Jack the Ripper & The Whitechapel Murders 🔪


In the autumn of 1888, a series of violent murders on the streets of the London district of Whitechapel sent shockwaves across the country.

The large number of attacks against women in the East End during this time adds uncertainty to how many victims were murdered by the same individual. Eleven separate murders, stretching from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891, were included in a London Metropolitan Police Service investigation and were known collectively in the police docket as the “Whitechapel murders”. Opinions vary as to whether these murders should be linked to the same culprit, but five of the eleven Whitechapel murders, known as the “canonical five”, are widely believed to be the work of the Ripper. Most experts point to deep slash wounds to the throat, followed by extensive abdominal and genital-area mutilation, the removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations as the distinctive features of the Ripper’s modus operandi. The first two cases in the Whitechapel murders file, those of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram, are not included in the canonical five.

Smith was robbed and sexually assaulted in Osborn Street, Whitechapel, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on 3 April 1888. She had been bludgeoned about the face and received a cut to her ear. A blunt object was also inserted into her vagina, rupturing her peritoneum. She developed peritonitis and died the following day at London Hospital. Smith stated that she had been attacked by two or three men, one of whom she described as a teenager. This attack was linked to the later murders by the press, but most authors attribute Smith’s murder to general East End gang violence unrelated to the Ripper case.

Tabram was murdered on a staircase landing in George Yard, Whitechapel, on 7 August 1888; she had suffered 39 stab wounds to her throat, lungs, heart, liver, spleen, stomach, and abdomen, with additional knife wounds inflicted to her breasts and vagina. All but one of Tabram’s wounds had been inflicted with a bladed instrument such as a penknife, and with one possible exception, all the wounds had been inflicted by a right-handed individual. Tabram had not been raped.

The savagery of this murder, the lack of an obvious motive, and the closeness of the location and date to the later canonical Ripper murders led police to link this murder to those later committed by Jack the Ripper. However, this murder differs from the later canonical murders because although Tabram had been repeatedly stabbed, she had not suffered any slash wounds to her throat or abdomen. Many experts do not connect Tabram’s murder with the later murders because of this difference in the wound pattern.


In the mid-19th century, Britain experienced an influx of Irish immigrants who swelled the populations of the major cities, including the East End of London. From 1882, Jewish refugees fleeing pogroms in Tsarist Russia and other areas of Eastern Europe emigrated into the same area. The parish of t in London’s East End became increasingly overcrowded, with the population increasing to approximately 80,000 inhabitants by 1888. Work and housing conditions worsened, and a significant economic underclass developed. Fifty-five percent of children born in the East End died before they were five years old. Robbery, violence, and alcohol dependency were commonplace, and the endemic poverty drove many women to prostitution to survive on a daily basis.

In October 1888, London’s Metropolitan Police Service estimated that there were 62 brothels and 1,200 women working as prostitutes in Whitechapel, with approximately 8,500 people residing in the 233 common lodging-houses within Whitechapel every night, with the nightly price for a single bed being fourpence and the cost of sleeping upon a “lean-to” (“Hang-over”) rope stretched across the dormitory being two pence per person. The economic problems in Whitechapel were accompanied by a steady rise in social tensions. Between 1886 and 1889, frequent demonstrations led to police intervention and public unrest, such as Bloody Sunday (1887). Anti-semitism, crime, nativism, racism, social disturbance, and severe deprivation influenced public perceptions that Whitechapel was a notorious den of immorality. Such perceptions were strengthened in the autumn of 1888 when the series of vicious and grotesque murders attributed to “Jack the Ripper” received unprecedented coverage in the media.

Canonical Five

The canonical five Ripper victims are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.

The body of Mary Ann Nichols was discovered at about 3:40 a.m. on Friday 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durward Street), Whitechapel. Nichols had last been seen alive approximately one hour before the discovery of her body by a Mrs Emily Holland, with whom she had previously shared a bed at a common lodging-house in Thrawl Street, Spitalfields, walking in the direction of Whitechapel Road. Her throat was severed by two deep cuts, one of which completely severed all the tissue down to the vertebrae. Her vagina had been stabbed twice, and the lower part of her abdomen was partly ripped open by a deep, jagged wound, causing her bowels to protrude. Several other incisions inflicted to both sides of her abdomen had also been caused by the same knife; each of these wounds had been inflicted in a downward thrusting manner.

One week later, on Saturday 8 September 1888, the body of Annie Chapman was discovered at approximately 6 a.m. near the steps to the doorway of the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. As in the case of Mary Ann Nichols, the throat was severed by two deep cuts. Her abdomen had been cut entirely open, with a section of the flesh from her stomach being placed upon her left shoulder and another section of skin and flesh—plus her small intestines—being removed and placed above her right shoulder. Chapman’s autopsy also revealed that her uterus and sections of her bladder and vagina had been removed.

At the inquest into Chapman’s murder, Elizabeth Long described having seen Chapman standing outside 29 Hanbury Street at about 5:30 a.m. in the company of a dark-haired man wearing a brown deer-stalker hat and dark overcoat, and of a “shabby-genteel” appearance. According to this eyewitness, the man had asked Chapman the question, “Will you?” to which Chapman had replied, “Yes.”

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were both killed in the early morning hours of Sunday 30 September 1888. Stride’s body was discovered at approximately 1 a.m. in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street (now Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. The cause of death was a single clear-cut incision, measuring six inches across her neck which had severed her left carotid artery and her trachea before terminating beneath her right jaw. The absence of any further mutilations to her body has led to uncertainty as to whether Stride’s murder was committed by the Ripper, or whether he was interrupted during the attack. Several witnesses later informed police they had seen Stride in the company of a man in or close to Berner Street on the evening of 29 September and in the early hours of 30 September, but each gave differing descriptions: some said that her companion was fair, others dark; some said that he was shabbily dressed, others well-dressed.

Eddowes’s body was found in Mitre Square in the City of London, three-quarters of an hour after the discovery of the body of Elizabeth Stride. Her throat was severed and her abdomen ripped open by a long, deep and jagged wound before her intestines had been placed over her right shoulder. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed, and her face had been disfigured, with her nose severed, her cheek slashed, and cuts measuring a quarter of an inch and a half an inch respectively vertically incised through each of her eyelids. A triangular incision—the apex of which pointed towards Eddowes’s eye—had also been carved upon each of her cheeks, and a section of the auricle and lobe of her right ear was later recovered from her clothing. The police surgeon who conducted the post mortem upon Eddowes’s body stated his opinion these mutilations would have taken “at least five minutes” to complete.

A local cigarette salesman named Joseph Lawende had passed through the square with two friends shortly before the murder, and he described seeing a fair-haired man of shabby appearance with a woman who may have been Eddowes. Lawende’s companions were unable to confirm his description. The murders of Stride and Eddowes ultimately became known as the “double event”.

A section of Eddowes’s bloodied apron was found at the entrance to a tenement in Goulston Street, Whitechapel, at 2:55 a.m. A chalk inscription upon the wall directly above this piece of apron read: “The Juwes are The men That Will not be Blamed for nothing.”

This graffito became known as the Goulston Street graffito. The message appeared to imply that a Jew or Jews in general were responsible for the series of murders, but it is unclear whether the graffito was written by the murderer on dropping the section of apron, or was merely incidental and nothing to do with the case. Such graffiti were commonplace in Whitechapel. Police Commissioner Charles Warren feared that the graffito might spark anti-semitic riots and ordered the writing washed away before dawn.

The extensively mutilated and disembowelled body of Mary Jane Kelly was discovered lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields, at 10:45 a.m. on Friday 9 November 1888. Her face had been “hacked beyond all recognition”, with her throat severed down to the spine, and the abdomen almost emptied of its organs. Her uterus, kidneys and one breast had been placed beneath her head, and other viscera from her body placed beside her foot, about the bed and sections of her abdomen and thighs upon a bedside table. The heart was missing from the crime scene.

