In this post, we are going to look at the murders committed and Jack the Ripper history. We will also explore the different suspects.
The location where the five murders occurred over a three month period from August 31 to November 9 in 1888 was the East End of London, England. The neighbourhood at that time was dark and dank and full of narrow, winding cobblestoned alleyways that were not lit at night. In 1888 this area of London was inhabited by the poor people who struggled daily to get enough to eat for themselves and their children.
The Victims of Jack The Ripper
The five women that were brutally killed in what was referred to as the “Whitechapel Murders” were named Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. As the FBI discovered in 1988 when they looked into the crimes all of the victims were known to be heavy drinkers and prostitutes. They became victims due to their lifestyle that made them readily available to the killer.
The victims were not stalked but were randomly chosen because they were in the wrong place and the wrong time. Modern day people may wonder, “Why did the prostitutes still go out to work if they knew a killer was after them?” Well, the times were tough, they were poor, they needed to make money in order to eat. The basic instinct of survival will always outweigh the desire for safety. Add into the mix that the women were known to be heavy drinkers and we have another reason for them to venture out into the dangers of the streets of Whitechapel. They were likely alcoholics and would do anything to get their fix. Think of a modern day drug addict and the dangers they face in order to get the drugs they need. A Victorian-era alcoholic is the same.
Interestingly the police file of the Whitechapel Murders also includes six other murders that occurred between April 3, 1888, and February 13, 1891. These murders are not entirely thought to be the work of Jack the Ripper as the methods used in these murders were different.
Each of the five women had their throats cut and most had their stomachs slashed and organs ripped out before they were dumped on the streets of the East End of London in the early morning hours.
Almost immediately the police thought that the murderer was either a butcher or a doctor. The killer had knowledge of human anatomy and very good skills with a knife. Sounds a lot like a surgeon but it is not far-fetched to think the killer could have been a butcher.
There are over 100 different suspects that have been thought to be Jack the Ripper. Many of them are just absurd but there are three that are very interesting. They are:
Aaron Kosminski was born in 1865 Poland to a Jewish family that later emigrated to England in 1881. Aaron worked as a hairdresser or barber and was diagnosed with mental problems in 1885. He lived with his siblings in the heart of Whitechapel at the time of the murders and was questioned by police at the time. Upon his release due to a lack of evidence against him, his family had him confined to a mental asylum. In February 1891 Mr Kosminski was committed to Colney Hatch north London. In 1894 Kosminski moved to Leavesden Asylum where he lived until he died of gangrene in 1919.
Thomas Hayne Cutbush was born June 29, 1864, and lived in South London. He is a suspect because at the time of the murders he was known to wander the streets of Whitechapel and his family home was within walking distance. His uncle was a Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police who committed suicide in 1896, this led authorities to believe that insanity ran in the family. Cutbush was diagnosed as insane in 1891 and was committed to Broadmoor Hospital where he died in 1903. It is thought that his insanity may have been the result of contracting Syphilis or from his “overstudy” of medical textbooks. During his commitment in Broadmoor Hospital Thomas would often be heard saying that if he ever got a knife he would “rip the staff.” He is still considered to be a suspect because the murders in Whitechapel came to a stop after he was put away.
Montague John Druitt was born on August 15, 1857, in Wimborne, Dorset into a medical family. His father was a surgeon while he had an uncle and cousin who were both doctors. Druitt worked as a schoolmaster and later was a barrister. It has been reported that mental illness ran in the family as some members committed suicide. It is believed that Druitt committed suicide in late November or early December 1888 and was found in the Thames on December 31, 1888. Druitt’s father died of a heart attack in 1885 and Druitt’s mother became mentally ill in July 1888 and was sent to Brook Asylum in Clapton. The death of his father, which left him with a small inheritance, and the commitment of his mother may have been too much to handle. Could those events have been a trigger to make him commit murder? We will likely never know for sure.
I must point out that the evidence against all of these men is purely circumstantial. They all suffered from varying degrees of mental illness and they all look alike. Could any of them actually be Jack the Ripper? The main group of Whitechapel killings that are attributed to the ripper ended in November 1888. Whomever the true killer was it is odd that the “ripper” style killings stopped after only 11 or 12 weeks. Perhaps the researchers are on to something since two of the suspects were committed to insane asylums for the rest of their lives and the other was found dead. Since forensic science was still in its infancy in 1888 we likely won’t ever learn the truth of the identity of Jack the Ripper. Do you have any theories?