An interest in Victorian serial killers is often viewed by widespread society as an odd and macabre pastime. To demonstrate this, here’s an incident I wrote about in a previous blog which demonstrates how people see you once they discover that you have an interest in such matters. If you’ve read it before I apologise.

In 2001 I was working for an English language teaching magazine based near the University of London. I enjoyed the job, particularly as its location could be reached by bus or bike rather than Tube. I’d cycle a few times a week but, if I was going out after work or had to wear a suit (pleasingly rare), I would take the 38 bus.

One day I was nestled next to the bus window reading Howard Sounes’ book about the Fred West murders. I know, I know. I’m coming to that. Anyway, after a few stops a woman of generous carriage jumped on and decided that the seat next to me was the one for her.  I looked up, offered her a weak smile and, this being London, and received a frown by way of reply. Ah well.

Now, I’ll admit here that my own carriage is far from svelte. I am something of a wide gentleman. I am the son of a docker who was himself the son of a docker and am thus broad shouldered by genetic determination. Therefore, this woman was doomed to an uncomfortable journey once she decided that her buttocks should reside next to mine. I shuffled a little, pushed myself into the window and tried not to grunt when she arrived inches from my lap.

‘Excuse me,’ she said, as she grinded into me. I pulled my knees together and tried to find some way of freeing fresh ground as she pushed further. As expected, none was forthcoming. My actions were bootless as I had no territory to cede, but I carried on in the interest of basic manners.  This did not satisfy so I tried other ways. My shoulders came next – narrowing to accommodate her own enormous specimens. She began to tut and snort.

‘Sorry, there isn’t much room,’ I replied, nodding at the, shall we say, elephant in the room. We continued with this pantomime for several minutes with no satisfactory outcome. I wondered why she didn’t just give in but then I saw it.

I saw her agenda.

Her plan was to shame me, simply shame me, into relinquishing the window seat and force me into taking her and living with the discomfort of one having one arse cheek hanging over the seat. I was steadfastly against this policy. I stood, or rather sat, firm. My resolve was true. No way, sister.

Back to the book.

She gave up. My inner elbows were touching now and the book was centimetres from my face but I continued reading nonetheless. I had no room at all. I’ve a vague recollection of attempting to use my nose and cheek to turn the page but I couldn’t swear to it. She continued to shoot me aggressive glances but there was no dice.

Then she saw her chance to change tactics. It was a beauty. I’ve got to give her that.

She inhaled loudly while holding her cavernous mouth open and hissing, hissing very loudly I might add…

‘Oh my God!’

I’ll admit that I panicked a bit. Had I nudged her breasts? Touched her buttocks? Difficult not to as they were almost on my hips at this point. What fresh horror was this?

‘Disgusting! Absolutely disgusting!’

Slowly people began to turn around to see what the fuss was about. She was clever. Oh, she was smart. She didn’t voice a direct accusation until the whole lower deck of the 38 to Victoria were paying attention and most of them were agog with curiosity. So was I for that matter.

‘How can anyone read books like that? Revolting!’

Ah, that was it. I was reading a book about a serial killer and that somehow made me equally culpable as West himself. I shrugged and went back to it with an ‘Oh, sod off’ shake of the head. You’ll have to do better than that, love. Pleasingly, the rest of the bus went back to their business of reading papers or listening to music. We manoeuvred through the streets of Islington and I smirked the smirk of the victorious.

I gave her a last look. Her face was almost purple as she was still playing the shame game. I had won, although I was still doing an impression of a battery farm hen. I smirked again; all politeness had long since evaporated.


I decided not to engage further. I went back to the book but instead of reading I thought about her strategy. Surely this must have been a common occurrence for her. Did she always look for big lads with questionable reading material every day?  I released a little giggle at the thought.


What now? I was getting pissed off with this.


‘No, no! I was laughing at something else,’ my eyes said. ‘I wasn’t…Shit! Did you think I…?’

But no one else was playing now, despite her whirling round for comrades and occasionally elbowing me in the ribs. There were no takers. I was still a bit panicked. What sort of person would laugh at a book like this? I was only laughing at…

Then something bad happened. Something really, really bad.

I realised that someone reading a serial killer book for comic purposes was in itself darkly comical.  That made me laugh. Then I remembered that this was the wrong time and occasion to express mirth.  I laughed again. And again.


Don’t do it, Karl.

I threw my head back and cackled. Christ, what had I done? She gasped again. I could barely breathe. I did all I could to save myself but I was struggling.

Your mind can be cruel. You can tell it what to do all you like but sometimes it just prefers to play the naughty schoolboy. My shoulders began to shake but my eyes were concentrating on the written word. It made it worse. The woman was now apoplectic.


I roared at that. Absolutely roared. I put my finger on the line so I wouldn’t lose my place when I recovered from the shudders of laughter. It was the worst thing I could have done. It looked like I was saving a salacious death for later reading. The gasps were back too.

‘No, you must stop,’ I begged, as a fresh wave of laughs submerged me.

I was talking to her but it looked like I was addressing the book. Again, that exacerbated the situation, but sensing she had lost, she stood up, called me a pig and went to seek a smaller shouldered man elsewhere. I wiped the tears from my eyes and regained my composure.

I gave that story to Mike, one of the characters in my novel, And What Do You Do, as it sounds better as fiction than fact. The old adage of the difference between the two is that the latter has to make sense is appropriate here, but that story is perfectly true.

During those days my office was next door to a large branch of Waterstones, the booksellers who have recently dropped the necessary punctuation mark from their name – a decision which irks me to this day. A few years earlier my friend Gabrielle worked in that very same shop and told me that the staff would often play a game called ‘Spot the True Crimer’. This would consist of her friends assessing an incoming customer and guessing if they were the sort of people who would walk straight to the True Crime section and seek new books about grizzly deaths or gangland hierarchies. She claims that she never missed. I had a shaved head at the time so I was an obvious candidate.

I deny my membership to that club. I have no wish to collect handguns or daub pentacles on the wall. My interest in the subject is scientific rather than bloodthirsty. From what I can recall about that West book it was mostly about how the media portrayed the case and the knock on effects once the discoveries had been made. Yes, I know something about the murders but not in an appreciative way. I can also speak with some authority about Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, but it is the police ineptitude and diabolical actions of a hoaxer which are more interesting than the man himself. Sutcliffe was a fairly dull individual who got lucky. West was a simpleton who had a ready helpmeet in an evil wife and was also incredibly lucky. Who would want to know about them apart from criminal psychologists? No, it’s the ephemera around them which holds my attention.

And that has been the most rewarding element of the Ten Weeks in Whitechapel series. My plan was to simply write a kind of ‘Ripper 101’ overview and nothing more. I’m not saying anything new about the case – merely putting the basics out there in the hope that others might become as fascinated in it as I am. It’s worked too. I’m answering questions daily now as people have used this column as a launching pad to seek some far off ephemera of their own.

My interest in the Whitechapel murders is from a social history perspective rather than criminology, but if yours is not then that’s fine. Maybe you will have your own curiosities and want to know more about Tumblety, say, or the Maybrick brothers or maybe it is the short lives of the victims and their decline which you find fascinating.

All this is just a warning. People may find you to be a bit weird, particularly if they want your seat on a bus.

But let’s get back to  the case and, as I’ve examined those ten weeks  in detail, see what happened since the murderer put away his knife and left Millers Court.

To this day the Ripper murders form the greatest whodunit in the history of crime. Only the Kennedy assassination comes close and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge will have a favourite suspect. I speak from experience. When I first began researching the murders I went from Tumblety to Kosminski to William Bury and, although it wasn’t much fun for the poor women involved, it’s easy to spend an hour promoting and debunking theories with like-minded friends.

Such conversations have taken place since the year of the murders itself and modern sleuths have made numerous attempts to unmask the killer once and for all, be it through theory or evidence.

This latter strategy is difficult at best as the surviving papers or any other evidence is scant as much has been lost or stolen/taken as a keepsake over the last century. The ‘Dear Boss’ letter survives to this day but that too was lost for decades. The ‘From Hell’ letter has also disappeared along with various case notes, some of which may well have been vital.

But that’s not to say that discoveries don’t pop up from time to time. The Littlechild letter which heralded the arrival of Francis Tumblety as a potential suspect only came to light in 1987 while the Mary Kelly bed photo only appeared in The Police Journal in 1969 and then in Dan Farson’s book Jack the Ripper in 1972. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an Abberline diary out there somewhere or an irrefutable confession scrawled in a book. After all, secret collectors of Ripperology do exist and occasionally, just occasionally, things are returned to the National Archives or the Black Museum at Scotland Yard. You never know…

But following the Millers Court atrocity and the apparent disappearance of the culprit, the police had no idea what to do next (unless you believe Anderson and Swanson who claimed to have the man locked up). Gradually, the case was wound down and the public were happy at least that the killing had stopped though the lack of an arrest and conviction was frustrating. There was little the police could do given that this was before the age of fingerprinting, DNA and even the preservation of crime scenes.

The police phased down their investigation and Abberline was taken off the case in early 1889 to work on, amongst other things, the Cleveland Street scandal when the police raided an alleged male brothel which may or may not –depending on who you believe- have been attended by the very cream of aristocratic society. Shortly afterwards, on 26th January 1889 James Monro told the Home Office that he would be reducing the numbers of bobbies on the beat ‘as quickly as it is safe to do so.’ The case was as good as over.

There may have been no more murders but the vapours of those ten grim weeks still haunted the public. The political groups considered that, if the police had not arrested anyone it must follow that they knew who was responsible and were covering it up and if that was the case the Whitechapel Fiend must have been someone very high indeed.

Numerous arrests were made but no one was charged.

As the years rolled on the key players in the case began to die off. In 1896, Dr George Bagster Phillips, the Police Surgeon who attended four of the five autopsies as well as three of the crime scenes, died while ‘Leather Apron’ John Pizer succumbed to gastro enteritis in 1897. Three years later, PC Thompson, who nearly caught Frances Coles’ murderer, was killed in a bar room brawl. Dr Thomas Bond, who examined the Kelly body, committed suicide by jumping out of a window. As   these people died so did any hope of discovering who did it?

There was one benefit of the case going cold, however. Now that they had retired, several senior officials talked more openly about their time on the case than ever before in autobiographies and memoirs. Sir Robert Anderson brought out The Lighter Side of My Official Life in 1910 while Macnaghten published The Days of My Years four years later. Abberline left nothing behind when he retired as Chief Inspector in February 1892 which was a great shame as no one in the force knew the East End as well as he.

Soon East End mothers, who were once frightened of the murderer, began to threaten their children with him. ‘If you don’t go to bed Jack the Ripper will get you.’ The killer became less of a threat and more of a character – a ghoul, a miasma.  This was ‘Gentleman Jack’ with his pantomime villainy bedecked with top hat, bag and gloves. As Bruce Robinson said in his recent book, ‘Jack the Ripper did not look like Jack the Ripper.’

This character grew to such an extent that he soon became fictionalised as the tale and was told time and again in new, exciting ways and media.

The first Ripper related film was released in 1926 in the shape of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, based roughly on the story of the Batty St lodger, though written Ripper fiction began much earlier. John Francis Brewer wrote The Curse upon Mitre Square as early as October 1888 – merely weeks after the murder of Catherine Eddowes.

The art world also began to take an interest. Ripper suspect, Walter Sickert painted Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom in 1907 and The Camden Town Murder or What Shall We Do for the Rent? a year later.

(Sickert’s paintings. The latter is eerily reminiscent of the position of Mary Jane Kelly’s body when it was found in Miller’s Court twenty years earlier)

The dawn of modern Ripperology probably began with journalist Daniel Farson’s TV programme Farson’s Guide to the British in November 1959. Farson was something of a trailblazer in terms of modern televisual presentation and chose a much more hard-hitting approach to documentaries rather than the clipped, rather polite, traditional BBC approach. He chose challenging subjects such as mixed marriages and nudism and was not afraid to interview anyone from (to my mind) loathsome right wing extremists such as James Wentworth Day (who thought homosexuals and, by extension, his host, should be hanged) to local vicars in his quest to show a different type of Britain.

It was Farson to whom Lady Christabel Aberconway, the daughter of Sir Melville Macnaghten, showed what may have been an early draft of her father’s now famous memorandum in which he named the three suspects. Lady Aberconway was careful that no one be libelled in the programme so Montague Druitt’s name was abbreviated to ‘MJD’   and it was only in Tom Cullen’s book, Autumn of Terror, in 1965 that Druitt’s name was revealed in full.

For the first time, television had produced fresh interest in the case and, for a while, the Whitechapel Murders were in vogue once more.

The most famous Ripper film of the 1960s was not fictitious at all but a strange, quirky documentary called The London Nobody Knows in which the actor James Mason walks around the capital looking at peculiar people and practices. Near the end of the film he visits 29 Hanbury St, knocks on the door and asks a rather bemused resident if he can take a look around. He stands in the yard, pointing at the murder site with his walking stick and tells us that this is where Jack did his work. Though he fails to name Annie Chapman. There then follows a trip around the area including footage of drunks fighting in Brick Lane, a tramp looking for scraps in a deserted Spitalfields Market and some hopeless  inebriates in Itchy Park – the grounds of Christ Church near the Ten Bells pub.

London Nobody Knows 7 Hanbury Street

(James Mason walks past the spot where Annie Chapman’s body was found in 1888, between the door and the fence behind him)

It is the best footage we have of that area before the house was torn down in the early 70s to make way for the Truman brewery. The film is available on DVD and, trust me on this, it’s really, really odd. I love it.

1970s Ripperology was dominated with the Royal conspiracy thanks to the Barlow and Watt programme and Stephen Knight’s book (see last week’s article). It was also a great time for Ripper fiction. There had already been a rather misogynistic episode of Star Trek in 1967 entitled Wolf in the Fold which bore some Victorian/Whitechapel hallmarks but in 1979 the tale was also adapted for the big screen with Murder by Decree starring Christopher Plummer and, him again, James Mason as Holmes and Watson as they attempt to catch the murderer.

The area itself, with some of the Victorian streets and buildings still relatively unchanged began to cash in on the case. In 1976, the Ten Bells pub, where Kelly and Chapman may have drank on the night of their murders, took the extraordinary decision to change its name to ‘Jack the Ripper.’ Even before taking in account the historical nature of its original name (it has been there since the 1750s and is thus one of London’s oldest pubs), naming it after a slayer of women was tawdry to say the least and, as with many things Ripper related, the murderer appeared to be celebrated for his deeds by way of recognition. Fortunately, following a campaign by the group ‘Reclaim the Night’ amongst others, the brewery saw sense in 1988 and changed it back.


(Jack the Ripper pub photo courtesy of Neil Bell)

Incidentally, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver claims that his great-great grandfather was the landlord of the pub in the 1880s. If true, he may have served the killer.

Today, the East End seems rather coy about its infamous resident as there is little to point out what happened where. The White Hart pub has a plaque suggesting that George Chapman, who once worked in the basement, placed outside its side entrance in Gunthorpe Street while there currently sits a mock Goulston St Graffito a few yards up the road. There is also a window of Ripper artefacts (copies of the ‘From Hell’ letter, pictures of the suspects etc.) opposite the pub but that seems to be the only mention of the murders in the area.

The murder sites themselves are fairly nondescript locations. A few years ago somebody placed small plaques around the sites, claiming them to be ‘Mary Ann Nichols Row’ etc., though none exist today. The only thing similar is a stencilled graffito on Henriques Street about 100 yards from Elizabeth Stride’s murder site.

Stride Street

In fact, access to the majority of the sites is restricted these days.  Bucks Row/Durward St is now a construction site with Polly Nichols’ site frustratingly out of reach on the other side of a fence – pictured below. I was too much of a coward to take a picture over it but my friend Jane had no such qualms as she held her camera high and snapped indiscriminately. She got lucky with this picture as the orange box marks the murder site of Polly Nichols.

Bucks wall

Jane Durward

(Photo: Jane)

29 Hanbury Street is now a private car park which doubles as a market at the weekend. The houses have long since been demolished so it’s difficult to earmark the exact spot. It’s roughly where this green light appears.

Annie green light

The murder location of Liz Stride at what was once 40 Berner St is now a school so photography is obviously impossible at times. However, you can still see the place. She would be facing us in this pic along the closer of the yellow lines.

Mitre Square is undergoing a major development though it currently remains the only site where you can stand on the exact position on any given day (though please don’t do that).


That said it’s not certain just how long that will be there as there are plans to build a ‘Public Realm Enhancement’, whatever one of them is, there. I suspect it will do little to help Ripperologists and walking tours. Mitre Square was once full of  Ripper tours (I counted six one night) but now it is more or  less empty as it becomes smaller and smaller.  Nevertheless, you can still visit the spot where Joseph Lawende saw Catherine Eddowes talk to a man in what was once Church Passage, though that too is subject to eternal roadworks and developments.

SSt James

As for Millers Court/Dorset St – just forget it. Seriously, don’t bother. It’s now in the middle of a building site somewhere opposite Christ Church, Spitalfields. It was once a service road to the north of where Whites Row car park – a 1970s eyesore – before that too was demolished. In any case the entire area is walled off while construction work goes ahead.

There is better news in Goulston St. The place where the apron and graffito were discovered in remains though the stairs have gone. It now forms the doorway of the ‘Happy Days’ chip shop. The owners have even been good enough to put a photo up of roughly where the words were scrawled.


(Erm, not genuine, obviously)

‘Happy Days’ have a restaurant area to the left of the takeaway chip shop which has several pictures of suspects and people of note on the walls and it’s not often you get too sit and eat fish and chips under the watchful gaze of Sir Charles Warren.

The owners don’t mind you taking photos and there’s also a well-written primer about the murders on their website. Some may see this as exploitative but I’d rather spend time in a place called ‘Happy Days’ than ‘Jack the Ripper.’

Happy Days

There is a local barbers  nearby called ‘Jack the Clipper’ but that’s as close as the East End comes to  mentioning the Whitechapel murderer save for the numerous Ripper tours which scurry around Spitalfields and Aldgate East at night.

Some think that the area should do more to show its dark history and even preserve some of the sites, but there’s little coin to be made from pointing out where a famous murder took place.  In any case, the number of Ripper tourists has never declined so you have to admire the area’s restraint into not turning it into a sort of serial killer’s Disneyworld.

So why has this series of murders lasted so long in the public conscience? After all, there are far grislier slayings and serial killers with a higher murder count than five both before and since the case. Peter Sutcliffe killed at least 13 women and attacked many more. Furthermore he had a similar desire to mutilate women but, to my knowledge, there are no Yorkshire Ripper tours.

You could argue that it is because ‘Jack’ was never caught but there are still mysteries in other cases. There is a still a missing body in the case of the Moors Murders but will that be remembered in 130 years even though child murder is more hideous than any other crime? I doubt it.

Any view is valid of course, but I suspect it’s because we have so little to go on. This man walked around the busiest neighbourhood of the busiest city of the world, viciously killing women on the streets with others nearby -to such an extent that on two occasions he slayed his prey outside buildings where a twitching curtain would have done for him- and no one saw a thing. In Mitre Square he killed and disembowelled Catherine Eddowes in between the beats of two policemen and still walked away. The audacity of the murders – the silence and vanishing acts – makes him appear superhuman.

He was actually anything but. He was simply an incredibly lucky man. He wasn‘t a genius or criminal mastermind or protected or anything similar.   He should have been caught but the times were in his favour.  Had it been today Annie Chapman, Liz Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly may well have survived.

So who was he? Do we have any idea at all?

During the Yorkshire Ripper murders one of the investigation rooms had a blackboard with two sentences written upon it divided by a vertical line. One side said ‘What we think we know about the Ripper’ with a list of bullet points underneath. The other ‘What we actually know.’ There was nothing underneath those words. This is not strictly true with the Whitechapel case.  Despite an absence of evidence there are things we know about the killer.

Firstly, he was a local or at least dressed as one, and, if witnesses can be believed, (ignoring Matthew Packer and George Hutchinson) was foreign/Jewish. That last statement isn’t based on any casual racism as was customary in 1888, but on Mrs Long’s testimony, as she certainly saw Annie Chapman with the wanted man. The broad shouldered man who attacked Liz Stride in Berner St used an anti-Semitic remark to Israel Schwartz or ‘Pipe Man’ so we could suppose he wasn’t Jewish, but it is far from a certainty that Stride’s killer was actually the Ripper.

What else do we know about him? Well, he knew the East End. As stated earlier, he ran from Mitre Square and disappeared into thin air. He walked away from Mary Kelly’s room and into one of the most densely populated streets in London and no one saw a thing. This suggests a bolthole nearby. Somewhere where he could lock a door and be at one with his ‘trophies’. The night of the ‘double event’ was the only occasion where we know roughly where he went following a crime. He was headed towards Goulston St – a stone’s throw from the rookeries of Dorset St, Thrawl Street and Flower and Dean Street – once he had finished with Catherine Eddowes. He did not jump into a carriage and jet off to the Inner Temple or the more salubrious domiciles of the West End. He walked into the East End and it’s not unreasonable to presume that it’s because he lived there.

We also know his killing ground. He didn’t like to travel.

It is possible to walk from the most westerly murder – Mitre Square – to Bucks Row in the east in about twenty minutes. In terms of tube stations, Aldgate East, next to the Martha Tabram and Spitalfields murders, is one stop away from Whitechapel while Aldgate –the station closest to Mitre Square is only a three minute walk to Aldgate East. In fact, I’ve  just used an online map and plotted a direct course from Bucks Row to  Mitre Square passing down Whitechapel High Street, Aldgate High Street and Mitre St and it comes up with 0.92 mile! It’s unlikely that someone would travel any great distance to murder on four different nights when there was hardly a paucity of prostitutes in other parts of the East End. No, the killer was local.

So, male, foreign and local. That narrows the field down to around 60,000 people –   many of whom used assumed names. We (don’t especially) progress, Watson!

Since we’re discussing the local topography I might as well share this. I recently came across a You Tube documentary about Stephen Knight’s royal conspiracy theory which showed an extraordinary map of 1888 Whitechapel. Let’s just say that the cartographer was a fan of Picasso or William Burroughs ‘write things down, jumble them up and tape them back together’ method of writing which was so admired by David Bowie et al.

Mad Map

Here’s the real map.

Poverty Map

Sorry. That’s always made me laugh.

He may have had some rudimentary anatomical knowledge though no one is certain. He did know the method of cutting a throat while avoiding blood stains. He cut from left to right probably by standing behind his victim (Nichols had thumb marks on her face where he had held her steady to afford a grip). By strangling his victims until they lay on the floor before severing the left carotid artery, he could avoid the blood. Had it been a straightforward slash he would have been covered in the stuff. He knew that and this suggests that, at the very least, he knew a little of butchery.  He may well have worked in a profession where blood stains were not uncommon and could walk around the streets of E1 without attracting suspicious.

Male, foreign, local, knew about butchery.

Okay, we can’t arrest anyone yet but there are a few facts about him.  It’s just a shame it’s not enough.We’ll never know who did it.  Ever.

But sometimes that’s the best part.



That concludes the Ten Weeks in Whitechapel series. I’ve enjoyed writing this series and there are plans afoot to find it a more permanent home than on these pages. Watch this space.

I may return with the odd blog should something happen – be it evidence or an insatiable need to write more about my favourite topics. I’d like that.

It just remains for me to thank everyone for reading and providing questions for the Q&A. I’d also like to thank Martin Fitzgerald for shouting ‘Do it!’ when I suggested the series to him, for Serena Casey for looking stern when needed, Devlin Macgregor, Sue Hayrettin, Cate and Jane Hall for dragging them around the streets and babbling on about autopsy reports, as well as Ripperologists who have been kind enough to answer my questions and send photos – namely Jonathan Menges, Neil Bell, Jon Rees and Philip Hutchinson. We may never learn the man’s identity,  but the history of the Whitechapel murders is educational and, as Holmes tells Watson in His Last Bow:

“Education never ends, Watson. It is  a series of lessons,, with the greatest for the last.”

Thank you.

Karl Coppack, April 2017










Since I began Ten Weeks in Whitechapel, I’ve had numerous questions from friends and people on Twitter concerning certain aspects of the murders. While I’ve tried to answer as many as I can in one way or another, it’s not always been easy given the 140 character limit, so I thought I’d dedicate this week’s column to some.

Here we go then.

If we could analyse historical DNA e.g. one of the victims’ bodies and loads of the suspects’ bodies, could we confirm a match? – Sue Hayrettin,  Yorkshire

Possibly, but it’s a bit of a long shot.  Exhuming the bodies of potential suspects isn’t easy in itself and it’s almost impossible for the victims. For example, Annie Chapman was buried in a pauper’s grave so her bones would not be too easy to find and identify and I’m not sure anyone knows exactly if Mary Kelly’s headstone marks her actual resting place in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery. That said, in 2015 The Ministry of Justice gave permission to Dr Weston Davies to unearth the woman he believes to be his great-aunt so they must be pretty confident that they have the right spot, but I’ve heard nothing else since.

Patricia Cornwell has suggested finding and exhuming Mary’s body to link it to Walter Sickert’s possible involvement in her death but I’m not sure why his descendants would want to disturb his bones to see him unmasked as the most famous serial killer in history. I certainly wouldn’t agree to put an ancestor of mine through that.

I suppose the main problem is that there needs to be an incredibly strong case for exhumation and most suspectology is based on a large amount of guesswork than irrefutable proof.

Do you think the ‘Juwes’ relates to Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum or Jews? Do you think it was even written by the killer? – Matthew Biggs

It’s not impossible, Matthew, but there’s always something about the Goulston Street Graffito which strikes me as a bit far-fetched. I can’t see him killing once or twice (I have my doubts about Stride being a Ripper victim) in one night, with a kidney and part of a uterus in tow and still find time to leave a confusing message on a wall. Also,  if he wanted to talk to the public he had ample time to write on the walls of Millers Court.

I’m fairly sure that he had no wish to neither speak to anyone at all about his crime nor taunt the authorities.

Goulston St tour

(A tour guide at the spot where the Goulston St Graffito was found)

As for Jubela and his mates, I think it’s just an honest case of bad spelling. If you belong to a secret organisation it’s probably not wise to point to it over the discarded apron of a murder victim. I’ve a lot of time for Martin Fido’s theory that it was a complaint about a market trader and nothing more than a coincidence.

Is it too great a coincidence that names Polly Ann, Mary Ann, dark Annie dark Mary, Catherine Eddowes giving her name as Mary Anne Kelly etc. are so similar as to get confused? The “ripper” seems so careful in so many ways it seems hard to believe he would mistakenly kill 3 or 4 women before getting to his intended target. – @jrvoller

There are many people who believe he was targeting Mary Kelly all along and stopped when he tore the poor girl to pieces, but it’s not as if she was especially difficult to find. She had her own soliciting patch and was a common sight in the prime Ripper location of the Ten Bells, Ringers pub etc. It also seems likely (to me at least) that, if he was Stride’s killer, he headed towards St Botolph’s church where he was guaranteed a victim rather than deliberately looking for Catherine Eddowes.