Multiple ashes found within the fireplace at 13 Miller’s Court suggested Kelly’s murderer had burned several combustible items to illuminate the single room as he mutilated her body. A recent fire had been severe enough to melt the solder between a kettle and its spout, which had fallen into the grate of the fireplace.

Each of the canonical five murders was perpetrated at night, on or close to a weekend, either at the end of a month or a week (or so) after. The mutilations became increasingly severe as the series of murders proceeded, except for that of Stride, whose attacker may have been interrupted. Nichols was not missing any organs; Chapman’s uterus and sections of her bladder and vagina were taken; Eddowes had her uterus and left kidney removed and her face mutilated; and Kelly’s body was extensively eviscerated, with her face “gashed in all directions” and the tissue of her neck being severed to the bone, although the heart was the sole body organ missing from this crime scene.

Historically, the belief these five canonical murders were committed by the same perpetrator is derived from contemporary documents which link them together to the exclusion of others. In 1894, Sir Melville Macnaghten, Assistant Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service and Head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), wrote a report that stated: “the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims—& 5 victims only”. Similarly, the canonical five victims were linked together in a letter written by police surgeon Thomas Bond to Robert Anderson, head of the London CID, on 10 November 1888.

Some researchers have posited that some of the murders were undoubtedly the work of a single killer, but an unknown larger number of killers acting independently were responsible for the other crimes. Authors Stewart P. Evans and Donald Rumbelow argue that the canonical five is a “Ripper myth” and that three cases (Nichols, Chapman, and Eddowes) can be definitely linked to the same perpetrator, but that less certainty exists as to whether Stride and Kelly were also murdered by the same individual. Conversely, others suppose that the six murders between Tabram and Kelly were the work of a single killer. Dr Percy Clark, assistant to the examining pathologist George Bagster Phillips, linked only three of the murders and thought that the others were perpetrated by “weak-minded individual[s] … induced to emulate the crime”. Macnaghten did not join the police force until the year after the murders, and his memorandum contains serious factual errors about possible suspects.

Later Whitechapel Murders

Mary Jane Kelly is generally considered to be the Ripper’s final victim, and it is assumed that the crimes ended because of the culprit’s death, imprisonment, institutionalisation, or emigration. The Whitechapel murders file details another four murders that occurred after the canonical five: those of Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, the Pinchin Street torso, and Frances Coles.

The strangled body of 26-year-old Rose Mylett was found in Clarke’s Yard, High Street, Poplar on 20 December 1888. There was no sign of a struggle, and the police believed that she had either accidentally hanged herself with her collar while in a drunken stupor or committed suicide. However, faint markings left by a cord on one side of her neck suggested Mylett had been strangled. At the inquest into Mylett’s death, the jury returned a verdict of murder.

Alice McKenzie was murdered shortly after midnight on 17 July 1889 in Castle Alley, Whitechapel. She had suffered two stab wounds to her neck, and her left carotid artery had been severed. Several minor bruises and cuts were found on her body, which also bore a seven-inch long superficial wound extending from her left breast to her navel. One of the examining pathologists, Thomas Bond, believed this to be a Ripper murder, though his colleague George Bagster Phillips, who had examined the bodies of three previous victims, disagreed. Opinions among writers are also divided between those who suspect McKenzie’s murderer copied the modus operandi of Jack the Ripper to deflect suspicion from himself, and those who ascribe this murder to Jack the Ripper.

“The Pinchin Street torso” was a decomposing headless and legless torso of an unidentified woman aged between 30 and 40 discovered beneath a railway arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel, on 10 September 1889. Bruising about the victim’s back, hip, and arm indicated the decedent had been extensively beaten shortly before her death. The victim’s abdomen was also extensively mutilated, although her genitals had not been wounded. She appeared to have been killed approximately one day prior to the discovery of her torso. The dismembered sections of the body are believed to have been transported to the railway arch, hidden under an old chemise.

At 2:15 a.m. on 13 February 1891, PC Ernest Thompson discovered a 25-year-old prostitute named Frances Coles lying beneath a railway arch at Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel. Her throat had been deeply cut but her body was not mutilated, leading some to believe Thompson had disturbed her assailant. Coles was still alive, although she died before medical help could arrive. A 53-year-old stoker, James Thomas Sadler, had earlier been seen drinking with Coles, and the two are known to have argued approximately three hours before her death. Sadler was arrested by the police and charged with her murder. He was briefly thought to be the Ripper, but was later discharged from court for lack of evidence on 3 March 1891.

Other Alleged Victims

In addition to the eleven Whitechapel murders, commentators have linked other attacks to the Ripper. In the case of “Fairy Fay”, it is unclear whether this attack was real or fabricated as a part of Ripper lore. “Fairy Fay” was a nickname given to an unidentified woman whose body was allegedly found in a doorway close to Commercial Road on 26 December 1887 “after a stake had been thrust through her abdomen”, but there were no recorded murders in Whitechapel at or around Christmas 1887. “Fairy Fay” seems to have been created through a confused press report of the murder of Emma Elizabeth Smith, who had a stick or other blunt object shoved into her vagina. Most authors agree that the victim “Fairy Fay” never existed.

A 38-year-old widow named Annie Millwood was admitted to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary with numerous stab wounds to her legs and lower torso on 25 February 1888, informing staff she had been attacked with a clasp knife by an unknown man. She was later discharged, but died from apparently natural causes on 31 March. Millwood was later postulated to be the Ripper’s first victim, although this attack cannot be definitively linked to the perpetrator.

Another suspected precanonical victim was a young dressmaker named Ada Wilson, who reportedly survived being stabbed twice in the neck with a clasp knife upon the doorstep of her home in Bow on 28 March 1888. A further possible victim, 40-year-old Annie Farmer, resided at the same lodging house as Martha Tabram and reported an attack on 21 November 1888. She had received a superficial cut to her throat. Although an unknown man with blood on his mouth and hands had run out of this lodging house, shouting, “Look at what she has done!” before two eyewitnesses heard Farmer scream, her wound was light, and possibly self-inflicted.

“The Whitehall Mystery” was a term coined for the discovery of a headless torso of a woman on 2 October 1888 in the basement of the new Metropolitan Police headquarters being built in Whitehall. An arm and shoulder belonging to the body were previously discovered floating in the River Thames near Pimlico on 11 September, and the left leg was subsequently discovered buried near where the torso was found on 17 October. The other limbs and head were never recovered and the body was never identified. The mutilations were similar to those in the Pinchin Street torso case, where the legs and head were severed but not the arms.

Both the Whitehall Mystery and the Pinchin Street case may have been part of a series of murders known as the “Thames Mysteries”, committed by a single serial killer dubbed the “Torso killer”. It is debatable whether Jack the Ripper and the “Torso killer” were the same person or separate serial killers active in the same area. The modus operandi of the Torso killer differed from that of the Ripper, and police at the time discounted any connection between the two. Only one of the four victims linked to the Torso killer was identified, Elizabeth Jackson. She was a 24-year-old prostitute from Chelsea whose various body parts were collected from the River Thames over a three-week period between 31 May and 25 June 1889.

On 29 December 1888, the body of a seven-year-old boy named John Gill was found in a stable block in Manningham, Bradford. Gill had been missing since 27 December. His legs had been severed, his abdomen opened, his intestines partly drawn out, and his heart and one ear removed. Similarities with the Ripper murders led to press speculation that the Ripper had killed him. The boy’s employer, 23-year-old milkman William Barrett, was twice arrested for the murder but was released due to insufficient evidence. No-one was ever prosecuted.

