Around 11 pm on the 30th of August 1888, a woman called Mary Ann Nichols, known to some as “Polly,” was seen walking down White chapel road in the East End of London. The mother of five then went to a pub and left around midnight.
She liked a drink to say the least, but the habit may have been because of breaking up with her husband and then fending for herself in the workhouses of London, making cash working as a lady of the night.
On the night she was killed, she’d been out working and had earned enough for a bed that night. She was last seen by her friend around 2.30 am, and about an hour later she was found dead. Her throat had been slit and her body mutilated. She was the first victim of the man now known as Jack the Ripper.
The Ripper’s Reign of Terror
There would be five more victims; what are known as the “canonical five”. The ripper could have killed more, but the police were pretty sure he took the lives of five women. What was outstanding about this case was the fact that the killer seemed to have a remarkable acumen for mutilating a body and then removing certain organs with surgical precision. It was as if this mad man was a surgeon of sorts, albeit a crazed one. This is what the newspaper wrote about the murder of Nichols:
“Five of the teeth were missing, and there was a slight laceration of the tongue. On the left side of the neck, about 1 inch below the jaw, was an incision about 4 inches running from a point immediately below the ear.
On the same side, but an inch below, and commencing about 1 inch in front of it, was a circular incision, which terminated at a point about 3 inches below the right jaw. That incision completely severed all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed.”
London under siege
It was utterly horrific, and London was shocked. But more victims would follow, and each would be mutilated in a similar fashion. The Killer’s ad hoc surgery might include the removal of the kidneys, uterus, or parts of the abdomen area.
The newspapers ran wild with the story of the man they called “the Whitechapel Murderer” or “Leather Apron.” Then after a letter was sent to the police from the alleged killer, he became Jack the Ripper. It was as if the killer was playing with police, and then on 15 October 1888, he penned his most famous letter titled “From Hell.”
The letter “From Hell”
That letter read:
“I send you half the Kidney I took from one woman [prasarved] it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer.”
The strange thing is, this letter was written by someone who was barely literate, but in time it would be speculated that Jack may have been well-educated, after all, he knew about human anatomy. Maybe he didn’t even write the letter, or maybe the bad spelling and bad grammar were just part of his game. A ruse to mislead police.
Who the hell was Jack the Ripper? The unanswered question…
Since those murders, much has been said about who Jack the Ripper was, so much so that people out there call themselves Ripperologists. It could have been a number of people, from immigrants who’d moved to London to members of the aristocracy.
Some people thought it might have been Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, the Duke of Clarence, but there is no real evidence that clearly proves it was him. Others said it was a barber, well, one with some mental issues.
His name was Aaron Kosminski. Some wide-eyed conspiracy theorists even said it was the creator of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, but again, there is nothing really to back this up.
Then in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in March 2019 an article was published that did indeed say it was the Polish barber, Kosminski. The researchers in that paper wrote that they had then compared mitochondrial DNA from Eddowes present family members as well as people from the present Kosminski family. They said the Ripper was one of their ancestors.
They also said Jack the Ripper had blue eyes and brown hair. It sounded good, and the press loved the story, but a lot of scientists came out and said the evidence was poor or even ridiculous. One academic wrote, “Nonsense like this paper and a gullible media does nothing but foment scientific and historical illiteracy built upon the grotesque romanticization of the brutal murders of five women.”
So, we are still left in the dark and the serial killer of London who eviscerated his victims is still a killer with no name. He was certainly not the worst of killers by far in terms of what he did and his body count, but he is perhaps the best known of serial killers. He played cat and mouse game with the police. He was skilled, he was brilliant, and he was brutal.
But why was he never caught?
Too much crime
First of all, you have to understand the climate of East London back then. This was for the most part a squalid part of a great city. It was teeming with people from all over the world who’d gone to London to make a living in this fabulous capital of a country whose empire was nothing but astounding.
But in East London there was poverty everywhere. The dark streets were full of drunkards, bullies, homeless people and London prostitutes. England may have been in its heyday, but you could say the wealth wasn’t exactly trickling down on every part of the country. There were quite a lot of murders in that part of London back then, but they were usually fights between angry, drunk men.
