were. The body was terribly mutilated… the stiffness of the limbs was not marked, but was evidently commencing.
‘The throat was dissevered deeply; the incisions through the skin were jagged and reached right round the neck… On the wooden paling between the yard in question and the next, smears of blood, corresponding to where the head of the deceased lay, were to be seen. These were about 14 inches from the ground, and immediately above the part where the blood from the neck lay.’
‘The instrument used at the throat and abdomen was the same. It must have been a very sharp knife with a thin narrow blade, and must have been at least 6 to 8 inches in length, probably longer. The injuries could not have been inflicted by a bayonet or a sword bayonet. They could have been done by such an instrument as a medical man used for post-mortem purposes, but the ordinary surgical cases might not contain such an instrument. Those used by the slaughtermen, well ground down, might have caused them.’
Annie Chapman was forty-seven years old, in poor health after a bout of tuberculosis and destitute.
Swedish-born Elizabeth (‘Long Liz’) Stride was killed in the early hours of Sunday 30th September, 1888, the first of the so-called ‘Double Event’ that culminated in the slaughter of Catherine Eddowes less than an hour later. Stride’s body was discovered close to 01:00am, lying on the ground in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street, now Henriques Street.
Louis Diemschutz, steward of the adjoining International Working Men’s Educational Club, discovered her body on driving into the yard with a pony and cart. It was dark and the pony shied away and refused to go straight. The man lit a match and discovered the still-warm body, with blood still gushing from a single deep cut that severed her throat. It transpired that she had been killed just moments before Diemschutz’s arrival and he told the police that he believed that the killer was still in the yard when he arrived and that he had disturbed him before further damage could be done. This would have explained the single wound, uncharacteristic of other Ripper murders. Some Ripper authorities are of the opinion that Stride was killed by her lover, Michael Kidney.
A witness, Israel Schwartz, reported seeing Stride being attacked at 12.45am by a man outside the entrance to Dutfield’s Yard. He may have had an accomplice standing across the road, smoking a pipe, to whom he shouted ‘Lipski’ . Schwartz, a Polish Jew, felt that he was being followed by the second man and he ran as far as the railway arch before he was confident that he had lost him.
Schwartz described the first man as being aged about 30, 5ft 5ins tall, with a fair complexion, dark hair and a small brown moustache. He was broad-shouldered, full of face, and wore a dark jacket and trousers and wore a black peaked cap. The second man was around five years older, 5ft 11ins tall, with a fresh complexion, light brown hair and a brown moustache. He was wearing a dark overcoat and a hard black felt hat.
Whether or not it was one of the men Schwartz saw, it is pretty conclusive that Liz Stride was murdered by the man later to be called Jack The Ripper. Her death shares many strong similarities to the pattern of Ripper killings, including the time, the venue, characteristics of the victim and the use of knife as murder weapon. It is entirely consistent that stride escaped mutilation only because the killer was interrupted by Diemschutz’s arrival. The coincidence of Catherine Eddowes’ murder within walking distance less than an hour later was the Ripper’s consummation of the earlier ‘unconsummated’ killing of Stride.
The mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes, who also used the aliases Kate Conway and Mary Ann Kelly, was found in Mitre Square, in the City of London. Mutilation of Eddowes’ body and the abstraction of her left kidney and part of her womb by her murderer bore the signature of a ‘Jack the Ripper’ killing.
Mary Jane Kelly (called herself “Marie Jeanette Kelly” after a trip to Paris, nicknamed “Ginger”), reportedly born c. 1863 either the city of Limerick or County Limerick, Munster, Ireland and killed on Friday, November 9, 1888. She was about twenty-five years old when she was killed. Kelly’s gruesomely mutilated body was discovered shortly after 10:45 a.m. lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields. This location is now a service road for offices and an NCP car park.