<![CDATA[Almost the definition of infamous, Jack the Ripper is one of the most well known criminals in history. On the 31st August 1888, he started the wave of brutal murders that gave him his name, and started a complicated murder mystery that continues to obsess to this day. Historians and amateur enthusiasts still argue and debate the real identity of 'the Ripper'. From well reasoned explanations of the killer's identity to outrageous conspiracy theories, it is a story that continues to enthral. The Whitechapel area in East London has become synonymous with the crimes. The murders have been absorbed into the area's folk culture, with pubs and bars referencing the crimes and their victims. An industry has built up around 'experts' offering tours of East London and the most significant locations in the story. This Ripper obsession also offers a window into East London's past, maintaining a constant link to the area's history. Historically one of the poorest parts of London, as well as the most ethnically diverse, particularly during the Victorian era, it housed much of the city's work force. It was home to some of the poorest and most desperate in society, but the presence of 'The City' nearby also meant that it was in close proximity to some of the wealthiest, with the two often crossing paths. Ripper tours take customers to the locations where the murders happened, highlighting how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same. In 1888 the area was blighted by violent crime, making it hard to determine what murders actually involved the Ripper. It is generally agreed that the killing spree had five victims, characterised by deep throat slashes, facial mutilations and removal of internal organs. The five victims of these brutal crimes were (in chronological order); Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Nichols' body was discovered at 3:40 am on Friday 31st August 1888 in what is now Durward Street. Her throat had been slashed in two places and her abdomen ripped open. Chapman's body was found at 6am on Saturday 8th September, again, the victims throat had been cut and her body mutilated. Sunday 30th September saw the deaths of Stride and Eddowes, again, the bodies throats were severed, although Stride's body hadn't been mutilated. This suggests that either Stride was not murdered by the Ripper, or that the Ripper had been interrupted. The final victim, Mary Jane Kelly, differed from the others in that she was found murdered in her bed, close to Spitalfields. Again, the throat had been cut and the body horrifically mutilated. The name 'Jack the Ripper' comes from a letter sent to the Central News Agency of London by someone claiming to be the murderer. The letter was postmarked on the 27th September 1888, and signed Jack the Ripper. It was published in several newspapers, and the police had it recreated and distributed in the hope somebody would recognise the handwriting. This letter marks the point where the obsession with Jack the Ripper started, as the media became fixated on the sensational story. Over a hundred suspects have since been identified as potentially being Jack the Ripper, with some of the most outlandish theories accusing Thomas Barnardo (founder of the Barnardo charity) and Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland). Ultimately of course, this is all theorising and the murderer will never be identified, but the obsession is revealing. It connects Londoners to a darker time in the city's history, with many of the landmarks from the story still visible. The fact that this serial killer has been remembered from a time and place characterised by violence and crime, also reveals a great deal about our fascination with ambiguity and mystery.
Chronicles of Crime and Criminals
Remarkable Criminal Trials, Mysterious Murders, Wholesale Murders, Male and Female Poisoners, Forgery and Counterfeiting, Bank and Post Office Robberies, Swindlers, Highway Robbery and Railway Crimes