Carrie Brown (nicknamed “Shakespeare”, reportedly for her habit of quoting Shakespeare’s sonnets) was strangled with clothing and then mutilated with a knife on 24 April 1891 in New York City. Her body was found with a large tear through her groin area and superficial cuts on her legs and back. No organs were removed from the scene, though an ovary was found upon the bed, either purposely removed or unintentionally dislodged. At the time, the murder was compared to those in Whitechapel, though the Metropolitan Police eventually ruled out any connection.

Police Investigation

The vast majority of the City of London Police files relating to their investigation into the Whitechapel murders were destroyed in the Blitz. The surviving Metropolitan Police files allow a detailed view of investigative procedures in the Victorian era. A large team of policemen conducted house-to-house inquiries throughout Whitechapel. Forensic material was collected and examined. Suspects were identified, traced, and either examined more closely or eliminated from the inquiry. Modern police work follows the same pattern. More than 2,000 people were interviewed, “upwards of 300” people were investigated, and 80 people were detained. Following the murders of Stride and Eddowes, the Commissioner of the City Police, Sir James Fraser, offered a reward of £500 for the arrest of the Ripper.

The investigation was initially conducted by the Metropolitan Police Whitechapel (H) Division Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headed by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid. After the murder of Nichols, Detective Inspectors Frederick Abberline, Henry Moore, and Walter Andrews were sent from Central Office at Scotland Yard to assist. The City of London Police were involved under Detective Inspector James McWilliam after the Eddowes murder, which occurred within the City of London. The overall direction of the murder enquiries was hampered by the fact that the newly appointed head of the CID Robert Anderson was on leave in Switzerland between 7 September and 6 October, during the time when Chapman, Stride, and Eddowes were killed. This prompted Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren to appoint Chief Inspector Donald Swanson to coordinate the enquiry from Scotland Yard.

Butchers, slaughterers, surgeons, and physicians were suspected because of the manner of the mutilations. A surviving note from Major Henry Smith, Acting Commissioner of the City Police, indicates that the alibis of local butchers and slaughterers were investigated, with the result that they were eliminated from the inquiry. A report from Inspector Swanson to the Home Office confirms that 76 butchers and slaughterers were visited, and that the inquiry encompassed all their employees for the previous six months. Some contemporary figures, including Queen Victoria, thought the pattern of the murders indicated that the culprit was a butcher or cattle drover on one of the cattle boats that plied between London and mainland Europe. Whitechapel was close to the London Docks, and usually such boats docked on Thursday or Friday and departed on Saturday or Sunday. The cattle boats were examined but the dates of the murders did not coincide with a single boat’s movements and the transfer of a crewman between boats was also ruled out.

Whitechapel Vigilance Committee

In September 1888, a group of volunteer citizens in London’s East End formed the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. They patrolled the streets looking for suspicious characters, partly because of dissatisfaction with the failure of police to apprehend the perpetrator, and also because some members were concerned that the murders were affecting businesses in the area. The Committee petitioned the government to raise a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer, offered their own reward of £50 for information leading to his capture, and hired private detectives to question witnesses independently.

Criminal Profiling

At the end of October, Robert Anderson asked police surgeon Thomas Bond to give his opinion on the extent of the murderer’s surgical skill and knowledge. The opinion offered by Bond on the character of the “Whitechapel murderer” is the earliest surviving offender profile. Bond’s assessment was based on his own examination of the most extensively mutilated victim and the post mortem notes from the four previous canonical murders.

He wrote:

All five murders no doubt were committed by the same hand. In the first four the throats appear to have been cut from left to right, in the last case owing to the extensive mutilation it is impossible to say in what direction the fatal cut was made, but arterial blood was found on the wall in splashes close to where the woman’s head must have been lying.

All the circumstances surrounding the murders lead me to form the opinion that the women must have been lying down when murdered and in every case the throat was first cut.

Bond was strongly opposed to the idea that the murderer possessed any kind of scientific or anatomical knowledge, or even “the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer”. In his opinion, the killer must have been a man of solitary habits, subject to “periodical attacks of homicidal and erotic mania”, with the character of the mutilations possibly indicating “satyriasis”. Bond also stated that “the homicidal impulse may have developed from a revengeful or brooding condition of the mind, or that religious mania may have been the original disease but I do not think either hypothesis is likely”.

There is no evidence the perpetrator engaged in sexual activity with any of the victims, yet psychologists suppose that the penetration of the victims with a knife and “leaving them on display in sexually degrading positions with the wounds exposed” indicates that the perpetrator derived sexual pleasure from the attacks. This view is challenged by others, who dismiss such hypotheses as insupportable supposition.

In addition to the contradictions and unreliability of contemporary accounts, attempts to identify the murderer are hampered by the lack of any surviving forensic evidence. DNA analysis on extant letters is inconclusive; the available material has been handled many times and is too contaminated to provide meaningful results. There have been mutually incompatible claims that DNA evidence points conclusively to two different suspects, and the methodology of both has also been criticised.

The Letters

Over the course of the Whitechapel murders, the police, newspapers, and other individuals received hundreds of letters regarding the case. Some letters were well-intentioned offers of advice as to how to catch the killer, but the vast majority were either hoaxes or generally useless.

Hundreds of letters claimed to have been written by the killer himself, and three of these in particular are prominent: the “Dear Boss” letter, the “Saucy Jacky” postcard and the “From Hell” letter.

The “Dear Boss” letter, dated 25 September and postmarked 27 September 1888, was received that day by the Central News Agency, and was forwarded to Scotland Yard on 29 September. Initially, it was considered a hoax, but when Eddowes was found three days after the letter’s postmark with a section of one ear obliquely cut from her body, the promise of the author to “clip the ladys (sic) ears off” gained attention. Eddowes’s ear appears to have been nicked by the killer incidentally during his attack, and the letter writer’s threat to send the ears to the police was never carried out.[158] The name “Jack the Ripper” was first used in this letter by the signatory and gained worldwide notoriety after its publication. Most of the letters that followed copied this letter’s tone. Some sources claim that another letter dated 17 September 1888 was the first to use the name “Jack the Ripper”, but most experts believe that this was a fake inserted into police records in the 20th century.

Scrawled and misspelled note reading:

“From hell—Mr Lusk—Sir I send you half the kidne I took from one woman prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer—Signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk”

The “Saucy Jacky” postcard was postmarked 1 October 1888 and was received the same day by the Central News Agency. The handwriting was similar to the “Dear Boss” letter, and mentioned the canonical murders committed on 30 September, which the author refers to by writing “double event this time”. It has been argued that the postcard was posted before the murders were publicised, making it unlikely that a crank would hold such knowledge of the crime. However, it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings occurred, long after details of the murders were known and publicised by journalists, and had become general community gossip by the residents of Whitechapel.

The “From Hell” letter was received by George Lusk, leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, on 16 October 1888. The handwriting and style is unlike that of the “Dear Boss” letter and “Saucy Jacky” postcard. The letter came with a small box in which Lusk discovered half of a human kidney, preserved in “spirits of wine” (ethanol). Eddowes’s left kidney had been removed by the killer. The writer claimed that he “fried and ate” the missing kidney half. There is disagreement over the kidney; some contend that it belonged to Eddowes, while others argue that it was a macabre practical joke. The kidney was examined by Dr Thomas Openshaw of the London Hospital, who determined that it was human and from the left side, but (contrary to false newspaper reports) he could not determine any other biological characteristics. Openshaw subsequently also received a letter signed “Jack the Ripper”.

