Jack the Ripper: Social Views
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Published: Wed, 17 May 2017
Jack the Ripper- social views, victims and suspects
‘I want to get to work right away if I get the chance, good luck, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper’-from the Dear Boss Letter of www.casebook.org
This essay will demonstrate a further understanding of the social views of Jack the Ripper in the late 1880s and also the conditions of the East End and how the Whitechapel murders helped the East End. It will look into questions such as why has Jack the Ripper been known as the first British serial killer in history, who the main suspects and why they are the prime suspects in this case and also the least likely suspects to be Jack the Ripper. The essay will provide evidence for and against the suspects by using historiography and facts. It will also identify the five main victims but also touch on the other suspected victims of Jack the Ripper.
During the 1880s, the West End of London was full of wealth, fashion and nannies tending to the children in their care. Men walked around in top hats and smart coats and the women in bonnets and beautiful dresses. The streets were clean and the houses were magnificent. However, the East End was the complete opposite, 900,000 people approximately were crammed into cramped little houses, and many families were homeless. Whitechapel was part of the East End where unemployment rates were increasing, along with the population. The population of Whitechapel was 80,000. Martin Fido found that women going out and selling themselves was the social norm in the East End. In October 1888, the Metropolitan police estimated that there were around 1,200 prostitutes who were of very low class in Whitechapel and around 62 brothels.
Prostitutes were seen as moral failures that preferred walking the streets in their tatty clothing than going to work a job which encouraged them to improve themselves. Within the social circles of the upper class, conversations about prostitutes were unknown but this changed from 1850 when prostitution became a subject of fierce debate. These debates were argued through the social classes apart from the lower classes where prostitution was a part of everyday life.
The murders of the prostitutes in Whitechapel during the autumn of 1888 were used to criticise the problems that London had in terms of social matters. A letter sent into the Times from an unknown writer laid the blame for the murders on society, not the killer. The reverend Samuel Barnett who was the vicar of the church in Whitechapel believed that the ‘public conscience was awakened to the life that these horrors revealed' suggesting that the murders forced opened the eyes of all them who wanted to keep them shut and ignore that the East End was part of London. One London paper protested that ‘surely JACK the ripper is not to be our modern JOHN the Baptist'. During this period women tended to walk in fear of their lives and hatred began to build up towards foreigners and Jewish people. Nobody was sure of how many migrants wandered around the East End, but the East End was where the majority of Jewish people lived.
There were many stories that developed within London during this period and Walkovitz and Leps state that these stories identify the anxiety of the people in London. The media also caused a lot of these stories to escalate by printing true and false stories in a bid to sell their newspapers.
Jack the Ripper is one the most well known serial killers throughout the world. B.Godfrey and P.Lawrence state that ‘the murders by Jack the Ripper are the most famous set of murders in history'. During the 1880s, the British Empire was at its peak; it was also the national capital and can arguably have the nickname at this period of time as the capital of the world due to its massive empire. Any crime and event that occurred in London mattered within both Britain and the world. They were regarded as a national importance. In Shropshire, at the same time that the murders were occurring, a young girl was murdered then be headed by her parents. The mother wrapped the little girls head in brown paper and threw it in the local pond whilst the father burnt her body on the families’ hearth. Shropshire’s local newspapers reported on the murder in graphic detail whilst the Times Newspaper wrote a small piece on the matter in an inside page. Again in Shropshire around this time and elderly couple were brutally slain in their own home, also a mother and child was kicked to death so brutally that their faces were unrecognisable. Neither one of these two cases were reported in any national newspaper.
However, other violent crimes did occur in and around London during this period but did not gain the same national coverage as the prostitute murderer, so why did ‘Jack’ gain the media and societies attention? Jack gained the media as murders like this had never occurred; these were different to the violent crimes that people had witnessed before as the women were disembowelled and the murders were arguably somewhat personal. Time had been taken and preparations had been made before the murders were put into practice as the Ripper knew exactly what he was doing and in some cases did it very quickly. Whether or not the ripper had chose his victims beforehand or whether the victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time can never be proven. A person was also not arrested and the murders caused an uneasy environment.
