Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack the Ripper

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth Stride, lying dead in Dutfield's Yard
Elizabeth Stride, lying dead in Dutfield's Yard

After the murder in Dutfield's Yard, the police conducted house-to-house interviews with the people in that neighborhood. Any bystanders who had aggregated to watch the police conduct their examination were interrogated.

The dead woman was approximately five feet two inches tall with a very light complexion and dark brown curly hair. She was dressed predominantly in black, with a red rose decorating her jacket. Nothing to identify her nor anything of value was found in her pocket.

Liz Stride
Liz Stride

After a few red herrings, she was identified as Elizabeth Stride, who was born in 1843 in Sweden. She had most likely come to England as a domestic worker. She had made up a story that she was a survivor of the Princess Alice boating disaster that had occurred in 1878, claiming that her husband and two children had drowned. This story was useful in getting charity from the Swedish Church in London, and in generally arousing sympathy for her. The real story is that her husband, John Stride, was a survivor of the Thames River tragedy, but he had died later in the poorhouse.

She lived with a laborer named Michael Kidney for three years before her death. She was a well-liked woman who people nicknamed "Long Liz." While she may have occasionally prostituted herself, for the most part she earned a living by doing sewing or cleaning work. Once in a while, she became drunk and boisterous, an event noted more than once in the magistrate court.

She left her lodging house in the early evening and did not tell anyone where she was going. She had a small amount of money in her pocket that she had earned by cleaning rooms. At the time she left the lodging house, there was no rose on her jacket.

Dr. Phillips testified that the woman died because of her throat wounds. This time there was no indication of strangulation, although the killer may have caught Liz by her scarf and pulled her backwards while cutting her throat. Dr. Blackwell characterized the killer as someone "who is accustomed to use of a heavy knife."

Constable William Smith
Constable William Smith

This time, many witnesses came forward to claim that they had seen Liz just before her death. One of them was Constable William Smith, who was walking his beat around Berner Street and saw Liz talking to a man around 12:30 in the morning, shortly before her death. The man that Smith saw was around thirty years old with dark hair and moustache. His complexion was also dark. He estimated that the man was about five feet seven. This man was dressed in a dark felt deerstalker hat with a black diagonal cutaway coat, white collar and tie. He had a good-sized parcel in his hands.

Another important witness was Israel Schwartz, who gave this story to Inspector Swanson:

At 12:45 a.m. Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street...saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. The man tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round & threw her down on the footway & the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man standing lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road 'Lipski' & then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man he ran as far as the railway arch but the man did not follow so far...

'Long Liz' Stride
'Long Liz' Stride

Schwartz identified the body as that of the woman he had seen and thus describes the first man who threw the woman down: age about 30, height five feet 5 in., complexion fair, hair dark, small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered; dress, dark jacket and trousers, black cap with peak, had nothing in his hands.

Second man, age 35, height 5 feet 11 inches, complexion fresh, hair light brown, moustache brown; dress, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat wide brim, had a clay pipe in his hand.

Police took the evidence of Constable Smith and Israel Schwartz very seriously. Two other important witnesses surfaced. William Marshall lived at 64 Berner Street and had been standing near the site of the murder about 11:45 p.m., approximately an hour and a quarter before the event occurred. He identified Liz as talking to a man who he described as middle-aged, wearing a round cap with a small peak, "like what a sailor would wear," about 5 feet 6 inches tall, rather stout, dressed like a clerk, and speaking like an educated man. He was not able to get a look at the man's face. While Marshall's description of the man with Liz is similar to Smith's and Schwartz's, Liz could have been talking to someone entirely different than her killer an hour and a quarter before the murder.

James Brown came forward with another sighting of Liz that night at 12:45 a.m., minutes before her death. When he reached the intersection of Berner and Fairclough Streets, he saw Liz talking to a man. He overheard her say, "Not tonight, some other night." The man he described was about 5 feet 7 and wearing a very long dark overcoat. Brown's timing is open to question since he was estimating rather than looking at any clock.

The descriptions of the man talking to Liz Stride given by Smith, Marshall and Schwartz may refer to the same man. Unfortunately, it did not help the police find this suspect.

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