The first Jack the Ripper Murder

August 31st 1888

The terror begins

It all began at around 3.40am on August 31st 1888, when a carter named Charles Cross was making his way along Buck's Row, in Whitechapel, when he noticed a bundle lying in a gateway.

Buck's Row as it was in 1888 when Mary Nichols, the first of Jack the Ripper's victims was murdered here.

Buck's Row, 1888

Presuming it to be a tarpaulin, and thinking that it might prove useful, he went to examine it.

As he got closer he froze in horror when he saw that it was in fact the body of a woman.

As he stood rooted to the spot he hear footsteps behind him and turned to see another Carter, Robert Paul, approaching.

"Come and look over here," said Cross, " there's a woman lying on the pavement."

It was with a great deal of trepidation that the two men bent down to examine the woman, who was lying on her back, her skirts pulled up almost to her stomach.

Buck's Row (which is now called Durward Street) as it appears today.

Buck's Row
Now Durward Street, Today

Nervously, Cross felt her hands and found them to be cold. "I believe she's dead," he told his companion, who was also crouching over her, trying to hear whether or not she was breathing.

She wasn't.

But, when he felt her chest he thought he detected a slight movement.

"I think she's breathing", he exclaimed to his companion, "but very little if she is."

Paul wanted to sit her up, but Cross demurred and refused to touch her.

Late for work and not wishing to lose anymore time, the two men attempted to pull down the woman's skirts, and went on their way vowing that they would inform the first police officer they encountered of their discovery.

It is illustrative of just how dark Buck's Row was that, despite the fact they had both of them crouched down and inspected the body, neither man had noticed that her throat had been cut back to the spine, the injury being so ferocious that, according to several contemporary reports, her head had almost been severed from her body.

PC Neil's discovery

That discovery was made by PC John Neil as he walked his beat along Bucks Row at approximately 3.45am.

PC Neil finds the body of Jack the Ripper's first victim Mary Nichols.

Discovery of the Body

He had passed the site thirty minutes earlier and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

This time he found the body and, with the aid of his lantern, was able to examine the woman more closely than Paul and Cross had been able to do.

He told the subsequent inquest into her death that he noticed "blood oozing from a wound in her throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand..."

Moments later Neil noticed PC John Thain passing the end of the street and flashed his lantern at him to attract his attention. "Here's a woman with her throat cut", he called across, "run at once for Dr Llewellyn."

Dr Llewellyn arrives at the scene

As Thain hurried off to fetch the medic, PC Mizen, who had been alerted by Cross and Paul, came hurrying to the scene, and Neil despatched him to summon an ambulance.

Llewellyn arrived soon afterwards and, following a cursory examination, told the officers to "move her to the mortuary. She is dead, and I will make a further examination of her there."

The body was duly lifted onto an ambulance and taken to the mortuary in Old Montague Street.

What Inspector Spratling saw

It was at the mortuary that Inspector Spratley, whilst taking down a description of the deceased woman, lifted her skirts and discovered something that everyone had so far missed. Beneath her blood soaked clothing, a deep gash ran along her stomach - she had been disemboweled.

The victim is identified

It was on the afternoon of 31st August 1888 that the woman whose body had been discovered in Buck's Row was identified as Mary Ann Nichols, a forty - three - year - old prostitute, who had been ejected from her lodging house just two hours earlier, because she didn’t have the money to pay her rent. "I'll soon get my doss money", she had confidently predicted to the lodging house keeper as she left, "See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got.."

That bonnet now lay trampled and bloodstained in a Whitechapel gateway.

Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror had begun.

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