This post lists the five women who are widely accepted to be the murder victims of the notorious Jack the Ripper and gives some insight into their lives.
- Who Was Jack the Ripper?
- 5 Likely Victims
- Crime Scene Locations
- Other Potential Victims
- Jack the Ripper Tours
- Things to Do in London
WHO WAS JACK THE RIPPER?
Jack the Ripper is the name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the Whitechapel area of East London in 1888.
However, in September 1888 two women were discovered to not only have been murdered, but their bodies brutally mutilated.
This set them apart from the other victims and investigators immediately believed these two women to have been murdered by the same person.
The way these murders were carried out would become the killers calling card - all his victims shared the following:
- All were prostitutes
- All had their throats slashed
- All suffered mutilation to their bodies
- At least three had the removal of organs after they died
On the 27th of September 1888, a taunting letter was written to the police by an author who claimed to be the killer. The letter mocked the police, with the author claiming he would never be identified.
The author also told the investigators he “[didn’t] mind giving the trade name” and signed the letter, Jack the Ripper.
Investigators and historians still argue about the authenticity of this letter, but the nickname captured the public’s imagination and cemented Jack the Ripper as the alias of the killer forever.
Find out more about the top suspects in our full post.
WHO WERE THE CANONICAL 5 VICTIMS?
It is generally agreed upon that Jack the Ripper is responsible for five murders in the Whitechapel area, beginning in August 1888.
These women are known as the “Canonical Five” as most Ripper experts, historians, and investigators agree these women were all murdered by the same person.
There's speculation about 11 attacks against women from the 3rd April 1888 to the 13th of February 1891, that the Metropolitan Police service recorded.
Mary Ann Nichols
Mary Ann was a Londoner, born in 1845.
She and her husband had 5 children but separated around 1881 for disputed reasons - people suspected her husband had an affair, but he claimed the marriage ended because of her alcoholism.
After their split, she took up jobs in workhouses and as a maidservant, but neither lasted long.
Eventually, she turned to prostitution to make ends meet.
Just after midnight on the 31st of August 1888, Mary Ann walked out into the night, hoping to earn the money to pay for a bed for the evening.
After the discovery of her body the next morning, investigators linked her murder to that of two other women that had been killed in the area previously (in April and early August).
However, by the time the inquest into her murder was completed, another woman had been brutally killed in the same fashion.
Investigators quickly concluded that Mary Ann’s killer was not likely to be the culprit for the previous two murders, but was absolutely the assailant of Annie Chapman, murdered just 8 days after Mary Ann.
Eliza Ann Smith, nicknamed Annie, was born in London, likely in 1840.
She married John Chapman in 1869 and the couple had three children. After the death of their daughter, Annie and John both took to drinking heavily and their marriage collapsed.
Annie moved to Whitechapel and lived on and off with two men. She made money through crochet work and flower selling, subsidized by occasional prostitution.
At 1:45 am on the 8th of September 1888, Annie went out to earn money for her lodging for the night. She was last seen around 5:30 in the morning speaking to an unidentified man.
Her mutilated body was discovered in the public back yard of a house on Dorset Street.
The similarity of her murder matched the attack on Mary Ann Nichols and investigators immediately realised these crimes were committed by the same assailant.
Their frantic investigation picked up the pace, but another woman would be murdered by the same killer just a few weeks later.
Elizabeth Gustafsdotter was born in 1843 in Torslanda, Sweden. After a failed marriage, Elizabeth took to prostitution and was picked up multiple times by Swedish police.
In 1869 she moved to London, where she married John Stride, and the two had multiple children, although the exact number is disputed.
By 1881 they separated and Elizabeth took up with a local man named Michael Kidney.
Throughout their on-off relationship, she used sewing, house cleaning, and prostitution to support herself.
On the evening of the 29th of September, 1888, Elizabeth was out with a man - potentially a client - near Berner Street in Whitechapel.
Around 1:00 am the next morning her body was found in a stable yard, Dutfield’s Yard, behind The Worker’s Club on Berner Street.
She had been murdered by a slash of her neck, although her body had been left undisturbed aside from that.
This meant that the murder wasn’t linked to the other two immediately.
However, several hours later the mutilated body of another woman was found a few blocks away, leading to the theory that Elizabeth’s killer had been disturbed by a man named Louis Diemschutz.
He drove into the yard put away his horse and cart. His horse had shied away from something in the darkness, but Louis couldn’t see why.
When he returned with a lantern, he discovered the crime scene. Investigators believed the Ripper had intended to mutilate her body but at Louis’ departure, fled the scene.
Born in 1942, Catherine Eddowes moved across England a few times before moving to London with her boyfriend, Thomas Conway, with whom she had three children.
By 1880 she had abandoned her family, took to drink, and was living with a new partner in a common lodging house.
Catherine picked up odd jobs to make money and turned to casual prostitution to support her alcohol habit.
After being picked up by police for public drunkenness on the night of the 29th of September in 1888, she was released from jail at 1:30 am and told to go home.
Instead of going back to the doss house where she was staying, she headed toward a church - St. Botolph-Without-Aldgate - a popular location for prostitutes to pick up clients.
At 1:45 am, Catherine’s heavily mutilated body was discovered by PC Edward Watkins, doing his rounds in the area.
The brutality of her murder and assault was shocking and far surpassed what the killer had done to the previous three victims.
It was believed by investigators that the Ripper, having been interrupted during his previous kill, took out his anger and frustration on Catherine.
