The Enduring Mystery of Jack the Ripper
In the late 19th century, the city of London was the largest in the world. A sprawling metropolis and a melting pot for trade, finance, and people. But in the autumn of 1888, an horrific story emerged from the capital's East End. A story so dreadful, it sent shockwaves around the world.
One after another, destitute women of the East End fell victim to a vicious killer known as Jack the Ripper. Despite an extensive manhunt and a few close calls, the Ripper was never caught. Instead, the murders came to an abrupt end and left behind one of the greatest mysteries in the annals of crime. In the East End of London, there's a district known as Whitechapel.
In the late 19th century, Whitechapel was known for its overcrowded slums, where many of the capital's poor and unemployed had taken refuge. Day and night, an army of policemen would constantly patrol this labyrinthine network of dim-lit streets, courts, and alleys. One such place was a narrow passage known as George Yard. Near the north entrance of this passage was a residential complex known as George Yard Buildings.
It was the morning of August 7, 1888, when an upstairs tenant named John Reeves headed out for work. Upon reaching the first-floor landing, Reeves encountered the body of a woman lying upon her back in a pool of blood. Horrified by the sight, he stumbled down to the street below in search for help.
Constable Thomas Barrett was the first officer on the scene. He was soon joined by Dr. Timothy Killeen, who conducted a brief examination. The woman had been stabbed 39 times. Primarily in the chest and abdomen.
Dr. Killeen estimated that she had been dead for "about three hours". Thus placing the time of death at approximately 02:30 in the morning. The woman had likely been attacked where she was found as no blood was found beyond the staircase landing.
But this was strange as none of the tenants in this crowded building had heard a single cry for help or a disturbance of any kind. One exception was Amy Hewitt, a tenant who claimed to have heard a lone cry of "Murder!". But this was early in the evening of August 6, and the scream had emanated from outside the complex. Hewitt further explained: "The district round here is rather rough, and cries of murder are of frequent, if not nightly, occurrence." The victim was eventually identified as 39-year-old Martha Tabram. Tabram was a mother of two and had separated from her husband many years prior.
Her last known address was 19 George Street, a common lodging-house less than 300 meters from the site of her death. Tabram had made a living through prostitution, and one of her associates was a woman named Mary Ann Connelly. Connelly testified that, on the evening of August 6, she and Tabram had been out drinking with two soldiers. Then, shortly before midnight, the party of four had separated. Connelly took her client into Angel Alley while Tabram guided hers into neighboring George Yard. It was the last time she saw Tabram alive.
Barely two hours later, Constable Barrett had spoken to a soldier loitering near the north entrance of George Yard. The soldier had told Barrett that he was: "waiting for his mate who had gone away with a girl". Half an hour later, Tabram is presumed to have died. Both Connelly and Barrett were called upon to identify the soldiers. But all those accused could provide an alibi.
One had been at home with his wife, another at an army base, and yet another in a completely different part of the city. This was enough for Inspector Edmund Reid, the lead investigator on the case, to abandon this line of inquiry. "[Connelly] and [Barrett] having both picked out the wrong men they could not be trusted again as their evidence would be worthless." Even if a soldier had been responsible, no one could deduce a motive.
The people of Whitechapel might have been accustomed to crime and violence, but the sheer brutality of this attack was as frighting as it was confounding. "The crime [is] one of the most brutal that [have] occurred for some years." "For a poor defenseless woman to be outraged and stabbed in such a manner [is] almost beyond belief." These were the concluding remarks delivered at the final inquest held on August 23. Only a week later, things would go from bad to worse. On the morning of August 31, a man named Robert Paul left his home on Foster Street and headed for work.
After making a right turn into Buck's Row, he spotted a man standing in the road. The man turned around to face him and said: "Come and look over here. There is a woman lying on the pavement." The stranger was named Charles Cross, and he, too, had been on his way to work when he first caught sight of the woman. The two men now cautiously approached. The woman's hands were cold to the touch, and Cross believed she was dead.
Paul, however, thought he could sense faint breathing. But, instead of seeking immediate help, Cross and Paul were more concerned about being late for work. As such, they quickly resumed their morning commute, hoping to notify a policeman along the way.
Fortunately, Constable John Neil was just around the corner. Niel was equipped with a lantern and found the woman lying on her back with a deep cut across the throat. The wound was still bleeding, and parts of her body were still warm. He was soon joined by Constable John Thain, who was sent at once to fetch a nearby doctor. Upon his arrival shortly after four o'clock, Dr. Rees Llewellyn estimated that:
"she had not been dead more than half an hour". In other words, Cross and Paul had likely found the woman mere minutes after she was killed. Furthermore, three officers had patrolled the vicinity just a few minutes prior. Constable Niel had last inspected Buck's Row at approximately 03:15.
So too had Sergeant Henry Kirby. Whereas Constable Thain had merely passed the end of the street. None of whom had seen nor heard anything amiss.
Upon the body's removal to the mortuary, a shocking discovery was made. Apart from two incisions in the throat, the woman had also been "disembowelled". No organs had been removed, but Dr. Llewellyn found: "several incisions running across the abdomen". He also believed that the killer possessed: "some rough anatomical knowledge, for he seemed to have attacked all the vital parts".
The victim was quickly identified. Her name was Mary Ann Nichols, and she had turned 43 just five days before the murder. Nichols had at least six children and her last known address was a common lodging-house at 56 Flower & Dean Street. On the night of her death, Nichols had been turned away from a lodging house on Thrawl Street as she lacked the funds to pay for a bed. Seeking to raise the money through prostitution, Nichols had then ventured down Osborn Street before meeting her friend Ellen Holland.
