The Murder of CATHERINE EDDOWES

Catherine Eddowes
“She was ripped up, like a pig in the market ”
PC Edward Watkins

Victim: Catherine Eddowes

Location: Mitre Square

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 years old and originally from Wolverhampton, Eddowes 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.

A NIGHT IN THE CELLS

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.

GOOD NIGHT, OLD COCK

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.

A SHOCKING DISCOVERY

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.

GHASTLY MURDER

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.

RAISING THE ALARM

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.

A FRANTIC SEARCH

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.

THE EYE WITNESS

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.

EXAMINATION

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 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.

A CLUE IS DISCOVERED

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.