Jack the Ripper is still widely known due to the person who committed these murders was never identified or prosecuted. When he murdered Elizabeth Stride he was very nearly caught by a group of Jewish men, a Staffordshire Newspaper states that ‘this is the narrowest escape Jack has ever had'. London had two police forces the City of London police and the Metropolitan police. On the 14th November 1888, the police were detaining several people on suspicion. These arrests resulted in a public excitement throughout London. People were accusing any man, who walked the streets as Jack the Ripper, this happened all over the country not just in London. A man writing in to the Times from the North of the country describes how he was confronted and followed by a small group of men who taunted and accused him of being ‘Jack’. They left him alone when he reached his friend’s house.
Begg claims that Jack the Ripper still gathers so much attention due to the curiosity that surrounds him as well as the mystery of his identity. Most of the information on Jack the Ripper was gained from the around the 1960s. Late 1959, Daniel Farson was presenting a documentary on Britain. Throughout his research he met Sir Melville Macnaghten’s daughter, Lady Aberconway. She held some papers of her father, one being a transcript of the memorandum that he had written in 1894. Interest increased when Dr Thomas Eldon Stowell published his article ‘Jack the Ripper-a solution?’ in the Criminologist, November 1970. He claimed to have witnessed the royal doctor, William Gull’s papers in which he apparantely claimed that Prince Albert Victor was Jack the Ripper. This story was then extended when a BBC television series called Jack the Ripper told a story by Joseph Sickert about a marriage between Prince Albert Victor and a Catholic girl by the name of Annie Cook. It was claimed that Mary Jane Kelly witnessed the marriage and began blackmailing the government with the other prostitutes. Lord Salisbury was said to have turned to the freemasons for help in which William Gull stepped forward for the challenge. This story has been favoured by many Ripperologists but it has been claimed to have just been a story and nothing more.
The documentary from the History Channel looks at the free Masonary theory. The free Masonary were a brotherhood in which Sir Charles Warren was the most influential. A pact was made within the brotherhood that if the secrecy of the brotherhood was ever at threat or they became exposed then the person in question would have their throat cut from left to right, but it was never a pact that was to be taken seriously. Jack the Ripper did take it seriously and he cut his victims throats from left to right. The Royal family theory or arguably story can also be linked with the free mason theory. Victoria’s grandson was rumoured to have been going insane due to contracting syphilis, however it has been argued that he fell victim to the influenza epidemic in the years 1891-1892 so how he died is still debateable. Stowell claims that the prince had suffered from syphilis and it had infected his brain which sent him insane, compelling him to murder. One version of the theory claims that the Prince himself committed the murders due to the syphilis and that the Royal Family was well aware of his condition and that he was the killer. It also claims that the prince was sent to a mental hospital after the double murder event and that he escaped to commit the Mary Kelly murder. He was then apparently locked back up and it was in the hospital that he died from ‘softening of the brain. Stowell has claimed to have used William Gull’s private papers on the prince, but Gull died two years before the prince identifying that William Gull could have made no notes or comments on the supposedly declining prince. The court and royal records also identify that the prince was not in London when the murders were committed.
Another version claims that Prince Edward Victor was having an affair with a prostitute whom he had fathered a child with and also apparently married in a catholic church. Her five prostitute friends knew of the relationship and also the legitimate child who was heir to the throne. William Gull, who was the royal physician became aware of the relationship and went to the East End in order to protect the Royal family. Author Joseph Sickert claimed that Walter Sickert, the painter, had told him the theory but it later came out after Joseph had published the book that it was nothing more than a story that he had made up. This theory though is a favourite with the box office, an example of this is shown in the film ‘From Hell’ which casts Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. The film includes the Prince being married to an Ann Crook and when the authorities learnt of the marriage he was carted back home and she was carted to the insane asylum. Dr William Gull then goes in hunt of the six prostitutes, including Martha and kills them. The film ends with the doctor in an insane asylum. The Prince was a very dull man, partially deaf, backward and was retarded but it was never confirmed. Ripperologists have poked massive holes into all versions of this theory.
Also the idea that Jack was a man of upper class came from the theory that if he was of the lower class then he would be the same kind of person as the people of the East End so would have been noticed going into his lodgings with blood on him, a middle class man would have the same problems and would have needed transport so someone would have seen him, but someone of the upper class would have his own transport allowing him to get away quickly and unseen.
