Prelude to Terror
When we look back through time to the dark days when the Ripper stalked the streets of East London, we find ourselves confronted by many mysteries. One of the most basic and yet most crucial questions is this: precisely how many victims did the Ripper claim?
Those historians and enthusiasts who are collectively known as Ripperologists have established what is known as the Canon of Jack the Ripper’s victims. This canon contains five names and dates of death:
Mary Ann Nichols | 31st August 1888
Elizabeth Stride | 30th September 1888
Mary Jane Kelly | 9th November 1888
Annie Chapman | 8th September 1888
Catherine Eddowes | 30th September 1888
There are, however, two further names which appear in the Scotland Yard file entitled the “Whitechapel Murders” prior to the five canonical victims. They are Emma Smith, who died on 4th April 1888 and Martha Tabram, who perished on 7th August 1888.
Emma Smith, aged 45, was a common prostitute with lodgings in George Street, Spitalfields. She was well known for coming and going, in varying states of drunkenness, at all hours of the night.
On 3rd April 1888, at about 4:30 am, she returned to her lodging house claiming to have been attacked by a gang on the corner of nearby Osborne Street. She had been subjected to a vicious and savage attack. The men had beaten her, robbed her and left her lying in the street. During the attack, one of her assailants thrust a blunt object, probably a table leg or stick, between her legs, breaking the partition between her front and back passage.
Dazed and badly wounded, Emma Smith stuffed her scarf between her legs to staunch the heavy flow of blood and stumbled back to her lodging house.
The deputy of the lodging house took her against her wishes to a nearby hospital, but she passed away in the early hours of 4th April. Her death received little mention and a hasty inquest was held 3 days later. With little evidence beyond the victim’s testimony in the hours preceding her death, the verdict “Death of a prostitute by a person or persons unknown” was quickly returned.
It is now commonly accepted that Emma Smith was not an early victim of Jack the Ripper, but instead was the unfortunate target of a gang motivated primarily by the desire to steal what little money she possessed.
By contrast, the second murder recorded in the “Whitechapel Murders” file, that of Martha Tabram, bears many of the hallmarks of the killings that would become so famous and causes considerable controversy among Ripperologists.
Martha Tabram was another common prostitute with a history of drunkenness. She was 39 years old, and was described as plump and 5 feet 3 inches in height. On the night of her death, she was drinking with another prostitute, Mary Ann Connelly, aka “Pearly Poll”, in and around Whitechapel Road. They had met two soldiers and at about 11:45 pm, the couples separated. Pearly Poll went up Angel Court with her companion and Martha Tabram and her partner disappeared up into George Yard, now Gunthorpe Street. This sighting in the final moments of 6th August was the last time that Martha Tabram was seen alive.
At 4:50 am on 7th August 1888, John Reeves was coming down the stairs of his lodgings in George Yard buildings on his way to look for work. As he came to the 1st floor landing, he discovered the body of Martha Tabram lying on her back in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed some 39 times, with most of the wounds concentrated in the area of her neck, abdomen and pelvis. Despite an ID parade and investigation, the police were unable to convict anyone for her murder.
After 123 years, taking into account the exhaustive research conducted by experts across the globe on the patterns of serial killers, many now find it unlikely that the Ripper burst on to the scene with the highly complex method evidenced in the deaths of the canonical victims. Far more likely is the scenario in which the killer evolved over time, with his early victims subject to the same brutality but far less precision than he would develop later on.
Considering this knowledge, which of course would not have been available to detectives at the time, it is entirely possible that Martha Tabram was an early victim of the killer that would become famous for the ever more complex and bloody way in which he butchered women in London’s East End.
Regardless of whether or not Martha Tabram truly was one of the Ripper’s first victims, a question which continues to vex those who study this case, her death sparked the media frenzy that would characterise the Autumn of Terror, in which a faceless killer stalked the dark alleyways of London’s worst neighbourhoods and preyed upon the weakest and most vulnerable of the great city’s forgotten people.
The Autumn of Terror Begins
“…there is a woman lying on the pavement…
… I believe she is dead!”