I think he killed five women because he wanted to kill and kill again. The violence escalated at every kill (Stride aside) which suggests it was through compunction rather than a plan. In Peter Sutcliffe’s confession statement he tells of how he killed one woman purely because she was on her own and the situation was ideal. He didn’t need to as his demons were not screaming in his head at the time but things just worked out that way. I find that idea more horrific than any of his murders.

Was the Ripper a mastermind or just lucky?  – Tabitha Smith, South Carolina

If you watch the films and adaptations, Tabitha, you’d think he was cocking a snook at the British empire and Metropolitan Police while dancing around the cobbles of the East End, but I’m loathed to believe that that’s the case. Look at his murders. There’s only one without a witness – the Polly Nichols murder. He kills Annie Chapman in earshot of a witness behind a tiny fence; he’s seen by half of Berner St in the case of Elizabeth Stride, three witnesses see him talking to Catherine Eddowes at Mitre Square while Mary Kelly is murdered in the busiest street in London on a night when much of Spitalfields were out drinking. He only needed Albert Cadosche to look over the fence in Hanbury Street or Louis Diemschutz to be a few seconds later in Berner St and they would have caught him in the act. His luck was extraordinary.  He also left a huge clue with the apron in Goulston St though the police were unable to capitalise on it. That doesn’t look like genius to me.

What do you find most evocative about Victorian London? – Sean Barfoot

Do any other serial killers stories interest you? Is it possible that Jack could be Jackie? – Philippa Smallwood

I’ve read up on a few serial killers and lived through the later crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper, but the Whitechapel murders are just more interesting due to the history. I’ve read up on the Moors Murders too and a few of the more famous American killers but they lack the atmosphere of  Victorian London and the uniqueness of the Whitechapel case.

I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan – as much for the language as the stories – and this added to my love of Victoriana. It’s the little quirks that go with the times which I find fascinating. For example, I only address a close of friend of mine by his surname as a nod to Holmes and Watson. The famous sleuth and his companion would never be so familiar as to call each other Sherlock and John and they shared rooms ‘past the well-remembered door’ for nearly forty years and two marriages. I love that world though I’m immensely grateful that I’m not part of it.

Jack couldn’t have done what he did in any other world and though it’s fair to say that his was an illness, an insanity, it’s the environment which allowed him to go undiscovered for so long. There were no forensics, the public believed in secrecy from the law and the victims wanted to avoid the police so allowed themselves to be taken away into dark corners, courtyards and squares. I don’t think there’s another age where that could happen.

As for Jackie the Ripper, Arthur Conan-Doyle  believed in a ‘Jill the Ripper’ – possibly a mad midwife disguised as a prostitute seeking local but it seems a bit elaborate.

Were they any suspects who were demonstrably in Whitechapel at the time off all the murders and who had means and reasons to do it? We need more on motives. What motives did police ascribe to the killer? What motives do current forensic pathologists attribute? Do current criminal profilers think the murders all the work of one hand, and who do they think dunnit? – John Moore

John is a doctor, everyone, so is used to bombarding people with questions. He’s also the man for this.


There were indeed several Ripper suspects wandering around the area at the time. Aaron Kosminski was in or around Greenfield St which isn’t too far from what was Berner Street while George Chapman/Severin Kosminski was in either Cable St or George’s Yard which puts him only yards away from Martha Tabram’s murder site. Others – people I haven’t mentioned yet, such as William Bury and Robert Donstan Stephenson, were in or around Whitechapel too though Bury was a little further out in Bow.

The police’s initial response was to look to the people who knew the victims. Joseph Barnett, Mary Kelly’s partner, was interviewed by Abberline for four hours before being released (incorrectly in some minds). They were working on the premise that there would be a link between the murders though, of course, with serial killers, it’s more about a random desire to kill regardless of identity so they would only be caught if they were found in the act.

Most theorists believe they were all the work of one hand though some replace Stride in the canonical five with Martha Tabram (I do for one). Patricia Cornwell believes that Walter Sickert is the murderer, but he was almost certainly in France during the Annie Chapman murder and, for me, if he didn’t kill Annie then he’s not Jack the Ripper.

Some senior officials believe that they’d caught him (see Week 7 – https://tenweeksinwhitechapel.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/aaron-montague-michael-and-francis-the-police-suspects/ ) and threw him into an asylum while others had their own pet theories, but they did not have a number one suspect as such.

Do you think he necessarily had surgical skills? From what I’ve read could he not just have worked in an abattoir and have very basic anatomy knowledge? – Serena Casey

This is one of the more confusing elements of the case as some say he was skilled while others suggest that he just hacked at the corpses and took whatever interested him.

When George Bagster Phillips examined Annie Chapman in  the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street he said…

“Obviously the work was that of an expert of one, at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical or pathological examinations as to be enabled to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife, which must therefore must have at least 5 or 6 inches in length, probably more. The appearance of the cuts confirmed him in the opinion that the instrument, like the one which divided the neck, had been of a very sharp character. The mode in which the knife had been used seemed to indicate great anatomical knowledge.”

 Annie Wedding

(Annie and John Chapman c.1869)

However, Thomas Bond, the police  surgeon from ‘A’ Division who examined Mary Kelly claimed she was murdered…

“…by a person who had no scientific nor anatomical knowledge… [not even] the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer or any person accustomed to cut up dead animals.”

 The term ‘anatomical knowledge is also something of a confusing one. It does not necessarily mean that the man was a doctor  nor that he was a horse slaughterer or common butcher – just that they knew where things were. Again, it’s open to debate.

Is there anything new to be discovered about the case other than the identity of the killer? – Cate Hall.

Cate is the Executive Producer of the excellent series The Victorian Slum. I can’t recommend that series highly enough  if you ever get a chance to see it.  She recently told me that the scene where the family sell Victorian food to modern customers outside the Ten Bells pub almost featured a cameo from a recent winner of The Apprentice! Cate worked on that show and recognised him instantly while he was drinking with his friends in the background. An example of how the clientele has changed over the years!

Victorian SLum

(BBC’s The Victorian Slum)

As for new evidence in the field of  Ripperology – plenty!

Only recently Patricia  Cornwell has discovered the strong possibility that the artist Walter Sickert wrote a few Ripper letters and, even if you’re not convinced by her argument that he was the Ripper, that’s a significant find. There are also new photographs coming to light all the time. In the last ten years tour guides John Bennett and Philip Hutchinson have found some  very interesting snaps of the murder sites. John discovered a photo of George Yard building where Martha Tabram was killed while  Philip found a picture of Dutfield’s Yard which dates back to 1900 – possibly the first ever Ripper tour photo!

There are still many things I’d like to know. Who was Anderson’s witness? How much did Macnaghten know? How close to the killer were Charles Lechmere and Robert Paul when they found Mary Ann Nichols? What did the Ripper from the time he left Mitre Square and dropping the apron in Goulston St? If PC Long is to be believed and it really was dropped between 2.20 and 2.50am, what did he do and where did he go for those 35-65 minutes? Home to dump his trophies?

And, of course, what with him being my favourite, I’d love to know what was George Hutchinson’s game?

Then there’s the Holy Grail – a picture of, or indeed anything about Mary Kelly. Yes, there is still so much to do.

Where the police inept or discouraged from investigating? – Sean Sheridan

Not inept at all though the media had other ideas about that. They simply didn’t know what they were investigating.

They were far from discouraged by the top brass either. One thing they wanted more than anything to reaffirm the public’s confidence in them was to catch the Ripper. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the senior officials had any other consideration than to bring the case to a close.

Police cartoon

The public criticism weighed heavily on the police at the time and that’s why I’ve always felt that Robert Anderson’s claim about catching the Ripper was bogus. He was something of a vain character and I don’t think he could bear to live with the idea that he didn’t get his man.

Did similar murders occur abroad soon after they stopped in Whitechapel or was the Kelly murder his finest hour? – Gerard Ryan

The most notable murder was that of Carrie Brown in New York in April 1891.

Brown was known as ‘Shakespeare’ as she liked to quote the bard during drinking games. She was in her late 50s when she met her end.

Carrie Brown

(Carrie Brown)

Her mutilated  body was found in a room in the East River Hotel near the Brooklyn Bridge. Thomas Byrnes of the NYPD quickly arrested a man called Ameer Ben Ali though the case against him was weak. However, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ben Ali served eleven years when an action group set out to prove both his innocence and the police force’s corruption.  The police  had relied on ‘evidence’ that there were bloodstains found in Ali’s room though it’s likely that the police themselves had walked the blood into his room.

In 1895 Byrnes was persuaded to resign by the new president of  the New York City Police Commission – one Theodore Roosevelt, who would become President six years later.

Little is known about Carrie’s injuries though the presiding doctor claimed that the killer had attempted to completely gut her.  The press reported that she had been stabbed and cut repeatedly.

There was one witness who saw Carrie with a man that night. Assistant Housekeeper Mary Miniter  told the police that she saw her with a man of about 32 with a slim build and long nose. He was of ‘foreign’ appearance and wore a cutaway coat, black trousers and a dented derby hat. He seemed keen to avoid notice and hung back in the shadows when Mary saw him.

George Chapman/Severin Klosowski was in New Jersey at this time and has become a suspect, but it’s a little too late to  be a Ripper victim – some two and a half years after Mary Kelly died.

Probably the closest Whitechapel murder to Kelly’s was ‘Claypipe’ Alice McKenzie’s in Castle Alley in July 1889. Her body showed signs of mutilation though nothing like those given to Eddowes and Kelly.  It is at least in the same area being around the corner from Goulston St close to Commercial St. But, again, that’s still a long time after the glut of murders from August to November 1888.  I’m fairly sure the man was dead or incarcerated for another crime by the time Alice breathed her last.

Clay 3

(The location of Alice McKenzie’s body on 17th July, 1889. With thanks to Neil Bell for pointing out the exact position)

Commissioner James Monro and Dr Thomas Bond considered hers to be a Ripper murder though   Anderson, Phillips and Abberline did not while the Coroner, Wynne Baxter considered it to be a copycat killing.

Which books would you recommend we read about the murders and times? – Matthew and Edith, London.

I can only recommend the books I keep coming back to – namely the big three.

  1. ‘Jack the Ripper: The Facts’ by Paul Begg. My favourite book on the subject by miles.
  2. ‘The Complete History of Jack the Ripper’ by Philip Sugden. The bible of Ripperology. So renowned in Ripper circles that I’ve often heard of it referred to as ‘the Sugden’
  3. ‘The Complete Jack the Ripper’ by  Donald Rumbelow. An older work but no less relevant. Very readable indeed.

I’d also recommend casebook.org as an invaluable source as well as the Rippercast series of podcasts should you prefer something a little more modern.


Next week is the final installment of Ten Weeks in Whitechapel so I’ll post an overview of  the Autumn of Terror and hopefully provide some conclusions. Thanks to everyone who provided  a question.

As things stand there are plans to keep this series alive in another place. I  can’t say too much at present but it’s very exciting indeed.

Thank you.








Last week I looked at the men whom the police suspected of being Jack the Ripper and who were responsible for the Whitechapel murders of 1888.  Though those police officials have long since passed away and much of their document evidence lost,  stolen or destroyed, the case itself still burns brightly in the public eye and now, nearly 130 years later, fresh nominations, theories and evidence are still coming to light. The field of Ripperology has built up a suspect list of over 150 men and, one woman– Jill the Ripper -favoured by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle no less. This week I’ll look at the main contemporary theories.

The first accused is a more of a crossover between a modern suggestion and a Victorian police suspect as his candidacy emerged nearly 15 years after the murders, but came with the added authenticity of Inspector Frederick Abberline’s approval and the views of the highest ranked policeman on the ground during those times must always be considered.

On 20th March 1903, Severin Klosowski, a 37-year-old man from Nagorna, Poland, was convicted for the murder of Maud Marsh in Borough, South London. She was his third wife and he had killed her by administering tartar-emetic – a poison which, when taken in sufficient amounts, causes death with symptoms not too dissimilar to arsenic poisoning. Klosowski had also killed two other wives using the same process though he was only convicted of Maud’s death. The jury took just eleven minutes to return the verdict and ‘the Borough poisoner’ was hanged in Wandsworth Prison on 7th April 1903.

Come the time of his death, Klosowski  had for many years gone under the name ‘George Chapman’ – no relation to  Annie Chapman,  the Ripper’s second victim, though there is a bigger coincidence to come there. He had arrived in the East End sometime before November 1887. The actual time is not known, though there is a record that he had a passport which allowed him to travel between the countries and which expired that month.

Seven years before his arrival he had trained as a surgeon in Warsaw, but his profession in the East End was that of a hairdresser or hairdresser’s assistant, firstly with an Abrahim Radin of 70, West India Dock Road and then one of his own at 126 Cable Street where he was likely to have lived during the murders.

George Chapman

(Severin Klosowski/George Chapman)

Though Cable Street is close to the murders – indeed, only a five minute walk from Berner Street – it is particularly interesting that his next location was in the basement of the White Hart pub on the corner of Whitechapel High Street and what was once George Yard (now Gunthorpe Street) where Martha Tabram was killed. The pub is still there today and has the following sign outside to mark his time there.

Chapman sign.jpg

(Sign on the wall outside the White Hart pub.  Note the incorrect date for the last murder. It was 9th November, not the 30th.  Yes, I am a pedant)

White Hart.jpg

(The White Hart pub where Severin Klosowski/George Chapman worked in the basement  on or around  the time of  the murders. Note the archway to the right which allows entrance into Gunthorpe St)

Gunthorpe St is probably the most atmospheric Victorian street remaining in the area today and appears completely incongruent with its modern surroundings. I recently took a friend for a walk around the area. We headed east along Whitechapel High Street and then turned into the archway into Gunthorpe St. She was visibly shocked as to the difference between London in 2017 and this new Victorian era she’d entered. It’s certainly worth a visit should you ever find yourself near Aldgate East tube station.

Gunthorpe turn1.jpg

(Looking straight ahead down Whitechapel High Street. However, turn your head to the left and…)

Gunthorpe Turn 2

(…Welcome to Victorian London)

Back to Severin. In 1889, the year following the murders, he met and married Lucy Baderski whom he’d met at the Polish Club in Clerkenwell. They’d known each other for just five weeks but swift weddings were not unusual at the time. ‘Marry in haste, repent in leisure’, the old adage says and this was certainly true for Lucy. There were many things she didn’t know about her new husband including his foul temper and his fondness for walking around the streets alone at night, but nothing surprised her more than the day a woman turned up proclaiming to be none other than the Polish born wife of her husband! As surreal as it seems the three people cohabited for a while but the real Mrs Klosowski soon gave up the ghost and moved out when she realised that Lucy was pregnant.

Sadly, the child, Wladyslaw, died in March 1891 of pneumonia. It’s not known if this was a contributing factor but the couple decided to move to Jersey City, New Jersey.  It was around this time that the marriage fell apart. Klosowski was a violent bully and would often beat Lucy. On one occasion he held her down on the bed and prevented her from screaming by pressing his face against her mouth. He was interrupted from going any further when a customer arrived but Lucy noticed that he had hidden something under the pillow. It was a long-bladed knife.

She fled to London and though Klosowski followed her, they soon parted for good.  She would prove to be his luckiest wife.

1893 found Chapman at a barber’s shop in South Tottenham where he met with a woman called – yes – Annie Chapman. Not ‘our’ Annie, of course, but another. They stayed together for a while until Klosowski brought another woman home one night and informed her that she was to live with them. Though pregnant, Annie took the hint and left. Klosowski had no interest whatsoever in the child.

It was around this time that Severin Klosowski decided to anglicise his name and became George Chapman.  Not only did the new moniker lessen the strain of hearing people mispronounce his real name but it also freed him from his complicated past. He could now start anew, or at least continue with no previous misdemeanours to malign him.

He next moved to Leytonstone where he took up with an alcoholic called Mary Spink.  They married in a farcical ceremony and moved to Hastings where, for a while, they operated a successful hairdresser’s shop. While George cut hair, Mary would play piano in what became known in the area as ‘musical shaves.’ Of course, given his violent ways it wouldn’t last and people began to notice bruises and scrapes on Mary as well as hear her shouts from their residence. However, things were about to become much worse for the latest Mrs Chapman.

On 3rd April 1897, George entered the chemists in High Street, Hastings and purchased an ounce of tartar-emetic from the proprietor, William Davidson. Chapman knew his poisons and added tiny amounts to Mary’s meals and medicines.  This resulted in a long, painful illness for Mary and she passed away on Christmas Day 1897. Cause of death was given as ‘consumption’ and the widower appeared to be absolutely devastated.

Mary’s nurse described the scene.

“He stood at her bedside, looked down at her body and said ‘Polly, Polly speak!” Then he went into the next room and cried. After that he went downstairs and opened the pub.”

Chapman had momentarily gave up hairdressing and began running a pub, hiring a former restaurant manageress called Bessie Taylor to look after the customers. She too married Chapman and, before long she too began to suffer from stomach cramps. She died on Valentine’s Day in 1901.

There’s a revealing anecdote about Chapman’s conduct around this time. Bessie’s friend Elizabeth Painter would visit them and once asked how Bessie was only to be told that she was dead. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth collapsed in tears and rushed upstairs to see the patient, only to find her alive in bed. Later Chapman told Painter that she was ‘much about the same’ when she had died the day before. He was utterly cold and cruel.

While working in the Monument Tavern, Borough in 1901 he met Maud Marsh.  Again the same path was followed. Another marriage, more stomach pains and a dying wife, but on this occasion the victim’s mother grew suspicious and asked for another doctor to come in. Chapman had been carefully giving Maud the tiny measures but, concerned that she might survive, issued heavier doses to speed up the process.  Maud died on 22nd October 1902 but this time a full autopsy was carried out. Arsenic was found in the body and the accompanying metallic element antimony – a by-product of arsenical poisoning – revealed this to be murder.

Antimony has the curious side effect of preserving corpses so Mary and Bessie’s body were exhumed to see if they too were murdered.  Both looked remarkably fresh for the amount of time they’d been in the grave. The game was up.

It was widely reported that, upon hearing of the arrest, Inspector Abberline congratulated Godley with the words ‘You’ve got Jack the Ripper at last.’ Abberline explained this remark to the Pall Mall Gazette

“I have been so struck with the remarkable coincidences in the two series of murders that I have not been able to think of anything else for several days past — not, in fact, since the Attorney-General made his opening statement at the recent trial, and traced the antecedents of Chapman before he came to this country in 1888. Since then the idea has taken full possession of me, and everything fits in and dovetails so well that I cannot help feeling that this is the man we struggled so hard to capture fifteen years ago…

 As I say, there are a score of things which make one believe that Chapman is the man; and you must understand that we have never believed all those stories about Jack the Ripper being dead, or that he was a lunatic, or anything of that kind. For instance, the date of the arrival in England coincides with the beginning of the series of murders in Whitechapel; there is a coincidence also in the fact that the murders ceased in London when Chapman went to America, while similar murders began to be perpetrated in America after he landed there. The fact that he studied medicine and surgery in Russia before he came over here is well established, and it is curious to note that the first series of murders was the work of an expert surgeon, while the recent poisoning cases were proved to be done by a man with more than an elementary knowledge of medicine. The story told by Chapman’s wife of the attempt to murder her with a long knife while in America is not to be ignored.”



(Newspaper drawing of Inspector Frederick Abberline)

It’s worth noting that Abberline too appeared ignorant of Anderson and Swanson’s witness and suspect at the Police Seaside Home though, as discussed last week, he wasn’t alone there. It’s certainly interesting that Klosowski/Chapman ticks many boxes for the Whitechapel murders. He left for America not long after the Kelly murder, lived locally, had a pathological hatred of women, looked not unlike the Astrakhan Man George Hutchinson spoke of (again, with  huge Hutchinson caveat attached), had some medical knowledge – enough to poison his wife and disguise it from trained doctors – and was dispassionate enough  to kill and go on killing.

However, Abberline was also wise enough to acknowledge that there were also many reasons why he could not be the Ripper. Firstly, Chapman was possibly the youngest of all the suspects. Most witnesses have the killer as being between 25 and 35 but Chapman was 23 in 1888. Mrs Long said that Annie Chapman’s killer was in his forties and it’s unlikely that even the haziest of lights could add twenty plus years.

Then there’s his availability. Mrs Radin, Abrahim’s wife and landlady at Chapman’s first residence in West India Dock Road, threw a party for him in order that he might meet other Poles.  The date was 7th August, 1888 – the night Martha Tabram was killed in George’s Yard. Would he likely leave the party in West India Dock Road, Limehouse to kill someone else in Whitechapel? Not impossible, of course, but it would necessitate a long walk when there were other prostitutes around that area.

Of course, the major barrier to confirming him as a valid suspect is his modus operandi.  The Ripper throttled his victims before cutting their throats and eviscerating them. Chapman seems to have been a more sadistic killer inasmuch as he watched them suffer daily. The Ripper seemingly had little interest in their pain and simply enjoyed slicing them up or harvesting their organs. Is it likely that he would slaughter Mary Kelly so viciously and swiftly onto to switch to the much slower and less bloodied method of poisoning? Again, it’s not impossible but when we consider that the Ripper murders escalated in their violence throughout the campaign, would he then give up on that entirely and change tack?

Then there’s his time in America.  Abberline speaks of his disappearing to America not long after the Kelly murder but he didn’t actually arrive in New Jersey till 1891 – over two years after the Millers Court murder. Would such a man have time off or get bored? True, he was newly married in 1889 but Severin, as he was then, doesn’t seem the most attentive of husbands by any definition.

Even if he wasn’t the Ripper it is curious that there was a second multiple murderer on the streets of Whitechapel during the Autumn of Terror.  He just hadn’t started at that time. Or had he? He’s certainly a valid suspect.  I’ll leave you to consider his candidacy.

The next candidate, or group of candidates, is a little difficult to discuss. In preparation for these articles I took certain decisions about their content and direction. As I said a few weeks ago, I elected not to show the autopsy pictures of the victims as they are a) revolting b) intrusive and c) I’d like that judgment to be yours and not mine. I’ve since discovered that I’m not alone in this and other Ripper writers have adopted the same policy.

I’ve also decided not to aggressively propose or denigrate any suspect theories. It’s not always possible but I’d like to think I’ve presented their candidature while offering arguments both for and against their legitimacy without colouring them with my own views. For example, George Chapman’s is a compelling case but there is much against him being the Whitechapel Fiend. That’s up to you. I’ve just tried to be fair.

However, the next suspect is so ridiculous that it’s almost impossible for me not to pour scorn from a great height. So here I’ll try to keep the weariness out of my voice as I relate the notion that Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale and grandson to the reigning monarch Queen Victoria, was Jack the Ripper.

I’ll say straight away that my views are not borne from any patriotic protection of the monarchy or any such guff. If anything the Queen’s grandson being the most famous serial killer in the world would be staggering and I’d speak of little else. No, my enmity is purely down to popularity of the ‘royal conspiracy’  as while it is known to some level by most people, it is also arguably the most erroneous – right up there with the Ripper being an escaped gorilla or giant eagle.

The most recent TV and film adaptations of the murders have put the royal family at the heart of the case.  Firstly in the centenary TV show starring Michael Caine and then the 2002 Johnny Depp film ‘From Hell’. Both are highly enjoyable, of course, and I have copies of both but they are strictly fiction with only the slightest nod to the truth. This may break the hearts of those who love them, but Abberline was neither an alcoholic (Caine) nor was he  an absinthe swilling dandy who saw the murders in his addled dreams and was romantically linked to Mary Kelly (Depp).

Yet, if you were to ask anyone who the Ripper was there’s more than a fair chance that royalty will be mentioned. I say this because I too believed that there was a link with someone noble somewhere.

The story is one an example of how a rumour grows, flourishes and then somehow becomes an accepted possibility in an ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ scenario. Although there had been a rumour of Albert Victor being involved in the murders for years, it was chiefly brought to the attention of the public in 1970 when Dr Thomas Stowell wrote an article in The Criminologist entitled ‘jack the Ripper: A Solution?’

Stowell claimed that a nobleman named ‘S’ murdered the canonical five victims while driven mad through syphilis which he had contracted in the West Indies. On the night of the ‘double event’ ‘S’ was caught and imprisoned by his family only for him to escape and slaughter Mary Jane Kelly in Millers Court.

It was also said that Sir William Gull, the Queen’s physician, had done all he could to certify the Prince insane and end the horrors. The murderer eventually died of syphilis after being locked away in an institution for a number of years. Stowell didn’t name ‘Prince Eddy,’ as the Prince was known, though he hinted to such a degree that it was obvious whom he meant. Stowell told crime writer Colin Wilson that ‘S’ was Albert Victor years earlier though he would later deny it.

The theory does not stand up at all. Firstly, Gull died before Albert Victor so could not have been with him at the end.  The Prince died of pneumonia and, in any case, could not have died of syphilis as it is a progress disease, taking around 15 years before death occurs. This means that Albert Victor would have been infected at the age of nine – some six years before he visited the West Indies.

More? Well, it’s an unusual mental institution which allows its inmates to serve in the British Army, toast the Queen in elaborate dinner parties, meet foreign dignitaries and carry out the general day-to-day activities of an heir to the throne in full view of the press. He was also barely in London during the murders.


(Prince Albert Victor)

It was with the publication of Stephen Knight’s book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution which caught the public’s imagination. Knight had become interested in the BBC series Jack the Ripper which aired in 1973 and featured the fictional detectives Barlow and Watt (played by Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor) from the police drama Z-Cars. The two men go over the basic facts in their office and there are cutaways to dramatic reconstructions of the inquests as well as – thrillingly for people like me who are interested in the murder sites from a bygone age – footage of the men at the murder sites of Mitre Square and Bucks Row/Durward St.


(Barlow investigate Mitre Square and Bucks Row)

The sixth episode of the show featured Joseph Gorman, a picture framer who claimed to be the illegitimate son of the painter Walter Sickert. He tells how his mother would urge him to avoid angering the authorities as his grandfather was given a difficult time by the highest in the land. He goes on to explain that Walter Sickert had an affair with Alice Crook, the daughter of former shop girl Annie Crook. Annie married a ‘toff’ to whom she bore a child but it had to be a kept quiet as Annie was a Catholic and that was a bad thing to be in the father’s family. That father being Prince Albert Victor.

