The Whitechapel Murders are a series of unsolved killings that were committed in and around the impoverished area of Whitechapel, in the East End of London, between 3rd April 1888 and 13th February 1891. Many researchers and historians believe that at least five of the murders were committed by an individual who became known as Jack the Ripper. These victims are known as ‘the Canonical Five’.
Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly make up the Canonical Five, but some historians claim that the true number of Jack the Ripper victims is higher.
Mary Ann Nichols is believed to be the first Jack the Ripper victim, and Mary Jane Kelly is considered to be the last, but with the identity of the assailant still unknown to this day, he could have continued killing elsewhere, so who knows who Jack the Ripper’s last victim really was? Maybe his first victim wasn’t Mary Ann Nichols.
As part of our casebook of Jack the Ripper victims, we have included potential Ripper victims, as well as those unanimously believed to have met their demise at the hands of the anonymous killer. We’ve compiled information about the lives of the victims, as well as photos to put a face to the names of those who so brutally met their ends.
Below, you can find all the information you need about the Canonical Five, as well as some of Jack the Ripper's other potential victims so you can draw your own conclusions as to just how prolific the unknown serial killer really was.
Although she is not one of the Canonical Five, Martha Tabram was considered to be connected to the Jack the Ripper murders for a long time due to her identity and the nature of her murder. Found on 7th August 1888 on a landing in George Yard, Martha Tabram had 39 separate stab wounds, inflicted with two different weapons. The treatment matched that of other victims of Jack the Ripper bodies, as well as her position as a prostitute of Whitechapel, initially led to her death appearing to be connected to the Jack the Ripper murders. However, a later discovery in the mid-20th Century resulted in a general consensus that she was unlikely to be the first Jack the Ripper victim.
Emma Smith was the earliest recorded victim in the Whitechapel murder files, having died on 4th April 1888 in London Hospital. She lived on George Street, Spitalfields, and was generally known to be a prostitute, though there was much mystery surrounding her life. Emma died from peritonitis, the rupturing and inflammation of the tissue inside the abdomen. Her death was caused by a brutal attack on the evening of Easter Monday on 2nd April, kicking off the Whitechapel Murders that spanned from 1888 to 1891.
42-year-old Mary Ann Nichols was found dead on 31st August 1888, with her throat slit near a stable yard next to the Board School. With a chequered past filled with a broken marriage and five children, Mary Ann Nichols lived a troubled life as a prostitute and resident of Thrawl Street. She had been working the streets for many years and likely was on the night of her death. Upon investigation, her throat had been cut multiple times to the spine, one having penetrated the spine, along with brutally savage abdominal injuries. Her death caused much speculation in the media and she would later be known as the first of the Canonical Five Jack the Ripper victims.
Annie Chapman was a 47-year-old woman living on 29 Hanbury Street, pushed into a life of flower crocheting to try and make ends meet, resorting to prostitution when times were hard. She was found dead on the stone steps leading from the back door of her three-storey Hanbury Street home, which housed 17 people. Chapman was discovered by another resident of the property at 6am - throat cut and body mutilated. Her death caused hysteria both from the media and in the East End, leading to challenging times for the Metropolitan Police.
Elizabeth Stride was a Swedish-native with a history of prostitution before she moved to London using the inheritance money from her mother’s death. She began a fairly good life in London before things fell apart in her marriage and she resorted to prostitution again, which is likely what she was doing on the night of her death, 29th September 1888. Stride was found dead next door to a Jewish anarchist club with a slit throat but no other mutilations, a fact which caused some to doubt Jack the Ripper’s involvement. However, the freshness of the corpse led many to believe that the Ripper had simply been interrupted before finishing his work.
46-year-old Catherine Eddowes was another East End Jack the Ripper victim with a difficult marriage in her past which fell apart, likely due to her drinking problem or her ex-husband’s violent tendencies. Eddowes died in the early hours of 30th September 1888, in a quiet corner of Mitre Square. Reports from locals tracked her movements quite accurately, with reports of her talking to a man only ten minutes before she was found dead. Her body was found viciously mutilated and her death sparked the theory that the Ripper had surgical experience, having removed organs from her body, though this is still hotly debated.
Mary Jane Kelly is generally considered to be the final Jack the Ripper victim. She had a fairly mysterious past and at the age of 25, was the youngest of the Ripper’s victims by far. Kelly’s death was particularly violent - her body was found inside her home in Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, mutilated beyond recognition, with multiple body parts removed and placed around the room. Her death caused an uproar in the community with crowds forming at her funeral and she is by far the most famous of the Ripper’s victims, as well as the most investigated throughout the years.
Whilst it’s widely agreed that Annie Farmer wasn’t attacked by Jack the Ripper, at the time of her attack, not even 48 hours after Mary Jane Kelly’s brutal murder, there was much speculation. Annie Farmer was a 40-year-old divorcee who had taken to a life of prostitution to make ends meet. Upon meeting a man and taking him to a lodging-house in George Street, the man was seen running out of the building and Annie Farmer followed, claiming he had attacked her. Her wound was stitched, and she was taken to hospital, the media covering the incident as a potential new Ripper victim, though the police thought differently.
Catherine ‘Rose’ Mylett was 29 at the time of her death, nicknamed ‘Drunk Lizzie Davis’ due to her infamous drinking habits. On the night of her death in December 1888, she was last seen intoxicated with two men before being found in Clarke’s Yard at 4:15 am. Ultimately, her death and the inquest around it didn’t suggest that she was murdered by Jack the Ripper, but it did demonstrate the poor communication within the police force, a common issue that would continue to plague the police during the era of the Whitechapel Murders.
Alice MacKenzie, nicknamed ‘Claypipe Alice’ due to her smoking habit, was 40 years of age when she died in July 1889. Her body was found by a police officer with her neck cut and multiple different stab wounds in locations across the body, all of which could be considered similar to the Jack the Ripper murders of the previous year. MacKenzie was also an occasional prostitute, which further matched the murder profiles of the previous victims, though there was still conflict in the police force around whether this truly was a continuation of the Ripper’s murders.
The Pinchin Street Mystery involved the discovery of a headless, legless torso under a railway arch in the area. Due to the lack of identifiable features, mutilation of the body and the fact that it had already begun to decompose, the body was never identified. The state of the body bore a few similarities to Jack the Ripper’s victims, however, there had also been other murders happening in Whitechapel that were even more likely to be linked to this event. Whilst the unfortunate individual was unlikely to be a Ripper victim, this discovery heightened tensions in Whitechapel and the East End, especially considering the fact that the Ripper murders still remained unsolved.
Frances Coles was a 32-year-old prostitute found all but dead underneath a railway arch in Swallow Gardens near Chamber Street. She later died on the way to the hospital from a slit throat. It’s unclear whether Coles’ death was the result of the Ripper or not and initially, her significant other, a seaman named James Sadler, had been suspected and was charged but later acquitted. This was the final murder marked in the notorious Whitechapel Murders files.