Charles Cross, Cart Driver
Date: 31st August, 1888 – 3:40 AM
Victim: Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols
Location: Buck’s Row, Whitechapel
In the pre-dawn darkness of 31st August, a cart driver was making his way to work along Buck’s Row, a narrow cobbled street dominated by a board school building that still exists today (although the road is now called Durward Street). The cart driver, Charles Cross by name, noticed something lying in a gateway across the road and stopped to investigate. At first glance, he thought that it might be a piece of tarpaulin which he might be able to use or sell. He crossed over the road and discovered that the “tarpaulin” was in fact the body of a woman lying on her back.
Charles Cross stopped to examine the body, and was soon joined by another man who was passing by. Robert Paul, also a cart driver, examined the body along with Cross. They tried their best to determine whether she was drunk, injured or dead. When they touched the woman’s face, they found it warm, but her hands were limp and cold. Her skirts had been raised, so they assumed that she had been raped, but it was so dark that they could not see any further injuries, nor could they ascertain whether she was still alive. Finding themselves late to work, Paul and Cross pulled down the woman’s skirt to preserve her decency and set off down the street, planning to alert the first policeman they came across.
Had they waited a few moments longer, they would have met PC John Neil as he came around the corner of Buck’s Row. Neil was on his usual beat, and had passed by the same spot some 30 minutes before. At that time, there was nothing suspicious in the area. When he saw the body lying in the gateway, he too stopped to investigate. Unlike Charles Cross and Robert Paul, however, PC John Neil had a bulls-eye lantern. He shone his light down upon the body, and saw a horrible sight which would soon be made famous in press cartoons. The woman was clearly dead, with her eyes wide open and staring into the darkness. Blood oozed from two deep wounds in her throat, which had been slashed open all the way back to her spine.
Neil immediately signaled for another officer, and the two summoned Dr Llewellyn, a local police physician. Dr Llewellyn arrived on the scene around 4 AM and quickly declared the woman dead. He examined the body, and found that her hands and arms were colds but her trunk and legs were warm, leading him to believe that the victim had been dead no more than half an hour. He ordered the body taken to the mortuary. In a time before modern forensic techniques, the scene was quickly “processed” – which means it was washed clean of blood so as to avoid attracting unwelcome attention and unrest.
The body was taken to Old Montague Street mortuary, just off Brick Lane. The building was tiny, little more than a shed, and once there, an examination was conducted by the duty inspector, John Spratling. When he lifted her dress, he discovered something that Dr Llewellyn’s initial examination had missed. The victim’s stomach had been ripped open up to her sternum, and her intestines were protruding through the gaping hole. She had been disemboweled.
Dr Llewellyn was called back to make a more thorough examination of the body. He noted a number of bruises on the victims face and neck, probably caused by the murderer’s gripping fingers and two fearsome cuts across the throat, one four inches and the other 8 inches long. The abdomen had been ripped in a deep jagged wound that ran downwards from left to right. He also noted several lacerations across the abdomen and three cuts or four cuts running downwards on the right side. He would later state that the knife appeared to have been held in the left hand by a killer who had struck with strength and power, plunging the knife down in to the body as it lay prone on the ground. He would also speculate that the killer must have possessed anatomical knowledge, knowing all the vital parts to attack. The attack itself would have lasted 5 to 6 minutes, although death would have been instantaneous and most of the injuries would have been inflicted postmortem by the same knife – the only weapon used by the attacker.
Identification of the deceased came when her petticoat was found to carry the markings of Lambeth Workhouse. When inquiries were made, the victim was quickly identified as Mary Ann Nichols, nicknamed Polly, a 43-year-old prostitute. She had been married by the age of 18 to a man named William Nichols, a printer by trade. They had five children, but their marriage fell apart due to Polly’s drinking. She had spent several years in Lambeth Workhouse and a few months as a servant before ending up in a doss house in Flower and Dean Street.
The inquest into Polly Nichol’s death opened at the Working Lads Institute at 279 Whitechapel Road. Several witnesses were questioned by the coroner, Wayne Baxter, and with their testimony, the final hours of her life became clear. On the night of her death, Polly Nichols was seen leaving the Frying Pan pub (today the Sheraz Indian restaurant) on Brick Lane in the early hours of 31st August. She had made her lodging money several times during that day, but on each occasion she had spent it on gin. Drunk and broke, Polly returned to her lodging house in nearby Thrawl Street, but the lodge keeper turned her away. Like most doss houses, Polly’s lodging house operated on a “no pay, no stay” basis. She told the deputy to keep the bed as she would soon get her doss money. “See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got”, she cried to the deputy as she sauntered away, confident that her new hat (made of straw and of a better quality than the usual for one such as Polly) would quickly attract a client and the money she so desperately needed. At some point in the following hours, Polly Nichols met a client and led him in to the quiet seclusion of Buck’s Row. That client was Jack the Ripper.
Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols was buried on Thursday, 6 September, 1888 at City of London Cemetery (Little Ilford) at Manor Park Cemetery, Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London, E12, (public) grave 210752.
The funeral expenses were paid for by Edward Walker (Polly’s father), William Nichols (Polly’s ex-husband), and Edward John Nichols (Polly’s son).
In late 1996, the cemetery authorities decided to mark Polly’s grave with a plaque.
Horror at Hanbury Street
“The ghoul-like creature who stalks the streets of London
is simply drunk with blood, and he will have more.”
Printed in 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.
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. She had, however, seen much happier times. In 1869, she 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 in to the abyss in which the Ripper found her in September of 1888.
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.
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.
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 was 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.
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?
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.
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!” and then the sound of a body falling against the fence separating his yard from Number 29. This evidence would corroborate the story of Mrs Elizabeth Long on the time 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yours truly, Jack the Ripper
Central news agency 27th sept 1888
Almost certainly the one single reason for the enduring appeal of this rather sordid series of prostitute murders is the name Jack the Ripper.
Today, in the public records office, written in blood red ink, remains probably the most famous letter in the history crime. Subject to fierce debate among historians and experts for over a century it is known as the “dear Boss letter.”
It was received on 27th September 1888, almost three weeks following the death of Annie Chapman, at the Central News agency.
It was to alter the perception of the Whitechapel murders forever and created the most infamous nick name in history
25th September 1888
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldnt you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck.
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
PS Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. Ha ha.
The agency did not release the text until 30th September, since it contained a prediction that no-one would have wanted to make public until it had been proved true or false. Some senior officers were convinced it was a hoax and modern historians have largely followed this conclusion.
Regardless who wrote the letter, the nickname was a fantastic piece of tabloid marketing, the name Jack the Ripper would become a news man’s dream. Suddenly all of London had a name to go with the brutal killings and everything that was bad about the east end could be personified into one character.
It’s true to say after a century the crimes are forgotten by the outside world, but that name survives and when mentioned instantly conjures up images of Victorian nights, cobble stones, foggy alleyways and that shadowy figure lurking in the darkness, dressed in top hat, cloak and carrying a doctors bag, the eternal image of Jack the Ripper.
The letter was eventually published in the papers following the double event murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, with the latter victim having her ear severed, this added fuel to the sense that the letter may be authentic.
Whether the letter was a hoax or not it gave the still undetected killer his gruesomely appropriate nickname and in doing so, ensured that the Whitechapel murders of 1888 achieved a mythical dimension, which they have never lost.
The Double Event
“She was cut up, like a pig in the market!”
PC Edward Watkins , 30th September 1888
Date: 30th September, 1888 – 1:00 AM
Victim: Elizabeth Stride
Location: Dutfield’s Yard, Berner Street
Date: 30th September, 1888 – 1:45 AM
Victim: Catherine Eddowes
Location: Mitre Square, City of London
By the evening of 29th September, 1888, the East End of London had held its breath, terrified of what the morning might bring. Three days earlier, the infamous “Dear Boss” letter had been received, promising more brutal crimes from the killer who called himself “Jack the Ripper”.
Aside from the letter, the Ripper had been silent for three weeks. 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.
Tensions in the East End were reaching breaking point, and on this single night of terror, the Ripper would emerge from dark streets and strike not once, but twice. Two victims fell to his bloody knife in less than an hour and the residents of the East End were once again plunged in to a miasma of horror and panic.
Jack’s first victim was 44-year-old Elizabeth Stride. “Long Liz” – so called because at 5 feet 5 inches, she was particularly tall for a woman of her time – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Less than an hour after Elizabeth Stride fell to the Ripper’s knife, PC Edward Watkins, member of the City of London police, was on patrol. As he entered Mitre Square around 1:45 AM, he shone his lantern into the dark corners as he had done every fifteen minutes all night. This time, however, he made a horrifying discovery – the mutilated body of a woman named Catherine Eddowes.