The two of them shared a brief exchange, but Nichols was visibly drunk. When they parted ways around half-past two, Holland saw Nichols staggering eastward along Whitechapel Road. Barely an hour later, she was found dead. Apart from the body itself, the killer had left nothing in their wake. No blood trail, no murder weapon, no witnesses.
Inspector Joseph Helson, the lead investigator on the case, stated that: "not an atom of evidence can be obtained to connect any person with the crime". While the Nichols case ground to a screeching halt, its similarities with the Martha Tabram case had not gone unnoticed. In both cases, the attack had been needlessly ferocious, and there was no discernible motive.
Both victims were prostitutes of roughly the same age and moved in the same circles. The only meaningful difference was their injuries. Tabram had been repeatedly stabbed, whereas Nichols had suffered multiple slash wounds. Differences aside, the prevailing assumption was that the same deranged individual had committed both murders. A conviction that would only grow stronger in the days that followed.
As the Sun was rising on September 8, a man named John Richardson was on his way to work. At a quarter to five, he made a quick stop at 29 Hanbury Street. He went through the entrance and out the back door by way of a cramped hallway.
Richardson then sat down on the backyard steps before grabbing a knife... ...to trim a vexing piece of leather from his boot. Once satisfied, he left the building and shut the front door behind him. About an hour later, a third-floor tenant of the same address, John Davis, plodded downstairs and into the hallway. The front door was now wide open, but the one in the back was closed. When Davis went to open it, he found the bloodied remains of a woman lying on her back just below the steps. Inspector Joseph Chandler was the first officer on the scene.
After a brief inspection, he sent at once for a medic. Dr. George Phillips arrived at half-past six and found the woman "terribly mutilated". The throat had been "dissevered deeply", whereas the abdomen had been "entirely laid open". The intestines had been: "lifted out of the body and placed by the shoulder of the corpse". The body was then conveyed to the mortuary while Inspector Chandler and Dr. Phillips conducted a sweep of the backyard.
Most of what they found belonged to the tenants of the building. But just below the resting place of the woman's feet, they found a small piece of cloth and two combs. The items had likely belonged to the victim, but it seemed to Dr. Phillips that they had been deliberately positioned and arranged by the killer. The post-mortem revealed that two brass rings had been forcefully removed from the victim's left hand. These rings were nowhere to be found. Portions of the victim's abdomen had also gone missing, including the womb.
Dr. Phillips believed that: "the mode in which these portions were extracted showed some anatomical knowledge". This point was greatly expanded upon at a subsequent inquest. "The injuries had been made by someone who had considerable anatomical skill and knowledge." "There were no meaningless cuts."
"For instance, no mere slaughterer of animals could have carried out these operations." "It must have been someone accustomed to the post-mortem room." The victim was quickly identified as Annie Chapman.
Chapman's date of birth is a bit uncertain but she was roughly 47 at the time of her death. She had at least seven children, but was, tragically, only survived by two. Her last known address was a common lodging-house at 35 Dorset Street. On the night of her death, Chapman had been denied accommodations as she lacked the funds to pay for a bed. She was escorted off the premises by the night watchman, who then saw her vanish into a nearby alleyway. What happened to Chapman over the next few hours, nobody knows.
Her whereabouts during this time is a complete mystery. But unlike the two previous cases, a witness in the Chapman case might have caught a glimpse of the killer. At half-past five on the morning of September 8, a woman named Elizabeth Long spotted a man and a woman conversing outside 29 Hanbury Street. Long was positive that the woman she'd seen was Annie Chapman.
But the man had stood with his back towards Long, so she never saw his face. Long did, however, manage to overhear a fragment of their conversation. The man had posed the question: "Will you?" To which the woman responded: "Yes." Now, a lasting point of contention in the Chapman case is the time of death. According to Dr. Phillips, when he arrived at 06:30, Chapman had been dead for:
"at least two hours". That would place her death at around half-past four. But according to Long, she saw Chapman alive a full hour later. Then there's the testimony of John Richardson. Richardson was the son of one of the tenants in the building.
At a quarter to five, he made a routine checkup on the door to the basement, which had previously suffered a break-in. When he found it secure, he sat down on the backyard steps to trim a piece of leather from his boot. Even though he sat mere centimeters from the murder site, Richardson did not see a body. He was adamant on this point.
"I could not have failed to notice the deceased if she had been there." To muddle the timeline even further, there's the testimony of Albert Cadosch. About twenty minutes past five, Cadosch had gone through the backyard of 27 Hanbury Street when he heard voices coming from nearby. They were barely audible, however, and Cadosch had only made out the word "No!" A few minutes later, he heard something falling against the wooden fence dividing the two yards. There's no one way to untangle this web of contradictions, but Dr. Phillips did concede the possibility that he'd miscalculated.
That "the coldness of the morning and the great loss of blood" had skewed his opinion, which was largely based on the warmth of the body. So, presuming that Dr. Phillips did miscalculate and the recollections of Long and Cadosch were off by a few minutes, that would place Chapman's death at around 05:30 in the morning. By this point, the dim light of dawn would have provided the tenants of 29 Hanbury Street an unobstructed view of the murder site. Some of whom had even slept with their windows open. In spite of this, the killer managed to evade detection and even made time to arrange the victims possessions.
As the tally of victims gradually mounted, the public grew increasingly anxious. They were not only frightened by the murders but frustrated with the police and their perceived incompetence. Even across the pond were the efforts of the police fiercely criticized. "The London police and detective force is probably the stupidest in the world."
What these mocking quotes and illustrations failed to capture where the overwhelming odds stacked in favor of the perpetrator. The police were up against someone who seemingly struck without motive. Someone who left no murder weapon and few witnesses.
