Between 1888 and 1891, a total of 11 women were killed on the streets of Whitechapel without a single person ever being brought to justice. Little did the Metropolitan Police know that the murders would remain in the public eye over a century later.
This was a different time in London, with the capital a far less safe place than it is today, especially at night. No one could tell with any certainty of the dangers that lurked the streets under the blanket of the night, but there would soon be an almighty hint of just how unsafe Whitechapel could be.
Emma Elizabeth Smith
On Tuesday 3rd April 1888, the first of the Whitechapel Murders was committed, as Emma Elizabeth Smith was robbed and murdered in Osborn Street. According to the Metropolitan Police, the evidence indicates that Smith was the victim of an attack by a group of three.
The murders on Whitechapel are linked to what is known as the Canonical Five, the name given to what is widely believed to be the murders committed by the anonymous killer known by the name of Jack the Ripper.
While it is widely agreed that the, killer known as Jack the Ripper, is responsible for the murders of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catharine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, it is disputed how many others can be attributed to him.
Some experts, or ‘Ripperologists’ as they are known, claim the Ripper killed seven, while it is reported that junior officers believed as many of nine of the women were his victims. Without ever being able to definitively conclude who was killed by the same person, it leaves little wonder as to why the identity of Jack the Ripper will never be known.
Although hundreds and thousands of theories have been formed, officially there are only four suspects as to who could be behind the Ripper Murders. They are:
- Aaron Kosminski – a Polish Jewish emigrant who lived in Whitechapel
- Montage Druitt – a barrister and school teacher who would commit suicide in December 1888
- Michael Ostrog – a Russian-born thief who spent time in various asylums
- Dr Francis Tumblety – an American doctor who fled the country in November 1888 after receiving bail following an arrest earlier that month
Kosminski, Druitt and Ostrog were named as suspects by Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten, with Druitt appearing to be the favoured suspect in accordance with his report. However, the office in charge of the case, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, and Dr Robert Anderson, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, both favoured Kosminski as the suspect.
Cracking the Case
Many experts claim to have cracked the case, although almost all have been rubbished on the account of faltering evidence and facts that do not add up. No matter how compelling a theory is brought to light concerning the murders, too many years have passed to categorically determine who the killer was.
The murderer’s mythology has grown as a result, with students carrying out studies on the events that transpired in Whitechapel. Tourists are also able to book a place on the Jack the Ripper tour that follows the footsteps of the killer and highlights various key aspects of the case.
Although these events are certainly among the darkest in the history of London, the legend of Jack the Ripper will continue to live on in English folklore, with interest in the infamous killer unlikely to ever die out.