Patricia Cornwell, an American who has only recently shown an interest in Jack the Ripper after having no interest in Jack the Ripper or history. Her book ‘portrait of a killer-Jack the Ripper-Case closed’ points the finger solely at Sickert and so does jean Oreton Fuller. Both books lack any kind of evidence. Cornwell’s theory has been severely criticised by many Ripperologists. Cornwell claims that Sickert read ten newspapers a day and that his sketch book contained horrific pictures of dead women. Two of his most famous pieces of work include jack the Ripper’s bedroom and Camden Murder. Cornwell also believed that Sickert wrote the letters claiming to be Jack the Ripper. Her only evidence of this was due to him being a letter writer and found enjoyment in communicating with other people in this way. He also had a matching water mark on his paper that the Jack the Ripper’s letters had, the letter also had very similar characteristics to William Sickert’s letters, but even if he did write the letters, that does not provide any evidence to why she believes him to have been the ‘Ripper’.
She also believes that Sickert murdered Martha Tabram as she was last seen with a person in a uniform, and Cornwell claims that Sickert had a fetish for uniforms. However, a friend of Martha’s had been with her that night and the two men in uniforms. Martha left with one man and her friend left with the other, when Martha was murdered the two soldiers were had alibis for the time that the murder took place. Her friend Mary Ann Connelly also confirmed the identification of the soldiers when she had to pick them out of a group of men. So this theory of Sickert’s fetish for uniforms is again flawed as the soldiers were identified as Private George and Private Skipper. She also does not believe that Mary Kelly was not the last murder of Jack the Ripper and that Sickert had killed around 20-40 people before he died in 1942, but from her other theories, her words are not very reliable and not to be taken literally. She also states that she can’t prove he was Jack the Ripper but no one else can prove he wasn’t, much of her evidence is personal statements rather than hard facts.
Another suspect was a man by the name of Robert D’onston Stephenson, the police watched him due to him claiming to people that he inside information on who Jack the Ripper was. He was also a journalist who had a chronic fatigue, a sleeping disorder, so he would have been able to get around the East End without being noticed. Ivor Edwards believes that D’onston was the Ripper due to his interest in black magic, he argues that the murders were pre organised and the victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He connected the murders up on the map and claim that they create the Star of David, but this theory does not really work due to some of the murders being out the outline and not connecting.
A man by the name of Dr Thomas Neil Cream was hung in 1892; he was put forward as a suspect even though he was already a prisoner in Illinois, America when the murders took place. The hangman claims that he heard Cream say before the trapdoor opened ‘I am Jack the…’ but the trapdoor opening cut Cream’s statement short.
The Jack the Ripper case was officially closed in 1892. McNaughten Memorandum was published in 1915, 7 years after he joined Scotland Yard, which included the three possible suspects who he believed to be Jack the Ripper. These suspects included Montague John Druitt, Michael Ostrog and Aaron Kosminski.
M.J Druitt was found in the Thames on the 31st December after committing suicide. His body is said to have been the river for around a month and he was last seen on the 3rd December 1888. His mother had been placed in a private mental home and he had acute depression as a result of this. He had worked at a school and it was found by M.J. Druitt’s brother that he had been dismissed due to getting into some serious trouble. Private information shows that his own family believed him to have been Jack the Ripper. He had been labelled as sexually insane. A statement was made stating that the man the police believed to be Jack the Ripper was dead and that ‘he was fished out of the Thames two months ago and it would only cause pain to relatives'.If this statement is true then the police had identified Druitt as Jack the Ripper in January 1889. The police would have searched his room after his suicide and possibly found something that linked him to the Whitechapel murders. Dr McCormick argues this by asking how he could be the chief suspect when he was never seen in the area when the crimes were committed. Inspector Adderline also states that ‘there is absolutely nothing beyond the fact that he was found at that time to incriminate him’ however Fido claims that Abberline tried to ‘pooh-poohed the idea that the Ripper was either a young doctor who drowned in the Thames’. Druitt is the most favourite as a possible Jack the Ripper with most Ripperologists.
