the Whitechapel murders
and Jack the Ripper
 


   

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?

 
Whitechapel murders home page



It is important to determine exactly how many murders were committed by the same killer, because correlating such information with the movements and availability of suspects can be very significant in determining their validity as a serial killer. I doubt that we shall ever know with certainty how many of the Whitechapel murders were the work of the same man, but this work is a reasonably objective attempt to do so. A detailed examination and tabulation of each of the murders is published in by ear and eyes and the following is a summary of the findings.
    
There were several murders in the Whitechapel district of London that were considered at the time to have been the work of Jack the Ripper and retrospective investigations since then have drawn several more into the frame. Many were discounted at the time and some subsequently, but without a benchmark against which to judge each killing, it is more a matter of subjective rather than objective decision making. With so many murders under consideration at one time or another there would inevitably be an overlap of circumstances between some deaths purely on the basis of chance. It remains almost certain that at least one serial killer was in operation in Whitechapel at the turn of the nineteenth century.
    
The newspapers of the day revealed far too much information about the details of the murders, giving rise to an increasing risk of copycat killings and a decreasing certainly of correctly ascribing the murders to a series. At the time the p
olice did the best they could, considering the limited range of forensic techniques available, but the enduring question remains; exactly how many murders can be attributed to the same serial killer? Did the serial killer start by killing or did he work up to his first murder with a few failed attempts? 
    
I have exercised some discretion regarding certain aspects of the medical evidence. There have been some contradictions among the expert medical testimony, even to the point of rivalry between Drs Phillips and Bond. Such is quite unhelpful and their differences seemed to escalate as more potential Ripper victims were investigated. The function of each of these doctors was to provide a factual account of what they saw and to give an informed opinion as to what they thought had happened. Any opinion, informed or otherwise, is unavoidably subjective and, since the doctors were not subjected to an intense or vigorous cross-examination, much has come to depend upon a few words of interpretation and just occasionally the medical professionals were inclined to be a little too specific on the basis of not much fact. In some instances speculation has become fact and an educated guess elevated a detail upon which further interpretation may pivot. 
     Throughout the testimonies there are contradictions, confusion, and unjustified interpretation regarding the origins of discolouration, bruises, and abrasions; the position of the victim when the wounds are inflicted; the time of death, and even the handedness if the killer. But this was even more an inexact science then than it is now, and latitude has to be allowed. Throughout this exercise I have tried to exclude those interpretations that involve the most conjecture.  


A comparison of characteristics for each of the remaining Whitechapel murder victims

 

Details of the remaining Whitechapel murders, those of Smith, Tabram, Mylett, McKenzie, and Coles, have been matched with the components of the serial killerís suggested modus operandi. In addition, I have examined the details of the murder of Emily Dimmock - The Camden Town Murder victim - to see whether or not the circumstances of her death fit with those of the other victims. Dimmock has been included here because of assertions that she was another victim of Jack the Ripper.

The remaining Whitechapel murder, that of the unknown female torso (10.09.1889), must be excluded without further consideration because so little information is available on the victim and the circumstances of her death. There were reported abdominal mutilations but this alone is insufficient to justify the inclusion of this victim in the series. Several other murders and incidents have been reported as occurring in the area over a three year span from the autumn of 1888 and these have also been excluded from this evaluation due to insufficient information. One imagines that had the police considered any of these to have Ripper associations then they would have received a rather higher profile than was actually the case.

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Who's in and who's out?

 

It was immediately apparent from an overview of the tabulated findings that the murders of Emma Smith, Martha Tabram, and Rose Mylett share very few components with those of the serial killer; the most significant being the mode of death. Important components are absent and there are several contra indications. On balance I believe that the Ripper committed none of these three murders. The murder of Emily Dimmock is similarly dismissed on the grounds that there is insufficient overlap with the techniques employed in the serial killings. Significantly in this instance the killer had plenty of time yet there were no mutilations to Dimmockís body. If the killer had time to wash his hands after the murder then he had time to mutilate; an opportunity that the Ripper would not have missed. For more details of The Camden Town Murder readers should visit John Barber's excellent site linked at the foot of this page.    

The murders of Alice McKenzie (far left) and Frances Coles do, however, share many components with the Ripper murders. If one also considers that the killer may have been disturbed on both occasions, and before he could perform extensive mutilation, then the circumstances of both murders are little different from that of Elizabeth Stride. In other words, if the murders of McKenzie and Coles are excluded from the series then so too must the murder of Stride. There are inevitably components that do not fit although the significance of these is uncertain. Although both women were murdered by the time Macnaghten wrote his memorandum, neither was included in his 'canonical' list of victims.

There is no doubt that had the killer opened the abdomen of McKenzie and Coles then they would have been regarded as victims of the Ripper. That they did not suffer such mutilation could be because the killer was disturbed before he could proceed to that stage or because he was not the Ripper and had no intention to mutilate. It is of course very difficult to positively identify these two women as Ripper victims because of what did not happen, but certainly, neither can be excluded as victims of the same serial killer. There is also the matter of timing; the murder of McKenzie occurred 10 months after Eddowes was found dead and Coles was killed nineteen months after McKenzie. Serial killers can be unpredictable in the frequency of their crimes and variations can fluctuate with impulse or can be governed by external factors such as being incarcerated in mental hospital or prison, being abroad, or being otherwise unavailable.  
    
Based purely on an objective evaluation of the data provided from expert witness testimony relating to the crime scene and post mortem findings it appears that six of the eleven Whitechapel murders had sufficient characteristics in common to indicate that they may have been performed by the same man.

The likely victims are:

Name

Date murdered 

Mary Ann Nichols

31.08.1988

Annie Chapman

08.09.1988

Elizabeth Stride

30.09.1988

Catharine Eddowes

30.09.1988

Alice McKenzie

17.07.1889

Frances Coles

13.02.1891

Significantly it would appear that the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, the most publicised of all the Whitechapel murders, was probably the work of an imitator. Emily Dimmock was never seriously considered as being a Ripper victim and this examination of the data supports the general impression that she was killed by someone else.   

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Post mortem images reproduced by kind permission of the Metropolitan Police

The Camden Town Murder 


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