46-year-old Catherine Eddowes, originally from Wolverhampton, was, like the Ripper’s other victims, working as a casual prostitute at the time of her death. For the previous seven years, she had been living with a man named John Kelly, but would often take to the streets to earn extra money when times were hard.
Catherine’s journey to Mitre Square and the Ripper’s knife began around 8:25 PM on Saturday 29th September. PC L Robinson of the City Police was walking his beat in Aldgate High Street when he noticed that a crowd had gathered on the footpath. He waded through the crowd and found Catherine Eddowes lying on the pavement, drunk out of her mind. When he tried to get her back on her feet, she fell, so he called another officer to assist, and the two men took the inebriated woman to Bishopsgate police station and locked her in a cell to sober up.
Just five minutes before Elizabeth Stride’s body was discovered, Catherine Eddowes was determined to be sober enough for release. She gave the duty officer her “name” – Mary Ann Kelly – and he let her go. As she walked out the front door around 12:55 AM, she called “Good night, old cock!” and turned left toward Houndsditch. She continued on to Aldgate and then walked in the direction of Mitre Square. Somewhere along the way, she had a fateful meeting with Jack the Ripper.
In the early hours of 30th September, PC Edward Watkins was on patrol in the City of London, the single square mile that is London’s financial heart. His route took him through Mitre Square, a dark area paved with cobblestones and surrounded by high warehouse buildings owned by the tea merchants, Kearley and Tong. Although lamps lit several of the passages that led into the square, the only source of illumination in the square itself was a single gas lamp. Because the square was especially dark, it was the practice of police constables to shine their lanterns into each corner whenever they passed.
Around 1:25 AM, PC Watkins walked through Mitre Square, shining his lantern into the corners as usual. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he proceeded to the night watchman’s house, where he paused briefly to heat his tea before continuing his patrol. By 1:45, he had walked the full beat and was returning again to Mitre Square. Shining his lantern in to the darkest part of the Square, he made a grisly discovery – the torn and bleeding corpse of Catherine Eddowes.
Horrified, he stared down at the body, which he would later testify was “ripped up like a pig in the market”. Eddowes was lying on her back, with her head turned to the left and her arms stretched away from her torso. Her throat had been slashed twice, both cuts reaching back to nick the cartilage of her spine and severing the muscles of her neck. Her dress had been lifted up, exposing the cuts made to the abdomen. This time, it was clear that the killer had been determined to finish his bloody work. Catherine Eddowes had been ripped open from rectum to breastbone. Her stomach was laid open and her intestines had been lifted out and place in a pile next to her right shoulder, with a single piece also laid between her body and arm. Later, it would be discovered that her uterus and left kidney had been cut out and taken from the scene by the killer.
Eddowes’ face had been mutilated with remarkable precision – her eyelids had been cut and her ear had been severed (it would fall off later in the mortuary). Under each of her eyes, the killer had made a V-shaped incision. Two deep gashes were also made across her face, one of them slicing off the tip of her nose.
Stumbling away from the corpse, Watkins made for the night watchman’s house across the square. The watchman, George Morris, was employed by Kearley and Tong. When Watkins rushed in, he was busy brushing the stairs. Shaken by what he had seen and convinced that the fiend of Whitechapel had strayed in to the City of London, the constable cried, “For God’s sake, mate, come to assist me!” Morris grabbed a lantern and followed Watkins back to Eddowes’ body. He then ran to Aldgate, blowing his whistle to alert police that the Ripper had struck again.
Police and reporters, many of whom had been circling around Dutfield’s Yard earlier that evening, quickly descended on Mitre Square. Shockwaves of panic were already starting to spread – the vicious killer who had been quiet for week had now struck twice in the space of single hour. His second victim had been meticulously and gruesomely slaughtered in less than 15 minutes and he had disappeared into the night without a trace. The City police, desperate to find a clue to the identity of the brutal villain who had strayed in to their jurisdiction, conducted door to door inquiries, stopped passers-by and questioned numerous men found to be in the area.
