Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous murderers of all time. He killed five women in London in 1888 in gruesome fashion. But did Jack the Ripper ever murder people in other countries? Specifically, did he commit a terrible crime in New York City? Aaron Gratton explains.

The Nemesis of Neglect, an 1888 Punch magazine cartoon showing Jack the Ripper as a phantom in Whitechapel.

Anyone familiar with British crime history will know the name Jack the Ripper and the Canonical five, but did the killer’s onslaught cross the Atlantic?

In London, England, five women were found brutally murdered in 1888; all bearing similar injuries that suggested a surgical blade was used as the murder weapon. Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly would all be collectively known as the Canonical five, whose lives were brought to a devastating end at the hand of the serial killer simply known as Jack the Ripper.

Many experts believe those five murders, all of which occurred under the mask of the night in Whitechapel, a district in the English capital, to be the killer’s only victims. However, events that transpired three years later in New York question the legitimacy of those claims.

 

Timeline of Events

·       August 31, 1888: Mary Ann Nichols is found dead at 3.40am, she suffered two severe cuts to the throat and the lower part of her abdomen was ripped open by a jagged object

·       September 8, 1888: Annie Chapman’s body was discovered at 29 Hanbury Street, also with two cuts to the throat and her abdomen completely cut open – it would later be discovered that her uterus was ripped out

·       September 27: The first letter signed from Jack the Ripper, entitled ‘Dear Boss’, is received by the Central News Agency

·       September 30, 1888: Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes are killed just an hour apart from each other with the former’s body found in Berner Street and the latter’s in Mitre Square

·       October 16, 1888: George Lusk, who headed up the investigation, received the famous ‘From Hell’ letter signed by Jack the Ripper, containing half a kidney that is believed to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes

·       November 9, 1888: Mary Kelly, believed to be the killer’s last victim, is found dead in Dorset Street Spitalfields

Other bodies that were originally thought to have been linked to Jack the Ripper were found in the months and years after the five murders, but experts have since ruled out the possibility of the killer having any involvement.

 

Suspects

Half-an-hour before the discovery of Annie Chapman’s body, a witness claimed to see the woman at 5.30am with a foreign, dark-haired man fractionally taller than the 5 feet tall Chapman. If accurate, the description would match that of Aaron Kosminski, a Polish barber who arrived in London in the early 1880s.

An investigation into the killings claims to have DNA evidence linking Kosminski to the murders, although the time between the events and the investigation have cast serious doubt on the results. In truth, no one will ever be able to definitely name the killer.

The nature of the murders would suggest a killer with a background in surgery, due to the precision of the cuts and removal of various organs and genitalia. On top of this, the letters penned with the name of Jack the Ripper also suggest that the killer, or at least whoever was behind the correspondences, to have poor literary skills owing to misspellings and bad handwriting.

 

Did The Ripper head to New York?

Almost three years after what was thought to be the killer’s final victim was killed, Carrie Brown was found strangled with clothing and mutilated with a blade in New York on April 24, 1891, sparking rumors that Jack the Ripper had crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Chief Inspector of New York City, Thomas Byrnes, had boasted on more than one occasion if the killer had ever shown up in his jurisdiction that he would be caught in a matter of days. Three more murders took place in the following 11 days after Brown’s murder, and rumors of a letter from Jack the Ripper sent to Byrnes, taunting the Chief Inspector with a bloodied body part, were rife. This was officially denied, but several police and newspaper sources claimed the rumors to be true.

 

One last Letter

Nothing else was then heard of the killer for two years since the events in New York City, until October 1893 when a newspaper received a letter believed to be from the killer. The correspondence bore details of the murder of Carrie Brown and, when inspected by a police officer from Scotland Yard, the handwriting of the letter was said to match that as seen in letters received in London in 1888.

If the letter containing details of the murder is indeed from the killer, known as Jack the Ripper, it would be the last known correspondence of the murderer. This is, of course, far from concrete evidence that the same killer that roamed the streets of London in 1888 showed up in New York three years later.

In fact, London’s Metropolitan Police categorically ruled out any involvement of the killer in the death of Carrie Brown in 1891, suggesting this was the work of a copycat that may have been inspired by Jack the Ripper. The theories remain as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, and whether or not the killer did, in fact, turn up in New York, moved on to another city or remained in London without causing suspicion.

 

Aaron works for the Jack the Ripper Tour in London, UK. You can find out more about the walking tour here.

