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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jack the Ripper Kills His First Victim, August 31, 1888

On August 31st, 1888, the murderer who would become known as Jack the Ripper murdered his first victim in the Whitechapel area of London. Possibly the most famous serial murderer of all time, Jack the Ripper's legend has grown over the past century to the point where it is now difficult to separate fiction from the facts of the case.

Whitechapel is a section of the East End of London, a part of the city then well-known for its poverty and roughness. It contained many narrow, dark streets where prostitutes plied their trade with little concern of arrest or harassment from the local police. With this laxity also came the knowledge that these ladies of the evening had little to rely on in the way of protection from abuse, murder and rape. When discussing Jack the Ripper, it is important to remember that his crimes did not become famous strictly because they were serial murders; they became infamous because of their brutality. Violence towards prostitutes and even murder were not uncommon in the East End during the 19th century, so were it not for a few important distinctions it is possible that Jack the Ripper's crimes would have been considered run-of-the-mill crimes of passion.

Although we will never know for sure, it is theorized that Jack the Ripper killed five women, all of them prostitutes or alleged to be so. However, there are at least 12 additional women who may have fallen prey to his brutality. Little was known about the habits of serial killers in the 19th century and many forensics techniques that are common today were unknown then. Jack the Ripper's methods, though perverse enough to not be described in detail here, were not mechanically crude. It has been theorized that the murderer may have worked as a surgeon or butcher.

In September, 1888, police were searching the area of a recent murder when they found a bloodstained piece of clothing in an alleyway. Written nearby in white chalk was a message that appeared to have come from someone who was only semi-literate. The message seemed to be anti-Semitic in nature, although it is unclear how this had any bearing on the victims. Did Jack the Ripper leave a clue? We will never know, although it is possible that the scrap of cloth and the graffiti have no connection other than coincidental placement.

During Jack the Ripper's killing spree, local papers and police received a flood of letters from people who had leads or who claimed to be the killer. Three letters received serious attention, although the first one is the most believable. It was sent to the Central News Agency on September 25, 1888 and introduced the name "Jack the Ripper" to the world. Police published the letter on October 1st in the hope that someone would recognize writing style or handwriting. While nothing substantial came to light, subsequent letters copied the original's style and penmanship, making it difficult to know if more authentic letters were received.

Murders of the style of Jack the Ripper became scarce after 1889, so it is assumed that around that time the murderer moved on, died, or quit before the investigation pointed in his direction. Several men who either lived in or frequented the Whitechapel area were brought in for questioning, but all had alibis for their location during the first five murders. Modern investigators have generated more suspects, but since all of them (and any potential witnesses) have been dead for many years, conclusive proof is impossible to find.

An industry has sprung up around several conspiracy theories involving the British royal family, including one that Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria, was Jack the Ripper. These theories all suffer from lapses of a factual nature. As intriguing as this case remains, it is fairly certain that the identity of Jack the Ripper will never be known.


nomzam said...

Jack the Ripper Tour is a famous murderer story where millions of people investigated about this character. Now my suspense is cleared I was searching when he did his first murder. I have one more confusion why he was just interested in women what is the secret behind all this like any mental problem or he was insane.

jackjack said...

Yes, 1888 was the year when jack the ripper struck many times, again and again. Aaah! unlucky victims.