From the 31st of August to November 9th of 1888 the women of London’s Whitechapel neighborhood were being hunted. Using the cover of night a man with a long knife stalked the cobblestone alleys looking for ladies of evening as prey. Five women Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly would all be the five commonly accepted victims of killer that would become known as Jack the Ripper. While other murders have been attributed to the ripper the 5 above cases were all extremely similar and took place close enough together that investigators at the time felt they were looking the work of one person. While Jack was never caught many have tried to discover who this psycho really was but unfortunately we still can’t put a name to the monster.

London in 1890

So with all the myths and theories about him what do we actually know about jack? Well it was at this time that psychology and criminology were both in their infancy but the ripper case interestingly is the first known case of criminal profiling we have. Thomas Bond who was the police surgeon at the time and who conducted the autopsies on all the victims had this the say “All five murders no doubt were committed by the same hand. In the first four the throats appear to have been cut from left to right, in the last case owing to the extensive mutilation it is impossible to say in what direction the fatal cut was made, but arterial blood was found on the wall in splashes close to where the woman’s head must have been lying. All the circumstances surrounding the murders lead me to form the opinion that the women must have been lying down when murdered and in every case the throat was first cut.” He also supposed that unlike later profiles the man had no surgical skills and was most likely a sadist.

Jack the Ripper like most serial killers followed a pretty strict pattern often called a signature by professional profilers. All of his victims where female prostitutes, four of them were in their forties and they all had medium to long brown hair. The victims were killed by two slashes to the throat with a long knife and four of the victims had their organs removed. The bodies were all discovered early in the morning meaning the killings took place during the night. While later investigators would assume some medical knowledge Bond a surgeon of the time felt the cuts were crude enough for that not to be the case. In fact the detectives of the London police thought the killer might have been actually a butcher and started looking into the alibies of all the local meat cutters in the area. All of his victims being women four of which had their wombs removed though none being raped seems to point to someone who had very strong hatred for women. We can also assume the killer probably knew the area since he felt safe enough that no one would see him commit his crimes out in the open.

What police would have looked like at the time. Photo taken in the 1870’s

Far from being a criminal mastermind jack the ripper just got lucky. His rampage happened before anything even resembling modern forensics existed. It would be 4 years until even finger printing was used for catching criminals. During the case the police of London were extremely understaffed and the lead homicide detective had just quit his job due to being over worked. A new lead detective would replace him but he too would have to leave his post for a while as the workload had affected his health. As all this was going on terrorists fighting for Irish independence had police resources even more stretched with regular bombings and had led to bad feelings between police and the media. While 3 pretty convincing letters would be sent police unfortunately modern experts now think they are all hoaxes maybe were launched by the media in an effort show police incompetence. It’s the lack of evidence that has allowed this monster to go unknown for so many years. It’s likely that had the London police had any of the tools and techniques or even just man power modern day police have access to Jack the Ripper would be just footnote in history.

While the myth of some crazed doctor in a trench coat hunting girls and then expertly toying with police might seem like good story it’s just a myth the real Jack was a man with a serious hatred for women who used his know of the area to attack 5 poor women in the night and just happened to do his crimes when the police were ill equipped catch him. While it might be fun to pay amateur sleuth we can’t forget that people like Jack are a reality still today.