Jack the Ripper by Foreman Peter

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Text Scripts


London in the year 1888. On August 30th the weather was cool, the sky was black with smoke from domestic fires, and rain fell; rain and more rain. The late summer and autumn had the heaviest rain of the year.

At 9 o’clock on that Thursday night a great fire in London Docks changed the colour of the sky in the East End of London to a deep red. From the dirty streets, dark passages and slum houses of Whitechapel hundreds of people went to watch the fire. Many of them were poor and homeless. They lived and slept in squalid lodging houses. The poorest lived in the streets and slept in doorways.

As always, the pubs were crowded and noisy. Alcohol was cheap and it helped people to feel better. Mary Ann Nichols was in ‘Frying Pan’ pub on the corner of Brick Lane, spending her last pennies on drink. She needed the money to pay for a bed in the ‘White House’, her lodging house in Flower and Dean Street. But Mary Ann needed alcohol too, and she was drinking too much. Later that night she tried to get a bed at Cooley’s lodging house in Thrawl Street, but she had to leave because she had no money. So she walked around the wet, cold streets hoping to earn something. One of the poorest areas in London, Whitechapel did not have many street lamps. The streets were dark, gloomy and dangerous.

Mary Ann Nichols was still walking the streets when her friend Ellen Holland saw her at 2.30 a.m. on August 31st. By that time Mary Ann – known as Polly – was very drunk. The women talked for a few minutes. Ellen asked Polly to come with her to the lodgings in Thrawl Street. But Polly went away along Whitechapel Road to try and get some money. After that only one person saw her alive again – her killer.

Buck’s Row was a quiet, narrow road with warehouses on one side and some small houses or cottages on the other. At the end of the cottages was the entrance to Brown’s stableyard, and then the long wall of a school. The street had only one gas lamp. At nearly 3.40 in the morning it was dark.

At this hour Charles Cross, a carman, was walking to work. He came into Buck’s Row from Brady Street. A few moments later he noticed something on the pavement in front of Brown’s stableyard, and crossed the road. He saw that it was a woman. At that moment he heard footsteps. It was another carman, Robert Paul, also on his way to work. Cross asked him to come and look. The men looked at the woman, but in the darkness they did not know if she was drunk or dead. They decided to continue on their way to work and tell the first policeman they met.

They saw a policeman, Constable Jonas Mizen, not far away in Baker’s Row, told him about the woman, and then walked on to work. When Constable Mizen arrived at the gates of the stableyard, another policeman, Constable John Neil, was already there. He had a lantern, and he showed Constable Mizen a deep cut in the woman’s neck.

‘I passed this place at 3.15,’ Constable Neil said, ‘but there was nothing here.’

‘The woman’s legs are still warm,’ said Constable Mizen. ‘I think Mr Cross interrupted her killer.’

Opposite the stableyard stood a warehouse. The manager, Walter Purkiss, and his wife were in their bedroom on the second floor. Mrs Purkiss was awake most of the night, and Mr Purkiss slept badly and was awake between one and two o’clock, but they heard nothing. Mrs Emma Green lived in the cottage next to the stableyard; she did not hear anything either. Polly Nichols’s killer worked quickly and silently, and disappeared like a ghost. He probably ran into Whitechapel Road through a narrow lane called Wood’s Buildings.

Polly Nichols died just a few days after her forty-third birthday. She was about 1.58m tall, and had dark brown hair. She was wearing a blue dress, black woolen stockings, men’s boots, and a black straw bonnet. She had a comb, a white handkerchief, and a broken piece of looking-glass. These were all the possessions she had. Polly was an ‘Unfortunate’: a polite Victorian word for a prostitute. She was probably an alcoholic. She lived in workhouses and, when she had the money to pay, in lodging houses. In December 1887 she was sleeping in Trafalgar Square. Her friend Ellen said she was a clean, quiet person. And her father said, ‘I don’t think she had any enemies. She was too good for that.’

When Dr Llewellyn examined the body, he thought the killer was right-handed. The man probably strangled Polly first, put her on the ground, and cut her throat. The police had no other clues to help them find the killer. There was also no obvious motive, such as robbery. This was a new, unknown type of murder, which they could not understand. Polly Nichols was not the first ‘Unfortunate’ who was murdered that year, so Scotland Yard chiefs sent their most experienced officer to investigate. This was Inspector Abbeline, a fine detective who knew the East End and its people very well. But he did not know that this killer was different – clever, efficient, and savage. Today he is probably the most famous killer in the world, Jack the Ripper. But nobody has ever discovered his true identity.