There was also a lot of racism, because as we said immigrants came from far and wide to that great city. So, the streets were plagued with violence and hate, and the ripper victims on those streets weren’t exactly thought of as important members of society.
What we are trying to say is a missing prostitute didn’t exactly at first cause a massive police investigation. Had Jack the Ripper killed an aristocrat, we could say a bigger probe would have been mounted. So, that’s the first reason. The ripper’s victims you could say were expendable.
Another thing was that Jack the Ripper was a very careful killer. Right now, the FBI sometimes profile killers as either organized killers or disorganized killers. Jack the ripper was the organized kind and he left very few clues. It was as if he was a ghost, stole a woman from the streets, did his awful work, and then just disappeared.
You have to remember that back then, there was no CCTV or forensic technology, and to catch a killer you either had to see him doing it, leaving the scene, or have witness testimony that was bulletproof. The Ripper aka Jack knew those streets well, and he lurked around at a time of night and chose a victim who no one would really miss.
At the same time, those streets he chose his victims were very poorly lit in those days, choosing London female prostitutes. You could easily kill a person down a dark street and no one would see. If you were a very careful killer, you’d know where to strike, and Jack the Ripper was certainly no dummy.
Shoddy police work
There is also the fact that the police at the time didn’t really do a good job. It’s said an officer at one murder scene actually rubbed out writing on a wall that could have been written by the killer. He basically destroyed evidence. The public at the time were saying it had to be someone who was Jewish, and that was merely racism.
But the police went looking for Jews. They also rounded up all the lunatics around London, when they should have spread the net much wider. There was no such thing as criminal profiling back then and so the cops just looked for what they thought were obvious possible perpetrators.
As we know now, serial killers often tend to be family men, educated men, the guy next door, and not so often people suffering from mental illness. That is sometimes the case, but we know these days when you look for a killer you have to look in every corner of the social spectrum.
Take Ted Bundy for example, a very well educated man who’d even worked in politics. He had a double identity, something we know is possible now, but back then the police weren’t so serial killer-savvy.
Then there’s the media. They were making tons of money from reporting this case, but they often misled the public with their exaggerated stories. The stories were so popular that scores of people wrote to the newspapers saying they were the killer. This wasted a lot of police time. It was confusing, with 100s of fake letters to deal with.
Was it a cover up?
This is one theory, but the evidence that it was an aristocrat isn’t exactly substantial. That said, if the ripper was an educated person from a wealthy background the police certainly weren’t looking at those types of people. They had their eyes set on poor immigrants and people with known mental illness.
When you think about it, the ripper killed on weekends and in the early hours of the morning. That would possibly mean he was in full time employment and likely was single. Married men would arouse suspension if they were out at 2 or 3 in the morning, especially if they came home with blood on them.
What if it was Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Duke of Clarence. Theorists contend that he liked to go out to the east end of London and regularly meet women of the night there. Some say this gave him the syphilis that eventually killed him. But the story from the mainstream end of the spectrum is that he couldn’t have been in London during the time of the murders and didn’t die of syphilis but of pneumonia. If there was a cover up, it’s still well-covered and will remain so.
Then there’s the artist Walter Richard Sickert. He was said to be obsessed with Jack the Ripper, and many people have written compelling articles and books, accusing him of being the ripper. Still, the evidence is weak. But what we are trying to say is that if the Ripper was educated, well known, he wouldn’t have been in the headlights of the cops back then.
Did the police have something to hide?
Some people say there was a police cover-up, but again this is mere conspiracy theory. What is definitely true is that the ripper never left any evidence at the scene which could incriminate him; that he chose his victims carefully and got rid of them quickly.
Without police having the intelligence to profile the killer and without modern technology, they were looking for a ghost. As many people have pointed out, the ripper was way ahead of the police. He was a serial killer with a quick mind and a deft hand and he literally left the cops in the dark. On top of that, this area of London was like a maze of dark alleys, and it was a place the police didn’t even like to go.
It’s said the criminals of the day knew those streets better than the cops knew them. To make this even worse, both the Metropolitan police and the City of London police were investigating the case, but not always sharing information. Even today lack of collaboration from law enforcement hampers cases, and it did back then.
These are all the main reasons why he was never caught, but can you add anything to this?