How Many Victims Were There?

Although there were a total of 11 Whitechapel Murders, it is more than apparent that not all of those were actually victims of Jack the Ripper.

So, any close look at the murders must begin by pondering the question - how many of the women whose names are featured on the generic Whitechapel Murders file were, in fact, victims of Jack the Ripper?

Although it is generally believed amongst historians of the case that the ripper himself had only five victims, this is by no means the raging certainty that it is often purported to be.

Indeed, the concept of the "canonical five' didn't appear until 1894 and was the suggestion of a police officer who wasn't even in the Metropolitan Police during the period when the crimes were taking place.

Furthermore, this particular officer appears to have had his own favoured suspect, who died by his own hand at the end of November 1888, and his tidy concept of the "canonical five" fits nicely with that suspect's guilt but falls apart if the later four victims, murdered between 1889 and 1891, were the work of the same man who carried out the five slayings between August and November 1888.

Melville Macnaghten
Chief Constable Scotland Yard

The officer in question was Melville Macnaghten, and his favoured suspect was Montague John Druitt, a barrister turned teacher who committed suicide at the end of November 1888 and who, according to the Macnaghten memoranda, written in February 1894, with the specific intention of refuting allegations then being made in the newspapers that Thomas Cutbush was Jack the Ripper.

Melville Macnaghten.

Sir Melville Leslie Macnaghten

In the memorandum Macnaghten sated that "No one ever saw the Whitechapel Murderer; many homicidal maniacs were suspected, but no shadow of proof could be thrown on any one." He then went on to state that he could, "mention the cases of 3 men, any one of whom would have been more likely than Cutbush to have committed this series of murders."

Those three men, he wrote, were "1) A Mr. M. J. Druitt; 2) Kosminski; 3) Michael Ostrog. It is often stated that, he actually named the polices leading three suspects, but this was emphatically not the case as he simply stated that these three were "more likely than Cutbush" to have been responsible for the crimes.

What is interesting about Macnaghten is that, although he appears to have been convinced of the guilt of his first more likely suspect, Montague John Druitt, he actually knew very little about that suspect and many of the facts he gives about him are demonstrably wrong.

The Man Responsible For the Canonical Five

But, in addition to his list of suspects, Macnaghten also made another observation that has since become one of the bedrocks of ripper research. "Now the Whitechapel Murderer had five victims - & 5 victims only..."

He then goes on to list those five as follows:-

First Victim - Mary Ann Nichols - 31st August 1888

She was, according to Macnaghten, murdered "...at Buck's Row [and was] found with her throat cut, & with (slight) stomach mutilation." Read more...

Second Victim - Annie Chapman - 8th September 1888

Who, according to the memorandum, was murdered in Hanbury Street and her injuries were, "throat cut - stomach & private parts badly mutilated &some of the entrails placed around the neck." Read more...

Third Victim - Elizabeth Stride - 30th September 1888

Whose body was found in Berner Street with "...throat cut, but nothing in shape of mutilation attempted." Read more...

Fourth Victim - Catherine Eddowes - 30th September 1888

Murdered in Mitre Square, "...throat cut, & very bad mutilation, both of face and stomach." Read more...

Fifth Victim - Mary Jane Kelly - 9th November 1888

Murdered in Miller's Court, "...throat cut, and the whole of the body mutilated in the most ghastly manner. The last murder is the only one that took place in a room, and the murderer must have been at least 2 hours engaged. A photo was taken of the woman, as she was found lying on the bed, without seeing which it is impossible to imagine the awful mutilation." Read more...

The Fury Increased

Having established the five victims, Macnaghten then went on to opine that " It will be noticed that the fury of the mutilations increased in each case, and, seemingly, the appetite only became sharpened by indulgence. It seems, then, highly improbable that the murderer would have suddenly stopped in November '88...A much more rational theory is that the murderer's brain gave way altogether after his awful glut in Miller's Court, and that he immediately committed suicide, or, as a possible alternative, was found to be so hopelessly mad by his relations, that he was by then confined in some asylum..."

The Other Whitechapel Victims

With regards the other victims, whose names fall under the generic series of Whitechapel murders, Mcnaghten seems not to have believed that they were victims of Jack the Ripper, since he clearly believed that the modus operandi of the injuries was different.

Martha Tabram - 7th August 1888

"...a prostitute, was found on a common stair case in George Yard buildings...the body had been repeatedly pierced probably with a bayonet..." Read more...

Alice McKenzie - 17th July 1889

Who was "...found with her throat cut (or rather stabbed) in Castle Alley...no evidence was forthcoming, and no arrests were made in connection with this case." Macnaghten went on to state that the "stab in the throat was of the same nature" as that inflicted on the throat of Frances Coles, the last name on the Whitechapel Murders file. Read more...

Frances Coles - 13th February 1891

Who was murdered "...in Swallow Gardens...for which Thomas Sadler, a fireman, was arrested, &, after several remands, discharged..." Read more...

The Pinchin Street Torso - 10th September 1889

In his memorandum, Mcnaghten also mentioned that, on 10th September 1889 the "...naked body..with arms, of a woman was found wrapped in some sacking under a Railway arch in Pinchin St: the head & legs were never found nor was the woman ever identified..." This is a reference to the Pinchin Street Torso, which Macnaghten - and, it must be said, most serious historians of the case - believe was not related to the ripper killing spree. Read more...

Macnaghten makes no mention of the other two names on the file, Emma Smith and Rose Mylett, both of whom were almost certainly not victims of Jack the Ripper. Indeed, in the case of Rose Mylett, there is even doubt as to whether she was actually murdered.

Was Macnaghten Right?

Many reporters on the ripper case have been happy to accept, without question, Melville Macnaghten's zealous certainty with regards the number of Whitechapel Murder victims who were actually slaughtered by Jack the Ripper.

But, what is interesting is that, in the case of several of those that he places in the ranks of the canonical five, the modus operandi does differ; whereas the injuries, in the cases of several of those whom he dismisses as ripper victims, do bear certain hallmarks that suggest they may have been ripper victims after all.

So, it is necessary to set Macnaghten's certainties aside, and reassess all eleven victims on a case by case basis and, to do that, we must go all the way back to April 1888, when the first Whitechapel murder, that of Emma Elizabeth Smith, occurred.