Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten Victims

Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten Victims

by Paul Begg, John Bennett


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Experts agree that Jack the Ripper murdered five London women, but how many others did he slaughter in Britain or across the seas?

The number of women murdered and mutilated by Jack the Ripper is impossible to know, although most researchers now agree on five individuals. These five canonical cases have been examined at length in Ripper literature, but other contemporary murders and attacks bearing strong resemblance to the gruesome Ripper slayings have received scant attention. These unsolved cases are the focus of this intriguing book.
The volume devotes separate chapters to a dozen female victims who were attacked during the years of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree. Their terrible stories—a few survived to bear witness, but most died of their wounds—illuminate key aspects of the Ripper case and the period: the gangs of London’s Whitechapel district, Victorian prostitutes, the public panic inspired by the crimes and fueled by journalists, medical practices of the day, police procedures and competency, and the probable existence of other serial killers. The book also considers crimes initially attributed to Jack the Ripper in other parts of Britain and the world, notably New York, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. In a final chapter, the drive to find the identity of the Ripper is examined, looking at contemporary and later suspects as well as several important theories, revealing the lengths to which some have gone to claim success in identifying Jack the Ripper.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300117202
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 03/25/2014
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 1,077,818
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Paul Begg is a world authority on Jack the Ripper and the author of several books about him, including Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History. He is co-author with John Bennett of Jack the Ripper: CSI Whitechapel. He lives in Kent, UK. John Bennett has written widely on Jack the Ripper and is leader of the most highly regarded tour of Whitechapel. He lives in London.

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Copyright © 2013 Paul Begg and John Bennett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-300-11720-2


The Whitechapel Murders

The 1880s were a crucial decade of the late nineteenth century – a time of change, and perhaps an early indicator of what the following century would offer. In 1906 Winston Churchill wrote that the 1880s were 'the end of an epoch'. The socialist poet, philosopher and early gay activist Edward Carpenter observed:

It was a fascinating and enthusiastic period – preparatory, as we see now, to even greater developments in the twentieth century. The Socialist and Anarchist propaganda, the Feminist and Suffragist upheaval, the huge Trade-union growth, the Theosophic movement, the new currents in the theatrical, musical, and artistic worlds, the torrent even of change in the Religious world – all constituted so many streams and headwaters converging, as it were, to a great river.

The decade followed hot on the heels of what became known as the 'Long Depression', a global recession that lasted from 1873 to 1879 and which hit Europe and North America particularly hard. This coincided with a 'Second Industrial Revolution', essentially a technical revolution, which saw rapid growth in industrial development in Western Europe, the United States and Japan, mainly centered upon scientific discoveries and new technologies (whereas its earlier incarnation had produced great leaps forward in mechanization). By the beginning of the 1880s, the United States had recovered, entering its 'Gilded Age', and the ensuing decade promised great confidence and growth.

The United Kingdom is often regarded as the country that was worst hit by the apparent economic downturn, and it has been said that the 'Long Depression' lasted well into the 1890s; though it can also be argued that this recession was not all it seemed, and was merely a myth generated by articulate landowners, farmers and members of the upper classes who were affected by a fall in profits and interest rates. Some contend that, statistically, there was no overall decline.

At the time of Queen Victoria's accession in 1837, the national economy was largely based on agriculture. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, that had changed, as new developments in mechanized production placed an emphasis on output from the cities, rather than from rural communities. With the British Empire reigning supreme over the four corners of the globe, London, at its epicentre, had become the most influential city on earth. By the 1880s, it had also become the world's largest city, with a population that had effectively quadrupled since the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it stood at just over 1 million. This expansion was the result of a number of factors: the coming of the railways from the 1830s onward facilitated greater migration into the city, while improved sanitation led to a reduction in disease and thus in the overall mortality rate. London was seen as a city where the 'streets were paved with gold', and it offered great opportunities for those who found life in the rural districts of south-east England difficult after the problems of agricultural productivity had begun to take hold. The first Industrial Revolution had shown many people that their future lay in the cities; London, with its links to world trade, its factories and its docks, was a lure to those seeking security in an uncertain age.