Joseph Gorman, who changed his name to Sickert, told Knight that the Prince’s mother, Princess Alexandra, had introduced the heir presumptive to the painter so he could learn more about the arts and that he met Annie at Sickert’s studio in Cleveland St. Albert Victor and Annie married with one of the witnesses being Mary Jane Kelly, who was then working in a high class West End brothel. Albert Victor settled wife and daughter into a flat in Cleveland St only for Queen Victoria to discover the truth. The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, then ordered a raid on the apartment as the affair, particularly to a Catholic, would be too much to bear. Annie was to be certified insane by Sir William Gull and carted off to a mental institution.

Gorman then went on to state that Mary Jane Kelly looked after the child, Alice, but saw a way  of blackmailing the Prince and his family. She concocted the scheme with her friends, Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman and Liz Stride. The aristocracy then decided that the four women should die and tasked Sir William Gull to carry out the deadly deeds in his coach before dumping the bodies on the streets.  Catherine Eddowes was killed by accident as she occasionally used the name ‘Mary Ann Kelly.’ Though the women were killed, the child survived and would later become entangled in a relationship with Walter Sickert and would sire Joseph.


(Walter Sickert)

Knight discovered a masonic link in the tale and was convinced that the severe slaughters of Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly resembled masonic ritual murders including such gruesome details as intestines being placed over shoulders. It may also be remembered that when Annie Chapman was found some of her possessions lay out at her feet as if presented rather than scattered as in a sacrificial rite.

What convinced Knight further was the number of Freemasons in the story. Sir Charles Warren was a mason and, let’s not forget, he removed the graffito in Goulston St which referred to ‘the Juwes’. Knight suggested that that was a collective term for Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum – three legendary figures in Freemasonry. In other words, the Freemasons are the men who will not be blamed for nothing and could act with impunity. Warren obviously realised the meaning and destroyed it.

It’s a fantastic tale and, if true, would probably be the most shocking series of events in British history. Sadly, though, the plot is riddled with holes.

Firstly, Sir William Gull, suffered a stroke in 1887 and was unable to speak much afterwards, He was also 72 and partially paralysed at the time so incapable of murders which required such strength.  He was also not a Freemason so it’s unclear why the masons would ask a non-member to carry out their bidding.

It is also impossible that Albert Victor could have fathered Alice as he was in Heidelberg in the weeks where she would have been conceived and, as one might expect, there was certainly no record of a wedding. In any case, any betrothal would have been invalid as the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 precludes any marriage undertaken by royalty not ratified by the sovereign. As for the danger of having a Catholic placed in line for the throne, that too is impossible as the Act of Settlement in 1871 excludes any Catholic from becoming an heir.  Prince Eddy could have married Annie Crook at St Paul’s Cathedral with the whole city watching and it wouldn’t have meant a thing.

But all that pails into insignificance when this one fact is revealed – neither Annie nor Alice were Catholics nor did they ever convert. Records show that they were Church of England at both ends of their lives.

As for the blackmail, there is no evidence at all to suggest that the victims knew each other.  True, they lived close to each other but so did thousands of other people in the overcrowded rookeries of Spitalfields. It would also be practically impossible for a coach to drive into, say, Mitre Square and certainly down the passage and into the yard of 29 Hanbury St. Millers Court would have been a test too!

Millers Court

I’ll end this section by asking the question which continually crops up in my mind when considering the possibility of the most powerful people in the Empire murdering the lowest of the low to prevent a worldwide scandal. Just why would such people choose the most public, dramatic and horrific way to destroy their blackmailers? If they had the will and means to remove four conniving women from the streets, wouldn’t they have done it quietly and efficiently? After all, the concept of ‘black ops’ was not unusual even then. Had the police been part of the cover-up – and Sir Robert Anderson was implicated in this accusation – wouldn’t they have caused less heartache by inventing an uncatchable serial killer? Again, I’ll leave you to decide.

I’ll look at some other suspects in the final article, but, since we’re dealing with large scale discoveries and media darlings I’ll conclude this week with the extraordinary story of James Maybrick and the ‘Diary of Jack the Ripper.’

Maybrick was a successful cotton merchant from Liverpool who divided his time between the U.K. and America. In 1871 he set up an office in Norfolk, Virginia whereupon he contracted malaria. His treatment involved medication which contained minute traces of arsenic. Over time Maybrick became addicted to the drug.

(Side note: In 2002, BBC Radio Four broadcasted new Sherlock Holmes stories based on references made in the original tales. One of which – ‘The  Saviour of Cripplegate Square’  – came from the Conan-Doyle novel The Sign of Four where Holmes tells Watson  ‘I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance money.’ The ‘saviour’ fed the children arsenic in tiny doses until they were utterly reliant upon it. Then she reduced the dose until the poor mites died. The author, the magnificent Bert Coules, would be no stranger to the Ripper case and probably used Maybrick’s addiction as a source. Check it out if you can.  It stars Tom Baker, which makes any project worthwhile.)

In 1880, Maybrick, then 42-years-old met and wed Florence Chandler – a Southern belle who was just 18. However, theirs was not to be a happy marriage and Maybrick floated from affair to affair. He was also less than discreet about it and when Florence got wind of them, she too wandered away from the marital bed.


(Florence and James Maybrick)

Maybrick died at his home in Aigburth, Liverpool in May 1889 – six months after the final Ripper murder. The death was treated as suspicious and when the inquest confirmed death by arsenical poisoning, Florence was suspected and arrested.

Her trial at St George’s Hall, Lime Street, Liverpool was hardly a model of judicial fairness and, though convicted and sentenced to death, her punishment was reduced to life imprisonment, possibly due to the manner in which the trial was conducted. Florence served fifteen years before being released when the case was re-investigated. She died in 1941.

Maybrick’s name and life may have been synonymous with ‘the Aigburth poisoning’ for years but in 1992 it was eclipsed by further intrigue.

Michael Barrett, a scrap metal dealer from Liverpool, announced that he had the diary of Jack the Ripper. Quite a statement.

Initially, he claimed that he had been given the book by his friend Tony Devereux in the Saddle Inn pub, but later Barrett’s wife Ann said that her family had been in possession of the diary for years but didn’t want to pass it to her husband directly as relations between her father and Michael were strained to say the least. She thought it wise to pass it through Devereux in the hope that Michael would write a book about it. Michael was unemployed at the time and had literary pretensions so she saw this as a chance to start a new career.

The book was released in 1993 and though the author never states his name other than signing it ‘Jack the Ripper’, it is evidently Maybrick given references to his life and children’s names. Throughout the diary there were references to his wife’s infidelities – she is always known as ‘bitch’ or ‘whore’ and, at times, ‘Florrie’ – and his anger towards her for which other women suffered.


(The final  page of the Maybrick diary)

Several Ripperologists believed it to be true given the content and apparent legitimacy of the diary and paper, but others approached the find with caution.

Numerous tests were carried out to see if the ink was of the period but even that was inconclusive. One result stated that a dye called nigrosine was found; making it compatible with Victorian writings but a second said that is was not of the period whatsoever. Other examinations were equally ambiguous with one claiming that the ink could have been in use as early as 1857 but wasn’t commercially available until 1972.  The whole thing was a mess from beginning to end.

The mystery seemed over when, in January 1995, Michael Barrett swore in an affidavit that he was the author of the Maybrick diary, stating:

 “The facts of this matter are outlined as follows:-

 I Michael Barratt was the author of the original diary of ‘Jack the Ripper’ and my wife, Anne Barrett, hand wrote it from my typed notes and on occasions at my dictation, the details of which I will explain in due course.

 The idea of the Diary came from discussion between Tony Devereux, Anne Barrett my wife and myself, there came I time when I believed such a hoax was a distinct possibility (sic). We looked closely at the background of James Maybrick and I read everything to do with the Jack the Ripper matter. I felt Maybrick was an ideal candidate for Jack the Ripper. Most important of all, he could not defend himself. He was not ‘Jack the Ripper’ of that I am certain, but, times, places, visits to London and all that fitted. It was to easey (sic)”

 Twenty days later he issued a second statement in which he claimed that he and his family had been threatened but wanted to come clean and talk to Scotland Yard. However, Barrett’s solicitor denied that any of Barrett’s confessions were true and he himself went on to repudiate his own statement. All very confusing.

To this day some people believe the work to be that of the Whitechapel Fiend and there are also some – noticeably Bruce Robinson, the producer of Withnail and I – who believe that it was not Maybrick but his brother Michael, the composer of the hymn ‘The Holy City,’  who was responsible for the Autumn of Terror.

There is an intriguing postscript to the Maybrick affair.  In June 1993 a pocket watch was discovered bearing several engravings including ‘J Maybrick,’ ‘I am Jack,’ and, chillingly, the initials of the five Ripper victims.   This too was sent for testing and came back with a more definite result than the diary. Dr Robert Wild of Bristol University found:

“Provided the watch has remained in a normal environment, it would seem likely that the engravings were at least several tens of years age…in my opinion it is unlikely that anyone would have sufficient expertise to implant aged, brass particles into the base of the engravings”

Of course, a man engraving a watch with macabre daubings does not necessarily make him a murderer but it seems that Maybrick had more than a passing interest in the case.


That concludes Part 8 of Ten Weeks in Whitechapel and I’d like to ask for your help with next week’s   article. I’ve been asked several questions on Twitter about the case but the 140 character limit prohibits me from going into detailed responses.  Therefore, I’d like to open up a Q&A. Again, I’ll try to lay out the arguments rather than shout my own views though there will be times when that is unavoidable.

(It’s all about Hutchinson!)

(No, not really)

If you’d like to ask a question, please tweet me at @JtheR1888 or @TheCenci (for which I claim the most pretentious Twitter username) and I’ll answer as many as possible. Again, as I stated in the introduction, I am not a Ripper researcher so  my views carry no more weight than anyone else’s so  please don’t beat me up if you disagree with any of my answers. If you think Prince Eddy really drew a knife in Bucks Row, we can just shake hands and still be friends.

The final week will be a more subjective piece about the case as a whole.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and the many kind comments. I’ve enjoyed writing these pieces immensely but the most rewarding element of Ten Weeks has been people asking what to read next or have taken day trips to Whitechapel to see things for themselves. I’m glad that I’ve pointed some of you in this direction but don’t blame me when you find yourself standing in Mitre Square in the middle of a storm, taking photos of paving stones and wondering just how you arrived at this point in your life. Last week I took a photo of  a boarded up building surrounded in scaffold and was elated  – absolutely elated – that I’d found the site where Elizabeth Stride had her last drink before heading to Berner St. My mum thinks I’m mad.

Thank you again. And, remember, all questions are welcome.

Many thanks








Come Christmas 1888, it was generally considered that the Whitechapel murders were finally at an end. Life and the daily struggle continued and the women who sold their bodies day in, day out in order to survive exist gradually stopped soliciting in packs as the need for security lessened.

On 26th January 1889, James Monro told the Home Office that the amount of police on the streets of Whitechapel was to be reduced.

Of course, there was still no conviction but the gossip of the time spoke of the murderer killing himself due to realising the insanity of his actions in Millers Court. After all, what else was there for him to do? If his deeds escalated in their fury or curiosity, they could not be taken any further. It wouldn’t be too far to suggest that either capture or suicide would be the next step. This was all speculation, of course, but as the months rolled on and a relative peace descended there was only one question to be answered and it’s the same one we have today. Just who was ‘Jack the Ripper’?

One senior official, writing in 1910, had a definite opinion on the matter.

“For I may say at once that “undiscovered murders ” are rare in London, and the “Jack-the-Ripper ” crimes are not within that category. And if the Police here had powers such as the French Police possess, the murderer would have been brought to justice. Scotland Yard can boast that not even the subordinate officers of the department will tell tales out of school, and it would ill become me to violate the unwritten rule of the service. So I will only add here that the “Jack-the-Ripper ” letter which is preserved in the Police Museum at New Scotland Yard is the creation of an enterprising London journalist.

 Having regard to the interest attaching to this case, I am almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer and of the pressman who wrote the letter above referred to. But no public benefit would result from such a course, and the traditions of my old department would suffer. I will merely add that the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him; but he refused to give evidence against him.

 In saying that he was a Polish Jew I am merely stating a definitely ascertained fact. And my words are meant to specify race, not religion. For it would outrage all religious sentiment to talk of the religion of a loathsome creature whose utterly unmentionable vices reduced him to a lower level than that of the brute.”

 The Lighter Side of My Official Life by Sir Robert Anderson (1910)

 Yes, no lesser personage than Sir Robert Anderson.

Rob Anderson

(Sir Robert Anderson)

And there it is. In black and white. The Assistant Commissioner of the CID speaking 22 years after the murders stating once and for all that Scotland Yard got their man. Case closed.  We can all go home. Cheers mate.

What’s that?  You want further evidence? Okay. Here’s Sir Melville Macnaghten, the Assistant Chief Constable of the CID in 1889. He had replaced Anderson in 1903.

“Although…the Whitechapel murderer, in all probability, put an end to himself soon after the Dorset Street affair in November 1888, certain facts pointing to this conclusion, were not in possession of the police till some years after I became a detective officer.”

The Days of My Years by Melville Macnaghten (1914)

 Yep.  He’s singing from the same hymn sheet there. It took a while but the CID had the Ripper under lock and key.

All wrapped up then, surely. It’s just a pity that Anderson didn’t name his man.

But there was further intrigue to come.

In 1894, nearly six years after the murders, The Sun newspaper, a rag used to printing scurrilous rumours to this day, claimed that a man called Thomas Cutbush,   who had been arrested in 1891 for stabbing women in the backside, was the Ripper. Macnaghten was distinctly displeased at this suggestion and wrote a memorandum to the Home Office, citing that his candidacy as a legitimate suspect was bogus at best. Firstly, it was unlikely that the Ripper, given the depravity of Millers Court, would reduce the violence of his attacks. Going from that level of violent debauchery to simply stabbing soft tissue nearly three years later was dubious to say the least. What’s more, according to Macnaghten (pronounced ‘McNorton’); there were better contenders in the police files.

“No one ever saw the Whitechapel murderer; many homicidal maniacs were suspected, but no shadow of proof could be thrown on any one. I may mention the cases of 3 men, any one of whom would have been more likely than Cutbush to have committed this series of murders:

 (1) A Mr M. J. Druitt, said to be a doctor & of good family — who disappeared at the time of the Miller’s Court murder, & whose body (which was said to have been upwards of a month in the water) was found in the Thames on 31st December — or about 7 weeks after that murder. He was sexually insane and from private information I have little doubt but that his own family believed him to have been the murderer.

 (2) Kosminski — a Polish Jew — & resident in Whitechapel. This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, specially of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies: he was removed to a lunatic asylum about March 1889. There were many circumstances connected with this man which made him a strong ‘suspect’.

 (3) Michael Ostrog, a Russian doctor, and a convict, who was subsequently detained in a lunatic asylum as a homicidal maniac. This man’s antecedents were of the worst possible type, and his whereabouts at the time of the murders could never be ascertained.”

Hang on. What did he say?

“No one ever saw the Whitechapel murderer”

 Yes they did!

Robert Anderson talks of not only seeing him, but confronting him with a witness and lengthy discussions about possible court cases. Surely he’d let Macnaghten in on that? Wouldn’t he? It seems a bit harsh not to let the then current Assistant Commissioner in on the arrest of the century and then let him make a fool of himself by discussing, not stating, three better alternatives to Cutbush.

They can’t both be informed.


(Sir Melville Macnaghten)

Actually, a closer examination would show that both men were not quite as ‘on the ground’ as you’d suppose. Anderson’s predecessor, James Monro, retired on the final day of August 1888 – the day of the first canonical murder in Bucks Row. Anderson took over but, having not had a holiday for years, was on the brink of exhaustion so planned a well-earned break from 8th September – coincidentally, the date of the second murder in Hanbury Street. He was still away during the ‘double event’ so was only in situ for the fifth and final murder.

Likewise, Macnaghten only joined the investigation from 1889 and, by that time, the search was more or less winding down. As stated earlier, Monro had reduced the number of policemen in E1 and Abberline was already working on other cases by then so Macnaghten can hardly claim to be amongst the cut and thrust of the atrocities.  What’s more he wasn’t really a policeman. The Assistant Chief Constable job was his first in the force. His previous employment was overseeing his family’s tea plantation in India.

But let’s return to Anderson’s claim.

I will merely add that the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him; but he refused to give evidence against him.”

 What does this mean? Was it really possible to have a maniac like ‘Jack’ in their power only to fail to make good on it? Why would a witness be reluctant to convict such a man?  Who was the suspect? For that matter who was the witness? So many questions.

The answer was only discovered years later.


(Donald Swanson)

Donald Swanson was Chief Inspector of the CID at the time and on good terms with Anderson.

He was put in charge of the case from 1st September to 6th October 1888 by which time his friend over took the reins.

In 1987, Swanson’s grandson found Swanson’s copy of Anderson’s The Lighter Side of My Official Life and discovered something astonishing scribbled into the margin of Chapter Nine – the section dealing with Anderson’s claims cited above. They read…

“…because the suspect was also a Jew and also because his evidence would convict the suspect, and witness would be the means of murderer being hanged which he did not wish to be left on his mind…And after this identification which suspect knew, no other murder of this kind took place in London…after the suspect had been identified at the Seaside Home where he had been sent by us with difficulty in order to subject him to identification, and he knew he was identified. On suspect’s return to his brother’s house in Whitechapel he was watched by police (City CID) by day & night. In a very short time the suspect with his hands tied behind his back, he was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards – Kosminski was the suspect – DSS” (Donald Sutherland Swanson)

 Swanson, like Macnaghten, names a Kosminski though neither man gives a first name. The implication is clear. Kosminski was Jack the Ripper but they could do nothing about it as the witness, also Jewish, did not want his death on his conscience.

You can imagine the ruction this caused when they were discovered.

There are major problems with this scenario. Firstly, would the police be so easily deterred at the reluctance of anyone to convict their public enemy number one? To merely shrug their shoulders and simply make the best of a bad situation?  Secondly, if the man was insane – and his incarceration at Colney Hatch asylum assumes that he was – wouldn’t it be more likely that he would be imprisoned under a diminished responsibility charge rather than hanged? If that was the case, why would the witness not offer a statement in a court of law? Surely the man, having had a good look at him as he was about to do his work, wouldn’t want to see more lives endangered?

It’s the final point which I, personally, struggle. Are we really to believe that the police had Jack the Ripper in their cells and then sent him back onto the streets? I’m   reminded of the scene in Dirty Harry where the murderer, Scorpio, walks on a technicality and Callaghan follows him indiscreetly.  Even if the Met watched him ‘day & night’, how would it stop the madman from attacking his own family members or escaping altogether? What if there was another victim after Mary Kelly had Kosminski had escaped? How could the police possibly justify returning him to his family and hope that his brother would sufficiently cow him when the urge to kill returned?

And what of the men who trailed him. Is it possible that every single one of them kept quiet about who they were following and why?

Then there’s this.

‘No other murder of this kind took place in London.’

Someone should tell Alice McKenzie that.  Or Frances Coles.

As for the identification, if Swanson and Anderson knew about this in 1889, why wasn’t Macnaghten invited? Unless he’s writing memos to the Home Office for no reason other than to chide the tabloid press, he clearly had no idea what was going on despite being the Assistant Chief Constable at the time. Something is amiss.

So what of the witness? The key point in what became known as ‘the Swanson Marginalia’ was that the only reliable witness was, like the killer, a Jew. This immediately lets out George Hutchinson and his ‘Astrakhan man’ despite Abberline believing him to such a degree that he took him on Whitechapel walking tours. True, there were other witnesses, particularly around Berners Street, but ‘the only person who ever had a good look at him’ was Jewish. We can only speculate to this as neither Anderson nor Swanson name him. However, there are two obvious candidates.

Joseph Lawende would seem to be the favourite as he was later called in by the Yard to identify James Thomas Sadler – the arrested suspect in the Coles murder – but he said upon being interviewed that he would probably not recognise the man he saw talking to Catherine Eddowes near Mitre Square again. It therefore seems more likely that Anderson’s witness is Israel Schwartz who, as we know from the Stride murder, looked his man in the face. Schwartz seems to be a reliable witness, particularly as he admitted his cowardice in running away down Berner St when he saw what was going on. Others, especially in those days, would be tempted to build their part up or,  say, invent a man to explain why they were waiting outside a prostitute’s room for 45 minutes in the rain, but Schwartz’s  lack of ego makes him more reliable than most.

If Schwartz is the witness he almost certainly saw Liz Stride’s murderer. But does that necessarily mean that he saw the Ripper? I’ve never been convinced that the man who killed her was Jack for many reasons – the lack of mutilation, the different type of knife, the location and the amount of people nearby. Elizabeth Stride’s murderer seems to be more of a hit and run man rather than someone who needed to tear his victim apart, but I digress.

So, who was Kosminski? We know that he was taken to the Seaside House (a Police Convalescent Home in Brighton) for identification before a spell in the Stepney Workhouse and, ultimately Colney Hatch asylum in or around March 1889 before dying not long after, but is there any more we can learn about him?

It’s here where Ripperologists are worth their weight in gold. Step forward Martin Fido, writer and broadcaster, who researched all existing records from those areas and times. You’d think that finding a Kosminski who lived in Whitechapel and went to two specific places would be easy and candidates numerous, wouldn’t you? In fact, he only found one – an Aaron Kosminski of Greenfield St, Whitechapel. Greenfield Street is almost opposite Berners Street. This begins to look promising.

Aaron Kosminski was born in Klodawa in Poland and moved to London in 1881 or 1882 where he became a barber in Whitechapel. On 12th July 1890 he was admitted into Mile End Old Town workhouse – not Stepney – for three days and returned on 4th February 1891 before moving onto Colney Hatch where he stayed until 1894.  He was then transferred to Leavesden Asylum near Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire. Rather than being affected by a violent psychosis (there is talk of him threatening his sister with a knife but the only other tale of ferocity involves him throwing a chair – hardly Ripperesque though he may have been more feeble by that stage) his illness took the form of hearing voices, of refusing food from other people – preferring to eat scraps from the ground – and refusing to wash. The records show that he was insane due to ‘self-abuse’ or, as Anderson puts it, ‘utterly unmentionable vices’ which probably means masturbation.

Does this sound like Jack the Ripper? Well, if he is the man to whom Macnaghten and Swanson refer there are, again, many issues – the main one being that of Aaron’s death. Swanson maintains that he died shortly after his transfer to Colney Hatch but Aaron did not die until 1919 at the grand old age of 53. In fact, Kosminski was still alive when Swanson wrote his marginalia.

It may also be remembered that the ‘broad-shouldered man’ Schwartz saw assaulting Elizabeth Stride shouted ‘Lipski’ at either Schwartz or the second man with the pipe. Whether it was a term of abuse or possibly the other man’s name is not known, though Abberline searched for anyone of called Lipski in the area and found none. At the risk of starting a tongue-twisteer, would a Jew shout a Jewish slur at a fellow Jew?

Aaron spoke mostly Yiddish so there is also a discrepancy there as the Ripper was able to charm his victims into yards and dark squares? I suppose it’s not impossible if they just wanted his money.

In 2014, Russell Edwards claimed to have identified Kosminski as the Ripper ‘categorically and absolutely’ through mitochondrial DNA evidence.  He had bought Catherine Eddowes’ shawl at an auction and commissioned Dr Jari Louhelainen to carry out testing after he’d tracked down the descendants of both Kosminski’s sister and Eddowes. The match was reported as 99.2% and then 100%.

I’m keen not to debunk any theory as all theories are valid to some degree and Russell was good enough to answer one or two questions I had last year so will only report that there has been criticism into the result and even the provenance of the shawl itself.

As for Macnaghten’s other suspects, the M.J. Druitt refers to Montague John Druitt, who was not, as Macnaghten suggests, a doctor but a barrister from Dorset. He was also an assistant schoolmaster at the George Valentine Boarding School in Blackheath as he needed a second career to supplement his income.


(Montague J. Druitt)

Three weeks after the Mary Kelly murder, Druitt was sacked from the school. This not only left him without a job but also accommodation though he was far from destitute. It is not known why he was dismissed though there are rumours of homosexuality (a crime at the time) or something more sinister involving the pupils. In any case, he disappeared in December 1888 – a month after the final murder.

On New Year’s Eve 1888 a waterman discovered Druitt’s body in the Thames at Chiswick. The body was weighed down with four large stones in each pocket so it seems the location was a deliberate choice rather than a case of him being washed down river. He had been in the water for roughly a month.

Among his possessions was a cheque for £50 and some £16 in gold – an extraordinary amount of cash to carry around – a first-class half-season rail  ticket from Blackheath to London and a second-half return ticket from Hammersmith to  London dated 1st December  The gold alone was worth the equivalent of £1,500 today.

The coroner returned a verdict of suicide by drowning while in an unsound state of mind. Insanity ran in his family. His mother was institutionalised only five months earlier while his grandmother and sister committed suicide. His aunt too attempted it. It’s telling that he recorded the following in a note to his brother shortly before his death.

‘Since Friday I felt that I was going to be like mother and the best thing for me was to die’

 Yes, but why would this make him Jack the Ripper? The only connection between Druitt and the murders is that he put an end to himself at the end of November following the last murder and shortly before the killing stopped. There is no positive suggestion of him being in Whitechapel at all other than that his chambers at the Inner Temple were nearby. As for his skills as a murderer it’s been said that he could have picked up some techniques from his father, William Druitt, who was a local surgeon but that is  hardly damning. Macnaghten hints at ‘private information’ as well as a family rumour but it’s baffling why he should be included in the list and deemed a more realistic serial killer than Thomas Cutbush, who at least had a history of attacking women.

Druitt lived in Blackheath on the south side of the Thames where there were no overnight trains to Central London. The last train from Blackheath left at 12.25am and the first train 5.10am. Are we led to believe that Druitt killed Eddowes at 1.40am and then walked around with a kidney, uterus and apron for a while before dumping the cloth and writing on a wall? He then would have taken the unusual escape path of walking east, away from the City of London and the safety of his chambers at the Inner Temple, towards Dorset St etc.? Would he have then doubled back to wait for the first train?

Furthermore, as Philip Sugden points out, records show Druitt playing cricket in Blackheath at 11.30am on the morning of 8th September, just six hours after the discovery of Annie Chapman’s disembowelled corpse in Hanbury St. We can assume that the murderer had been awake all night and, if this is Druitt, he’d have to play a long cricket match with little sleep and, let’s not forget, Annie’s uterus somewhere back in his rooms. This just seems implausible to me.

When the Macnaghten Memorandum came to light, Lady Aberconway, his daughter, was keen to ensure that no one mentioned in it would be libelled. In fact, for a long time Druitt’s was reduced to just his initials. This leads me to reveal a bugbear I have with the field of ‘suspectology’.


