User:  Not Logged In  
Log In 
  Home About  Policy  Privacy  Authors An analytical look at questions of history and strange events.   Webmaster   
News and Notes
Suggest a new Topic
Article Menu
Version: 1.0.0
Printer Friendly Dated: 5/19/2009

Jack the Ripper
The first modern serial killer.

JACK THE RIPPER: FAQs

How many victims did the Ripper kill?

According to classic law enforcement perspective, there were two general approaches to constructing a list of the Ripper's victims: (1) those in charge, (2) those in the streets. For those in charge, James McNaughton's famous list provides the prime example. Two general lists were common:

  • Management (restricted focus)
    • Polly Nichols
    • Annie Chapman
    • Elizabeth Stride
    • Catherine Eddowes
    • Mary Kelly
  • Worker (open to possibilities)
    • Martha Tabram *
    • Polly Nichols
    • Annie Chapman
    • Elizabeth Stride
    • Catherine Eddowes
    • Mary Kelly
    • Alice McKenzie
    • Frances Coles
    • ?
* indicates not on management list.

MacNaughton was sure that the Ripper killed five, and only five, prostitutes. However, he did not have the most important perspective, and his views do not conform to the available evidence we have. He felt that what established a victim of a Ripper attack was if she had her throat cut and a ripped abdomen, and he made an exception for Elizabeth Stride in the case of the ripped abdomen since he felt the Ripper had been disturbed. However, the throat was not cut in the same fashion and with the same knife as in the other ripper cases, and it is improbable that the killer had been disturbed.

From the material kept in the Ripper files and the wording of the reports submitted by police officers and investigators, it is clear that many felt the longer list was more indicative of what were Ripper victims. From the available evidence, it is reasonable to assume that either list could be close to the real count of victims, with the exception of Stride's murder. Nothing identified the hand of the Ripper in any of the murders without doubt, however, many of them seem to have strongly similar elements, including:

  • Throat cut savagely with two strokes that went completely to the vertebrae.
  • The blade of the knife used was about 8 inches long, thin, very pointed and sharp.
  • Stabs and cuts in the abdomen and sexually oriented areas, such as the vagina and breasts.
  • Strong knowledge of anatomy and ability to butcher with no wasted strokes or damaged organs.
  • Attacks against prostitutes.
  • Sudden, violent attacks that rarely varied to any great detail.
  • Careful placement of the dead or unconscious victim so that both shoulders were flat on the ground.
  • Organs taken.
  • The killer had attempted to sever the head from the body on at least three victims.

Some people high in the hierarchy of the police organization felt that the Ripper had not killed Alice McKenzie and Frances Coles, and that McKenzie's killer was attempting to copy the Ripper's methods. There is no definitive answer to who killed those two individuals, but it could easily have been the Ripper.

Did the Ripper murder Elizabeth Stride?

Elizabeth Stride was the first of two woman victims attributed to Jack the Ripper who were killed on the night of the `double header` murders.1 It was clear that the policemen at the time believed that the Ripper had killed her and had been disturbed in the process. Data gathered at the time was made somewhat to fit that theory, but certain telling factors were brought out in statements and at the inquest. Louis Diemschitz was the steward of the Working Men's Educational Club, a socialist club frequented by local people. He was entering the yard by the club when his horse shied at something in the dark. It was the body of Elizabeth Stride. It was hard to see in the extremely dark night, but his lantern showed her throat had been cut. Just about everyone who initially looked at the body thought her throat had been cut just seconds before her body had been found, although the autopsy surgeon showed she had actually been killed several minutes before. The search immediately began to catch the Ripper, since police officers on the scene felt that he had been very close when the body was found and was probably still close by. Before long, police were searching all along the main streets of Whitechapel.