On top of that, the East End was severely overcrowded while the police were understaffed. As one newspaper put it: "A man in the East End of London is a grain of sand." "As invisible, and almost as much beyond identification amid the masses." At no point would this become more apparent than during the events of September 30. On September 29, a routine Saturday meeting was held at a Socialist club on Berner Street. When the meeting came to a close around midnight, all but a few members returned home.
Those who remained proceeded to drink and socialize. Half an hour into September 30, Joseph Lave stepped outside to get some fresh air. Lave used the side entrance leading into Dutfield's Yard and lingered for about ten minutes. Moments after Lave had gone back inside, Morris Eagle accessed the building via the same entrance.
He, too, was a member of the club and had just returned after escorting a woman home. Neither of them noticed anything unusual. Twenty minutes later, the sound of a horse and carriage could be heard trotting down Berner Street. The driver was Louis Diemschutz, the steward of the clubhouse.
When Diemschutz drove into Dutfield's Yard, his pony abruptly veered to the left. When he looked down to his right, he thought he could discern something in the darkness. Diemschutz stepped down from his barrow and, after lighting a match, could see a woman lying on her side against the wall. Without even knowing if she was "drunk or dead", Diemschutz rushed into the club to check on his wife.
When he found her safe and sound, he alerted the other members, and a small crowd soon gathered outside. They could now see that the woman's throat had been "fearfully cut". And that "a stream of blood [was] trickling down the yard". Eagle, Diemschutz, and a few others promptly dispersed to find a policeman. While a growing crowd of bystanders waited for authorities to arrive, there was no sign of the perpetrator. But across the city, less than a kilometer to the west, an even more ghoulish discovery was about to be made.
At half-past one of the same morning, Constable Edward Watkins patrolled an open space known as Mitre Square. Watkins's beat would take him through the square about once every 13 minutes, and, on this occasion, it was deserted. But in the time it took Watkins to complete another rotation, Mitre Square was turned into a crime scene. "I next came in at 01:44." "I turned to the right." "I saw the body of a woman lying there on her back."
"I saw her throat was cut and her bowels protruding." "The stomach was ripped up." "She was lying in a pool of blood."
Dr. George Sequeira and Dr. Frederick Brown soon converged upon the scene. They found terrible injuries inflicted upon the woman's face, throat, and abdomen. The intestines had been "drawn out to a large extent and placed over the right shoulder". Among the many lacerations to the face, Dr. Brown noted that: "the lobe and auricle of the right ear was cut obliquely through".
Based on their expert opinions coupled with the testimony of Watkins, the woman had died within minutes of her body being found. Back in Berner Street, Dr. Frederick Blackwell and Dr. George Phillips had reached the same conclusion. The woman in Dutfield's Yard had died within minutes of her body being found. But, unlike previous victims, she had only suffered injuries to the throat. There were no abdominal mutilations or anything else by which to connect the attack to the others.
But the murder in Dutfield's Yard and the one in Mitre Square were separated by less than 1 kilometer and some 45 minutes. This allowed for a chilling possibility. It was suspected then, as it continues to be today, that, when Diemschutz came clattering through the gateway, he unwittingly interrupted the murder.
The killer may even have become trapped inside Dutfield's Yard because the gate on Berner Street was the only point of entry. Perhaps they saw an opportunity to escape when Diemschutz then rushed inside the club. From there, it would have taken them less than 15 minutes to reach Mitre Square. Plenty of time to hunt for another victim. But it must be emphasized that this is pure speculation.
There is no evidence to suggest the two murders were even connected. The woman in Dutfield's Yard was identified as 44-year-old Elizabeth Stride. Stride was a Swedish immigrant who'd lived in London for over two decades.
Following the death of her husband, she had made a living through prostitution. Her last known address was a common lodging-house at 32 Flower & Dean Street. On the night of her death, Stride had been seen by quite an abundance of witnesses. First, she was seen in the company of a "respectably dressed man" around eleven o'clock.
About a quarter to midnight, Stride was seen talking to a man who was "decently dressed" and had the appearance of a clerk. Then, only a few minutes before the murder, Stride was seen in the company of a man by Constable William Smith. The man was carrying a small parcel wrapped in newspaper and was of "respectable appearance".
It's unclear whether these descriptions are of the same person or if Stride accosted multiple clients as the night progressed. There were other witnesses, some less credible than others, but the one that really stood out from the rest was Israel Schwartz. About a quarter to one, Schwartz had been walking down Berner Street.
As he came up on Dutfield's Yard, he witnessed a man throwing a woman to the ground in front of the entrance. The woman had "screamed three times but not very loudly". Schwartz would later identify this woman as Elizabeth Stride. Schwartz did not try to intervene but opted instead to simply cross the street. That's when he spied a second man on the opposite side who was lighting a pipe. The man who attacked the woman then appeared to address this second man by shouting the name "Lipski!" The pipe-smoker then proceeded to follow Schwartz before eventually breaking away.
When taken at face value, this story appears to suggest that the killer had an accomplice. An accomplice by the name of Lipski. This was indeed the interpretation of some government officials. But Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the lead investigators on the case, had a very different interpretation. You see, the name Lipski had gained notoriety in 1887 when a Jewish man by the name of Isreal Lipski was convicted of murder.
Owing to the publicity of that case, the surname Lipski had become an antisemitic slur. Abberline, therefore, deduced that the man who shouted "Lipski!" was directing an insult at Schwartz, who was described as having a "strong Jewish appearance". The man with the pipe, meanwhile, may have been an innocent passer-by who became frightened along with Schwartz.
Whether Abberline's interpretation is correct, it's doubtful we'll ever truly know. Nevertheless, Schwartz's account is compelling as he conceivably witnessed the moment when Elizabeth Stride was attacked. Back in Mitre Square, a large crowd of spectators had descended upon the scene.
