Who was Jack the Ripper?
In the strange case of Jack the Ripper there was no forensics, fingerprints or DNA. So positive proof of the Ripper’s identity remains unknown. However, the passage of time and subsequented killers have allowed investigators to piece together the type of individual he would have been.
Studying a particular criminal’s methods and crimes allows us for the first time to build a psychological profile of Jack the Ripper. Today the Ripper is regarded as the father of the modern day serial killer.
He did not kill through avarice, for financial or other material gain. He may not even fall into the category of joy killer, someone who kills simply for the personal pleasure derived from the act. Nor does he seem to have been a sadistic killer, in the sense of one who derives pleasure in inflicting pain or torture. The Ripper killed quickly.
It was not so much the killing that was the rippers purpose as it was the mutilation. The attacks he made on the abdomen and genitals of his victims, the taking away of the uterus, all suggest he was symbolically destroying the means of giving life itself. It may even have been life he was trying to destroy and possibly his own life.
Several attempts have been made to assess the type of person the Ripper might have been. Most notable was “The Ripper project” taken place at the International Centre for Forensic Sciences, Kansas University in 1981.
The Ripper case was looked at from the stand point of forensic pathology, forensic psychiatry, forensic history and eventually a criminal profile was produced by John Douglas of the FBI’s national centre for the analysis of violent crime.
Studying every aspect of the crimes he concluded that Jack the Ripper would be:
- A white male.
- 26-36 years old.
- He likely lived or worked in the Whitechapel area.
- Probably unmarried.
- Had an absentee father and a domineering mother with whom he had a deep but ambivalent relationship.
- Physical/mental abnormality which made him withdrawn from social circles.
- Most likely worked as a butcher or some similar job.
- He likely lived or worked in the Whitechapel area.
- Socially detached and preferred being on his own.
- Others would have perceived him as shy, neat, orderly in appearance and a loner.
- A generally timid character, he would have easily been discounted as a suspect.
- A deep aggression. He would have been his most dangerous after suffering a loss of self-esteem.
- He would consider his crimes justified, and feel little remorse.
Many of the suspects in the Ripper case files fit the psychological profile of modern times, though most of the suspects were older than thirty-two, and the descriptions of witnesses stated that the killer appeared to be middle-aged.
Jack the Ripper could have been much like Ted Bundy, a loner who stalked his prey in a similar way. Pat Cornwell’s portrayal of Walter Sickert is reminiscent of Bundy in many ways, as is the profile of several other Ripper suspects. Like Bundy, Sickert was believed to be charming and a master of disguise and deception.
Similarities can also be seen between the Ripper crimes and those of the Zodiac killer or the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. Though the method of murder is quite different, the letter-writing and the clues sent to the police are uncannily similar to the Ripper case.
Socially inept and unable to make advances to women, he would have let the victim initiate the contact. This is why his victims are prostitutes, they approach him first and lead him to a dark secluded spot away from witnesses. It is here as the victim raises her skirt, the ripper strikes, grabbing her throat and forcing her to the ground. Once passed out, he inflicts the cut throat. The desire to mutilate is overwhelming and the sole aim of the murder.
It is unlikely the killer saw himself on a moral crusade in the same way Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, claimed to be. He would have dressed in his best clothes to give the appearance of a man with money, making him more likely to be perceived by his victims as a prospective client.
He would live right in the vicinity of the murders within a short walk of the first killings, between Bucks row and Gunthorpe street, we know now that serial killers tend to begin their murders close to their homes, almost as a security and comfort impulse.
It is highly likely that he had already made several attacks on women in this area, before the first murder and these went unreported and were later not linked to the ripper crimes by police.
The profile suggests that the letters sent to the police and news papers were not the work of the killer. He would not have drawn attention to himself in this way. This is certainly now the case with the Dear Boss letter which most experts believe was written by a journalist. The Lusk letter along with half a human kidney is still fiercely debated today. Some serial killers get more confident and start taunting the police such as the Zodiac killer and the Son of Sam murders. So is it possible the Ripper himself followed these familiar lines? Perhaps future investigations will shed more light.
The murders and mutilations escalated in increasing ferocity. Many experts believe this was building up to one big mental explosion, ending with the killers suicide. However, the profile suggests the Ripper would not have killed himself.
The killer wanted to mutilate his victims, to shock all those who discovered the body, as confidence grew so did the mutilations. Opportunity presented itself in the murder of Mary Kelly, indoors, away from the public world, he had the time and means to indulge his fantasy.
The real question is why did the Ripper stop killing? Serial killers of this nature rarely stop unless they have come close to being captured either by arrest for a different crime or an interview by police where a real danger of his identification presented itself.
It is possible that, if he were prevented from killing, the murderers mental condition would have deteriorated, and what would have been taken previously as odd or strange behaviour would now be considered mad. He may in all likelihood been committed to an asylum.
Today we would consider this individual a paranoid schizophrenic and its possible the Ripper talked to those close to him about hearing voices in his head.
Jack the Ripper would have been a young resident of Whitechapel, not markedly different from anyone else, though perceived by his family as a little odd. He was a loner, probably with a poor work record. The murders were an outlet for an aggression which he had no other means of expressing.
A recent television programme claimed to have used “state of the art profiling” to create an e-fit of what Jack the Ripper would have looked like. Using contemporary witness descriptions from those who may have seen the Ripper with his victims shortly before they were murdered, Laura Richards, head of analysis for Scotland yard’s Violent Crime Command, was able to create a composite sketch of the man the police of 1888 should have been looking for.