One of the saddest things about Ripperology and the search for suspects is that every name which comes up does so with a slander. It seems bitterly unfair that such a sad man as Druitt, who led a tortured life, should go to the grave with only a serial killer accusation to accompany his name through history. I have similar views with another man, Sir William Gull, whose candidacy comes up as part of the Royal conspiracy. Gull was a brilliant doctor who advanced the understanding myxoedema, Bright’s disease, paraplegia and anorexia nervosa yet a Google search of his name comes up with pages of the possibility of his being a psychotic killer. It all seems a bit harsh

William Gull

(Sir William Withey Gull)

William Gull From Hell

(Ian Holm as Sir William Gull from the film From Hell)

 But not only did Macnaghten include Druitt in a list of possible suspects he saw him as the most likely. He wrote of Druitt, Kosminski and Ostrog.

“I   enumerate the case of three men against whom the police held very reasonable suspicion.  Personally, and after much careful and deliberate consideration, I am inclined to exonerate the last two, but, I have always held strong opinions regarding him, and the more I think the matter over, the stronger do these opinions become. The truth, however, will be known, and did, indeed, at one time lie at the bottom of the Thames, if my conjections (sic) be correct.”

 Clearly Sir Melville’s ‘private information’ was stronger than he revealed though it sounds suspiciously like garden party tittle-tattle rather than hard evidence.

As for the final name on the list, that of Michael Ostrog, the evidence is equally weak.

Born in Russia in 1833, Ostrog’s criminal career is littered with convictions for petty theft under a litany of aliases. Despite Macnaghten’s notes the only mention of violence occurs at his arrest in 1873 when he pulled a pistol on the arresting officers. Other than that and his apparent madness his crimes seems particularly minor. In 1887 he was arrested for stealing a metal tankard and, in 1898, some books. It’s unlikely that he would become a tankard thief, then a multiple mutilating murderer and then book purloiner.  Not impossible, of course, and Macnaghten and his peers may have spotted something in him but, like Druitt before him, his inclusion is inexplicable.

On 18th November 1888 Ostrog was sentenced to two years in jail for theft while in Paris. For him to be the murderer of Mary Kelly he would have to have left London immediately, committed his crime and be rushed through the courts in nine days. Questionable, I’d say.

What is striking from Magnaghten’s list is the sheer variety of suspects. We have the insane poor Jew (insane, foreign), the mad doctor (insane, foreign, possibility of anatomical knowledge) and ‘toff’ (killed himself, insanity). They ticked all the boxes between them though not individually.

In later years, Macnaghten would proudly state that he didn’t use notes and relied heavily on his memory. This may explain why he makes mistakes such as Druitt’s age (at one point he gives his age as 41 when he was a decade younger) and career and, thus, makes him an unreliable narrator of the time.  Anderson and Swanson tell a frankly bizarre story though one does tend to back up the other so, though the police were under enormous pressure and scrutiny from all aspects of society, the whole thing looks a bit of a mess.

As suggested in an earlier article, the police had a thankless task in capturing the murderer. Homicides were rare even though violence, domestic or otherwise, was not and there are some cases in the Ripper file which may not have been actual murders. The deaths of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Rose Mylett could have been accidental (if Smith were hiding an abortion) while another was committed as far off as Whitehall and only included because it too was as bizarre and grotesque as the Ripper events.

The Victorian murder was generally solved by way of establishing a link between the dead and the people they knew. To this day most victims tend to have some sort of relationship with their murderer. It is therefore likely that in the case of Elizabeth Stride and Mary Kelly, their spouses with whom they’d argued would fall under immediate suspicion. Of course, the Ripper did not, as far we know, have any relationship at all with his prey which made arrest almost impossible as he worked alone and DNA evidence, even fingerprinting, was not available at the time.

So, the bobby on the beat had a tough time but their superiors seem to have posted some very strange views and this is typical as to the somewhat haywire nature of the investigation. Anderson, for all his achievements, was rather vain and many believe that the witness at the Police Convalescence Home was a fiction to cover up his inability to convict the Ripper. This would explain why nothing was made clear to Macnaghten at the time. It’s just possible that he concocted the whole story to calm the country in 1910 now that the murders were but a memory and instil confidence in both himself and the force. Maybe Swanson just wanted to back up his old friend and mentor.

However, there was a man who seems to be the perfect suspect.

On 12th December 1888 a man known as David Cohen was committed to the asylum at Colney Hatch. He was the same age as Aaron Kosminski but was, unlike him, extremely violent and psychotic. Furthermore, he died shortly after his incarceration just as Anderson claimed. Martin Fido suggests that David Cohen was a catch-all term for those whose names were difficult to pronounce or spell such as the names John and Jane Doe are used in the U.S for unidentified bodies.

Martin considers that David Cohen was really Nathan Kaminsky of Whitechapel and that a series of Chinese whispers led to Anderson and Swanson changing and normalising the name from Kaminsky to Kosminski. (This is more than possible.  My own name is a bit unusual and I’ve been called everything from my actual name to ‘Mark Cowpath’ from time to time).

Nathan lived in the area and was a bootmaker – a job, incidentally, for which he would probably wear a leather apron.

What is especially suggestive is that Kaminsky had a ‘great hatred of women’ and disappeared from public record in his own name just as ‘David Cohen’ appeared.

I’ve never really been interested in the suspects but of all the theories (and there are about 150 of them) this seems to be the most plausible, though it does not make it 100% clear that he is the killer. For a start, Kaminsky spoke mostly Hebrew while witnesses (bogus  or not) heard him say things like ‘You will say anything but your prayers’ or ‘You will be alright for what I have told you’ though, as always, that last one comes with an enormous George Hutchinson sized  caveat. One thing is certain though – they don’t sound like the words of a raving mad man.

There is one more police suspect in the annals, though it did not come to light for many years after the murders.

In 1913 a Special Branch official called John George Littlechild, the former Head of Special Branch, wrote a letter to G.R. Sims about a police suspect.  The letter came to light when it was discovered by historian and Ripperologist Stewart Evans and is reproduced here in full.

 8, The Chase

Clapham Common S.W.,

23rd September 1913


Dear Sir,


I was pleased to receive your letter which I shall put away in ‘good company’ to read again, perhaps some day when old age overtakes me and when to revive memories of the past may be a solace.


Knowing the great interest you take in all matters criminal, and abnormal, I am just going to inflict one more letter on you on the ‘Ripper’ subject. Letters as a rule are only a nuisance when they call for a reply but this does not need one. I will try and be brief.


I never heard of a Dr D. in connection with the Whitechapel murders but amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one, was a Dr. T. (which sounds much like D.) He was an American quack named Tumblety and was at one time a frequent visitor to London and on these occasions constantly brought under the notice of police, there being a large dossier concerning him at Scotland Yard. Although a ‘Sycopathia Sexualis’ subject he was not known as a ‘Sadist’ (which the murderer unquestionably was) but his feelings toward women were remarkable and bitter in the extreme, a fact on record. Tumblety was arrested at the time of the murders in connection with unnatural offences and charged at Marlborough Street, remanded on bail, jumped his bail, and got away to Boulogne. He shortly left Boulogne and was never heard of afterwards. It was believed he committed suicide but certain it is that from this time the ‘Ripper’ murders came to an end.

 With regard to the term ‘Jack the Ripper’ it was generally believed at the Yard that Tom Bullen of the Central News was the originator, but it is probable Moore, who was his chief, was the inventor. It was a smart piece of journalistic work. No journalist of my time got such privileges from Scotland Yard as Bullen. Mr James Munro when Assistant Commissioner, and afterwards Commissioner, relied on his integrity. Poor Bullen occasionally took too much to drink, and I fail to see how he could help it knocking about so many hours and seeking favours from so many people to procure copy. One night when Bullen had taken a ‘few too many’ he got early information of the death of Prince Bismarck and instead of going to the office to report it sent a laconic telegram ‘Bloody Bismarck is dead’. On this I believe Mr Charles Moore fired him out.

 It is very strange how those given to ‘Contrary sexual instinct’ and ‘degenerates’ are given to cruelty, even Wilde used to like to be punched about. It may interest you if I give you an example of this cruelty in the case of the man Harry Thaw and this is authentic as I have the boy’s statement. Thaw was staying at the Carlton Hotel and one day laid out a lot of sovereigns on his dressing table, then rang for a call boy on pretence of sending out a telegram. He made some excuse and went out of the room and left the boy there and watched through the chink of the door. The unfortunate boy was tempted and took a sovereign from the pile and Thaw returning to the room charged him with stealing. The boy confessed when Thaw asked whether he should send for the police or whether he should punish him himself. The boy scared to death consented to take his punishment from Thaw who then made him undress, strapped him to the foot of the bedstead, and thrashed him with a cane, drawing blood. He then made the boy get into a bath in which he placed a quantity of salt. It seems incredible that such a thing could take place in any hotel but it is a fact. This was in 1906.

 Now pardon me — it is finished. Except that I knew Major Griffiths for many years. He probably got his information from Anderson who only ‘thought he knew’.

 Faithfully yours,

J. G. Littlechild

 This was an enormous find. Before we even look at Dr. T., it’s worth recording the final line.

‘Anderson, who only ‘thought he knew.’ ‘

Of course, Anderson claimed the opposite and stressed that the case was over but Littlechild doesn’t seem convinced.


(J.G. Littlechild and G.R. Sims)

John George Littlechild was not directly involved with the Ripper murders.  As head of Special Branch from 1883-1893, he was largely concerned with Fenian activity in the capital city so was aware of Irish and Irish-American visitors with a history of political agitation as well as funding.

The letter was written to the journalist G.R. Sims who knew the case intimately, having reported on it at the time. It is undoubtedly a reply to a missing letter and it’s probable that ‘Dr D’ refers to Druitt, though it’s strange that the name means nothing to Littlechild.

More importantly, there was a new name and suspect in the case. Not only that, the head of Special Branch painted him as a ‘very likely suspect’.

As for Tumblety himself it’s debatable if there’s a stranger character in the entire case. Born in Ireland in or around 1833, he made a living as a ‘quack’ doctor, selling his own brand of medicines such as ‘Tumblety’s Pimple Destroyer’. A flamboyant and boisterous egotist, he made an impression everywhere he went with his loud and gaudy clothes and enormous moustache. His claims became bolder and bolder. While in Boston, one of his patients died, allegedly of his remedies, and Tumblety was fortunate to escaped prosecution.

On 5th May 1865 he was arrested for alleged complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as he knew one of John Wilkes Booth’s associates. Francis Tumblety was not a man who was afraid of publicity.

(Two depictions of Francis Tumblety)

But why would Scotland Yard consider him to be a suspect?  Maybe this anecdote rang alarm bells.

He had invited a friend, Colonel Dunham over to dinner with some friends when the following occurred.

“Someone asked why he had not invited some women to his dinner. His face instantly became as black as a thunder-cloud. He had a pack of cards in his hand, but he laid them down and said, almost savagely, ‘No, Colonel, I don’t know any such cattle, and if I did I would, as your friend, sooner give you a dose of quick poison than take you into such danger.’ He then broke into a homily on the sin and folly of dissipation, fiercely denounced all women and especially fallen women.

 He then invited us into his office where he illustrated his lecture so to speak. One side of this room was entirely occupied with cases, outwardly resembling wardrobes. When the doors were opened quite a museum was revealed — tiers of shelves with glass jars and cases, some round and others square, filled with all sorts of anatomical specimens. The ‘doctor’ placed on a table a dozen or more jars containing, as he said, the matrices (uteri) of every class of women. Nearly a half of one of these cases was occupied exclusively with these specimens.

 Not long after this the ‘doctor’ was in my room when my Lieutenant-Colonel came in and commenced expatiating on the charms of a certain woman. In a moment, almost, the doctor was lecturing him and denouncing women. When he was asked why he hated women, he said that when quite a young man he fell desperately in love with a pretty girl, rather his senior, who promised to reciprocate his affection. After a brief courtship he married her. The honeymoon was not over when he noticed a disposition on the part of his wife to flirt with other men. He remonstrated, she kissed him, called him a dear jealous fool — and he believed her. Happening one day to pass in a cab through the worst part of the town he saw his wife and a man enter a gloomy-looking house. Then he learned that before her marriage his wife had been an inmate of that and many similar houses. Then he gave up all womankind.”

 This was eerily reminiscent of Coroner Wynne Baxter comment at the Annie Chapman inquest when he spoke of an American doctor pestering pathology labs to buy uteri. Maybe, an American wasn’t buying them at all. Maybe he was taking them himself.

On 7th November 1888, Francis Tumblety was arrested for ‘gross indecency’ which usually meant a homosexual act. He was bailed for an enormous sum of £300 but chose to run from the law and went back to America via France on 24th November under the pseudonym of Frank Townsend. Scotland Yard went so far as sending Inspector Walter Andrews to New York to track him down. For their part, the New York City Police responded to press reports about him being the Ripper by stating ‘there is no proof of his complicity in the Whitechapel murders, and the crime for which he is under bond in London is not extraditable’ and Andrews returned home alone. Tumblety, not being a man to lay low, published a pamphlet called Dr Francis Tumblety – Sketch of the Life of the Gifted, Eccentric and World Famed Physician where he attacked all and sundry about his trying year.

Was he the Ripper? Well, George Hutchinson says he saw a flamboyantly dressed man talking to Mary Kelly (apologies for my ‘all roads lead to George’ approach.  I’m honestly trying to ween myself off him but he’s just so damned interesting!) and there were rumours that he was Mrs Kuer’s lodger at 22 Batty Street (Briefly, she claimed that on the night of the ‘double event’ that a guest gave her a shirt to wear as he was going away for a while.  It had blood on the sleeves. The story became the basis of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. Incidentally, Batty Street is the next road along from Berner Street and 22 is a few doors away from the Israel Lipski’s house at number 16.)


But there are also many points against him.  Though his moustache was not as large in 1888 as it was to become, it would be simple to pick out such as ostentatiously dressed man among the desperate people of Whitechapel. He was also roughly 55 years old at the time and, though Mrs Long, hinted that her suspect was over 40, the majority of witnesses speak of a man between 25 and 35.  Tumblety was also quite tall for the time at 5’ 10” while the witness reports tend to have him at 5’ 5”-7”.  Mrs Long said he was only a little taller than his victim and Annie Chapman was only five foot tall.

As with other suspects, there is no history of violence and, again, it seems unfair to malign a man purely for his eccentricities, dress sense and sexuality.

In any case, those are the men who the police proposed as suspects or the actual Ripper himself.

As I said earlier, every argument is valid so I hope I’ve given you the facts. Ripperology does come with its own petty squabbles and arguments so, Royal conspiracy aside, I’ll try to just give you the facts, the for and against, and let you decide.

Next week I’ll look at the other suspects,  some worthy of attention,  some amusing (escaped gorilla) and some just downright bizarre.

A bit of housekeeping here. I’m hoping to make the 9th episode a Q & A so would welcome any questions on Twitter to either the account @jther1888 or my own which is @thecenci

Finally, I needed a bit of expert help with this week’s piece so would like to thank Jonathan Menges and Neil Bell for making sure I had the basic facts. Good men both.  Thank you.















On the morning of 30th September 1888 London woke up to the murderous news from Whitechapel and, subsequently, to blind panic. Not only had ‘Leather Apron’ killed again, but he had done so twice this time and, on one occasion, had travelled into a new realm to do so. By passing across the boundary of the East End and into Mitre Square, Aldgate he had entered the much more respectable area of the City of London. Killing prostitutes in the overcrowded slums of Whitechapel was one thing, but if he wanted to add a ‘lady’ to his conquests then no respectable person was safe.

While the police called for calm, the media had other ideas. The Star wrote on its front page of 1st October

THE terror of Whitechapel has walked again, and this time has marked down two victims, one hacked and disfigured beyond discovery, the other with her throat cut and torn. Again he has got away clear; and again the police, with wonderful frankness; confess that they have not a clue. They are waiting for a seventh and an eighth murder, just as they waited for a fifth, to help them to it. Meanwhile, Whitechapel is half mad with fear. The people are afraid even to talk with a stranger. Notwithstanding the repeated proofs that the murderer has but one aim, and seeks but one class in the community, the spirit of terror has got fairly abroad, and no one knows what steps a practically defenceless community may take to protect itself or avenge itself on any luckless wight who may be taken for the enemy. It is the duty of journalists to keep their heads cool, and not inflame men’s passions when what is wanted is cool temper and clear thinking; and we shall try and write calmly about this new atrocity.

Suggestion noted.

Fear was on sale and the Great British public were buying. People couldn’t get their newspapers and daily sheets quick enough. Such were the amount of dailies on offer that some residents complained about the noise emanating from newspaper boys and their constant cries of ‘’Orrible Murder.’.

The 1st October – the Monday following the murders – saw a very busy day in the case. The inquest into Liz Stride’s murder began in nearby Cable St while her former beau (and possible suspect) Michael Kidney turned up at Leman Street Police Station and drunkenly chastised the official force – at one stage even claiming to be able to catch the killer himself. He also suggested that the policeman who had patrolled Berner Street at the time of the murder should commit suicide through shame at their dereliction of duty.

On the same day, the Daily News printed the ‘Dear Boss’ letter just as the ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard arrived at the Central News Agency.

At 3.30pm Queen Victoria telephoned the Home Office to discuss the murders while interviews of witnesses by both police and press began in earnest.

Again it was noted that the new batch of murders had, like their predecessors, occurred at a weekend and after midnight. Was there a reason for this? Maybe he was only in the area on selected days? Maybe he was a religious maniac or a man with a family who could only stalk the streets when his brood were away.

Fresh evidence came to light. As had been noted with the Hanbury Street murder, the extrication of organs had been carried out with no little degree of skill. The man who had mutilated Catherine Eddowes had taken out her kidney and uterus in a short space of time and in total darkness. That alone, as The Times observed, should have narrowed the field of suspects somewhat, but as October gave way to November, no arrests were made.

George Lusk, who had received the gruesome package along with the ‘From Hell’ letter on the 16th of the month, petitioned the government and police to offer a reward to a Ripper accomplice. It was his view that no man could carry out these dreadful deeds without help from one source or another and the deal of cold, hard cash might encourage one man to give the other up.

The ‘Dear Boss’ and ‘Saucy Jack’ communications added further intrigue. Not only did the killer have the gall to commit the crimes, but he was goading the capital too, threatening the public and mocking the authorities. They also lead to one tedious development – that of persuading others to write hundreds of equally bogus letters based on some of the syntax contained in the originals. Each had to be investigated in case they were genuine and thousands of man hours were lost. One such hoaxer, a Maria Coroner, was not so lucky and was charged with fabricating one in which it was claimed that the next victim would be found dead on the streets of Bradford.

There was one peculiar oddity in the month of October.  In any film depiction of the ‘autumn of terror’ it is not uncommon to see a dark figure approaching petrified unfortunates in cobbled streets while a deep fog swirls around them. The London pea-souper is a classic motif in any portrayal of the case and, indeed, there was fog in October. It’s just that October was the only month where the murderer did not strike! The meteorological peculiarities didn’t end there as, at the time, it became the hottest October since records began. It seems the film makers will have to go back and do them again. Ah well.


Each weekend saw people on their guard.  Fingers were pointed in every direction and the possibility of street lynchings was still very real. Of course, the unfortunate women still had to earn their daily doss money and to therefore sell themselves in dark alleyways and stable yards, but those with friends became a little more choosy than usual. However, when insensible with drink and facing the prospect of sleeping rough, caution often took a back seat thus making ideal conditions for a prowling serial killer.

Men began to warn their spouses about taking to the streets as Leather Apron was now casting his net even further. One such, a man named Joseph Barnett, a former fish porter from Billingsgate Market, would read the horrifying newspaper reports to his partner – an Irish girl called Mary Jane Kelly. She, like so many fallen women in the area, was petrified as Annie Chapman had been killed just across the road from her over in Hanbury Street.

On 30th October, Barnett arrived back in his lodgings at 13 Millers Court, Dorset Street, to find that Kelly had allowed another prostitute to share their room. Barnett was furious. He was keen to keep Kelly off the streets and away from the undesirable elements of the East End. The couple argued and, in the melee, a window was broken before Barnett stormed off to find new lodgings in nearby Bishopsgate. He would, however, return almost daily to her.

It’s ironic that Mary Jane Kelly’s name is probably the best known amongst all the other victims as she is the one of which we know the least. There isn’t a single picture or photograph of her other than that of her death scene and that’s more of a collection of body parts rather than anything recognisable as a human being. Most information about her is either guesswork or comes from what she told Barnett and not all that was necessary gospel.

We know at least that she was 25 and probably born in Ireland in 1863. At some point she moved to Wales and married a man called Davies who was killed in a mining accident. She then moved to Cardiff to live with a cousin where she first became a prostitute.

By 1884 she was in London and there is a story of her working in a West End brothel. She told Barnett that she once accompanied a gentleman to Paris but didn’t like it and came home. Maybe this is why she altered her middle name from Jane to the more French Jeanette.

Kelly grave

The first reference of Kelly in the East End was her appearance at Breezers Hill on the Ratcliffe Highway a mile or so from Whitechapel. Barnett described it as ‘a bad house.’ She left in 1886 and lived with a man called Morganstone in the salubrious location of the Stepney Gasworks.  However, she soon threw him over for a stone mason called Joseph Fleming in Bethnal Green. Kelly and Fleming seemed close even during her time with Barnett. She moved to Thrawl Street, Spitalfields – where Polly Nichols also lived in number 18 – in or around 1887.

As to her character there are similarities with the other victims. She was well liked and quiet in her habits but rather vociferous and argumentative when drunk.

Barnett and Kelly first met on Good Friday, 8th April 1887 in Commercial St. They went for a drink and arranged to live together the following day. For the next few months they moved around the streets surrounding Commercial Street before settling on a single room at 13 Millers Court – a little alley running off Dorset Street.

Access to Millers Court was from the narrow passageway between 26 and 27 Dorset Street. Annie Chapman had lived at Crossingham’s Lodging House at 35 Dorset Street on the same side of the road near the corner of Little Paternoster Row pictured here.

Dorset Miller

Although the two women lived close together it doesn’t necessary follow that they knew each other. Dorset St was so overcrowded that it could house a couple of thousand people a night. They would have drunk in the same pubs though. The Britannia, known as Ringers, and the Ten Bells were local haunts for the people of ‘Dossen’ St.

Barnett lost his licence as a fish porter and job, possibly through an accusation of theft, in the summer of 1888. With his income gone, Mary had no choice than to try her luck on the streets again, a decision which Barnett abhorred. Not only did he hate the idea of her prostituting herself, he disliked the company she kept.  He later stated at the inquest.

“She would never have gone wrong again, and I shouldn’t have left her if it had not been for the prostitutes stopping at the house. She only let them because she was good hearted and did not like to refuse them shelter on cold bitter nights. We lived comfortably until Marie allowed a prostitute named Julia to sleep in the same room; I objected: and as Mrs. Harvey afterwards came and stayed there, I left and took lodgings elsewhere.”

 On the evening of Thursday 8th November he visited her at Millers Court where she was with another resident of Dorset Street.  They parted on good terms and he went back to Bishopsgate to play whist before going to bed.  He would never see her alive again.

It’s rumoured that Mary then went to the Ten Bells for the majority of the evening whereupon she drank heavily. A little before midnight, Mary Ann Cox, a prostitute from 5 Millers Court saw her with a man wearing a long overcoat and a billycock hat. He had a ‘blotchy’ face and ginger moustache and was carrying a quarter-can of ale.

Cox bid her goodnight and Mary, who could barely stand at this point, told her that she was going to sing. From her room, Cox heard her sing the song ‘Only a Violet I Plucked from my Mother’s Grave’. Cox went out again and, when she returned, Mary was still singing. A neighbour, Catherine Pickett, became annoyed at the noise but was dissuaded from telling her to be quiet by her husband.

At 2am, a labourer called George Hutchinson, walked north on Commercial Street towards Dorset Street and the Ten Bells.  He had been to Romford, some fifteen miles away, and had traipsed all the way back to Spitalfields to try to gain access to his lodging house at the Victoria Working Men’s House at 39-41 Commercial Street. He was too late and was doomed to walk the streets in the rain instead.

He bumped into Kelly just south of Flower and Dean Street.  He would later state that she was not drunk, just ‘spreeish’ so maybe her singing performance had sobered her up a little. She asked him for a sixpence which he didn’t have as he had ‘spent all my money going down to Romford’.  She bade him good morning and continued in the direction of Whitechapel High Street. He watched her go.   Maybe a plan was forming in his head. He knew she had her own accommodation and a kind heart so there was a chance of shelter.

One thing I love about this subject is that you can visit the very places where these seemingly innocuous meetings took place.  Here is the approximate location where Mary and George met. Flower and Dean St (now Lolesworth Place) is the side road on the right. The brown building facing us is where Millers Court was.

Hutch  Mary 1.jpg

Hutchinson reduced his walking pace and watched Mary head south. He then saw her pass a well-dressed man who tapped her on the shoulder and said something to her. She laughed and said ‘Alright’ to him to which he replied ‘You will be alright for what I have told you.’ Mary turned around and led the stranger back towards Millers Court and Hutchinson. That meeting took place here.

MAry meets Astra

George would still be by the ‘Lupita’ sign at this point.

All three of them headed north but Hutchinson stopped under the streetlight outside the Queens Head pub on the corner of Commercial Street and Fashion Street – the pub Liz Stride had visited on the night of her murder – in order to get a good look at the man.

George stern

(The location of the Queen’s Head pub, Fashion Street where Hutchinson claims Kelly and the well-to-do man passed him)

He later told the police what happened next.

“They both then came past me and the man hid down his head with his hat over his eyes. I stooped down and looked him in the face. He looked at me stern. They both went into Dorset Street I followed them. They both stood at the corner of the Court for about 3 minutes. He said something to her. She said alright my dear come along you will be comfortable He then placed his arm on her shoulder and gave her a kiss. She said she had lost her handkercheif he then pulled his handkercheif a red one out and gave it to her. They both then went up the court together. I then went to the Court to see if I could see them, but could not. I stood there for about three quarters of an hour to see if they came out they did not so I went away.”

 What? Three quarters of an hour? In the rain? On London’s roughest street? Hmm.

So, what did the man look like.  George was quite specific.

“Description age about 34 or 35. height 5ft6 complexion pale, dark eyes and eye lashes slight moustache, curled up each end, and hair dark, very surley looking dress long dark coat, collar and cuffs trimmed astracan. And a dark jacket under. Light waistcoat dark trousers dark felt hat turned down in the middle. Button boots and gaiters with white buttons. Wore a very thick gold chain white linen collar. Black tie with horse shoe pin. Respectable appearance walked very sharp. Jewish appearance. Can be identified.”

Hold on. The streets are ill-lit, it’s 2am and raining yet George can ascertain and recall intricate details such as horse shoe pins and white buttons? He’s either the greatest witness of all time or a hell of a storyteller. That’s not just a passing description, that’s positively forensic.