On August 31st the Star newspaper had a sensational headline:







Hanbury Street is a long street that goes from Commercial Street to Baker’s Row, not far from Buck’s Row. Now demolished, number 29 was an old building with three floors. On the ground floor Mrs Hardiman had a cat meat shop. On the first floor Mrs Richardson and her grandson lived in three rooms, and she let out the other rooms. She also had a packing case business in the cellar at the back of the house. Her son, John, helped her in the business but he did not live in Hanbury Street. A carman, John Davis, occupied the attic at the front with his wife and three sons. A total of seventeen poor people lived in number 29, which was a crowded, busy place. From Hanbury Street people entered the house through a door next to Mrs Hardiman’s shop. The door opened to a passage about 7-8 metres long. At the end of the passage there was a door to the backyard. This was where Jack the Ripper murdered another woman in the early hours of September 8th.

It was about 4.45 a.m. when John Richardson arrived at number 29. On his way to work at Spitalfields market he often checked the passage because strangers sometimes came in. This morning he also wanted to check the cellar door at the back. Sometime before thieves broke the lock and stole things. John walked through the passage and opened the door to the yard. Then he sat on some stone steps and took off one of his boots, which was hurting his toe. He cut a piece of leather from the boot with a knife. It was getting light and he could see that the lock on the cellar door was secure. There was nobody in the yard. John left the house and went to the market.

Albert Cadosch, a carpenter, lived at 27 Hanbury Street, next to number 29. He got up at 5.15 a.m. and in a few minutes he went out to the backyard. He was returning to the house when he heard a voice in the next yard say ‘No’. Three or four minutes later Albert came into the yard again and heard a sound like a bump against the wooden fence that separated the yards of numbers 27 and 29. He thought it was somebody falling against the fence, but he did not look to see what it was. Then he left for work and passed Spitalfields Church at about 5.32 a.m.

At 5.45 a.m. John Davis got up. By six o’clock he was ready for work and went downstairs to the backyard. From the top of the steps he saw a horrible sight. On his left between the steps and the wooden fence lay the mutilated body of a woman. Davis ran out into Hanbury Street, where he saw some workmen and shouted, ‘Men, come here!’ They followed him, looked at the body from the steps, then ran to find a policeman.

Inspector Joseph Chandler was on duty in Commercial Street at 6.10 a.m. when some workmen rushed towards him and told him about the dead woman. Chandler arrived at number 29 and noted down that the woman was lying on her back, with a deep cut from left to right across her throat and mutilations to her stomach. The inspector saw a piece of muslin and two small combs that the murderer had put near her feet. The killer also took some rings from her finger. The victim was 1.52m tall. She had dark brown hair and blue eyes. Two lower front teeth were missing. Her clothes were all old and dirty: a long black jacket down to her knees, petticoats, stockings, a black skirt, and boots. Who was she?

Annie Chapman – or Dark Annie to her friends – was 47 years old. Her history told a sad story. Once she had children, but one died and another was disabled. Annie drank a lot and her marriage broke down. The small sum of money which she received from her husband stopped when he died in 1886. Annie worked when possible, selling flowers or making clothes. Sometimes she borrowed money from her relatives. But her taste for alcohol dominated her life, and eventually she had to walk the streets as a prostitute.

Let us follow Annie’s movements before the night of her murder. She lived in a lodging house and paid eight pennies a night. But the week before her murder she was not at the lodging house. She had a fight with a woman about a piece of soap and got a black eye. When she met her friend Amelia Palmer on September 2nd and 3rd she showed her the black eye and a bruise on her face. The next day she told Amelia she did not feel well. She looked pale, so Amelia gave her two pennies to buy something to eat. ‘Don’t spend it on rum,’ she told Annie. Amelia saw Annie for the last time on the 7th. ‘I must get some money or I can’t sleep in my lodgings,’ Annie said.

At about 1.30 a.m. on September 8th Annie was in the kitchen of her lodging house, eating potatoes and talking with the other lodgers. She told the deputy that she did not have any money, but asked him to keep her bed because she wanted to return with the money. She left at about 1.50. Nobody saw her alive again; she never came back for her bed.

Two people were important witnesses in the murder case. One, Albert Cadosch, heard a voice in the yard and a sound like that of somebody falling against the fence between 5.20 to 5.30 a.m. The other, Elizabeth Darrell, said that as she was walking down Hanbury Street at about 5.30 a.m. on her way to Spitalfields market, she noticed a man and a woman talking outside number 29. She only saw the man’s back, but she identified the woman as Annie Chapman later in the mortuary.

Mrs Darrell heard the man say, ‘Will you?’ and the woman reply, ‘Yes’. Mrs Darrell could not describe the man very well. He had a dark complexion and was only a little taller than Annie. He wore a brown deerstalker hat and a dark coat. She had, the impression he was over forty and perhaps foreign.

