Monday, 9 February 2015

The Whitechapel Murders: An Introduction

by Sian Latham

On August 31st 1888, Mary Ann Nicholls’ body was found in the Whitechapel area of London. The body was merely filed as another murder in the Whitechapel collection by the police. Unbeknownst to them, the case would soon join four others in a case file that 127 years later would still stump and fascinate people across the world. 

To the day, debates rage over numerous suspects (some outlandish and some fairly persuasive), which murders were committed by the lone killer and the flimsy evidence that fails to make any reliable case for or against anything. Perhaps you know which murders I refer to, by mention of the official name ‘Whitechapel Murders’; many of you won’t. However, a letter sent to the media at the start of the investigation signed “Jack the Ripper” was the document which gave an infamous name to the famous murderer.  

At the time of the murders, prostitution was legal and crime in the area of the murders was high. Gang crime was a regular occurrence, the abuse and murder of prostitutes a regretful norm and police investigation was limited: criminology and forensic investigation were still in their infancy. Thus five murders were committed and the murderer got away with it. The question that remains, and fascinates so many people around the world, is not so much who did it, but rather, will we ever know?

Yet, though this killer’s deeds are known across the world (as they were at the time as well), very few people seem to to know a great deal about the reality of the case. People have become ‘enamoured’ with the mythical portrayal of the events, as if they weren’t historical facts but rather a gruesome story with which to entertain people.

In all honesty, how many could tell me that only prostitutes were killed? Or what the main piece of evidence was? Or the names of the biggest suspects of the time? If you were or are able to, perhaps it should have been you writing this article because only my research has gained me such knowledge. That is the aim of this piece and the six to follow in the ‘Ripper Week’ sequence: to enlighten everyone about the reality of the myth. Each day an article will be published on this blog entailing details on: one victim, one of the suspects at the time and another piece of information relative to the case. Perhaps by the end of the week you will have your own theory, or suspect, as to who is Jack.

Join me, this week, as I reveal the truth of Whitechapel’s shady corners in the Autumn of 1888.  

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