Jack the Ripper's Victims
One of the reasons that the Jack the Ripper mystery endures is the uncertainty that surrounds his crimes. The most commonly held belief is that he murdered five women from Aug. 31 to Nov. 9, 1888. These are referred to as the Ripper murders (also called the canonical murders) and are counted within 11 murders that took place around the same time, called the Whitechapel murders. Including the method of murder and post-mortem disfigurement, the canonical victims had a few things in common. All were prostitutes (or were known to accept propositions on occasion), most were middle-aged and all were either drunk or known alcoholics.
The reports of their murders read like chapters in a disturbing novel.
The manner with which he dispatched his victims contained clues. All but one woman was killed by strangulation. Once laid carefully on the ground, the Ripper cut the victims' throats, beginning with the side facing away from him. This effectively drained the blood from his victims before he began a ritual evisceration. Much of the organ removal was done cleanly. Altogether, the eviscerations and organ removals suggest the Ripper was a person with some form of anatomical or surgical training. The knife wounds inflicted also indicate that he was right-handed [source: Rumbelow].
Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols: Polly Nichols, the first Ripper victim, was approximately 44 years old at the time of her demise. She was extremely poor (even by Whitechapel standards) and known to be fond of liquor. She was last seen alive around 2:38 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1888, and was found at about 3:45 a.m., lying in the narrow, poorly lit side street of Buck's Row in Whitechapel. She may have still been alive when first found, but died minutes later. She suffered an 8-inch (20-centimeter) laceration to her throat, which severed both major arteries on both sides of her neck. Nichols also incurred further incisions to her neck, as well as violent lacerations to her abdomen [source: Casebook].
Annie Chapman: The second victim was an alcoholic 47-year-old widow who supported herself in part through prostitution after her husband's death. She was last seen alive at 5:30 a.m. outside an apartment at 29 Hanbury St. with a man described as "shabby genteel" on Saturday, Sept. 8, 1888 [source: Casebook]. Within five minutes, another witness heard a woman's muffled cry of "No!" from the fence between his yard and 29 Hanbury St., followed by a thump against the fence [source: Casebook]. Less than a half-hour later, a resident of 29 Hanbury found Chapman's body in the backyard of the apartment block [source: Casebook]. Chapman was found with her feet pushed up toward her body, knees in the air and spread apart. Her throat was cut deeply from left to right, and her swollen tongue suggested that strangulation as the cause of death. Chapman's abdomen was incised and laid open; her intestines were removed and placed on her shoulder. A portion of her genitalia, as well as her uterus and bladder, were missing. The cleanliness of the incisions suggests the killer had some knowledge of anatomy [source: Casebook].
Elizabeth Stride: The night she met Jack the Ripper, Stride was 45 and had been drinking earlier. Stride occasionally engaged in prostitution, but just before she died was witnessed refusing a proposition. She was last definitively seen on Sunday, Sept. 30, 1888, by a police officer walking his beat along Berner Street in Whitechapel at 12:35 a.m., talking to a man with a parcel wrapped in newspaper. About 25 minutes later, she was found in Dutfield's Yard, a dark alley off Berner Street. Her legs were pulled up toward her body — knees in the air — with a kerchief tied around her neck. Stride's throat was deeply cut on the left side, with a lesser incision on the right. The warmth of her body and lack of any mutilation suggested the Ripper may have been interrupted by the man who discovered the body [source: Casebook].
Catherine Eddowes: A 46-year-old with kidney disease, Eddowes had been a heavy drinker for much of her life and was known as an intelligent, educated person. On the night of her murder, she was taken into police custody for public drunkenness and released just before 1:00 a.m. Eddowes was last seen alive at 1:35 a.m. by three men leaving a pub. She was speaking with a mustached man near Mitre Square, a small, enclosed area in Whitechapel. Ten minutes later, a constable found Eddowes' body in the square.
Like the Ripper's other victims, her throat was slit and her legs spread with her bent knees lifted off the ground. Eddowes was splayed open from her rectum up to her sternum. Her entrails were spread about her — intestines laid over her shoulder and under her arm. Eddowes' nose was cut off, and deep, violent incisions marked her eyelids and cheeks. The incision to her throat was determined as the cause of death. Most of her womb and her kidney had been removed and were missing. Altogether, the incisions and organ removal suggested to the coroner that the killer had human anatomical experience [source: Casebook].
Mary Jane Kelly: Unlike the victims that preceded her, 25-year-old Kelly was young and considered attractive. Like the others, though, she was a prostitute and known to drink. She was the only canonical victim to be murdered indoors. With this privacy, the Ripper created his most gruesome work.
The police discounted two later alleged sightings and concluded that Kelly was last seen alive on Friday, Nov. 9 after 2:00 a.m., entering her apartment house, Miller Court, accompanied by a mustached man carrying a parcel. At 10:45 a.m., a rent collector entered Kelly's apartment and found her body. She was lying partially clothed in a nightgown, her feet pulled up toward her body, knees bent to either side with her legs spread in the now-familiar Ripper fashion. Kelly was arguably the most mutilated of all the Ripper victims; her face was virtually gone, having been slashed and stabbed repeatedly and some features entirely removed. Her throat was slashed so deeply and violently that even her vertebrae showed knife marks. Both of her breasts, as well as her organs and entrails, were placed in piles beneath her head and alongside her body. Slabs of flesh taken from her stomach and thighs were placed on the nightstand beside her bed. Part of her heart was missing, and there was evidence that an axe was used in the crime, along with the long, sharp knife the Ripper was known to use [source: Casebook].
Some people believe the Ripper murdered more than just the canonical victims from August to November 1888. Female torsos were discovered in months and years following the Ripper murders, and one possible victim was murdered in New York City. There are several other victims whose injuries fit the Ripper's technique in some ways but aren't included in the canonical murders. The case of one butchered prostitute, Martha Tabram, has gained some acceptance as a possible sixth canonical murder. Tabram was also an alcoholic prostitute and was murdered on Aug. 7, 1888 — she would've been the Ripper's first victim. Tabram was found with her legs spread and 39 stab wounds concentrated heavily on her abdomen and groin [source: Casebook].