the Whitechapel murders
and Jack the Ripper

Between the years of 1888 and 1891 eleven prostitutes were murdered in the Whitechapel area of East London. Similarities between five of these murders in the autumn of 1888 linked them to the serial killer known as 'Jack the Ripper'. This is part of an objective and detailed assessment of the facts surrounding the murders as compiled from crime scene and post mortem data. Some of the information presented here is taken from By Ear and Eyes, a book that substantially investigates each of the Whitechapel murders, and examines the characteristics of the killer and his methodology with a critical appraisal of each of the popular suspects. The findings suggest that the same serial killer may have been responsible for six and not five of the Whitechapel murders and that Mary Jane Kelly, the most publicised of all victims, was probably killed by an imitator.

the Whitechapel murders - site structure

Site Home Page


A brief introduction - this page


The parish of Whitechapel: prostitution and the victims of murder 
  • Whitechapel and prostitution 
  • The Whitechapel murders
  • The victims of Jack the Ripper
An interpretation of the crime scene and post mortem data: 
  • The components of the characteristic 'signature' of the serial killer 
  • The approach and wounding of the victims 
  • What type of knife used by the killer? 
  • Was the serial killer skilled in anatomy or dissection? 

How many of the Whitechapel murders can be attributed to Jack the Ripper?

  • A comparison of the characteristics of the remaining Whitechapel murders with those regarded as components of the killers signature 

  • Who's in and who's out?

Mary Jane Kelly
  • Was it Mary Jane Kelly who was murdered in 13 Miller's Court?
  • At what time was Mary Jane Kelly attacked?
  • What happened in 13 Miller's Court?
  • Was Mary Jane Kelly another victim of 'Jack the Ripper'?
  • Cutthroat - an article by the author on the neck wounds of each of the canonical an other Whitechapel murder victims
Additional links and resources
  • Cutthroat - an article by the author on the neck wounds of each of the canonical an other Whitechapel murder victims
  • Medico-legal aspects of the Victorian autopsy - 1893
  • A detailed description of autopsy procedure - 1892
  • Additional links

by ear and eyes -  read the experts reviews

The Book of the Crimes

by ear and eyes

"abounds with discoveries and fresh interpretations"

An essential text on the Whitechapel murders that deals with the facts; an important addition to your collection.

"very strongly recommended"

Victorian post mortem procedure (1892) - New!
Medico-legal aspects and modes of dying (1893) - New!
Cutthroat - Ripperologist article detailing the neck wounds to the Whitechapel murder victims - New!

A brief introduction


The Whitechapel Murders and those of Jack the Ripper are not generally one and the same. Over a period of three years towards the end of the nineteenth century a number of prostitutes were murdered under different circumstances – the murder of prostitutes was not an especially unique occurrence during those times but several of the murders drew particular attention on account of the savagery with which the victim’s bodies were mutilated. Within the Whitechapel Murders there was a group that demonstrated sufficient similarities to suggest that they were committed by the same person. One of the first well-documented instances of serial murder was thus identified and sensationalised in the media as the work of ‘Jack the Ripper’, nicknamed on the strength of a hoax letter sent to the Central News Agency and claiming responsibility for the killings. Jack the Ripper was a man, and the killer surely was a man, who did not have the intention to merely kill his victims; he needed to mutilate them. Such was the savagery of his attacks and the enthusiasm of the press, that he successfully terrorised the environs of Whitechapel in East London for several years. In spite of an extensive investigation of the killings, Jack the Ripper was never apprehended nor convincingly identified.
     The Ripper murders were conducted against a backdrop of appalling deprivation and unimaginable poverty among the poor of East London. The advent of industrialisation resulted in widespread unemployment and with no social support other than from charities many people could afford neither food nor lodgings. The employment situation was even worse for women and it is little wonder that many had no alternative but to resort to prostitution as a source of income.
     The newspapers of the day were as colourful and inaccurate in much of their editorial reporting as the police forensic investigations were limited through lack of investigative techniques. Even the identification of bodies was dependent largely upon facial recognition, distinguishing marks, or papers on the corpse. Misidentification of bodies, either by accident or design, especially those subject to decomposition and including the very many corpses pulled from the Thames, must have been commonplace.
     Fingerprinting techniques were still being developed; a classification scheme appeared in 1901 and first used in a trial in the UK in 1902. Dental records were non-existent and blood grouping only developed after the identification of the different types in 1901. From that it became possible to serologically identify other body fluids. DNA was not discovered until 1953 and the unique identification of individuals by DNA profiling did not follow until 1985. In 1910, an important principle of forensic science was established by Edmund Locard who suggested that every contact leaves a trace; a criminal will always carry away with him some trace from the scene of the crime and will leave behind some trace of his presence. This is the very foundation of forensic science that has led to the development of ever more sophisticated techniques to detect increasingly minute traces of uniquely identifiable material. But those investigating the Whitechapel murders had the benefit of none of these techniques, so they did the best that they could. Unfortunately it was not sufficient at the time to lead to the arrest and conviction of the man responsible, but at least the investigators left behind a record of their findings and deliberations.
     Speculation inevitably outweighs fact by a considerable margin in an issue such as this but these pages are concerned only with the facts of the cases that were made available through newspaper reports of the inquests and public documents released at the time of the murders, or later by the National Archives. This is an attempt to unravel the tangle by an objective and empirical examination of information from crime scene and post mortem examination of the victims. Pre-digested information such as speculative newspaper reports, and statements from witnesses other than those called in a professional capacity have been avoided since theirs is largely subjective testimony that confounds more than it informs. The full details of this exercise have now been published in a book entitled By Ear and Eyes and much of the interpretation on these pages is based upon the extensive and revised tabulations of all data relevant to the murders as presented in the book. 
     I have not attempted to identify a named suspect and in the course of an objective appraisal it is quite wrong to start with a suspect and then attempt to make the facts fit as so many investigators have done. Such an approach unavoidably leads to a skewed interpretation.


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