A HISTORY OF THE JACK TH RIPPER CRIMES

THE WITECHAPEL MURDERS

In the pages that follow you will find an account of the major events that surrounded the mystery of the Whitechapel Murders.

The Punch Cartoon showing the hollow eyed figure of the Nemesis of Neglect.

The Punch Cartoon
The Nemesis of Neglect

You can learn about the police officers whose names you will hear in the course of your walk; you can peruse photographs of the various sites related to the crimes; you can study documents connected with the case; and you can even see pictures of the poor, unfortunate victims.

The reason that we do this is that we want you to enjoy your Jack the Ripper tour and so we honestly believe that it is best that you are conversant with the full history of the Whitechapel Murders before you join our walk.

You will also be able to watch the extensive collection of documentaries that we have made on the case and thus can gain an unrivalled insight into the mystery and the main facts concerning the Jack the Ripper case.

This way you will not be bombarded with facts that you might not remember and which might not mean anything to you.

As you will see, in the pages that follow, we provide a huge amount of information that you can study and enjoy before you take our tour. When you join us for the walk you will get a lot more information.

It's the key to our standing as London's leading Jack the Ripper tour and it's your guarantee that, when you join our expert guides, you can look forward to a fact filled tour of the greatest whodunit in criminal history.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed, and so, by becoming familiar with the major facets of the case you will be in a far better position to ask questions and to understand how every piece of the puzzle slots in to place.

Watch Our Introduction To The Case

Background To The Murders

Although Jack the Ripper was not the world’s first serial killer, he was certainly its first media murderer.

Cartoon showing a man sticking up murder posters at the height of the Jack the Ripper scare.

A Punch Cartoon
Depicting the Murders

His crimes took place in an era when literacy amongst the general populace was increasing and the press at large was very much becoming a catalyst for social change.

Articles about the murders appeared in the newspapers on a daily basis and fostered a general fascination that, at times, bordered on hysteria.

The fact that the local Coroner, Wynne Baxter, who oversaw the inquests into the deaths of the majority of the victims, was determined that not one detail should be left unexplored ensured that the crimes stayed in the public eye for longer than was usual, and, as a result, the inquests themselves became extremely drawn out and protracted affairs. This, in turn, gave the press more opportunity to report extensively on the case and to bring their readers every salacious detail on the Whitechapel Murders

Indeed, the very name “Jack the Ripper” was probably the invention of a journalist, and it was press coverage that helped turn the murders into a phenomenon and transformed a sordid back street killer into an international legend.

It is safe to say that, had it not been for the name "Jack the Ripper' this particular sequence of crimes would, most certainly, not have attained the world wide fame that they have today and thus the person responsible for that name, whoever he was, afforded the crimes an enduring immortality and generated an interest in the murders which still continues and which shows no signs of abating, despite the passage of over 125 years.

How many victims were there?

One of the main problems that confronts any investigator of the case is the exact number of victims that the murderer we now know as "Jack the Ripper" actually had.

The finding of the body of Martha Tabram, who some believe was the first victim of Jack the Ripper.

Finding Martha Tabram's Body

The generic file that encompasses the five victims who are often referred to as the "canonical five" - Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly - is known as the "Whitechapel Murders File" and features eleven murder victims.

Some of these names were almost certainly not victims of Jack the Ripper.

Emma Smith, the first name on the file, was attacked by a local gang in early April 1888 and was, almost certainly, not a victim of Jack the Ripper.

The next name, Martha Tabram, who was murdered in early August 1888, may well have been a victim of the ripper, albeit the argument against this being the case is that her injuries were not consistent with those inflicted on the bodies of the so-called "canonical five".

Those who argue that she was the first of Jack's victims point to the fact that her killer most certainly targeted the areas of her body that the ripper was known to have targeted - i.e. the throat and lower abdomen - so this may well have been his first killing after which he evolved the modus operandi that enables us to point at the five canonical victims and identify them as the work of the same serial killer.

Confusion reigns

However, the identification of the five known murders that are attributed to Jack the Ripper is not as straightforward as it first appears.

There are, for example, differences in the style and the extent of the mutilations in the cases of several of the victims.

Elizabeth Stride Jack the Ripper's third victim.

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth Stride, who was murdered on 30th September 1888, for example, only had her throat cut.

Many ripperologists explain this away by pointing out that the killer was interrupted before he had the chance to carry out his intended extensive mutilations to the rest of her body.

Others, however, argue that the reason her injuries were not as severe as those endured by the other victims is that she wasn't a ripper victim.

The same is sometimes argued in the case of Mary Kelly, murdered on 9th November 1888, whose injuries were far more extensive than those inflicted on the bodies of the other victims.

Her injuries were certainly more ferocious, and this fact has sometimes been used to argue that she was the victim of a different murderer to the others.

Those who argue that she was a ripper victim, point out that her murder took place in doors, giving her killer more time in which to carry out the extensive mutilations he would have inflicted on all his victims had he had the time to do so.

As we say on the tour, the one certainty about Jack the Ripper is that nothing is certain!

Even the name is false

Watch our video on the Jack the Ripper letter

Another element of confusion when it comes to investigating this infamous crime spree, is the name by which the World now knows the unknown miscreant who was responsible for carrying out this long ago series of murders.

The signature on the Dear Boss letter reading Jack the Ripper.

The Jack the Ripper Signature

The name "Jack the Ripper" didn't actually enter the investigation until early October 1888.

It was in fact the signature on a letter that was sent to a London news agency towards the end of September 1888.

The police, hoping that the letter might give them the much needed break through in solving the case made the letter public and, in so doing, helped give birth to the legend of Jack the Ripper.

They quickly realized that they had made a huge mistake since they soon concluded that the letter, and therefore the name, was a hoax carried out by a London journalist.

Within days of the letter being released to the public, a wave of Ripper correspondence had deluged their investigation and the name Jack the Ripper had entered the annals of criminal history.

So, this leads to more confusion as, any budding ripperologists must first decide which of the crimes was carried out by "Jack the Ripper" and which were the work of either copycats or other murderers operating in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields in the 1880's and early 1890's.

The canonical five

Watch our video on Jack the Ripper's victims

In our history of the case we will focus on the five victims who are generally believed to have been murdered by Jack the Ripper.

Those victims were Mary Nichols (August 31st 1888); Annie Chapman (8th September 1888); Elizabeth Stride (30th September 1888); Catherine Eddowes (30th September 1888); and Mary Kelly (9th November 1888).

You'll also be able to watch the documentaries we have made on the case and, in so doing, gain a true insight into the Jack the Ripper murders and into the history of the East End of London where the crimes occurred.

Go to the next part of our history - Jack the Ripper's victims.