All driven by their morbid curiosity to get a glimpse of the body. The post-mortem revealed that the killer had extracted a few organs, including the womb and left kidney. According to Dr. Brown, this extraction required "a good deal of knowledge", which he likened to that of a butcher. By contrast, Dr. Sequeira did not find any signs of "great anatomical skill". The woman in Mitre Square was identified as 46-year-old Catherine Eddowes.
Eddowes had at least five children but, after escaping her abusive husband, she had become estranged from her family. Her last known address was a common lodging-house at 55 Flower & Dean Street. On the night of her death, Eddowes had been out drinking. She got so drunk that, around half-past eight, she was found lying on the sidewalk in Aldgate High Street surrounded by a crowd. The commotion attracted a few officers, who then escorted Eddowes to a nearby police station. There she remained locked in a cell until one o'clock in the morning.
After being released from jail, Eddowes was likely spotted in the company of a man in the vicinity of Mitre Square. Only one of the three witnesses, Joseph Lawende, had paid close attention to the couple. The man had the appearance of a sailor and wore a "reddish handkerchief" round his neck. While Lawende did identify the woman as Catherine Eddowes, he never saw her face. Nevertheless, this sighting was only made some 10 minutes before Eddowes's body was discovered by Constable Wakins. What's so incredibly tragic about the Eddowes case is how narrowly the killer escaped justice.
First of all, the only private residence in Mitre Square was occupied by a policeman and his family. They had slept right next to an upper floor window overlooking the murder site. Second of all, a night watchman and retired policeman had been cleaning a warehouse within earshot of the murder site.
He would routinely hear the footsteps of patrolling officers yet heard nothing at the time of the murder. Finally, Constable James Harvey had glanced into Mitre Square at roughly twenty minutes to two. That's right in between the sighting by Lawende and the body's discovery. Harvey should have had an unobstructed view of the murder site, yet he failed to notice anything suspicious.
Was it too dark? Was the killer standing just a few meters away cloaked in shadow? Did one or more witnesses get the time wrong? While the killer did ultimately escape, they did not do so without leaving a trace. Shortly before three o'clock, a bloodstained piece of cloth was found near the entrance to a building a few blocks to the northeast. It proved to be a ripped portion of the apron worn by Eddowes. The patch had evidently been torn off and then discarded by the killer upon their escape.
Now, on the wall above this patch of apron, someone had written a message. "The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing." To this day, both the meaning and the author of this message remain in doubt. Was it written by the killer? Was it an attempt to cast suspicion upon or even away from the Jewish community? Was it completely unrelated to the murder? Similar questions would soon be raised by a few letters. Letters that had supposedly been written and posted by the killer.
Three days before the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, the Central News Agency of London received a letter in the post. The author of which claimed responsibility for the recent murders and to be planning for the "next job". Then, in the aftermath of the two killings, the same agency received a blood-smeared postcard. It contained details about the atrocities, which the author described as a "double event". On the off chance that the letters were genuine, the police decided to make them public.
The hope was that someone would recognize the handwriting. Unfortunately, no one ever did. Instead, it merely served to advertise the name with which the letters had been signed. Opinions on the letter's authenticity were divided back then and continue to be today. Most notably, the Dear Boss Letter had promised to "clip the lady's ears off" and send them to the police.
The police never received such a package, and neither of the two victims had had their ears removed. But you may recall that the right earlobe of Eddowes had been "cut obliquely through". Was this a botched attempt by the killer to keep their promise? Or was it merely one of numerous lacerations with no connection to the letter? The contents of the letters notwithstanding, modern linguistic analysis does suggest that they were penned by the same hand. So, hoaxes or not, the authors were likely one and the same. However, the handwriting bore "no resemblance at all" to the message written above the torn patch of apron.
Now, the publication of the letters inspired an onslaught of copycats. Agencies all over London were soon inundated with correspondence imitating the other two. But at least one of them might have been genuine.
Not because of the contents of the letter but rather the contents of a box with which it was delivered. On October 16, a man named George Lusk received a small package in the post. Lusk was the chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. A small group of local tradesmen who sought to identify the killer. The package consisted of a letter and a cardboard box containing half a kidney.
The doctors who examined the kidney all agreed that it was human. But whether it was the same left kidney removed from the body of Eddowes could not be determined. It could, for instance, have been an elaborate hoax by a medical student or someone with access to human organs. The author of the accompanying letter, meanwhile, insisted that the kidney did belong to the victim and that they had fried and eaten the other half. A popular theory at the time, and one that still is today, was that some of the letters had been fabricated by the press. According to Chief Inspector John Littlechild, the letters were "a smart piece of journalistic work".
Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson dismissed the letters as: "the creation of an enterprising London journalist". Meanwhile, Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten thought he could discern the: "stained forefinger of the journalist". There are a few candidates for who this journalist might have been but there is no solid evidence against any one of them. Whether it was a hoax by an enterprising journalist or the genuine prose of the Ripper, the letters did nonetheless receive widespread attention.
They commanded space in virtually every newspaper and dominated much of the public discourse throughout October. A month which passed without a single atrocity bearing the signature marks of Jack the Ripper. Perhaps it was finally over? "It is pretty certain that the monster has become frightened." "And has suspended his horrible work for the present, if not for good."
On the morning of November 9, a merchant and property owner named John McCarthy was going through his bookkeeping. McCarthy was the landlord of Miller's Court, and the tenants of Room 13 had fallen behind on their rent. McCarthy sent at once for his assistant, Thomas Bowyer, to collect the money at a quarter to eleven.
After knocking twice without response, Bowyer went around the corner to peer through a window. But his view was obstructed by a coat or curtain, so Bowyer had to reach through a broken window pane to pull it aside. That's when he saw the severely mutilated body of a woman lying upon a bed in the corner of the room.
