Case-Jack-Ripper

In 1888, the Whitechapel district of London became the stalking ground of an unidentified serial killer.

His name – Jack the Ripper – originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was released to the media.

The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story.

Other nicknames used for the killer at the time were “The Whitechapel Murderer” and “Leather Apron”.

Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes from the slums, whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations.

The removal of internal organs from at least three of the victims led to proposals that their killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge.

In September and October 1888, rumors that the murders were connected intensified, and letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard.

The “From Hell” letter, received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included half of a preserved human kidney, supposedly from one of the victims.

Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper”.

An investigation into a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, but the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified.

The murders were never solved, and the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudo-history.

The term “ripperology” was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases.

There are now over one hundred theories about the Ripper’s identity, and the murders have inspired multiple works of fiction.

The Stalking Ground

In the mid-19th century, England experienced an influx of Irish immigrants, who swelled the populations of England’s major cities, including the East End of London. From 1882, Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia moved into the same area.

The civil parish of Whitechapel in London’s East End became increasingly overcrowded. Work and housing conditions worsened, and a significant economic underclass developed.

Robbery, violence and alcohol dependency were commonplace, and the endemic poverty drove many women to prostitution.

In October 1888, London’s Metropolitan Police Service estimated that there were 1200 prostitutes and about 62 brothels in Whitechapel.

Racism, crime, social disturbance, and real deprivation fed public perceptions that Whitechapel was a notorious den of immorality.

The Murders

The large number of attacks against women in the East End during this era makes it hard to determine exactly how many victims were killed by the same person.

Eleven separate murders, stretching from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891, were included in a London Metropolitan Police Service investigation, and were known collectively in the police docket as the “Whitechapel murders”.

Five of the eleven Whitechapel murders – known as the “canonical five” – are widely believed to be the work of the Ripper.

Most experts point to the characteristic deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations as the distinctive features of Jack the Ripper’s work.

The Canonical Five

The canonical five Ripper victims are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.

Nichols’ body was discovered at about 3:40 a.m. on Friday 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durward Street), Whitechapel. The throat was severed deeply by two cuts, and the lower part of the abdomen was partly ripped open by a deep, jagged wound. Several other incisions on the abdomen were caused by the same knife.

Chapman’s body was discovered at about 6 a.m. on Saturday 8 September 1888 near a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. As in the case of Mary Ann Nichols, the throat was severed by two cuts. The abdomen was slashed entirely open, and it was later discovered that the uterus had been removed. At the inquest, one witness described seeing Chapman at about 5:30 a.m. with a dark-haired man of “shabby-genteel” appearance.

Stride and Eddowes were killed in the early morning of Sunday 30 September 1888.

Stride’s body was discovered at about 1 a.m., in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street (now Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. The cause of death was one clear-cut incision which severed the main artery on the left side of the neck. Uncertainty about whether Stride’s murder should be attributed to the Ripper, or whether he was interrupted during the attack, stems from the absence of mutilations to the abdomen.

Eddowes’ body was found in Mitre Square, in the City of London, three-quarters of an hour after Stride’s. The throat was severed, and the abdomen was ripped open by a long, deep, jagged wound. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed. A local man, Joseph Lawende, had passed through the square with two friends shortly before the murder, and he described seeing a fair-haired man of shabby appearance with a woman who may have been Eddowes. His companions, however, were unable to confirm his description.

Eddowes’ and Stride’s murders were later called the “double event”.

Part of Eddowes’ bloodied apron was found at the entrance to a tenement in Goulston Street, Whitechapel.

Some writing on the wall above the apron piece, which became known as the Goulston Street graffito, seemed to implicate a Jew or Jews, but it was unclear whether the graffito was written by the murderer as he dropped the apron piece, or merely incidental. Police Commissioner Charles Warren feared the graffito might spark anti-Semitic riots, and ordered it washed away before dawn.

Kelly’s gruesomely mutilated body was discovered lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields, at 10:45 a.m. on Friday 9 November 1888. The throat had been severed down to the spine, and the abdomen virtually emptied of its organs. The heart was missing.

The canonical five murders were perpetrated at night, on or close to a weekend, and either at the end of a month or a week or so after. The mutilations became increasingly severe as the series of murders proceeded, except for that of Stride, whose attacker may have been interrupted.

Historically, the belief that these five crimes were committed by the same man derives from contemporary documents that link them together to the exclusion of others.

