In last week’s Jack the Ripper episode, our dedicated Crime Sleuth Krystal Zara introduced the still unidentified killer and described his first known murder — that of streetwalker Polly Ann Nicolas – which occurred on August 31, 1888 and shocked and horrified the East End of London. The scent of blood fresh in his nostrils, eight days later the Ripper was to strike again.
by Krystal Zara with an assist from Patrick H. Moore
Although murder was common in the impoverished area known as Whitechapel and throughout the East End of London in 1888, few, if any, could recall a slaughter as brutally excessive as the murder of Polly Ann Nicolas. The theatrical aspect of the crime — the fact that the murderer had propped the disemboweled victim up against a gate, as if she were casually waiting to meet a friend, or perhaps a customer — only added to the horror.
Some commentators connected Polly’s murder to that of Martha Tabram, a fellow prostitute who had been found dead in Whitechapel in the early hours of August 7, 1888 — the victim had been stabbed a dreadful 39 times. The following morning, Whitechapel’s local newspaper, The Star, had quaintly described Martha’s murder as:
“One of the most horrible crimes that has been committed for certainly some past time.”
The linking of Martha’s murder to that of Polly led some to suggest that both slayings could be the work of a single deranged killer – a serial killer if you will. Others saw no connection between the crimes. Both camps, however, remained on edge, fearful that the killer – who was rapidly taking on larger than life dimensions – would strike again.
Nowhere was the terror felt more poignantly than in Whitechapel. In a research project entitled Jack the Ripper & the Whitechapel Murders, a research team consisting of Jessica Eads, Danielle Kemmer, Joanna Robinson and Jennifer Taylor wrote eloquently:
The Whitechapel district, together with the East End, was an embarrassment to the elite London society that occupied West End districts like Mayfair and Kensington, described by one author as “a breeding ground for criminals, prostitutes, and layabouts; a center for depravity, degradation and disease.” Whitechapel housed a community largely comprised of poor immigrant families… Most of the East End population was employed in factory work, with meager earnings and harsh conditions forcing many women into prostitution as a means of survival. The overpopulation of the urban districts, combined with horrific health conditions exacerbated by poor drainage and inadequate sanitation, created an environment in which diseases like typhoid fever and cholera, not to mention the venereal diseases spread by prostitution, claimed many lives and starvation and death were daily realities. The extreme poverty of the area also contributed to the rampant crime that plagued the East End. The scene of Whitechapel at the time of the murders was likely a grim picture of poverty’s worst elements; unlit alleys and drunken vagrants created dangerous conditions for the many prostitutes who walked the streets or worked out of brothels. London itself can be seen as the dual identities of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; the flourishing West End contented itself with blissful ignorance while its East End counterpart manifested the unspeakable horrors of human depravity that are epitomized in the dark, grisly character of Jack the Ripper.
Victim #2: Annie Chapman
Annie Chapman, who was known to some, as “Dark Annie”, was the daughter of a man named George Smith. Her mother was known simply as Ruth. Annie was born in September of 1841 in a section of London known as Paddington, known for its famous train station. Sometime in the 1860’s, Annie would marry a man named John Chapman and together they had three children. The family of five would soon move to Windsor, a prosperous area south of the River Thames, but their good luck did not last. Annie’s beloved daughter Emily took to her bed and died at the age of 12, and her son John’s misfortune was such that he ended up in a home for cripples. Annie and John Chapman’s remaining child, Miss Annie Georgina, was then sent away to boarding school in France.
Annie never really recovered from young Emily’s death. Although the circumstances are a bit unclear, it is known that in her protracted depression, she left what remained of her family and moved back to London. She received money from her estranged husband until his own passing in 1886. Annie meanwhile became a heavy drinker and moved from relationship to relationship.
In her final weeks of life she sought quarters at the Crossingham lodging house on Dorset Street in an area known as Spitalfields, near the Liverpool Street station. The word on the street was that Dorset Street was one of the most dangerous places in all of London.
It is unclear when Annie Chapman turned to prostitution as a way of earning her keep, but it is known that she had very little energy and had been suffering from a severe non-tubercular lung disease for some time, and was extremely under-nourished.