Miller's Court was soon crawling with police. But the door to Room 13 was locked and had to be forced open with a pickaxe. What they found inside was truly the stuff of nightmares. "The sight we saw, I cannot drive away from my mind." "It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man." "The whole scene is more than I can describe."
"I hope I may never see such a sight again." Dr. George Phillips described the body as "cut all to pieces". Dr. Thomas Bond described the woman's face as "hacked beyond recognition". The abdomen had been "emptied of its viscera" while the throat had been: "severed all round down to the bone".
The body had been monstrously disfigured with loose organs dispersed all around it. The room itself was sparsely furnished and offered little in the way of clues. Two tables, one or two chairs, and a small cabinet. Amongst the ashes of a fireplace, the police found patches of burned clothing. Had the killer tried to dispose of evidence, or had it merely been used for warmth and light? The victim was identified almost immediately. Her name was Mary Jane Kelly, and she was the tenant of 13 Miller's Court.
But nearly everything about Kelly's life is shrouded in mystery. She was presumably of Welsh or Irish descent and in her mid-twenties, making her the youngest victim by far. But given that no matching records of a Mary Jane Kelly have been found, it's probable that she was using a fake identity.
In any case, Kelly had not been living alone. Up until a few days before the murder, she had cohabited with a man named Joseph Barnett. They only separated on October 30 because Barnett disapproved of Kelly's prostitution and the people with whom she associated. But they did see each other again. On the evening of November 8, Barnett paid Kelly a visit. Upon his arrival, he found Kelly in the company of a woman who was just about to leave.
Unfortunately, there are conflicting accounts about who this woman was, when Barnett arrived, and how long he stayed. If we chose to believe Barnett, he arrived at some point between seven and a quarter to eight and left before nine o'clock. Shortly before midnight, Kelly was spotted in the company of a man by her neighbor Mary Ann Cox.
When Cox passed the couple, they were about to enter Kelly's room. Cox bid Kelly goodnight, but she was "very much intoxicated" and barely able to respond. Once they had gone inside, Cox could hear Kelly singing. When Cox then left the court about an hour later, Kelly could still be heard singing.
By two o'clock, Kelly had apparently ventured back outside, for she was spotted by a man named George Hutchinson. The two of them were supposedly well-acquainted, and Kelly had asked if he could spare a few coins. But Hutchinson was broke, and Kelly was desperate for money, so they soon parted ways. Moments later, Hutchinson observed Kelly being accosted by a well-dressed man. The two of them had a seemingly jovial interaction and began walking north.
Hutchinson found it suspicious that such a well-dressed man would seek the company of a woman like Kelly. As such, when the couple passed him by, he scrutinized the man's appearance. He was, for instance, carrying a pair of gloves in his right hand and a small parcel in his left.
Hutchinson decided to shadow the couple as they proceeded to Miller's Court. Before they vanished up the court, the man handed Kelly a red handkerchief, and she had supposedly told him: "Alright, my dear. Come along. You will be comfortable." Hutchinson remained in the vicinity until three o'clock, but neither Kelly nor the man reappeared.
At roughly the same time, Cox returned home. In stark contrast to the loud singing upon her last departure, Cox was now struck by the complete absence of sound and light from Kelly's room. Finally, at approximately four o'clock, a tenant above and a woman across from Kelly's room heard cries of "Murder!". The voice was that of a woman, and it appeared to emanate from nearby.
Meanwhile, other denizens of the court heard no screams at all. According to Dr. Bond, Kelly died between one and two o'clock in the morning. Dr. Phillips placed the time of death a few hours later. But some witnesses were quite adamant that they had seen or even spoken to Kelly as late as eight- or ten o'clock in the morning.
Keep in mind that her body was discovered at a quarter to eleven. These contradictions are difficult to reconcile, and the precise time of death eludes us to this day. Mary Jane Kelly is typically regarded as the Ripper's final victim.
Along with Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Catherine Eddowes, she is part of the canonical five. The five victims most likely to have been slain by the same hand. Martha Tabram might have been a victim of Jack the Ripper, but opinions are divided.
The same is true of at least a handful of other cases. Even the canonical five are not without controversy, so the total number of victims is a matter of debate. Presuming that Kelly was indeed the final victim, one has to wonder why? Why did the murders come to such a sudden end? Did the Ripper give in to fears of being caught? Were they imprisoned for a different crime? Perhaps they succumbed to an illness or committed suicide? Could they have migrated to another country? Perhaps they deliberately changed their modus operandi to confuse the police? The possibilities are virtually endless, which means there is no shortage of suspects. Following the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, a rumor began to circulate that someone called Leather Apron was in the habit of abusing prostitutes. The name quickly made its way into the press and, soon enough, it became synonymous with the killer. In fact, Leather Apron was the predominant pseudonym before Jack the Ripper.
But the man identified as Leather Apron was soon cleared of all suspicion. His real name was John Pizer, and he was in a different part of London on the night when Nichols was attacked. This misguided manhunt is somewhat emblematic of the whole investigation. The police pursued even the most tenuous of leads due to a lack of evidence and mounting pressure from the public.
They interviewed thousands, investigated hundreds, and developed numerous theories along the way. In the words of Inspector Frederick Abberline: "Theories! We were lost almost in theories; there were so many of them." In an effort to narrow down the search, the police used a primitive form of criminal profiling.
The idea was to analyze the available evidence to try and gauge what sort of person had committed the crimes. This profile was prepared by Dr. Thomas Bond, and he described the Ripper as a strong middle-aged man with an inoffensive appearance who dressed respectably. Bond's most controversial assessment was that the killer possessed "no scientific nor anatomical knowledge".