The swift, skillful removal of her organs in a dark alleyway led investigators to theorise that the killer had some sort of medical or anatomical knowledge.
However, the shocking state of Catherine’s mutilated corpse would be outdone by the Ripper’s next, and final, victim.
Mary Jane Kelly
Mary Jane Kelly’s early life is not well documented. She was likely born sometime in 1863 in Co. Limerick, Ireland.
Her coal miner husband was killed in 1879 and it is believed that Mary Jane took up prostitution to support herself.
She moved to London in 1884 and found work in an upmarket brothel in London’s West End but by 1888 she was working the streets in Whitechapel and living with her boyfriend Joesph Barnett.
Mary Jane was heard singing in her room in the lodging house (on notoriously dangerous Miller’s Court) by fellow lodger Mary Ann Cox at 1:00 am in the morning on the 9th of November 1888.
Mary Ann reported hearing and seeing nothing unusual for the rest of the evening.
Around 10:45 am, Thomas Bowyer, assistant to the landlord went to Mary Jane’s door to collect her rent.
When she didn’t answer, he walked outside and looked through her window - finding her horrifically mutilated body on the bed.
Her skin and myriad body parts had been removed and scattered throughout the entire room.
Investigators believe this is because Mary Jane was the Ripper’s first victim to be killed inside - which meant he could take his time to do what he wanted to her body without being discovered.
THE CRIME SCENE LOCATIONS
Each murder location where a victim's bodies were found was in the Whitechapel area. We visit each location on our walking tours.
Mary Ann Nichols
She was murdered in Buck’s Row - now known as Durward Street.
The street has changed much since the 1880s, but the huge school building still stands and it is just beyond the school, away from the tube station, where Mary Ann’s body was discovered.
She was murdered in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.
The house no longer exists, and the location is a car park, but the buildings across the street are original to the time and can give you an idea of how it looked in the 19th century.
She was murdered behind the Worker’s Club on Berners Street - now known as Henriques St.
The road has changed but her body was found roughly around the playground area of the school that now stands on the site.
She was murdered in Mitre Square.
Much has changed since the 19th century, her body was found roughly where the trees behind the black gates stand.
Mary Jane Kelly
She was murdered on the notoriously rough and dangerous Millers Court.
This street no longer exists and stood underneath the building that now dominates the corner between Brushfield Street and Commercial Street.
OTHER POSSIBLE VICTIMS
These are other victims included in the list of the “Whitechapel Murders” who some suspect may also have been Ripper victims.
The First Two Murders
Two women were murdered in the East End before Mary Ann Nichols, Emma Elizabeth Smith, and Martha Tabram.
- Emma Elizabeth Smith (died 4th April 1888)
She was admitted to hospital after her attack but died shortly thereafter, was able to tell the police that she was set upon by a group of three men, leading most investigators to decide that she was not a Ripper victim.
- Martha Tabram (died 7th August 1888)
She was killed by 39 stab wounds, but without the tell-tale neck slashing that the Ripper became known for, meaning many investigators discount her as a canonical victim.
Four Additional Victims
After Mary Jane Kellys’ slaying, four more East End women - Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, the Pinchin Street torso, and Frances Coles - were also killed.
- Rose Mylett (died 20th December 1888)
She was found strangled, and possibly accidentally or in a bid for suicide, eliminating her as a Ripper victim.
- Alice McKenzie (died 17th July 1889)
She was killed by severance of her left carotid artery and one of the examining pathologists believed her to be another Ripper victim, however his colleague who had been present during the autopsies of three of the Canonical Five disagreed.
- The Pinchin Street Torso
In September 1889, a headless and legless torso of an unidentified woman was found in Whitechapel, but this didn’t fit the Ripper brief.
- Frances Coles (died 13th February 1891)
She was killed with a slash to the throat, but without any further mutilation. A friend of hers, James Thomas Sadler, was arrested and was thought to be the Ripper himself but his alibi of being in the navy at the time of the other murders proved ironclad and he was released.
Possible Attack Survivors
Two women, Annie Millwood, Ada Wilson and Annie Farmer were three women who were all attacked in Whitechapel but survived.
- Annie Millwood had stab wounds in her legs.
- Ada Wilson was stabbed twice in the neck.
- Annie Farmer had a cut to her throat, which detectives thought was self-inflicted.
All three at one time claimed to have survived an assault by Jack the Ripper but authorities disagreed.
JACK THE RIPPER TOURS
If you would like to learn more about Jack the Ripper and these women, consider taking one of our regularly scheduled walking tours of the Whitechapel area.
On our pay-what-you-wish Jack the Ripper Tour you will visit crime scenes and learn about the women who were brutally and tragically killed.
You will also hear about evidence left behind and walk in the footsteps of the world’s most famous serial killer.
If you can’t attend our walking tour, consider downloading our GPS-led audio tour. Listen to a sample audio clip.
OTHER LONDON NIGHT TOURS
If you’re looking for something else to do in the evenings, consider joining one of our other London tours after dark!
We offer the Dark Side of London Ghost Tour all throughout the year, exploring the grim side of this city's history.
During the holidays, we run the spectacular Christmas Lights Tour that not only showcases the glittering decorations of London but also the unique and quirky Christmas habits that Britain holds dear.
Seasonally, we also run the Night Tour: Twilight on the Thames a fabulous walk along the Thames river showcasing 2,000 years of history as the lights of London switch on around you.