We know that witnesses often make small errors in time, so the man Mrs Darrell saw was very probably the murderer, and he attacked Annie at approximately 5.30 a.m. On that morning the sun rose at 5.23. Spitalfields market opened at 5.00. It was a busy morning, with a lot of people already in the streets or getting up, and heavy traffic for the market. Five people in number 29 could see the murder scene from their windows. This time Jack the Ripper was in a dangerous situation. But again nobody saw or heard him when he killed Annie in the light of a busy day. And he escaped through the streets like a phantom.


Sunday September 30th, 12.30 a.m. Berner Street, off Commercial Road, was quiet. Although the weather was wet and breezy, it was a mild night.

In Berner Street, almost opposite a school, were two big wooden gates which opened into Dutfield’s Yard, a dark, narrow court between numbers 42 and 40. Number 40 was the premises of the International Workingmen’s Educational Club.

Just over half an hour before, Russian and Polish Jews were having a discussion in the club. Most of them went home at midnight. Twenty or more stayed behind in the clubroom upstairs. Some of them began singing Russian songs and dancing.

There was a front door to the club in Berner Street, and a side door in Dutfield’s Yard that opened into the club kitchen. The passage into the yard was about five metres long and extremely dark. But inside the yard light came from the club windows, the club office, and from some cottages on the other side of the yard.

Constable William Smith’s beat took him along Berner Street every 25-30 minutes. At 12.35 a.m. he noticed a man and a woman by the school wall opposite Dutfield’s Yard. The woman wore a red flower on her jacket. The man had a parcel wrapped in newspaper. He was 1.70m tall, about 28 years old, and wore a deerstalker hat and dark clothes.

At 12.45 Israel Schwartz was walking towards Dutfield’s Yard when he saw a man stop and speak to a woman in the entrance. Schwartz later described the man as 1.65m tall, about 30, with a small brown moustache. He was wearing a dark jacket and trousers, and a black cap with a peak. Suddenly the man pulled the woman into the street and threw her down on to the pavement. She screamed but not loudly. Schwartz did not want any trouble so he crossed to the other side of the street. There he saw another man, who was lighting a pipe. Then the first man shouted ‘Lipski’, perhaps at Schwartz, perhaps at the other man. Frightened, Schwartz ran away. The man with the pipe ran after him. Schwartz thought the man was following him, but a few moments later when he looked back, there was nobody behind him.

What was going on? Later, Inspector Abbeline had a good theory. He knew that Lipski was the name of a Jewish murderer, and in 1888 it was an insulting word used against Jews. Israel Schwartz was Jewish, so perhaps when the first man saw him, he shouted ‘Lipski’ to warn him aggressively to go away. Or perhaps he was warning the man with the pipe that Schwartz was coming. Was this man the murderer’s accomplice? Or was he an innocent witness who ran away like Schwartz?

At 1 a.m. Louis Diemschutz was coming along Berner Street with his pony and cart. He lived with his wife at the club, which they managed together. When he drove his cart into the entrance to Dutfield’s Yard, the pony turned to the left and refused to go on. It was scared of something. Mr Diemschutz looked down to his right and in the pitch darkness he could just see a shape on the ground. He got off his cart and struck a match. Before the breeze blew out the match he made out a figure in a dress: it was a woman.

Mr Diemschutz, anxious about the safety of his wife, went into the club to look for her. He found her safe with some club members and told them about the woman. Then he returned to the yard with a candle and a friend. When they saw a lot of blood flowing from the woman’s neck, they ran to find a policeman. At the same time Morris Eagle, another member of the club, ran for help in the opposite direction. He found two policemen in Commercial Road, who rushed to Dutfield’s Yard. Then one of them went off to bring a doctor. Edward Johnston, a doctor s assistant, arrived at 1.13. He examined the dead woman and saw that she had a deep cut in her throat. Her body was still warm. Dr Blackwell arrived at 1.16. He thought the woman had died between twenty to thirty minutes before. He noticed a scarf round her neck. It was tied on the left side and was pulled very tight. Had the killer seized the scarf from behind and pulled her to the ground, where he cut her throat?

Detective Inspector Reid arrived at Dutfield’s Yard at 1.45. He noted the dead woman’s height – 1.57m – and guessed her age, about 42. She had curly dark-brown hair, a pale complexion, and light grey eyes. Two front teeth were missing at the top. She wore a long black jacket, and an old black skirt. Her stockings were white, her bonnet black, and she was wearing boots. There was one red rose on her jacket.

The witnesses identified the victim as the woman with the man near Dutfield’s Yard. A man named Michael Kidney also identified her. He said she lived with him and her name was Elizabeth Stride. He had seen her for the last time on September 25th. Elizabeth sometimes stayed at a lodging house in Flower and Dean Street, where people called her Long Liz. Mrs Tanner, the deputy, said she last saw Elizabeth alive about 7 p.m. on Saturday 29th, in the kitchen of the lodging house.