This stood in direct opposition to the opinions of his peers. Most of whom ascribed the Ripper with at least a basic understanding of anatomy. Based on the witness accounts, the Ripper was a man of average height with a medium to stout build in his late twenties to mid-thirties. He wore dark clothes, including a hat of some sort, and had a mustache. But this sort of aggregation or tabulation of accounts can be quite deceptive.
Not only are many details inconsistent, but they could be describing entirely different people. For all we know, none of the witnesses ever laid eyes on Jack the Ripper. So much is up for debate that one can build a case against almost any suspect. Some have even entertained the possibility that the Ripper was a woman or possibly a man disguised as a woman. While Jill- or Jackie the Ripper is an interesting theory, it has failed to achieve any widespread support.
What is rarely in dispute is that the Ripper was either a resident of- or otherwise familiar with the East End. After all, he managed to narrowly evade capture on multiple occasions, which implies intimate knowledge of byways and patrol routes. He likely had some form of employment as the murders were committed around weekends and public holidays, and may have had some degree of anatomical knowledge.
With this unshakable profile in hand, let's take a closer look at a few suspects. The question is, where do we even begin? According to criminal profiler and FBI special agent John Douglas, the Ripper was not only a local but was likely interviewed by the police. If Douglas is correct, the Ripper might be someone we've already met. Either a witness or a person close to one of the victims. What about John Richardson? The witness in the Chapman case who sat down on the backyard steps to trim a piece of leather from his boot.
Richardson was indeed suspected by the police, but they found "not a shred of evidence" against him. His mother also lived on the premises, so he had good reason to be there. What about George Hutchinson? The witness who followed Mary Jane Kelly after she was accosted by a well-dressed client. Hutchinson never clarified his motivation for shadowing the couple. He merely stated that he was surprised to see a man so well-dressed in the company of a woman like Kelly.
Was he surprised because he was concerned? Was he jealous? Was it about money? After all, Hutchinson was broke and the client appeared to be wealthy. Perhaps he waited outside the court with the intention of mugging this well-dressed client. There are many question marks surrounding Hutchinson. He has never been positively identified so next to nothing is known about his life.
This makes it very difficult to build a strong case against him. Hutchinson was interrogated by the police but ultimately convinced Inspector Frederick Abberline that he was telling the truth. But not every witness attracted such attention from the police. Take, for instance, Charles Cross.
The man who discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols. On the morning of August 31, Charles Cross left his home on Doveton Street and headed for work. When he turned into Buck's Row, he happened upon the body of Mary Ann Nichols.
Moments later, he was joined by Robert Paul, and events transpired as previously described. Despite his proximity to the crime, Cross appears to have escaped suspicion from both the press and the police. He was evidently seen as the innocent passer-by that he appeared to be.
But in recent years, that perception has been challenged. The argument is that Cross was in the act of committing the murder when he was interrupted by the approaching footsteps of Paul. Cross then concealed the murder weapon and portrayed himself as someone who just found the body. The injuries inflicted upon Nichols would be consisted with an interruption as they were less severe than those of later victims. What's interesting about Cross is that he likely testified under a false name. He claimed to be employed as a carman, and his address was given as 22 Doveton Street.
But surviving records show that, in 1888, this address was occupied by a man named Charles Lechmere. Lechmere was also employed as a carman and, on at least one occasion, went by the name Charles Cross as it was the surname of his stepfather. It is now widely believed that Charles Lechmere was the man who appeared at the inquest and that he assumed the name of his stepfather when he testified.
His motivation for doing so has been the source of much speculation. Was he trying to conceal his identity, or was it merely a force of habit? After all, contemporary examples of people doing the exact same thing are not difficult to find. The most compelling evidence against Lechmere is that his morning commute between home and work roughly coincides with the time and place of the murders. Except for the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, who were killed on a Sunday. The only day when Lechmere would have been free from work.
Not only that but all the murders were committed around weekends and public holidays. Why would a man who supposedly timed the murders with his morning commute gravitate towards days of rest? In any case, Lechmere's mother lived a few blocks south of Berner Street. The neighborhoods around which is also where Lechmere spent his childhood. As such, it's speculated that Stride and Eddowes were killed after Lechmere payed a late-night visit to his mother. While he claimed to be employed at a delivery firm known as Pickfords, there are no surviving records of his employment.
If he did work for Pickfords, there is a fair chance that he delivered meat and would thus have been exposed to slaughter and blood on a daily basis. Lechmere remained in East London until his death in 1920 at the age of 71. While there is no evidence of Lechmere ever being suspected by the police, it is difficult to believe that he was completely overlooked. Many case files have not survived, so any doubts investigators might have had could have long since disappeared.
Now, a witness who definitely attracted attention was Joseph Barnett. Joseph Barnett was the man who lived with Mary Jane Kelly up until a few days before the murder. He and Kelly had supposedly met around April of 1887, and they eventually moved to 13 Miller's Court. Barnett was employed as a fish porter but, for reasons unknown, he lost his job between July and August of 1888. From that point onwards, the couple struggled to pay rent, and Kelly resorted back to prostitution.
Now, those who believe that Barnett was the Ripper view his loss of employment as a turning point. The argument is that Barnett was so overcome with guilt and anguish for driving Kelly back to prostitution that he went on a murder spree. Murdering one local prostitute after another in a desperate attempt to frighten Kelly off the streets. While most of this is pure speculation, it is true that Barnett disapproved of Kelly's prostitution.
You may recall that Barnett separated from Kelly on October 30 because he disliked the prostitutes with whom she associated. "[Kelly] never went on the streets when she lived with me." "She would never have gone wrong again, and I should never have left, if it had not been for the prostitutes stopping [by] the house." This might further explain why Kelly was the Ripper's final and most viciously mutilated victim.
