The most famous murder mystery of all began on the night of 30 August 1888 when a policeman found the body of Mary Ann Nichols in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, in London. She had had her throat cut.
A week later, ‘Dark Annie’ Chapman met a similar fate near Spitalfields Market. Rumours abounded of a monster on the loose, heightened by the first of many letters delivered to Fleet St and other places from Leather Apron, and later Jack the Ripper.
He advised the next victim would have her ears chopped off. On the morning of 30 September two further bodies were found – Elizabeth ‘Long Liz’ Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Situated within 15 minutes of each other, the former was not mutilated, but the latter was; her ears had also been partially chopped off.
The final victim of Jack the Ripper – a killer who removed organs from his victims in a frenzied manner – was murdered in her room on 9 November. Mary Kelly was different to the rest. She was younger and her body had been mutilated to a much greater extent, even being partially skinned.
Speculation remains to this day as to who Jack the Ripper was. A Jew was suspected when police chief Sir Charles Warren had removed from a wall where a blooded rag was found following the Eddowes murder, the words: ‘The Juwes are not men to be blamed for nothing.’
Others blamed Queen Victoria s grandson, the Duke of Clarence, Warren’s actions suggesting conspiracy to hide the fact. In the 1980s a variation put the killings down to royal physician Sir William Gull and coachman John Netley to prevent a scandal involving the Duke, a shop girl and an illegitimate child, the killings being merely a screen.
Failed lawyer Montague John Druitt made the mistake of drowning himself in the Thames in December 1888, thus guaranteeing his place in the list of suspects. Mary Kelly’s lover, fish seller Joseph Barnett also found himself dragged in for questioning.
In 1995 suspicion fell upon doctor, Francis Tumbelty, who was in London at the time, and murders seemed to follow him wherever he went until his death in 1903.
With the publication of the now infamous diary of Jack the Ripper, suspicion recently fell on Liverpool cottonbroker James Maybrick, who often visited London and was murdered by his wife shortly after the murders. However, the main reason for suspicion is now repeated in Patricia Cornwell’s candidate, artist Walter Sickert. Both Sickert and Maybrick (if he wrote the diaries) had a morbid fascination with the deaths.
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