Chip shop takes on ‘Whitechapel Murders’ theme where Jack the Ripper taunted police
- Credit: Mike Pattison
A fish’n’chip shop in London’s East End has had a traditional makeover and been turned into an historic memorial to the victims of Jack the Ripper—at the spot where the Victorian serial killer taunted police with a message chalked on a wall.
Scotland Yard historian Lindsay Siviter was invited by the Whitechapel Society to unveil a plaque on the wall of Happy Days restaurant in Goulston Street where the Ripper is known to have scrawled graffiti on the night of two of his killings on September 30, 1888.
The restaurant is part of an old block of flats, one of the few remaining buildings still surviving from that era.
It is built over what used to be the entrance to Wentworth Dwellings, where the Ripper dumped an apron belonging to one of his victims that night, before daubing his macabre message.
“This doorway is special—its where Jack the Ripper is known to have been after the murders,” Lindsay explained.
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“This is where Constable Alfred Long found a piece of apron in the doorway at 2.55am that night, which belonged to Catharine Eddowes who was mutilated in Mitre Square nearby just an hour before—and it’s where he scrawled his message in white chalk.”
The scribbled writing, appearing to accuse the East End’s Jewish community at the time, was never photographed.
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Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren arrived at the scene in Goulston Street and immediately ordered it to be rubbed off the wall to prevent the threat of a race riot.
But Lindsay, 37, an historian at Scotland Yard’s crime museum, believes it was a lost opportunity.
“A crime scene nowadays would be sealed off,” she said. “But it was different in the pre-forensic world of 1888. It was a matter of public order.
“How sad that Sir Charles didn’t even wait for the photographer to arrive.
“Just a few more minutes and we could have had an authentic photograph of the handwriting that might have solved the murders. It could have been compared in detail to hundreds of letters sent to police, including many hoaxes, but among them some genuine.
“It was one of the biggest missed opportunities in police history.”
The restaurant refit by owner Michael Papastavrou includes a representation of the words the Ripper scrawled on the wall, in handwriting close to the style of the time, placed on the spot where the dwelling entrance once stood, now part of his chippie.
Criticis may have doubts about his motive for turning his chip shop into a themed ‘Whitechapel Murders’ restaurant.
But Michael, 63, insists: “It’s in tribute to the victims. A lot of people told me when I was planning it that it won’t be tasteful.
“But there are no pictures of the Ripper or even the mutilations of his victims.”
The theme pays homage, instead, to the five women known to have been victims of the Whitechapel Murders between August and November, 1888.
“Tourists and schools come here, hundreds a day,” Michael added. “They stand outside and talk about the doorway. So I have put up a plaque on the spot where Jack the Ripper scrawled his message.”
Michael bought the restaurant premises in 1981 and didn’t realise its significance.
“I found out by chance about Jack the Ripper being here,” he recalls. “I was working late at night on my own when I first bought the premises when the police came knocking on the shutters at 11pm asking what I was doing here.
“I explained I was decorating, ready to open as a café, and they asked if I knew story of what had happened here in 1888.
“They enlightened me and showed me where the graffiti was and I realised this was history—I knew about Jack the Ripper, but had no idea this is where he scrawled his message.”
The reopening was timed to coincide with publication of ‘The Little Book of Jack the Ripper’ (History Press, £10), with contributions from 11 expert authors.
The book was launched by the Whitechapel Society last week at The Official Jack the Ripper memorabilia store in nearby Toynbee Street.
It was launched on the anniversary of the double murders of Lizzie Stride in Berner Street and Cathy Eddowes in Mitre Square on September 30, 1888, two of the known five victims in that summer of terror 126 years ago.