Kosminski was a Polish Jew and had a great hatred towards women. He was placed into a lunatic asylum in March 1889. Martin Fido’s research provides the most unearthed facts about Kosminski. Although he is a possible suspect he was found by the city police eating out of the gutter. They found him to be harmless and he was freed two years later, it was then that his family placed him in an insane asylum.
Michael Ostrog was Russian even though he has being described as looking like a Polish Jew. He was also a previous convict and served numerous times in prison during the years 1863-1904. He was detained in a lunatic asylum after being labelled a homicidal maniac. He was transferred to the Surrey pauper lunatic asylum but he failed to report to the asylum in March 1888 and he was untraceable till April 1891 meaning that he was free during the Whitechapel murders, but new research has found that during this period he was being held in custody in France so he has recently been dismissed as a leading suspect
He was also the first murderer to have apparently sent letter to the media, but these letters cannot be identified to have been from Jack the Ripper or whether they were hoaxes. At the peak of the murders the police were receiving up to 1000 letters a week which the police had to decide which letters were worth following up. A majority of the letters had red ink scrawled all over them with comments such as ‘take no notice of this’ and ‘The man must be a lunatic'. Ripperologists believe that all the letters were not genuine due to many letters being from journalists trying to make a story. On the 27th September 1888 the Central News Agency received the Dear Boss letter from ‘Jack the Ripper’. This was also the first day that the murderer had been given a nickname other than the Whitechapel murderer. The Dear Boss letter also made a mockery of the police force when it was published in the newspapers. Jack the Ripper is laughing at them for failing to catch him, he is testing the police force and some can arguably say if these letters were genuine then he was leaving them clues into his arrest. It also refers to wanting to kill again and his excitement to do so. Historian Martin Fido claims that the murders became famous after this letter and the C:UsersCharlotteDocuments3007Assignment 2Jack the ripperFrom Hell.jpgconstruction of the name Jack the Ripper. The letter was originally believed to be a hoax, but three days later the double murders occurred. The letter was published in the newspapers to see if anyone recognised the handwriting, but no one ever came forward with a name.
The second letter was in fact a postcard which was received on the 1st October 1888.It has been nicknamed ‘The Saucy Jacky’ postcard. It contained reference to the previous letter and also great detail about the double murder. The postcard was sent before the Dear Boss letter had been sent to the newspapers. It also had the similar handwriting to the Dear Boss letter. But on the 16th October, George Lusk, received a letter and a small cardboard box. The letter was addressed ‘from hell’ and there was half a kidney in the small box which had been preserved in white wine. Dr Openshaw examined the kidney and found that it was very similar to the one removed from Catherine Eddowes. The letter claimed that the writer had fried and eaten the other half of the kidney stating that it ‘was very nice’
The newspapers labelled Jack the Ripper as a cannibal after the kidney incident. The headline of the Evening News on the 19th October 1888 called the ripper a ‘cannibal assassin’. Several newspapers did however not show much interest in the kidney incident, whether this was because they believed it to be a hoax or that they didn’t want to deal with the concept of cannibalism is unknown. The Times and Pall Mall Gazette only wrote short paragraphs which included Dr Openshaw’s verdict of the kidney being that of an alcoholic woman.
There were a five main suspect categories in which the police chose people from the first was a degenerate East end criminal, the second a Jewish ritualist, the third a respectable man who had turned into a sexual deviant, the fourth a member of the royal family and the last suspect was a woman.
On the 11th September 1888 the Times Newspaper identifies that ‘several persons bearing a resemblance to the description of the person in question have been arrested'. These suspects were all released when there was no evidence to hold them. This shows the national panic that was dramatically increasing; the police were arresting anybody who looked a little bit familiar to the description that they were given.
On the 2nd October 1888, the Times reported on a Galician Jew, by the name of Ritter, who was arrested. He was accused in 1884 of having murdered and mutilated a Christian woman. This made him a high suspect of the Whitechapel murders due to his criminal murdering past. On the 13th November 1888, a Mr Thomas Murphey was arrested and found with a 10 inch knife on him.
The Times Newspaper reported on the 14th November that if Mary Jane Kelly’s family were unable to pay for the funeral then Mr H. Wilton has guaranteed that she will not be buried in a pauper’s grave.
