Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper – one of the most notorious characters of London of the 19th century. Let’s delve into the unsolved mystery again…

On the night of August 31, 1888, London driver, Charles Allen Lechmere, also known as Charles Cross, found the body of a woman in front of the Gates of Buck’s Row in Whitechapel. Her skirt was ripped off. Cross was confident that he was dealing with a dead body, and pointed to a woman to his colleague, Robert Paul, who was riding past on his way to work. Paul suggested that the woman was still alive, and the cab drivers, straightening the woman’s skirt, hurried to look for the police. They alerted Constable Jonas Meisen to their discovery.

The investigation leads Scotland Yard
In addition to Meisen, two more policemen and several simple onlookers arrived at the scene of the woman’s find. By four o’clock, the police-called surgeon Henry Lewellin ascertained the correctness of Charles Cross’ guess – the lady was dead. Her throat was cut twice from left to right; One deep ragged wound was present on the abdomen, several cuts across the abdomen and three or four cuts in the right side, inflicted by the same blade with a length of at least 6-8 inches.

The identity of the deceased was established fairly quickly. She turned out to be a 43-year-old alcoholic prostitute Mary Ann Nichols.

Jack the Ripper's Crimes in Illustrated Police News, 1889
Jack the Ripper’s Crimes in Illustrated Police News, 1889

The death of a lady who led a similar way of life would not have aroused much interest from the press and ordinary people if in the same year of 1888 two more women with low social responsibility did not die in Whitechapel – 44-year-old Emma Smith and 39-year-old Martha Tabram.
London newspapers began to write about a gang of murderers, or a lonely maniac who began the hunt for prostitutes. The resonant case was transferred to the Central Office of Scotland Yard.

A “yellow press” hero
East Middlesex Coroner Wynne Edwin Baxter, examining the case file, came to the conclusion that the murders of Emma Smith and Martha Tabram were in no way connected with the death of Mary Nichols. But by the time the trial ended, another murder of a prostitute had been commited – on September 8, 1888 Annie Chapman was killed. Coroner Baxter considered that there was enough in common between the murders of Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman to consider them the work of one person.

Thus began the story of the killer, who today is known to the world as “Jack the Ripper.”

The London fanatic, of course, was not the first bloody maniac, either in the history of mankind or in the history of the British capital. However, his atrocities came during a period of rapid development of the “yellow press” in Albion. The image of “Jack the Ripper” thanks to the reporters has grown to the scale of a truly infernal evil.

Journalists from the more well-fed and prosperous areas of London were eager to share the nightmare of the slums of London’s East End. An unknown killer began to frighten young children, his real crimes were deliberately exaggerated.

The cover of the Puck magazine from September 21, 1889. Artist Tom Merry.
The cover of the Puck magazine from September 21, 1889. Artist Tom Merry.

“Jack the Ripper”, figuratively speaking, became the first media criminal of this kind.

Myth and Reality
Today, he appears in dozens of films and hundreds of books, thousands of different versions have been put forward regarding the identity of the murderer. There is even a whole discipline called “ripperology,” which studies all the circumstances of the “Jack the Ripper case”. Ripperologists, scattered around the world, share with their colleagues their findings in a case that would seem to be studied backwards and forwards.

In total, the maniac is credited with up to 15 massacres, but the canonical story of Jack the Ripper has five murders committed between August 31 and November 9, 1888. All five women — Mary Ann Nicholls, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly — were prostitutes. In three of his victims, the killer cut out the internal organs; in two cases, he limited himself to opening the abdominal cavity.

Mary Ann Nichols was the first of the victims, which most researchers recognize the work of the “Ripper”.

On September 8, 1888, as already mentioned, Annie Chapman died, September 30 – Elizabeth Stride, on the same day – Catherine Eddowes, and on November 9, Mary Jane Kelly was killed.

Professional or amateur?
The investigation, carried out in 1888, concluded that the killer had first cut the throat of the victims, and had opened the abdominal cavity after their death. There is also a version according to which Jack the Ripper strangled his victims, and this is precisely the reason for the absence of the screams of women who could attract the attention.