Slowly, the police began to piece together small clues. Three Jewish men testified that they had seen a man and a woman around 1:35 AM. They were standing at the entrance to Church Passage (which led into Mitre Square), and one of the men, Joseph Lawende, stated that the woman was Catherine Eddowes. Her companion was described as a man of fair complexion; about 5 feet 7 inches tall with a fair moustache and medium build. He was about 30 years of age and wore the peaked cap of a sailor. If this timing was correct, then the killer entered the square with Eddowes just after PC Watkins left, and had less than 15 minutes to complete his ritualistic mutilations before the constable returned. Considering that Watkins saw no one on his first foray into Mitre Square, this scenario does seem plausible. Ironically, another constable was on a nearby beat that took him down Church Passage but not in to Mitre Square. PC James Harvey walked down the passage at 1:40 AM, and had he shone his lantern into the darkness of Mitre Square, he might have seen the face of Jack the Ripper.
As journalists began to flood the scene, the police brought in sketch artists to record details of the body and Eddowes’ body was quickly removed to the mortuary. The corpse was examined by Doctors Fred Brown and Sequira, who concluded that she, like Elizabeth Stride, was killed as she lay on the ground. Death was due to exsanguination caused by the deep cuts to the throat. She would have died within seconds, without making a single sound and the mutilations to her body were done after her death. There was no sign of recent sexual activity anywhere on Catherine Eddowes’ corpse.
The “double event” as it became known, caused a frenzy of speculative panic in the press. The self-titled Ripper was back, and had shown prowess, not only at “Ripping”, but also at evading the police. He was skilled, meticulous and clever. However, there is no such thing as a perfect crime, and the double event is also famous as the source of a puzzling clue that continues to baffle Ripperologists and has led to one of the most intriguing conspiracy theories of the Whitechapel murder investigations.
Discovery at Goulsten Street
The Metropolitan Police were under significant pressure from all sides even before the double murder on 30th September 1888. With the publication of the infamous “Dear Boss” letter three days prior and the growing criticism from the public press, it was becoming imperative that they be able to give some sign of progress in the baffling case of the Whitechapel killer.
In all probability the killer had fled from mitre square with only his hands and lower arms covered in blood. The autopsy on some of his victims showed a swollen tongue, the hallmarks of strangulation which would suggest the killer would wait until alone with his chosen victim and as she went to raise their dress for sex he would lunge forward grabbing the throat and forcing them to the ground. By the time the first cut to the throat had commenced the victims heart would have been all but stopped, causing very little outward spray to cover her attacker.
The killer, however, did not make it easy for the police. He was meticulous to a fault, never leaving anything behind at a crime scene other than a mutilated corpse. Forensic evidence showed that at least some of the victims had swollen tongues, suggesting that they were strangled, probably in the moment when they were raising their dresses, preventing them from resisting immediately. By the time they were forced to the ground by the throat, their hearts would have nearly ceased beating, meaning that there would have been little blood spray when their throats were slit. While this would have reduced the likelihood that the killer would have been fully covered in gore, his hands and arms would surely have borne the hallmarks of his grisly deeds.
However, there had as yet been no witness statements that told of a blood-spattered individual hurrying away from the scene of the crime. Nor had anyone reported seeing a man with a large knife or anything else out of the ordinary. Then again, Whitechapel was full of slaughterhouses and butchers plying their trades – men covered in blood with large knifes were hardly out of the common way on those dark streets. Moreover, the people of Whitechapel would not have gone out of their way to notice anything – the East End of London was a place where people kept their heads down and their mouths shut in order to survive.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the police were desperate to find some clue as to the Ripper’s identity, particularly after the horrific murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. With the press panting at their heels for the latest chilling story, the police spread out, questioning residents and stopping any passers-by in the hopes of finding a lead. These queries came to nothing, and it looked as though the police were stymied once more. Soon after the discovery of Catherine Eddowes’ body, however, a discovery would be made that would alter the entire course of the investigation.
At 2:55 AM on 30th September, PC Alfred Long of the Metropolitan police was walking his beat along Goulsten Street. Just over an hour before, the ravaged body of Catherine Eddowes had been discovered less than half a mile away. As he passed the Wentworth model dwellings, he shone his lantern into the staircase entrance of 108 – 119. In a corner, he found a piece of cloth covered in blood and feces. It later transpired that this piece of cloth was a portion of Catherine Eddowes’ apron which had been cut away by the killer and subsequently used to clean his hands and knife.
For the first time, the police had found a clue to the killer’s identity. This cloth had been dropped in the middle of the East End. This implied that, instead of fleeing to the rarefied halls of a West End mansion or racing to the docks to flee aboard a merchant ship, the killer was, in fact, taking refuge in the dark passageways of the same neighbourhood in which he committed his atrocious acts.
