The night of September 30th, 1888 was one of drinking and unexpected horror, bad timing and a night that cemented the infamous Jack the Ripper into the minds of people all over the world, even today – 128 years later. On this fateful evening, the notorious serial killer killed not just one, but two unsuspecting victims in London’s Whitechapel, in, what is now referred to as The Double Event.
In the century or so that has passed since Jack the Ripper reigned terror over the East End of London, he has become something of a notorious figure. Anyone old enough to tell you such tales will know of Jack the Ripper; the serial killer that got away with multiple murders in the 19th century. There have been books, films, and plays about the murderer, along with walking Jack the Ripper tours, like ours, throughout what is known as his London “playground.” But the effect of this celebrity-like status, is that people often forget what a truly terrifying monster he really was.
There are so many mentions of The Ripper in literature and other forms of entertainment over the past century that many people still believe he was a fictional figure. Indeed, the Jack the Ripper tale sounds like it was lifted from the pages of a book, but alas, he stalked his prey in an all too real London, and his crimes were far from make believe.
The Double Event began with Elizabeth Stride, who was discovered at 1 am on September 30th in an alleyway at Dutfield’s Yard, in the pitch black, dark of the night. It is believed that the Ripper was disturbed during his attempted mutilation of Stride, as, just a mere 45 minutes later, he had struck again just around the corner. Catherine Eddowes was found at 1.45am, this time, Jack was uninterrupted and after slitting her throat, he inflicted wounds to her face and stomach, whilst removing her intestines and various other internal organs.
Described as quiet, Elizabeth Stride was born in Sweden and moved to London in her 20s. She made a living by sewing and occasionally ventured into the life of prostitution when money was tight, as was the way in 19th century London. At the time, there were more than 1200 prostitutes and over 60 brothels in the area, so it was a guaranteed income, of sorts.
Liz had a few run-ins with the police and was detained for being drunk and disorderly on a number of occasions. After she had begun drinking, her relationships became stormy until she eventually moved out – during the very week she died.
The night she was killed, she was seen with a number of men believed to have been customers, and was last seen with a man wearing a hat and carrying a large package, just after 12.30am.
Louis Diemschutz was attempting to make his way through the yard in the pitch black when his pony became startled. He lit a match and saw Stride’s still warm body, fresh blood flowing from the neck. The pony would not settle, and Diemschutz went on to say he believed the killer was still in the yard when he discovered the body.
Catherine Eddowes was born in Wolverhampton and moved around working wherever she could with her husband Thomas Conway before they settled in London with their three children. She began drinking heavily soon after this move, resulting in the breakdown of her marriage. She took up accommodation with John Kelly in Whitechapel, where she frequently turned to prostitution to get by. The area was awash with robbery and violence, and alcohol dependency was widespread.
On the night of September 30th, Catherine was out drinking and on the lookout for clients in Whitechapel. She was so heavily intoxicated by 8.30pm, that she was taken into custody to sober up, before being released at 1 am. It is believed that she opted to continue her search for customers instead of heading home, and ended up in Mitre Square.
Witnesses state they saw Eddowes in conversation with a man wearing a hat, in the shadows at approximately 1.30am.She was next seen at 1.45am by PC Edward Watkins; mutilated and deceased. Catherine died from her throat being slit. The horrific mutilations to her face, body and organs were inflicted after her death but were undertaken with flourish and design. She was still warm when she was found.
There was a scrap of her apron found just 500m away in Goulston Street, accompanied by some graffiti on the wall, seemingly painted in blood. The police decided to destroy this evidence in fear of Jewish uprising, due to the nature of what was written.
The Mind of a Killer
Not only was Jack the Ripper extremely lucky in escaping the murder scene of Elizabeth Stride unseen, but he then went on to kill Catherine Eddowes just 45 minutes later, again, going unnoticed.
The unsettling notion that the Ripper needed to fulfil the mutilation aspect of his killing ritual goes to show the sort of person that he was. His extensive knowledge of the human anatomy along with his skills with a knife were that of someone with experience and, indeed, mean that while the victims may have been selected at random, his modus operandi was premeditated and well thought out.
So, while notoriety has transformed Jack the Ripper into something of a legend, it is important to note that he was a seriously devious and violent serial killer. He was simply smart enough to elude the police and become one of history’s most mysterious killers.
Want to know more about the victims, crimes and suspects? Join us on our Jack the Ripper tour – it runs daily from Aldgate East exit 3 at 7.30pm, next to the front door of Whitechapel art gallery, so book your tickets now and immerse yourself in the mystery.