Scotland Yard published facsimiles of the “Dear Boss” letter and the postcard on 3 October, in the ultimately vain hope that a member of the public would recognise the handwriting. Charles Warren explained in a letter to Godfrey Lushington, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department: “I think the whole thing a hoax but of course we are bound to try & ascertain the writer in any case.”

On 7 October 1888, George R. Sims in the Sunday newspaper Referee implied scathingly that the letter was written by a journalist “to hurl the circulation of a newspaper sky high”.Police officials later claimed to have identified a specific journalist as the author of both the “Dear Boss” letter and the postcard. The journalist was identified as Tom Bullen in a letter from Chief Inspector John Littlechild to George R. Sims dated 23 September 1913. A journalist named Fred Best reportedly confessed in 1931 that he and a colleague at The Star had written the letters signed “Jack the Ripper” to heighten interest in the murders and “keep the business alive”.

The Suspects

Metropolitan Police Service files show that their investigation into the serial killings encompassed 11 separate murders between 1888 and 1891, known in the police docket as the “Whitechapel murders”. Five of these—the murders of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly—are generally agreed to be the work of a single killer, known as “Jack the Ripper”. These murders occurred between August and November 1888 within a short distance of each other, and are collectively known as the “canonical five”. The six other murders—those of Emma Elizabeth Smith, Martha Tabram, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, and the Pinchin Street torso—have been linked with Jack the Ripper to varying degrees.

The swiftness of the attacks, and the manner of the mutilations performed on some of the bodies, which included disembowelment and removal of organs, led to speculation that the murderer had the skills of a physician or butcher. However, others disagreed strongly, and thought the wounds too crude to be professional. The alibis of local butchers and slaughterers were investigated, with the result that they were eliminated from the enquiry. Over 2,000 people were interviewed, “upwards of 300” people were investigated, and 80 people were detained.

During the course of their investigations of the murders, police regarded several men as strong suspects, though none was ever formally charged.

Montague John Druitt (15 August 1857 – early December 1888) was a Dorset-born barrister who worked to supplement his income as an assistant schoolmaster in Blackheath, London, until his dismissal shortly before his suicide by drowning in 1888. His decomposed body was found floating in the Thames near Chiswick on 31 December 1888. Some modern authors suggest that Druitt may have been dismissed because he was homosexual and that this could have driven him to commit suicide. However, both his mother and his grandmother suffered mental health problems, and it is possible that he was dismissed because of an underlying hereditary psychiatric illness. His death shortly after the last canonical murder (which took place on 9 November 1888) led Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten to name him as a suspect in a memorandum of 23 February 1894. However, Macnaghten incorrectly described the 31-year-old barrister as a 41-year-old doctor. On 1 September, the day after the first canonical murder, Druitt was in Dorset playing cricket, and most experts now believe that the killer was local to Whitechapel, whereas Druitt lived miles away on the other side of the Thames in Kent. Inspector Frederick Abberline appeared to dismiss Druitt as a serious suspect on the basis that the only evidence against him was the coincidental timing of his suicide shortly after the last canonical murder.

Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski (alias George Chapman—no relation to victim Annie Chapman; 14 December 1865 – 7 April 1903) was born in Congress Poland, but emigrated to the United Kingdom sometime between 1887 and 1888, shortly before the start of the Whitechapel murders. Between 1893 and 1894 he assumed the name of Chapman. He successively poisoned three of his wives and became known as “the borough poisoner”. He was hanged for his crimes in 1903. At the time of the Ripper murders, he lived in Whitechapel, London, where he had been working as a barber under the name Ludwig Schloski. According to H. L. Adam, who wrote a book on the poisonings in 1930, Chapman was Inspector Frederick Abberline’s favoured suspect, and the Pall Mall Gazette reported that Abberline suspected Chapman after his conviction.

However, others disagree that Chapman is a likely culprit, as he murdered his three wives with poison, and it is uncommon (though not unheard of) for a serial killer to make such a drastic change in modus operandi.

Aaron Kosminski (born Aron Mordke Kozminski; 11 September 1865 – 24 March 1919) was a Polish Jew who was admitted to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in 1891. “Kosminski” (without a forename) was named as a suspect by Sir Melville Macnaghten in his 1894 memorandum and by former Chief Inspector Donald Swanson in handwritten comments in the margin of his copy of Assistant Commissioner Sir Robert Anderson’s memoirs. Anderson wrote that a Polish Jew had been identified as the Ripper but that no prosecution was possible because the witness was also Jewish and refused to testify against a fellow Jew. Some authors are sceptical of this, while others use it in their theories. In his memorandum, Macnaghten stated that no one was ever identified as the Ripper, which directly contradicts Anderson’s recollection. In 1987, author Martin Fido searched asylum records for any inmates called Kosminski, and found only one: Aaron Kosminski. Kosminski lived in Whitechapel; however, he was largely harmless in the asylum. His insanity took the form of auditory hallucinations, a paranoid fear of being fed by other people, a refusal to wash or bathe, and “self-abuse”. In his book The Cases That Haunt Us, former FBI profiler John Douglas states that a paranoid individual such as Kosminski would likely have openly boasted of the murders while incarcerated had he been the killer, but there is no record that he ever did so. In 2014, DNA analysis tenuously linked Kosminski with a shawl said to have belonged to victim Catherine Eddowes,[28] but experts – including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the inventor of genetic fingerprinting – dismissed the claims as unreliable. In March 2019, the Journal of Forensic Sciences published a study that claimed DNA from Kosminski and Catherine Eddowes was found on the shawl, though other scientists have cast doubt on the study.

Michael Ostrog (c. 1833–in or after 1904) was a Russian-born professional con man and thief. He used numerous aliases and assumed titles. Among his many dubious claims was that he had once been a surgeon in the Russian Navy. He was mentioned as a suspect by Macnaghten, who joined the case in 1889, the year after the “canonical five” victims were killed. Researchers have failed to find evidence that he had committed crimes any more serious than fraud and theft. Author Philip Sugden discovered prison records showing that Ostrog was jailed for petty offences in France during the Ripper murders. Ostrog was last mentioned alive in 1904; the date of his death is unknown.

John Pizer or Piser (c. 1850–1897) was a Polish Jew who worked as a bootmaker in Whitechapel. In the early days of the Whitechapel murders, many locals suspected that “Leather Apron” was the killer, which was picked up by the press, and Pizer was known as “Leather Apron”. He had a prior conviction for a stabbing offence, and Police Sergeant William Thicke apparently believed that he had committed a string of minor assaults on prostitutes. After the murders of Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman in late August and early September 1888 respectively, Thicke arrested Pizer on 10 September, even though the investigating inspector reported that “there is no evidence whatsoever against him”. He was cleared of suspicion when it turned out that he had alibis for two of the murders. He was staying with relatives at the time of one of the canonical murders, and he was talking with a police officer while watching a spectacular fire on the London Docks at the time of another. Pizer and Thicke had known each other for years, and Pizer implied that his arrest was based on animosity rather than evidence. Pizer successfully obtained monetary compensation from at least one newspaper that had named him as the murderer. Thicke himself was accused of being the Ripper by H. T. Haslewood of Tottenham in a letter to the Home Office dated 10 September 1889; the presumably malicious accusation was dismissed as without foundation.

James Thomas Sadler or Saddler (c. 1837 – 1906 or 1910) was a friend of Frances Coles, the last victim added to the Whitechapel murders police file. Coles was murdered on 13 February 1891. Her body was discovered beneath a railway arch in Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel. Two deep slash wounds had been inflicted to her neck. She was still alive, but died before medical help could arrive. Sadler was arrested, but little evidence existed against him. Though briefly considered by the police as a Ripper suspect, he was at sea at the time of the first four “canonical” murders, and was released without charge. Sadler was named in Macnaghten’s 1894 memorandum in connection with Coles’s murder. Macnaghten thought Sadler “was a man of ungovernable temper and entirely addicted to drink, and the company of the lowest prostitutes”.