Witness Israel Schwartz later testified that he had seen Elizabeth Stride arguing with two men about 15 minutes before her body was found. He had watched her repeatedly thrown to the ground, but was intercepted by one of the men when he attempted to intervene. He spoke little English and was a foreigner, and felt that the men had targeted him as a Jew. He went away. When he left, the argument between the man and the woman was taking place about 10 feet from where her body was later found. The police theorized that the Ripper must have been waiting in the darkness right at the scene at the same time in order to kill her.

Once the autopsy was completed, it should have showed the investigators that there was no evidence similar to the Ripper's techniques or equipment, however, the idea that he had 'been disturbed' after he had cut her throat and before he had began to rip had taken hold. That theory is still considered to have been possible by many modern investigators. The differences when compared to victims of the Ripper include:

  • The autopsy showed that her throat had not been cut in the characteristic Ripper fashion. In fact, the killer had barely done the job, slicing through the edge of the left carotid artery just enough to allow her to bleed to death. The autopsy surgeon felt that she would have died slowly, as the blood slowly drained from her body. The Ripper quickly and violently cut the throat of each victim so that the blood loss was quick and so the victim could make no sound. He probably waited while the blood drained somewhat so that he would have little or no stains of blood on his hands and arms. There was no reason that he would have used a much smaller knife to do the job, especially when it should have been easy to note that the blood was draining very slowly. The Ripper would probably have finished the job, rather than wait a much longer time with a much increased chance on being discovered. He used his normal blade on Eddowes 15 minutes later, so we are left with a question of why he would have used the much smaller blade on Stride in a less savage way than he did to other victims. The body lay close to a club that had people going in and out frequently. The killer must have known that, and must have been aware that the chances of discovery were good if he had worked on the body for any length of time. Stride's murder would not have met the Ripper's needs because the site was too public and the victim took too long to die.
  • People at the scene noted that her body was clearly colder where it was exposed than where it was covered, indicating that at least several minutes had passed since she had fallen to the ground. The autopsy surgeon estimated she had taken several minutes to die from the blood loss. It could have taken as long as five minutes before blood flow stopped. Since blood had already ceased to flow, why would the Ripper have not begun his work?
  • The knife used was much different from the knife(s) that the Ripper used. The Ripper's knife(s) was about eight inches long, narrow and had a pointed tip. The knife used to cut Stride's throat was about 2 1/2 inches long, about an inch wide, and had a rounded tip. Since the ripper used that knife on Eddowes 15 minutes later, why should he have used any other knife than his own. Since the ripper cut throats to get rid of the blood, why would he nick the artery that way so he would have to wait for perhaps 5 minutes just outside of an active club?
  • The killer had held her on the ground, with her body pressed on its right side. The killer had probably pressed his knees on her left side while he reached down and cut her throat. There were also marks on both of her shoulders indicating a second man had held her down while she was being killed.

Stride had just moved out of her boyfriend's place the day before behind his back. His description matched that of the man she was seen struggling with and he was known as a violent, impulsive person. If she cried out during the murder, no one heard it. The evidence supports a theory that two men placed her on the ground, one of them cut her throat, and then they got up and walked away. There is no reason to believe these two men were different from the two men seen arguing with her just before she was killed.

Did Mary Kelly survive and another women die in her place?

No one can answer this question unequivocally. If Kelly was not murdered, she vanished afterwards. There was another woman who had been staying in the room before Mrs. Harvey began, and other prostitutes might have stayed there. However, the woman who was murdered had Kelly's hair color and general build. Joseph Barrett, Kelly's boyfriend, identified the body as Kelly's from the color of her hair and her eyes. That is far from a definitive identification, but Kelly had been known for her distinctive hair color and Barrett seemed to think that her eyes were just as distinctive. He testified he had been sure that the murdered woman was Mary Kelly.

George Hutchinson, a friend of Kelly's, testified he saw Kelly enter Miller's Court just after 2 AM. He waited outside for about 45 minutes, but they never came out, so he left. He was the last person to see Mary Kelly alive that we know of. His testimony establishes the earliest limit to when her murder might have occurred.