In Mitre Square, the Ripper clearly knew that he had to affect a quick escape from the scene. Rather than cleaning up on site, he cut a piece of cloth from his victim’s apron and raced away in to the dark. Stopping in a convenient corner in Goulsten Street, he wiped away the evidence of his brutal crimes, discarded the cloth, and calmly melted away in to the dark shadows of the East End.
This, at least, is easily conjectured from PC Long’s discovery. However, there is another piece of this puzzle which is far more befuddling. As the constable raised his lantern further up the wall, he discovered a message scrawled in chalk.
It read, “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”.
When PC Long reported the discovery of the apron scrap and the cryptic message, several city and metropolitan police went to see the scene for themselves. It quickly became clear that the message, regardless of who had left it, posed a serious problem. Goulsten Street was directly adjacent to the Petticoat Lane Market. Most of the traders there were Jewish, and there had already been problems in the area with anti-Semitic rioting and intimidation due to the Ripper case. Many believed that the Ripper might be Jewish, and violence against Jews around London had become a major public safety issue.
A fierce debate broke out among the officers present. The metropolitan police, fearful of further violence against the Jewish population of the area, advocated removing the message immediately. They knew that the area would be swarming with people in only a few hours as early morning traders started their work day. The City Police, new to the Ripper hunt and keen to avail of any new evidence, argued that this was a crucial clue, and that it was necessary to wait for the light of dawn so that the message could be photographed before it was washed away.
Around 5:30 AM, Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, arrived on the scene. This was his first visit to the East End since the investigation in to the Ripper’s killing spree had begun. Stepping down from his carriage, he entered the doorway and examined the scrawled message himself. To the consternation of the City Police on the scene, he then ordered that the writing be erased immediately.
One officer suggested that they simply rub out “the Juwes” and preserve the rest of the message for a photographer, who would have sufficient light for a photograph in less than thirty minutes. Warren was adamant, however, that the entire message was to be erased forthwith, and his orders were quickly carried out.
With this one simple act, Sir Charles Warren may indeed have prevented another spate of anti-Jewish rioting, but he also sparked one of the most enduring conspiracy theories related to the Ripper saga. Why did he remove the message, counter to all protocols and, indeed, all common sense? We may never know the real answer, but the debate over Charles Warren’s actions on that day continues to rage among Ripperologists 120 years later.
Elizabeth Stride was buried on Saturday, 6th October, 1888 at East London Cemetery Co. Ltd., Plaistow, London, E13. Her grave is number 15509, square 37. The sparse funeral service was provided at the expense of the parish by Mr Hawkes, undertaker.
Catherine Eddowes was buried on Monday, 8th October, 1888 in an unmarked grave in an elm coffin in the City of London Cemetery, (Little Ilford) at Manor Park Cemetery, Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London, E12. She rests in (public) grave 49336, square 318.
The Devil in Dorset street
“The sight we saw, I cannot drive away from my mind.
It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man.”
John McCarthy, Landlord
Date: 9th November 1888 – 10:45 am
Victim: Mary Jane Kelly
Location: 13 Millers court, Dorset Street.
Following the events of the double murder, public hysteria had reached a new high. The women of the East End wrote to the Queen begging for help, and the letters columns of THE TIMES were filled with helpful suggestions from amateur sleuths anxious to help track down the monster who was terrorising Whitechapel. Decoys were sent out dressed as prostitutes and a disastrous attempt to use bloodhounds to sniff out the killer’s scent ended with the dogs becoming hopelessly lost amid the maze of cobbled back streets. But the authorities were no closer to capturing their prey when, on the 9th November, in a dingy room in one of London’s seediest slums, the Ripper performed his final and most brutal attack.
Mary Kelly remains the mystery victim in the Ripper case. Very little is known about her and what we do know is based on tales she told friends in the last years of her life. The common story told is that she was born in Limerick, Ireland in and around 1863. As a child she moved with her family to Wales and at the age of 16, married a pit worker named Davies but he was killed a few years after in a pit explosion. Mary then moved towards Cardiff for almost a year before ending up in a west end brothel in 1884. Stories have her going to France but she returned and now was in the east end and living in a lodging house in Thrawl Street.
