The Murder of Elizabeth Stride
“I saw the body of a woman lying huddled up just inside the gates … Her throat cut ear to ear”
Mrs Mortimer , 36 Berner street
Date: 30th September, 1888 – 1:00 AM
Victim: Elizabeth Stride
Location: Dutfield’s Yard, Berner Street
Following the death of Annie Chapman rumours spread like wildfire through the streets of Whitechapel, and the women who walked the streets after dark searched the shadows for any sign of the unknown killer.
Although this sense of terror still hung over the east end, the ripper had been silent for three weeks by the late evening of 29th September.
However , the events that would unfold later that night would take the already infamous murders to a new level of terror and be forever known in the annuals of crime as “the Double event” . The Ripper would claim two victims in less than an hour.
The first victim was 44-year-old Elizabeth Stride, known locally as “Long Liz” – her body was found at 1 AM in Dutfield’s Yard off Berner street.
Born Elisabeth Gustafsdotter in Sweden in 1844, Liz was first arrested for prostitution in England at the age of 21. Four years later, in 1869, she married John Thomas Stride. Their marriage fell apart in 1877, and by 1885 she was living with a man named Michael Kidney, a waterside labourer. However, their relationship seemed to be over. On 25th September, 1888, she returned to the home they shared, collected her belongings, and left. On 26th September, she was staying in a doss house in Flower and Dean Street in Whitechapel. There, she met the famous Dr Barnardo, who was visiting doss houses in the area. Dr Barnardo would later be one of those to identify her body.
At 11:00 PM on 29th September, Elizabeth Stride was seen in the doorway of a pub called The Bricklayer’s Arms on the corner of Settles Street. Her companion was a well-dressed man, described as about 5 feet 5 inches with a black moustache and sandy eyelashes. He wore a billycock hat and appeared to be in good spirits, kissing and hugging Stride and joking with those who passed by – “Watch out, that’s leather apron getting round you!” Long Liz and her jovial companion were seen setting off in the direction of Commercial Road a short time later.
By 11:45 PM, Long Liz had moved to Berner Street, where a labourer by the name of William Marshall saw her standing in the door of number 64 on the west side of the street, between Fairclough and Boyd Streets. This time, her companion was a man in a short black cutaway coat and a sailor hat. He was teasing and joking with her. Marshall stated that they kissed, and that the man said, “You would say anything but your prayers.”
Yet another man joined Long Liz that evening. By 12:35 AM, she was seen with a young man, approximately 28 years old, wearing a dark coat and a deerstalker hat. They were seen outside the International Working Men’s Educational Club on Berner Street by Constable William Smith. The man was carrying a parcel, approximately 18 inches long and 6 inches high and wrapped in newspaper.
A WITNESS TO THE MURDER?
Only 10 minutes later, a Jewish man named Israel Schwartz was walking down Berner Street when he noticed a couple arguing in front of the gate of Dutfield’s Yard. Thinking that he was witnessing a domestic spat and wanting to avoid confrontation, Schwartz crossed the road to avoid the couple. He noticed that the man was about 30 years old, with a brown moustache. He stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall. As he passed the gate, the man yelled out “Lipski” – apparently calling to another man standing up the road. The man paused in the act of lighting his pipe and began to follow Schwartz up the street. Fearing for his life, Schwartz began to run and didn’t look back until he was sure that he was no longer being pursued. This evidence would later lead police to look for an accomplice to the Ripper’s crimes, but their investigations into this second man led nowhere.
A BODY IS DISCOVERED
At 1 AM on 30th September, 1888, Louis Diemshutz was returning home with his horse and cart. Diemshutz was a steward at the International Working Men’s Club in Berner Street. As he entered Dutfield’s Yard, his horse shied away from a bundle that was lying just inside the gateway. Diemshutz looked down and prodded the bundle with his whip, but he could not identify it in the dark.
He tried to light a match, and in the moment before the wind blew the match out, Diemshutz saw the body of a woman lying on her side. Unsure whether the body was that of his wife or of a drunk who had stumbled in off the street, he entered the club to investigate further. Upon finding his wife inside, he gathered a few men from the club and went back outside with a better source of light. Moments later, the men found themselves standing over the still warm body of Elizabeth Stride.
A CRIME SCENE REVEALED
She was lying 3 yards inside the gateway, facing the wall with her legs drawn up. Although her corpse was still warm, she was clearly dead – her throat had been slit open with one sweeping cut. Blood oozed down into the gutter as Diemshutz gazed down at the Ripper’s latest victim. In her hand was a wrapped paper packet containing cachous.
Though blood flowed freely from the wound to Stride’s neck, her clothes were not stained with blood, suggesting that she was already lying on her back when the knife bit into her throat. A thorough examination of the body, performed later, would confirm this initial hypothesis – bruising was found on her shoulders which suggested that Stride had been grabbed and thrown to the ground by the killer before he slit her throat. However, there were no additional mutilations to the abdomen or any other part of the body. This fact, combined with the fact that the body was still warm when it was found, suggested that death had occurred only moments before the body was discovered, and that the killer was interrupted in the act of completing his gruesome ritual.
ALMOST CAUGHT IN THE ACT
In all likelihood, therefore, Diemshutz entered the yard while the killer was crouched over the body of Elizabeth Stride. His horse shied away, not just from Stride’s body, but from the living presence of the killer. The Ripper, still clutching his bloody knife, hid in the shadows while Diemshutz initially investigated the body, and escaped while Diemshutz searched the club for his wife. Diemshutz’ testimony regarding the strange behaviour of his horse and his own feeling that someone was hiding in the darkness confirm this assumption. This begs the question – what would have happened if the night had not been windy, and the match in Diemshutz’ hand had illuminated the entire yard? Diemshutz might have laid eyes on Jack the Ripper himself.
A DOUBLE EVENT
As it was, however, the Ripper escaped the yard, but was forced to leave his most recent victim behind, his ritual incomplete. Fueled by a rush of adrenaline following his near capture, the Ripper fled the scene, leaving behind the familiar streets of the East End and the swarm of police which would soon descend on Dutfield’s Yard. Desperate to slake his bloodlust, he crossed in to the City of London, and very quickly, he set his vicious knife in motion on another victim.