The mystery of Jack the Ripper started at the end of August 1888, when a dead woman’s mutilated body was found on a London street. From August 7 to September 10 in 1888, a serial killer terrorized the Whitechapel district when he murdered at least five women—all prostitutes—in or near London’s East End.
Whitechapel in the East End was a poor neighbourhood that seems out of place in Victorian London. However, the series of killings that began in August 1888 stood out from other violent crimes of the time. The killer was dubbed ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Who Was Jack the Ripper?
The psychological and social infrastructures of the nineteenth century produced the first modern serial killer. In 1888, however, the term “serial killer” had not even been coined yet. These murders were collectively known as the “Whitechapel Murders.”
Jack the Ripper horrifically and grotesquely mutilated his victims’ bodies, some of whom he removed the uteruses of after the fatal attacks. Other killings around the same place and same time did not feature the Ripper’s MO.
For over a century, the identity of the Ripper has remained a mystery. The killer must have looked nondescript and been part of the social fabric of the community setting. So few people knew him, and his permanent institutionalization occurred after the Ripper murders.
Even more than a century later, many people know his nickname and the mystery surrounding his murders. Moreover, the brutal murder inspired countless novels, films, and theories over the past 130 years.
The murder file that records the Ripper’s killings lists eleven murders. However, it is not possible to say for sure how many victims he had. There may have been as few as four victims or as many as eight victims of the Ripper.
- Mary Ann Nichols
Five victims have historically been “generally accepted” as victims of Jack the Ripper. The first murder, of Mary Ann Nicholls, took place on August 31. Mary Ann Nichols was a native of London who had spent a good deal of the 1880s homeless.
- Annie Chapman
The body of Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim, was found in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street. A prostitute living in London’s East End, she was murdered on September 8, 1888. Annie Chapman spent most of her life between Knightsbridge, Windsor, Belgravia and Piccadilly. She was under-nourished and suffering from a chronic disease of the lungs (tuberculosis) and brain tissue.
- Elisabeth Gustafsdotter
The Ripper’s third victim was born Elisabeth Gustafsdotter on November 27, 1843. Elizabeth Stride was found dead from a cut throat on September 30 1888. It is highly probable that the killer was interrupted in his murder of Elizabeth Stride. Elizabeth, or “Long Liz” Stride, had spent the last afternoon of her life cleaning rooms. Unfortunately, in those days, she didn’t have access to the best water filter system or the best RO system.
- Catherine Eddowes
Because he was disturbed, killing Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper went looking for his second victim of the night. On the afternoon of September 30 1888, the brutally mutilated supposed body of Kate Eddowes was discovered in Mitre Square. Catherine Eddowes was found lying on her back in a pool of blood.
When she died, Miss Eddowes was ailing from Bright’s Disease, a form of Uremia. Old friends described her as an “intelligent, scholarly woman, but of fiery temperament.”
- Mary Kelly
Jack The Ripper’s last victim was as mysterious as the notorious serial killer himself. Aged 25, Mary Kelly was way younger than Jack the Ripper’s other victims. But the extent to which Mary Jane’s body was mutilated inside and out was deeply distressing. Mary Jane Kelly was a familiar face around Whitechapel.
For more than 130 years, the true identity of Jack the Ripper has been hotly debated. He was never caught, and nobody was ever punished for the women’s deaths. The number of Jack the Ripper suspects now runs to well over a hundred.
During the course of their investigations, however, police narrowed down the suspects to several men. Many of the police officers who worked on the case claimed that they knew the identity of Jack the Ripper. However, each of them went on to name a different suspect.
The lineup of possible suspects has included the father of Winston Churchill and Prince Albert Victor. It is likely that the true identity of Jack the Ripper will never be known.