It’s no secret that one of the most famous unsolved murders in history is that of the serial killer Jack the Ripper. These events happened between August 31 and November 9, 1888, in the impoverished areas around Whitechapel in London. With five known victims, there are hundreds of theories about the identity of the killer but only a few suspects named, with many of them only coming into play in recent years.
Annie Chapman died only eight days after Mary Ann Nichols. At 6 am on September 8, Chapman’s body was discovered not far from where Nichols’ was. Chapman’s esophagus was sliced with two cuts - exactly how Nichols’ had been. The difference between them was how Chapman’s stomach was cut fully open, and the Ripper removed her uterus. During the investigation, one witness actually saw her. She was walking casually with a man at about 5:30 am. She was alive and well just half an hour before her demise. Who was this strange man?
Was she with her murderer moments before she was killed?
The Ripper waited 22 days before taking his next victim. Unfortunately, he took two lives in one night this time. September 30, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes met their end in the wee hours. Elizabeth was found at about 1 am, and she had her throat cut just once on the side of her neck. It’s debated whether she was actually one of his victims because of the lack of cuts to her body. Perhaps he was interrupted during the attack or it was someone else entirely.
Catherine, on the other hand, was found 45 minutes later. Her larynx was slit, and her belly torn open.
The Ripper took her left kidney and most of her uterus.
His last confirmed victim was Mary Jane Kelly. She died on November 9, in her one-bedroom apartment at about 10:45 am. The most gruesome of the Ripper’s killings, her jugular was cut to her spine, and her belly almost completely emptied of organs. Even her heart was missing.
Although there is a lot of debate as to whether these are his murders and whether there were more victims, these five are considered his ‘canonical murders’. Even the suspect descriptions differ from one case to the next. Even after 130 years, the question remains:
Who is Jack the Ripper? Next are the few people suspected of being the Ripper.
Montague John Druitt was the first man implicated of being Jack the Ripper in 1888. He was placed on the list as he killed himself only a month after the last confirmed murder occurred. He was later removed as a serious suspect when the profile of Jack the Ripper placed him as a local man and Druitt lived several miles from the crime scenes. The timing Druitt chose for his death was the only clue the police had against him. It’s theorized that he was eliminated as a person of interest because his mother and an aunt experienced an underlying, hereditary mental illness.
He’s an okay suspect, but not who I would consider the top suspect.
Michael Ostrog was a Russian-born conman and thief who was the next suspect listed by police. He was mentioned as a person of interest since he once claimed to have been a Russian Navy surgeon. However, there wasn’t any clues connecting him to the murders, and his criminal record showed nothing more than petty offenses. He was even detained in France when the murders occurred - this data was found by an author after the fact. With nothing more serious proving Ostrog would commit murder makes him unfit as a suspect.
I’m not sure how the police thought he was a suspect. Who else did they believe could have killed these women?
Next person suspected of being the Ripper is John Pizer. As a bootmaker, he worked in Whitechapel. His nickname was the “Leather Apron” around that area. Pizer isn’t mentioned often as a suspect, but there’s some interesting evidence against him.
The first letter the Ripper ever sent said, “That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits.” I have found no references explaining what the joke is the Ripper talks about, but it could refer to the few names he was known by before the moniker was chosen. These names were Leather Apron, The Whitechapel Murder, and Red Fiend.
Was Pizer giving the police a clue that he was the Ripper in this letter?
The name Jack, in some cases, can be a nickname for men named John in some cases. Coincidence? Sadly, it probably is. Even with all the compelling data against John Pizer, he gave some pretty good alibis. Pizer was visiting with relatives for one of the killings, and he was actually talking to an officer while observing a fire on the London Docks during another. Still, he’s my favorite suspect so far.
However, there’s still Francis Tumblety to discuss. He gained a small fortune pretending to be an "Indian Herb" doctor while in the United States and Canada. He was known by most as a quack and misogynist as well.
That isn’t what connected him to the Ripper murders, though.
Tumblety was galavanting in England in 1888 and was arrested on November 9. It was reported by some of his friends that he even showed off a collection of "matrices" (wombs) from "every class of woman" at around this time as well. Could they have been from those of the Ripper canonical murders? While awaiting trial, Tumblety fled to France and then to the United States.
The fact that no one was found to be Jack the Ripper and convicted of the canonical murders continues to confound experts today. With so much time passed and so little evidence to work with, it’s difficult to say whether the mystery will ever be solved. This fact, along with all the different theories and debates, makes it one of the most fascinating murder mysteries ever!