Francis Tumblety (c. 1833–1903) earned a small fortune posing as an “Indian Herb” doctor throughout the United States and Canada, and was commonly perceived as a misogynist and a quack. He was connected to the death of one of his patients, but escaped prosecution. In 1865, he was arrested for alleged complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but no connection was found and he was released without being charged. Tumblety was in England in 1888, and was arrested on 7 November, apparently for engaging in homosexual acts, which were illegal at the time. It was reported by some of his friends that he showed off a collection of “matrices” (wombs) from “every class of woman” at around this time. Awaiting trial, he fled to France and then to the United States. Already notorious in the States for his self-promotion and previous criminal charges, his arrest was reported as connected to the Ripper murders. American reports that Scotland Yard tried to extradite him were not confirmed by the British press or the London police, and the New York City Police said, “there is no proof of his complicity in the Whitechapel murders, and the crime for which he is under bond in London is not extraditable”. In 1913, Tumblety was mentioned as a Ripper suspect by Chief Inspector John Littlechild of the Metropolitan Police Service in a letter to journalist and author George R. Sims.

William Henry Bury (25 May 1859 – 24 April 1889) had recently moved to Dundee from the East End of London, when he strangled his wife Ellen Elliott, a former prostitute, on 4 February 1889. He inflicted extensive wounds to her abdomen after she was dead and packed the body into a trunk. On 10 February, Bury went to the local police and told them his wife had committed suicide. He was arrested, tried, found guilty of her murder, and hanged in Dundee. A link with the Ripper crimes was investigated by police, but Bury denied any connection, despite making a full confession to his wife’s homicide. Nevertheless, the executioner, James Berry, promoted the idea that Bury was the Ripper.

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream (27 May 1850 – 15 November 1892) was a doctor secretly specialising in abortions. He was born in Glasgow, educated in London and Canada, and entered practice in Canada and later in Chicago, Illinois. In 1881 he was found guilty of the fatal poisoning of his mistress’s husband. He was imprisoned in the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, from November 1881 until his release on good behaviour on 31 July 1891. He moved to London, where he resumed killing and was soon arrested. He was hanged on 15 November 1892 at Newgate Prison. According to some sources, his last words were reported as being “I am Jack the…”, interpreted to mean Jack the Ripper. However, police officials who attended the execution made no mention of this alleged interrupted confession. As he was still imprisoned at the time of the Ripper murders, most authorities consider it impossible for him to have been the culprit. However, Donald Bell suggested that he could have bribed officials and left the prison before his official release, and Sir Edward Marshall-Hall suspected that his prison term may have been served by a look-alike in his place. Such notions are unlikely, and contradict evidence given by the Illinois authorities, newspapers of the time, Cream’s solicitors, Cream’s family and Cream himself.

Thomas Hayne Cutbush (1865–1903) was a medical student sent to Lambeth Infirmary in 1891 suffering delusions thought to have been caused by syphilis. After stabbing a woman in the backside and attempting to stab a second he was pronounced insane and committed to Broadmoor Hospital in 1891, where he remained until his death in 1903. In a series of articles in 1894, The Sun newspaper suggested that Cutbush was the Ripper. There is no evidence that police took the idea seriously, and Melville Macnaghten’s memorandum naming the three police suspects Druitt, Kosminski and Ostrog was written to refute the idea that Cutbush was the Ripper. Cutbush was the suspect advanced in the 1993 book Jack the Myth by A. P. Wolf, who suggested that Macnaghten wrote his memo to protect Cutbush’s uncle, a fellow police officer. Another recent writer, Peter Hodgson, considers Cutbush the most likely candidate. David Bullock also firmly believes Cutbush to be the real Ripper in his book.

Frederick Bailey Deeming (30 July 1853 – 23 May 1892) murdered his first wife and four children in Rainhill near St. Helens, Lancashire, in 1891. His crimes went undiscovered and later that year he emigrated to Australia with his second wife, whom he then also murdered. Her body was found buried under their house, and the subsequent investigation led to the discovery of the other bodies in England. He was arrested, sent to trial, and found guilty. He wrote in a book, and later boasted in jail that he was Jack the Ripper, but he was either imprisoned or in South Africa at the time of the Ripper murders. The police denied any connection between Deeming and the Ripper. He was hanged in Melbourne. According to Robert Napper, a former Scotland Yard detective, the British police did not consider him a suspect because of his two possible alibis but Napper believed Deeming was not in jail at the time, and there is some evidence that he was back in England.

Carl Ferdinand Feigenbaum (alias Anton Zahn; 1840 – 27 April 1896) was a German merchant seaman arrested in 1894 in New York City for cutting the throat of Mrs Juliana Hoffmann. After his execution, his lawyer, William Sanford Lawton, claimed that Feigenbaum had admitted to having a hatred of women and a desire to kill and mutilate them. Lawton further stated that he believed Feigenbaum was Jack the Ripper. Though covered by the press at the time, the idea was not pursued for more than a century. Using Lawton’s accusation as a base, author Trevor Marriott, a former British murder squad detective, argued that Feigenbaum was responsible for the Ripper murders as well as other murders in the United States and Germany between 1891 and 1894. According to Wolf Vanderlinden, some of the murders listed by Marriott did not actually occur; the newspapers often embellished or created Ripper-like stories to boost sales. Lawton’s accusations were disputed by a partner in his legal firm, Hugh O. Pentecost, and there is no proof that Feigenbaum was in Whitechapel at the time of the murders. Xanthé Mallett, a Scottish forensic anthropologist and criminologist who investigated the case in 2011, wrote there is considerable doubt that all of the Jack the Ripper murders were committed by the same person. She concludes that “Feigenbaum could have been responsible for one, some or perhaps all” of the Whitechapel murders.

Robert Donston Stephenson (also known as Roslyn D’Onston; 20 April 1841 – 9 October 1916) was a journalist and writer interested in the occult and black magic. He admitted himself as a patient at the London Hospital in Whitechapel shortly before the murders started, and left shortly after they ceased. He wrote a newspaper article in which he claimed that black magic was the motive for the killings and alleged that the Ripper was a Frenchman. Stephenson’s strange manner and interest in the crimes resulted in an amateur detective reporting him to Scotland Yard on Christmas Eve, 1888. Two days later Stephenson reported his own suspect, a Dr Morgan Davies of the London Hospital. Subsequently, he fell under the suspicion of newspaper editor William Thomas Stead. In his books on the case, author and historian Melvin Harris argued that Stephenson was a leading suspect, but the police do not appear to have treated either him or Dr Davies as serious suspects. London Hospital night-shift rosters and practices indicate that Stephenson was not able to leave on the nights of the murders and hence could not have been Jack the Ripper.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (8 January 1864 – 14 January 1892) was first mentioned in print as a potential suspect when Philippe Jullian’s biography of Clarence’s father, King Edward VII, was published in 1962. Jullian made a passing reference to rumours that Clarence might have been responsible for the murders. Though Jullian did not detail the dates or sources of the rumour, it is possible that the rumour derived indirectly from Dr. Thomas E. A. Stowell. In 1960, Stowell told the rumour to writer Colin Wilson, who in turn told Harold Nicolson, a biographer loosely credited as a source of “hitherto unpublished anecdotes” in Jullian’s book. Nicolson could have communicated Stowell’s theory to Jullian. The theory was brought to major public attention in 1970 when an article by Stowell was published in The Criminologist that revealed his suspicion that Clarence had committed the murders after being driven mad by syphilis. The suggestion was widely dismissed, as Albert Victor had strong alibis for the murders, and it is unlikely that he suffered from syphilis. Stowell later denied implying that Clarence was the Ripper but efforts to investigate his claims further were hampered, as Stowell was elderly, and he died from natural causes just days after the publication of his article. The same week, Stowell’s son reported that he had burned his father’s papers, saying “I read just sufficient to make certain that there was nothing of importance.”