In 1894, Sir Melville Macnaghten, Assistant Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service and Head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), wrote a report that stated: “the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims—& 5 victims only”.

Similarly, the canonical five victims were linked together in a letter written by the police surgeon Thomas Bond to Robert Anderson, head of the London CID, on 10 November 1888.

Authors Stewart P. Evans and Donald Rumbelow argue that the canonical five is a “Ripper myth” and that while three cases (Nichols, Chapman, and Eddowes) can be definitely linked, there is less certainty over Stride and Kelly.

Kelly is generally considered to be the Ripper’s final victim, and it is assumed that the crimes ended because of the culprit’s death, imprisonment, institutionalization, or emigration

The Investigation

A large team of policemen conducted house-to-house inquiries throughout Whitechapel. Forensic material was collected and examined. Suspects were identified, traced and either examined more closely or eliminated from the inquiry.

Over 2000 people were interviewed, “upwards of 300” people were investigated, and 80 people were detained.

The investigation was initially conducted by the Metropolitan Police Whitechapel (H) Division Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headed by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid.

After the murder of Nichols, Detective Inspectors Frederick Abberline, Henry Moore, and Walter Andrews were sent from Central Office at Scotland Yard to assist. After the Eddowes murder, which occurred within the City of London, the City Police under Detective Inspector James McWilliam were involved.

Overall direction of the murder inquiries was hampered by the fact that the newly appointed head of the CID, Robert Anderson, was on leave in Switzerland between 7 September and 6 October, during the time Chapman, Stride and Eddowes were killed. This prompted the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, to appoint Chief Inspector Donald Swanson to coordinate the inquiry from Scotland Yard.

Partly because of dissatisfaction with the police effort, a group of volunteer citizens in London’s East End called the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee patrolled the streets looking for suspicious characters, petitioned the government to raise a reward for information about the killer, and hired private detectives to question witnesses independently.

Butchers, slaughterers, surgeons and physicians were suspected because of the manner of the mutilations.

Some contemporary figures (including Queen Victoria) thought the pattern of the murders indicated that the culprit was a butcher or cattle drover on one of the cattle boats that plied between London and mainland Europe.

Whitechapel was close to the London Docks, and usually such boats docked on Thursday or Friday and departed on Saturday or Sunday.

The cattle boats were examined but the dates of the murders did not coincide with a single boat’s movements and the transfer of a crewman between boats was also ruled out.

Criminal Profiling

At the end of October, Robert Anderson asked police surgeon Thomas Bond to give his opinion on the extent of the murderer’s surgical skill and knowledge.The opinion offered by Bond on the character of the “Whitechapel murderer” is the earliest surviving offender profile.

Bond’s assessment was based on his own examination of the most extensively mutilated victim and the post mortem notes from the four previous canonical murders.

Bond was strongly opposed to the idea that the murderer possessed any kind of scientific or anatomical knowledge, or even “the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer”. In his opinion the killer must have been a man of solitary habits, subject to “periodical attacks of homicidal and erotic mania”, with the character of the mutilations possibly indicating “satyriasis”.

Bond also stated that “the homicidal impulse may have developed from a revengeful or brooding condition of the mind, or that religious mania may have been the original disease but I do not think either hypothesis is likely”.

While there is no evidence of any sexual activity with any of the victims, psychologists suppose that the penetration of the victims with a knife and “leaving them on display in sexually degrading positions with the wounds exposed” indicates that the perpetrator derived sexual pleasure from the attacks.

This view is challenged by others who dismiss such hypotheses as insupportable supposition.

Suspects?

The concentration of the killings at the weekend, and within a few streets of each other, has indicated to many that the Ripper was employed during the week and lived locally.

Others have thought the killer was an educated upper-class man – possibly a doctor or an aristocrat – who ventured into Whitechapel from a more well-to-do area.

Suspects proposed years after the murders include virtually anyone remotely connected to the case by contemporary documents, as well as many famous names, who were never considered in the police investigation. As everyone alive at the time is now dead, modern authors are pretty much free to accuse anyone.

Suspects named in contemporary police documents include three in Sir Melville Macnaghten’s 1894 memorandum, but the evidence against them is circumstantial at best.

Despite the many and varied theories about the identity and profession of Jack the Ripper, authorities are not agreed on a single solution and the number of named suspects reaches over one hundred.

The Royal Connection?

That’s coming.

For now, we’ve laid out the parameters of the case.

We’ll be looking at some of the more famous and infamous of the likely culprits, next time.

Till then.

Peace.

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