A SERIAL killer was on the loose, and one letter-writer to The Times was very pleased about it.
After the murder of a second “prostitute” by Jack the Ripper in 1888, Edward Fairfield set pen to paper to declare: “It was on the whole a good thing that they fell in with this unknown surgical genius.
Getty – Contributor A letter written to The Times suggested Jack the Ripper’s brutal murders were contributing to clearing London’s East End of its ‘vicious inhabitants’
Hulton Archive – Getty Victim 1 was Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols, 43, an educated domestic servant
“He at all events has made his contribution to clearing the East End of its vicious inhabitants.”
Even in our more sympathetic age, the five women who were murdered have been largely dismissed as desperate street-walkers.
It turns out that Jack the Ripper did not just take the lives of these women — he took their true identities as well.
But now historian Hallie Rubenhold says that only one of the five — the last to die — was working as a prostitute at the time of her death. Three of them had never sold sex.
HACKS CLAIMED JACK WAS CLEANING THE STREETS
And she says that being described in this way, by early investigators as well as later generations, has stopped their real stories being told.
With forensic research into their back stories, Hallie reveals in a new book about the five how they came from very different backgrounds and locations — as far apart as Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales.
One was a gifted songwriter, one ran a coffee house, another lived on a country estate, while one escaped people-traffickers.
It was on the whole a good thing that they fell in with this unknown surgical geniusLetter writer to The Times
Hallie says that by celebrating the myth of the still-unidentified Ripper, which has spawned countless books and films, we “embrace the set of values that surrounded him in 1888, which teaches women that they are of a lesser value and can expect to be dishonoured and abused”.
‘No one cares what becomes of us’
The author said: “As soon as the bodies were discovered in dark yards or streets, the police assumed that they were prostitutes and that they had been killed by a maniac who had lured them to these places for sex. There is and never was any proof of this.
“On the contrary, Jack the Ripper never had sex with his victims. Additionally, in the case of each murder there were no signs of struggle and the killings appear to have taken place in complete silence. No one in the vicinity heard any screams.”
Hulton Archive – Getty She was hacked to death but victim 2 was Annie Chapman, 47, also an educated domestic servant
Getty – Contributor Victim 3 was Elizabeth Stride, a coffee shop owner whose throat was slit
Autopsies concluded that the women were all killed lying down — leading Hallie to suspect that the four victims who died on the street were killed while rough-sleeping.
She explained: “In at least three of the cases, the victims were known to sleep on the street and on the nights they were killed did not have money for a lodging house.
“In the final case, the victim was murdered while in her bed. However, the police were so committed to their theories about the killer’s choice of victims that they failed to conclude the obvious: That the Ripper targeted women while they slept.”
The first victim, Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, 43, was a mother of five and had been a domestic servant.
Her life spiralled out of control only after her husband William had an affair with a pretty young neighbour. Distraught, Polly turned to drink and was soon an alcoholic.
She started sleeping in workhouses and on the street.
Police failed to notice that the Ripper targeted women while they slept
On August 31, 1888, she was found lying on the ground in front of a gated stable entrance in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel. Her throat had been slit twice and her abdomen mutilated with one deep, jagged wound.
Next to die, just nine days later, was Annie Chapman, nee Smith, 47.
She was the illegitimate daughter of a soldier in the Life Guards, and by 20 she was working as a housemaid for an architect in Westminster. Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel lived a few doors down.
In 1869 Annie married coachman John Chapman, who landed a job on a country estate in Berkshire, close to Ascot.
Getty – Contributor Catherine ‘Kate’ Eddowes, 46, was an educated songwriter – her throat was slit
The fifth mutilated victim, Mary Jane Kelly, 25, was a sex worker
Annie might have been able to enjoy a comfortable life, watching members of the Royal Family visit the estate, had she too not become an alcoholic.
She had inherited her booze problems from her dad, who cut his own throat. She had three children, but a daughter died of meningitis and her son was born disabled due to her drinking.
The mum split from her husband, moved to London and became known as “Dark Annie” due to her hair.