It was around this time when she met Joseph Barnett, a market fish porter, and the two of them set up home together. With bills unpaid they would drift from one house to another, until finally around March 1888 they moved into 13 Miller’s court, Dorset Street.
Dorset Street was a narrow road running between Commercial Street and Crispin Street with a notorious reputation. It was known simply as the worst street in London. Rumours had it that the police preferred not to go down it unless in teams of four. An area of the worst depravity in the east end. The poorest doss houses, prostitutes and thieves, all had existed along this road.
13 Millers court was entered through a small narrow brick archway running in between numbers 26 and 27 Dorset Street. It ran about 21 feet into a small cul de sac of smaller houses. Number 13 was actually just a room which had been formed when a partition was put up in the pantry of number 26 Dorset Street. The landlord was a shopkeeper named John McCarthy.
Mary was known to have a fierce temper when drunk which was often and in the days leading up to her death both Mary and Josephs relationship had broken down, another fierce argument on 30th October resulted in one of the windows of the room being smashed and Joseph Barnett finally moving out. Although they were now no longer living together Joseph would visit her every day right up until the night of her death.
The 8th November 1888 saw Mary Kelly drinking heavily, along with other women, in the Horn of plenty pub and later that night, she would be seen by her neighbour, Mary Ann Cox. She was entering her room with a man, later described as heavily built, 5ft 5in, blotchy skin, a thick carroty moustache and wearing what appeared to be a billycock hat. Cox would later state she heard Mary singing the balled, “Only a violet I plucked from mother’s grave.”
The final sighting of Mary Kelly that night was at 2:00 am, when George Hutchinson, a resident of the working men’s home was passing Flower and Dean Street. He met Mary and she immediately asked if he had any money he could spare her. Having already spent his money earlier he refused and Mary went on her way up Commercial Street. It is here that Hutchinson claimed to have seen a second man approach Kelly. He put his hand on her shoulder and they both laughed. The couple then proceeded to walk back up Commercial Street towards Hutchinson and Millers court. Here, Hutchinson was so intrigued by the man’s appearance; he stooped down as the couple passed, so he could see under the man’s hat to get a good look at his face. Later he would give a very detailed description to the police.
According to Hutchinson, Kelly’s companion was described as aged about 35. 5ft 6in. Pale Complexion with dark eyes and eye lashes. A small moustache with both ends slightly curled up, dark hair. Very surly looking. He was wearing a long dark coat with astrakhan collar and cuffs, a light waistcoat, dark trousers, dark felt hat, button boots and gaiters with white buttons. He also had a thick gold chain, a horse shoe tie pin and black tie. According to Hutchinson the man was very respectable in appearance.
The couple proceeded to walk into Dorset Street and disappeared into Millers court. Hutchinson followed close by and waited outside for 45 minutes waiting for the man to reemerge. Some theories suggest he may have been waiting to see if Mary would service him for free or possibly he was hoping to rob the man of his gold watch.
It was now 3:00 am and Hutchinson decided to move on, the working men’s home had closed for the night so he was going to have to find elsewhere to stay. Had he stayed a bit longer its possible he may have heard Kelly’s final words.
At 4:00 am, Elizabeth Prater who lived in a room above Kelly, was woken by the cry of “Oh Murder” but as these were quite common shouts in and around the area, she turned over and went back to sleep.
At 10:45 am on 9th November, the day of the Lord Mayors parade, landlord John McCarthy sent his assistant Thomas Bowyer to collect the rent from Miller’s court. Mary Kelly was six weeks behind, owing 29 shillings. Thomas Bowyer entered Millers court and knocked twice on the door of number 13. He got no answer. Not to be outdone and sensing she may be trying to avoid him he went round to the window and the broken window pane, still there from the previous fight Kelly had had with Barnett only 9 days before. He pulled out the paper that was blocking the hole and he proceeded to put his hand in and pulled back the curtain. He stared into the room and the sight that stared back at him would haunt him until his dying day.
There in her small room, on her bed, lay the remains of Mary Kelly. She had been butchered like an animal. Bowyer, in a scared panic, went immediately back to John McCarthy and the landlord himself went to gaze upon the horrific sight. He would later state:
“The sight we saw I cannot drive from my mind. It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man. I had heard a great deal about the Whitechapel murders, but I declare to God I had never expected to see such a sight as this.”