One thing about him is certain. He was certainly outside Millers Court at one point. We know this because he was seen. I’ll admit that I’m fascinated with George.  Very little is known about him and he more or less disappears after this statement but I’ll return to him later.

At around 4am, Elizabeth Prater, a neighbour of Kelly’s was awoken by her kitten, Diddles, walking across her as she slept. She heard a faint cry of ‘Murder’  fromm another room but thought nothing of it, as it was a common cry at that time. She went back to sleep.

Mrs Cox was back home at this point but did not sleep. She heard men come and go all night including one at around 5.45am though she could not swear from whence he came.

The next morning, the landlord John McCarthy, instructed his employee Thomas Bowyer , also known as ‘Indian Harry,’ to  collect the rent from 13 Millers Court. She was 29 shillings in arrears – a huge sum. Bowyer headed down the passage to Kelly’s room and found no answer, but remembered that the window at the back was broken and covered up by rags and an old coat so walked around the corner and investigated there. He pulled back the rag and peered inside.

(Sidenote: It’s usual  for any student of the Jack the Ripper case to know their way around murders and become desensitised to  the extraordinary violence and horror of such carnage.  As I’ve warned throughout, anyone easily shocked should just take my word for it when I say that no good can come of looking at the sight which Thomas Bowyer witnessed first hand. I can read books about some of the most horrific atrocities ever inflicted and remain unaffected, but the scene in Millers Court is too much.)

Detective Chief Inspector Walter  Dew, who claimed that he knew Kelly by sight, was on duty at Commercial  Street Police Station when Bowyer reported the murder.

“If I remember rightly it was between ten and eleven o’clock in the morning that I looked in at Commercial Street police station to get in touch with my superiors. I was chatting with Inspector Beck, who was in charge of the station, when a young fellow, his eyes bulging out of his head, came panting into the police station. The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word. 

At last he managed to stammer out something about ‘Another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful. Jack McCarthy sent me’. Mr McCarthy was well known to us as a common lodging house proprietor.

‘Come along Dew’, said Inspector Beck and gathering from the terrorized messenger that Dorset Street was the scene of whatever had happened, we made him our pilot, as we rushed in that direction, collecting as many constables as we could on the way.”

 Bowyer later told the press.

“The sight that we saw I cannot drive away 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 whole scene is more than I can describe. I hope I may never see such a sight as this again.” 

Even a description of the scene without photographic evidence is still a little hard to take. The murderer took his time with his victim and indulged his fascination with internal organs to the maximum.

Warning: this isn’t pleasant.

The body lay on the bed with the head turned to the window. Mary’s nose, cheeks, eyebrows had been cut off, her stomach had been cut open and the entire contents removed.  Her breasts had been sliced off through circular incisions. One had been placed under her head along with her uterus and kidneys, and the other by her right foot.  Her liver sat between her feet while the flesh from the abdomen and thighs were left in piles on a side table.  Her right thigh had so much flesh removed that the bone was visible. Her heart was missing entirely.

What is equally telling about this particular murder is what the Ripper didn’t do. For once, he was uninterrupted. There were to be no carters passing by on the way to work, no neighbours in back yards who could look over a fence,  no men driving pony and carts to get in the way and no policeman on the beat. For once, he could do what he wanted with little fear of interruption.

It’s worth noticing then that he did not leave a message for the police. He had ample opportunity to write  an essay  about the Juwes being the men who won’t be blamed for nothing or cutting off ears or even about his apparent vendetta with George Lusk, but instead he just cut away and cut away at the long dead body. The only jeopardy came in his getting away and no one would look twice at a man leaving the room of a prostitute in Dorset Street.

Inspector Beck and Sgt Edward Badham from Commercial Street Police Station arrived at Millers Court and were soon joined by Superintendent Thomas Arnold and Inspector  Edmund  Reid from Whitechapel’s H Division. Abberline and Robert Anderson from Scotland Yard arrived too but the room wasn’t entered for a further two hours due to  a discussion about whether or not to bring in bloodhounds. In the end it was decided that this would be impractical and the landlord, John McCarthy, broke down the door with an axe handle.

The fire was still burning and had reached a such a temperature that it melted the spout off the kettle.  It seemed that clothing had been used to fuel the fire while others were neatly folded nearby. Abberline suspected that the fire was there to give the murderer light.

By now a large crowd had formed in Commercial Street and any newcomer examined minutely. The body was eventually transported to a mortuary in Shoreditch rather than Whitechapel.  An inquest was called and began and ended in a single day with both Barnett and McCarthy identifying the  body.

One man did not attend the inquest.

George Hutchinson, despite being a resident of Commercial Road and was arguably the last person to see her alive other than her killer, did not approach the police with his statement until the following Monday – some three days after the murder. Why exactly? If he had been so worried about his friend when he bumped into her, why not bring her killer to  justice at the official enquiry? Why stay silent?

The most obvious reason stems from the following evidence from a Sarah Lewis. As I said, George had been seen.

“I live at 24 Great Powell[sic] Street, Spitalfields. I am a laundress. I know Mrs. Keyler in Miller’s Court. I was at her house at half past 2 on Friday morning she lives at No.2 in the court on the left on the first floor I know the time by having looked at Spitalfields Church clock as I passed it – When I went in the court I saw a man opposite the court in Dorset Street standing alone by the lodging house. He was not tall – but stout – had on a black wideawake hat – I did not notice his clothes – another young man with a woman passed along – the man standing in the street was looking up the court as if waiting for someone to come out.”

This man was clearly  Hutchinson as, by his own admission, he had stood outside the Commercial  Street Chambers dosshouse directly opposite Millers Court. It’s likely that he read the report and fancied that he was now a suspect.

Hutchinson turned up at Commercial Street Police Station at 6pm on 12th November and gave his statement to Sgt. Edward Badham.  Abberline interviewed him later and thought him a creditable witness. Perhaps the closing words ‘Can be  identified’ gave the Inspector hope. Indeed, for a few nights, Hutchinson accompanied Abberline around the area, looking for the ‘Astrakhan man’ as he’s become known.  Hutchinson even fancied that he had seen the man since –this time in Petticoat Lane- but couldn’t swear to it. Strange that he could remember everything about him in the darkness of Commercial Street but not in cold daylight.

The description of Astrakhan man seems just a little too, well, stereotypical. He might as well had said ‘rich Jewish toff’. The rumours of the Ripper being rich and/or a surgeon were already strong so Abberline could hardly be blamed for seizing onto Hutchinson’s tale. The likelihood, though, is remote. A man dressed that way walking past the rookerys of Thrawl St, Flower and Dean St and, worst of all, Dorset Street would not have only excited comment but  downright action. Any gentlemen thus attired would  have been mugged three times by the time he’d reached Christ Church. There is even a suspicion that, if the story is true,  Hutchinson lay in wait outside Millers Court for just that purpose rather than to protect Kelly.  The Astrakhan man would be easy pickings for a mugger.

That said, Dr Thomas Barnado  was a frequent visit to the area and he remained unmolested so maybe such a sight wouldn’t be that too unusual, though it’s unlikely that the doctor would be hobnobbing with the drunks and thieves of Dorset St at 2am.

The main criticism of Hutchinson’s suspect is that the other witnesses saw a ‘shabby genteel’ man dressed as a regular Whitechapel resident rather than a well-to-do man casually chatting to prostitutes.

It seems more likely that he bumped into Kelly and, being without a bed for the night, saw the chance of shelter  plus anything  else on offer so he waited outside for her latest client to move on. Once he read Sarah Lewis’ statement he saw how things looked so  came up with the elaborate tale of Commercial Street. , knowing that it would get him off the hook. He would also have known that the press would pay for his story and easy money should never be avoided.

Some have claimed that Hutchinson was the murderer – notably Bob Hinton in his no-nonsense book From Hell: The Jack the Ripper Mystery. It wouldn’t be the first time a murderer has gone to the police with a false story to put them off the scent, but this all seems a bit desperate. The chances are just that he happened to see her on the night she died and saw an opportunity to make some money.

He wasn’t the only person to see her at the crucial time. A woman called Caroline Maxwell told the inquest that she had been talking to Mary Kelly between  8am-8.30am on the morning of 9th November – the morning her body was discovered! She had been returning some borrowed plates when she bumped into Mary who told her that ‘she had the horrors of drink upon her.’ Maxwell suggested the hair of the dog at Ringers but Kelly said she’d tried that and pointed at some nearby vomit on the pavement. Caroline was so adamant about this meeting that she ignored Coroner Roderick MacDonald’s warning that her evidence flew in the face of the established time of death set by the doctors.

Years later, Walter Dew wrote that Maxwell was a ‘sane and sensible woman’ and of excellent reputation. It’s likely that she got the day wrong rather than the encounter though another witness, Maurice Lewis, claimed that he saw her in Ringers at 10am – 45 minutes before Thomas Bowyer made his grisly discovery in Millers Court. Mary was certainly dead by then and the body was certainly hers (no matter what the Johnny Depp film From Hell says!)

Abberline interviewed Joseph Barnett for four hours as he was clearly a suspect but found his story to be strong and his alibi unbreakable.  Once again, the Ripper had struck from under the very noses of the police and, on this occasion, in the busiest street in London. He had clearly decided that the streets were too  hot and alive with police and vigilantes so  had transferred his killing grounds to indoors, leaving Abberline’s men with no chance of catching him red-handed. If anything, the case was more hopeless than ever.

And yet, the hideous murder of Mary Jane Kelly was the last of the cycle and over the coming weeks and months the East End returned back to normal. Kelly was buried at Leytonstone Roman Catholic Cemetery. Recently, there has been talk of exhuming her bones to check for any DNA which might lead to the capture of her murderer but the actual location of her grave is unknown.

Christmas came and went with no further Ripperesque killings. The murders simply ceased.

Though it has happened before (Fred West, for  example), serial killers do not simply end due to boredom or caution. They are compulsive creatures and not governed as we are.  Many see capture and imprisonment as unavoidable, even desirable but they listen to their murderous desires first. When Peter Sutcliffe was caught in 1981, he expressed the need to talk and share his story so people can ‘see the beast I am’ though he didn’t give himself up until he buckled under questioning  when he realised that the police had found his weapons at the site of his arrest.

Some have suggested that Millers Court was the Ripper’s ‘masterpiece’ and  having  fulfilled his every wish and desire, he either lost interest or it drove him insane. Or more insane.

Serial murderers tend to stop their work because they have either died, been committed to an asylum without their offences being discovered or arrested and imprisoned for lesser crimes. Jack could also have moved elsewhere.There were certainly similar murders committed, noticeably that of Carrie Brown in New York in April 1891, but it’s generally considered that the Ripper murders ended with Mary Kelly. That is certainly the official view.

The case itself was not closed for a while and the Scotland Yard file covers eleven murders in total with five being officially Ripper killings – the ‘canonical five’. We have already seen some of  the murders of non-canonical victims such as Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram which, when included with the ‘c5’ deaths brings us up to seven. Four more were added.

Five weeks after the Kelly murder Catherine Mylett, known as Rose, was found dead by strangulation in Poplar High Street. Not only is this not considered a Ripper murder, it is questionable that it is a murder at all. The coroner, Wynne Baxter, who had presided over  the inquests of Nichols, Chapman and Stride, told the jury that she was murdered but, years later, Sir  Robert Anderson of Scotland Yard wrote in his  autobiography, The Lighter Side of My Official Life, “the Poplar case of December, 1888, was death from natural causes, and but for the ‘Jack the Ripper’ scare, no one would have thought of suggesting that it was a homicide.”

A murder came much closer to home on 17th July 1889 in Castle Alley, now Castle  Street, Whitechapel when a woman called Alice McKenzie, or ‘Clay Pipe’ Alice, was found with her throat cut and body partially mutilated. Castle Alley runs parallel with  Goulston Street and Commercial Street. For any ‘George Hutchinson as suspect’ fans, it’s worth noticing that his lodgings were merely yards away.

Clay Pipe 2.jpg

(The site of  Alice McKenzie’s murder is on the extreme right hand side)

Again, there is some disagreement with  this murder. While some, such as Dr George Bagster Phillips who examined Annie Chapman’s body in the yard of 29 Hanbury Street, dismissed it as just another murder, others cite the mutilations, albeit superficial, and the severing of the left carotid artery to be a classic Ripper murder. When coupled with the fact that it occurred in the heart of Ripperland the coincidence seems a little too strong. That said, it is also possible that it was deliberately made to look like his work.

Another  case  in the annals  of the Whitechapel file occurred not in the East End but in a West End police station. Two days after the ‘double event’ a headless and limbless body turned up in the vaults of the new Scotland Yard building and embarrassed more than a few officials. The body was never identified though some parts were later found in the Thames. Any Ripper link is unlikely but, due  to the grim nature of the discovery, the press made the connection and it appeared in the dossier.

That file closes with the murder of Frances Coles on 13th February 1891- probably the more interesting of the non-canonical victims as it featured an actual arrest.

At 2.15am, PC Ernest Thompson was walking along Chamber Street when he heard the sound of a man’s retreating footsteps. He flashed his lamp into the corner of nearby Swallow Gardens and found Frances Coles, a 25-year-old prostitute from Bermondsey, lying on the ground with blood pouring from  her throat. Thompson could have caught up with the man but, as Frances still had an eye open, he stayed with her in line with police procedure.  She died without saying a word. The poor policeman would live with the knowledge that he could have caught the man, and possibly the Ripper – quite a coup as this was the first time he had walked his beat alone.

Coles had spent a day or two with a 53-year-old ship’s fireman called James Thomas Sadler. They had known each other for eighteen months or so and came across each other again at the Princess Alice pub on the corner of Commercial Street and Wentworth Street (it is still there though  now named The Culpeper) which was also a pub used by John Pizer a.k.a Leather Apron. The couple then drank around the area and stayed firstly in Thrawl Street and then a dosshouse in Whites Row  – one road to the south of Dorset Street.


(Whites Row, 2016, taken from George Hutchinson’s position where the Astrakhan man ‘looked up at me stern’ outside the Queen’s Head pub )

From then on they went on a pub crawl before parting ways. Sadler then went to Thrawl  St where a woman crept  up on him from behind and knocked him on the head before two men stole his money and watch. Sadler, both drunk and dazed, found Frances and hoped she would help him, but it was not to be the case.

He returned to the SS Fez – a ship  from which he had been dismissed two  days earlier – to try to secure a bed for the night. Drunk as a lord, he entered into his second altercation of the night and was beaten up by two dock labourers. He then tried to gain lodging in the Victoria Lodging House in East Smithfields but, being in his cups,  was also turned away there. He then went back to Whites Row where he found Frances again. She was nodding off but still had no money to help him. Sadler tottered off  to the London  Hospital on Whitechapel Road to have his wounds dressed.

Sadler was arrested on 15th February and charged with Frances’ murder. The police, suspecting that they may have not just the murderer but also Jack the Ripper, brought in Joseph Lawende who had witnessed Catherine Eddowes with her murderer near the entrance of Mitre Square.  Lawende did not identify Sadler as being the same man and the fireman was released.

And, with that, the Whitechapel murders ended.  By 1892 the case was closed inasmuch as it could  ever be. No murder is ever really closed as they can always be re-opened if new evidence comes to light, but, eventually, the police presence in Whitechapel decreased and eventually fizzled out entirely. The ‘autumn of terror’ was finally over

No one was ever charged with the murders though senior officers had their suspicions as to the man’s identity.




One of the most interesting factors of the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 is their ability to remain in the public eye some 130 years after the event. Take this month alone. There are two Ripper stories in the press – one concerning the idea of exhuming Mary Kelly’s body while the other features the American crime novelist Patricia Cornwell and her book accusing the artist Walter Sickert of being the Ripper. After all this time ‘Jack’ still makes good copy. This is surprising as, though the ‘Autumn of Terror’ is probably the most well-known series of murders in British history, there is very little about them which make them singular.

They are not unusual in their number as there have been numerous serial killers with more than five (or six, depending on your point of view) murders on their hands, nor is their brutality particularly rare. It can’t also be that the murderer escaped the clutches of the law. After all, no one knows who the identity of the Zodiac Killer and he is presumed to have murdered more than thirty times in California in the 60s and 70s. In fact, I’ve just Googled ‘unsolved serial killers’ (as you do) and Jack fails to appear in most lists.

So, why is the case so famous? What is it about Jack that has led to the creation of a 150 strong suspect list, nightly murder tours (I counted six alone last week while taking photos for last week’s article) and numerous films and books. Even this blog.

As I stated in the introduction weeks ago, my interest stems only from a fascination with Victoriana along with the geography, topography and social conditions of the time, but for others it’s the challenge in solving the Scotland Yard’s greatest mystery.

Maybe we are still captivated by something which happened on 27th September 1888 – the arrival of a letter at the Central News Agency in the City of London. It 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”

 And there it is.

Written in red ink, purporting to be from the murderer himself.

The loudest noise comes when the silent speak. For weeks, Whitechapel was looking over its shoulder and eyeing anyone with suspicion.  Where would the next body pop up? Who would be next? The tension grew and grew but the silence was deafening. Then, suddenly, he spoke.

The tone is one of mockery. He’s enjoying the police’s mishandling of the case and revels in the knowledge that his prey walk about at night, supplying him with the easy pickings.

Suddenly, the murder wasn’t just a man who killed prostitutes at night. He was a man who enjoyed his work and was the enemy of all.

Known commonly as the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, it was forwarded to Scotland Yard on the 29th September – the  day before the ‘double event’. Evidently, the police thought it genuine as they posted hundreds of copies around the area and asked for anyone who recognised the handwriting to come forward.

The letter itself was almost certainly a hoax. Are we meant to believe that a man with such an educated hand was the sort who lived in the slums of the East End? Hardly. Years later, a senior police figure would say that he had a pretty shrewd idea as to the identity of the author and hinted at ‘an enterprising journalist’. There are even reports of a confession from one though they are yet to be proved.

There were, however, two significant outcomes. Firstly, there was the signature. This was the first time the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ had been used and it sent shockwaves through the whole of London. Finally, there was a name for the unnamed assassin. Far better than ‘Leather Apron’ or ‘the Fiend of Whitechapel,’ ‘Jack the Ripper’ gave the murderer both an everyday name while adding his gruesome pastime. Furthermore, it became the template name for future atrocities – The Camden Ripper, The Yorkshire Ripper and even Jack the Stripper, which was the catch-all term for eight gruesome murders of sex workers in West London between 1959 and 1965.

More importantly, was the choice of recipient.

Dear Boss envelope

The Central News Agency was a syndication press company similar to the Press Association and Reuters today, though much more sensationalist. The Times often took it to task for embellishing stories rather than simply passing them on. Thomas Bulling,  a man strongly suspected of writing the ‘Dear Boss’ letter to ‘keep the business going’, was an employee there and  was exactly the sort of man capable of playing such a trick on the public.

So although the Ripper murders were relatively low in number and intrigue when compared to cases both before and after, this became the first set of murders to be utilised by a grateful media to dramatise the atrocities. In 1888, if you weren’t scared, the press weren’t doing its job. Much like certain papers today in many ways.

The media went berserk. If your newspaper was anti-establishment in outlook you used the taunting tone of the letter to attack the police and government. If your agenda was one of social reform, you now had a name for the scourge of the area and if you simply just wanted to scare the living daylights out of the public, here was a welcome helpmeet with a catchy name. Just for jolly.

(Satirical cartoon during the time of the murders)

The author clearly knew his audience.   Any letter to Scotland Yard  – and there were plenty of  them following the Nichols and Chapman murders – would  run the risk of it being ignored or silently kept back and investigated further rather that giving it massive exposure it  begged for.

It produced the desired effect so the author did not stop there issued a second missive. The day after the ‘double event’ the same office received a postcard.

“I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. ha not the time to get ears for police. thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

 Jack the Ripper”

 Here, the author seems to know about both the 30th September murders and the fact that Eddowes earlobe was snipped off. Did this indicate that he had prior knowledge of the killings before they reached the press? Alas not. The postmark reads 1st October which means he had ample time to read up on the facts and reproduce them accordingly. What he probably didn’t realise was that it was actually all too easy for the murderer to remove Eddowes’ ears in Mitre Square and take them away but, for reasons best known to himself, he chose the far more  difficult operation of cutting out a kidney in pitch darkness. His priority then, was not in challenging or cocking a snook at the police, but getting the organs.

In addition to this, the medics said that the missing earlobe looked more like an accidental nick than a deliberate attempt. The correspondent was not the murderer.

Still, the same man had come up with the terms ‘Jack the  Ripper’ and ‘Double Event’ so they definitely had a talent for naming things. Even Spinal Tap used ‘Saucy Jack’.

On the 10th October, Sir Charles Warren gave his views in a missive to the Home Office.

“At present I think the whole thing a hoax but of course we are bound to try & ascertain the writer in any case.”

 The letter, like much Ripper evidence, disappeared but was found again and anonymously sent back to Scotland Yard in 1988.  No such luck with the ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard though. It’s been missing for years.

While there is little doubt that the letters are hoaxes (though not by all), there is more debate about a letter and enclosure which arrived at the home of George Lusk, the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, on 16th October 1888 – two weeks after the double event.

A Miss Emily Marsh claimed that, a day earlier, a man had entered her father’s leather shop on Jubilee Street, Stepney, not far from the London Hospital. He spoke with an Irish accent and remarked on a Whitechapel Vigilance Committee poster which advertised a reward. He asked her if she had Lusk’s address. She did, though she left out the house number, as it was in the newspaper. The man made a note of it and left.

A letter duly arrived at Lusk’s house and features a famous address.

“From Hell


I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer

signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk”



The package did not contain a house number either.

Enclosed with the letter was a small box containing the kidney.

At first, Lusk took it as a practical joke and believed it to be a gruesome artefact from a long dead animal, but, following consultation with his friends, agreed to have it examined. They took it to Dr Thomas Horrocks Openshaw in the London Hospital whose findings were remarkable. It was part of a human kidney. What’s more, it had been the left kidney. Catherine Eddowes had hers removed in Aldgate just over a fortnight earlier.

Lusk also announced that he had received a postcard written in the same hand.

“Say Boss, – You seem rare frightened. Guess I’d like to give you fits, but can’t stop time enough to let you box of toys play copper games with me, but hope to see you when I don’t hurry too much. – Goodbye, Boss. Mr. Lusk, Head Vigilance Committee, Alderney-street, Mile-end”

Lusk subsequently took the letter to Leman St Police Station and explained the situation. The kidney was examined further by Dr Gordon Brown.

There is a myth about Openshaw’s examination of the kidney.  It is said that stated it as a ‘ginny’ kidney, i.e. that it was from a drinker (and from one who was suffering from Bright’s Disease as Eddowes had), and that it was from a 45 year old woman. Also, that it had been removed in the last three weeks. This comes from the Press Association and, although they were far more reliable than the Central News Agency, they too seemed to have leaned towards the sensationalist as Openshaw said no such thing. He only gave the view that the item was human in nature and left sided.

This did not deter the writer of the letter from doubling his number of correspondents and on 29th October, Dr Openshaw himself received a letter.

“Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny i was goin to hoperate agin close to you ospitle just as i was going to dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte them cusses of coppers spoilt the game but i guess i wil be on the jobn soon and will send you another bit of innerds

Jack the Ripper

O have you seen the devle with his mikerscope and scalpul a-lookin at a kidney with a slide cocked up.”


While the other letters have been written by literate men pretending to be illiterate, this letter goes way over the top. It should be noted that the text includes the word ‘ospitle’ for ‘hospital’ whereas it was spelt correctly on the envelope. Someone is trying a little too hard.

The most interesting aspect of the original Lusk letter – magnificent address aside (From Hell) – is the signature. At this point Scotland Yard had close to a thousand hoax letters, many of which contained the ‘Jack the Ripper’ signature. This one, however, did not.

Since the Ripper murders, taunting letters from the killers to the police and media have become almost common, though not all have chosen to adopt their given nickname. Ted Kaczynski, the anarcho-primitivist who killed three people and maimed many more, was known as ‘Unabomber’ by the media but the lengthy manifesto he sent to the police was not signed that way. Any reference to himself came as ‘we’ or ‘FC’ (freedom club). Equally, Peter Sutcliffe never used the term ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ and chose the chilling soubriquet ‘The Street Cleaner’.  Maybe it’s the repudiation of the media name which gives the Lusk letter writer the stronger case to actually be the murderer.

Although Scotland Yard received 1,094 communications from the public or the murderer, it is the only the Goulston Street Graffito which rivals the above letters.

As stated last week, the graffito was found above Catherine Eddowes’ discarded apron, left there by the killer sometime after 2.20am on 30th September 1888.  PC Alfred Long had found the words written on the door jamb.

“The Juwes are the Men who will Not be blamed for nothing”

The words were wiped off on the instructions of Sir Charles Warren who could not even countenance a photograph of it in case its knowledge sparked race riots in an already tense area.

Even if it was the murderer who chalked those words on the wall of 108-119 Wentworth Dwellings, its meaning is still shrouded in mystery. The double negative doesn’t make it any easier as it appears that it is either a celebration of Jewish stoicism in the face of overwhelming criticism and persecution or a snide dig at the immigrants who went about killing the local women but refused to be blamed. In any case, Warren wasn’t prepared to risk it.

Were the words the work of the Ripper? It’s almost impossible to say but I have my doubts.  Let’s look at his activities that night and see how likely it is.

12.45am – throws Elizabeth Stride to the ground in full view of Israel Schwartz and ‘Pipe Man’ on Berner Street

1am – kills Stride in Dutfield’s Yard.  There is only one point of escape and that is the gates at the front of the yard.

1.01am – Louis Diemschutz enters the yard and disturbs him before he can perform the mutilations. He was very possibly in the yard when the coachman climbed off his cart. He leaves once Diemschutz has gone inside. A close call. He must kill again and heads for St Botolph’s Church, Aldgate

1.05am – The alarm is raised in Berner Street and the police of Leman Street (the direction in which the murderer is headed) stream onto the streets.

1.12am (approx.) – Mitre Square is a twelve minute walk from Berner Street so he could have already been talking to Eddowes by 1.20am

1.35am – Talks to Eddowes in front of Church Passage which leads to Mitre Square. He is witnessed by three men – Joseph Lawende, Harry Harris and Joseph Levy.

1.35-1.44am – kills Eddowes in south west corner of Mitre Square. He removes her kidney and uterus in pitch darkness. He also performs facial mutilations upon her. Leaves Mitre Square. PC James Harvey was possible yards away in the next road but Mitre Square was not on his beat. The murderer may well have heard him as he passed.

1.45 – PC Watkins discovers body and looks to night-watchman George Morris for assistance. The alarm is raised.

2am – The City of London police join the Metropolitan Police on the streets of Aldgate and Whitechapel to stop possible suspects and search premises.