Caroline Maxwell swore at the inquest she had seen Kelly outside of Miller's Court between 8 AM and 8:30 AM on the morning her body was found. That would have been about three hours before her landlord's messenger found her body. Police felt she must have been mistaken on the day, but the woman was sure that it had been Kelly and that it had been on that specific day. It was a holiday, and should have stuck out in her mind even if the murder had not gotten so much attention. However, she did not know Kelly well and identified her more by her clothes than her face and manner. It was quite possible that someone had gone into her apartment and taken some of her clothes after her murder or that Kelly had loaned some clothing to a friend before the murder.

Like the questions concerning Kelly's mysterious background, the answer to this question is the woman probably was Kelly, but there are other possibilities.

Did the Ripper murder Mary Kelly?

Some investigators at the time and since have theorized that Jack the Ripper had not killed Kelly, that some other 'lust' killer had done her in. The Ripper's other victims had been killed in the street and there were a few differences in how the body had been handled, but the damage done to Kelly's body was an expansion of what had been done to Eddowes not long before. Kelly's throat was cut in the same savage manner as the Ripper's victims had been. The knife used on Kelly was similar and perhaps identical with that used on the other Ripper victims. An organ was missing. The preponderance of evidence fit into the theory that the Ripper had killed her, so investigators felt that another killer had not been involved.

The similarity between the Ripper's other murders and this one far outweighs the few differences. It seems improbable that a similar murderer came out of nowhere, killed Kelly, and went back wherever he had come from, with no other victims even in the same category as this one. The murder was grotesque, gruesome, and nauseated those who viewed the crime scene. It seemed improbable that another such crazed murderer could even exist. Although we understand today that many such individuals do exist, it was probable that another individual would have killed others in such a way and brought attention to him.

The knife used on Kelly was very similar to or the same knife as the Ripper had used. The butchering techniques were very similar. Kelly's murderer cut her throat violently using two cuts as the Ripper did; however, he had not throttled her first as in the other cases. His knowledge of anatomy and ability with a knife were similar. His process in attempting to remove the victim's head was identical to what he had done on the bodies of Nichols and Chapman. He took an organ with him when he left as he had in two other instances. Most importantly, the psychological background for such a butchering was very similar to what the Ripper had shown before. If the Ripper had not killed her, the person who did was very, very similar in every important way.

Perhaps most importantly, there was no evidence that pointed towards a different murderer. The few differences were probably because of the different circumstances. In fact, investigators found everything fit well into the Ripper's profile.

Did the Ripper murder Martha Tabram?

Martha Tabram's was killed three weeks before the first murder occurred that the police attributed to the hand of the Ripper. The police's definition of a Ripper murder victim was one where the throat had been cut and the abdomen had been 'ripped' or cut open so that the intestines could be reached. Using that definition, Tabram should have been included. Researchers would probably disagree and say that her body was not ripped, although her throat was cut in a similar way to Jack the Ripper's technique. Also, the autopsy showed that the killer had tried to cut across her abdomen beginning in about the same position that the Ripper would later, but the knife had proven inadequate to the task and all that the killer could do was cut a three-inch long, deep cut. Many of the police working the streets at the time felt that the Ripper had killed her.

Police managers felt that a guardsman had killed Tabram. She and Mary Ann Connolly had gone with two men wearing uniforms that night. Police later identified that the uniforms were of guardsmen. Tabram finally had gone off with one of them, not long before to her murder. The other guardsman had been seen 'waiting for his mate' near to the spot the murder occurred and not long afterwards.

There is several pieces of significant evidence that points to the Ripper having went out wearing 'costumes' that were very similar to uniforms in use at the time. Two descriptions had him wearing 'sailor' clothes. The person with Tabram wore something similar to a guardsman uniform. The strange individual who told John Arnold that the Ripper had killed a woman near Pinchin Street (in 1889) was wearing a uniform similar to a commissaire. When Connolly attempted to find either of the two men that had gone with her and Tabram that night

Was Jack the Ripper a midwife?

