Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Dark Dawn of the Ruthless Ripper

                      We do not know who he was. We know neither whence he came nor where he went. We do not know why he did what he did and we are not even sure if it really was him that did those things. He may have been one man or he may have been several men. None of us have seen him but we have all heard of him. We do not even know his name, so we call him by the name that he may, or may even not, have given to himself.  And that name is Jack – Jack the Ripper. 

There have been other Rippers since, little Rippers, lesser rippers differentiated only by the names of places, but only one, only the first, has the name of a man. Jack. All the rest are only jacks. Jacks are small things, I’ve said it before; jack sprats, jack rabbits, jack sparrows, jack-a-napes. Jacks and Jakes, and we know what the Jakes are for. Jacks and Jakes and Johns. Jakes and Johns are for shits and for Jack shit. Jack the Lad. Not a real man, only a lad. A Jack shilling; a sixpence. Half a Jack, half a sixpence. Not even a full shilling. Mad, bad and dangerous to know. Mad Jack Byron. Mad Jack Mytton

Gustav Dore - London Slums

But Jack the Ripper was a different murder of crows. A whole different knot of toads. He jacked up the entire Jack thing; he hijacked the Jacks, he High-Jacked the Jacks. And one day he took himself to Whitechapel. But you didn’t go to Whitechapel; you either stayed in Whitechapel or you left Whitechapel and you didn’t go back. It was a rookery, a nesting place, a cluster of wynds and turnings. A refuge for the dispossessed and the dispossessers. Foreigners arrived in Whitechapel only to watch their dreams whither and die. When Hell was full, it spat its superfluous demons into Whitechapel. And Jack made Whitechapel into a Hell of his own. He came under cover of the night, with his knives and his madness, and even Whitechapel was afraid.

Contemporary report of the Smith Murder

There had been murders there before. The series of murders that have been linked together and are now referred to as the ‘Whitechapel Murders’ began with that of Emma Elizabeth Smith. In the early evening of Easter Monday, April 2nd 1888, Emma Smith went out to look for ‘trade’. She was a widow, about forty-five-years old, and had worked as a prostitute in Whitechapel for a number of years. 

Location of attack on Emma Smith (Red Spot)

She was seen alive at about 12.15 am talking to a darkly dressed man, and later, at about 1.30 am she was walking along Whitechapel High Street, past St Mary’s Church, when she noticed a gang of men coming in the opposite direction. She crossed the road and turned into Osborn Street, trying to avoid the gang, but they followed her and, at the corner of Old Montague Street, they attacked, robbed and raped her. 

Gustav Dore - London Slums

In great pain and bleeding heavily, she staggered back to her lodgings in George Street (underlined on the map) where she collapsed. She managed to tell Mary Russell, the deputy lodging house keeper, that she had been attacked by three or four men, one of whom was about eighteen years old, and Russell took Smith to the London Hospital, where Dr Haslip examined her. In addition to her bruises, her right ear had almost been torn off and a blunt object, possibly a stick, had been forced into her vagina, rupturing the peritoneum. Emma Smith passed into a coma and at 9 am on Wednesday April 4th 1888, she died from peritonitis. Although she is counted as the first of the Whitechapel Murders, she is no longer considered to be a victim of the Ripper. 

Police Mortuary Photograph of Martha Tabram

The second of the Whitechapel Murders was that of Martha Tabram, thirty-nine years old, an habitual but not perpetual drunk. Martha was ‘that sort’ of a girl, and on the evening of Bank Holiday Monday August 6th 1888, she went out with Mary Ann Connolly, a prostitute known as ‘Pearly Poll’, and pretty soon they had picked up a couple of soldiers. They were seen drinking in several pubs around Whitechapel, and at about 11.45 pm Pearly Poll and her corporal went into Angel Alley to conduct business, and Martha and the private went into George Yard, the next, parallel alley, to do the same, (marked in blue on the map).

John Reeves finds Martha Tabram

At about 4.45 am, John Reeves, a docker, was leaving for work when he found the bloody body of a woman on the first floor landing so he ran for a policeman, PC Barrett. The body was Martha Tabram; she had been stabbed thirty-nine times, mainly in the chest and abdomen. Dr Killeen, who carried out the post-mortem, placed the time of death at about 2.30 am and said that a right-handed man had inflicted the wounds. The police interviewed several soldiers from various nearby barracks, but none matching the descriptions of the two suspects were found. Martha and the private had gone into the alley at about 11.45, so if she died at about 2.30 am, she had ample time to find another client. 

Gustav Dore - London Slums

Some place this as the first Ripper murder, citing the frenzy and the slashing as something new, maybe evidence that he was honing his technique, and this is why the throat had not been cut, although an unverifiable report in the Illustrated Police Gazette said that there had been nine stab wounds to the throat (not mentioned by Dr Killeen).

Tomorrow - More Murders

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