Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack the Ripper


The murder of Mary Kelly created panic in the streets of Whitechapel, which were again abandoned at night to the police patrols. Sporadic episodes of mob violence broke out when for various reasons, an individual cast suspicion on himself by something he did or said, usually under the influence of alcohol.

Man walking alone draws suspicious eyes
Man walking alone draws suspicious eyes
Police activity was frantic. Every lead was tracked down, every suspect interrogated thoroughly. The results were disappointing and the police were heavily criticized. Queen Victoria was furious. "This new most ghastly murder," she told the Prime Minister, "shows the absolute necessity for some very decided action. All these courts must be lit, and our detectives improved. They are not what they should be."

The Times was a bit more understanding of the difficulties the police faced: "The murders, so cunningly continued, are carried out with a completeness which altogether baffles investigators. Not a trace is left of the murderer, and there is no purpose in the crime to afford the slightest clue...All that the police can hope is that some accidental circumstance will lead to a trace which may be followed to a successful conclusion."

There was disagreement on the estimated time of Mary's death. Dr. Bond believed that she had died between 1 and 2 a.m. Friday morning. Dr. Phillips thought that death occurred much later, somewhere between 5 and 6 a.m. Not having a clearer idea about time of death complicated the eyewitness testimony regarding who was with Mary or seen in Miller's Court during Friday morning.

Miller's Court, location of the murder of Mary Kelly
Miller's Court, location of the
murder of Mary Kelly
The most important eyewitness was George Hutchinson, a laborer who knew Mary Kelly. He met her about 2 a.m. Friday morning and she asked him for some money. He told her he had nothing to spare and she walked away, but soon stopped to talk to another man. If his testimony is correct, he probably saw Jack the Ripper:

He then placed his right hand around her shoulders. He also had a kind of a small parcel in his left hand with a kind of strap round it. I stood against the lamp of the Queen's Head Public House and watched him. They both then came past me and the man hung down his head with his hat over his eyes. I stooped down and looked him in the face. He looked at me stern. They both went into Dorset Street. I followed them. They both stood at the corner of the court for about 3 minutes. He said something to her. She said alright my dear come along you will be comfortable. He then placed his arm on her shoulder and gave her a kiss. She said she had lost her handkerchief. He then pulled his handkerchief a red one out and gave it to her. They both then went up the court together. I then went to the court to see if I could see them but could not. I stood there for about three quarters of an hour to see if they came out. They did not so I went away.

Mary Kelly with the Ripper
Mary Kelly with the Ripper
Description: age about 34 or 35, height 5 ft. 6, complexion pale, dark eyes and eye lashes, slight moustache curled up each end and hair dark, very surly looking; dress, long dark coat, collar and cuffs trimmed astrakhan and a dark jacket under, light waistcoat, dark trousers, dark felt hat turned down in the middle, button boots and gaiters with white buttons, black tie with horse shoe pin, respectable appearance, walked very sharp, Jewish appearance. Can be identified.

He further elaborated on this description later:

His watch chain had a big seal, with a red stone, hanging from it...He had no side whiskers, and his chin was clean shaven...I believe that he lives in the neighborhood, and I fancied that I saw him in Petticoat Lane on Sunday morning, but I was not certain.

Several people had seen Mary on the night she died. Mary Ann Cox, another prostitute who lived in Miller's Court, saw Mary with a man going into Miller's Court at 11:45 p.m. Mary was very drunk and had difficulty talking. Mrs. Cox described Mary's client as "about 36 years old, about 5 ft 6 in. high, complexion fresh and I believe he had blotches on his face, small side whiskers, and a thick carrotty moustache, dressed in shabby dark clothes, dark overcoat and black felt hat."

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7, laundress Sarah Lewis was walking with a girlfriend when a man about forty years of age, who was fairly short, pale-faced, with a black moustache, wanted either one of the two women to follow him. He wore a short black coat and carried a black bag about one foot long. They refused, but he persisted, and the women ran away. At 2:30 a.m. Friday morning, just around the time that Mary Kelly was murdered, Sarah was coming to stay with friends at 2 Miller's Court when she saw the same man, but eluded him this time. Shaken by this second sighting, she rushed to her friend's house. Just before 4 a.m. she heard a woman shriek "Murder!" Another woman also heard the scream, but shrieks like that were apparently common in bawdy Whitechapel.

Inspector Richard Abberline
Inspector Richard
Inspector Abberline clearly believed Hutchinson's detailed account, but had to wonder about Hutchinson's motivation for following Mary and her client. He said he had known her for several years and had given her money more than once. Perhaps he was fond of Mary or just worried about her with this particular client. There had to be some reason that he would take such an interest and even follow the two of them to Miller's Court. Abberline instructed a couple of policemen to walk around with Hutchinson in the hopes that they would spot Mary's client. One cannot help wondering if Hutchinson did not make up this story to throw suspicion off of himself. However, for some reason, the police did not pursue him as a suspect and disseminated the description that he gave to all of the police stations.

Alice McKenzie
Alice McKenzie
As winter set in, the frantic police activity began to slow. All suspects had been interrogated and leads came to a dead end. It appeared that Jack the Ripper had left the scene for good. However, there were two murders that were similar in nature that should be mentioned.

The first was Alice McKenzie, who was found dead in July of 1889. She too had died from the slashing of her carotid artery. If this was another victim of Jack the Ripper, the wounds to her throat and abdomen were different than the other murders. Drs. Bond and Phillips disagreed as to whether it was Jack or not.

Frances Coles
Frances Coles
In February of 1891, a pretty prostitute named Frances Coles was found with her throat cut. Dr. Phillips did not believe that Jack the Ripper was responsible and suspicion fell upon a man who had a quarrel with her.

At any rate, the Jack the Ripper file was closed in 1892, the same year in which Inspector Abberline retired. The Ripper murders were over, but the legend lived on.

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