Although a midwife would probably have passed unnoticed through the streets of Whitechapel even during intense police searches, it is highly improbable that the Ripper was such a person. Several people gave descriptions of individuals suspected of being the Ripper, and there was a general continuity in them. Since the police could not identify who these people were, it is probable that at least some of the reports detailed a description of Jack the Ripper. If even one of the descriptions is reasonably accurate, the Ripper was not a woman.

Males generally perpetrate this type of crime, and that was even more so in 1888. The type of attack used by JTR was a sudden, violent attack on the female, directed mostly towards sexual elements such as the breasts and genitals. Such events tend to be male-oriented. At the time, any midwife perceived as focused on anything other than maintaining health and life would have been noticed.

What portion of the common public perception of Jack the Ripper attacking defenseless women in foggy, dark alleyways with a knife was true?

Just about everything carried in the public perception about Jack the Ripper is inaccurate. He only attacked on clear nights. That makes good sense if he had good night vision and do not want to be surprised by someone coming upon the murder scene unexpectedly. He did not carry a top hat and probably did not carry a cloak, but he probably always carried a coat of some sort; he took it off just before he did his sudden attack, so that putting it back on would cover the few blood stains he might pick up. He must have kept the knife well hidden until after he had shocked her and chocked her into unconsciousness. The murder sites were not in Alleyways. They occurred in large squares, streets, one occurred in an apartment (Kelly) and one occurred in an enclosed, personal yard (Chapman).

On which of his victims did he attempt to cut off the head?

Jack the Ripper cut around and attempted to remove the head of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, and Mary Kelly. He was unsuccessful in each case, probably because he set a time limit to reduce the change of unexpected interruptions, and he walked away when the time had elapsed. Although his knife was quite capable of ripping through tough tissue, it proved insufficient when separating the vertebrae of the knife and the surrounding elements.

Which of the many letters sent to police, newspapers and individuals were probably written by Jack the Ripper?

Although it is impossible to be sure, most researchers believe that few if any of the letters received came from the Ripper. Many researchers feel that the letters were all fraudulent. There is strong evidence to support a theory that someone familiar with the news media of the time wrote the core letters, and the probability is high that the portion of a human kidney packaged and sent to Mr. Lusk had not been taken from Catherine Eddowes' corpse.

The core letters received may have come from one main source. The police thought they recognized the hand of a specific newsman in many of them. In any case, the police placed no real value in the content of the letters, cards, and packages received, although they did place copies of the texts in the Ripper file.

The one thing that the letters produced was a distinct, memorable name for the killer, and the name of Jack the Ripper has been inseparable since that time. Reporters were well aware of the value of having a recognizable icon associated with the killer. It was more to the benefit of the newspapers than the killer to have such a name, and We have no evidence that shows the true killer showed any interest in how the news media was handling his story.

Did the Ripper have special anatomical knowledge or surgical ability?

Generally, surgeons who viewed the killer's victims at the crime scene felt he had a great deal of anatomical knowledge and some experience in butchering with a knife. Surgeons who handled the bodies of the victims in the mortuary were not as sure. However, we can answer that question by looking at what the Ripper did and how he did it.

The Ripper used a long, sharp knife, but he did not just cut anywhere; autopsy surgeons repeatedly pointed out that there were no extraneous cuts, meaning every cut had a purpose and was set just where the person wielding the knife intended it to be. No damage was done to the surrounding tissue when organs were removed. That does not sound remarkable unless you put it into the context of the time and place; in the first two murders (Nichols and Chapman), the Ripper worked in near-total darkness, yet had no difficulty in identifying organs and removing them without damage. Today, even with our anatomy training and rudimentary health knowledge, the average person would probably be unable to do that, let alone do it in a short time with the constant threat of discovery.

