Jack the Ripper
The East End of London in the 1880's was a dirty, forbidding
place at night. Whitechapel was the scene of some of the most
infamous murders of all time. Jack the Ripper was suspected.
It all began on the 29th September 1888, the Central News
Agency the following:
"I was not codding [joking], dear old Boss, when I gave
you the tip. you'll hear about Saucy Jack's work tomorrow.
Double event this time. Number one squealed a bit. Couldn't
finish straight off. Had not time to get ears for police.
Thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.
Jack the Ripper."
A few days later Jack the Ripper sent to cardboard box containing Catherine
Eddowes’s kidney to George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel
A note "From Hell" was attached. "Mr. Lusk.
Sir I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman prasarved
it for you. tother piece I fried and ate it was very nice.
I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only
wate a whil longer. Signed Catche me when you can Mister Lusk."[sic
There was speculation that the murderer was a doctor as anatomical
skills were apparaent.
The murderer of Catherine Eddowes wrote a message on the wall:
"The Juwes are not the men to be blamed for nothing."
This important clue was erased at the instigation of Sir Charles
Warren (Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) who feared
religious trouble. Jack the Ripper was never caught…Tauntingly we
wrote to the police,
.... "How can they catch me now? I love my work and want
to start again....soon"
Good Luck Yours Truly,
The Enduring Jack the Ripper Mystery
The name 'Jack the Ripper' has become the most infamous in
the annals of murder. Yet, the amazing fact is that his identity
remains unproven today. In the years 1888-1891 the name Jack the Ripper was
regarded with terror by the residents of London's East End,
and was known the world over. So shrouded in myth and mystery
is this story that the facts are hard to identify at this
remove in time. And it was the officers of Scotland Yard to
whom the task of apprehending the fearsome killer,Jack the Ripper , was entrusted.
They may have failed, but they failed honourably, having
made every effort and inquiry in their power to free London
of the unknown terror.
Over the years the mystery of Jack the Ripper has deepened to the degree that
the truth is almost totally obscured. Innumerable press stories,
pamphlets, books, plays, films, and even musicals have dramatised
and distorted the facts to such a degree that the fiction
is publicly accepted more than the reality.
Suffice to say genuine Jack the Ripper suspects are far fewer than the prolific
authors of the genre would have us believe. In fact, to reduce
them to only those with a genuine claim having been nominated
by contemporary police officers, we are left with a mere four Jack the Ripper suspects:
- Kosminski, a poor Polish Jew resident in Whitechapel;
- Montague John Druitt, a 31 year old barrister and school
teacher who committed suicide in December 1888;
- Michael Ostrog, a Russian-born multi-pseudonymous thief
and confidence trickster, believed to be 55 years old in
1888, and detained in asylums on several occasions;
- Dr Francis J. Tumblety, 56 Years old, an American 'quack'
doctor, who was arrested in November 1888 for offences of
gross indecency, and fled the country later the same month,
having obtained bail at a very high price.
The first three of these Jack the Ripper suspects were nominated by Sir Melville
Macnaghten, who joined the Metropolitan Police as Assistant
Chief Constable, second in command of the Criminal Investigation
Deptment (C.I.D.) at Scotland Yard in June 1889. They were
named in a report dated 23 February 1894, although there is
no evidence of contemporary police suspicion against the three
at the time of the murders. Indeed, Macnaghten's report contains
several odd factual errors.
Kosminski was certainly favoured as the main Jack the Ripper suspect by the head of the C.I.D.
Dr. Robert Anderson, and the officer in charge of the case,
Chief Inspector Donald Swanson. Druitt appears to have been
Macnaghten's preferred candidate, whilst the fact that Ostrog
was arrested and incarcerated before the report was compiled
leaves the historian puzzling why he was included as a viable
Jack the Ripper suspect in the first place.
The fourth Jack the Ripper suspect, Tumblety, was stated to have been "amongst
the suspects" at the time of the murders and "to
my mind a very likely one," by the ex-head of the Special
Branch at Scotland Yard in 1888, ex-Detective Chief lspector
John George Littlechild. He confided his thoughts in a letter
dated 23 September, 1913, to the criminological journalist
and author George R Sims. For a list of viable suspects they
have not inspired any uniform confidence in the minds of those
well-versed in the case.
Indeed, arguments can be made against all of them being the
culprit, and no hard evidence exists against any of them.
What is obvious is the fact that the police were at no stage
in a position to prove a case against anyone, and it is highly
unlikely a positive case will ever be proved. If the police
were in this position in 1888-1891, then what hope for the
enthusiastic modern investigator?
To clear the confusion for the new student of the case we
have to return to factual basics. Just who was 'Jack the Ripper,'
and what were the 'Whitechapel murders'?