She shacked up with different men but always ended up destitute.
Hallie said: “Although Annie was, by the standards of the 19th century considered both a ‘broken woman’ and a ‘fallen woman’ she was not a prostitute.”FALLEN WOMAN, BUT NOT A PROSTITUTE
The 47-year-old’s body was found in a yard off Hanbury Street in Spitalfields on September 8. Her throat was cut and she had been disembowelled, with her intestines pulled out and thrown over her shoulders. Part of her uterus was missing.
In the early hours of September 30, the Ripper managed to strike twice.
In what became known as “the double event”, he claimed the lives of Elizabeth Stride, found in Dutfield’s Yard, Whitechapel, and Catherine Eddowes, who was killed in Mitre Square, in the City of London.
Although slain within hours of each other, the women’s lives had been markedly different.
Elizabeth, 44, was the daughter of a Swedish farmer and she had been a prostitute when she was younger.
JACK THE RIPPER’S VICTIMS
Mary Ann Nichols – Friday August 31 1888
Annie Chapman – Saturday September 8 1888
Elizabeth Stride – Sunday September 30 1888
Catherine Stride – Sunday September 30 1888
Mary Jane Kelly – Friday November 9 1888
OTHER SUSPECTED VICTIMS:
Emma Elizabeth Smith – Tuesday April 3 1888
Martha Tabram – Tuesday August 7 1888
In 1866 she moved to London and married John Stride, a ship’s carpenter. For a time the pair ran a coffee house in Poplar, East London.
But by 1878 her life was in turmoil. Separated from her husband and desperate for money, she was jailed for pretending she had lost her family in the Princess Alice pleasure cruiser disaster. The paddle steamer had sunk in the Thames, killing 650 people, and Elizabeth came up with her scam after hearing that victims’ relatives were being given charity. After her release she tried to get her life back on track by working as a cleaner. Still struggling with cash, she lived in a rundown lodging house with other poor women — who were terrified of Jack the Ripper.
One resident, who might have been Elizabeth, was heard to say: “We’re all up to no good and no one cares what becomes of us. Perhaps some of us will be killed next!”
Less than an hour after Elizabeth’s body was found with her throat slit, the dismembered corpse of Catherine “Kate” Eddowes was discovered.
The mother of three, 46, was the daughter of a tinplate worker who moved his family of 12 kids from Wolverhampton to London. She was bright and was chosen from among her siblings to receive an education. But after her mother died suddenly from consumption and her father lost his job, her fortunes took a downturn.
She returned to the Black Country but lost her job after being accused of stealing.
RIPPER’S FINAL ATROCITY
Kate then lived a gypsy existence for a while, loved to sing and co-wrote a ballad — ironically taking a murderous tale and retelling it more sympathetically.
By the time she fell into the clutches of the Ripper she was drinking heavily and suffered beatings at the hands of one of her ex-lovers. As well as slitting her throat, her killer removed her left kidney and part of her womb.
After a brief pause in his murdering spree, the Ripper committed his final atrocity on November 9, a complete mutilation of the body of Mary Jane Kelly as she lay in her bed at 13 Miller’s Court, Spitalfields. Of all the victims, the least is known of Mary Jane. She was 25 and originally from Wales and when she moved to London became a prostitute for middle-class men in Knightsbridge.
When one client offered to take her to Paris, she agreed — but when she got there she found she had been tricked into a human-trafficking operation, and fled back to the UK.
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As the only victim killed indoors, her body was horribly mutilated in an act that might have taken two hours to perform, but was more frenzied and less skilled than the other killings.
As her hearse passed through the streets, women onlookers were heard to shout: “God forgive her! We will not forget her!”
Hallie added: “The victims of Jack the Ripper were never ‘just’ prostitutes, they were daughters, wives, mothers, sisters and lovers. They were women. They were human beings, and surely that, in itself, is enough.”
Hulton Archive – Getty Jack’s work is reported in the press
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold
Who was Jack the Ripper and how many victims were there?
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold, will be published by Doubleday on February 28 at £16.99.