Jack The Ripper In London
A look at one of London's most notorious killers, Jack the Ripper.
By the crime standards of the modern day Jack the Ripper would barely get noticed. He murdered five (some say eight) prostitutes in a slum area of London between the months of August and November of 1888. Others have committed more horrible crimes, yet Jack and his strange legacy continue to capture our attention, begging the question, why?
The name "Jack the Ripper" was only one of several nicknames given to the killer. He also went by the name Leather Apron and The Whitechapel Murderer. The name we remember today originated from a letter written at the time by someone claiming to be the killer. The letters, like many aspects of the case, are still controversial.
The murders present the classic "whodunit." Although both professional and amateur sleuths have tried to solve this case for over one hundred years, it remains an unsolved mystery. This person walked the foggy London streets, killed violently, and quickly vanished without a trace. For no apparent reason, he satisfied his blood lust with ever-increasing ferocity, culminating in the near destruction of his final victim.
Jack the Ripper also appeared at a time when there was tremendous political turmoil in London. Social reformers and Irish home rule partisans even tried to use the crimes to further their own ends.
For the first time, the general population had become literate and the press was a force for social change. Each day the activities of the Ripper were reported in the newspapers, as were the results of the inquiries and the actions taken by police. Historians believe it was this press coverage that made the series of murders a novel thing, something the world had never known before. Indeed it was the press who were partially responsible for the myths surrounding the Ripper.
Another unusual aspect of the case is the manner of death. The killer wasn't satisfied to simply strangle his victims. The knife was his grisly weapon of choice. In the opinion of many of the physicians who examined the bodies, the killer had to have some degree of anatomical knowledge to accomplish what he did.
In one case, he removed a kidney from the front, rather than the side, and did not damage any of the surrounding organs. In another murder, the killer removed the sexual organs, with one clean stroke of the knife. Given the darkness and concern for secrecy, the Ripper almost certainly would have had some experience in using a knife.
London during the reign of Queen Victoria was a time before sophisticated forensic science and even before finger printing. The only way to prove someone committed a murder was to catch either him or her in the act, or get the suspect to confess. The investigations on this case were actually carried out by two police forces, both Scotland Yard and a local police force.
The suspects offer more fascinating details, and there's certainly no shortage. One was M.J. Druitt, a barrister turned teacher who committed suicide in December of 1888. Another possibility is multiple wife poisoner Severin Klosowski, alias George Chapman. Providing more feed for the scandal mongers, both the Queen's grandson and the Queen's physician were mentioned. This suspect list is in no way complete, as new names continued to crop up long after the fact.
In the end, law enforcement officials never charged any suspect with the murders, which shows they did not have sufficient evidence which would gain them a verdict of guilty in court.
There are many books, movies, websites, articles and documents available to the student of crime who wishes to tackle the mysteries of Jack the Ripper.