What has to be understood is the fact that the 'Ripper' murders
and the 'Whitechapel murders' are not the same thing, although
the latter does include the 'Ripper' murders. So to set the
scene, the list of the eleven Whitechapel murders, (all of
which at some stage have been looked upon as 'Ripper' murders),
was as follows:
Tuesday 3 April 1888
Emma Elizabeth Smith
Assaulted and robbed
in Osborn Street, Whitechapel.
Tuesday 7 August 1888
George Yard Buildings,
George Yard, Whitechapel.
Friday 31 August 1888
Mary Ann Nichols
Buck's Row, Whitechapel,
Saturday 8 September
Rear Yard at 29 Hanbury
Sunday 30 September
Yard at side of 40 Berner
St Georges-in-the- East.
Sunday 30 September
Mitre Square, Aldgate,
City of London.
Friday 9 November 1888
Mary Jane Kelly
13 Miller's Court,
26 Dorset Street Spitalfields.
Thursday 20 December
High Street. Poplar.
Wednesday 17 July 1889
Tuesday 10 September
Unknown female torso
Found under railway
arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel,
Friday 13 February 1891
Under railway arch,
Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel.
Throat cutting attended the murders of Nichols, Chapman,
Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie and Coles. In all except
the cases of Stride and Mylett there was abdominal mutilation.
In the case of Chapman the uterus was taken away by the killer;
Eddowes' uterus and left kidney were taken; and in Kelly's
case, evidence suggests, the heart.
The Jack the Ripper murders were considered too much for the local Whitechapel
(H) Division C.I.D, headed by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid,
to handle alone. Assistance was sent from the Central Office
at Scotland Yard, after the Nichols murder, in the persons
of Detective Inspectors, Frederick George Abberline, Henry
Moore, and Walter Andrews, together with a team of subordinate
officers. Reinforcements were drafted into the area to supplement
the local men. After the Eddowes murder the City Police, under
Detective Inspector James McWilliam, were also engaged on
the hunt for the killer.
Every one of these murders remained unsolved, no person was
ever convicted of any of them. Thus It must be said that we
simply do not know which of them for certain were the work
of a single killer. Over the years, mainly as a result of
Macnaghten's beliefs, the 'Ripper'-victims have been listed
with Tabram having gained favour more recently as a possible
sixth in the opinion of some historians.
Certainly the evidence indicates that Smith was murdered
by a group of three young hoodlums. The police investigated
a suspicion that Tabram was murdered by a soldier. Mylett,
who was not even murdered according to the Assistant Commissioner
Robert Anderson, was probably strangled by a client.
McKenzie's wounds indicated yet a different killer.The 'Pinchin
Street torso' was undoubtedly an exercise in the disposal
of a body, and Coles was possibly murdered by a male companion,
James Thomas Sadler, who was arrested and, certainly for a
while, suspected of being the Ripper.
Almost certainly the one single reason for the enduring
appeal of this rather sordid series of prostitute murders
is the name Jack the Ripper. The name is easy to explain.
It was written at the end of a letter, dated 25 September,
1888, and received by the Central News Agency on 27
September, 1888. They, in turn, forwarded it to the
Metropolitan Police on 29 September.
The letter was couched in lurid prose and began "Dear
Boss......" It went on to speak of "That joke
about Leather Apron gave me real fits......'' ('Leather
Apron' was a John Pizer, briefly suspected at the time
of the Chapman murder). "I am down on whores and
I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled...";
and so on in a similar vein. The appended "trade
name" of Jack the Ripper was then made public and
further excited the imagination of the populace.
The two murders of 30 September 1888 gave the letter
greater importance to the Jack the Ripper case and to underline it the unknown correspondent
again committed red ink to postcard and posted it on
1 October. In this communication he referred to himself
as 'saucy Jacky...' and spoke of the "double event......."
He again signed off as Jack the Ripper. The status of
this correspondence is still being discussed by modern
The message on the wall
Immediately after the Eddowes murder a piece of her
bloodstained apron was found in a doorway in Goulston
Street, Whitechapel. Above the piece of apron, on the
brick fascia in the doorway, was the legend, in chalk,
"The Juwes are The men that Will not be Blamed
for nothing." A message from the real Jack the Ripper , or simply
anti-Semitic graffiti? Expert opinion is divided.
It was at this time that the panic was at its height
and the notoriety of the Jack the Ripper murders was becoming truly
international, appearing in newspapers from Europe to
the Americas. Even at this early stage the newspapers
were carrying theories as to the identity of the Jack the Ripper ,
including doctors, slaughterers, sailors, and lunatics
of every description.