The inability of the police to seize the killer confirmed the opinion of the radicals in that the police was inept.
The inability of the police to seize the killer confirmed the opinion of the radicals in that the police was inept.

Both the investigators of 1888 and ripperologists in the following decades did not agree on whether Jack the Ripper had any professional skills that helped him during the crimes.

Dr. George Phillips, who examined the body of Mary Kelly, the last “canonical victim” of Jack the Ripper, wrote: I believe that he did not even have the skills of a butcher, or a horseman, or a man trained to carve animal carcasses”.

Other doctors, on the contrary, believed that the actions of the criminal indicate that Jack the Ripper had the skills and knowledge of a professional surgeon.

“Yours truly Jack the Ripper”
The killer himself invented the name “Jack the Ripper”. It was stated in a letter dated September 25, 1888, stamped September 27 by the Central News Agency and delivered on September 29 to Scotland Yard.

In a letter beginning with the words “Dear Boss”, the author mocks the efforts of the police and promises to continue his crimes. The letter ends with the signature “Yours truly Jack the Ripper. Dont mind me giving the trade name.”

Jack's letter
Jack’s letter

Letters like this, in the midst of hunting for the Ripper, were received a lot, but that one contained a promise to cut off another victim’s ears. Immediately the day after receiving the letter by police, two women were killed, one of whom actually had an ear cut off.

The London police ultimately declared the letter a hoax organized by journalists, but there is still no unity among researchers as to whether it is genuine.

Even the queen’s grandson was suspected
After November 9, 1888 there is no reliable evidence of crimes, the “handwriting” of which is similar to the hand of Jack the Ripper. Serial maniac, as a rule, can not stop himself. Most likely, an insurmountable circumstance arose before the murderer, preventing him from continuing his atrocities. The reasons could be arrest for other crimes with imprisonment, isolation in a psychiatric hospital or, finally, the death of the murderer.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale

A total of about 2,000 people were questioned during the investigation, of which 80 were detained. However, no one was formally charged. It is believed that one of the main reasons was the low qualification of the police, who overlooked important clues, as well as the primitive examination methods that existed at that time.

To this day, ripperologists are trying to answer the main question – who really was Jack the Ripper? The total number of suspects has exceeded one hundred, and among them even the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria Albert Victor, the Duke Clarence, was mentioned.

The secret of the Polish hairdresser
In 2014, associate professor of molecular biology at the University of Liverpool, Jari Louhelainen, on the basis of DNA research, concluded that Jack the Ripper was Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminsky.

The scientist made his conclusions after investigating DNA material obtained from a shawl found near the body of one of the victims of Jack the Ripper, Catherine Eddowes.
Aaron Kosminsky was born in the Polish city of Klodawa on September 11, 1865, into a Jewish family. Poverty and strong anti-Semitic sentiments that prevailed in Poland, forced Kosminsky at the age of 16 to go to the West in search of a better life. Kosminsky with his relatives fixed themselves in Whitechapel. He worked as a hairdresser, and the money he earned was barely enough not to die of starvation.

Aaron Kosminsky was among the suspects in the Jack the Ripper case at the end of the 19th century. In 1891, a 26-year-old hairdresser found himself in a clinic for the mentally ill after he had tried to slaughter his sister. Doctors, examining Kosminsky and having communicated with his relatives and friends, came to the conclusion that he had the first signs of mental illness as early as 1885, that is, three years before the first murder attributed to Jack the Ripper. Curious the interpretation by British doctors of the cause of the disease – according to medical records, Aaron Kosminsky went insane because of his addiction to sexual self-gratification.

Once found himself in a psychiatric clinic, Kosminsky spent the rest of his life in institutions of this type. The hairdresser died on March 24, 1919, at the age of 53.

Kosminsky really lived and worked not far from the place where the murders were committed, but the London police could not find convincing evidence of his guilt.
Jari Louhelainen’s conclusions almost immediately been questioned. Many considered that the shawl itself and the marks on it are not reliable, and, therefore, the assistant professor’s conclusions are erroneous.

So the image of Jack the Ripper is still shrouded in mystery today.

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