Jack the Ripper

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An illustration from a newspaper of the time showing Jack the Ripper.

Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unidentified serial killer. He was active during the summer and autumn of 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London, England, which was known for its overpopulation and prostitution.

The main victims thought to be killed by the Ripper were five prostitutes:

  • Mary Ann Nichols - 47 years old (31 August)
  • Annie Chapman - 42 years old (8 September)
  • Elizabeth Stride - 44 years old (30 September)
  • Catharine Eddowes - 46 years old (30 September)
  • Mary Jane Kelly - 25 years old (9 November)

Newspapers and police in London around this time started to get taunting letters. The letters were signed "Jack the Ripper". Other murders were reported around the same time, but were not thought to be done by Jack the Ripper.

Who was Jack the Ripper?[change | change source]

Nobody knows who Jack the Ripper really was. Some think he might have been a doctor or a butcher because of how he killed and cut up the women, much like how a surgeon might perform surgery, or how a butcher might dissect an animal. All the murders happened on weekends, so it could have been someone who did not live in London but visited the city on weekends, or someone who worked during the week and was only free at the weekends.

Jack the Ripper's first murders[change | change source]

The Ripper was famous for the brutality of his murders. He often mutilated his victims, usually killing them by slashing their throats open, almost to the point of decapitation, and stabbing them multiple times, especially in the abdomen. At about 23:00 on 30 August, Mary Ann Nichols was seen walking the Whitechapel Road; at 00:30 she was seen to leave a pub in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. An hour later she was turned out of 18 Thrawl Street as she was lacking fourpence for a bed, implying by her last words that she would soon earn the money on the street with the help of a new bonnet she had acquired. She was later seen at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road, at 02:30, an hour before her death, by Nelly Holland. Nichols claimed she had made enough money to pay for her bed three times over, but had drunk it all away, it was the last time she was seen alive. An hour later, she was found lying dead in front of a gated stable entrance in Buck's Row (since renamed Durward Street), Whitechapel, her throat cut and her abdomen ripped open. Nobody had seen or heard a thing, the killer struck again on 8 September, Annie chapman was seen talking to a man at about 5:30 a.m. just beyond the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. Mrs. Long described him as over forty, and a little taller than Chapman, of dark complexion, and of foreign, "shabby-genteel" appearance. He was wearing a deer-stalker hat and dark overcoat, carpenter Albert Cadosch had entered the neighbouring yard at 27 Hanbury Street seconds later, and heard voices in the yard followed by the sound of something falling against the fence. Chapman's body was discovered at just before 6:00 a.m. on the morning of 8 September 1888 by a resident of number 29, market porter John Davis. She was lying on the ground near a doorway in the back yard. Her throat was cut from left to right, and she had been disembowelled, with her intestines thrown out of her abdomen over each of her shoulders. The morgue examination revealed that part of her uterus was missing. Chapman's protruding tongue and swollen face led Dr Phillips to think that she may have been asphyxiated with the handkerchief around her neck before her throat was cut.

Letters[change | change source]

Two weeks later, a letter was sent claimed to have been written by the killer himself.

The letter, received on September 27 1888, was signed "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper." The law enforcement and newspapers referred to him as the Ripper from that point on. The letter read:

"Dear Boss, 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 wouldn't 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.

Yours truly 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"

Double murders[change | change source]

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were killed in the early morning of Sunday 30 September 1888. Stride's body was discovered at about 1 a.m., in Dutfield's Yard, off Berner Street (now Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. The cause of death was one clear-cut incision which severed the main artery on the left side of the neck. Uncertainty about whether Stride's murder should be attributed to the Ripper, or whether he was interrupted during the attack, stems from the absence of mutilations to the abdomen. Witnesses who said they saw Stride with a man earlier that night gave differing descriptions: some said her companion was fair, others dark; some said he was shabbily dressed, others well-dressed. Eddowes' body was found in Mitre Square, in the City of London, three-quarters of an hour after Stride's. The throat was severed, and the abdomen was ripped open by a long, deep, jagged wound. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed. A local man, Joseph Lawende, had passed through the square with two friends shortly before the murder, and he described seeing a fair-haired man of shabby appearance with a woman who may have been Eddowes. His companions, however, were unable to confirm his description. Eddowes' and Stride's murders were later called the "double event". Part of Eddowes' bloodied apron was found at the entrance to a tenement in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Some writing on the wall above the apron piece, which became known as the Goulston Street graffito, seemed to implicate a Jew or Jews, but it was unclear whether the graffito was written by the murderer as he dropped the apron piece, or merely incidental.Police Commissioner Charles Warren feared the graffito might spark antisemitic riots, and ordered it washed away before dawn. The "Saucy Jacky" postcard was postmarked 1 October 1888 and received the same day by the Central News Agency. The handwriting was similar to the "Dear Boss" letter. It mentions that two victims were killed very close to one another: "double event this time", which was thought to refer to the murders of Stride and Eddowes. It has been argued that the letter was mailed before the murders were publicised, making it unlikely that a crank would have such knowledge of the crime, but it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings took place, long after details were known by journalists and residents of the area.

The "From Hell" letter was received by George Lusk, leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, on 16 October 1888. The handwriting and style is unlike that of the "Dear Boss" letter and postcard. The letter came with a small box in which Lusk discovered half of a kidney, preserved in "spirits of wine" (ethanol). Eddowes' left kidney had been removed by the killer. The writer claimed that he "fried and ate" the missing kidney half. There is disagreement over the kidney: some contend it belonged to Eddowes, while others argue it was nothing more than a macabre practical joke. The kidney was examined by Dr Thomas Openshaw of the London Hospital, who determined that it was human and from the left side, but (contrary to false newspaper reports) he could not determine its gender or age. Openshaw subsequently also received a letter signed "Jack the Ripper".

The end of the crimes[change | change source]

Mary Jane Kelly was seen with a man of "Jewish appearance". Kelly and the man headed for her room at 13 Miller's Court, Elizabeth Prater, who was woken by her kitten walking over her neck, and Sarah Lewis both reported hearing a faint cry of "Murder!" at about 4:00 a.m., but did not react because they reported that it was common to hear such cries in the East End. She claimed not to have slept and to have heard people moving in and out of the court throughout the night. She thought she heard someone leaving the residence at about 5:45 a.m. Kelly's gruesomely mutilated body was discovered the next morning lying on the bed at 10:45 a.m. on Friday 9 November 1888. The throat had been severed down to the spine, and the abdomen virtually emptied of its organs. The heart was missing.

After the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper murders stopped suddenly. The identity of Jack the Ripper is unknown. Although many historians have different opinions and theories on who Jack the Ripper was, it will probably never be known who he was.