Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Continuing Carnage of the Savage Slayer

                 There are no such doubts about the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, known as Polly Nichols. Polly was born in 1845, and married William Nichols when she was nineteen, and with whom she had five children. By 1880, they had separated, and although she was described as being a very neat, clean woman, she was also an alcoholic prostitute, and lived in lodging houses and workhouses. 

Finding the Body in Buck's Row

On the night of Thursday August 30th 1888, Polly went to find clients, and was seen at 11 pm on Whitchapel High Street. That night was cold and very rainy, and she went to find lodgings in nearby Thrall Street, but didn’t have the 4d to pay, so she went back out into the night, telling the deputy to save a place as she would be back soon. She spoke with another prostitute, Emily Holland, at about 2.30 am, who described her as being very drunk. She had, she said, earned the 4d ‘doss money’ three times over but had drunk it all away (a street prostitute and a large glass of gin both cost about 3d in 1888), and they parted after about ten minutes. At about 3.40, Charles Cross, a carman for Pickford’s, is on his way to work when he sees what at first he thinks is a tarpaulin in Buck’s Row but on closer examination it is found to be woman’s body. He calls Robert Paul, a passer-by, over and the two men go in search of a policeman, during which time a beat policeman, PC John Neil, has also found Polly and raised the alarm. 

Finding the Body in Buck's Row

Neil had seen nothing suspicious in an earlier pass of Buck’s Row, made at around 3.15. At 3.50, Dr Rees Llewellyn, who lived nearby, was brought and he examined the body, pronouncing her to have been dead for a matter of minutes. A small crowd of onlookers had started to form, so Llewellyn ordered the body to be taken to the nearby morgue in Montague Street, where he later made a more detailed examination. The police constables waited for more senior officers to arrive, as locals began to wash down the pavements, and when Inspector John Spratling finally arrived he found little to see so went to Montague Street to examine the body. In the course of this, he lifted Polly’s skirts and discovered that her abdomen had been slashed, revealing the intestines. 

Map showing location of Nichol's Murder

Dr Llewellyn made his second examination and the following day, September 1st, carried out the post mortem. Nichols’s throat had been cut twice, the arteries had been severed a deep slash that ran down to the vertebrae and there were bruises on her face, caused either by a blow or by being gripped firmly. There were also deep cuts to the abdomen, which had cut through the tissues, exposing the viscera, which had been inflicted with great viciousness. The same weapon had made all the wounds and it was possible that they had all been inflicted within a five-minute period. The lack of blood at the crime scene suggested that Polly had been killed elsewhere and the body moved, but the cut to the throat had killed her instantly and the blood had soaked into her hair and clothes. When the body was lifted, there was a great deal of congealed blood beneath it. 

Police Mortuary Photgraph of Polly Nichols

Rumours began to spread in London, which were taken up by the press, that the murderer was ‘Leather Apron,’ crudely depicted using Jewish stereotypes (the East End of London had long had a large Jewish population), and a Jewish leatherworker, John Pizer, who was nicknamed Leather Apron was arrested despite a lack of evidence and was later released, going on to receive financial compensation from those newspapers which had named him as the killer. The official inquest into the murder lasted until September 24th, during which time the Ripper had struck again, leading many to question the progress and the competence of the police investigation.

Mary Ann Nichols - Death Certificate

This next strike was the murder of Annie Chapman, born 1841, who had married a maternal relative in 1869. She had three children, the first, a girl, died from meningitis aged twelve, whilst the third was born disabled. She and her husband parted in 1884, and Annie moved to Whitechapel where she lived with a wire sieve maker until 1886 when the small allowance paid by her ex-husband stopped, following his death from cirrhosis. 

Annie Chapman c.1869

The sieve maker left when the income stopped and Annie became very depressed, almost giving up on life and taking to drink. She made a meagre living from selling crochet work, flowers and some occasional prostitution, although as she was forty-eight this was a diminishing source of income. At 6.00 am September 8th 1888, John Davis, a market porter, found the body of Annie Chapman lying close to a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street (also called Brown Street). 

29 Hanbury Street

Elizabeth Long said she had seen Annie Chapman standing hard against the railings of 29, Hanbury Street with a dark, shabby-smart man at 5.30 am (she knew the time because she heard the brewery clock chiming), she heard the man say, “Will you?” and Chapman reply, “Yes.” Albert Cadosch, the resident of No 27, had gone into his yard to use the privy shortly afterwards and had heard a woman say, “No,” and then something fall against the fence. 

Location of Annie Chapman's Murder

Chapman’s throat had been deeply slit right around the neck, and two parallel cuts had been made to the left of the spine, as if to remove it. She lay on her back, with her legs drawn up and the soles of her feet resting on the ground and her knees parted. Her abdomen was entirely opened and the intestines had been drawn out and draped over her shoulders. The uterus, the posterior two thirds of the bladder and the upper part of the vagina had been removed and were missing – these parts had been removed, not hacked out, the rectum was not damaged and the cut had been low enough to include the cervix uteri, implying that the killer had a good, if not excellent, knowledge off the internal female anatomy. 

Police Mortuary Photograph of Annie Chapman

The incisions had been made with a long narrow blade, finer than a bayonet, longer than a leatherman’s knife, perhaps a ground-down butcher’s knife, or a surgeon’s or an undertaker’s instrument. It was also discovered that Chapman was suffering from a chronic lung complaint.

Wanted Poster - Leather Apron

The finding of a leather apron in the yard fuelled press speculation but it belonged to a resident, John Richardson, whose mother had put it under the tap to wash it. This didn’t stop the papers however and several foreigners were arrested on the flimsiest evidence. The police search for Leather Apron continued but little progress was being made in the case.

Punch - September 22nd 1888

Tomorrow - More Murders

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