Subsequently, conspiracy theorists, such as Stephen Knight in Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, have elaborated on the supposed involvement of Clarence in the murders. Rather than implicate Albert Victor directly, they claim that he secretly married and had a daughter with a Catholic shop assistant, and that Queen Victoria, British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, his Freemason friends, and the Metropolitan Police conspired to murder anyone aware of Albert Victor’s supposed child. Many facts contradict this theory and its originator, Joseph Gorman (also known as Joseph Sickert), later retracted the story and admitted to the press that it was a hoax. Variations of the theory involve the physician William Gull, the artist Walter Sickert, and the poet James Kenneth Stephen to greater or lesser degrees, and have been fictionalised in novels and films, such as Murder by Decree and From Hell.

Joseph Barnett (c. 1858–1927) was a former fish porter, and victim Mary Kelly’s lover from 8 April 1887 to 30 October 1888, when they quarrelled and separated after he lost his job and she returned to prostitution to make a living. Inspector Abberline questioned him for four hours after Kelly’s murder, and his clothes were examined for bloodstains, but he was then released without charge. A century after the murders, author Bruce Paley proposed him as a suspect as Kelly’s scorned or jealous lover, and suggested that he’d committed the other murders to scare Kelly off the streets and out of prostitution. Other authors suggest he killed Kelly only, and mutilated the body to make it look like a Ripper murder, but Abberline’s investigation appears to have exonerated him. Other acquaintances of Kelly put forward as her murderer include her landlord John McCarthy and her former boyfriend Joseph Fleming.

Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898) was the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. He was named as a suspect based upon anagrams which author Richard Wallace devised for his book Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend. Wallace argues that Carroll had a psychotic breakdown after being assaulted by a man when he was 12. Moreover, according to Wallace, Carroll wrote a diary every day in purple ink, but on the days of the Whitechapel killings, he switched to black. This claim is not taken seriously by scholars.

David Cohen (1865 – 20 October 1889) was a 23-year-old Polish Jew whose incarceration at Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum on 7 December 1888 roughly coincided with the end of the murders. An unmarried tailor, Cohen was described as a violently antisocial, poor East End local. He was suggested as a suspect by author and Ripperologist Martin Fido in his book The Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper (1987). Fido claimed that the name “David Cohen” was used at the time to refer to a Jewish immigrant who either could not be positively identified or whose name was too difficult for police to spell, in the same fashion that “John Doe” is used in the United States today. Fido identified Cohen with “Leather Apron” (see John Pizer above), and speculated that Cohen’s true identity was Nathan Kaminsky, a bootmaker living in Whitechapel who had been treated at one time for syphilis and who could not be traced after mid-1888—the same time that Cohen appeared. Fido believed that police officials confused the name Kaminsky with Kosminski, resulting in the wrong man coming under suspicion (see Aaron Kosminski above). Cohen exhibited violent, destructive tendencies while at the asylum, and had to be restrained. He died at the asylum in October 1889. In his book The Cases That Haunt Us, former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas has asserted that behavioural clues gathered from the murders all point to a person “known to the police as David Cohen … or someone very much like him”.

Sir William Withey Gull (31 December 1816 – 29 January 1890) was physician-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. He was named as the Ripper as part of the evolution of the widely discredited Masonic/royal conspiracy theory outlined in such books as Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. Coachman John Netley has been named as his accomplice. Thanks to the popularity of this theory among fiction writers and for its dramatic nature, Gull shows up as the Ripper in a number of books and films including the TV film Jack the Ripper (1988), Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel From Hell (1999), and its 2001 film adaptation, in which Ian Holm plays Gull. Conventional historians have never taken Gull seriously as a suspect due to sheer lack of evidence; in addition, he was in his seventies at the time of the murders and had recently suffered a stroke.

George Hutchinson was an unemployed labourer. On 12 November 1888, he made a formal statement to the London police that in the early hours of 9 November 1888, Mary Jane Kelly approached him in the street and asked him for money. He stated that he had then followed her and another man of conspicuous appearance to her room, and had watched the room for about three-quarters of an hour without seeing either leave. He gave a very detailed description of the man, claiming he was “of Jewish appearance”, despite the darkness of that night. The accuracy of Hutchinson’s statement was disputed among the senior police. Inspector Frederick Abberline, after interviewing Hutchinson, believed that Hutchinson’s account was truthful. However, Robert Anderson, head of the CID, later claimed that the only witness who got a good look at the killer was Jewish. Hutchinson was not a Jew, and thus not that witness. Hutchinson’s statement was made on the day that Mary Kelly’s inquest was held, and he was not called to testify. Some modern scholars have suggested that Hutchinson was the Ripper himself, trying to confuse the police with a false description, but others suggest he may have just been an attention seeker who made up a story he hoped to sell to the press.

James Kelly (20 April 1860 – 17 September 1929; no relation to victim Mary Kelly) was first identified as a suspect in Terence Sharkey’s Jack the Ripper. 100 Years of Investigation (Ward Lock 1987) and documented in Prisoner 1167: The madman who was Jack the Ripper, by Jim Tully, in 1997.

James Kelly murdered his wife in 1883 by stabbing her in the neck. Deemed insane, he was committed to the Broadmoor Asylum, from which he later escaped in early 1888, using a key he fashioned himself. After the last of the five canonical Ripper murders in London in November 1888, the police searched for Kelly at what had been his residence prior to his wife’s murder, but they were not able to locate him. In 1927, almost forty years after his escape, he unexpectedly turned himself in to officials at the Broadmoor Asylum. He died two years later, presumably of natural causes.

Retired New York Police Department cold-case detective Ed Norris examined the Jack the Ripper case for a Discovery Channel programme called Jack the Ripper in America. In it, Norris claims that James Kelly was Jack the Ripper, and that he was also responsible for multiple murders in cities around the United States. Norris highlights a few features of the Kelly story to support his contention. Norris reported Kelly’s Broadmoor Asylum file from before his escape and his eventual return has never been opened since 1927 until Norris was given special permission for access to it, and that the file is the perfect profile match for Jack the Ripper.

Charles Allen Lechmere (5 October 1849 – 23 December 1920), also known as Charles Cross, was a meat cart driver for the Pickfords company, and is conventionally regarded as an innocent witness who discovered the body of the first canonical Ripper victim, Mary Ann Nichols. In a documentary titled Jack the Ripper: The New Evidence, Swedish journalist Christer Holmgren and criminologist Gareth Norris of Aberystwyth University, with assistance from former detective Andy Griffiths, proposed that Lechmere was the Ripper. According to Holmgren, Lechmere lied to police, claiming that he had been with Nichols’s body for a few minutes, whereas research on his route to work from his home demonstrated that he must have been with her for about nine minutes.

When Lechmere called over Robert Paul to look at her, no blood was visible, but by the time a constable found her shortly afterward, a pool had formed around her neck, suggesting the cut to her throat was extremely fresh when Lechmere and Paul were present. He also refused Paul’s suggestion to prop her up, which would have instantly made it clear that her throat had been cut. In addition, neither man reported seeing or hearing anyone else in Buck’s Row, which had no side exits. Her injuries were also hidden under her clothing, whereas the Ripper typically left the wounds displayed. It was theorized that Lechmere had killed Nichols and begun the process of mutilating her body when he heard Paul’s footsteps, and then rushed to portray himself as the discoverer of her body. Lechmere did not come forward until Paul mentioned him to the press, and he gave evidence under the name “Charles Cross” at the inquest; Cross was the surname of a stepfather.