The two men hurried to fetch the police and once again another area of the east end was alive with crowds and onlookers. This time the police waited before entering the crime scene, they wanted to get blood hounds in to help track down the murderer but after several hours wait it was soon realised they would not be coming. At 1:30 pm the decision was made to enter the room with John McCarthy himself using a pick axe to prise open the door.
The carnage was even more dreadful at close range. The room was about 12 foot square, containing two tables, a chair and a bed. On the bedside table was a mound of hacked-out flesh. The cause of death was as usual a deep cut to the neck, which had nearly severed the head from the body. The abdomen had been ripped open and both breasts cut from the body. The left arm, like the head, hung to the body by the skin only. The nose had been cut off, the forehead skinned and the thighs stripped of flesh. The liver and entrails had been wrenched away. The liver was found placed between the feet of the victim. The flesh from the thighs and legs, together with the breast and nose had been placed by the murderer on the table, and one of the dead woman’s hands had been placed inside her stomach.
Dr Bond who examined the body of Mary Kelly described every detail of the sight that would have greeted every person who entered the room:
His report is as follows:
“The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed. The head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle and lying across the abdomen.
The right arm was slightly abducted from the body and rested on the mattress. The elbow was bent, the forearm supine with the fingers clenched. The legs were wide apart, the left thigh at right angles to the trunk and the right forming an obtuse angle with the pubes.
The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and the face hacked beyond recognition of the features. The tissues of the neck were severed all around down to the bone.
The viscera were found in various parts viz: the uterus and kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side and the spleen by the left side of the body. The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table.
The bed clothing at the right corner was saturated with blood, and on the floor beneath was a pool of blood covering about two feet square. The wall by the right side of the bed and in a line with the neck was marked by blood which had struck it in a number of separate splashes.
The face was gashed in all directions, the nose, cheeks, eyebrows, and ears being partly removed. The lips were blanched and cut by several incisions running obliquely down to the chin. There were also numerous cuts extending irregularly across all the features.
The neck was cut through the skin and other tissues right down to the vertebrae, the fifth and sixth being deeply notched. The skin cuts in the front of the neck showed distinct ecchymosis. The air passage was cut at the lower part of the larynx through the cricoid cartilage.
Both breasts were more or less removed by circular incisions, the muscle down to the ribs being attached to the breasts. The intercostals between the fourth, fifth, and sixth ribs were cut through and the contents of the thorax visible through the openings.
The skin and tissues of the abdomen from the costal arch to the pubes were removed in three large flaps. The right thigh was denuded in front to the bone, the flap of skin, including the external organs of generation, and part of the right buttock. The left thigh was stripped of skin fascia, and muscles as far as the knee.
The left calf showed a long gash through skin and tissues to the deep muscles and reaching from the knee to five inches above the ankle. Both arms and forearms had extensive jagged wounds.
The right thumb showed a small superficial incision about one inch long, with extravasation of blood in the skin, and there were several abrasions on the back of the hand moreover showing the same condition.
On opening the thorax it was found that the right lung was minimally adherent by old firm adhesions. The lower part of the lung was broken and torn away. The left lung was intact. It was adherent at the apex and there were a few adhesions over the side. In the substances of the lung there were several nodules of consolidation.
The pericardium was open below and the heart absent. In the abdominal cavity there was some partly digested food of fish and potatoes, and similar food was found in the remains of the stomach attached to the intestines.”
No police man who saw the body could ever forget it and many memoirs echoed one Inspector, Walter Dew, when he said
“As my thoughts go back to Millers court…No savage could have been more barbaric. No wild animal could have done anything so horrifying.”
A thorough search of the room revealed no clues to the Ripper’s identity. For some reason the killer had burned clothes in the grate, and it was later surmised that this was to provide enough light as he went about his ghastly work.
The police investigation continued in the usual way, door to door inquires, suspects detained and questioned but nothing could be found. Unknown to the investigators at the time, this was to be the Rippers final atrocity and the beginning of a horrific Victorian Legacy.
Mary Jane Kelly was buried in a public grave Monday, 19 November, 1888 at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Langthorne Road, Leytonstone E11. Her grave was no. 66 in row 66, plot 10.
No family member could be found to attend the funeral.
Her grave was properly marked with a simple memorial in the 1990s.