Long Liz was born Elizabeth Gustafsdotter in 1843 near Gothenburg in Sweden. She probably came to England for domestic work. In 1869 she married John Stride, a carpenter. Nobody knows when the marriage broke down, but in 1877 Elizabeth was living in a workhouse. Her husband died in 1884, when Long Liz was lodging in Flower and Dean Street.

According to the medical evidence Elizabeth Stride died about 12.56 a.m., or even perhaps at 12.58. If this is true, Louis Diemschutz’s arrival at 1 a.m. very probably disturbed the killer, so he only had time to cut his victim’s throat. Then he hid in the darkness of Dutfield’s Yard, and when Mr Diemschutz ran into the club, he quickly escaped. But the murder of Elizabeth Stride was not enough. Jack the Ripper wanted more blood, and he went to look for another victim.




After the murder of Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper went to look for another victim. He walked west towards the City of London. It is only twelve minutes’ walk from Berner Street to Mitre Square, where the second murder happened. Although we do not know what time the killer arrived there, we know what his victim did and can follow her movements on the night of September 29-30th.

At 8.30 on Saturday night Constable Robinson found a woman lying on the pavement in Aldgate High Street. She was completely drunk. With the help of another constable Robinson took her to Bishopsgate Street Police Station. She slept in a police cell for three hours. Then she started singing quietly, and at 12.30 she asked the policeman on duty when she could go. Twenty-five minutes later the policeman took her from her cell to the office. She asked him the time and he said nearly one o’clock, which was about the time of Elizabeth Stride’s murder.

The woman said her name was Mary Ann Kelly, but her real name was Catherine Eddowes.

‘This way, miss,’ said the policeman. He went with her to the street door and asked her to shut it when she left.

Catherine said, ‘Good night.’ And she went to meet her fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

Mitre Square is eight minutes’ walk from the police station. Perhaps Catherine arrived there at 1.10 a.m., perhaps later. We can imagine her singing to herself as she walked along, a small woman, about 1.52m, and thin. She looked about forty, and had dark brown hair under her black bonnet. Her clothes were old and dirty. She was wearing a red handkerchief around her neck, a black jacket, men’s boots, and an old white apron. This apron had an important part to play in the murder.

Around 1.33 three men came out of the Imperial Club in Duke Street. They passed a man and a woman at the corner of Church Passage that led into Mitre Square. The couple were talking quietly, and the woman had her hand on the man’s chest. The place was badly-lit, but one man, Joseph Lawende, gave a description of them. He said the woman was short, and wore a black jacket and bonnet. The man was aged 30, 1.70m tall, medium build, with a fair complexion and moustache. He wore a grey cap with a peak, a red handkerchief around his neck, and had the appearance of a sailor. Mr Lawende told the police later, ‘I don’t think I can recognise him again.’

The three men passed on. The time was 1.35 a.m. Nine minutes later Constable Edward Watkins of the City Police walked into Mitre Square. Everything seemed quiet. It was the same dark, silent square of 14 minutes before, when he had walked around it. But this time he got a terrible shock. In the darkest corner of the square he saw the body of a woman in the light of his lantern. He ran to a warehouse nearby and called out for the night watchman, a man named Morris. Mr Morris ran for assistance and soon returned with two policemen. Then Inspector Collard arrived from Bishopsgate Police Station, and Dr Brown came at 2.18 to examine the body.

There were also three plain-clothes detectives on the streets that night. They were part of the police hunt for the Whitechapel killer. At the time of the murder they were only a few streets away from Mitre Square. Hearing about the murder, they went to the square. Then they went off to look for the killer.

One of them walked through Goulston Street just before 2.15, but saw nothing suspicious and returned to Mitre Square. At 2.20 Constable Alfred Long also walked along Goulston Street and saw nothing unusual. His beat took him there approximately every thirty minutes, so at 2.55 he was back in Goulston Street. This time he saw a piece of bloodstained apron in an open doorway. Near the piece of material, in white chalk on the wall, was a message:

The Juwes are the Men that will not be blamed for nothing.


When Constable Long reported this graffito, an Inspector McWilliam sent orders to photograph it. But the chief of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren, changed the order. He was afraid about anti-Jewish demonstrations, so he ordered his men to rub out the message. He destroyed an important clue. But he knew about the strong anti-semitic feelings in the area.

The piece of bloodstained apron fitted exactly into a missing section of the victim’s apron. The killer evidently took it with him and cleaned his hands on it. At some time between 2.20 and 2.55 he was in Goulston Street. He threw the piece of apron, wet with blood, in the doorway and wrote the message. But perhaps he did not write the message. Perhaps it was already there and the murderer dropped the apron near it by chance. Or did he see the graffito and leave the apron there to put the blame on the Jews?