Discovery of Annie’s Body
In the early morning hours of September 8, 1888 Annie Chapman had stopped in at the office of the Crossingham lodging house and requested that they save a bed for her, promising that she would get caught up on her rent. The reality was the only way she would be able to afford a bed was to continue to work the streets as she had been doing intermittently for some time. The last time she was seen alive was just after 1:30 a,m. when night watchman John Evans saw her walking drunkenly towards Brushfield Street.
It is unclear what Annie Chapman did next and whom she spoke with or where she went but at approximately 6:00 a.m. a man named John Davis discovered her body on Hanbury Street, lying next to a fence. Her upper body was covered in blood and her throat was slashed grotesquely. Her face and tongue were very swollen and there were small bruises on her eyelids and the on her upper chest area. An envelope containing pills was found near the dead woman’s body — and on the envelope the letter M had been written, perhaps in the killer’s handwriting — with a stamp on the other side. Police also found a toothpick comb that the police suspected had been purposely removed from Annie’s pocket and placed next to her. The Ripper’s inimitable theatrical style was plainly apparent for all to see.
Missing parts of her person included her navel, some parts of her bladder and her female organs. The Ripper had bizarrely arranged some of her belly and much of her reproductive system above her left shoulder.
According to investigators, the knife used on the victim may have been a small slaughter-house type blade. It was readily apparent, or so the investigators believed, that when Annie Chapman sensed danger she had fought for her life but had been unable to stave off her assailant’s brutal thrusts. This was a killer, the police surmised, well-versed in dissection — the cuts on both Polly Ann Nicolas and Annie Chapman were clean and accurate. It was noted that Annie had recently lost her two front teeth in a fight she had with a woman name Eliza Copper over a bar of soap,
Many witnesses came forward, one being a Mr. Thomson, who was near the Crossingham lodging house at about the time Annie Chapman left. He claimed he hadn’t seen nor heard anything unusual. Then at about 4:30 a.m, a man named John Richardson — who lived on Hanbury Street — told the officer in charge that he hadn’t heard anything within the frame coinciding with Annie’s murder and that everything had seemed normal.
A more vital clue arrived at 5:30 a.m. in the person of Albert Cadosch who stated he heard a woman scream “No” — the scream apparently sounding from a yard on Hanbury Street somewhere behind his house. Cadosch stated he then heard a loud thump — almost as if a body had fallen — and then nothing, just silence.
Then came Elizabeth Long’s statement. She claimed to have passed a very drunk Annie Chapman on Hanbury Street; Elizabeth Long also said that she observed Annie speaking to a tall man in his 40’s, dark in complexion and wearing a brown deerstalker hat. Elizabeth stated she heard the man ask Annie, “ Will you?” and then Annie answered, “Yes.” Mrs. Long said she then continued walking and never looked back.
What Elizabeth Long saw contradicted Albert Cadosch’s statement as they both claimed that their dissimilar witness accounts occurred at the same time. Elizabeth claimed to have seen Annie speaking to the man in the deerstalker hat and Albert said he heard a noise that convinced him someone was being attacked.
Although some of the statements either overlapped or contradicted each other, and could not all be accurate, they enabled the police to construct a timeline of Annie Chapman’s final hours. They police questioned Annie Chapman’s friend, Amelia Palmer, who said that she had last seen Chapman alive at around midnight. Annie told Amelia that she had consulted with a doctor earlier that day and complained of stomach pain. The pills discovered close to her dead body were apparently meant to numb her discomfort.
Initial Profile of Jack the Ripper
The police were struck by the uncanny nature of the Ripper’s crimes. How could the killer disembowel multiple women and then vanish into thin air?
They surmised that he was an extremely capable individual, someone who could gain his victim’s trust before turning on them and carrying out his awful plan after which he would arrange the death scene dramatically and vanish into the crowd, carrying at least some of his victims’ internal organs with him. All this, of course, was occurring on not untraveled nighttime streets in the early morning hours. The murders of Polly Ann Nicolas and Annie Chapman were similar in scope and execution
Although we must wait until our next episode to describe the grisly double murder that occurred three weeks later on September 30, 1888, we note that one of the woman who met her fate on September 30th had contacted one of the local newspapers shortly before she was murdered — claiming she knew for certain the identity of the Ripper.
Click below to read how Jack the Ripper’s first victim, Polly Ann Nicolas, met her grisly fate:
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