The implication being that Barnett felt rejected by Kelly and wanted revenge for the break-up. According to Barnett, he did pay Kelly a visit on the evening of November 8, but they had parted on "friendly terms". He then supposedly went home, played a card game until half-past twelve before going to bed. Now, Kelly is presumed to have died in the early hours of November 9, so Barnett could have returned to Miller's Court sometime after midnight.
While the police did subject him to four hours of interrogation, Barnett was ultimately released without charge. Then there's the matter of the locked door. When the police arrived at Miller's Court, they had to force the door open with a pickaxe. This raised an important question. How did the killer lock the door behind him? According to Barnett, the key to Room 13 had been missing for some time.
Because of this, he and Kelly would: "[open] the door by reaching through the [broken] window". The door was said to be equipped with a "catch-lock" and evidently locked itself upon being closed. If that's true, mystery solved. But, even if the door was not self-locking, there's s till an obvious solution. All the killer would have had to do is observe Kelly using the window trick and then employ that same technique to fasten the door upon leaving. But those who favor Barnett as the Ripper offer yet another solution.
The key never went missing. Instead, Barnett is said to have stolen the key and then used it on the night of the murder. These solutions are all equally valid, and it's impossible to know which one is correct.
There is a slight variation of this theory which states that Barnett did murder Kelly but was not the Ripper. Instead, he merely emulated the Ripper to deflect attention away from himself. Once again, this is pure speculation, but the murder of Kelly did somewhat differ from the rest in that it was committed indoors.
Barnett remained in the East End until his death in 1926 at the age of 68. While it's only natural for suspicion to fall upon witnesses and acquaintances, Victorian detectives did pursue other lines of inquiry. One prominent theory was that the Ripper suffered from insanity. And a prime suspect in that category is Aaron Kosminski. The Whitechapel murders investigation was overseen by numerous high-ranking officers within the Metropolitan Police.
One of them was Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson. Upon his retirement, Anderson repeatedly and unequivocally stated that Jack the Ripper had been identified. "There was no doubt whatever as to the identity of the criminal." Without disclosing the name of this suspect, Anderson described him as a "low-class Polish Jew" who was "safely caged in an asylum". He'd been identified by a witness who was described as: "the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer".
This unnamed witness had supposedly refused to testify because the suspect was "a fellow Jew". "I am almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer." "But no public benefit would result from such a course." While Anderson never revealed the name of this suspect, his colleagues were a bit more forthcoming. Chief Inspector Donald Swanson revealed that his surname was Kosminski. Yet another high-ranking officer, Melville Macnaghten, described Kosminski as a homicidal and misogynistic resident of Whitechapel.
Surviving records show that an Aaron Kosminski was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1891. Aaron was indeed from Poland, he was Jewish, and had lived in Whitechapel. He suffered from auditory hallucinations and a paranoid fear of being fed by others.
He was trained as a barber but had "not attempted any kind of work for years". It's unclear when his mental health began to decline, but upon being institutionalized, Aaron was deemed to be harmless. He was "quiet and well behaved" and "apathetic as a rule". Only on rare occasions would he get "exited and violent". However, before his confinement, Aaron had once threatened his sister with a knife. The case against him largely hinges upon the claims made by Anderson, Swanson, and Macnaghten.
Especially the claim that an unnamed witness identified a suspect named Kosminski. But the descriptions of that suspect are not entirely consistent with Aaron Kosminski. For instance, Macnaghten stated that the suspect had been: "removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889". Aaron was first confined in 1891.
Swanson wrote that the suspect had been "sent to [the asylum] and died shortly afterwards". Aaron was still alive at the time and spent nearly three decades in psychiatric care. As such, it is possible that the suspect Kosminski was someone other than Aaron Kosminski. It's also possible that these inconsistencies were mere lapses in memory. After all, these events were recounted years or even decades after the fact, and Macnaghten even confessed to writing solely from memory.
Regardless of the suspect's true identity, Anderson was the only ones who seemed convinced of his guilt. Macnaghten ultimately favored a different suspect and stated that: "many homicidal maniacs were suspected, but no shadow of proof could be thrown on any one". Inspector Edmund Reid was of the same opinion. "Now we have Sir Robert Anderson saying that Jack the Ripper was a Jew." "That I challenge him to prove."
"I challenge anyone to prove that there was a tittle of evidence against man, woman, or child..." So when Anderson wrote that there was "no doubt whatever as to the identity of the criminal", he merely expressed his personal opinion. There was, in fact, ample doubt and no consensus amongst the police. But, in recent years, Aaron Kosminski has been resurrected as a prime suspect due to a controversial DNA analysis. Okay, so, back in 1888, Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson is said to have stolen a bloodstained shawl from the crime scene of Catherine Eddowes.
This shawl was then passed down from one generation to the next before being submitted for DNA testing in 2011. DNA samples were extracted from the shawl and then compared against maternal descendants of Eddowes and Kosminski. In both cases, it was a match. If the subsequent news coverage is to be believed, the mystery has now been "definitively solved". Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.
But, as you can imagine, it's never quite that simple. First of all, the provenance or chain of custody of the shawl is severely lacking. There is no evidence of a shawl being found at the crime scene nor is there any evidence of Simpson ever being at the crime scene. Furthermore, a destitute woman like Eddowes is unlikely to have owned such an expensive item.
Second of all, the type of DNA used to identify Eddowes and Kosminski was mitochondrial DNA. This type of DNA is passed down through the female line and is not unique to any one individual. Thousands can share the same mitochondrial DNA, which means it can't be used to pinpoint a specific person.
In the words of a geneticist: "Based on mitochondrial DNA, one can only exclude a suspect." So, to say that the mystery has been "definitively solved" is widely inaccurate. There is still plenty of room for doubt. So, to recap. A suspect named Kosminski was identified by an unknown witness.