 

References

https://whitechapeljack.com/jack-the-ripper-identity-revealed/

https://hubpages.com/politics/Jack-The-Ripper-In-America

Crime in the nineteenth century was varied and often driven by poverty. In this intriguing article, Janet Ford looks at a newspaper from the city of Birmingham, England in 1872 in order to deduce the types of crime committed and some possible reasons why it was these crimes that were committed.



Crime has always been an interesting and in many cases shocking subject, as there are so many different types of crime and such a variety of criminals. It can also show what society, people and a place were and are like. To get an understanding of crime during a certain time and in a certain place, I am going to look at a week in March 1872 in the city of Birmingham in the UK using the newspaper, the Birmingham Daily Post. I only looked at reports that happened in the city of Birmingham itself, as the newspaper also reported on major crimes that occurred in the wider region and across the country.

A riot/attack outside a poorhouse - in this article we look at more low-level crime.

A riot/attack outside a poorhouse - in this article we look at more low-level crime.

During the week I chose, there were 40 crimes reported in Birmingham. The crimes were stealing, assaults on strangers and wives, vandalism, drunk and disorderly behavior, refusing to work, receiving stolen goods, selling beer without a license, and having a pub open after hours. These crimes show that there was a variety of crime committed in the week from March 18, 1872.

 

Theft – The most common crime

The majority of the crimes were theft related, with 28 such crimes being reported. This means stealing was very much part of daily life for many. Both men and women, young and old, committed the crime, which also means stealing was not limited to one group of people. The reason why so many of the crimes were theft related was down to opportunity, as cities had a great deal of places to steal from, such as shops, employers’ houses and even other people. But there was a great deal of poverty within the city, and so people stole in order to survive. These reasons illustrate that life in nineteenth century Birmingham, like many other cities, was a struggle for many. There were many items stolen, from food to boots, animals to money. There was also a great deal of metal and jewelry stolen, which was due to them being major industries within Birmingham. In fact they were such big industries that areas of the city were named after them, including Jewellery and Gun Quarter. This means the city itself affected what was and could be stolen. An example of one of the many theft reports is shown below.

Assaults, vandalism and theft were not uncommon either. Such violence was not aimed towards just one group of people, as both men and women, strangers and people the criminals knew, were assaulted. Two husbands actually attacked their own wives - domestic violence was a sadly common part of Victorian society. Here is one example of this crime.

However, both men and women could use violence and force, as there were female pick pockets and thieves, as shown with this report.

The public house

The crimes also show that the control of pubs were taken seriously, as a person had to have a license to sell beer. This probably did not stop some people selling beer, but they were fined or spent time in prison if they were caught. And the hour that pubs were allowed to open was controlled. The reports for these crimes can be seen here.

This control was due to the government’s view of alcohol and concerns over public health. In terms of public health, they had to control the quality of the beer and who was selling it, as poor quality beer could cause people harm. The government controlled pub opening hours, as it generally had a negative view of drinking. After all, it caused negative effects on the public, such as drunk and disorderly behavior and theft. Two out of the three such pub licensing related criminals were actually women, which means pubs were not limited to just men. While it was difficult for women to have power and control within many spheres of the economy, pubs actually allowed women to have some control.

Many of the crimes occurred in employers’ houses, with servants stealing money, kettles and such. This was down to it being easy to do, but it also shows that servants were not afraid to steal from their own employers, which could have been down to wanting extra money or stealing what they thought they could get away with. An example of a servant stealing is shown here.

28 of the criminals were men and 12 were women. This illustrates that even though women committed crimes, they were in the minority when it came to being criminals. The vast majority of the crimes women committed in that week were theft related. There was also one being drunk and disorderly, one selling beer without a license, and another having their pub open after hours.

An interesting aspect of the criminals were their ages - they ranged from 14 to 55. However, there were more in certain age groups; 10 were in their teens, 6 in their 20s, 11 in their 30s and 3 in their 40s and 50s. This suggests that crime was not as common within the older population, possibly down to the role of drink, poverty and work.

 

In conclusion

Overall, the crimes within that week of March show that theft was common, and possibly that cities in the Victorian era were violent, while some people were opportunists. But it also demonstrates that various other crimes, such as the quality of beer, if a person worked or pub opening hours, were taken very seriously.

Much like today, the crimes people were arrested for reflected the authorities’ primary preoccupations.

 

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References

Birmingham Daily Post, March 1872

Report One: Tuesday 19th March 1872

Report Two: Tuesday 19th March 1872

Report Three: Wednesday 20th March 1872

Report Four: Thursday 21st March 1872

Report Five: Saturday 23rd March 1872 

Posted
AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones