Annie Chapman“The ghoul-like creature who stalks the streets of London is simply drunk with blood, and he will have more.”

The Star
8th September, 1888
Date: 8th September, 1888 – 6:00 AM
Victim: Annie “Dark Annie” Chapman
Location: 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields

The Ripper’s next victim followed quickly on his first. Annie Chapman was like many other women who walked the streets of Whitechapel after dark. At 47 years of age, she was in failing health. Years of alcohol abuse and hard living had left her with chronic lung disease and inflamed membranes of the brain. Her stout 5 foot frame hid the damage done by decades of alcoholism, a habit she supported with prostitution.

A SAD LIFE

By the time of her fateful meeting with her murderer, Annie Chapman, known as Dark Annie to her friends, had fallen down to the deepest, darkest depths of Victorian society. In 1869, she had married a coachman named John Chapman. They moved around London before settling in Windsor and had three children. Unfortunately, their happiness didn’t last long. Their youngest son was born disabled, and the death of their eldest daughter at the age of 12 drove the family into despair. Both Annie and John became alcoholics, and they separated in 1884. However, her husband continued to provide financial assistance until his death in 1886. From there, Annie Chapman slowly descended into the abyss in which the Ripper found her in September of 1888.

FINAL HOURS

On the evening of 7th September, Annie Chapman, like Polly Nichols, found herself without the four pence necessary to buy her evening’s lodgings. Already drunk and completely broke, Annie Chapman was last seen stumbling away from her lodging house in Dorset Street by the deputy at around 1:45 AM.

AN EYE WITNESS?

Around 5:30 AM, Mrs Elizabeth Long was hurrying through the pre-dawn light on an early morning errand. She turned from Brick Lane on to Hanbury Street, where she noticed a man and a woman standing in the doorway of Number 29. She would later identify the woman as Annie Chapman. The man had his back to Mrs Long, but as she passed, she heard the man ask, “Will you?” The woman replied, “Yes.” She noticed that the man was taller than the woman, that he wore a long, dark coat and a brown deerstalker hat, and that his look was that of a foreigner with a shabby but genteel appearance.

THE BODY IS DISCOVERED

Around 6:00 AM, an elderly lodger named John Davis, who lived at 29 Hanbury Street, stepped out in to the small yard at the back of the house. Along the fence which separated the yard of Number 29 from that of Number 27 lay the horribly mutilated corpse of Annie Chapman.

She was lying on her back, her clothing up to her knees and her face covered in blood. Her throat had been cut twice from left to right with such force and depth that she was nearly decapitated. The muscles of her neck had been separated, suggesting to some that the killer may in fact have intended to remove her head.

Her abdomen had been ripped open, with her small intestine lifted out and placed by her right shoulder. By her left shoulder lay two other portions of her abdominal organs. Her womb, upper vagina and much of her bladder were missing from the crime scene, suggesting that the killer had taken them with him. Her dress had been lifted to expose her red and white striped stockings.

John Davis ran out on to Hanbury Street and summoned help. By this time, dawn had broken and police quickly converged on the yard, as did crowds of onlookers.

EXAMINING THE CRIME SCENE

When Dr Phillips arrived, he estimated Annie Chapman’s time of death to be two or three hours previously. However, later accounts note that the chill of the morning and the extensive loss of blood might have made it difficult for the doctor to get an accurate time, particularly since he did not use a thermometer but relied on touch. Dr Phillips also noticed an oddity about the scene. The victim’s belongings, including a small piece of coarse muslin, a toothed comb, a torn piece of envelope and two pills had all been removed from the body and arranged around her feet. Speculation on this arrangement continues to rage – was this done by the killer? If so, why?

ANATOMICAL KNOWLEDGE?

Dr Phillips conducted a more detailed examination of the body, seeking details that would assist the police. He later stated, “Obviously the work was that of an expert or one, at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical or pathological examinations as to able to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife.” The opinion that the murder weapon was not an ordinary knife, but must have been a small amputating knife has led to the idea that the Ripper may have had medical training. Speculation regarding practicing medical personnel and students raged at the time and still impacts investigations in to the identity of the murderer.

