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     The History of
  Jack the Ripper?

'Jack the Ripper', also referred to as the 'Whitechapel Murderer' and 'Leather Apron', perhaps the most famous serial killer in history, was active around the poor Whitechapel district of East London, England in 1888, and whose identity to this day still remains a mystery, although there have been a number of theories put forward over the years.


Attacks typically involved female prostitutes, with throat cutting prior to abdominal mutilations, and some victims had organs removed including the kidney, and led to speculation that the murderer had some surgical or anatomical knowledge, so may have been a surgeon, physician, or a butcher. A Liston knife was the weapon of choice, although it has been suggested that an axe was also used. Other suspects in the frame included: the author Lewis Carroll, artist Walter Sickert, Polish barber Aaron Kosminski, and even Royalty with Prince Albert Victor’s name being put forward. 


There were five victims during 1888, who are considered most likely to be linked to 'Jack the Ripper', who were: Mary Ann Nichols (the first), Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, although 11 or more murders were committed during what was considered to be the murderer’s active period, until 1891.

There were a number of detectives involved in the case, including Frederick George Abberline who led investigations on the ground. Letters were received by Scotland Yard and the media. A 'Dear Boss' letter, from someone claiming to be the murderer, was how the name 'Jack the Ripper' was coined. Unfortunately, most of the City of London investigation files were destroyed in the Blitz, although surviving records are now held by the Metropolitan Police.

Canonical Five Jack the Ripper Victims (Whitechapel, London)


Mary Ann Nichols - 31st August 1888 - Buck’s Row

Annie Chapman - 8th September 1888 - 29 Hanbury Street

Elizabeth Stride - 30th September 1888 - Dutfield’s Yard

Catherine Eddowes - 30th September 1888 - Mitre Square

Mary Jane Kelly - 9th November 1888 - 13 Miller’s Court


Jack the Ripper Suspects by Occupation

Barnett, Joseph - Porter

Belcher, William (Surname changed to Williams) - Milkman

Carroll, Lewis - Author

Druitt, Montague John - Barrister and Assistant Schoolmaster

Gull, Sir William - Surgeon / Physician

Isenschmid, Jacob - Butcher

Klosowski, Seweryn - Junior Surgeon then Assistant Hairdresser

Kosminski, Aaron (AKA George Chapman) - Barber

Mansfield, Richard - Actor

Pizer, John (AKA ‘Leather Apron’) - Bootmaker

Sickert, Walter - Artist

Stephenson, Robert ‘Roslyn’ D’Onston - Writer and Journalist

Victor, Prince Albert - Royalty


Some Thoughts on Possible Jack the Ripper Suspects


  • It was a surgeon seeking to gain anatomical knowledge. They chose ‘unfortunates’ as the victims because of being a sector of the population that did not, in their opinion, matter. The surgeon involved may have been seeking the organs for medical research purposes. Whatever the motive, they would certainly have the medical knowledge and expertise in the use of a knife to have carried out the crimes.

  • The Ripper was a butcher because of the speed of the knife skills involved in the murders.

  • The killer had an occupation that meant they could get away with walking around the streets of Whitechapel in a bloody apron.

  • A barber would have had a knife in their possession and feel comfortable with using around a person’s throat.

  • The serial killer’s occupation meant that they worked outside of normal hours.

  • The murderer was an artist or actor who had portrayed what they then acted out, having become rather too fascinated by the act or sight of killing.

  • It was a police officer who had a superior knowledge of Whitechapel’s network of alleyways because of patrolling them. This would enable them to make a quick escape and avoid detection.

  • Keeping the Ripper alive and killing justified the newly established occupation of detective.

  • The person responsible was a mentally insane individual.

  • The perpetrator detested prostitutes, for whatever reason.

  • It was a plot to silence the victim that was elaborate enough to have included killing several victims or simply involved mistaken identities. Royal reputations perhaps needed protecting when their apparent declining popularity seemed like it might be threatened.

