Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Whitechapel Murders: Casefile Two

by Sian Latham

Casefile Two


Victim: Annie Chapman
Date of Death: 8th September, 1888
Age: 47


Suspect: Severin Klosowski (George Chapman)
Annie Chapman was found in the back garden of 29 Hanbury Street at 6 am. The Doctor arrived on scene at 6:30 am. Her neck bore an incision that reached right around the neck and was a jagged cut. There was a slight swelling to the face and the tongue protruded from the teeth but not the lips: both a sign of suffocation. The intestines had been removed and placed on the shoulder of the body, while the uterus, the bladder and the womb had all been removed and were not to be found near the body. All injuries, other than the neck incision had occurred after death.

The Doctor established that the blade had to be long, thin and extremely sharp in this case and had been used on both the neck and abdomen. The most likely instrument would have been one used by a medical man and would not be easy to get a hold of by the common man. The removal of the organs also showed great medical knowledge and skill by the accuracy of removal evident. This all suggested that the murder was a man with high medical knowledge and training.

Chapman had been married (her husband dying in 1885), had three children who lived with her father and had been living off an allowance sent by her husband until his death. Though not an alcoholic, she did drink and on the night of her death (not unlike Nicholls) had to go out to earn money for lodgings. However, in this case she was seen talking to a gentleman at 5:30 am near no. 29 Hanbury Street: the man’s face was not seen.
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Suspect: Severin Klosowski (George Chapman)
Suspected by: Inspector Frederick George Abberline
Age at time of murders: late 20s/early 30s
Occupation: Barber (qualified junior surgeon)


Klosowski qualified as a junior surgeon in Poland, 1887, and moved to London. He there married Lucy Baderski and began working at a Barber’s shop in the basement of White Hart pub, off Whitechapel High Street. The couple split, after moving to America briefly and then back, and then Klosowski became involved with a woman called Annie Chapman (not the victim) and after she left him, took the name George Chapman. He then claimed to have married Mary Spink, who died on Christmas Day 1897, then his next wife died on February 13th 1901. Chapman then married again and this wife died on 22nd October 1902. Her family grew suspicious and the bodies of his two previous wives were exhumed and traces of poison were found. Chapman was arrested, found guilty and put to death in April 1903. His crime and death brought him to the attention of the public as a possible suspect.

His arrival in London coincided with the beginning of the murders and then his departure to America coincided with the end to the murders ( and it was believed similar murders then started there).  On his arrival he also stayed in George Yard, which is where the first murder was committed. Also, his surgical training meant he possessed the knowledge that the police believed the murderer must have in order to remove organs with such precision. His willingness to commit violence towards women was also apparent after the trial and execution.

However, there is now debate over whether ‘Jack’ did have any medical knowledge and, though he did arrive in time with the murders, so did many other immigrants at the time. There also seems to be a lack of evidence for the similar murders committed in America that Aberline wrote of. The biggest criticism of Chapman as a suspect is that a man who was so violent towards women as is ‘Jack’ seems unlikely to then use poison as a means of killing his wives.
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The Letters:


An odd aspect of the Whitechapel case that many people seem unaware of is the number of letters received by the police from the public: either as hoaxes from the murderer, or as pieces of advice on how to apprehend the murderer. An estimated 700 were sent to the police by the public. However there were two sent before the craze began and both are worth noting. One was sent to Sir Charles Warren on the 24th of September. It was dismissed as a hoax but I have included a quotation of the letter for you to read below:

“I am in misery with nightmare I am the man who committed all these murders in the last six months… I done what I called slaughtered her… this is the knife that I done these murders with it is a small handle with a large long blade sharpe both sides”

What interest me about this letter is the lack of punctuation and poor grammar, the sketch that apparently accompanied the description of the weapon and the mention of murders over the last six months. Why six months, if the hoax is a reference to the recent murder of Mary Ann Nicholls and Annie Chapman?

However, the most iconic letter is referred to as the “Dear Boss” letter sent to the Central News agency and was published. The letter contained gloating and warnings such as that he wished to “get to work right away”. Yet, the most iconic part of the letter was his final dramatic line: the signature “Yours truly Jack the Ripper”. The letter was largely treated as a hoax by a journalist but it captured the minds of the time, thus began the nation's new pastime and the influx of letters began.

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