This was enough to convince at least one senior officer of his guilt. That suspect may have been Aaron Kosminski. A man who was largely non-violent but once threatened his sister with a knife. Aaron can neither be incriminated nor eliminated by the DNA evidence.
He spent the rest of his life in psychiatric care and died in 1919 at the age of 53. Kosminski was not the only suspect advanced by a high-ranking officer. A completely different suspect who still falls into the same category is Francis Tumblety. Two days before the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, an American physician named Francis Tumblety was arrested in London. As you can probably tell from this photograph, Tumblety was quite an eccentric character.
He was born in Ireland around 1833 but was raised in the United States. From an early age, Tumblety gained a reputation for being a medicaster or quack doctor. He engaged in all sorts of medically dubious practices and advertised himself as the "Indian Herb Doctor".
He promised to cure anything from dyspepsia and scurvy to cancer and blindness using nothing but medicinal herbs. When he was not posing as a doctor, Tumblety was busy running from the law. He was either accused or convicted for crimes like theft and assault, attempt to induce a miscarriage, and manslaughter of a patient. He was even implicated in the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln but was ultimately cleared of suspicion.
Now, in the early 1860s, Tumblety is alleged to have hosted a lavish dinner party in Washington. Only men were invited to this dinner, and Tumblety had supposedly expressed fierce hatred of women. Furthermore, he showcased a cabinet in his office in which he stored a vast collection of jars filled with anatomical specimens. Some of which were said to contain the wombs of "every class of woman". In 1869, Tumblety ventured across the Atlantic and visited England for the first time.
By his own admission, he roamed the streets of London until he became familiar with every part of it. He advertised himself as "The Great American Doctor" and had a few of skirmishes with the police. After a few more voyages between the old world and the new, Tumblety found himself in London in the autumn of 1888. The purpose of his visit and whereabouts at the time of the murders are completely unknown. Tumblety never stayed in place for long and made frequent use of false names.
There is a story of a mysterious lodger leaving behind a bloodstained shirt near the murder site of Elizabeth Stride. This supposedly happened on the night of the murder, and some believe that this lodger was Francis Tumblety. But there is no firm evidence of that, and the entire incident is fraught with uncertainty. What we do know is that Tumblety was arrested in London on November 7.
According to the press as well as Tumblety himself, he was arrested on suspicion of being Jack the Ripper. Two days later, Mary Jane Kelly was found brutally murdered, and it's unclear whether Tumblety was still in custody or had already been released on bail. Nevertheless, he was ultimately charged with four counts of gross indecency, which had nothing to do with the murders. But Tumblety had no intention of standing trial. Instead, he made his way across the English Channel, boarded a steamship under a false name, and fled back to America.
He was pursued by detectives and kept under surveillance, but his offenses were "not extraditable." As such, Tumblety remained in the United States and never returned to England. So, to recap. Francis Tumblety was a misogynistic medicaster who was in London at the time of the murders. He even showcased a collection of wombs, and the Ripper did indeed extracted the womb from two of his victims.
I mean, he sounds like the perfect suspect. Perhaps a bit too perfect... There is no doubt that Tumblety was in London in 1888, but the claim that he was a misogynistic collector of human body parts is extremely dubious. It can be traced back to a single article from December of 1888 featuring an interview with a man named Charles Dunham.
Dunham had a long history of spreading misinformation and has been described as a pathological liar, a forger, and a conman. He was even convicted of perjury. As such, there is every reason to believe that this story is a complete fabrication. Furthermore, Tumblety was both older and taller than the men described by most witnesses. Tumblety was said to be "an enormous man" who liked to dress in flamboyant and militaristic outfits. It's difficult to imagine a tall pompous American sneaking around the streets of Whitechapel virtually undetected.
On the other hand, it's unclear which, if any, of the witness accounts can be trusted. Then there's the matter of the rings. You may recall that two brass rings were stolen from the body of Annie Chapman. It's suspected that the rings were taken by the Ripper to be kept as trophies.
Now, upon his death in 1903, Tumblety left behind a quite impressive estate. But among his many valuable possessions were a pair of inexpensive imitation rings. Could they have been the same rings taken from the body of Chapman? It's possible. It's also impossible to prove. Chief Inspector John Littlechild regarded Tumblety as a "very likely" suspect, and it's not difficult to see why. If the many rumors about him are to be believed, Tumblety had both opportunity and motive to commit the murders.
But therein lies the problem. Much of what we know about Tumblety is founded upon unsubstantiated rumors. Tumblety himself was an attention-seeking charlatan with no qualms about lies and deception. With a suspect like that, one can never be certain where the lies end and the truth begins.
To theorize about the identity of Jack the Ripper is to navigate a minefield of hearsay, sophistry, and contradictions. Entire encyclopedias have been dedicated to the compilation of suspects. And with every passing year, they seem to grow ever more expansive. Even though there are hundreds of potential suspects, only a dozen or so are worth more than a brief consideration. Some of the more sensational contenders include famous authors and artists as well as high-ranking officers and members of the Royal Family. But these grand conspiracies and elaborate deceptions seem hopelessly contrived against the sheer simplicity of a suspect like Charles Lechmere.
An unassuming delivery man on his way to work. Personally, I remain unconvinced that Jack the Ripper has even been identified as a suspect. The few covered in this video are probable candidates, but it's still possible to make persuasive arguments against them. The same is true of all those left out by necessity. None of them can offer anything more than ambiguity and circumstance.
With a suspect pool in the hundreds, that might seem improbable. But London was the largest city in the world. Home to the largest port in the world.
It was a city of millions with a large population of poorly documented drifters. It's not difficult to imagine one lowly sailor... ...butcher, medic, soldier, barber, merchant, porter, clerk, carman, watchman... ...blending into the slums of Whitechapel like a grain of sand.