THE MURDER OF CATHERINE EDDOWES

Jack the Ripper's Fourth Victim

September 30th 1888

Catherine Eddowes Arrested

At around 8.30am the previous evening PC Louis Robinson of the City Police had arrested forty - six - year - old Catherine Eddowes on Aldgate High Street and had charged her with being drunk and disorderly.

She was taken to Bishopsgate police station, placed in a cell and left to sober up.

A little after midnight Catherine was heard singing and was deemed sober enough for immediate release.

Leaving the station at around 1am, she turned to the desk sergeant and spoke her last recorded words. "Cheerio old cock", she called, and stepped out into the early morning.

The custody officer, PC George Hutt, watched her turn left from the station and start walking towards Houndsditch. He later estimated that it would take her around eight minutes "ordinary walking" to get from Bishopsgate Police Station to Mitre Square.

The Ripper Heads Towards The Square

As Catherine was making her way along Bishopsgate, the murderer of Elizabeth Stride was making his way through the Whitechapel backstreets, desperately trying to avoid the police officers who were now converging on Berner Street and fanning out into the area trying to find him.

In Catherine's case, she may have been heading for the church of St Botolph on Aldgate High Street, the encircling pavement of which was, according to some sources, known as "prostitute island" on account of the fact it was a favoured haunt with the local street walkers for picking up clients.

The church of St Botolph on Aldgate High Street.

St Botolph's Church
Aldgate High Street

Broke, and, as a consequence, with little prospect of a place to sleep, Catherine would have been anxious to acquire the few pence that would pay for a bed in one of the district's Common Lodging Houses and, therefore, she may have headed to St Botolph's in the hope of finding a client.

The ripper, on the other hand, was intent on escaping from the scene of his latest atrocity. It was imperative that he get away from the immediate vicinity as quickly as possible as, the longer he lingered, the greater the chance of his being apprehended. However, with the police now flooding into the immediate area, the ways for him to go were limited.

An escape route across Commercial Road would have been too dangerous for him as he could easily be spotted by one of the many policemen who were now approaching the murder scene. It appears that he, therefore, chose to head west in a direction that would take him away from the main epicentre of the search for him.

He was probably furious that Louis Diemshutz's interruption had denied him the satisfaction of carrying out his intended mutilations on the body of Elizabeth Stride and, as he headed for the City of London, he may well have been on the look out for another potential victim.

Perhaps he too had decided to head towards St Botolph Church, knowing its reputation as a meeting point for prostitutes and clients?

According to uncorroborated press reports a man passing through Church Lane, which lay between Berner Street and Mitre Square, at about 1.30am, noticed a suspicious looking character who was sitting on a step wiping his hands. Since everyone was now on the look out for the murderer he paid a little more attention to the stranger than he normally would have done, whereupon the man tried to conceal his face.

The Star newspaper, which broke the story, reported that the suspicious stranger wore "a short jacket and a sailor's hat." Whether or not this man was the killer of Elizabeth Stride, or whether the sighting itself was even genuine, is difficult to ascertain. There is no mention of this particular sighting in the police files and, it has to be said, ever since the "Leather Apron" scare the Star newspaper, wasn't exactly trusted as a source of reliable and measured reporting! But, then again, the description bore certain similarities to the man Israel Schwarz had seen attacking Elizabeth Stride in Berner Street and, significantly, to a man that Catherine Eddowes was seen talking to shortly before she was murdered.

Catherine Seen With A Man

At approximately 1.35pm three Jewish men were leaving the Imperial Club at 16 - 17 Duke Street.

The Church Entry entrance into Mitre Square.

Church Entry Entrance
Mitre Square

They noticed a man and a woman talking with one another at the corner of Church Passage.

One of the three, Joseph Lawende, would later give the police a detailed description of this mystery man and maintain that the woman whom he saw was definitely Catharine Eddowes. It should, however, be pointed out that the woman had her back to him and so he didn't actually see her face. In fact, he only identified the woman he had seen as Catherine Eddowes from her clothing, when he was shown it at a local police station a few days later, when he came forward to tell of what he had witnessed.

According to Lawende - and it must be stressed that the street lighting wasn't particularly good and the glimpse that he got of the man was a very brief one - the man he saw was about 5 foot 9 inches tall and of medium build. Aged around 30, he had a fair complexion, a small, fair moustache and the overall appearance of a sailor. He wore a reddish neckerchief, which was tied in a knot, a peaked cap and a pepper-salt coloured, loose fitting, jacket.

But, as far as Lawende was concerned, at that moment he was just witnessing a couple chatting in the street. There was nothing about them that particularly attracted his attention, and certainly nothing that aroused any suspicion. So, having taken his brief glimpse at the man's face, he continued on his way and would, no doubt, have forgotten all about the couple, had he not heard a few days later that another murder had occurred in Mitre Square at around the same time that he was passing the couple immediately outside it.

PC Watkin's Finds Her Body

At 1.45am PC Watkins walked his usual beat into Mitre square. His beat took him fifteen minutes to walk and he had passed the square - although he hadn't actually entered it - at 1.30am, at which point he had seen nothing untoward or suspicious.

Little seemed to have changed as he now entered the square at 1.45am.

But, as the beam of his bull's eye lantern penetrated the gloom of Mitre Square's south-west corner, he saw something lying on the ground. Approaching it, he observed a sight that sent him recoiling back in horror as he discovered the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes, Jack the Ripper's fourth victim.

Murder Corner Mitre Square.

Site of the Murder
Mitre Square

He would later state "I have been in the force for a long while but I never saw such a sight. The body had been ripped open, like a pig in the market."

If the killer had been denied his satisfaction of mutilating the body of Elizabeth Stride, his appetite had been more than sated on the unfortunate Catherine Eddowes.

Her body lay on its back, the head turned toward her left shoulder.

Her clothes had been thrown up over her waist

Her throat had been cut back to the spine; the lobe of the right ear was cut through; a V had been cut into her cheeks and eyelids; the tip of the nose was detached; her abdomen had been laid open; the intestines tugged out and laid over her shoulder; her liver had been repeatedly stabbed; whilst, missing from the body, were the uterus and left kidney.

Jack the Ripper's Escape Route

The murderer had then left the scene and headed off into the Streets of Spitalfields.

Let us put his escape that morning into context. There had been an earlier murder in Berners Street. Word was spreading throughout the neighbourhood that the killer had struck again and all the police activity now centred on flushing him out and hunting him down.

Mitre Square as it looked in 2013.

Mitre Square 2013

Yet, having murdered Catherine Eddowes, he did not escape to the relative safety that he might find to the west of the district, but instead, he went straight into the area where the activity was directed toward his apprehension.

He could have only escaped if, as he went through the neighbourhood, he fitted in. In other words he was not thought suspicious, or out of place, by those who may have encountered him.

And, having fled from Mitre Square, and having, somehow, managed to evade the police officers who were, by that time, converging on the scene of the crime, the Whitechapel Murderer was about to leave behind him a tantalising clue. A clue that, as it transpired, would leave the police even more baffled!

Go to our page about Jack the Ripper's clue