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Jack the Ripper murdered 11 women, evidence now suggests

PUBLISHED: 00:01 08 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:06 05 October 2010

One of the Ripper's victims as portrayed in 1888 and (inset) the exhibition uncovering more victims

One of the Ripper's victims as portrayed in 1888 and (inset) the exhibition uncovering more victims

JACK THE RIPPER could have killed as many as 11 women, according to evidence about to be unveiled in the first-ever exhibition of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders using authentic Home Office and police documents. Visitors to the exhibition planned in London's Docklands will be shown seven more possible victims from Home Office papers

By Mike Brooke

JACK the Ripper could have killed as many as 11 women, according to evidence about to be unveiled.

The evidence is part of the first-ever major exhibition of the 1888 Whitechapel Murders using authentic Home Office and police documents.

The five 'known' East End prostitutes murdered that year are the most avidly followed killings of any crime in modern times.

Theorists and debaters can be found in every corner of the Globe.

More was written about Jack the Ripper at the time than any serial killings before or since. There have been more books and memoirs than almost any other subject.

But visitors to the Museum of Docklands in May will be confronted with no fewer than 11 case studies officially liked to the world's most notorious killer.

Another seven women murdered over three years between the autumn of 1888 and January 1891 are included.

The five 'known' victims of 1888 are well researched:

Emma Smith on April 3,

Mary Ann Nicholls on August 31,

Annie Chapman on September 8,

Elizabeth Stride on September 30,

Catherine Eddowes on September 30 and

Mary Jane Kelly on November 8.

"We always seem to focus on just these five," explains museum senior curator Alex Werner.

"But at the time the public had no idea how many women were killed.

"Any murder in Whitechapel was identified with the Ripper if there was a degree of mutilation.

"But we've found 11 murders in police files that were linked over a three-year period. That's what we have concentrated on."

He is anxious to bypass the "salacious speculation and the whodunit sleuthing" that has long crowded 'Ripperology' down the years.

"The coming of the telegraph made the Whitechapel Murders the first mass-reported crime around the world," Alex adds.

"The interest was global, so we want to give a sense of what people thought at the time."

The exhibition which is "more about the contemporary moral panic" looks at the human stories behind the 'penny dreadful' accounts.

It brings together surviving documents for the first time, including access to Home Office accounts, many it is claimed only recently coming into the public domain.

Documents on victims after 1888 have been stamped 'Whitechapel' by investigators of the day.

It was more to allay public panic that prompted the authorities at the time to formally ascribe just five killings to 'Jack the Ripper' who was never caught.

A sixth murder victim that year was Rose Mylett, whose body was discovered on September 20 in Poplar, three miles from Whitechapel. So she never 'made the headlines' as one of the 'Whitechapel' murders.

The following year, 1889, there were three more brutal slayings now thought to have been the work of The Ripper, including a headless torso discovered September 10 in Pinchin-street in Whitechapel.

That year, the body of Alice McKenzie was found on July 17 in Castle-alley, off Whitechapel High-street, followed by Martha Tabram nearby on August 7.

The last recorded victim linked in Home Office files to the Whitechapel Murders was Frances Coles, discovered on February 13, 1891.

One thing the exhibition avoids is retrospective speculation trying to identify Jack the Ripper.

It leaves that to the visitor, 120 years later, wandering from section to section looking at the news as it unfolded.

It aims to get the 21st century observer thinking about the lives of the women, the suspects and the investigators of 1888 Whitechapel.

But in reality, it will doubtless stimulate the debate for the next 120 years about who really was the world's most infamous killer.

mike.brooke@archant.co.uk

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Jack The Ripper and the East End runs May 15 to November 2 at the Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London.

Details online:

www.museumindocklands.org.uk.

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