London thus became a city of opposites: a metropolis where the undeniably wealthy and influential held sway throughout much of the Victorian era, alongside a growing working class of industrious citizens who were by no means wealthy, and in many instances were mired in poverty. The physical growth of London in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and the improvement of transport systems, saw the development of new suburbs, such as Islington, Hampstead and Stoke Newington to the north, and Brixton, New Cross and Clapham (to name but a few) to the south, as the wealthy moved out to leafier environs, effectively abandoning the central, increasingly urbanized and ultimately industrial areas to the poorer working classes.

By the 1880s, the differences within the demographics of London were becoming all too apparent, and Edward Carpenter's 'many streams and headwaters' began to manifest themselves. Winston Churchill was to write that it was a time when:

The long dominion of the middle classes, which had begun in 1832, had come to its close and with it the almost equal reign of Liberalism. All sorts of lumbering tyrannies had been toppled over. Authority was everywhere broken. Slaves were free. Conscience was free. Trade was free. But hunger and squalor and cold were also free and the people demanded something more than liberty.

Society generally was undergoing fundamental and radical changes that threatened the status quo. Predictably, the ruling classes, which had for so long enjoyed a complacent existence, blinkered to the real issues that affected the common man, became frightened. And it was in London – the 'Great Wen' – that the threat was most in evidence.

On Monday, 8 February 1886, the Fair Trade League held a meeting in Trafalgar Square to advocate its policy of higher customs tariffs as a cure for unemployment. A counter-demonstration by the unemployed was called by the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), an essentially Marxist organization. The SDF leaders treated their audience to a series of inflammatory anti-capitalist speeches, declaring that 'there must be a revolution to alter the state of things' and claiming that at the next meeting they would 'sack the bakers' shops in the west of London. They had better die fighting than die starving'. The crowd, well and truly whipped up into an anti-capitalist frenzy, was then led by the SDF on a march along Pall Mall, which encouraged jeering from the occupants of the wealthy gentlemen's clubs in the area. Provoked, the crowd began throwing stones at club windows and, in a marked escalation, turned into Piccadilly and South Audley Street, where shopfronts were smashed and premises looted. The rioting reached Oxford Street before the police regained control of the situation. The handling of the riots exposed the longstanding inadequacy of Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Sir Edmund Henderson, who resigned in consequence.

After these disturbances, known by some as 'Black Monday', Trafalgar Square became the venue of choice for political protest. Making their presence felt were the destitute unemployed who camped, symbolically, in the square, further reinforcing associations with the downtrodden. By 1887, there were great concerns about public order in the square and Home Secretary Henry Matthews was moved to consider the possibility of banning such demonstrations, owing to the problems they caused and the cost to ratepayers. But this was not only Matthews' problem: it was also of concern to Charles Warren, Henderson's successor as chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Warren's appointment in 1886 had originally been met with considerable approval: The Times described him as 'precisely the man whom sensible Londoners would have chosen to preside over the policing of the Metropolis'. The Pall Mall Gazette, while expressing its delight at the appointment, prophetically warned that the then home secretary, Hugh Childers, should 'allow his chief commissioner a free hand, and back him up like a man ...' Childers did so, but when Gladstone's government fell in June 1886, his successor, Henry Matthews, did not. This would become a source of constant friction between the two men. On 17 October 1887, Warren, who felt that the growing use of Trafalgar Square as a place of protest was potentially dangerous, declared a temporary ban on demonstrations there. Two days later, Matthews, concerned about the legality of such a ban, revoked it, unwittingly causing the situation to get worse.

