In the East end of London, White Chapel District, 1888, a string of 5 murders occurred within the span of 3 months. The 5 canonical murders were committed by the same ruthless killer going under the name ‘Jack the Ripper’.
The 5 Canonical Victims
- Mary Ann Nichols (Prostitute) – body was found on August 31st, 3.40am. Nichols with her throat was slashed and she was disemboweled.
- Annie Chapman (Prostitute) – body found on September 8th. Chapmas was found with her throat cut and her womb removed.
- Elizabeth Stride (Prostitute) – body found on September 30th, 1am. Stride was found with her throat cut. Police suspect she has been dead for approximately 30 minutes.
- Catherine Eddowes (Prostitute) – body found on September 30th, 1.45am. (45minutes after finding the body of Elizabeth Stride). Eddowes was found severely mutilated, her uterus and left kidney removed.
- Mary Jane Kelly (Prostitute) – body found November 9th. Kelly was found in her bed. She was disemboweled and virtually skinned down.
Eye Witness Testimonies
- Between 25 and 35;
- Roughly 5’5 to 5’7;
- Stocky with a fair complexion and moustache;
- Seen wearing a dark overcoat;
- ‘Perfectly sane, frighteningly normal and yet capable of extraordinary cruelty’.
FBI documents on Jack the Ripper have concluded that the victims show no sign of sexual assault and were killed quickly. Documents also conclude that the suspect removed organs (i.e kidney, vagina, nose) on almost all of the victims, indicating that they had some anatomical knowledge. However, Physician Thomas Bond used results he gained from autopsies and crime scene evidence and stated that he believed Jack the Ripper had no medical training or knowledge of anatomy. Bond stated he reached this conclusion after noting that the wounds created by ‘Jack the Ripper’ were not consistent with the training of a medical expert or “even the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer”.
Jack the Ripper is also presumed as male because his murders are classified as ‘lust murders’, where the subject attacks the genital areas of his victims. FBI suspect Jack is in the age bracket of 28 to 36 years of age based on the average age of onset for these types of homicides, the high degree of psychopathology exhibited at the scenes and the ability to avoid detection.
‘Jack the Ripper’ Letters
One of the more popular aspects of the Ripper case is the number of letters that police, newspapers and authorities received from anonymous writers, stating to be from the Ripper. On September 24th, the closing day for the inquest into Annie Chapman’s death, an anonymous writer sent a letter to Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Prank letters were common with popularised cases that had received substantial media coverage. However, it was the beginning of hundreds of such letters. The letter had a LONDON. S. E postmark. The letter reads:
I do wish to give myself up I am in misery with nightmare I am the man who committed all these murders in the last six months…I am a horse slaughterer…I have found the woman I wanted that is chapman and I done what I called slaughtered her but if any one comes I will surrender…”
The most infamous of the Ripper’s letters, ‘Dear Boss’, was received by the Central News agency in the City of London on 27th September 1888. It was a boastful letter and included quotes such as: “I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track”; “I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal”; “My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good Luck. Yours truly Jack the Ripper”.
Within a day of the receival of the ‘From Hell’ letter, two more women were murdered. Police began to suspect the letters truly are written by The Ripper himself. Jack quotes to “want to get to work right away” just as he did with the double murder. On October 1st, another postcard that was written in a similar handwriting arrived at the Agency. The postcard stated that ‘Boss’ will hear about ‘Saucy Jacky’s’ double event. Sir Charles Warren informed the Home Office that: “At present I think the whole thing a hoax but of course we are bound to try and ascertain the writer in any case”. Over the next 3 weeks, Mr. George Lusk, President of the Mile End Vigilance Committee, received 3 letters to his doorstep claiming to be from the Ripper. The last letter quoted ‘from hell’ and included a package with what the Ripper claimed to be half the kidney he took from one of the women. Lusk’s initial reaction was to dismiss it as just another sick prank. The kidney was taken to Dr Frederick Wiles’s Mile End Road surgery. The kidney was examined and Wiles gave his opinion that it was human and there is a possibility it may have been the Kidney of Catherine Eddowes.
The East end of London in 1888 has the reputation of an area of dirty slums and a hotspot for drunks and criminals. Prostitution at the time was not as organzied as it is today. During the ‘Jack the Ripper era’ women worked independently and usually performed their ‘services’ in dark alleyways or ‘flop’ houses.