MORE WITNESSES COME FORWARD

The police quickly began to investigate the latest Whitechapel murder. Statements were taken from those living on Hanbury Street. One man, a carpenter called Albert Cadosch, told police that he had entered the back yard of his residence at Number 27 around 5:30 AM to use the lavatory. He heard a woman’s voice cry “No!” followed by the sound of something falling against the fence separating his yard from Number 29. This evidence could corroborate the story of Mrs Elizabeth Long on the timeline of the murder. The fence was only five feet high, and had he looked over it, Albert Cadosch might have actually seen Jack the Ripper. However, life in Hanbury Street had clearly taught Mr Cadosch to keep a low profile, and he hurried off to work along Commercial Street, marking the time on the clock of Spitalfields Church as he passed. It was 5:32 AM.

While the police were investigating, crowds were gathering. Enterprising residents of the houses surrounding 29 Hanbury Street quickly realised that the onlookers were desperate for a glimpse into the bloody drama which was unfolding around them and allowed people to pay to get in to the buildings, where they could look out the back windows on to the gory yard where Annie Chapman’s body was discovered.

The East end of London with its maze of tightly-packed courts and alleyways had always been known as a dangerous place, roamed by gangs of thieves who would not hesitate to strike even in broad daylight. But the ferocious, sexual nature of these crimes shocked even the usually unshockable Whitechapel inhabitants. This would eventually lead to the formation of early “neighbourhood watch/vigilante groups, patrolling the area.

The excitable crowd was whipped into a frenzy by the discovery of a leather apron next to the body. Was this a clue to the killers identity?

A SUSPECT IS NAMED

Prior to the murder, the press had speculated that a Jewish man in the area, who was known to local prostitutes as “Leather Apron” might be responsible for the killings. He had harassed women before and was described as aggressive. Dubbed a semi mythical figure who terrorised prostitutes, the press had pointed fingers at the Jewish community several times, and many believed that the gruesome nature of the killings pointed to a foreigner rather than an Englishman. This even led to the arrest of a man named John Pizer on suspicion of being the elusive “Leather apron” he quickly cleared himself and all other suspects had alibis.

UNREST IN THE EAST END

While the leather apron found at Hanbury Street was eventually found to belong to a resident, one John Richardson, who had nothing to do with Annie Chapman’s death, the people of Whitechapel were already primed to blame the Jews for the murders. Anti-Semitic riots broke out across the East End, with destruction of property and attacks on innocent Jewish men becoming all too common in the days following the murder. As the press spurred the public in to a panic with tantalising headlines and provocative stories, pressure mounted to provide the identity of the elusive killer. Fear spread through Spitalfields and Whitechapel, with police and vigilantes filling the streets. Suspicious characters all too often found themselves surrounded by howling mobs

In the three weeks after the killing, police pursued what enquirers they could: tracking down medical students with a history of insanity, interviewing local slaughtermen – both classes of person reckoned to have the necessary skill and knowledge for the mutilations.

PANIC GRIPS THE CAPITAL

In the face of the police’s lack of success, and their secrecy about the investigation, a kind of public hysteria began to take over London. This spilled over into the West end. At the time the lyceum theatre was presenting Dr Jekel and Mr hyde starring the American actor Richard Mansfield. This was seen as encouraging the murderer and the play was closed down.

Even at the inquest into Annie Chapman’s death, rumours were rife. The coroner, Wayne Baxter put forward the notion that body parts were being sold to an American doctor for study and research. The national press seized on the suggestion with great enthusiasm, but the theory was rapidly mocked and scorched by the medical journals. Theories, gossip, stories and rumours engulfed the whole investigation.

It was now the perfect time for the killer to be given his famous name.

BURIAL

Annie Chapman was buried on Friday, 14 September, 1888. City of London Cemetery (Little Ilford) at Manor Park Cemetery, Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London, E12, where she was buried at (public) grave 78, square 148.

Chapman’s grave no longer exists; it has since been buried over.

Learn more about the life, times and death of the jack the Rippers second victim on London’s number 1 Jack the Ripper walk.