One of the mysterious and challenging cases in serial killing history, Jack the Ripper case is still unsolved due to the non-identification of the culprit. The killer created a reign of terror in London (1888 and 1889) by murdering prostitutes. The killer was also known by several names such as white-chapel murderer and leather apron.
Several Forensic experts were called and were unable to identify the motive for these serial killings as there were no links found between each victim. Police agencies tried hard to close the case but due to a lack of technological methods, they weren’t able to do so.
It was estimated that there could be 11 victims of this case but due to lack of link, it was proved that there were five victims. All victims were prostitutes and the modus operandi was similar, hence they were termed as “Canonical five”. The killer used to cut the throat using a knife-like object proceeding with mutilating and finally removal of internal organs.
Killings ranged from 31st August to 11th November 1888. Investigators received several letters which were claimed to be sent by the killer which created chaos in the area.
Background of the Case
During the mid-18th century, the population of London was flooded with Jewish immigrants that led to a loss of homes and work of several people. This made prostitution to be one of the jobs for daily wages.
It was considered that the east end of London was a hub for criminal activities even though London was one of the wealthiest and developed places of whole Britain. Prostitution was considered legal until it was performed in public places and even theft or other smaller crimes were neglected easily and even media didn’t cover.
Among these smaller crimes, a reign for a gruesome act was waiting. This overpopulation and negligence caused the killings of white-chapel and the killer remained masked.
The number of victims murdered were not known to anyone. Even the total number of victims weren’t confirmed. Some thought of the victims to be 11 in total. Even Philip Sugden published “at least 4 probably 6 and possibly 8 victims”. Later on 5 victims were confirmed and therefore were known as “Canonical 5”. The timeline followed by the killer was estimated as follows:
Mary Ann – August 31
Annie Chapman – September 8
Elizabeth Stride – September 30
Catherine Eddowes – September 30
Mary Jane Kelly – November 9
It was believed that Martha Tabrum and Emma Smith were murdered earlier than Mary Ann on August 7 and by the same killer.
Emma Smith, a 45-year-old prostitute was walking through a street late-night when she was attacked by someone. She managed to escape from the attacker and reached a bar where she informed everyone that she was attacked by three men. At that time theft and hitting women was considered to be normal.
Although she managed to escape from the attacker, she died the next day due to severe wounds. On August 7, Martha Tabrum was found dead on a staircase, investigators found 39 stab wounds around her body parts like heart, lungs, genital parts, etc. Though these murders were heinous but were not involved under canonical 5.
From August 31 to November 9, five other prostitutes were murdered in a weird manner. Deep cuts around throats and several other stab wounds with loss of some internal organs especially genitals. Mary Ann was found dead on her bed in (Spitalfields) with two throat cuts one of which was considered to be deeper that it reached vertebrae. Stab wounds on the vagina, cut and stab wounds on the lower abdomen caused the rupture of abdomen and prominent visibility of inner organs.
Annie Chapman was also murdered in the same manner with two deep throat cuts and an open abdomen with some parts of skin flesh on the left shoulder and small intestine on the right one. Body’s autopsy revealed that her genitals were removed. Elizabeth Eddowes and Catherine Stride were assassinated on the same day with a gap of approximately 3 hours.
The manner of murder was similar to earlier ones with the exception in Eddowes body. There were several incisions on face and body. Her left kidney was removed and her ear parts were retrieved from clothes. Police officials found an apron with a message stating “Jews are the reason for these assassinations”.
It was believed that Mary Jane was the killer’s last victim. Her body was obtained in the most severe condition with various mutilations, abdomen emptied with the organs placed near head and feet. The condition of the body showed extreme torture experienced by the victim and experts believed that the level of torture and mutilation increased with the successive victims.
Investigation of the Case
The killing continued after Smith’s death but due to lack of eyewitnesses and evidence, police were unable to take any action. People started panicking and pressurizing the police department for not catching the culprit. Some people even started dressing as women thinking that the killer will come for them and get nabbed by police.
They even demanded a bounty which was accepted by Commissioner Charles Warren but was rejected by higher officers. Available evidence was examined by forensic experts which revealed an exclusive thing that the killer is well mastered with human body and usage of knives as cuts were so precise to facilitate torture and removal of organs.
Because of this breakthrough, all butchers, slaughterers, etc. were suspected. To assist police a Whitechapel Vigilance Committee was formed, volunteers of which used to patrol for suspicious activities. Even DNA analysis was not conclusive due to contamination of evidence.
Police also obtained several letters which were claimed to be written by the killer, one among which was saluted as “Jack the Ripper”. After analyzing those letters, experts concluded that they were not written by the killer as one of the handwritings matched with a reporter of a news channel who wrote the letter to increase the popularity of the channel.
One among the letters was saluted as “from Hell” which was considered to be genuine and written by the killer as it mentioned the kidney removed from one of the victims. Police examined the kidney and found a match. There were various suspects;
John Druitt, Seweryn Klosowsky, James Maybrick, Michael Ostorg, Prince Albert, Victor Christian Edward, Aaron Kosminski, Carl Feigenbaum, etc.
The case of Jack the Ripper is still unsolved but after years of incidents several books, articles, movies, interviews were broadcasted on media services to keep the public aware of this gruesome killer.
Because of this case, a new term was invented by Colin Wilson in 1970 known as “Ripperology”. This case still holds a prominent position in most challenging cases of history category.