Jack the Ripper Was Aaron Kosminski
Through years of research from ripperologists, policemen and detectives, many have come to a conclusion and firmly believe that Aaron Kosminski is Jack the Ripper. Aaron Kosminski was Jewish resident of Whitechapel at the time. His Jewish background may explain one of the Rippers only clues, a message in chalk reading ‘The Juwes are the men who will be blamed for nothing’ suggesting that he will not be found or blamed. Kosminski also spent some time in an Asylum after the Ripper killed his last victim. This evidence may explain why the murders came to a halt and clearly exhibits that the murders did affect Kosminski and drive him to insanity. Additionally, according to Meville Macnauhten (Assistant Commissioner of the London Police) “he had a great hatred of women, especially of the prostitute class” which demonstrates that Kosminski had a motive to kill his suspects. It is strongly suggested by those who are entranced by the case of Jack the Ripper that Aaron Kosminski is a strong suspect.
Although many ripperologists are strongly drawn to the theory that Aaron Kosminski is Jack the Ripper, there is also strong evidence that suggests that he isn’t. Firstly, According to a book by Russell Edwrads, a shawl purchased at an auction under the impression that it was reported at the murder scene of Catherin Eddowes, contains DNA of Aaron Kosminski. Edwards got help from a molecular biologist who claims he believes the shawl is connected to Catherine Eddowes, he also claims that semen on the scarf is linked to relatives of Kosminski. However, scientists may have made a critical error of nomenclature. The mutation reportedly found on the scarf and in Eddowes’ relative is reportedly incorrect, proving that this statement is wrong and does not support Aarons case. Additionally, throughout the entire period of his confinement, Kosminski was never classed as homicidal, and it is specifically stated in his records, that he was not a danger to others. These pieces of evidence prove that we have no forensic evidence of Kosminski and suggest that he was not a danger to others and in conclusion, conflict with the Kosminski theory.
Jack the Ripper Was Joseph Barnett
Throughout the years, the amount of suspects and lack of motive have stumped detectives working on the Jack the Ripper case. The search for motive has led detectives to explore Joseph Barnett as a suspect. Barnett was a fish porter who lived with the Ripper’s last victim, Mary Kelly, and was believed to be in love with her. In an article Barnett referred to Kelly as his ‘wife’ and disagreed with her life as a prostitute and strived to make money to keep her off the streets. Many theorize that Barnett committed his murders to scare Kelly off the streets, but when she turned back to prostituion to make ends meet, he decided to kill his last victim. This allows us to come to the conclusion that Barnett had the most compelling motive out of all of the cases suspects and explains why the murders allegedly stopped after Mary Kelly was murdered. Aswell as this, the fact that Barnett lived with Kelly proves that he would know how to enter the house unsuspected and would be aware of her schedule and tendencies. These clues have led those who have researched the case to believe that the man Mary Kelly lived, Joseph Barnett, is a strong suspect.
Whilst Joseph Barnett is a strong suspect of the Jack the Ripper case, there is also evidence that points against the suspect. Firstly, Barnett was questioned by the police for over four hours and it was stated that he satisfied the police that he was not involved in Kelly’s murder and he left police custody cleared of any suspicion. This fact demonstrates that although Barnett may be a strong suspect in recent years, the metropolitan police at the time believed that he was not Jack the Ripper. Secondly, Barnett is not shown to have any degree in surgery or anatomy which may suggest he didn’t have enough anatomical knowledge to kill his victims the way he did. These statements are the only pieces of concrete evidence that stands in the way of the Joseph Barnett case.
Overall, there are over 50 debated suspects of the Whitechapel murders. London Police, Metropolitan police, detectives, forensic scientists, authors and ripperologists have worked on the case for years and are yet to close the case, instead leaving the debate up to millions of ripperologists around the world. Joseph Barnett’s case comes out as the most likely. Firstly, Barnett’s case provides the most compelling motive, being that he lived with Mary Kelly and disagreed with her prostitute work. It is theorized that Barnett murdered prostitutes to scare her off the streets. Furthermore, Barnett lived in many locations in east London with Kelly, allowing him to know her schedule and tendencies and also making him well versed in the area, capable of navigating backstreets. In addition to this piece of evidence, Barnett would be someone local prostitutes knew through Mary Kelly. This would allow Barnett to be easily trusted by prostitutes and lead them into alleyways where he could murder them away from members of the public. Lastly, one newspaper at the time even stated that his friends called him Jack. While many suspects still remain, none have come forward with more of a compelling motive than Barnett’s case. Many of the suspects were simply living in Whitechapel at the time and may have had anatomical knowledge or a level of psychological illness that may have led them to murdering their victims. Aaron Kosminskis case rose to popularity due to said ‘forensic evidence’ from a shawl, which many scientists have stated are not accurate and could have come from thousands who lived in London at the time. Overall, Barnett’s case has the most evidence supporting it and clearly stands out from other suspects being that he lived with Mary Kelly and would have reason to stop murdering after her. It is clear therefore that Joseph Barnett is the most likely suspect of the Jack the Ripper case.