The optimism over Charles Warren's appointment soon waned in the light of his dealings with such instances of civil unrest, the most significant being the events surrounding the Trafalgar Square demonstrations of 13 November 1887, the notorious 'Bloody Sunday'. Two days previously, the Metropolitan Radical Association had announced plans to stage a demonstration. Word quickly spread, ensuring the involvement of the Home Rule Union, assorted socialist and anarchist groups, and a strong representation of the unemployed and the SDF. Among the marchers were Annie Besant and William Morris, prime movers in the SDF, and George Bernard Shaw. In the face of such a mass protest, Charles Warren elected to put 5,000 constables on duty, with a battalion of Grenadier Guards and a regiment of Life Guards on standby. It was estimated that up to 50,000 marchers converged on Trafalgar Square, and the authorities responded with a heavy hand. This inflamed the angry mob, and considerable violence ensued. By the time order was restored, a hundred people had been sent to hospital with injuries, seventy-seven police officers were hurt and forty rioters had been arrested. Two men died and there were seventy-five complaints of police brutality. In the words of one commentator, 'much odium fell on Warren, who was indeed largely to blame; and much on the home secretary, Matthews, who was already unpopular in parliament'.

It was a catastrophe as far as Warren's reputation was concerned – one from which he never really recovered. It was also to taint his tenure as chief commissioner throughout the sensational events of the following year.

It is significant that 5,000 of the protestors had marched from the East End of London. It was this downtrodden district of the gigantic, powerful, but fractious metropolis that came to embody all the fears and terrible realities that the liberal middle classes had managed for so long to sweep under the carpet. In the words of John Henry Mackay, the East End was:

the hell of poverty. Like an enormous, black, motionless, giant kraken, the poverty of London lies there in lurking silence and encircles with its mighty tentacles the life and the wealth of the city and of the West End ... a world in itself, separated from the West as the servant is separated from his master. Now and then one hears about it, but only as of something far off, somewhat as one hears about a foreign land inhabited by other people with other manners and customs.

Even before the 1880s, the character of the East End of London had been well defined by imaginative writers such as Charles Dickens and observers like Henry Mayhew, as well as through the evocative engravings of Gustave Doré. To say that life was hard for some was putting it mildly.

The problems of the East End were legion. Throughout the Industrial Revolution of the early nineteenth century, it had been a magnet for migrant workers from the shires and provinces, seeking to earn a living in the factories and workshops located there by a City wary of 'noxious trades'. The economic downturn of the 1870s and beyond affected agricultural labour opportunities and helped to swell London's population. Breweries, slaughterhouses, tanneries and smithies flourished. Some, disposed to working at home or in less industrial surroundings, would settle into smaller industries like cigar manufacturing or cabinet making, matchbox assembly or tailoring – trades which had long been a feature of East End working life. The creation and subsequent growth of London's docks had seen to it that areas close to the river grew particularly quickly, as London became a hub of world trade.

It was the coming of the railways that geographically compounded the problems of inner-city life in this part of London. Warehouse walls came to tower over once-open streets, casting alleyways and small lanes in a forbidding gloom, while railway lines, perched on seemingly endless arches, cut a swathe through tight-knit neighbourhoods:

East Londoners showed a tendency to become decivilised when their back streets were cut off from main roads by railway embankments. The police found that by experience! Savage communities in which drunken men and women fought daily in the streets were far harder to clear up if walls or water surrounded the area on three sides, leaving only one entrance.

It was evident that the East End could not cope comfortably with the rapidly growing population. Fields, orchards, gardens and tenter grounds (where newly manufactured cloth was stretched and dried) had long since disappeared under new housing, crammed dangerously into the limited space available and often only accessible through small alleyways and dark passages. The average population density in London in 1888 was 50 people per acre, but in Whitechapel it was 176 – and in the Bell Lane district of Spitalfields it was 600 people per acre. With so many people in one place, it was practically impossible for everyone to find work. The sheer number of people, coupled with the ravages of the long-standing recession, led to 'unemployment' (a word coined in the 1880s) becoming a condition that touched many. It is estimated that by 1888, of the 456,877 people in Tower Hamlets, over one-third were living below subsistence level and 13 per cent faced chronic want.