2.20am – PC Long walks down Goulston Street. He cannot speak of the graffito but is certain the apron was not there.

2.55am – Long returns to find both the graffito and apron.

Do we really think he’s going to have a night like that, be carrying knives, a kidney and a uterus, drop the most damning piece of evidence and then take time out to leave a cryptic message in chalk in a predominantly Jewish area? I don’t think so.  It’s not to be credited. If he hasn’t written the letters, why start now after four murders? He already has what he came for.


(A tour group stand outside the doorway of what was once Wentworth Dwellings. This was where the apron was dropped and graffito found)

The Ripperologist and historian Martin Fido has a more plausible explanation. Goulston Street was, and still is, a market area – acting as an overspill area from Petticoat Lane and Wentworth Street. It was not unusual for hawkers and traders to write their prices up on the wall in chalk. As arguments were common, Fido believes that the graffito was simply the daubing of a disgruntled customer who felt he had been ripped off in some way and wanted to vent spleen and had nothing at all to do with the murder. Others say that the placing of the apron is deliberate and practically points to the message. Both arguments are valid.

Personally, I want to know what the Ripper did between escaping from Mitre Square at 1.45am and dropping the apron in Goulston Street before 2.55am. You can walk between the two points in roughly 5-7 minutes.  Did he go back to his bolthole to drop off his sinister captures? If so, why would he still have his knife with him (he used the apron to clean it)? If the streets were teeming with police, just where did he go?

In any case, the letters continued and became more and more bizarre. October came and went and for the first time since August, the Ripper appeared to have time off. Maybe the streets were a little too hot for him now and any possible discovery of him mid-act might lead to a lynching rather than prosecution.  For five weeks he kept his powder dry.

Then, on the morning of 9th November 1888, in Millers Court, Dorset Street, he returned with his most gruesome murder of all.














The ‘Double Event’ – You Would Say Anything But Your Prayers – 30th September, 1888

– With two murders committed in the space of a week at the beginning of September 1888, the terror levels of the East End had cranked up several notches. Still known as ‘the Whitechapel fiend’ at this stage or ‘Leather Apron’ despite John Pizer’s undoubted innocence, the very mention of the murderer sent the unfortunates of the district into shudders or angered enough people to call for direct action on anyone whom they considered a suspect.

For their part, the police were fighting battles on two fronts. Firstly, they had to deal with a man who killed at random before disappearing into thin air. Violence was a daily occurrence in Whitechapel, but a man who ripped bodies to shreds for the sheer sake of it were something new.No one saw anyone leave the murder sites of Bucks Row or Hanbury Street and, Pizer and Isenschmid aside, there was no obvious suspect.

The second front consisted of overwhelming local and media criticism. The Abberline and Thicks of the world were largely excused, but the Home Secretary along with Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of Police, were vilified by all quarters. Thousands of column inches lambasted the men for failing to offer a reward for the capture of the murderer, though it was unlikely that that would have done any good as the man clearly acted alone. Warren was also in favour of a level of vigilantism and thus revealed how out of touch he was with his own force as his men on the street did not welcome public help. There were already shouts of ‘Leather Apron!’ from prostitutes who thought their clients were underpaying or who simply saw an opportunity to extort them. Anyone ‘foreign’ (Jewish) or suspicious were only a cry away from being lynched.

The lack of arrest became a source of embarrassment for the police and government. Nearly a century later during the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, local forces bristled at the very suggestion that Scotland Yard would be called in when they too drew a blank. One man stated: ‘They haven’t caught their own yet.’

The radical newspapers, who had already played their part in inciting the riots of Trafalgar Square a year earlier, wasted little opportunity to use the killings to further their own causes.  The more mainstream press, though not as vociferous, pointed out police deficiencies whenever possible.  A week after the Chapman murder, the Pall Mall Gazette wrote.

“A week has now passed since the last of the Whitechapel murders took place. During that period there has been something more than the customary show of police activity. The coroner has done as much as it lies in the power of a coroner to do to probe the mystery: yet not the smallest approach appears to have been made towards the apprehension of the criminal, or even towards an elucidation of the circumstances of the crime. No trustworthy clue has been obtained; and the only issue of the exertions made is to lessen whatever hope was at first entertained, and the terrible secret might somehow be brought to light. . . . We assume that the police have done their best, and we are far from charging them with in capacity because their best amounts only to failure. . . . They have not arrested any man against whom a reasonable prima facie case could be made out; but they have arrested more than one whom there never was the faintest warrant for suspecting. . . . We are entitled to express our surprise that the police have pounced on persons who were plainly innocent. That they have not succeeded in arresting the culprit is a pity; but they have been energetic in the wrong direction is distinctly a reproach. There is a worse thing than doing nothing: that is, doing something that aught not to be done.”

The East End and the police could do little but await the next murder and hope for a blunder. Many had noted that the man struck at weekends and speculated that his work must keep him away from the East End and his hobby. However, the 15th and then the 22nd September passed without incident. In that time, the cases against both Pizer and Isenschmid’s were dismissed and the inquests of the Nichols and Chapman murders concluded.

Just as things were slowly getting back to normal in London, though not in the affected area, the Central News Agency received an anonymous letter. I will be dealing with this next week, but suffice to say the signature brought the murders back into focus.


There it was.  The catchiest name for the murderer yet.

Jack the Ripper.

Jack the___ was a common enough term back then and described men by their jobs, but ‘Ripper’? How beautifully summed up. Far better than being named a fiend or after a piece of clothing. The press loved it.

But the man himself had been unusually quiet.

This did little to quell the East End panic. On Thursday 26th September 1888, the philanthropist and benefactor Dr Thomas Barnardo – a regular visitor to the common lodging houses of Spitalfields – came to talk to the local women who were at threat. Though this side of his life saw him work as a pastor, he was a doctor first and foremost. He was inevitably listed as a suspect though he was far too old and looked nothing like anyone suggested in the witness reports. Upon this recent trip he wrote to The Times:

‘I found the women and girls thoroughly frightened by the recent murders, one poor creature, who had apparently been drinking, cried bitterly, we’re all up to no good and no one cares what becomes of us, perhaps some of us will be killed next’.

 While in the lodging house kitchen at 32 Flower and Dean Street, off Commercial Street, he spoke to several women, one of which was a Swedish woman called Elizabeth Stride.

F and D

(Lolesworth Close, Spitalfields in 2017.  The former location of Flower and Dean Street)

‘Long Liz’ (she was five feet five which was certainly tall for a woman of the time) was born Elizabeth Gustafsdotter at Stora Tumelhed farm in Tordslanda near Gothenborg on November 27th 1843 to Gustaf Ericsson and Beata Carlsdotter.  Her early years were fairly non-descript. She became a domestic servant in Gothenburg shortly before her 17th birthday, but either the wages were not enough or something else happened over the next three years as by 1865 she was registered by the Gothenburg Police as a prostitute.  It was also around this time that she gave birth to a stillborn girl. This may have been due to a venereal disease as records suggest she was treated at the time.

In 1866 she moved to London and registered at the Swedish Church in Prince’s Square in St George’s-in-the-East -an area to  the south of Commercial Road (note: not Commercial Street) in Whitechapel.

Georges East

(An area breakdown from 1870 showing St Georges-in-the-Field. The murders took place in the areas shown as St Mary’s Whitechapel and Christ Church and Spitalfields. A walk around all five murder sites can be concluded in roughly forty minutes)

On 7th March 1869, Elizabeth married John Stride at St. Giles in the Fields.  He ran a coffee shop (though alcohol was sold) in Chrisp St, Poplar.

The couple moved in and around the Poplar district for the next eight years or so, but the marriage seems to have broken down come 1877. In the March of that year she was recorded as being at the Poplar Workhouse. It’s largely suspected that alcohol was  a factor.

On 3rd September 1878, a full decade before the murders, the SS Princess Alice – a passenger steamer – was making a return journey from Gravesend up the Thames to Swan Pier near London Bridge when it collided with the much larger SS Bywell on the starboard side. The smaller vessel split in two and sank in four minutes. An hour before the clash 75 million imperial gallons of raw sewage were released  into the Thames at Barking and Crossness meaning that many of the deaths were due to poisoning as much as drowning. Over 650 people perished in the disaster.

Elizabeth claimed that her husband and two of her children died on-board. This was an outright lie as John Stride actually died of heart failure six years later and she had no children.  It’s likely that she used this as a hard luck story to illicit money from the Swedish church or anyone who would listen. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

By 1882 she was living at 32 Flower and Dean Street where she would later meet Dr Barnardo. She met a waterside labourer, Michael Kidney in 1885 and they began a tempestuous relationship. They moved to Devonshire Street (now Bancroft Road) in 1887 but were far from happy and their both being heavy drinkers didn’t help.In April 1887 she had Kidney arrested for assault though she did not appear in court to testify against him.

If Kidney was known for roughhousing, Stride herself was certainly not shy of public disorder, being arrested for drunkenness eight or nine times – eight under her own name and one, possibly, under a pseudonym of Annie Fitzgerald.

The day before meeting Barnardo Elizabeth left Kidney, apparently for good, and returned to Flower and Dean Street, having not been there for three months. She would tell people   that she was now in domestic service for various Jewish families in the area. She certainly spoke Yiddish, which would be an advantage over most domestic staff.

On the afternoon of Saturday 29th September she was paid 6d by Mrs Tanner, the lodging house keeper, for cleaning two rooms. Later that day she asked a man called Charles Preston if she could borrow his clothes brush, but he couldn’t find it. She was heading out to the Queen’s Head pub on the corner of Commercial Street and Fashion Street with  Mrs Tanner and wanted to tidy herself up.

Queens head

(The Queen’s Head pub. The façade has only just been newly revealed due to work on the building)

She then returned to Flower and Dean Street an hour later before heading out again. She still had the 6d she’d been paid earlier.

Little is known of her whereabouts for the next few hours but come 11pm she was in The Bricklayers Arms on Settle Street – a long since lost pub and a little off the beaten track for a Spitalfields resident. Two men – John Gardner and J. Best saw her leaving with a man of about the same height with a black moustache, weak sandy eyelashes and who wore a morning suit and a billycock hat. The couple had been kissing and cuddling all night. They teased her that the man was ‘Leather Apron getting ‘round you’ but were good-natured to the extent that they offered to buy the man a drink. He refused and the pair headed towards Commercial Road in the direction of Berner St.

Stride  Street.jpg

Berner Street is now called Henriques Street after the philanthropist Basil Henriques who opened up several boys clubs for the poor Jewish residents.  In 1888 it consisted of a collection of cottages on the west side and, near the junction of Fairclough St, a small gateway at 40 Berner Street called Dutfield’s Yard. On the corner of Berner St and Fairclough St stood the Nelson pub while, next door, a man called Matthew Packer would sell fruit through his window. Then came another cottage and the gates of Dutfield’s Yard.

Here is a photograph from 1909. The wheel on the wall sits in Dutfield’s Yard.

Berner 1909.jpg

And here’s a contemporary view from roughly the same position.

Berners now

The entrance to the yard would have been roughly here with the pipe on the wall marking the left hand side of the gate.


It was also possible to use Dutfield’s Yard to reach the International Workingmen’s Educational Club which sat adjacent. This was a meeting place for local Jews where they could listen to lectures or take part in debates. A good deal of drinking and singing would also take place. Between 11.30 and 11.45 ninety or so people began to leave the building after hearing a lecture on ‘Why Jews should be socialists’ which was presided over by a Mr Morris Eagle.  About thirty or so stayed and continued their conversations and songs. It was around this time that the resident of 64 Berner Street, William Marshall claims he saw Elizabeth talking to a man. They were canoodling but as they past Marshall got a good look at the man.

‘The man was 5’ 6”, stout, middle-aged, had an English accent, mild speech, wore dark pants, peaked sailor-like cap, short black cutaway coat, was probably clean shaven,  decent appearance.’

The only thing he could hear the man say to her was ‘You would say anything but your prayers,’ which is either an amusing putdown or rather sinister.

Around 12.30, PC Smith of the Metropolitan Police, whose beat took into Berner Street, saw Elizabeth and a man quietly talking. The description he gave was similar to Marshall’s

‘The man was 5’ 7”, 28 years old, clean shaven, had dark pants, a dark overcoat, dark hard felt deerstalker.  Had a respectable appearance and carried a newspaper parcel about 18” in length and 6-8” wide’

A deerstalker is only a flap away at the back from being a peaked cap.

At 12.45, another man, James Brown, saw a couple on the corner of Berner St and Fairclough, i.e. a few feet north of where William Marshall had seen his couple. He heard the woman say ‘No, not tonight. Maybe some other night.’

‘The man was 5’ 7”,  average  build (‘not so very stout’) and wore a long coat,  almost down to his heels.’

Of course, this could have been a different couple altogether.

A few minutes earlier, Mrs Fanny Mortimer, who lived two doors away from the IWEC and the entrance to Dutfield’s Yard, heard ‘the measured, heavy stamp of a policeman’ pass her house though she never saw him. When she went outside she saw a man carrying a shiny black bag. The archetypal bag for Jack the Ripper!

I’ll write a piece on the Ripper myths soon but, since we’re here, I’ll deal with this one now. Most film adaptations of the murders picture a man in a top hat and cape, carrying a black bag, no doubt containing an array of knifes and surgical instruments. The bag motif began here with  Mrs Mortimer in Berner Street. In reality, the truth was more prosaic. A few days later a man called Leon Goldstein called in at Leman Street Police Station and identified himself as Mrs Mortimer’s suspicious man. He had been walking from nearby Spectacle Alley to his home in 22 Christian Street. He was indeed carrying a bag, but it contained nothing more than empty cigarette boxes.

As you can see, there was plenty going on in Berner Street as Saturday night became Sunday morning.  Liz has been seen with a man and, if it were the same couple Brown saw, had been kissing him and then denied him anything more.

But it is the next man who is the star witness of the entire ten week period.

Israel Schwartz, a Hungarian Jew who had not been in the country for long, walked south down Berner Street at around 12.45am. He saw a man ‘stop and speak to’ Stride who was, at that point, in the gateway of Dutfield’s Yard. He then either tried to pull the woman into the street or push her into the passage (accounts vary as his statement is second-hand and was possibly dramatised by the press) whereupon she ‘screamed three times, but not very loudly.’ It seems nonsensical that she should be attacked by a man this way and then murdered by another. This was to be her murderer.

‘He was 5’ 5” tall,  30 years old, broad shoulder, fair complexion, small brown moustache, dark pants, black cap with a peak, dark jacket, brown hair’

Schwartz took this to be nothing more than a domestic dispute and wanted nothing to do with it, so he crossed the road. It was then that he noticed a second man who was lighting a pipe and also on the other side of the street.

He was ‘5’11”,  35 years old, fresh complexion, light brown hair, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat with a wide brim and a clay pipe in his hand.’

The first man called ‘Lipski’ but it’s unclear at whom. Schwartz spoke no English but, given the tone and situation, hurried away. He noticed that the second man had begun to follow him so he ran off in  a southerly direction. The second man ran too though Schwartz could not say if he was being chased or if the man with the pipe was being chased too. In any case, Schwartz ‘ran as far as the railway arch’ but the man did not run so far.

The term ‘Lipski’ was pejorative and one peculiar to the East End.The origin of the insult was found very close to  Berners St – in the very next street, in fact – for in April  1887, a local umbrella stick salesman called Israel Lipski murdered a pregnant woman, Miriam Angel, at 16 Batty Street.


Lipski house

(The location of 16 Batty Street, though it is not the same building)

The case was simply bizarre. When Angel’s body was found  in bed it was clear that she had died through consuming nitric acid against her will. To the surprise of investigators, Lipski was found underneath the very same bed.He too had  nitric acid stains around his mouth. He denied murder and claimed that two of his employees  were extorting him and had killed Angel. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to hang.

The case created some sympathy and many believed that the verdict was based more on anti-Semitism than due process with even Queen Victoria registered her doubts. However, when Lipski was allowed to speak to  a rabbi he admitted to the crime, though stating that his motive was theft and not rape as had been suspected.

Since then the term ‘Lipski’ was one of abuse to Jewish residents, so the broad-shouldered man was a local and, you’d assume, not Jewish. Either that or it was the other man’s name and he was calling for his assistance. In any case, according to Abberline there was no one called Lipski in that area in September 1888.

A little later, a man called Louis Diemschutz drove his pony and cart down Commercial Road.  He had been to Crystal Palace and was keen to get home through the rain. As he approached the junction with Berner Street he saw the clock in the window of Harris’s Tobacconist. The building survives today.


(the site of Harris’s Tobacconists on the corner of Commercial Road and Henriques Street, 2017.)

The clock read 1am.

He turned down Berner Street and guided his pony through the gates of Dutfield’s Yard. As he attempted to ‘park’ next to the IWEC  building, the pony lurched away, clearly disturbed. Diemschutz climbed down to see what the problem was. It was as black as pitch in the yard, but he was able to make out an object on the ground. He poked it with his whip and it failed to move. He lit a match and found it to be a woman.

He went indoors to tell his wife and a few others.  He could not tell if the woman were dead or merely drunk, just as Charles Lechmere had done in Bucks Row a month earlier. They went outside with a candle and found the body of Elizabeth Stride. Her throat had been cut and cut recently. Blood still poured from the wound.

Liz spot

Today, the murder site sits within the grounds of  the Harry Gosling Primary School, roughly where the disabled sign is. Hers was the only body  turned on its side and not on its back. She would be facing us in this picture (taken in 2015).

Morris Eagle ran up Berner Street towards Commercial Road shouting ‘Police’. Mrs Mortimer heard the mayhem and believed it to be a row. William Marshall, much further down Berner Street, also heard the cries.

Reserve Police Constable Albert Collins and Police Constable Henry Lamb were found and brought back to view the body. Collins was then sent to 100 Commercial Road to find Doctor Frederick William Blackwell. When he arrived Lamb gave the order to shut the gates so nobody could leave. He searched the premises and examined every bystanders’ hands for blood stains.

Blackwell observed:

“The deceased was lying on her left side obliquely across the passage, her face looking towards the right wall. Her legs were drawn up, her feet close against the wall of the right side of the passage. Her head was resting beyond the carriage-wheel rut, the neck lying over the rut. Her feet were 3 yards from the gateway. Her dress was unfastened at the neck. The neck and chest were quite warm, as were also the legs, and the face was slightly warm. The hands were cold. The right hand was open and on the chest, and was smeared with blood. The left hand, lying on the ground, was partially closed, and contained a small packet of cachous wrapped in tissue paper. There were no rings, nor marks of rings, on her hands. The appearance of the face was quite placid. The mouth was slightly open. The deceased had round her neck a check silk scarf, the bow of which was turned to the left and pulled very tight.

 “In the neck was a long incision which exactly corresponded with the lower border of the scarf. The border was slightly frayed, as if by a sharp knife. The incision in the neck commenced on the left side, 2 1/2″ below the angle of the jaw, and almost in a direct line with it, nearly severing the vessels on that side, cutting the windpipe completely in two, and terminating on the opposite side 1 1/2″ below the angle of the right jaw, but without severing the vessels on that side…The blood was running down the gutter into the drain in the opposite direction of the feet. there was about 1 lb. of clotted blood close by the body, and a stream all the way from there to the back door of the club.”

There was no signs of asphixiation before the throat was cut and certainly no eviscerations.

This all seems to be a little un-Ripper like. Was this, then, a Ripper murder?

It’s been a discussion point for years and there are strong cases on either side. Sir Melville Macnaghten of Scotland Yard stated in 1894 in his famous memoranda that ‘the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims and 5 only’  and, though he was not in situ throughout the case, he had more information on the case than modern day commentators. While assaults and cases of domestic cruelty were common around Whitechapel (amongst Elizabeth Stride’s  possessions was the key to a padlock as Michael Kidney was not averse to locking her indoors), murders in the street were not. Nor, for that matter, were throat cuttings.

So, a knife attack in the street a matter of weeks after two in the last month must automatically be considered amongst the horrors perpetrated by the newly-named Ripper.

But there’s so much wrong with this murder of Elizabeth Stride. Serial killers are capable of changing their modus  operandi as we’ll see later with the death of Mary Kelly, but this one seems too unusual.

Firstly, there’s the knife. Though the cut on Stride’s throat was keen enough, it was done by a small blunt knife and the Ripper preferred a long and very sharp blade, so much so that he used one less than an hour later.  Nichols and Chapman had had their throats cuts so deep that the head was nearly removed. Stride’s less so.

Then there’s the location. Polly Nichols was killed in a quiet street – so quiet that they were not witnessed by anyone even before they entered Bucks Row – while Chapman was lured into a yard, away from the prying eyes of Hanbury St residents on their way to work. The killer needed solitude for his work and as there was no exit point from Dutfield’s Yard other than the gateway, it would be far too dangerous to remove organs from a body with only one method of escape.

Let’s  also  consider the witnesses.  Not only were there several in the street,  including one – possibly two – whom he’d abused, but Dutfields Yard had dozens of people leaving it. True, it was very dark, but did he really intend to tear the poor woman open and hope passers-by would not notice? It’s a bit of a stretch.

The common explanation is that it was ‘Jack’ but Diemschutz’s pony and trap had disrupted him before he could get to work. There’s a chance that he was still in the yard when the Diemschutz prodded the corpse with his whip, hiding in the shadows, and used the time needed to find his wife to make good his escape through the gateway.  If that’s the case,  then maybe the footsteps Mrs Mortimer heard was of the murderer rather than a policeman.

Neither Mrs Mortimer nor Schwartz were called to the inquest – though Schwartz was tracked down by the press.. This an extraordinary decision.

Matthew Packer , who claimed to have sold grapes to  the couple, became something of a star witness in the affair for the wrong reasons.  Questioned at 9am the following morning he said:

 “No. I saw no one standing about neither did I see anyone go up the yard. I never saw anything suspicious or heard the slightest noise and know nothing about the murder until I heard of it in the morning”

That’s that then.


A few days later, two private detectives searched Dutfield’s Yard and found a grape stalk near the sewer pipe where the body had lay. They made the connection with Packer’s employment and took him to see the body in Golden Lane mortuary.  However, as a test, he witnessed Catherine Eddowes’ body whom he did not recognise. Two days later, Sergeant White, who had originally interviewed him, returned to his house only to be told by Rose Packer, his wife, that the two  detectives had collected her husband and taken him to view Stride’s body.

Packer confirmed that he had sold her the grapes at around 11pm that night. Somewhat at odds with his original statement and  impossible as at 11pm Stride  was just leaving the Carpenter’s Arms.

In any case, the detectives claimed to have taken Packer in a cab to meet with no lesser personage than Sir Charles Warren. A report was written about Packer’s second statement which read:

“Matthew Packer keeps a shop in Berner St. has a few grapes in window, black & white.

 On Sat night about 11pm a young man from 25-30 – about 5.7 with long black coat buttoned up – soft felt hat, kind of yankee hat rather broad shoulders – rather quick in speaking, rough voice. I sold him 1/2 pound black grapes 3d. A woman came up with him from Back Church end (the lower end of street) She was dressed in black frock & jacket, fur round bottom of jacket with black crape bonnet, she was playing with a flower like a geranium white outside and red inside. I identify the woman at the St.George’s mortuary as the one I saw that night-

 They passed by as though they were going up Com- Road, but- instead of going up they crossed to the other side of the road to the Board School, & were there for about 1/2 an hour till I shd. say 11.30. talking to one another. I then shut up my shutters.

 Before they passed over opposite to my shop, they wait[ed] near to the club for a few minutes apparently listening to the music.

 I saw no more of them after I shut up my shutters.I put the man down as a young clerk.

 He had a frock coat on – no gloves

 He was about 1 1/2 inch or 2 or 3 inches – a little higher than she was.”

 He was not called to the inquest and with good reason.  Matthew Packer lies.

A few weeks later he claimed that he had seen the murderer on Commercial Road and was rendered  insensible with fear. I suspect that Matthew liked the attention and he would not be the first person to embroider himself into the story. In any case, when the contents of Elizabeth’s stomach was examined it contained ‘cheese, potatoes and farinaceous powder’ and no trace of grapes. ‘Farinaceous’ means flour or starch and is, in my view, the loveliest word in Ripper folklore.

But  let’s go back to Dutfield’s Yard and assume that  Elizabeth’s murderer was indeed Jack the Ripper. He had killed but he that was not enough. For  reasons best known to himself he wanted to slice open a victim and perform mutilations and/or take a trophy with him. As the conditions were not ideal, he would have to try again though it would prove trickier as there would be policeman swarming the streets. He had to be where there would be rich pickings.

Ten minutes away to the west of  Commercial  Road stands St Botolph’s Church or, to give it its full name, ‘St Botolph without Aldgate and Holy Trinity Minories’ (pronounced ‘minneries’). Records of the church date back as far as 1115 AD though it is believed to  have been built at the time of the Norman conquest. It still stands today – an incongruous sight, being a Gothic church beneath skyscrapers of metal and glass.

St Botolph

(St Botolph’s Church Without Aldgate, 2017)

Though the church is easily accessible today, in 1888 it sat on an island, surrounded by roadways such as Houndsditch and Aldgate itself. As prostitutes could be arrested for as little as stopping on a street corner, the island meant that the unfortunates could circle the church without police  intervention as long as they didn’t stop, they were not breaking the law. No doubt to the chagrin of the clergy, it became known locally as ‘the Church of Prostitutes’.

That side of Aldgate is not in the East End as such as it falls within the City of London. Today you can spot the road barriers which bear the crest of the City up to Middlesex Street. Then they disappear as the area gives way to Greater London. Hence, Aldgate tube station is in the City of London while Aldgate East tube, a couple of minutes walk away, is not.

City of London barrier

When the murderer passed across Houndsditch, he had walked from the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police and into City of London Police territory. It is for this reason that Catherine Eddowes, a 46 year old resident of Cooney’s Lodging House at 55 Flower and Dean St, is by far the unluckiest of all his victims.

Kate E

Catherine was born in Wolverhampton in 1842 to George Eddowes and Catherine Evans. The family would eventually walk to London though Catherine would return to Wolverhampton from time to time. When she was 21 she took up with Thomas Conway from the 18th Royal Irish. She had the initials ‘TC’ tattooed onto her left arm.

They moved to Birmingham and sold books authored by Conway. They also produced what were known as gallow ballads, where they would sell their creations to the audience at the hangings. She even sold them at her own cousin’s execution.

They had three children but split in 1881 and it was at that point that she moved to Cooney’s in Flower and Dean Street. She then met a market worker named John Kelly.

As with many of the East End poor, it was Eddowes and Kelly’s practice to go hop picking in the summer months. Annie Chapman had talked of going to Kent the week she died, but Catherine made it to  Hunton though the trip was unsuccessful. It was on this excursion that she was given a pawn ticket for a shirt by a friend. It would later be used to identify her.