Lechmere’s home address, visits to family, and route to work link him to the times and places of murders; he passed three streets where Martha Tabram, Polly Nichols, and Annie Chapman were murdered roughly at the same time the murders are estimated to have occurred. The “Double Event” murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes occurred on a Saturday, his only night off from work: Stride was killed near Lechmere’s mother’s house in an area he grew up in, and the direct route from Stride’s murder scene to the location of Eddowes’s murder followed a path to Lechmere’s route to work that he had used for twenty years. Mary Kelly was also murdered on his route to work, and the time frame in which she is estimated to have been killed matches his route, although the day she was killed was a holiday and he may have had the day off.

Lechmere’s family background is also similar to that of many serial killers: he grew up in a “broken home”; having never known his biological father, he had two stepfathers; and his childhood was characterized by an instability of residence, growing up in a series of different homes. In addition, his occupation as a meat cart driver would have allowed his blood-splattered appearance to escape suspicion. Holmgren believes that Lechmere may have been responsible for several other murders in addition to those of the canonical five victims and Martha Tabram.

Jacob Levy (1856 – 29 July 1891) was born in Aldgate in 1856. He followed in his father’s trade as a butcher, and by 1888 he was living in Middlesex Street with his wife and children, which was right in the heart of Ripper territory (and close to where Catherine Eddowes was murdered). Levy contracted syphilis from a prostitute, making revenge a probable motive, and he was a butcher with the necessary skills to remove certain organs from the victims. The 2009 video game Sherlock Holmes Versus Jack the Ripper uses a combination of historically attested and embellished evidence to propose his candidacy.

James Maybrick (24 October 1838 – 11 May 1889) was a Liverpool cotton merchant. His wife Florence was convicted of poisoning him with arsenic in a sensational, and possibly unjust, trial presided over by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, the father of another modern suspect James Kenneth Stephen.[118] In her book, Jack the Ripper: The American Connection author Shirley Harrison asserted James Maybrick was both Jack the Ripper and the Servant Girl Annihilator of Austin, Texas. A diary purportedly by Maybrick, published in the 1990s by Michael Barrett, contains a confession to the Ripper murders. In 1995, Barrett confessed to writing the diary himself, and described the process of counterfeiting the diary in detail. He swore under oath that he and his wife, Anne, had forged it. Anne Barrett, after their divorce, later denied forgery, and their story changed several times over the years. The diary was discredited by historians who pointed to factual errors in relation to some of the crimes, and document experts pronounced the diary a fake; the handwriting does not match that of Maybrick’s will, and the ink contains a preservative not marketed until 1974.

Michael Maybrick (alias Stephen Adams; 31 January 1841 – 26 August 1913) was an English composer and singer best known under his pseudonym Stephen Adams as the composer of “The Holy City”. In his book from 2015 They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper Bruce Robinson documents how this suspect frequented the Whitechapel area where the murders took place and investigates a description of a man seen by Matthew Packer on the night of the murder of Elizabeth Stride who resembled Michael Maybrick. The suspect’s profession meant he frequently travelled around the UK and the dates and locations of his performances coincide with when and where the letters to the police were sent from. The suspect’s presence in Bradford around Christmas 1888 also coincides with the murder of a seven-year-old boy, Johnnie Gill, a murder which the Ripper had foretold to police in a letter.

Alexander Pedachenko (alleged dates 1857–1908) was named in the 1923 memoirs of William Le Queux, Things I Know about Kings, Celebrities and Crooks. Le Queux claimed to have seen a manuscript in French written by Rasputin stating that Jack the Ripper was an insane Russian doctor named Alexander Pedachenko, an agent of the Okhrana (the Secret Police of Imperial Russia), whose aim in committing the murders was to discredit Scotland Yard. He was supposedly assisted by two accomplices: “Levitski” and a tailoress called Winberg.[123] However, there is no hard evidence that Pedachenko ever existed, and many parts of the story as recounted by Le Queux fall apart when examined closely. For example, one of the sources named in the manuscript was a London-based Russian journalist called Nideroest, who was known for inventing sensational stories. Reviewers of Le Queux’s book were aware of Nideroest’s background, and unabashedly referred to him as an “unscrupulous liar”. Pedachenko Alexander Pedachenko (alleged dates 1857–1908) was named in the 1923 memoirs of William Le Queux, Things I Know about Kings, Celebrities and Crooks. Le Queux claimed to have seen a manuscript in French written by Rasputin stating that Jack the Ripper was an insane Russian doctor named Alexander Pedachenko, an agent of the Okhrana (the Secret Police of Imperial Russia), whose aim in committing the murders was to discredit Scotland Yard. He was supposedly assisted by two accomplices: “Levitski” and a tailoress called Winberg. However, there is no hard evidence that Pedachenko ever existed, and many parts of the story as recounted by Le Queux fall apart when examined closely. For example, one of the sources named in the manuscript was a London-based Russian journalist called Nideroest, who was known for inventing sensational stories. Reviewers of Le Queux’s book were aware of Nideroest’s background, and unabashedly referred to him as an “unscrupulous liar”. Pedachenko was promoted as a suspect by Donald McCormick, who may have developed the story by adding his own inventions. He was promoted as a suspect by Donald McCormick, who may have developed the story by adding his own inventions.

Walter Richard Sickert (31 May 1860 – 22 January 1942) was a German-born artist of British and Danish ancestry, who was first mentioned as a possible Ripper suspect in Donald McCormick’s book The Identity of Jack the Ripper (1959). He had a fascination with the Ripper murders, going so far as to stay in a room that was rumoured to have once had Jack the Ripper himself as a lodger, and depicted similar scenes in many of his paintings. Sickert subsequently appeared as a character in the royal/masonic conspiracy theory concocted by Joseph Gorman, who claimed to be Sickert’s illegitimate son. The theory was later developed by author Jean Overton Fuller, and by crime novelist Patricia Cornwell in her books Portrait of a Killer (2002) and Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert (2017). However, Sickert is not considered a serious suspect by most who study the case, and strong evidence shows he was in France at the time of most of the Ripper murders. Cornwell’s allegation that Sickert was the Ripper was based on a DNA analysis of letters that had been sent to Scotland Yard, but “experts believe those letters to be fake” and “another genetic analysis of the letters claimed the murderer could have been a woman”.

South African historian Charles van Onselen claimed, in the book The Fox and the Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath (2007), that Joseph Silver (1868-1918), also known as Joseph Lis, a Polish Jew, was Jack the Ripper. Critics note, among other things, that van Onselen provides no evidence that Silver was ever in London during the time of the murders, and that the accusation is based entirely upon speculation. Van Onselen has responded by saying that the number of circumstances involved should make Silver a suspect.

James Kenneth Stephen (25 February 1859 – 3 February 1892) was first suggested as a suspect in a biography of another Ripper suspect, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale by Michael Harrison published in 1972. Harrison dismissed the idea that Albert Victor was the Ripper but instead suggested that Stephen, a poet and one of Albert Victor’s tutors from Trinity College, Cambridge, was a more likely suspect. Harrison’s suggestion was based on Stephen’s misogynistic writings and on similarities between his handwriting and that of the “From Hell” letter, supposedly written by the Ripper. Harrison supposed that Stephen may have had sexual feelings for Albert Victor, and that Stephen’s hatred of women arose from jealousy because Albert Victor preferred female company and did not reciprocate Stephen’s feelings. However, Harrison’s analysis was rebutted by professional document examiners. There is no proof that Stephen was ever in love with Albert Victor, although he did commit suicide by starvation shortly after hearing of Albert’s death.