A letter written to the editor of the Times in October 1888 identifies the effects that the murders were having on the people. It quotes that he was a ‘witness of the strong interest and widespread excitement’. It also identifies that the working class showed a bigger interest in the gruesome affair. They both show that people during this period showed excitement due to their own lives not having anything interesting in them. Whitechapel was London’s slums and accommodated the poorest of people within it.
The Reverends wife, Mrs Barnett, wrote a letter to Queen Victoria after the murder of Catherine Eddowes. The letter states ‘the women of East London feel horror at the dreadful sins that have been lately committed to our midst'. This identifies that women were scared for the lives and Mrs Barnett probably felt that after the Eddowes murder it was the best time to voice her opinions and concerns to Queen Victoria as Eddowes was found in the City of London and the Queen may answer her desperate plea to help the people of the East End.
Jack the Ripper is also remembered for focusing attention of the inadequacies of the police. The police were already receiving criticisms from the press, especially the liberal and the radical press. They were perceived as incompetent and insufficient. Massive amounts of pressure were placed upon the police force to arrest or name the murderer, and they also received large amounts of criticism when they did not especially from the Pall Mall Gazette. This incompetence of the police force was viewed by society as the police’s lack of interest in catching a prostitute killer. They believed that the police were not interested in protecting the poor people of the East End.
Mary Ann Nichols otherwise known as Polly was murdered on the 30th August 1888. She was an alcoholic and had five children. She divorced her husband in 1881 and in 1882 her husband found out that she was a prostitute so he stopped paying her support. When she died he claimed to not have seen her for three years. This murder was arguably the first recorded Jack the Ripper murder and caused complete mayhem throughout the world. The newspaper headlines included ‘A LONDON HORROR’ and ‘THE ENGLISH MURDER MYSTERY’. These headlines were from a Texas and a Kansas newspaper. Her body was found in the early hours of the morning, by two men on their way to work and by a police officer after the two men ran to find someone of authority, on Buck’s Row and her body was identified by her work friend and confirmed by her ex husband. Pc John Neil missed the two men who found Mary by a couple of minutes. Leonard Matters in 1929 described Bucks Row housing as being ‘shabby, dirty little houses of two storeys, and only a three feet pavement separates them from the road'
Mary had been strangled then her throat cut twice, along with her abdomen half a dozen times, this kind of violence shocked the public. Dr Llewellyn was at the scene within fifteen minutes and announced her death no longer than half an hour, meaning that she had died around fifteen minutes before she was found, he also believed that the incisions that were made on her throat were by a left-handed man. Her murder ignited a London panic as people became scared that there was a homicidal maniac on the loose. Some believed Mary Nichols to be the second victim of Jack the Ripper due to a woman named Martha Tabram, who was stabbed 39 times, being seen as the first victim.
On the night that Mary Nichols was murdered she had no money for a bed due to having spent it all on gin, so after begging and pleading unsuccessfully with the landlord for a free bed she went off to find ‘work’ so she could get some money. She felt confident that she would get another customer as she had a new hat, and it made her feel pretty, even though she had five front teeth missing. During this time period people who were not of the upper classes would pay for a room per night. Five to six people could live in one room, and people within the lodgings tended to be drunk and starving and privacy was none existent.
Martin Fido looked at the politics side of the murders and questioned why Mary Ann Nichols gained so much more media attention whilst the other murders of the girls beforehand in the East End did not receive hardly any. There were elections taking place and the radical extreme left believed that they had a very good chance of winning the East End. Radical newspapers such as the Star and the Pall Mall Gazette thought that by writing up the murders the not only would there sales increase but they would show everyone what the East End was like and how bad the conditions were. They succeed and they sold more newspapers than anybody could have thought possible. The radical and liberal press was the issue of what the East End needed in the way of social reform. The papers blamed the condition of the slums and they called for model housing, street lights and night shelters for women who were homeless.
Newspapers tended to make stories up to sell their papers, one surrounding Mary Nichols were that of a missing ring. The missing ring was not mentioned by Dr Llewellyn on the 1st September, but newspapers claimed that there was an impression on her finger and that it was unsure whether the Jack the Ripper had stole it or whether she had not worn it on that specific day. Newspapers also sparked the theory that Mary Ann was not murdered in Bucks Row but was moved there from another scene. The Times newspaper reported that ‘viewing the spot where the body was found, it seems difficult to believe that the woman received her death wounds there' however Inspector Helson argues this and reported that there was no doubt about where she was murdered and it was where her body was found.