  • There was black magic involved and ritualistic satanic elements to the murders.

There are many theories and many suspects because of their motives, means, and opportunities to have committed the Whitechapel Murders.

Possible Jack the Ripper Sightings

Albert William Bachert claimed on the night of the double event (30th September 1888) that he had seen a man, 5ft 6" to 5ft 7", carrying a black shiny bag, in the Three Nuns, who had asked him if prostitutes outside the pub would go with him down Northumberland Alley, off Fenchurch Street.

George Hutchinson gave a detailed statement to police on 9th November 1888 describing a man who could have been Mary Jane Kelly's killer.

Robert James Lees (1849-1931) was a spiritualist and preacher who claimed to know the identity of Jack the Ripper, but was rejected by both the City of London Police and Scotland Yard when he approached them on 2nd October 1888. This was revealed by the discovery of his diary entry.

A Witness Who Became a Suspect

On his way to work, Charles Lechmere (AKA Charles Cross) discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols, who is widely regarded as Jack the Ripper's first victim. But was he merely an innocent witness?

Lechmere was a carman or cart driver from East London who is thought to have worked for the Pickfords company for over 20 years. Apart from the Whitechapel Murders, he has also been linked to the Thames Torso Murders (the unsolved murders of four women which took place between 1887 and 1889).

However, the modus operandi differed between these cases in the way that the victims were attacked.  The Jack the Ripper victims suffered progressive mutilation, whereas the Thames Torso Murders involved dismemberment.

Police Officers in Charge Around the Time of Jack the Ripper

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, a man who imposed military discipline upon his fellow officers, was blamed for the failure to catch the Ripper. This was after ordering 'The Writing on the Wall' to be removed when it represented potential evidence and because of experimenting with bloodhounds, which he was mocked for. This was despite it having been a Home Office idea which was forced upon him that he had disapproved of.

James Monro resigned just before the Ripper murders.

Robert Anderson was appointed the day after the murder of Mary Ann Nichols and unable to take up his post until after the double killing between the 29th and 30th of September in 1888.

Detective Chief Inspector Donald Swanson led the inquiry in Anderson's absence.

Detective Inspector Frederick George Abberline became the most associated with the Jack the Ripper case. Abberline joined the Metropolitan Police's H Division, covering Whitechapel, in 1873. He was subsequently transferred to Scotland Yard in early 1888. Shortly before he retired in 1892, he would reach the rank of Chief Inspector. Abberline suspected Polish serial killer Seweryn Antonowicz Klosowksi AKA George Chapman was the killer.


Sir Melville Macnaghten, who joined Scotland Yard after the last Ripper murder, compiled the final report on the killings. His memorandum of 1894, gave his views on who he thought most likely to have committed the crimes attributed to the Whitechapel Murderer. They include: Montague John Druitt (who committed suicide in November of 1888), Kosminski and Michael Ostrog.


Interestingly, In 1900, Melville was part of a committee that would discuss measuring fingerprints to catch criminals. This led to the conviction of the Stratton Brothers (Albert and Alfred), a case Melville has been involved with. This was to be the first ever case that was solved using fingerprints.


It was these kinds of innovations in policing and forensics that might have helped catch the Ripper, although he left few clues behind and so was very much ahead of his time in terms of the forward-thinking criminal.


Bearing this in mind, it is thought by some that the Ripper may have killed his victims from behind, so that no blood ended up on his clothing. So perhaps he was a surgeon or doctor, and something of an intelligent man looking for organs in the name of medical research, choosing prostitutes as the least likely to be missed from society.

Curious Details

Clothes had been burned in the great of 13 Miller's Court prior to the murder of Mary Jane Kelly.

Annie Chapman

She was the only one of the five canonical Jack the Ripper victims for which photos exist of her in life.  For the others, only morgue photos exist of the injuries they sustained at the hands of the Ripper.

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