We shall never know the answer. But we know that Jack the Ripper was an extraordinary killer – cool, daring, and efficient. He came and went invisibly. Constable Watkins saw nothing in Mitre Square at 1.30. He did not see or hear anything when he entered it and discovered the body at 1.44. And only minutes before at 1.41 or 1.42 another officer looked into the square from Church Passage. ‘I saw no one and heard no cry or noise,’ he said later. Mr Morris, the night watchman in the warehouse, went to the door and looked into the square ‘two moments before Constable Watkins called him. Everything was quiet and deserted.

So in less than fifteen minutes the Ripper took Catherine into Mitre square, killed her, mutilated her horribly, and escaped – right under the noses of the police! His escape was amazing. Immediately after the discovery of the murder the streets were full of policemen. The police were already everywhere in the area after Liz Stride’s murder. But the discovery of the apron shows that the killer was out in the streets at some time between 2.20 and 2.55 36 to 71 minutes after Watkins discovered the body. Goulston Street is only five minutes from Mitre square. So what was the murderer doing? To the police Jack the Ripper was a mystery. He is still a mystery today.

Catherine Eddowes was the Ripper’s fourth victim. She was 42 and lived in a lodging house. People said she was ‘jolly’, always singing. Her partner was John Kelly. When they parted at 2 p.m. on Saturday 29th, Kelly told her to be careful about the Whitechapel killer.

‘Don’t you worry about me,’ replied Catherine. ‘I’ll take care of myself, and I won’t fall into his hands.


Mary Jane Kelly was twenty-five years old. Born in Limerick, Ireland, she moved to Wales with her family when she was very young. At sixteen she married a miner named Davies, who was killed in an explosion in the mines. Mary came to London in 1884. By 1886 she was living in the East End with Joe Flemming, who wanted to marry her. Nobody knows why she did not marry him. However, in 1887 she met Joe Barnett, a porter at Billingsgate fish market. At the time she was living at Cooley’s lodging house in Thrawl Street. Mary and Barnett decided to live together, and by the beginning of 1888 they were renting a room, 13 Miller’s Court in Dorset Street.

Descriptions of Mary suggest an attractive young woman, about 1.70m tall, with a stout build, blue eyes, and a complexion ‘as fair as a lily’. She was pleasant when sober but she could be noisy and very quarrelsome when drunk. In fact, Joe Barnett walked out after a quarrel on October 30th. He was a reliable, kind man who did not want Mary to go out on the streets. Unfortunately he had not worked for some months so the couple could not pay the rent, and Mary had returned to prostitution. This was one of the reasons why they quarrelled that autumn.

Nevertheless, Mary and Barnett remained friends. He frequently visited her and gave her money. He visited her around 7.30-7.45 on the evening of Thursday, November 8th to tell her he had no work and could not give her any money. Mary’s friend, a laundress named Maria Harvey, was there and said that Mary and Barnett seemed to be friendly. She went soon after Barnett’s arrival, leaving some clothing, which included a man’s overcoat, some shirts, a petticoat, and a bonnet.

When Barnett left at about 8 p.m., Mary knew she had to go out into the streets to earn some money. Nearly four hours later Mary Ann Cox, who lived in Miller’s Court, saw Mary walking along Dorset Street with a man. Mrs Cox followed them into the court and said, ‘Goodnight, Mary Jane’ as they were going into Mary’s room. Mary was so drunk that she could not answer properly. Mrs Cox saw the stranger in the light of the gas lamp opposite Mary’s front door. He was about thirty-six, 1.65m tall, stout, with a carrot-coloured moustache. He had a bottle of beer in his hand. As she went indoors Mrs Cox heard Mary singing an Irish song.

Just after midnight Mrs Cox went out. When she came back at 1 a.m., there was a light in number 13 and Mary was still singing. After warming her hands, Mrs Cox went out again. Returning at 3 o’clock, she saw no light in Mary’s room, and all was quiet. That night it rained hard and Mrs Cox could not sleep well. Although men went in and out of the court, she did not hear anything suspicious. But another witness told a different story.

Elizabeth Prater lived above Mary’s room. She went to bed about 1.30 a.m. and fell asleep. Around two hours later she woke up suddenly because her kitten was walking over her. She guessed the time was about 3.30-4.00. At that moment she heard ‘screams of “Murder!” two or three times in a female voice’. She later changed this to a quiet cry of ‘Oh! Murder!’ Mrs Prater said she went back to sleep; she often heard cries of murder in the court.

