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The Fiend that was Terrorizing London: Jack the Ripper

Updated on May 1, 2013

"Don't let my doss!...I’ll be back with the money. See what a fine bonnet I’ve got! I shan’t be long," pleaded Mary Ann Nichols, her eyes wild with fear as the lodging-house-keeper thrust her from the door of` 18 Thrawl Street, Spitalfields late on the night of August 30th, 1888.

Abandoned by her lover, for whom she had left her husband, Mary Nichols had sunk lower and lower into the squalor of the East End of London.

And now she had reached the bottom of the abyss, for Thrawl Street and its neighbour-hood enclosed the worst slum in Britain.

And through the jungle of its dark and fetid alleys ranged at midnight a fiend who murdered with horrible mutilations such women as Mary Nichols. Thrawl Street had many cheap lodging·houses for women, one with sixty-six beds. If she could only get the fourpence needed for a " doss" she would be safe for one night more.

Frantic with terror, she tried in vain to beg the coppers in one public-house after another. Every woman she met seemed `to have the promise of shelter that night. But no one had any money to spare for her.

At 3:45 a.m., a man named Cross was passing down Bucks Row, a few minutes’ walk from Thrawl Street, when he saw what looked like a tarpaulin lying in the road.

As he was a carter, this interested him. He approached nearer and was horrified to see that it was a woman lying there with her throat cut from ear to ear, and her body stabbed and slashed in a manner that needed only one glance from a hastily-summoned surgeon, Dr. Llewellyn, to decide it was the work of " ]ack the Ripper

The greatest murder mystery of modern times has never been solved.

The “ Ripper " killed six women in three months, all within a district covering only a square mile, densely populated, and livelier and more alert by night than in the day-time.

Each murder was followed by mutilations of a special kind, taking several minutes, and in one case over an hour, to perform, and each occurred in a place where the murderer might have been caught in the act at any moment.

The body of` the victim was left lying there, and was usually found a few minutes later. Once the 'Ripper' was only a yard or two away when it was discovered.

Jack the Ripper: scene of the Hanbury Street murder, filmed in 1967

There was a police cordon round the area ofthe murderer’s activities, while the district was tooth--combed day and night by the C.I.D., plain-clothes men, the police, and special patrols.

Every street woman in the East End, every crook, pickpocket and bully was on the watch for the killer, and listening for an unguarded remark that might lead to his lair. And the Ripper went on murdering as recklessly as if he were in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

From that day to this, Scotland  Yard has never had the slightest inkling of his identity or motive. 

 On Easter Monday night, April 2nd, 1888, Emma Eliza- beth Smith was attacked in the street, and later collapsed and died in her lodgings in George Street, Spitafields, from wounds in the abdomen. Though some criminologists believe- this was the first of the Ripper murders, the police authorities accepted the woman’s statement that she had been assailed by a gang of drunken brawlers.

 Moreover, the slashing that was the indubitable mark of the Ripper was absent, occurring for the  first time on a body found early in the morning of August 8th.  

At 2 a.m. , Mrs. E. Mahoney saw no one as she came up the stairs of George Yard Buildings, off Commercial Street, Spitalfields.

Then, an hour later, Albert Crow, a cab-driver, noticed a woman lying on the landing. She appeared to be drunk, and, thinking ‘ there was nothing unusual,” he went on his way. But at 5 a.m., a J. S. Reeves, leaving for work, could see that the woman was in a pool of blood, and ran for a doctor, who later said : “ Her clothes were disarranged. She had nine stabs in the throat, seventeen in the breast, and thirteen in the abdomen.” He told the police he thought the wounds had been made with a bayonet—which resulted in an identity parade being held of the soldiers at the Tower.

The dead woman was Martha Turner, a Iodger in George Yard Buildings.

Further medical evidence called at the inquest suggested that more than one weapon had been used and that the murderer was ambidextrous. But not until the body of Mary Nichols was found a fort- night later, gashed in exactly similar fashion, on the cobbles of Bucks Row, did London awake to the dread that a murderer was at large who preyed on women. Dr. Llewellyn revealed at the inquest that every vital part had been attacked, and a certain organ removed, and that in his opinion the murderer had “ anatomical knowledge"

Certain newspapers scoffed at the coincidence. The Star clung to the theory that a blackmailing gang was murdering unfortunate street women who would not pay up. But panic began to spread through the capital. And on the morning of September 8th, only a week later, all doubt became hideous certainty.....

Number 29 Hanbury Street was a dingy gloomy three-storeyed house, with a passage at its side leading into a yard at the back. Sixteen people entered and left this yard during the early hours of September 8th, and the Landlady's son visited it repeatedly throughout the night to clear out drunks and tramps.

But at 5.45 a.m., Annie Chapman was found lying there with her head nearly severed from her body, which was mutilated like the corpses of Martha Turner and Mary Nichols. At her feet were neatly ranged, as if for a mock " laying—out " ceremony, the few poor trinkets and coppers belonging to the dead woman. The murderer had taken his time. ·

Annie Chapman had been turned away from 29, Hanbury Street the night before because she had no money to pay for her bed.

At 2 a.m. she was seen begging for the money for a lodging from passersby in the street. Dr. G. B. Phillips, Divisional Surgeon, declared at the inquest that the murderer had removed a certain organ from the body and that to do so he must have undoubtedly possessed anatomical knowledge.

Reading a report-of the murder, Mrs. Mary Burridge, a dealer in floor-cloth on the Blackfriars Road, collapsed in a fit, of fear and died. . In the wave of terror that now engulfed London, the police lost their heads. The newspapers, clamoring for...


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      adidaspat 7 years ago

      I enjoyed your article buzzbee. I'm not so sure Turner was a ripper victim though the authorities at the time thought so. Other than domestic killings authors have attributed 9 killings to the Whitechapel murders. Some attribute all 9 to the ripper and some as few as 3. Most agree on the five so called cannonical victims (Nicoles, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly) who's m.o.'s matched. Turner was stabbed 39 times but there was no mention of "slashing" as with the following five but at the time she and even Smith were thought of as ripper victims. Alice McKenzie (1889) and Francis Coles (1892) round out the other two. What do you think? Did he change weapons or m.o.'s? Who knows.