The neighbourhoods of Whitechapel and Spitalfields became particularly notorious, especially those streets around Commercial Street, a road that had been built in the 1850s with the intention of clearing slums, as well as of extending trade routes from the London Docks. It cut through decaying, overcrowded courts and alleys, but the population thus displaced continued to cause problems by resettling close by. Thus Flower and Dean Street, Thrawl Street and Dorset Street became synonymous with the worst of London poverty, consisting of overcrowded common lodging houses which were home to the flotsam and jetsam of the transient poor.

Philanthropy was in considerable evidence: Commercial Street was home to Toynbee Hall, set up in 1884 by Canon Samuel Barnett of St Jude's, Whitechapel, to bring help, education and culture to the poor East Londoners. His wife, Henrietta, wrote thirty years later of her perception of the conditions faced by many of her husband's flock:

Each chamber was the home of a family who sometimes owned their indescribable furniture, but in most cases the rooms were let out furnished for 8d a night. In many instances, broken windows had been repaired with paper and rags, the banisters had been used for firewood, and the paper hung from the walls which were the residence of countless vermin ...

The Salvation Army, formed by William Booth in 1865, had its genesis on the streets of Whitechapel, and Thomas Barnardo, a former medical student at the London Hospital, was moved to provide care and shelter for the destitute children of the East End in the 1880s, after seeing so much poverty. But the East End proved a resilient adversary and the problems persisted, while many of the attempted solutions either failed or were too slow in bringing about obvious change. One such attempt was the passing of the Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act back in 1875:23 the neighbourhoods around Flower and Dean Street, Goulston Street, George Yard and Wentworth Street were targeted for redevelopment. While certain areas were demolished and new construction began reasonably quickly, some people suffered when (as in the Flower and Dean Street area) demolition was a long time coming and delays in rebuilding on the vacant lots allowed overcrowding and transience to continue unchecked:

Thieves, loose women, and bad characters abound, and, although the police are not subject, perhaps, to quite the same dangers as they were a few years ago, there is still reason to believe that a constable will avoid, as far as he can, this part of his beat, unless accompanied by a brother officer.

One further ingredient that impacted significantly on the life of the East End during those turbulent years was mass immigration. The French Huguenots had made Spitalfields their home in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and then Irish travellers fleeing the potato famine of 1845–52 had made their mark on Whitechapel. But from 1881 onwards, Jews from Eastern Europe settled in huge numbers, and it was this wave of immigrants that many felt exacerbated the existing problems. London was an ideal choice for many, especially the East End, with its small, already established Jewish communities. And Whitechapel, because of its proximity to the docks and the River Thames, became the point of entry to the United Kingdom for those who disembarked at St Katharine Dock, near the Tower of London. In 1887, Charles Booth put the number of Eastern European Jews in Tower Hamlets at around 45,000. In 1888, he said: 'They fill whole blocks of model dwellings; they have introduced new trades as well as new habits and they live and crowd together and work and meet their fate independent of the great stream of London life surging around them.'


Excerpted from JACK THE RIPPER by PAUL BEGG, JOHN BENNETT. Copyright © 2013 Paul Begg and John Bennett. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Whitechapel Murders 5

2 The East End was a Dangerous Place 24

3 The Gangs of Whitechapel 36

4 Soldiers 46

5 Jack Strikes 65

6 'He's Gone to Gateshead' 74

7 Bits of Body Turning Up Here and There 93

8 'What a Cow!' 115

9 Murder by Natural Causes 124

10 The Ripper That Never Was 140

11 A Gruesome Jigsaw 152

12 Jack the Ripper or Not? 169

13 The Body from Elsewhere 183

14 The Fit-Up 199

15 American Swansong? 246

Afterword 258

Notes 265

List of Illustrations 289

Acknowledgements 290

Index 291

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