Thurrock Local History Society Lecture 24 February 2017
Jack the Ripper by Susan Yates
At our February meeting our Chairman Susan Yates gave us a riveting illustrated lecture on Jack the Ripper. The murders took place in Whitechapel over a three month period in 1888. It was a scary time in east London where the lowest of the low lived, renting a bed for 2d or 4d by the night. They had no possessions and only owned the clothes they stood up in. Other murders occurred in the area about the same time and the Ripper’s victims could be as many as 12. Miss Yates concentrated on just six.
Martha Tabram was married with children, but had a troubled relationship. She told trinkets and was also a prostitute. She was last seen leaving the Angel & Crown just before midnight on August 6 and although neighbours heard cries of “murder” in the small hours this was ignored as there were often such cries. Her exposed body was found in George Yard Buildings early the next morning and had been stabbed 39 times.
Mary Ann (or Polly) Nichols also had children from a failed marriage. She slept rough and was an alcoholic and prostitute. In the early hours of 31 August she left a pub in Brick Lane and needed to money for a bed for the night. She was found about 4am by a cart driver who called the police. Her throat had been cut and there were also several severe wounds to her exposed body. She was identified by a laundry mark on her petticoat.
Annie Chapman, also married with children, was depressed after her husband died. She earned some income from crochet work, selling flowers and prostitution. She was found in Hanbury Street on 8 September and had been murdered in a similar way to Polly Nichols, giving rise to the idea of a serial killer with anatomical knowledge. A newspaper described the murderer as “Jack the Ripper”.
Swedish born Elizabeth Stride was next. She left her husband and subsequent partner and earned some income from sewing and housecleaning. Her body was discovered early on 30 September in Dutfield’s Yard. Her throat had been slit and was still bleeding, suggesting that the killer had been interrupted before he could carry out further injuries.
Catherine Eddowes (aka Conway or Kelly) was found dead in Mitre Square less than an hour later, within walking distance from where Elizabeth Stride was murdered. Her face and abdomen were greatly cut about, again maybe the work of a slaughterer.
The final victim was Mary Jane Kelly, maybe Irish, and had lived with various men. Her severely mutilated body was found lying on the bed of her lodgings in Millers Court on the morning of 9 November.
Most of the victims were buried secretly and despite massive police investigation no one was ever charged. It was suggested the killer was left-handed and many suspects were put forward, even the Duke of Clarence. Others were Polish born George Chapman who was a serial killer, Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish Polish emigrant, Thomas Cutbush a medical student, Walter Sickert a painter, assistant schoolteacher Montague Druitt, American born herb-doctor Francis Tumblety and James Maybrick a cotton merchant. Perhaps we will never know who the real killer was, the debate continues.
This was a well researched lecture, accompanied by maps and gory illustrations, painting a graphic picture of Whitechapel in the 1880s.
Our next meeting is at 8.00pm at the Adult Community College, Richmond Road, Grays on Friday 17 March when our speaker will be Philip Edgar, entitled “The History of Grays”. Visitors are very welcome.