When Sarah Lewis passed Christ Church near Dorset Street, the church clock struck 2.30. Mrs Lewis was going to stay with her friends at 2 Miller’s Court. She slept badly in a chair until 3.30, when she heard the clock strike, and was awake until nearly five o’clock. Just before 4 a.m. a young woman screamed ‘Murder!’ not far away. Mrs Lewis did nothing because cries like this were usual in Whitechapel. It is probable that Mrs Prater and Mrs Lewis paid no attention to Mary Kelly’s last terrified cry for help!

Friday November 9th was the day when the citizens of London celebrated the Lord Mayor’s Show. ‘I hope it will be a fine day tomorrow,’ Mary had told Mrs Prater the morning before, ‘as I want to go to the Lord Mayor’s Show.’ At 10.45 on Friday morning Mary’s landlord, John McCarthy, was checking his accounts in his shop at 27 Dorset Street. He noticed that Mary owed him 29 shillings in rent, so he sent his assistant Thomas Bowyer to her room to ask for the money. Bowyer got no answer when he knocked twice. He walked to his right round the corner, where there were two windows of number 13. The window nearest to the door was broken in two places. Bowyer put his hand in and pulled back the curtain. The first thing he saw was two pieces of flesh on the bedside table. Then he saw a body lying on the bed and a lot of blood. He ran back to the shop to tell McCarthy.

When McCarthy looked through the window, his face turned pale. The body on the bed resembled something in a butcher’s shop. He told Bowyer to go to Commercial Street Police Station. Inspectors Beck and Dew, the detectives on duty, went to the murder scene. The door was locked. Inspector Abbeline arrived at 11.30 a.m., but he could not give the order to break open the door until 1.30 p.m. He had to wait for some bloodhound dogs to arrive. At 1.30 when the news came that the dogs were not coming, he told McCarthy to break open the door. Nobody knew that it was not necessary. Barnett and Mary used to put a hand through the broken window and pull back the bolt to open the door.

The scene in the little room was from a nightmare. It was only 4-5 metres square and the door banged against the bedside table. There was not much furniture: an old table and two old chairs stood on the bare, dirty floor. In the fireplace were the ashes of a large fire. On the bed lay a body that was almost unrecognisable. Only the hair and eyes identified it as Mary Kelly. John McCarthy said later, ‘It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man.’ And Mrs Prater, who looked through the window, said, ‘I can never forget it if I live to be a hundred.’

Next day Inspector Abbeline examined the ashes in the fireplace. The strong heat from the fire had melted part of a kettle. In the ashes Abbeline found some women’s clothing, which Maria Harvey had left in the room. Why had the Ripper burnt them? When Abbeline discovered only one small piece of candle in the room, he thought that the killer had made a fire with the clothes because he needed more light to do his terrible work.

This time Jack the Ripper had time to finish his crime without interruption. It was truly the work of a devil.




The man called Jack the Ripper was never caught, and his name will probably never be known. There were lots of suspects at the time, but the police did not have any real evidence against them. During the years since the murders the number of suspects has increased.

An identikit picture of the man can be constructed from the descriptions by the few witnesses who possibly saw him. The first witness was Elizabeth Darrell, who very probably saw the Ripper with Annie Chapman outside 29 Hanbury Street. He wore a brown deerstalker hat and was short, about 1.63m. Mrs Darrell did not see his face, so her impression that he was a darklooking foreigner aged over forty is not certain.

In the case of Elizabeth Stride, from the descriptions by Constable Smith and Israel Schwartz we have a man between 28 – 30 years old, 1.65m to 1.70m tall, wearing dark clothes and a hat with a peak, or perhaps a deerstalker. Schwartz said the man had a small moustache. Joseph Lawende saw a man with a woman near Mitre Square. If the woman was Catherine Eddowes, then the man was certainly Jack the Ripper: about thirty, of average height, with a small moustache and a cap with a peak.

On November 12th a labourer named George Hutchinson gave the police a very good description of a man he saw with Mary Kelly at about 2 o’clock on the morning of her murder. Hutchinson said the man was aged about 34-35, just over 1.67m, with a pale face, dark eyes and hair and a small moustache. He was dressed like a gentleman in a long dark coat, dark hat, and boots with buttons. He had a black tie and a big gold watch chain. He was carrying a small parcel. Hutchinson followed the couple into Dorset Street, where they stood and talked at the entrance to Miller’s Court. When they went into the court, he waited around for about 45 minutes. But they did not come out, so he went away as the church clock struck three o’clock.

Sarah Lewis, the witness who passed Christ Church at 2.30 a.m., said she saw a man standing by a lodging house opposite Miller’s Court. He was not tall, stout, and was wearing a black hat. She thought he was looking up Miller’s Court ‘as if waiting for someone to come out’. So Mrs Lewis’s testimony seems to confirm George Hutchinson’s story. But some students of the murders believe that Hutchinson’s description is too precise and that he was lying for some reason.

