Almost 125 years later the dark mystery of Jack the Ripper, continues to gain much attention. How could five sordid murders that took place within a short span of about 12 weeks leave behind such a bloody stain on criminal history? It is undoubtedly the most widely reported killing spree of the 19th Century, although there are many other sensational and chilling homicides since then.
The East End of London in 1888 was a crowded and impoverished place to live in, a virtual hotbed of vice and villainy. During this period there was an influx of Jewish and Irish refugees, who came to London. Men wandering about near taverns and defiant prostitutes risking their lives, to earn a living. Some reckon there were almost 60 brothels operating in the East End. This den of immorality was dimly lit and difficult to be patrolled by the Police.
The killer was initially known as the Whitechapel Murderer and later as ‘Leather Apron’ – the reference to the latter is uncertain. But during the massive manhunt that was undertaken by Scotland Yard, the Central News Office received a startling letter supposedly written by the murderer himself and signed Jack the Ripper. Criminal analysts believe that the term Ripper which was related to the ghastly manner in which he cut away his female victims, instilled trepidation in the denizens of East End, and contributed to the legend.
Subsequently a second letter was sent to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, where a piece of human kidney was enclosed. Some speculate whether this was sent by the Ripper or was a prank. It only intensified the paranoia that prevailed and increased pressure on the London CID, headed by Robert Anderson.
Although there were 11 murders during this timeline Scotland Yard could connect only five of the crimes to the elusive Ripper. These five women Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were all prostitutes. Maybe they were drunk and walking the cold lonely alleys, where the Ripper was able to attack them.
All five of his victims had a similar ‘wound pattern’, which included two deep slashes to the throat, the abdomen being slit open and often some organs being taken out. There were also jagged cuts on the genital area. In the case of Mary Nichols her uterus was removed. Mary Jane Kelly had her face mutilated and her heart removed. The Whitechapel murder file also contained four other names Rose Mylet, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles and a headless body simply identified as the Pinchin Street torso. Some believe that these murders were by another killer and that case was dubbed the Thames Mystery.
In April 1891, Carrie Brown was found dead in New York, with similar wound patterns. Some were confused and thought that Jack the Ripper had somehow escaped and migrated to the US. This was later ruled out as a separate murder case. Back in London the Police headed by Inspector Edmund Reid had questioned 2,000 men and detained 80 suspects. It was during this manhunt that Sir Warren, Police Commissioner made provision for the use of Police scent dogs, for the very first time. Still the investigations were quite inept. It was believed that the Ripper was a Surgeon or a Butcher as he was very skilled in using a sharp blade and making precision cuts and had knowledge of anatomy.
The CID noted that the suspect was often subject to bouts of ‘erotic mania’ and was a man who lived alone. We could opine that The Ripper was a misogynist or had a vendetta. The deep mutilations can also indicate Satyriasis – excessive sexual desire in a man, a neurotic condition. There were however no signs of physical sexual activity with the victims of the Ripper. Yet he derived pleasure in cutting them. The case remains unsolved. The legend of Jack the Ripper lives on as an embodiment of an evil predator.
It was believed that the Ripper was a Surgeon or a Butcher as he was very skilled in using a sharp blade and making precision cuts and had knowledge of anatomy