Kelly returned to Cooney’s on Friday 28th September while Catherine went to the casual ward in Shoe Lane. The next day she met  up with Kelly and pawned a pair of his boots where they were given enough money for breakfast.  Still struggling for cash, she told Kelly that she would visit her daughter in Bermondsey to raise some money.  This was probably a ruse as she had no idea where Annie was at the time as her daughter was tired of bailing her mother out and didn’t let her know where she lived.

There are conflicting reports of Catherine’s temperament and habits. The staff at Cooney’s claimed that she would not often be outdoors after 10pm and that her drinking wasn’t excessive save for the odd session. Kelly would later state that she was not a streetwalker.

She was certainly drunk on the evening of Saturday 29th September and was seen standing in the middle of the road making a sound like a fire engine. When City Policeman Louis Robinson came across her she was dead drunk surrounded by a crowd outside 29 Aldgate High Street – mere metres from the City of London border. Robinson, along with PC George Simmons took her to Bishopsgate Station  to be arrested. Had she been found across Houndsditch in the Metropolitan Police district she would have most likely been taken to Leman Street Police Station.

Upon her arrival at the station she gave her name as ‘Nothing’ and was put in a cell.

It was the practice for the City Police to keep their drunks in till 1am, by which time they  could not obtain more alcohol and cease to cause any further trouble. The Metropolitan Police preferred to sling them out when they were sober enough, probably because cell space was an issue. Had Catherine been in Leman Street she would have been released much earlier than 1am and therefore not ran into  her murderer. As I say, the unluckiest of all the victims – arrested  mere metres from the apparent safety of the Metropolitan District.

At 12.15am she told PC Hutt that she was capable of looking after herself, but was kept in for another 40 minutes. She had now sobered up and gives her name as Mary Ann Kelly and her address  as 6 Fashion Street. At 1am, the same time Louis Diemschutz was entering Dutfield’s Yard just over a mile away, she was released, informing Hutt ‘I shall get a damn fine hiding when I  get home.’ Hutt replied ‘And it would serve you right. You have no right to  get drunk.’ With the words ‘Goodnight, old cock’ she left the station and, curiously, turned left rather than right where Flower and Dean Street lay. She seemed to have been heading  back towards Aldgate and, possibly, St Botolph’s Church.

On the corner of Duke  Street, Aldgate stood the Imperial Club. At 1.35am, three men – Joseph Lawende, Joseph Levy and Harry Harris left the club and talked briefly before heading home. On the other side of the road, they noticed Catherine talking to a man who was about 30 years old, 5’ 7” and wore a salt and pepper jacket, a red kerchief and a grey cloth peaked cap. Lawende later said that he had the appearance of a sailor. Catherine had her hand on the man’s chest though not in a defensive manner.

Joseph Lawende

(Joseph Lawende)

Levy said to Harris ‘Look there. I don’t like going home by myself when I see those characters about.’ This, coupled with the fact that he refused to give any information at the inquest, has led people to believe that he may  have recognised or even known the man, but this is largely speculation.

At 1.40am, PC James Harvey walked past Church Passage which leads into Mitre Square,  though his beat did not include entering it. He heard and saw nothing untoward though the Ripper was at work nearby.

At 1.44am, PC Edward Watkins entered Mitre Square and shone his lamp into the four corners. In the south west corner,  he found the bloodied corpse of Catherine Eddowes. She looked, as he said, ‘like she’d been ripped up like a pig in the market.’

Mitre Square ThenMitre Sq 2015

(Two depictions of Mitre Square, the latter taken in 2015.  The area is now a building site.)


(The location of Catherine’s body in Mitre Square. Note: NOT my footprints, though I did tell the couple standing there what had happened beneath their feet. The woman was appalled!)

In preparing these articles I took the decision not to show the autopsy  pictures. The images of Tabram, Nichols, Chapman and Stride were of the face only and used purely as a means of establishing the identities of  the women, but there are full images of wounds inflicted on  Eddowes and Mary Kelly. I urge those of a squeamish disposition not to Google them. Seriously. They are simply horrific. I’m  aware that this statement might make the reader more curious as it did with my friend Serena.  She now wishes she hadn’t investigated  further.

Serena's warning

(Serena says ‘Don’t be like, Serena’)

If Lawende et al. had seen the murderer with Eddowes at 1.35, he would only have had nine minutes to persuade her into the pitch black square, throttle her, cut her throat, remove her kidney and uterus, cut off her nose and carry out almost delicate cuts on her cheeks. All in complete darkness.

The nightwatchman of the Kearley and Tonge warehouse  (visible in the old image of Mitre Square above) was George Morris, a retired policeman. He heard nothing and claimed he would gave easily heard a cry. A few days earlier he told a friend that he wished the ‘butcher’ would try his luck in Mitre Square so  he could ‘give  him a doing.’

He was cleaning the stairs when Watkins hammered on his door and urged ‘For  God’s sake,mate. Come to  my assistance.’ Morris still had his old police whistle and  raised the alarm, bringing PCs Harvey and Holland to the body.

Dr Frederick Brown was  called for and he gave a very long statement – the more salient points being:

“I believe the wound in the throat was first inflicted. I believe she must have been lying on the ground.

The wounds on the face and abdomen prove that they were inflicted by a sharp, pointed knife, and that in the abdomen by one six inches or longer.

I believe the perpetrator of the act must have had considerable knowledge of the position of the organs in the abdominal cavity and the way of removing them. It required a great deal of medical knowledge to have removed the kidney and to know where it was placed. The parts removed would be of no use for any professional purpose.

 I think the perpetrator of this act had sufficient time, or he would not have nicked the lower eyelids. It would take at least five minutes.

I cannot assign any reason for the parts being taken away. I feel sure that there was no struggle, and believe it was the act of one person.”

 The man had taken the left kidney and a large part of the uterus. Dr Brown was able to  establish that the remaining kidney was ‘bloodless’ – an indication of Bright’s Disease. A fact which will become relevant in the next article.

Both the Metropolitan and City of London forces were scouring the area. Roads were closed, but the killer obviously knew how to slip away.


The dramas of the night were not yet over.

At 2.55am PC Albert Long was walking his beat down Goulston Street which is on the East End side of Aldgate about 5-7 minutes walk away from Mitre Square. As he passed 108-119 Wentworth Dwellings, he spotted a piece of apron lying in the doorway. It was covered with blood and, shall we say, other bodily matter (guess). At first he suspected that there was another body nearby so he made a search of the area. He swore that the apron had not been there when he passed at 2.20am. What had the Ripper been doing between leaving Mitre Square at c.1.44am and c2.55am when there was only a small  distance between the two  sites?


(The doorway of 108-119 Wentworth Dwellings where the apron and graffito were found)

Long met with another constable who informed him of the Mitre Square atrocity. He told the man to stand guard and ensure no one left the building. He then took the apron to Commercial Street Police Station. It was later confirmed that it was the missing part of  Catherine Eddowes’ apron. The murderer had cut it off and cleaned his hands and knife in the doorway of Goulston Street before heading off.

Incidentally, had he been walking away from Mitre Square and down Goulston Street he would have been heading towards Bell Lane and Crispin Street and subsequently straight up to Dorset Street, Fashion St and the Ten Bells. Had he turned right at the next junction he would have been on Wentworth Street and onto Commercial  Road where the rookeries of Flower and Dean Street and Thrawl Street  lay close.

The apron was not the only discovery made by PC Long. On the door jamb above the apron was a graffito written in chalk on the black brickwork. It read (though versions differ)

“The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”

It’s unclear what this could mean. The killer – if he is responsible for what became known as ‘the Goulston Street Graffito’ – either seems to be blaming the Jews for the murders or is proud of them and his people. And that’s if they refer to the murders at all, though the positioning of  the apron (which Long saw first) may be a factor.

Met Police

(The version attached to the Home Office  report)

Senior police officials came to the scene and discussed  what to do with the message. The City Police wanted the writing to be photographed, but that  would mean waiting for a photographer to show up. It would soon be light and Goulston St, being a market area (it still is), would be teeming with Jewish stallholders and Gentiles buying their wares. The Metropolitan Police said that they could not take the risk of it being seen as racial tensions were already high and a full scale riot was more than possible. After all, this was not long after John Pizer was nearly lynched. Then some recommended deleting  the words ‘Juwes/Jews’ but that would fail to disguise the context.

Sir Charles Warren was already in the East End investigating the murders and arrived at Goulston Street at 5am. Despite protests he was of one mind and told his juniors to scrub the wall clean

.A modern

(A modern day version of the graffito found in Gunthorpe St, near the Martha Tabram murder site)

Did he destroy the greatest piece of evidence in the whole case? It may seem so and would be unthinkable today but I have some sympathy with him. Goulston St was a predominantly Jewish area and the criminal fraternities and  gangs of Whites Row and Dorset Street were only a handful of streets away.

There would later be accusations about Warren, claiming that he understood the message’s true meaning and that it was concerned the Masons of which he was a member. It’s nonsense from start to  finish. The man simply wanted to bring peace on a night which had already cost two lives.

Elizabeth Stride was buried in the East London Cemetery at the expense of the undertaker, Mr Hawkes Catherine Eddowes two days later at the City  of London Cemetery – her remains being not too far from Polly Nichols’. Both graves now have a plaque.

London awoke to  the horror of the two murders. On 1st October, the Central News Office received a postcard from ‘Saucy Jacky’ which boasted  ‘double event this time’. The term ‘double event’ became the covering title of the murders of Sunday 30th September 1888. The police were soon receiving daily missives  from wannabe Jacks and now graffiti had started too.


THE MURDER OF ANNIE CHAPMAN: ‘WILL YOU?’ – 8th September, 1888

Following the murder of Polly Nichols in Bucks Row, the Metropolitan Police had their suspicions as to the culprit(s) and thought it would only be a matter of time before the guilty were brought to  justice.Any number of violent gangs of the East End, who blackmailed prostitutes or simply extorted them wherever possible, fell under the watchful gaze of Metropolitan H Division. When Emma Elizabeth Smith was attacked in April 1888, as she claimed, by a group of assailants rather than one murderous man, it justified that belief. Once arrested and questioned, it would not be long before gang   members would  willingly give up their former pals in order to save themselves. However, though they didn’t realise it at that point, the police were about to deal with the more untraceable assassin – one who had no link whatsoever to his prey.

Even in 1888 the majority of attacks and murders were conducted by people who knew the victims and were thus easier to apprehend, but the deaths of Martha Tabram and Polly Nichols led the authorities to new and horrifying ground.

Intense media pressure didn’t help. Come the late 1880’s numerous newspapers and sheets sprung up with barely disguised agendas against the police and the Home Office. They wanted to know just how the biggest city in the world, which sat at the hub of the Empire, could fail to protect its own daughters.

The simple truth was that the police were trying to find the smallest of needles in an ever-growing haystack. Their man looked no different from the tens of thousands of innocent city dwellers who strolled around Whitechapel each day while his targets were equally keen to avoid police interference as they went about their business.  How could you protect women who led potential killers into places where they could be murdered?

It was on or around the day of the Bucks Row atrocity that another prostitute was attacked in Whitechapel.  This time it was not a murder, but a fight between two destitute women.

Accounts vary into how the brawl came about, but the outcome was that a woman called Eliza Cooper gave another, a 48 year old named Annie Chapman, a black eye and bruised chest.  Depending on which tale you prefer, the women were rivals for the affection of a local man, Edward Stanley, and either fought over him, a half-penny piece or an unreturned cake of soap – not a story to excite the papers. Either way, Annie was not well and upon bumping into her friend Amelia Palmer a day or so later, told her that she was meant to go to Stratford but felt too ill. However, she would have to earn some money for her lodgings in Crossingham’s lodging house at 35, Dorset St, Spitalfields.

This is the first time that Dorset St is mentioned in the case but it won’t be the last. Generally known as ‘the worst street in London’ and was renowned for being the epicentre of local crime – a kind of Victorian Mos Eisley.  Crowded with lodging houses and dimly-lit pubs, it was where people went when they were at the lowest point of their lives. In 1963, some 75 years after the murders, the writer Ralph L. Finn described it thus.

“It was a street of whores. There is, I always feel a subtle difference between an whore and a prostitute. At least we used to think so. Prozzies were younger, and more attractive. Whores were debauched old bags. It teemed with nasty characters – desperate, wicked, lecherous, razor-slashing hoodlums. No Jews lived there. Only a few bold ‘choots’ (immigrant Dutch Jews) had the temerity even to walk through it. There were pubs every few yards. Bawdy houses every few feet. It was peopled by roaring drunken fighting-mad killers”


(Dorset  Street as it appeared  in Jack London’s book The People of the Abyss)

Annie came to Dorset St by an all too familiar route. She was once a semi-respectable woman living in Windsor, working along with her husband John in domestic service. However, she was a notorious drinker and soon became something of an embarrassment to her employers.  The couple split up in 1884, possibly because of her habits though John too was had alcohol issues, and Annie moved to London. She had three children by then – Emily Ruth, Annie Georgia and John. Emily died of meningitis aged eleven while John was a cripple and in the care of a charitable school.

There was clearly some affection remaining from the marriage as John still paid Annie an allowance of ten shillings a week, made payable to the Commercial St Post Office. This meant that, at the time, she did not have to resort to prostitution. Indeed, she added to her income by crochet work and selling flowers. However, in 1886, John died, succumbing to dropsy and cirrhosis of the liver and the payment stopped. It tore Annie’s world apart and she soon cut a melancholy figure who would often discuss her cruel luck. As she became hopelessly addicted to alcohol with little means of paying for it, she sank and sank before finding herself in Dorset St like so many before her.

She soon became a fixture around Spitalfields and was known either as Dark Annie or Annie Sivvey as she once took up with a man who sold sieves. She was known for her good teeth – a rarity then – and striking blue eyes. She was small and stout.

Dorset St no longer exists. In 1904 the name was changed to Duval Street, but even that was demolished in the 1920s to make way for the London Fruit and Wool Exchange building. It was reduced further to being nothing more than a service road between the Exchange and an unappealing car park. It is now completely demolished and is today it is merely a building site.

Dorset 2

(Looking down what would have been Dorset St in 2016 with Brushfield St to the right)

The only surviving mainstays  from that time are the Ten Bells pub on the corner of Commercial St and Fournier Street and Christ Church – the Nicholas Hawksmoor church which dominates the area. Any passers-by today will see at the same edifices that Annie looked at as she hobbled around the streets looking for clients. That past still lives today.


(The Ten Bells pub where Annie  drank and Christ Church)

Although the murders had scared the local ‘unfortunates’ they still had to make a living and on the late evening of 7th September – a week after the murder – and early hours of Saturday 8th, Annie Chapman found herself in such a predicament.  She had no money for her doss and was desperate for funds. The house deputy manager at Crossingham’s, one Timothy Donovan, had allowed her to sit in the kitchen earlier that day and did so again at around 11.30pm.   She claimed to have been in the infirmary all week though there is no record to show that she did. It is more likely that she had picked up some medicine or other.  She certainly had some pills in her possession. A fellow inmate of the lodging house, William Stevens, said that the box in which she kept them had broken so she had wrapped them in a piece of envelope she had found on the mantelpiece. This would become relevant later.

She  headed out to the Britannia pub – locally known as ‘Ringers’ after the publican – on the corner of Dorset St and returned back at around 1.30am a little worse for drink.


(Commercial St. Ringers is the pub on the left. The Ten Bells is visible on the right with the pillars outside.)

The night watchman, John Evans who went by the nickname of ‘Brummy,’ told her that she must leave if she could not pay for her doss. She agreed, but went looking for Donovan with whom she had the following exchange.

Annie: I haven’t sufficient money for a bed, but don’t let it. I shall not be long before I am in.

Evans: You can find money for your beer and you can’t find money for your bed?

Annie:  Never mind, Tim. I shall soon be back. Don’t let the bed.

Polly Nichols had had almost the same conversation in nearby Thrawl Street a week earlier.

A short walk from Dorset St, behind the Ten Bells, lies Hanbury Street. It was at the other end of Hanbury Street where Robert Paul and Charles Lechmere met the policeman to report the body of Polly Nichols, but Spitalfields lies about half a mile further to the east. It connects Vallance Road, later to be the home of the Kray brothers, to Spitalfields Market so was usually busy at all hours.

Number 29 was on the north side of the street and consisted of a three storey building with an attic area and cellar. There were eight rooms in it with which 17 people lived.  The owner, Mrs Amelia Richardson, ran a packing case business in the cellar while right hand side of the building consisted of a cat’s meat shop (Note: Meat for cats, not, as some suggest, meat made from cats!). Such was the transitory nature of its inhabitants the front door was seldom locked. A small passageway ran through the building and led to a yard with an outhouse.

Hanbury Mason

(The actor James Mason visits 29 Hanbury Street in the 1960s in the quirky film documentary The London Nobody Knows)

Hanbury Passage

(The passage way at 29 Hanbury Street)

Enterprising prostitutes were always on the looking out for quiet areas to bring clients so it wasn’t uncommon for residents to find strangers about the place. After all, there could be no passing policemen in a backyard. Equally, there was no way the police could protect anyone who was in there with strange men.

At 4.45am on the morning of 8th September, Amelia Richardson’s son, John, sat on the steps overlooking the back yard. He was having some difficulty with one of his boots and tried to trim a wayward piece of leather with a house knife. He gave up and went to work five minutes later. He saw nothing unusual.

At 5am a market worker, Mrs Elizabeth Long, left her house in Church Street on her way to work. Dawn had broken nine minutes earlier. She would later state that she heard the clock in the Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane sound the time as she passed down Hanbury Street. It was 5.30 as she approached No. 29 where she saw a couple talking outside. The woman was Annie Chapman who was facing her. The man had her back to her, but she noticed he was wearing a brown deerstalker hat and was of ‘shabby genteel appearance’ (good clothes with had faded with age and damage) She heard a brief snatch of dialogue.

Man: Will you?

Annie: Yes.

The man – who was only a little taller than the woman (Annie was five foot tall) – had a foreign accent.

At 5.15am next door in No. 27 a man called Albert Cadoche entered the yard next door to relieve  himself.  He heard voices from over the fence, though the only word he was able to make out was ‘No.’ The poor man was suffering from a urinary infection so there were many trips to the yard in the night. At 5.30am, he returned to the yard and heard the sound of someone slumping against the fence. His curiosity was not sufficiently aroused as he knew full well what the yard was often used for. He went back indoors without further investigation.

Shortly before 6am, John Davis, a resident at 29, entered the backyard. He would never forget the sight that met his eyes.

“Annie was lying on her back, parallel with the fence, which was to her left; Her head was about two feet from the back wall and six to nine inches left of the bottom step;  Her legs were bent at the knees; Her feet were flat on the ground,  pointing towards the shed; Her dress was pushed above her knees; Her left arm lay  across her left breast; Her right arm at her side; The small intestines,  still  attached by a cord, and part of the abdomen lay above her right shoulder;  Two flaps of skin from the lower abdomen lay  in a large quantity of blood above the left shoulder; Her throat was deeply cut  in a jagged manner; A  neckerchief was around her neck.”

Davis ran straight into the street and confronted two men, James Green and James Kent, and told them about the body while in an understandable state of panic. Another man, Henry Holland, arrived and went into the yard while the others stood in the passage. They soon went their separate ways to summon the police.

Hanbury Yard

(The backyard to 29 Hanbury Street. The body was found to the right of the steps between the door and the fence)

An Inspector Chandler arrived to find a crowd in the passageway.   He soon cleared the area and sent for the Divisional Surgeon, Dr George Bagster Phillips, who duly arrived in minutes. He later announced.

“Estimated time of death was viewed as c.4.30am.”

This has been a discussion point for many years. Phillips seemed adamant that this was the time of death, but Cadoche, Long and Richardson are only at their stations by an hour later.  Bearing in mind where he was sitting at 4.45am, did John Richardson really not notice a ripped and decaying corpse directly in front of him?

Granted, there are discrepancies between the statements (Cadoche was convinced he heard ‘No’ fifteen minutes before Long had passed the couple) but it is the medico’s judgement which is the most out of kilter.

One thing was for certain and that was that the murderer had started to find his feet. While Polly Nichols had been ‘ripped’ her slaying was nothing compared to the Chapman murder. Bagster Phillips, according to press reports, gave a more detailed description of the wounds (WARNING: This is graphic)

“He noticed the same protrusion of the tongue. There was a bruise over the right temple. On the upper eyelid there was a bruise, and there were two distinct bruises, each the size of a man’s thumb, on the forepart of the top of the chest. The stiffness of the limbs was now well marked. There was a bruise over the middle part of the bone of the right hand. There was an old scar on the left of the frontal bone. The stiffness was more noticeable on the left side, especially in the fingers, which were partly closed. There was an abrasion over the ring finger, with distinct markings of a ring or rings. The throat had been severed as before described. the incisions into the skin indicated that they had been made from the left side of the neck. There were two distinct clean cuts on the left side of the spine. They were parallel with each other and separated by about half an inch. The muscular structures appeared as though an attempt had made to separate the bones of the neck. There were various other mutilations to the body, but he was of the opinion that they occurred subsequent to the death of the woman, and to the large escape of blood from the division of the neck.


The deceased was far advanced in disease of the lungs and membranes of the brain, but they had nothing to do with the cause of death. The stomach contained little food, but there was not any sign of fluid. There was no appearance of the deceased having taken alcohol, but there were signs of great deprivation and he should say she had been badly fed. He was convinced she had not taken any strong alcohol for some hours before her death. The injuries were certainly not self-inflicted. The bruises on the face were evidently recent, especially about the chin and side of the jaw, but the bruises in front of the chest and temple were of longer standing – probably of days. He was of the opinion that the person who cut the deceased throat took hold of her by the chin, and then commenced the incision from left to right. He thought it was highly probable that a person could call out, but with regard to an idea that she might have been gagged he could only point to the swollen face and the protruding tongue, both of which were signs of suffocation.


The abdomen had been entirely laid open: the intestines, severed from their mesenteric attachments, had been lifted out of the body and placed on the shoulder of the corpse; whilst from the pelvis, the uterus and its appendages with the upper portion of the vagina and the posterior two thirds of the bladder, had been entirely removed. No trace of these parts could be found and the incisions were cleanly cut, avoiding the rectum, and dividing the vagina low enough to avoid injury to the cervix uteri. Obviously the work was that of an expert- of one, at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical or pathological examinations as to be enabled to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife, which must therefore must have at least 5 or 6 inches in length, probably more. The appearance of the cuts confirmed him in the opinion that the instrument, like the one which divided the neck, had been of a very sharp character. The mode in which the knife had been used seemed to indicate great anatomical knowledge.”

 That last sentence was vital. The inference being that Jack knew what he was doing.

That said it’s important to note that this does not necessarily mean the Ripper was a mad doctor as so many depictions on screen have had him, merely that he had some rudimentary knowledge of anatomy. A horse slaughterer, for example, would know the best way to kill with the minimum fuss and Jack was not a messy murderer when it came to the actual ending of life.  The police had already noted that he had cut Polly Nichols’ throat from left to right, slicing the left carotid artery and thus minimising the spray of blood. An amateur, choosing right to left, would be covered in an instant. Also, it seemed that he first throttled his victims to render them insensible AND lower their blood pressure before cutting their throats which would also result in a less bloody kill. He’d thought ahead even though his choice of prey was seemingly random.

Phillips also noted that Annie’s personal effects – two combs, a piece of coarse muslin and a ripped piece of envelope containing the letter M and the stamp of the Royal Sussex Regiment – lay at Annie’s feet. Rather, he felt they were specifically placed or laid there, though he could not say why. He also noted there was a bruise on her finger where a brass ring had been tore off. What could a man want with such a useless cheap trinket? Then again, what could he want with a bladder?

The police were interested in the envelope.  Remember that Martha Tabram and her friend Pearly Poll had been seen with two military men on the night of that murder.  However, it wasn’t long before William Stevens told them about the lodging house incident with the pill box and the torn off envelope.

It was around this time that the name of a suspect came up. Not from the police as such, but from the people who knew the area. A man known as Leather Apron would hang around the streets and was known to threaten prostitutes with a knife.  Desperate for any lead, Whitechapel H Division investigated further.

Then they saw it.

In the yard of 29 Hanbury Street, not two feet from Annie Chapman’s eviscerated corpse lay a saturated leather apron.

Leather Apron

The press went to town on the discovery and there was some also relief for the police. On the Monday following the murder, Sergeant William Thick called at 22 Mulberry Street and arrested John Pizer. Thick had known Pizer for eighteen years and recognised that this was the man they wanted. Pizer had acquired that nickname as he wore a leather apron in his work as a boot finisher. Furthermore, in accordance with Elizabeth Long’s description he was a Polish Jew.

Pizer was aware of the press reports and that the East End was baying for blood so he kept quiet.  He dare not go to the police himself lest he be torn to pieces by a lynch mob. He seemed almost relieved when Thick arrived.

Of course, he wasn’t the murderer. On the night of the Nichols’ murder he was in Holloway – a fair distance away – staying at Crossham’s lodging house (not to be confused with Crossingham’s of Dorset Street). He, like many east-enders, had watched the fire at Shadwell Dry Dock on the night of the Bucks Row murder. Furthermore, he had chatted to both the house owner and two policeman about it several miles away from the incident. He had a similarly strong alibi for the Chapman killing.

He later received damages from the press for damaging his reputation, which seems only fair. Not a good man by any stretch, but also not a psychotic serial killer either.

As for the apron in the yard of 29 Hanbury Street, it belonged to a resident there. His mother had washed it and left it outside to dry overnight.

The public were not satisfied and demanded vengeance.

Local idiots didn’t help. On the evening of the murder, the fantastically named Emmanuel Delbast Violenia of Hanbury St told the police that he had seen a man threatening a woman with a knife that morning outside number 29. Upon Pizer’s arrest he picked him out of a police line-up, but it became clear that the man was just seeking attention as his story changed on several occasions.  He was eventually reprimanded for wasting police time.

Another interesting suspect arose in the Prince Albert pub which stood at the corner of Brushfield Street (which lay to the north and parallel to Dorset Street) and Steward Street. The wife of the proprietor, the equally splendidly named Mrs Fiddymont was in the bar at 7am, an hour after the murder, with her friend Mary Chappell when a man came in and order a half pint of ‘four ale’. She noticed that he had blood spots on the back of his hands and appeared anxious.  He saw the ladies looking at him through a mirror at the back of the bar so swallowed his drink in one gulp and strode out. They followed him but lost him almost immediately.

