Crime reporter Peter Stubley uncovers the 1888 murders Jack the Ripper didn’t do

PUBLISHED: 00:01 16 September 2012 | UPDATED: 08:52 19 September 2012

1888... Cartoon in Punch, October 13, taking a shot at police

1888... Cartoon in Punch, October 13, taking a shot at police

Peter Stubley book promo

The Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 in London’s East End is literally only half the story, a new book this week reveals.

Three unsolved murders of East End prostitutes in 1888 not attributed to the Ripper:

Emma Smith, 45, beaten, gang-raped and robbed in Osborn Street, Whitechapel, near Wentworth Street, early hours of April 3. Blunt object used internally, rupturing her peritoneum. Emma manages to explain before dying the following day from internal injuries that she had been attacked by three men. Murder unsolved.

Martha Tabram, 39, stabbed 39 times in George Yard Buildings, off George Yard (now Gunthorpe Street), Spitalfields, early hours of August 7. Last seen walking off with a soldier. Her friend points out two soldiers, but they have alibis. Murder unsolved.

Rose Mylett, 29, found dead in Clarke’s Yard, Poplar, between 184 and 186 Poplar High Street, on December 20.

Signs of being strangled by a ligature around the neck, but Metropolitan Assistant Police Commissioner Sir Robert Anderson convinced it is natural causes. Nevertheless, inquest jury returns verdict of wilful murder, unsolved.

The five known Whitechapel Murders from August to November that year by the Ripper were matched by another six—all women—who were not attributed to the infamous serial killer.

Another eight people died violently by manslaughter in the East End, all but one being women.

Now crime reporter Peter Stubley depicts the killings that went largely unnoticed because of the headlines of the day chasing the Ripper.

These ‘other’ murders were in Spitalfields, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Bow and the Isle of Dogs.

Other East End murders, 1888:

Hannah Potzdamer, 21, murdered on February 1 by husband Abraham, 25, outside 147 Backchurch Lane (now White Church Lane), Whitechapel. Hannah had left him and moved in with a bootmaker in Backchurch Lane. Abraham waits for her to leave the house and slits her throat, then cuts his own throat when confronted by a policeman.

Susan Barrell, 42, shot dead in the early hours of July 2 by husband Robert at the pub they run, Bancroft Arms in Moody Street, Mile End. Robert, suffering from delirium tremens, also shoots himself. Both found dead that morning by their eldest daughter, but none of their four children asleep in the house hear gunshots.

Elizabeth Bartlett, 56, battered and stabbed to death in the early hours of August 19 by husband Levi—known locally as ‘Mad Dick’—at their home above their general store at 248 Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs. A witness tells Old Bailey, “Several times I have seen him come up with an unmeaning grin on his face, put his arms round the horse’s mouth and kiss it.” Bartlett had spent most of the day arguing with his wife who refused to give him money for drink. He is hanged on November 13—the only man executed in 1888.

But look through the popular broadsheets of the day and you would be hard pressed to find a murder that didn’t have a ‘Jack the Ripper’ tag.

Peter, who has been covering murder trials at the Old Bailey for the past 10 years, turned his interest into a passion and spent hours at the Metropolitan Archives pouring over old Scotland Yard reports from Victorian London.

“The general idea was to show life and death in 1888 by looking at all the murder and manslaughter cases that year,” he told the Advertiser.

“Apart from the five ‘Ripper’ victims, there were three other unsolved murders of prostitutes in 1888 which are well known to Ripperologists.

Peter Stubley at scene oof first 1888 murderPeter Stubley at scene oof first 1888 murder

“There’s still a debate going on about who is and isn’t a victim of Jack the Ripper.”

Newspapers at the time were selling like hot cakes, including the East London Advertiser, every time the mysterious killer struck which caught the public’s imagination. ‘Domestic’ murders hardly seem to get a look in, Peter has found.

“Most killers were not shadowy figures stalking the streets of Whitechapel with a lust for blood,” he tells you.

“Many are ordinary people driven to the ultimate crime by circumstance, a fit of anger or a desire for revenge.

“Their crimes have been largely ignored, forgotten or written off, overshadowed by the Ripper that year.”

But the Yorkshire-born journalist is now putting it to rights with his ‘1888: London Murders in the Year of the Ripper’, out this week which examines the alternative killings of this notorious period of Victorian London.

He builds a picture of a violent society and brings to light the forgotten violence on the streets, looking at the victims, how they lived and ultimately how they died, using case studies of all homicide and manslaughter that year.

It is a vivid picture of life and death during the Ripper’s reign of terror, with evocative illustrations and drawings from the locations of the murders.

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