A popular image of the Jack the Ripper as a 'shabby genteel'
man in dark clothing, slouch hat and carrying a shiny
black bag was also beginning to gain currency. The press,
especially the nascent tabloid papers, were having a
field day. With no Whitechapel murders in October there
was still plenty to write about. There were dozens of
arrests of suspects "on suspicion" (usually
followed by quick release); there was a police house
to house search, handbills were circulated, and Vigilance
Committee members and private detectives flooded the
The discovery of a female torso in the cellars of the
new police building under construction at Whitehall
added to the air of horror on 2 October, 1888. The floodgates
to a deluge of copy cat 'Jack the Ripper' letters were
opened, and added to the problems of the police.
An unpleasant experience befell the Chairman of the
Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, builder George Lusk,
on 16 October, 1888, when he received half a human kidney
in a cardboard box through the post. With this gruesome
object was a letter scrawled in a spidery band and addressed
"from Hell ....." It finished. "signed
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk." The writer, who could have been Jack the Ripper ,
claimed to have fried and ate the other half of the
"kidne," which was "very nise."
The shaken Lusk took both kidney and letter to the police.
The police, and police surgeon felt it was probably
a hoax by a medical student, although others believed
it was part of Eddowes' missing organ.
Inquests fuel press speculation
Popular and lengthy inquests were held by Coroner Wynne
Baxter on the Jack the Ripper victims falling under his jurisdiction,
which was the majority of them, and he fuelled the press
coverage to fever pitch. He was not grudging in dishing
out his criticism of witnesses. By the time the Jack the Ripper murders
came to an end in 1891, the proprietors of the Working
Lads' Institute had had enough of the noisy, unruly,
proceedings and informed Baxter that he could find a
different venue for his next inquest.
The murder of Mary Kelly, in November 1888, was accompanied
by mutilation of such ferocity that it beggared description,
and, for once, left the press short of superlatives.
The murder had been committed on the day of the investiture
of the new Mayor of London and the celebrations were
soon overshadowed by the news of the Ripper's latest
The Metropolitan Commissioner of Police, Sir Charles
Warren, resigned at the time of the Kelly murder, after
a long history of dispute with the Home Office, and
was replaced by James Monro.
The Jack the Ripper panic subsides
After the Kelly murder, and many more abortive arrests,
the panic began to die down a little and a more quiescent
atmosphere began to reign. In early 1889 lnspector Abberline
left, to take on other cases, and the Jack the Ripper inquiry was handed
over to Inspector Henry Moore. His last extant report
on the murders is dated 1896, when another 'Jack the
Ripper' letter was received. There were brief flurries
of press activity and wild suggestions that the 'Ripper'
had returned on the occasions of the subsequent murders.
However, Sadler was the last serious Jack the Ripper suspect arrested,
and his seafaring activities obviated him from blame
for the 1888 murders.
It will be seen from the foregoing that this Jack the Ripper mystery,
when stripped of its fictional trappings, provides
all the raw material the imaginative writer or armchair
detective could hope for. So popular is theJack the Ripper subject
that meticulous and scholarly research is carried out
on the background of all the characters named in the
story. Detailed plans are drawn and Victorian census
returns and post office directories are consulted. The
newspapers of the time are trawled for every scrap of
information. Every minor detail revealed and added is
hailed as a major triumph of research, sometims even
justifying a book.
The files and other source material
New Scotland Yard have no files on the Jack the Ripper murders, nor
details of the inquiry. The documents have been transfered
over to the Public Record Office at Ruskin Avenue, Kew.
Commissioner's letters, confidential and private,
Out Ietters, 1890-1919.
Letters to Home Office etc., 1883-1904.
Letters from Receiver to Home Office etc., 1868-91.
Police reinforcements for Whitechapel after Pinchin
St. murder 1891.
Files on each of the Whitechapel murders (that
on Emma Smith missing).
Whitechapel murders, miscellaneous correspondence
'Jack the Ripper' letters.
Documents on the Whitechapel murders returned
to Yard in 1987.
Photographs of Whitechapel Murder victims (original
of Stride missing).
Copy of photograph of Elizabeth Stride
There is much material to be seen
in these files though probably as much again is now
missing, some as a result of petty pilfering and others
were simply destroyed in past years.
Many books have been written on the subject, and they
vary in quality. Some concern individual suspects, whilst
others are aimed more for the student and researcher,
and contain most of the facts available, thus avoiding
expensive and time-consuming research.
However, the serious historian is directed to the primary
Metropolitan Police (MEPO) sources listed above, as
well as the Home Office files which are also available
at the Record Office.
The two recommended reference books are:-
The Jack the Ripper.A-Z , by Paul Begg, Martin
Fido, and Keith Skinner, published by Headline, 1996.
(Still in print).
The Complete History of Jack the Ripper ,
by Philip Sugden, published by Robinson, 1995, (Still