Annie Chapman was murdered on the 8th September 1888. She has been identified as being the second Jack the Ripper murder. She led a sad and unlucky life, her son was a cripple and her daughter died of meningitis at the age of twelve. Her and her husband were both alcoholics and separated circa 1880. She had been receiving 10 shillings a week from her ex husband until he died in 1886. She did not find out about his death till 18 months after. She turned to prostitution to try and raise some money so she had a bed to sleep in at night and due to her cleverness, social able and well educated personality she was a well known prostitute. She had been kicked out of her lodgings at midnight due to having no money, and then she was last seen negotiating with a man at around 5.30am outside 29, Hanbury Street which was less than half a mile from where Mary Nichols was found. This man could have possibly been Jack the Ripper as Annie was found dead at 6am. Her throat was cut and her small intestines and other tissues had been removed but were still attached to the body Fido claims that when Dr Phillips examined Annie Chapman’s body he stated that ‘this was the work of an expert'. This gruesome procedure was argued by officials as many of them believed that it was a procedure that only someone with medical knowledge would know how to do.
When the police officer on duty attended the scene he found that a large crowd had already gathered. The crowd began threatening the Jewish people and abused the ones that were in the street. The East London observer states that ‘no Englishman could have perpetrated such a horrible crime, and that it must have been done by a Jew'.
This could have been the only chance that Jack the Ripper could have been caught. D. Rumbelow points out that a man was urinating in his back garden and heard a woman say no and then heard her slump against the fence. The fence was only 5ft high so would have been easy for a full grown man to look over and to have caught him.
After the murder of Annie Chapman the people of London demanded an arrest. Jewish people, foreigners and neighbourhood bullies became the police favourites. People began criticizing the police force for being incompetent. Extra man power was put in place and door to door enquiries began to find more information. Notices were given out for prostitutes to stay off the streets for their own protection, but without money they were unable to go anywhere safe as landlords required money. They had no other option but to have to work the streets for money.
Prostitutes of Whitechapel described a man who was violent towards prostitutes. The man was named John Pizer, and he became a suspect due to the statements made by the prostitutes. Pizer was soon known as the ‘leather apron’ due to him wearing a leather apron as part of his profession. He was also Jewish, and being a main suspect resulted in ethnic tensions in the East End. The Jewish had from that point on become the scapegoat. Suspicion of him being Jack the Ripper changed swiftly into certainty when a piece of leather apron which was saturated in water was found near Annie Chapman’s body. When John Pizer was traced and arrested he was found to own five sharp long bladed knives but he defended himself claiming that he needed the knives for his profession and that he had not left the house so knew nothing of the murder of Annie Chapman.
The third victim was a Swedish woman named Elizabeth Stride otherwise known as Long Liz met her fate on the 31st September 1888 at around 1am. Elizabeth Stride was an exception to the other murders though as she had not been mutilated like the others. She had marks on her shoulders indicating that she had been pulled down from behind; it is possible that she may already have been dead from strangulation before her throat was cut. Some believe that Elizabeth was not a Jack the Ripper victim but just a woman who had had her throat slit but it is argued that Jack was frightened off by Louis Diemschutz, who was the steward of the Working Men’s Educational Club. He left the club at 1 am and found that his horse wouldn’t steer straight and kept shying to the left. He found Elizabeth bundled on the ground; he poked her with his whip and then ran to get some of the club members. The courtyard was very quickly sealed off and policemen were at the scene very quickly. The police officers went on immediate search for the man but called it off at 5am when they were unsuccessful.
On the same night, Catherine Eddowes also became a victim to the Ripper; she was the only murder to have occurred in the City of London. The Ripper had severed the top of her nose, a possible explanation for this is due to syphilis eating away at your nose bone or this was the Ripper’s way of saying, cutting off ones nose to spite ones face. PC Watkins found Eddowes and states that she was ripped up like a ‘pig in the market’.If the times were calculated correct
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