Finally, we can exclude the man with the bottle of beer who was seen with Mary at 11.45 p.m. by Mrs Cox. The time was too early. The Ripper did not stay with his victims for hours before killing them.

What is the most probable picture of the murderer? He was a short man, not more than 1.68m, between 28-35 years old, with a light brown moustache. He wore dark clothes and a hat with one peak, or two like a deerstalker. He was probably stout and muscular.

A psychological profile of the killer was created in 1988. It describes him as a solitary man who worked alone, without the help of an accomplice. He usually killed at weekends, so he was employed, perhaps as a butcher. But he was not a doctor or a surgeon because he showed very little medical skill or knowledge. As he went out late at night he probably was not married. He certainly lived or worked in the Whitechapel area because he knew it very well. He mutilated only the faces of Eddowes and Kelly, which, in the opinion of modern experts, indicates that he knew them.

Most of the hundreds of suspects can be eliminated. An example is Montague John Druitt, a 31-year-old lawyer, teacher, and enthusiastic sportsman. On December 31st 1888 his body was found in the Thames near Chiswick. It had been in the water for about a month. On Friday November 30th Druitt lost his job at a private school for some unknown reason. He explained his suicide in a note to his brother. He wrote that he was afraid of becoming like his mother and ‘the best thing for me was to die.’ His mother was in an asylum for lunatics. The police believed that Druitt went mad after the murder of Mary Kelly and committed suicide. However, today we know that serial killers do not often commit suicide. Also, Druitt was playing cricket in Dorset on September 1st, the day Polly Nichols was murdered.

In 1902 Inspector Abbeline suspected a man called George Chapman, a publican who was arrested for poisoning his barmaid Maud Marsh. He had killed other women in the same way. Chapman’s real name was Severiano Klosowski, a Polish immigrant working as a barber in Whitechapel in 1888. But he had only arrived in England the year before, so how could he know the area as well as the Ripper? And is it possible that Jack the Ripper changed from savagely killing prostitutes to poisoning barmaids?

A recent suspect is the famous artist Walter Sickert, known as the British Impressionist. He was 28 years old and living in London at the time of the murders. His strange character has attracted suspicion. He was secretive and often disappeared into dark little rented rooms around the poor quarters of London. He had a morbid interest in the Ripper murders all his life, and it is possible that he sent ‘Ripper’ letters to the police. But there is no real evidence to connect him with the killings. He was also taller and slimmer than the man described by witnesses. His gloomy paintings of murder scenes were part of his vision as an artist: he liked to paint the dark, squalid side of life. Other artists and writers show a similar fascination with violence – Dickens, for example, or Zola. But that does not mean they are murderers.

A more probable suspect is George Hutchinson (mentioned earlier). He gave a detailed statement on the evening of November 12th, after the inquest on Mary Kelly. Some writers have asked why he did not go to the police before the inquest. Was it because Mrs Lewis’s testimony appeared in the newspapers only after the inquest? When he read the report, he realised that she had seen him opposite Miller’s Court. So he had to go to the police before they found him and asked him why he was there. Did he make a false statement and give a false description? Did he have something to hide?

The killer’s terrible mutilation of Mary Kelly’s face suggests that he knew her well. Hutchinson’s statement begins, ‘About 2.00 a.m., 9th, I met the murdered woman, Kelly, and she said to me, “Hutchinson, will you lend me sixpence?”‘ So he and Mary knew each other. In fact, Hutchinson had known Mary about three years, so he certainly knew that she had her own room. After the murders in Berner Street and Mitre Square the streets were too dangerous for the Ripper, which explains why he did not kill in October. So perhaps he decided to kill his next victim indoors and chose Mary Kelly, knowing her room was safe.

Mrs Lewis described Hutchinson as a short, stout man. The newspapers gave his age: 28. He lived at the Victoria Home, a workingmen’s lodging house in Commercial Street, right in the middle of the murder area, and very near Goulston Street, where the piece of Eddowes’s apron was found. So was George Hutchinson Jack the Ripper? We do not know. The police believed there was one final murder by the Ripper in July 1889. It happened in Castle Alley, close behind Hutchinson’s home. If Hutchinson was the Ripper, why did he stop killing? We know that by 1891 he had moved away from Whitechapel. Nobody knows where he went.

There is one important point in favour of Hutchinson’s story. Inspector Abbeline, a very able and experienced detective, interviewed him on November 12th – and believed his story. He wrote, ‘I am of the opinion his statement is true’.

But Abbeline had been wrong about George Chapman.

Chapter 7: PANIC!