A few days later, Inspector Abberline later arrested a butcher called Jacob Isenschmid who was known locally as the Mad Pork Butcher.  Isenschmid was often violent and was seen with a large knife, but Abberline lacked the evidence to hold him. The fact that he was clearly insane didn’t help. He was sent to the Islington workhouse and then Bow infirmary. He fits Mrs Fiddymont’s description perfectly but was not the Ripper and the murders continued when Isenschmid was miles away. Luckily for him, he was not lynched either.

Annie Chapman was buried in an unmarked grave in Manor Park cemetery.  The family asked that the funeral be kept secret from the press, finally affording her at least some dignity.

Today, 29  Hanbury Street is nothing more than a private car park. Access is available at weekends when it becomes an indoor market but there is nothing to mark the spot where she met her death.

Green spot

(The green dot marks the spot where Annie was found. Photo taken in January 2016)

It wasn’t much of a life for Annie and her exit from it was demeaning to say the least – ripped to pieces next to a urine soaked fence in a backyard which nobody cared about.

It would be three weeks before the murderer struck again. A long delay given the other killings, but on this occasion one was not enough and Whitechapel awoke to not one murder, but two.

Next week: The Double Event


If you haven’t had a  chance to  read the background on the Jack the Ripper murders, it may well be worth looking here first before we come to the first ‘canonical’ victim.


Following the deaths of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram – found a couple of hundred metres apart – Whitechapel, though horrified, soon settled down and life slowly returned to normal. The summer heat was dying off at this point to be replaced by rain and thunderstorms, but the pubs were busy, costermongers continued to loudly sell their wares and the daily grind of trying to secure enough money to get through the day went on regardless.

In the form of public enjoyment, entertainment came at a price in the East End so the music halls were mostly patronised by those in the West End. However, come the end of the August, with the investigation into Martha Tabram’s recent murder in full flow, the area enjoyed something of a freebie when the warehouse of Messrs Dibble & Co, Engineers in Shadwell Dry Dock caught alight and gutted the building. The conflagration extended to the vessel Connovia, which was in for repair at the time, causing even more of a spectacle. The fire was visible for miles and seemed to set the sky ablaze.  Another fire also started that night in the Pool of London.

The East End could never resist a good fire and hundreds gathered at a safe distance to watch it burn and crackle. One viewer, Emily Holland, a resident of Willmott’s Lodging House at 18 Thrawl Street, stayed for a while but, as the rain was coming down she decided to return to her home. It was gone 2am on Friday 31st August, 1888.

As she passed across Whitechapel Road she came across her friend and room-mate Mary Ann Nicholls on the corner. Mary Ann, or Polly as she was commonly known, had spent much of the night in the Frying Pan pub on Brick Lane and was three sheets to the wind. Such was her drunkenness and uncertainty of her footing that she appeared to be holding onto a wall for support.

Ellen tried to convince Polly to return to their lodging house, but Polly had already been turned away from Willmott’s as she didn’t have the requisite 4d for a bed. She was, however, optimistic about her chances of raising the cash as she’d recently acquired a new hat which she thought would bring in some funds, telling the deputy keeper ‘See what a jolly bonnet I’m wearing.’

She told Ellen ‘I’ve had my doss money three times today and spent it. It won’t be long before I’m back,’ before tottering off in the direction of the London Hospital.

This conversation took place just yards from the spot where Emma Elizabeth Smith was killed four months earlier.

Polly Nichols was born in 1845 in Dean Street, London and had just celebrated her 43rd birthday a week earlier. Like many of the Whitechapel ‘unfortunates’ she had once had a more stable life which had crumbled over the years.  In January 1864 she’d married a printer’s machinist called William Nichols with whom she had five children.  Come 1881, however, the marriage was over. Polly claimed it was because William was having an affair with a midwife, but the more common view – certainly the one made in the police reports – was that he could no longer tolerate her excessive drinking and threw her out.

For the first year following the break up William had paid Polly an allowance as was customary at the time, but then he discovered she was working as a casual prostitute and halted all payments.  It’s unclear how starving her of funds was supposed to turn her away from that life and it merely resulted in further hardships. Soon she became a penniless, homeless and a hopeless alcoholic with nothing to sell but herself.

She spent the next few years drifting from workhouse to workhouse, finding herself in Lambeth after a spell sleeping rough in Trafalgar Square.

Her luck briefly changed when she entered domestic service for Samuel and Sarah Cowdry family in Wandsworth.  Things seemed to be on the up and she appears content in this letter to her father, dated 17th April 1888.

“I just right to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going all right up to now. My people went out yesterday and have not returned, so I am left in charge. It is a grand place inside, with trees and gardens back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotalers and religious so I ought to get on. They are very nice people, and I have not too much to do. I hope you are all right and the boy has work. So good bye for the present.

from yours truly,

Answer soon, please, and let me know how you are.”

Yes, the Cowdry’s was a teetotal house, while Polly was anything but, so the arrangement was inevitably doomed. On 12th July 1888, she left, stealing clothes to the value of £3 10s as she went.

Ellen returned to her doss in Thrawl Street while Polly looked for the 4d to join her. They were never to meet again.


Behind Whitechapel Station lies Bucks Row, now named Durward Street. A narrow collection of cottages on the south side of the street next to a Board School with warehouses on the other side, it runs parallel to Whitechapel Road and was used as a cut through for those looking for a direct route to Hanbury Street and Spitalfields market. Durward Street is currently closed to traffic due to Crossrail building works and its most (in) famous spots now sits behind a screened-off building site.

In 1888 Bucks Row was a dark, unwelcoming thoroughfare. In Charles Booth’s famed poverty map of the time it was coloured light blue for ‘Poor.  18 to 21s a week for a moderate family.’  In the early hours of 31st August it was certainly quiet. Come the morning it was positively vibrant.


Durward St in the 1960s, looking not to dissimilar to Polly’s time.The spot opposite the vehicles being the murder site.

At 3.40am, a carman called Charles Lechmere, also known as Charles Cross (aliases were common at the time) came down Bucks Row from the direction of Brady St. It was not unusual at this time to find people in the streets heading to work given that the majority of the work was either market or docks based. As he headed east towards the Board School he noticed what he thought was a roll of tarpaulin in the street. On closer inspection it appeared to be a woman, lying near the gates of a stable yard. Such was the gloom and rain, that he first thought she was drunk. He crouched over her to examine her further. At that point (though there is a suspicion that Lechmere was with the body longer than that), Robert Paul, another carman, passed the same way on his way to Spitalfields market. Lechmere touched his shoulder and asked him to look at the woman. He did so and found her hands and face to be cold. Both men noticed that her skirt was hiked up and, given the times, preserved her dignity by bringing it down to cover her legs.

Lechmere was convinced she was dead, but Paul thought he detected a faint heartbeat. Already late for work, they decided to leave her be and notify a policeman as they went on their way.

As they headed west they encountered PC Jonas Mizen on Bakers Row – a couple of hundred yards past the Board School – and told him about the woman in Bucks Row. The two carters then parted company with Paul taking Old Montague St and Lechmere Hanbury Street.

By the time Mizen had reached the body PC John Neill, who must have missed Lechmere and Neill by a minute, as he approached Bucks Row from the Bakers Row end, was in situ. Neill had one advantage over the two men – his lamp, and he could see what they could not. The woman had a deep wound to her throat and blood was still coming from the gash. They were joined by a third policeman, John Thain, who had been patrolling Brady Street to the east. Neill then sent Thain to wake up Dr Llewellyn, the local surgeon, and Mizen to summon an ambulance while he stayed with the body.

Directly opposite the body stood Essex Wharf – a warehouse.  Neill rang the bell and asked if anyone had heard any disturbance. They had not. Nor had some other local men who worked in nearby Winthrop Street. The woman appeared to die to silence.

Dr Llewellyn lived just around the corner at 152 Whitechapel Road. He performed a perfunctory examination and pronounced ‘life extinct’ before ordering her body be removed to Old Montague Street Workhouse Infirmary Mortuary. It was only there, later, that he realised the extent of the woman’s injuries. No one at the scene had noticed her abdomen. It had been slashed ferociously.

It was reported in The Times

“On reaching Buck’s-row he found deceased lying flat on her back on the pathway, her legs being extended. Deceased was quite dead, and she had severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the lower extremities were quite warm. Witness examined her chest and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. He should say the deceased had not been dead more than half an hour. He was certain the injuries to the neck were not self-inflicted. There was very little blood around the neck, and there were no marks of any struggle or of blood, as though the body had been dragged. Witness gave the police directions to take the body to the mortuary, where he would make another examination. About an hour afterwards he was sent for by the inspector to see the other injuries he had discovered on the body. Witness went, and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. That morning he made a post-mortem examination of the body. It was that of a female of about 40 or 45 years. Five of the teeth were missing, and there was a slight laceration of the tongue. There was a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw on the right side of the face. That might have been caused by a blow from a fist or pressure from a thumb. There was a circular bruise on the left side of the face, which also might have been inflicted by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about 1 in. below the jaw, there was an incision of about 4 in. in length, and ran from a point immediately below the ear. On the same side, but an inch below, and commencing about 1 in. in front of it, was a circular incision, which terminated at a point about 3 in. below the right jaw. That incision completely severed all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision was about 8 in. in length. The cuts must have been caused by a long-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood was found on the breast, either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body until just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. The wound was a very deep one, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. There were also three or four similar cuts, running downwards, on the right side, all of which had been caused by a knife which had been used violently and downwards. The injuries were from left to right, and might have been done by a left-handed person. All the injuries had been caused by the same instrument.

This was the extent of the detective work in the case. Due to a lack of forensics and fingerprinting, the only real way the murderer could be caught would be by the police catching him with the body.   Some believe that Robert Paul did just that and that it was Lechmere who was the Ripper but that seems unlikely.

While a scene of a crime today would be roped off and studied minutely with a fingertip search, the Metropolitan Police’s main priority was tidying up the area and shooing people away before knocking on doors in search of witnesses. Thus, the blood was washed away along with any evidence that went with it.


A  Google view of Durward St before the bulldozers moved in. The cursor points to  the spot where the body was found.

At this point there was still some doubt as to the woman’s identity. Some of her clothes bore a stamp from the Lambeth workhouse and an inmate, Mary Ann Monk, identified her as Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols. Her widower, William, confirmed this later. She was to be buried at the City of London Cemetery in Forest Gate – grave 210752


The Daily News reported that the case would be handled by Inspector Frederick Abberline of Scotland Yard. Looking more like a clerk than an Inspector, Abberline was intimately acquainted with both the area and the criminal fraternity so was ideal for the job. No known photographs of him exist though it’s doubtful that he looked like Johnny Depp or Michael Caine who have played in various Ripper films.

Immediate suspicion fell upon the various street gangs who would extort the local prostitutes.  This seems to be the case in the death of Emma Elizabeth Smith, but with the recent violent death of Martha Tabram, it seemed clear that this was likely to be the work of a single killer. Days following the Nichol’s murder it was reported that the police had viewed them as linked murders by the same hand.

Polly’s death would prove to be the only one without a witness having seen a man with the victim beforehand -though the man who claims he saw the murderer at the final killing was dubious to say the least. No one in the nearby houses on Bucks Row, including the woman whose window Polly practically fell under, heard a thing. The killer seemed to have dodged between three different police beats and vanished into the night. Little wonder then, that the East End was first shocked and then horrified that such a monster was at large.

If he was Tabram’s killer too, there had been an escalation in his work. While Martha was stabbed repeatedly, Polly had had her throat cut and then her abdomen mutilated. Was this the act of a man getting used to his work? Would there be more gruesome eviscerations ahead?

Whitechapel had to wait only one week to find out.




Welcome to ‘Ten Weeks in Whitechapel’ – a series of articles about the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.

Well, I say ‘the Jack the Ripper murders,’ but that’s not the whole story.  The purpose of these essays (can I call them essays? Seems a bit schoolish) is to portray exactly what it was like to live in the Whitechapel and Spitalfields area at that time and to highlight the conditions which produced the most famous serial killer in British history

Before all that though, I should issue a disclaimer.

I’m not an expert in any of this. Not really. My knowledge is based purely on my own research – of hours spent listening to podcasts, of reading numerous books on the subject – both good and bad – and, eventually, traipsing around the East End to stare at paving stones. There’s an awful lot of that sort of stuff once you get involved.

The East End visits are always interesting.  So far I’ve been

  • Told that I can’t take a photo of a road by a Crossrail employee (he looked at me blankly when I asked how he intended to stop me).
  • Had a man scream ‘I’m Jack the Ripper’ down my ear while I was taking a photo of the arch which leads to the Flower and Dean estate (He wasn’t, as it turned out. I’m fairly sure Jack didn’t swig lager from a can or have quite so many dreadlocks)
  • I’ve frowned at a man for lying on the very spot where Catherine Eddowes was killed ‘for a laugh’. You don’t do that. Not even in jest.
  • Got lost several times
  • Been told that I can’t walk down Durward St by the same man on at least ten occasions despite it being bloody obvious as there’s a large wall and enormous construction equipment stopping you doing so.
  • Witnessed a man being kicked out of the Ten Bells pub only to see him remove his T-shirt outside and come back in, semi-naked, pretending to be someone else. He couldn’t believe that his cunning disguise didn’t dupe the man who had, just minutes earlier, launched him onto the pavement and
  • Interrupted a Spanish tour guide to tell him that Severin Klosowski was not the murderer. I’m not proud of this last one as there’s a chance that he was and no one likes a smart arse, but I didn’t like the guide’s use of the word ‘definitely.’ That’s not your job, mate. Just givethem the options. He might have been but no one will ever know for sure.

So, no, I’m not a full time researcher and couldn’t tell you the absolute minutiae of the case, such as the address of the coroner who examined Mary Ann Nicholl’s body, but I’d say I know my Ripper onions and Whitechapelian shallots. This does mean that there will be errors from time to time. It’s bound to happen.  Only a couple of months ago I was politely corrected as the exact entrance of  Millers Court off what was once Dorset St, but hopefully that won’t spoil your enjoyment of what is to come.

Right, shall we start?

No, hang on. I should say this.

I may occasionally add some levity to the topics surrounding the murders, but this should not be confused with a flippant disregard to the terror of those times. These women were killed in the most horrific of circumstances and led, in the most part, deeply unhappy lives. They were malnourished husks barely surviving on the streets. Two of them were already dying of Bright’s Disease when they met ‘Jack’ and all lived from hand to mouth through savage poverty. All were killed instantly and though they did not suffer painful deaths (though Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly were alleged to have cried out as they were killed), it should always be remembered that they were once loved and left mourners behind.

Despite their station in life, their lives meant something.

Equally, Jack was not a hero or a comic figure. I don’t especially like the term ‘the Jack the Ripper murders,’ preferring the catch-all term ‘Whitechapel murders’ to describe those weeks. The name ‘Jack’ lends the murderer a jovial characteristic when he was anything but. He tore these women apart, to degrade them to such an extent that he took their organs. He may not have been a sadist, but he should not be celebrated and I apologise in advance for any comic tone that may eke out over the coming weeks.

Right. Onwards.

Where did this all start then?

My first scrape with the field of Ripperology began with my first month in London. As an apple-cheeked 19 year old I moved to London in 1988 – a month before the centenary of the final murder –  and began a degree course at what is now Greenwich University. I studied – if you can call it that- Humanities and the first term had a module on social history and the Kray twins.

I dutifully read The Profession of Violence by John Pearson about the twins’ rise and fall as well as the odd secondary text and more than a few of them referenced the 1888 murders in their introductions. I grimaced at every single one. I didn’t want this. I was a man in a hurry with an essay to write. All I wanted to do was to write about ‘societal subcultures’ and ‘self-policed communities’ before heading to the student bar where a pint of Courage ale cost the princely sum of 80p a pint. Priorities, priorities.

Fast forward ten years.

I’d moved to Hackney, London E8 – an area which not serviced by a Tube station. The nearest was Bethnal Green – a mile away – or Whitechapel. The latter was handy for trips to Upton Park for Liverpool games or Wimbledon in the summer.  That was the only time I visited the E1 postcode despite it being so close.

It was around that time I started reading up on the Yorkshire Ripper (and I recommend Wicked Beyond Belief by Michael Bilton if you’ve an interest). This wasn’t such a random topic at the time. I lived through those murders as a child growing up in Liverpool and I can remember the newspaper headlines when a fresh body was discovered. I can still recall my Mum worrying about coming back from work alone at night. Sutcliffe had killed twice in Manchester and we lived on the East Lancashire Road in Liverpool so his passing through was not beyond the realms of possibility.

I can remember the night he was caught. The news was full of Iran and the Shah while Ronald Reagan was about to be made the 40th President of the United States.

Anyway, this book led me to the 1888 case and I considered looking up the sites and having a wander around as they were only a bus ride away.


I learned to my surprise that the majority of the murder sites were closer to the other end of Whitechapel High Street – towards Aldgate rather than Bethnal Green – so I simply didn’t bother. The only one which was close was the first one – Mary Ann Nicholls’ in Bucks Row, now Durward St behind Whitechapel tube station. I regret not going now – nineteen years later – as that area is now inaccessible thanks to Crossrail roadworks and the people there think you can’t take a photo of a street.

It took until September 2014 before my interest was sufficiently piqued into investigating further.

One night, I had arranged to meet my friend Dev in a Liverpool St pub. He was coming from Liverpool’s game with West Ham and I had been working on a Millwall game for The Times. I crossed London Bridge and headed east towards the pub, but somehow took a wrong turning. I ended up on Fenchurch St instead of Bishopsgate and, instead of turning off towards the pub, carried on walking towards Aldgate. Eventually, I tried to cut through the streets to find more familiar ground.

I walked down Mitre Street and stopped dead.

That meant something.  Mitre Street. What though? Mitre Street? Something historical, maybe?

I heard voices around the corner and everything fell into place.

mitre-stThere was a man, dressed in Victorian period costume, standing on a park bench, talking loudly at a group of people below. He was banging on about someone called Catherine.

Of course! Mitre St lay next to Mitre Square. Scene of a Jack the Ripper murder. I didn’t know which one but I would look it up when I went home. Probably someone called Catherine.

I read everything I could. Wikipedia, forums and articles. I watched long You Tube documentaries and pored over anything about the case.

What fascinated me were not the murders themselves, but the topography of them all.  They were so close together. You can walk between the second and fifth murder sites in little more than three minutes. What’s more you could actually go and stand next to them (not on them. I don’t like doing that) now.


That paving stone there. He’s been there.

Catherine Eddowes was discovered at the edge of the kerb next to the gates, her feet pointing towards us.

Three months later, my mate Tony and I went on an official Ripper tour.  I knew roughly where the bodies were found but I wanted to know more. Where was George Hutchison standing when he claimed the ‘Astrakhan man’ walked past him and ‘looked up stern’? Where was Israel Schwartz when he decided it was best to run away from the man/men who had thrown Liz Stride to the floor on the night of the Double Event? I wanted to see them and they were not covered on this particular tour so I went back to look.

Time and again.

For the record, the two spots were a) on the corner of Commercial Street and Fashion St and b) near the school gates on Henriques St. I won’t even bother putting pictures up for those two. Or, at least, not yet.

Since then I’ve taken a few friends around the area and will be doing so again next week. I’d advise anyone to use the official tours rather than a friend as they have more facts and drama at their fingertips.  I used http://www.jack-the-ripper-walks.com/jacktherippertour.htm and I’m now sort of friends with them thanks to my pestering all and sundry with inane questions on social media.

(Incidentally, I took my Mum on an official tour a few months back, but also showed her some other areas. I asked which guide she preferred – me or noted Ripperologist, John Bennett.


‘Really? Why not me?’

‘He was interesting.’

Thanks Mum)

Anyway, that’s enough about me. Back to the introduction and the year it all happened.




1888 – A background

‘The myriads that raise the cry of hunger wail in the greatest empire in the world’ –   The People of the Abyss, Jack London
The late Victorian era saw London as the biggest city in the world. Victoria had already been on the throne for half a century while the Marquis of Salisbury, Robert Cecil, was Prime Minister in the second of his three stints in the big chair.

The power of the empire was reflected in the great palaces and parks in the West End of London.  Furthermore, it was a year of firsts. In March, a meeting took place to discuss the formation of a Football League.  Two months earlier the Lawn Tennis Association was founded. Arthur Conan-Doyle published the first Sherlock Holmes story and, of no lesser importance, a man called  Joseph Assheton Fincher applied for a patent for a game he called ‘Tiddledy-Winks’.

The empire was the strongest it had ever been, bringing in vast fortunes thanks to the London Docks and its trade with other nations.

However, the wealth did not stretch through the entire city. Conditions in the East End were the direct opposite of those in the West with thousands living in extreme poverty. Homelessness and unemployment was rife as overcrowding took its toll. Whitechapel had over 75,000 residents at the height of the Ripper murders with entire families crammed into small, filthy rooms. In 29 Hanbury Street where Annie Chapman was killed there were 17 people living in just eight rooms.

The problem was not helped by the large influx of Jewish immigrants who fled to the seat of the empire to escape the Eastern European pogroms of Tsar Nicholas II. As work became increasingly harder to find, the East End turned in on itself and racial tensions ignited in the area.  The term ‘Lipski’- derived from Israel Lipski, a Jewish émigré who had horrifically murdered a pregnant woman with nitric acid a year earlier in Batty Street – was hissed at Jews on the street. It was considered, following the second murder – the most appalling at that point – that ‘no Englishman could have perpetrated such a crime.’ The implication was clear.  The murderer was a Jew because Jews were barely human.

Such poverty inevitably led to crime, alcoholism and prostitution. In 1889 Charles Booth, the social reformer, set about drawing up a map of the London streets with the poverty level colour coded accordingly. He marked the well-to-do areas in red and yellow while blue and black depicted ‘the “lowest class…occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals.’  Much of Whitechapel and Spitalfields fell into the latter category and certain streets – for example, Dorset St, Fashion St, Thrawl St and Flower and Dean St – were no-go areas for the police.

High prostitution rates seemed inevitable. In October, the Metropolitan Police estimated the number of prostitutes to be 1,200 with 62 known brothels spread over a couple of miles. This was no lifestyle choice, but more the means to simple existence. If a man deserted his wife and family or died, the woman had no other source of income. Hundreds of women would sell their own bodies to rustle up the 4d required for a night’s rent in a dosshouse, where they would be given a straw covered bed not unlike a coffin on the floor along with hundreds of others in a similar position. Some of these common lodging houses could cram in over 200 residents per night.

They would be turfed out of this meagre accommodation the following morning and left to find enough money to feed themselves and their dependents as well as another 4d for that night’s doss. That became the price for a ‘knee-trembler’ in a quiet alley, away from the police. The sort of places where a serial killer thrives.

The film From Hell paints the victims in a somewhat pulchritudinous light. Let’s be clear, Mary Kelly may well have been the youngest of the victims at 25 but it was unlikely that she looked like Heather Graham. The rest of the victim were in the forties. Polly Nichols, the first recognised Ripper victim, had five teeth missing.

Being homeless they had nowhere else to leave their clothes and possessions so they wore and carried them. Catherine Eddowes, according to Inspector Collard, when her torn body was found in Mitre Square on 30th September, had amongst her possessions:

  • A black straw bonnet
  • Black cloth jacket
  • Dark green chintz skirt
  • Man’s white vest
  • Brown bodice
  • Grey petticoat
  • Very old green alpaca skirt (worn as an undergarment)
  • Blue skirt (also worn as undergarment)
  • White chemise
  • Pair of men’s boots
  • A neckerchief
  • Two large handkerchiefs
  • Brown knee stockings

She was also carrying over 20 different items about her person including boxes of tea and sugar.

This was far from a glamourous profession.

Alcohol was also an issue. In order to escape from their daily misery people drank and all five victims were alcoholics. Polly Nichols could barely walk on the night she was murdered and the last person to see her alive, other than her murderer, said she was so drunk she was clinging onto the wall to stay upright. Poor Catherine Eddowes had only been released by the City of London Police for forty minutes following a few hours in the cells for drunkenness before she met her end.

There was no shortage of public houses. A few survive today – notably The Ten Bells on Commercial St – but they were to be found on most corners and all provided cheap alcohol. Anything to escape.

On top of this was the smell and disease. Whitechapel had its own particular odour – an all-encompassing fug of squalor.  Rats were often seen on the streets and horse and human ordure lay scattered on the narrow streets. Not a healthy place to be. Hardly surprising then that only two children in ten survived their fifth birthday.


The (Other) Whitechapel Murders

WARNING: This is where it gets a bit grim.  Grimmer.

The official file on the Whitechapel Murders – a police document containing eleven victims though only five are considered Jack’s work – opened on 4th April 1888 with the death of a local prostitute called Emma Elizabeth Street. Emma was attacked the day before on the corner of Osborn Street and Brick Lane by two or three men –one a teenager- where an instrument was inserted into her vagina, rupturing her peritoneum. She managed to survive and made her way back to her common lodging house. She was taken to the London Hospital where she fell into a coma and died.


It’s unlikely that this was a Ripper murder. He did not have an accomplice in his later slayings though the vicious, unprovoked attack fits his modus operandi. There’s some suggestion that she wasn’t even attacked and this was the product of a botched abortion, but the Metropolitan Police kept her death on file.

Four months later, another prostitute, 39-year-old Martha Tabram, along with her friend, Mary Ann Connelly known as ‘Pearly Poll’ found herself drinking with two soldiers near George Yard Buildings in what is now Gunthorpe St,  E1. They paired off with Pearly Poll taking her man to nearby Angel Alley.

At 2am a woman living in the tenements of George’s Yard heard a shout of ‘Murder.’  This was not an unusual cry in the East End so she paid it no heed.  At 3.30am a man noticed a woman lying on the floor but, as the light was so dim, he took her to be nothing more than a sleeping vagrant. It was not until 5am when a dock labourer passed her on his way down the steps to work and found her dead. She had been stabbed 39 times, including nine times in the throat, five in the left lung, two in the right lung, one in the heart, five in the liver, two in the spleen, and six in the stomach, also wounding her lower abdomen and genitals. No one had heard a thing.


Of those 39 strikes, only one would have killed her. The final one to the heart.

The police interviewed Pearly Poll who gave descriptions of the men, but she was too drunk to recall much detail. An inspection was carried out at the Tower of London when it was discovered that PC Barrett of H Division, Whitechapel had met a loitering Grenadier near the building at the time of the murder. The man said that he was waiting for a friend who was with a woman and was sent on his way.  The identity parade produced nothing.

Was this the first Ripper murder? There were no eviscerations other than stab wounds and no organs were removed, but it’s more than possible that this was his first attempt.  Maybe his behaviour escalated as he grew into hobby.  Personally, I do think it was a Ripper murder as the first official murder was only three weeks away with Polly Nichols in Bucks Row.

One thing was for sure though. There was a man (or men) about killing prostitutes.  Sadly, the police had no idea what type of man they were dealing with. Or what type of murderer.

Whitechapel had its first serial killer.