In the early hours of Friday, 31st August 1888, a carter coming to work found the body of a woman lying by a stable door in Whitechapel. Her throat had been cut and her body mutilated with a knife. Her name was Mary Ann Nichols, and she was only the first victim of the murderer who would come to be known as Jack the Ripper: London’s, and arguably the world’s, most famous serial killer.
In actual fact, much of what we think we know about the Ripper killings is the result of historical speculation, biased media coverage, or simple folklore. Even the name “Jack the Ripper” originates from a letter sent to a London newspaper — a letter now widely believed to be a hoax. We can’t even be completely sure that all five Ripper murders were the work of the same individual, or that other murders were not committed by the Ripper. Although modern scholars put the number of Ripper victims at five, contemporary newspaper accounts identified at least six and sometimes more, attributing other murders to the same culprit.
Jack The Ripper newspaper coverage from 1888
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Killer Was Never Discovered
Despite a huge police investigation, in which more than 300 people were investigated, the killer was never discovered. The mystery of the Ripper’s identity, combined with the savagery of the murders and the media frenzy that surrounded them, has spawned the vast field of “Ripperology” — modern works that seek to uncover the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Proposed Ripper candidates are usually more exciting than they are plausible. A number of theories were suggested both by the press and by the police at the time of the killings. The suicide of barrister Montague John Druitt following the last murder in December 1888 seems suggestive, but Druitt lived nowhere near the area and had a strong alibi for the Nichols killing.
His death seems to have been a coincidence. John Pizer, a local with a known history of violence against prostitutes, was arrested early in the case, but there was no evidence to link him to the killings. Reports that an American con artist, Francis Tumblety, was a suspect, seem to be based on the fact that he was arrested for an unrelated crime at around the same time. American poisoner Thomas Cream is said to have confessed to the crime on the scaffold, despite having been in prison in Illinois at the time of the murders. Other suspects seem to have the same story: either they were the victims of prejudice (the belief that the Ripper was Jewish was very common) or had their names associated with the crime by faulty memories or bad reporting.
Modern authors have suggested an even more outlandish set of suspects for these gruesome crimes. Suspects have included Sir William Withey Gull, Queen Victoria’s physician-in-ordinary, usually with the implication that Gull was involved in some kind of elaborate conspiracy. Other unlikely culprits include a Russian secret agent named Alexander Pedachenko (who probably never existed at all), the Duke of Clarence, painter Walter Sickert and even Lewis Carroll.
The Ripper’s identity will probably always remain unknown, the reason for his crimes, which ended as abruptly as they began, as inscrutable as any other random atrocity. Perhaps the murders’ most significant impact is the effect they had on press coverage of crime. Murders and lesser misdeeds had always been part of the Victorian newspapers, but the Ripper killings transformed London’s newspapers. Constant updates on the progress of the case, wild speculation about the culprit and angry denunciations of the living conditions of Whitechapel residents were common.
Sparking The Modern Media Frenzy
The Ripper may not have been the world’s first serial killer, but he sparked the first modern media frenzy.
Looking at the newspapers of the era, available below, gives a first-hand insight not only into this horrific killings and the ensuing panic, but into the birth of trends in modern journalism that can still be seen today. This collection is made up from the original newspapers that were printed on the same day the news of the Ripper and Whitechapel murders broke in 1888.
Covering the gruesome events, these original papers feature the murders and key reports of the Ripper as the news broke. The papers within this collection include publications such as The Times.
The collection of reports cover the deaths of the 5 victims that are generally agreed to be Jack the Ripper Murders:
|Friday 31 August 1888||Mary Ann Nichols||Buck’s Row, Whitechapel|
|Saturday 8 September 1888||Annie Chapman||Rear Yard at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields|
|Sunday 30 September 1888||Elizabeth Stride||Yard at side of 40 Berner Street, St Georges-in-the-East|
|Sunday 30 September 1888||Catherine Eddowes||Mitre Square, Aldgate, City of London|
|Friday 9 November 1888||Mary Jane Kelly||13 Miller’s Court, 23 Dorset Street, Spitalfields|
Read about the awful, stomach turning murder scenes and the panic that struck London’s population as they realised there was a serial killer on the loose that couldn’t be caught. This collection of original newspapers will describe the deaths of 5 women – all of whom died with their throats cut open.
All women except Elizabeth Stride also suffered from abdominal mutilation. Evidence suggests that Chapman had her uterus taken by the murderer, Eddowes the uterus and the left kidney, and Kelly the heart.
Through newspaper articles, learn about how the murders became too complicated and important for the local Whitechapel Police Division to look into alone. Soon, Central Office at Scotland Yard were sent to assist with the investigation. Famously Detectives Abberline, Moore and Andrews together with a team of investigators were instrumental in the investigation. Shortly after the fourth murder the City Police were also brought in to investigate Jack the Ripper.
Shockingly, even through great efforts from this team of investigators, the murders still remain unsolved and no one was ever convicted for any of the crimes.
This newspaper collection also contains newspapers from the months surrounding the murders to provide good contextual information about London at the time and this period in history. The ‘offer price’ shown has been made for the whole collection, but individual bids for parts of the collection will also be considered.
|Times||September 1888 & 10 September 1888 * Note 1||2||£300.00|
|Times||1,3,4,11,12,13,14,15 September 1888||8||£600.00|
|Times||17,18,19,20,24,26,27, 28 September 1888||8||£600.00|
|Times||2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12,13,15 October 1888||12||£900.00|
|Times||16,18,19,30, 22,23,24,25,26,29,30 October 1888||11||£825.00|
|Times||2,14,15,16,22,23 November 1888||6||£450.00|
|Times||July-December 1888||98 approx||£490.00|
|Glasgow Herald||10 September, 1 October & 10 November 1888||3||£450.00|
|Glasgow Herald||1,3,4,11,12,13,14,15 September 1888||8||£600.00|
|Glasgow Herald||17,18,19,20,24,27,28 September 1888||7||£525.00|
|Glasgow Herald||2,3,4,5,6,8,10,12,13,15 October 1888||10||£750.00|
|Glasgow Herald||12,13 November 1888||2||£150.00|
|Glasgow Herald||July-December 1888||127 approx||£635.00|
|North British Daily Mail * Note 2||10 September & 1 October 1888||2||£635.00|
|North British Daily Mail||1,3,4,11,12,13,14,15 September 1888||8||£600.00|
|North British Daily Mail||17,18,19,20,24,27,28 September 1888||7||£525.00|
|North British Daily Mail||2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,12 October 1888||9||£675.00|
|North British Daily Mail||19,20,22 October 1888||3||£225.00|
|North British Daily Mail||12,13,14,15,16 November 1888||5||£375.00|
|North British Daily Mail||July-December 1888||123 approx||£615.00|
Offer Price £2,500
*NOTE 1 – We are out of stock of the Times for 1 October & 10 November 1888
*NOTE 2 – North British Daily Mail was a Glasgow newspaper unrelated to Daily Mail
This collection is owned by Historic Newspapers an established archive business of over 30 years. Historic own the largest private archive of British Newspapers and today have over 7m in stock dating back to 1685.
Please email email@example.com to discuss this offer price, or call John McMillan on 01988 402 132 for Newspaper Research Services if interested in these or any other key dates, from Nelson’s victory at the Nile and Trafalgar, Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Queen Victoria’s coronation and funeral to more recent events such as Kennedy’s assassination, the lunar landings, and 9-11.