In our violent times it is difficult to imagine the shock and horror that the Whitechapel murders caused in 1888. In Victorian times the East End was also violent, but the Ripper murders were something new. Murder was usually the result of domestic quarrels, drink, or robbery. The Ripper murders were the first of a new kind of crime: serial killings, savage, without an obvious motive, no clues, and very difficult to solve.

The fury of the Ripper’s way of killing puzzled the doctors, the police, the public and the press. To them he was a lunatic. On August 7th, before the Buck’s Row murder, a woman called Martha Tabram was killed and then stabbed ferociously with a knife 39 times. This was so unusual that some writers today believe it was a Ripper murder. At the time the newspapers called it ‘unique and mysterious’ and the work of a homicidal maniac.

After the Polly Nichols murder, sensational reports in the newspapers increased the public’s fear and horror. Women became very nervous. People discussed it in the streets and large crowds visited Buck’s Row on September 4th. There were stories of a mysterious man known as ‘Leather Apron’, who demanded money from prostitutes and beat them if they resisted. When the police found a leather apron at the scene of the Hanbury Street murder, they hunted a man called John Pizer, a Polish boot-maker who always wore a leather apron for his work. They found him hiding with his family and arrested him on September 10th. But he had a very good alibi, which proved his innocence.

After the Hanbury Street murder people waited in queues outside newsagents. The Star reported the crime in very sensational language: the killer was ‘half beast, half man’, a ‘demon’, or ‘vampire’. When Mrs Mary Burridge of south London read about the murder, she collapsed and died of fright. The East End community fell into panic and hysteria. On September 8th thousands of frightened people were out in the streets. Large angry crowds gathered in Hanbury Street and at the local police stations. They attacked anybody who looked suspicious. A young criminal called Squibby, for example, was in Hanbury Street, when a detective saw him in the crowd and chased him. The crowd followed shouting, ‘Catch him!’ Squibby was terrified and finally surrendered to the police for his own protection.

The anger of the crowd also turned against Jews, who were threatened and abused. Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes were murdered near Jewish clubs, and the police were very nervous about the possibility of anti-Jewish disturbances. The message in chalk that blamed the Jews was written on the wall of a building in a Jewish area. But it is certain that the Ripper was not Jewish, and Samuel Montague, an important Jewish citizen and MP, offered a reward of 100 pounds for the arrest of the murderer. Also, some Jewish tradesmen organised a vigilance committee to help the police and offered a reward.

At night, anger changed to terror. Shops closed early; people rushed home and locked their doors. Some prostitutes left Whitechapel. Panic spread all over London. When a man called Brennan began to shout about the murders in a pub in Camberwell, the customers ran out into the street and Brennan was soon arrested. But in Whitechapel the pubs were empty, and there were only policemen and vagabonds in the dark streets. Calm began to return only after a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the newspapers continued to report sensational stories and rumours. But they could not print details of the killer’s mutilations, which the doctor did not reveal. Although the details of Annie Chapman’s murder were given on September 19th, they were not reported for reasons of decency. However, two days before, somebody sent a letter to the police, which was never published. It began ‘Dear Boss’ and there was a postscript which included the sentence ‘What a pretty necklace I gave her’. The writer was probably talking about the injury to Annie’s throat, but only the police, the doctors and the killer knew the details of Annie’s murder. The letter was signed ‘Catch me if you can. Jack the Ripper’. It was very probably from the murderer. A second letter of September 27th was signed ‘Yours truly, Jack the Ripper’. This was published on October 1st, the day that the world finally had a name for the Whitechapel killer.

After the double murder of September 30th the panic got worse. By 11 o’clock that morning, one reporter wrote, it seemed that the whole of the East End was ‘out of doors’. Thousands of people went to Berner Street and Mitre Square. Many of them paid to look at the murder scenes from windows. Sellers of fruit, sweets and nuts did a fabulous trade. But on October 3rd shopkeepers complained that they were losing a lot of business because people were afraid to go out shopping.

During the following weeks sales of newspapers, and verses and songs about the murders were enormous. Women lived in terror. Some hoaxers pretended to be the Ripper and followed women to scare them. On October 10th a woman hanged herself at 65 Hanbury Street because she was depressed about the murders. Thousands of letters offering information and help were sent to Scotland Yard. Inspector Abbeline and his colleagues had to read all of them. Abbeline himself walked around the Whitechapel Streets until four or five in the morning. He worked very hard and nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Hundreds of extra police patrolled the area, some dressed as women. Lodgers, butchers, and slaughterers were questioned. On October 13th the police began to search every house in a certain radius of the crimes. The search ended on the 18th, and the police admitted they had not found the smallest clue. But it is very possible that they interviewed Jack the Ripper.

Years later Detective Walter Dew wrote in his memoirs about the killer’s ‘amazing elusiveness’. Jack the Ripper is still as elusive today as he was in 1888.



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