In Catherine Eddowes` murder, he removed the uterus and one kidney. Even today, finding that kidney would not be easy, yet the killer found it and removed it. The killer had some light for Eddowes` butchering, but not a great deal; it would still have been difficult to do. The theory that the killer just happened on the kidney is improbable; it would have been difficult to find even if the killer was looking for it. It was also very important to note that the killer was probably working within a very short time limit, and had only a few minutes to find and remove the kidney. It is probable that he had decided to remove one before he targeted and killed his victim.

You must remember the Ripper was working in near-complete darkness, butchering a body in a public site where could be discovered at any time, and probably limited by a time constraint he had set. He had to watch his own back at the same time he was working on the body. He probably was watching the time, knowing that police patrols or other chance individuals might show up at any time. He performed these dissections quickly, even savagely, with no improper cuts or damaged tissue and in bad lighting or in near darkness. He must have been practiced in that sort of thing, so it would have been reasonable for him to have worked as a slaughterman or butcher at the time.

What did the Ripper look like?

It is difficult to answer this question, but he probably was about 5' 6" in height, between 25 and 35 years of age, fairly slender but very quick and strong, and dressed more like a tradesman than a gentleman. The types of clothing he wore, caps, facial hair, and perhaps other elements might have been a disguise intended to hide his profession or lifestyle; we cannot assume the clothing he wore was indicative of what he was.

To some extent, it appears that Jack the Ripper liked to dress up in different fashions, since he was described as looking like a tradesman at one point, and a sailor at another. If he killed Martha Tabram, he was wearing a guardsman's uniform. If he was the individual who spoke to John Arnold about what became the Pinchin Street Mystery, he was wearing something similar to a commissaire`s uniform. Since these times were the nights that murders took place, we have no data about what he might have normally been wearing, but it is possible that he went out in such clothing at other times.

What happened to him?

No one can be sure, but the probability was high that he did not commit suicide and did not stop murdering. We just have no way to be sure what killings might have been by his hand. The police only recognized his hand when he cut a woman's throat and then ripped her abdomen. If the Ripper had changed his style somewhat, he would have virtually vanished from police scrutiny. Since it was probable that he killed women before his first ripped victim, it was possible he returned to his previous style of killing.

by Sherman A. Meeds, Jr.
Copyright 2009
This list includes material taken from a book I am writing. The book will include an analysis of the Jack the Ripper murders, along with two other sets of murders, and a look at how the police, news media, and the public interpreted them. The book will be ready for the publisher in July 2009.
Notes:
1. Although there were three women who were murdered with cut throats that night, police never suspected the Ripper had killed the first because her husband confessed to her murder. That left Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes as the two possible victims for that specific night. It was possible that Elizabeth Stride would not have ended up on the Ripper's list if Eddowes had not been killed the same night. References:
A. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, by Stewart P. Evans & Keith Skinner, Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc, 1998.
B. The Many Faces of Jack the Ripper, by M. J. Trow, Sumersdale, 1998.
C. The Jack the Ripper A to Z, by Paul Begg, Margtin Fido, and Keith Skinner, Headline, 1991.
D. The Complete Jack the Ripper, by Donald Rumbelow, New York Graphic Society, 1975.
Copyright 2009 by Sherman Meeds
Jack the Ripper Drawing
Jack the Ripper, drawing.

Dorset Street 1902
Dorset Street, 1902.

Mary Nichols in Death
Mary "Polly" Nichols.

Annie Chapman in Death
Annie Chapman.

Mary Jane Kelly drawing
Drawing, Mary Jane Kelly.

Martha Tabram in death
Martha Tabram. (possible victim)

Alice McKenzie in death
Alice McKenzie. (possible victim)

Dear Boss Letter
Dear Boss Letter, Part 1.

Dear Boss Letter Part 2
Dear Boss Letter, Part 2.

From Hell Letter
From Hell Letter.

Saucy Jack Postcard
Saucy Jack Postcard.

 

This page and the material on the web site copyright 2009 by Misadi Solutions, Ltd. This web site was developed by Misadi Solutions, Ltd . Please visit us at www.misadi.com .