Francis Thompson (18 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was an ascetic poet and opium addict with some medical training. Between 1885 and 1888 he spent some time homeless in the Docks area south of Whitechapel. He was proposed as a suspect in the 1999 book Paradox by Australian teacher Richard Patterson.

William Berry “Willy” Clarkson (1861- 12 October 1934) was the royal wigmaker and costume-maker to Queen Victoria and lived approximately two miles from each of the canonical five crime scenes. He was first named as a suspect in 2019, with many of the assertions based on Clarkson’s 1937 biography written by Harry J. Greenwall. Clarkson is known to have stalked his ex-fiancée, and was reputedly a blackmailer and arsonist. He is suspected of committing the murders to cover-up his blackmail schemes. Evidence presented to support the theory of Clarkson as a suspect included the revelation that he admitted one of his custom-made wigs was found near the scene of one of the Ripper killings, a fact not previously widely-known in the Ripperology community. Additionally, Clarkson’s biography quotes him as stating that the police obtained disguises from him for their search for the Ripper, and as such, he would have been aware of the trails they followed, allowing him to elude capture. Hair-cutting shears and barber surgeon tools (his father or grandfather allegedly being a barber surgeon) of the kind used by a wig-maker at the time closely match the shape and style of the weapons suspected to have been used in the murders.

Sir John Williams (6 November 1840 – 24 May 1926) was obstetrician to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice, and was accused of the Ripper crimes in the book, Uncle Jack (2005), written by one of the surgeon’s descendants, Tony Williams, and Humphrey Price. The authors claim that the victims knew the doctor personally, that they were killed and mutilated in an attempt to research the causes of infertility, and that a badly blunted surgical knife, which belonged to Williams, was the murder weapon. Jennifer Pegg demonstrated in two articles that much of the research in the book was flawed; for example, the version of the notebook entry used to argue that Williams had met Ripper victim Mary Ann Nichols had been altered for print and did not match the original document, and the line as found in the original document was in handwriting that did not match the rest of the notebook.

Williams’s wife, Lizzie, was named as a possible suspect by author John Morris, who claims that she was unable to have children and, in an unhinged state, took revenge on those who could by killing them.

Other named suspects include Swiss butcher Jacob Isenschmid, German hairdresser Charles Ludwig, apothecary and mental patient Oswald Puckridge (1838–1900), insane medical student John Sanders (1862–1901), Swedish tramp Nikaner Benelius, and even social reformer Thomas Barnardo, who claimed he had met one of the victims (Elizabeth Stride) shortly before her murder. Isenschmid and Ludwig were exonerated after another murder was committed while they were in custody. There was no evidence against Barnardo, Benelius, Puckridge or Sanders. According to Donald McCormick, other suspects included mountebank L. Forbes Winslow, whose own suspect in the case was a religious maniac, G. Wentworth Bell Smith. Most recently, morgue assistant Robert Mann was added to the long list of suspects.

Named suspects who may be entirely fictional include “Dr Stanley”, cult leader Nicolai Vasiliev, Norwegian sailor “Fogelma”, and Russian needlewoman Olga Tchkersoff, as well as the aforementioned Alexander Pedachenko.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle advanced theories involving a female murderer dubbed “Jill the Ripper”. Supporters of this theory believe that the murderer worked, or at least posed, as a midwife, who could be seen with bloody clothes without attracting suspicion and would be more easily trusted by the victims than a man. Women proposed as the Ripper include the convicted murderers Mary Pearcey and Constance Kent, and even Theosophist Helena Blavatsky. The 19 December 1893 edition of the Ohio Marion Daily Star reported that Lizzie Halliday, a mentally ill Irish immigrant suspected of leaving a string of dead husbands in her wake before being arrested in upper New York State for the murder of two women and her last husband, was likewise accused of the Whitechapel murders, of which she spoke “constantly”. She denied any relation to them, however, and there was no evidence to contradict her claim.

Some Ripper authors, such as Patricia Cornwell, believe the killer sent letters to the police and press. DNA analysis of the gum used on a postage stamp of one of these letters was “inconclusive” and “not forensically reliable”. The available material has been handled many times and is therefore far too contaminated to provide any meaningful results. Moreover, most authorities consider the letters hoaxes. Nevertheless, Jeff Mudgett, himself a descendant of notorious American serial killer H. H. Holmes, used these handwriting samples in an attempt to link Holmes to the Ripper case. The H. H. Holmes theory is the basis for an 8-part cable TV series entitled American Ripper, which premiered on the History Channel on 11 July 2017.

Author Frank Pearse, who purports to have access to a written confession, argues that the murders were performed by a man named John Pavitt Sawyer (who held multiple similarities, such as residence and profession, to alternate suspect George Chapman), as part of an occult Freemason initiation.

Several theorists suggest that “Jack the Ripper” was actually more than one killer. Stephen Knight argued that the murders were a conspiracy involving multiple miscreants, whereas others have proposed that each murder was committed by unconnected individuals acting independently of each other (which, if true, would mean there never actually was a single “Ripper” at all). The police of the time believed the Ripper was a local Whitechapel resident. His apparent ability to disappear immediately after the killings suggests an intimate knowledge of the Whitechapel neighbourhood, including its back alleys and hiding places. However, the population of Whitechapel was largely transient, impoverished and often used aliases. The lives of many of its residents were little recorded. Despite continued interest in the case and ongoing investigation by both professional and amateur researchers, the Ripper’s true identity will almost certainly never be known.


The nature of the Ripper murders and the impoverished lifestyle of the victims drew attention to the poor living conditions in the East End and galvanised public opinion against the overcrowded, insanitary slums. In the two decades after the murders, the worst of the slums were cleared and demolished, but the streets and some buildings survive and the legend of the Ripper is still promoted by various guided tours of the murder sites and other locations pertaining to the case. For many years, the Ten Bells public house in Commercial Street (which had been frequented by at least one of the canonical Ripper victims) was the focus of such tours.

In the immediate aftermath of the murders and later, “Jack the Ripper became the children’s bogey man.” Depictions were often phantasmic or monstrous. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was depicted in film dressed in everyday clothes as a man with a hidden secret, preying on his unsuspecting victims; atmosphere and evil were suggested through lighting effects and shadowplay. By the 1960s, the Ripper had become “the symbol of a predatory aristocracy”, and was more often portrayed in a top hat dressed as a gentleman. The Establishment as a whole became the villain, with the Ripper acting as a manifestation of upper-class exploitation. The image of the Ripper merged with or borrowed symbols from horror stories, such as Dracula’s cloak or Victor Frankenstein’s organ harvest. The fictional world of the Ripper can fuse with multiple genres, ranging from Sherlock Holmes to Japanese erotic horror.

Jack the Ripper features in hundreds of works of fiction and works which straddle the boundaries between fact and fiction, including the Ripper letters and a hoax diary: The Diary of Jack the Ripper. The Ripper appears in novels, short stories, poems, comic books, games, songs, plays, operas, television programmes, and films. More than 100 non-fiction works deal exclusively with the Jack the Ripper murders, making it one of the most written-about true-crime subjects. The term “ripperology” was coined by Colin Wilson in the 1970s to describe the study of the case by professionals and amateurs. The periodicals Ripperana, Ripperologist, and Ripper Notes publish their research.

In 2015, the Jack the Ripper Museum opened in east London, to minor protests. There is no waxwork figure of Jack the Ripper at Madame Tussauds’ Chamber of Horrors, unlike numerous murderers of lesser fame, in accordance with their policy of not modelling persons whose likeness is unknown. He is instead depicted as a shadow. In 2006, a BBC History magazine poll selected Jack the Ripper as the worst Briton in history.

Published by Rochdalestu

I’m a 38 year old male who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have found it as a new chapter in my life that has opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on myself and everything around me.

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